Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hanna Rosin: Men Are Obsolete

Well, this is pretty dumb.
I think it's supposed to be funny...but it isn't really... Maybe it's kidding on the square...who knows?
You might think that these alleged developments would show that society is becoming more equal.
But of course that can't be.
What it means instead is that "men are obsolete"!!!!
So anyway, men are obsolete, see?
In...er...a sense of 'men' that doesn't mean, y'know, men. At all. In any way...
But I guess "society is still on roughly the same trajectory it's been on for some time toward greater sex equality" is not going to get clicks.
Also, apparently deriding men currently sells. Which, well whatever. I don't care about it...I might if I respected any of the people doing it I guess... But I do find it annoying that we're simultaneously (a) subjected to propaganda about our immense, king-like "privilege," (b) derided openly, and (c) expected to think it's all just dandy. (a) and (b)--well, say what you want. It's a free country. But don't count on (c)...
This stuff doesn't bother me except insofar as all stupid things bother me. Oh and: smug assholes. They also bother me...  Anyway, also the very act of insisting that I am obligated to sit down and shut up while people say stupid things about me pretty much guarantees that I will punch back, even if I was ignoring it all before. I think this general kind of bullshit is stupid when it's directed at women, and I think it's stupid when it's directed at men.
What did I bother writing this?
What a tragic waste of the human spirit...

CDC Confirms First Case Of Ebola In U.S.

In Texas

(via Reddit)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Brian Leiter In Hot Water

Here's a kind of summary.
I don't pay much attention to this sort of thing...
Leiter seems to have been rather an asshole to some people, and to have said some things that someone who runs the PGR probably shouldn't have said.
The anti-Leiter movement strikes me as (a) possibly right, and (b) possibly sinister.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Video: Please Help Hong Kong


(via Reddit)

"We No Longer Know If Even God Can End This War": Hell On Earth In Congo

Agonizing to even read about.
It is amazing to me that people can survive something like this.
It continues to amaze me that we seem to have so little concern for the people of this region. I know that operations in Africa--especially central Africa--are difficult. But, were it entirely up to me, I'd make an effort to de-hellify that region before I'd address ISIL. I know that we have strategic concerns in the latter case and not in the former, and I know that ISIL is also horrific. But it is incomprehensible to me that we have made almost no effort to mitigate this disaster.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

German Committee Says Incest Is A Fundamental Right


I mean linking to Salon...
Not incest.
I don't know what to think about that...
Linking to Salon, however...shudder...  That's just disgusting...
Here I'm torn between a liberalism/civil libertarianism that says that we have no business telling adults that they can't have sex with each other...and a conservatism that says that liberals think they are smarter than everyone else who has ever lived... I am a little uncomfortable defying the wisdom of the ages in such matters, I must admit...
Some of this question might hang on the probability of birth defects...but I kind of doubt it. We don't prohibit people from reproducing on such grounds.
Though morally, I suppose, reproduction becomes less permissible as the probability of birth defects goes up, and as their severity increases...
But we're talking about legality here not morality.
Also facts matter...facts that I don't know. I've read that it takes generations to get a very high probability of birth defects in most cases...but I don't know.

Anti-Sexual-Assault Efforts At JMU

This is a pretty encouraging article.

I'd say this gives support to Jim's (and other's) contention that there is (or was) significantly more that can be done on the side of information and education.

It's also encouraging that it sounds decidedly non-nutty. No cant about "rape culture" and so forth, just fairly straight-forward, pragmatic efforts to discourage the kinds of actions that lead to crimes and tragedies. It does sound like there's attention to lowering alcohol consumption on all sides...so I suppose this will be considered victim-blaming by some of the more extreme extremists...but there's no reason to take that nonsense into account.

Sounds encouraging enough to warrant cautious optimism.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Is Race Real? Brace and Gill at NOVA

Here's a nice little informal discussion of the question "is race real?"
On the negative side is C. Loring Brace, on the affirmative, George W. Gill.
I'm not going to go through the whole thing now, but here's Brace's first argument for his conclusion:
But if one were to walk up beside the Nile from Cairo, across the Tropic of Cancer to Khartoum in the Sudan and on to Nairobi, there would be no visible boundary between one people and another. The same thing would be true if one were to walk north from Cairo, through the Caucasus, and on up into Russia, eventually swinging west across the northern end of the Baltic Sea to Scandinavia. The people at any adjacent stops along the way look like one another more than they look like anyone else since, after all, they are related to one another.
And the conclusion in play is, roughly: racial distinctions are unreal.
But this is the continuum fallacy, of course.
There is a spectrum/continuum of states between A and B
We cannot infer:
There is no real difference between A and B.
There could, for example, be a large number of actual (or an infinite number of possible) gradations of difference between species A and species B, but that doesn't mean that the two species are not distinct.
And take, say, this dude.
Now, pluck out one of his hairs. There will be no visible difference. Then pluck out another one. No visible difference again. But keep doing this, and eventually you will hit an end state in which there is an enormous difference as compared to the initial state. There will be no visible difference between any two adjacent states. But go through enough of these state changes, and the end states will be visibly different.
I know some people really, really want race to be unreal. Personally, I don't have a rooting interest. I do think it would make humanity less interesting if there were no races... But I suppose there is some possibility it would help solve some moral and political problems... It's bad to allow political aspirations to influence scientific conclusions... And, even if we did violate the rule, I doubt that we'd gain any moral yardage...racists don't care whether race is real or fictive or created by the magical power of social agreement or whatever. 
But the bottom line is: the continuum fallacy is a fallacy, and invalid arguments provide exactly no support for any view. If racial antirealists really do care about the truth of their case, they'll drop these continuum arguments. 
That would be very damaging, however, since it seems that a lot of people who believe the view believe it on the basis of such an argument.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

SC Trooper Asks Man For His License, Shoots Him When He Reaches For It

Literally jaw-dropping.

Steven Salaita And The Tyranny of "Hate Speech"

Jimmy Doyle gently chided me for not blogging about the (very important) Salaita case. Not sure why I haven't been, really. So here's a start (at Reason).

Denver Students Protest Conservative Curriculum Promoting Patriotism, Respect For Authority

This warms the heart and gives me hope for the future.
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
This does seem to raise legitimate questions about the purposes of secondary education, of course. It's common to say that one of its purposes is to help produce better citizens...  But needless to say, there's an overtly brainwashy and overly ideological orientation here. Respect for individual rights is uncontroversially a good thing (well...I've met some people on the far left that sneer at the idea...but it's uncontroversial among reasonable people...). But the problems here are obvious, and a walk-out seems like the more-or-less perfect response to a proposal that students be sent to respect-for-authority re-education camp...
(On something vaguely like the other hand, though, I'd like to see similar reactions when schools institute community service requirements... Just because something is a good thing doesn't mean that you get to force high school kids to do it.)

(via Reddit)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trending Wingnuttery: Obama's Coffee Salute

If you're not a lunatic...and not interested in lunatics...you probably don't know about ZOMG OBAMA'S COFFEE SALUTE GAFFE BUSH WOULD NEVER HAVE DONE SUCH A THI...oh...uh...THAT DOESN'T COUNT COFFEE IS WORSE THAN A DOG!!!!1111

[via Inside Carolina]

[See also.
via Reddit]

Report: Two Ebola Patients Resurrect In Liberia

"Social Construction" and Equivocating on 'Race'

So, as I've made clear, I think that the main problem with the claim that race is socially constructed is that 'socially constructed' is disastrously confused/unclear. The phrase is used to mean an enormous number of radically different--in fact, mutually inconsistent--things. In fact, it's so polysemous, and used so indiscriminately, that it sidles right up against meaninglessness. To make matters worse, this polysemy is often used tactically in bait-and-switch operations in which one meaning is used for purposes of advertising some view as radical and Western-civilization-shaking, and then, when the view is criticized, advocates of the view retreat to a completely different, much more modest and easily-defended interpretation.
But let's ignore that problem for now.
Although I think this is oversimplified, I'll just throw a version of the claim out on the table for consideration: we can cast some light on the disagreement by characterizing it as semantic (and I do think that semantic elements are mixed up in it). Perhaps there are simply two different interpretations/conceptions of 'race' and race:
1. The races are white/caucasian, black/African, and Asian. Your race is a matter of your ancestry/biological heritage (and, perhaps, physical appearance).
2. Your race is perhaps partially a matter of your ancestry/biological heritage; but it's also partially (or perhaps exclusively) a matter of your "ethnicity," cultural heritage, language, etc.
Those are terrible, terrible definitions in terms of the details, but I don't care about the details right now. Sometimes it's the rough, general ideas that matter.
Anyway. Though we can't have a serious discussion that turns on the 'social construction' locution, we can easily avoid that by just saying things roughly like so: 'race' in the sense of 1 is a purely biological matter. 'Race' in the sense of 2 is at least partially constituted by non-biological components.
Now...when I grew up, 'race' clearly meant something like 1, and there was not the slightest hint of anything like 2. But 'race' is a vague term (which is ok, but can cause problems), and, apparently/perhaps an ambiguous one, and apparently a protean one, and so there's no reason to talk past each other on this matter.
I don't think this is exactly right...but it cuts a big swath down the center of the debate, and might get us thinking down the right path, even if it's not exactly true.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham: It's More Important To Oppose Obama Than To Oppose ISIL

I am inferring that this is what they believe from their actions...

Rutgers Student Killed In Black Bear Attack

Damnation. Hiking in the Blue Ridge, you just come to think of black bears as being basically fat deer... But I've read that when they do attack, they tend to mean business.
It was definitely a mistake splitting up and running.
This sucks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Heartwarming Story Of Arab Support For Our Bombing Campaign

Is Diet Soda Making Us Fat?

Sullivan's summary post.

My bet: not even worth taking seriously. I don't follow this issue. I know basically nothing about it. But we all have to do epistemic triage. And this is an issue I pass over, with little doubt that it will turn out to be nonsense, and disappear down the memory hole in a few years.
My paranoid food hypothesis, stated before: foods that are gauche by upper-middle-class sensibilities get targeted by the food puritans. First it was soda...and nutty hypotheses were born...  Fat+sugar is more deadly in combination than can be explained by the extreme deadliness of the two components....  Liquid sugar is more deadly than solid sugar...so soda is worse than candy... And so on...  But wait...diet soda is exempt, right? But diet soda is at least as gauche as soda soda...so...it turns out that diet soda is secretly just like soda soda but even worse!!!111...
I know, I know...in fact, I know full well... You can't really adopt this as an epistemic policy... But I'm cutting myself some slack on this one... I don't really believe it...but I don't really not believe it either...

Hey, kids, don't be like me! Just suspend judgment until the meta-studies come out!

Juan Cole On Syria

He says:
The some 22 sorties flown on Monday will have killed some ISIL terrorists, blown up some weapons warehouses, and destroyed some checkpoints. But ISIL are guerrillas, and they will just fade away into Raqqah’s back alleys. The US belief in air power is touching, but in fact no conflict has ever been quickly brought to an end where US planes have been involved.
He must mean "where only U.S. planes [i.e. airstrikes] have been involved."  
Wrong, of course: consider air strikes in the former Yugoslavia.
Not that I expect air strikes alone to do the trick, let alone quickly.
But there's no reason to exaggerate.

US/Coalition Hit ISIL and Khorasan Overnight


Happy to see these evil ******* blown up
Unhappy to see us in another fight
Very unhappy that, without a doubt, innocent people died in those strikes

But, of course, all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds...

Putnam / Cats / Robots From Mars

Here are two versions of a thought-experiment suggested by Putnam. I can't remember whether he suggests both versions, or just one of them:

We discover that every feline that has ever existed has been a robot planted by Martian scientists to observe and record activity on earth. No such creature has ever been an animal/biological. It's always been the robot thing.
Under such conditions, which of the following is true:
(CR) Cats are robots from Mars.
(NC) There are no cats. (There are only robots from Mars.)

We discover that everything is as we thought it was until, say, 50 years ago, when the Martian robot program was instituted. For about 50 years, then, it's been the robot thing.
Under such conditions, which of above options is true?

Creepy Wikipedia Entry on Race

Holy crap...
The central goal of this Wikipedia entry on race seems to be to promote the social constructionist theory of race.
The first sentence of the first non-introductory section is:
There is a wide consensus that the racial categories that are common in everyday usage are socially constructed, and that racial groups cannot be biologically defined.
This is absolutely stunning to my mind. I know--Wikipedia is a dicey game. But there's so much that it's good for as a starting-point that it's easy to become complaisant... And it has acquired a kind of authority...
And, of course, I disagree with the view, so I'm not neutral on this. But grabbing a loony quasi-philosophical theory on a significant topic and building a whole encyclopedia (quasi-encyclopedia?) article on it is just creepy as hell...  It's as if the entry on punishment started off with a declaration that compatibilism about freedom is true, and then the whole thing were built around pushing that view.
I've noticed this about other topics that the academic and quasi-academic left is obsessed with...  Wikipedia strikes me as being similar to academia--it's a salient that a small, dedicated political movement can occupy, and from which it can exercise disproportionate influence...
Today's bout of paranoia brought to you by insufficient sleep...and the letter 'R'...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Welcome To The Police State: If You Make Fun Of The Mayor, The SWAT Team Can Raid Your House


(via Reddit)

How Lindsey Graham Succumbed To The Tactics of Terror And Embarrassed His Nation

Lindsey Graham, terrorist force multiplier:
“When I look at the map that Gen. Keane described, I think of the United States. I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq.”
“This is a war we’re fighting! It is not a counterterrorism operation. This is not Somalia. This is not Yemen. This is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”

Helpless Girls: Self-Defense Doesn't Work, Contributes To "Rape Culture"

Many of the currently-fashionable confusions here, concentrated for easy consumption:
Hofland blamed the popular song, “ Blurred Lines” and rape jokes for perpetuating rape culture in everyday events and details. She also claimed that teaching women self-defense techniques such as fashioning a weapon out of keys by sticking them between knuckles, possessing pepper spray, fighting back against an attacker, and consistently being aware of one’s surroundings contributed to rape culture.
“We should be telling people not to rape people,” she said. “All these things we tell women to do...they don’t bring down the number of rapes that happen. They don’t.”
It's bad enough that these ideologically-motivated myths are being propagated at all. It's worse that they're being disseminated with public money. But perhaps the most worrisome thing is that students are being indoctrinated with them at university-sponsored events.

I again assert: this is the political correctness madness all over again.

"Blurred Lines" is shitty music, but it is not about rape. We do not live in a "rape culture." If we did--or if the concept even made any sense--teaching women self-defense would not contribute to it. Teaching women self-defense techniques does, in fact, lower the number of rapes. And, though we already do tell people not to rape--it's one of the clearest messages society sends--teaching self-defense is in no way inconsistent with doing more of it.

I don't think I can continue to blame the "far-ish left"...

This has become a problem for liberalism per se.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Platitude Storm: Race As A Social Construct

Some pretty good points (at West Hunter)

The most important thing to understand about the proposition that race is socially constructed is not about that proposition in particular. It's rather the general point that claims of the form "x is socially constructed" don't really make any sense. Such claims are ambiguous as between two almost opposite meanings (we make x and we make x up)--and that is almost the least of their problems...  The phrase 'socially constructed' is simply not clear enough to be used in any even semi-serious discussion. Confronted by these objections, those wedded to the jargon will insist that its meaning is perfectly clear, and to object to its use is to display ignorance of the state of play in the relevant sectors of academic literature. But that simply isn't so. Assertions of the form "x is socially constructed" are, even there, used so indiscriminately and in such inconsistent ways that, though they don't quite mean nothing, it's not by much...
Assertions of the form "x is socially constructed" are variously used to mean:
A. Our beliefs about x are caused by social forces (but this has no effect on x's themselves).
B. There are no x's, but we agree that there are.
C. We agree that there are x's, and to say that x's are real is equivalent to saying that we agree that there are x's.
D. x's are real--really real--and they are real because we believe in them. (This is the magical option...)
And these aren't the only ways in which such assertions are used--not by a long shot...
But the biggest problem with assertions of the form "x is socially constructed" is that they commonly are not used to determinately mean any of the options A-D (nor any of the large number of other options not discussed here.) Rather, nothing very determinate is meant by the phrase at all. And terminology that is used so loosely is dangerous for any number of reasons. For one thing, such terminology allows its defenders to slip around indiscriminately from one suggested meaning to another as a way of avoiding refutation. This is handy for the bait-and-switch strategy: strongly suggest that radical interpretations are at issue for the purposes of advertising the importance of your theory...but then retreat to the modest ones when challenged.
That's often what happens with the "race is socially constructed" version of the claim. It's used to mean "society made race" or "society made up race"...until such claims are refuted...when proponents of the claim fall back on the "many of our beliefs about race are caused by society" interpretation. Which, of course, everybody already knew... Worse, that's not a legitimate meaning of the words "race is socially constructed." The way to say that is, well, "many beliefs about race are caused by society." Which is a completely different claim... And everybody knows it. And it's boring. And it won't get you any attention. And it won't help you pretend that your theory has metaphysical implications...
But, of course, it's hard to have a philosophical or scientific discussion of a view that is not advanced for philosophical or scientific reasons. This claim (like so many claims about "social construction") is  largely advanced for political reasons.
Good political reasons...  Many proponents of the view naively think that it will help fight racism, and falsely seem to think that it's necessary for fighting racism...but political reasons nonetheless.
But introducing politics into science is Lysenkoism...even when your goals are admirable...

Fox News: God- and Freedom-Loving Cheerleaders Stand Up to Atheists and First Amendment In Tennessee

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Clemson Requires Students to Respond to Poll Concerning Sexual History Or Face Disciplinary Action

If this madness were emanating from the right, faculty everywhere would be deploying torches and pitchforks...  But it's emanating from roughly the left...so...don't hold your breath on that pitchfork thing...

FIRE And Donations Thereto

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is a great organization.

Here's where to donate, if you are so inclined.

Sullivan: Back To The Bush Years...?

At The Dish:
My own dismay (even bewilderment) at the current mood in America may well be because I was largely off-grid in August. But it’s still a truly remarkable shift. In a month, the entire political landscape has reverted to Bush-Cheneyism again. I honestly thought that would never happen, that the grisly experience of two failed, endless wars had shifted Americans’ understanding of what is possible in the world, that the panic and terror that flooded our frontal cortexes from 9/12 onward would not be able to come back with such a vengeance. I was clearly wrong. Terrorism does not seem to have lost any of its capacity to promote total panic among Americans. The trauma bin Laden inflicted is still overwhelming rationality. It would be harder to imagine a more stunning success for such a foul mass murder.
The party that was primarily responsible for the years of grinding, bankrupting war, a descent into torture, and an evisceration of many core liberties is now regarded as superior to the man originally tasked with trying to recover from that experience. The political winds unleashed by a few disgusting videos and a blitzkrieg in the desert have swept all before them. And we now hear rhetoric from Democratic party leaders that sounds close to indistinguishable from Bush or Cheney...
 Worth a read, I say.

"Social Justice" Hysteria: Women Are Helpless: Rape Whistle Edition

[Forgot to link to this ad from a campus newspaper somewhere.]

Two aspects of current leftist (i.e.: lefter-than-liberal) delusions about rape go like this:
(1) It is logically impossible for women to do anything to lower their probability of being raped.
(2) If you in any way suggest that (1) is false, you are "blaming the victim."
But both (1) and (2) are false--clearly, unequivocally, undoubtedly false.
DoJ statistics show conclusively that (1) is false. Resisting rape attempts (even, apparently, by simply doing things like shouting loudly) is effective in stopping rape.
As is so often the case, confusions like those in the ad on the other end of the link glance off of the truth. Here is something a good ad might have said:
Having and distributing rape whistles might possibly give some people the wrong idea.
For example, it might suggest to some that most rapes are committed by strangers; but that isn't true.
That would be ok. I'm not sure it needs to be said, but there's not a damn thing wrong with saying it. And it might help. It's not obligatory to say those things, but it'd be fine.
Having and/or distributing rape whistles (or carrying or distributing pepper spray, or participating in or giving self-defense classes, etc.) does not in any way suggest that "the targeted person is primarily responsible for their assault." First, even if it did suggest partial responsibility, there is nothing whatsoever that suggests primary responsibility. Second: no responsibility is suggested at all, of course. Selling burglar alarms in no way suggests that homeowners are responsible--much less "primarily" responsible--for break-ins. Installing seat belts in cars in no way suggests that accident victims are responsible for their injuries. And so on. 
This ad is terrible. It's terribly confused--and confused in a way that is currently fashionable/rampant on the left and among leftier liberals. It's motivated by the false beliefs (1) and (2). And, furthermore, it exhibits a willingness to sacrifice the lives and well-being of real people on the alter of dogmatic ideology. (1) and (2) have become dogma on the left, and denying them often generates vicious, irrational denunciations in response. These are falsehoods that threaten to actually misinform women in a way that might actually increase their odds of being raped.
This confusion and ideological madness is just one part of the neo-PC/SJW madness that is metastasizing on the left. Crazy views bolstered by bad reasoning, dogmatic refusal to listen to or even tolerate criticism, and a kind of moral/ideological fanaticism are now rampant in certain sectors of the political spectrum--and spreading. Confusions about so-called "cultural appropriation," attempts to re-define 'racism' and 'sexism' so that it is literally impossible for non-whites to racist and women to be sexist, indiscriminate claims about the so-called "social construction" of, well, everything under the sun, attempts to broaden/weaken the concept of rape in ideologically-driven ways that classify even things like consensual sex between intoxicated people as rape...and on and on. 
Under the rubric--the misnomer--"social justice," the lefter-than-liberal, neo-PC left is promoting irrational, unjust, illiberal positions--and, as during the paleo-PC madness of the '90's--many liberals are falling for it. Liberals should be rejecting these positions because they are irrational, unjust, and illiberal. But, in case that doesn't motivate you, you might also note that the more liberalism allows itself to be influenced/infected by the irrational, illiberal left, the more reasonable people will be driven to the right. That's what happened during the paleo-PC madness, and that's what will happen again if the madness is allowed to spread.
I've often thought that American liberals are particularly helpless against the illiberal left because it's fairly scarce here. We're used to fighting a conservatism that seems to have become unhinged that we are used to pointing all our weapons in that direction, and falsely see everyone on our end of the spectrum as allies. But illiberalism is illiberalism and irrationalism is irrationalism, right or left. The nouveau PCs are not liberal, and they are not our allies.
The rape ad is just a small thing, but it's a small instance of a big problem.

[Also forgot to address the main text of the ad above:
"The only use for a rape whistle is: if you're about to rape someone, blow the whistle." This is a reference to the current delusion common among the SJWs and leftier feminists, that all anti-rape messages/information should be directed at possible perpetrators of rape and none at possible victims. These are policy implications of (1) and (2) (above)...]

What To Call ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State

Apparently the best term for these jackasses is DAIISH.

The reason for using this term: they hate it so much that they've threatened to cut out your tongue if you use it.


That's so DAIISH.

"So Help Me God" No Longer Required In Air Force Oath

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Krauthammer: Obama Thinks He's So Great

Wow, this is really embarrassing, even by the standards of Chucky K...

Climate Denialism In TX Textbooks

U.S. Intelligence Services Remain Uncertain About Danger Posed By ISIL

Monday, September 15, 2014

SJWs: More Annoying That Sam Harris


It's his account of the interactions...but they ring true...

Terrorist Force Multipliers: Lindsay Graham: Will ISIL Kill Us All?


For a bunch of people who seem to consider themselves hard, the GOP/Fox "News" axis of crazy sure is easily frightened. I mean

Though, to be fair, I saw the same kind of thing toned down a notch or so on CNN. Before making the mistake of turning on cable news, I had not realized how terrified we all are of ISIL. So see? You can learn stuff by watching that stuff...

Though, of course, Graham's real target is the real enemy of America: Barack Obama. The point of the tirade is really: Obama isn't handling this right; Obama is bad. It is, of course, crucial to make this point as often and as dramatically as possible. If you've got to help out ISIL to do so...well...the enemy of my enemy...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Return of Sex-Negative Feminism

Meet the new boss...

One of the many things the far right and the far left have in common: they frown upon sex, sexual pleasure and eroticism, and think you have to justify them in moral/political terms if you're going to insist on enjoying them.

Michelle Goldberg on The Return Of the Anti-Liberal Left

This, too, is very good, IMO.

Michelle Goldberg: Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars

This is really, really good.

The main point: as web feminism becomes more radical, it has become more vicious.

Here's just one paragraph:
Online, however, intersectionality is overwhelmingly about chastisement and rooting out individual sin. Partly, says Cooper, this comes from academic feminism, steeped as it is in a postmodern culture of critique that emphasizes the power relations embedded in language. “We actually have come to believe that how we talk about things is the best indicator of our politics,” she notes. An elaborate series of norms and rules has evolved out of that belief, generally unknown to the uninitiated, who are nevertheless hammered if they unwittingly violate them. Often, these rules began as useful insights into the way rhetorical power works but, says Cross, “have metamorphosed into something much more rigid and inflexible.” One such rule is a prohibition on what’s called “tone policing.” An insight into the way marginalized people are punished for their anger has turned into an imperative “that you can never question the efficacy of anger, especially when voiced by a person from a marginalized background.”
Several of the top comments are also really good.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Amanda Marcotte: Christina Hoff Sommers Is Public Feminist Enemy #1


Marcotte is an idiot.

Sommers, on the other hand, is pretty great.

If there were more feminists like Sommers and fewer like Marcotte, I'd still think of myself as one.

The funniest thing about this is that Marcotte's claim that Sommers "works tirelessly against equal rights for women" isn't even minimally plausible. If Marcotte had said that Sommers has the wrong conception of feminism or whatever, she might at least be able to make a token argument for the claim. But, since Sommers is obviously far more committed to genuinely equal rights than Marcotte, this article shows itself up for what it really is: an incoherent shriek against Sommers.

I mean, the mere fact that Sommers takes the top spot should tell you something about what Marcotte is up to here.

But here's one of the thing the insanity on the left is doing to liberalism: it's trying to eliminate the possibility of non-culpable disagreement. This is a ploy favored by extremists left and right: disagree with the orthodoxy, and you are a counter-revolutionary thought-criminal...

That web liberalism happily counts someone like Marcotte as one of its voices says a lot about the disastrous trajectory it's on.

[Bonus!: If Sommers approves of you, then you're a misogynist! (via /r/Tumblrinaction)]

Has Gawker Achieved Peak Stupid? Or: Why You Are Evil If Your Actions Contribute To The Arrest Of Your Mugger

If this is not satire--and I fear that it isn't--then I think that it may literally be the stupidest thing I have ever read in my life.

This would normally be called 'victim-blaming' by places like Gawker...

Wonder what's different about this case?

The stupid runs rampant in the land...

(h/t /r/Tumblrinaction)

George Zimmerman, At It Again?

Boy, George Zimmerman seems dedicated to making sure that I keep getting wronger and wronger about the Treyvon Martin case...

I never did really explain why I switched over to the Zimmerman is probably innocent side...  But boy, was I wrong.

It seems clearer and clearer that the guy is a freaking psycho.

(via Inside Carolina)


George Zimmerman, gun-show hero.

Oh man. That makes you ashamed to be human.

California's Water Shortage (Remember: OVERPOPULATION IS NOT A PROBLEM)

not good

(via Inside Carolina)

The Loneliness Of the Social Justice Warrior / The Leftist Threat To Liberalism

For the love of God, American liberalism...it's not too late...

Don't go down this path...

This is the political correctness debacle part deux.

Although, by the standards of this stuff, this letter is pretty tame, it still represents mindless, brainless moral fanaticism. In some cases, it's moral fanaticism about issues that are, in their non-fanatical form, worthy (e.g. anti-racism, anti-sexism). In other cases, it's moral fanaticism about insane, fabricated sins (e.g. "cultural appropriation").

Like the PC fiasco, this is, in a way, a test of liberalism. To what degree will it allow itself to be swayed by this irrational, illiberal movement? Sadly, the answer is: at least to some non-zero degree...

I wonder whether this is some kind of weird balancing effect...  Just as the American right seems to have become so irrational that a massive backlash against it seems unavoidable...madness emerges on the left wing of American liberalism...

In my experience, it doesn't take much left-crazy to balance out a whole bunch of right-crazy...  It might be that the U.S. is just a lot more used to/tolerant of craziness on the right. OTOH, speaking for myself, I seem to find left-wing craziness more inherently nauseating than right-wing craziness. Perhaps that's unreasonable...or perhaps my friend McCarthy is right when he says "the right just wants you to behave...the left wants your soul..." I value my right to misbehave...but I value my soul (my metaphorical soul, that is) more. Right-wing crazy I kinda sorta understand, and accept as part of the human condition: sit down, shut up, toe the line, greed, God, guns, conformity, nationalism...  Left-wing crazy comes with theories...  Creepy, creepy theories...  The cult of culture, the social construction of reality, Worfian linguistic determinism, queer theory, critical theory, "theory" theory, neo-Marxist views about class struggle, feminist epistemology...and on and on...  It's the difference between fighting a Neanderthal and fighting a demented religious lunatic who aims to kidnap you and brainwash you until there's no you anymore... The former might be more dangerous--even much more dangerous--in bottom-line terms...but god damn that latter one is much more sinister...

Should The World Fantasy Awards Be Named After/Representations Of (Big Fat Racist) H. P. Lovecraft?

Warning: this is a link to Salon.com.  But it's actually a pretty good post, IMO.

Lovecraft was--and this is undeniable--a big fat racist.

And, as the author points out, no one seems to be arguing that we shouldn't read him.

But it's not clear that the World Fantasy Awards should be representations of him (and, hence, informally named after him).

As the author notes, there are a lot of people the statue could be modeled after...and, of course, it doesn't have to be modeled after any particular person at all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kevin Drum: A Wee Question About That Residual Force Everyone Keeps Blathering About

Did The Rabid Right Force Obama To Over-React To ISIS/ISIL?

It goes without saying that I'm merely an interested layperson with respect to such topics, and my opinions should carry virtually no weight.

And this isn't even an opinion. It's more like a worry...

But I was actually rather more happy with pre-speech Obama than post-speech Obama, at least in the sense that I thought degrade was a more reasonable goal than destroy with respect to ISIS / ISIL.

Don't get me wrong. I hate those guys. I wanted to see us degrade the shit out of them. Degrade them into dark stains on the sand...  But...pledging to destroy them, I worry, is a whole different ballgame.

It isn't clear to me that they are the kind of threat that warrants this reaction.

They're evil--that's clear. And I'm inclined toward humanitarian interventions... But we simply spent too much capital of all kinds on the Iraq debacle, and you can only do what you can do.

But the Republicans are playing their preferred role as terrorist force multipliers, pumping up the threat...and doing so, of course, as a means to destroy their real target, Obama...

The media is helping, as is its wont. I turned on CNN after the speech (of course I know better...) and, of course, there was much shrieking and weeping and fear mongering...  Americans are afraid!!!!!111 we were told...  Which...does not seem right to me. I'm not afraid...  I don't know anyone who is afraid...  I'm concerned...but...that's different...

We seem to have a system that is rigged to err on the side of overreaction. This system is, I believe, set up/sustained mostly by the right. Their tendency to over-use the military, and to politically attack any Democrat who doesn't over-use the military...well, it's like we're swimming in a strong current that's always sweeping us toward the use of force. It's possible to resist it in the short term, on occasion...but there's no resisting the overall bias it imparts onto our decisions.

I've been worried of late about the rise of the loony "social justice" (note: not actual social justice) left, and liberals' general refusal to oppose it. But there's no doubt that the loony right remains a much more powerful, must more immediate threat...

Among the many astonishing things I witness on CNN the other night was the spectacle of a rabid, almost unhinged John McCain spewing anti-Obama vitriol masquerading as an analysis of the situation in Iraq. His tirade was so misleading as to nearly count as lying...but, since his goal was to try to make the ISIS/ISIL problem look like Obama's fault rather than Bush's, truth was beside the point. Jay Carney should have called him a liar to his face...but my guess is that he didn't want to lose his new gig on CNN, and he soft-pedaled his response...

It seems to me that we're facing a full-court press by the GOP aimed at getting us to do something stupid--the GOP's forte, it sometimes seems to me.

And I worry that Obama is just worn down. Six years of rabid, non-stop, relentless, unhinged attacks on everything he has done--even the things the GOP formerly agreed with--combined with an unusually challenging set of events in the rest of the world have beaten him down and forced him to fight a kind of delaying action against the forces that besiege him. The GOP's efforts to crush him have been aided by bad luck with respect to foreign policy, and he's retreated from his saner position with respect to ISIL: go slow, wait and see, degrade them as possible, open up opportunities for other people to kick their asses or for them to implode...has been replaced with a more aggressive, but perhaps less reasonable approach.

Honestly, I worry more about the derangement of the GOP than I worry about ISIL. ISIL is bad, but they're just one thing. A deranged GOP pushes us relentlessly to make bad decisions on a whole range of issues. And I worry they may have pushed Obama in a bad direction in this case.

This is not supposed to be excuse-making for the President. My point here is that I worry--though it's a mere layperson's worry--that he's moved in the wrong direction, whatever excusing circumstances there might be.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ta-Nehisi Coates: What We Mean When We Say 'Race Is a Social Construct'


I like Coates's work a lot, and there's stuff to like even about this piece. But it comes down to basically the same fallacious arguments that always populate attempts to convince people that race is "socially constructed."

First, of course, "socially constructed" is a disaster as a term/concept. At best its ambiguous as between almost opposite meanings, at worst it's not even clear enough to be determinately ambiguous. "x is socially constructed" is sometimes used, very roughly, to mean we made x, and sometimes used to mean we made x up...but more often it's used by people who don't quite mean either thing, but slide back and forth between the meanings--indiscriminately or tactically...

Second, there's the some people who believe that race is real also believe racist things argument. This is obviously fallacious, so there's no need to discuss it.

Third, there's a cluster of arguments about vagueness, continuua and changing beliefs. Are the Jews a race? Are the white? Are the Irish a race? Or what?  But the fact that opinions about race have changed is no more an argument for the unreality of race than is the fact that ideas about species have changed an argument for the unreality of species. Arguments from difference of opinion are always weak arguments (though sometimes not entirely weightless). And frequently a bad strategy to try to extrapolate from borderline cases. Look at the clearest cases first--that's sound advice.

To cut to the chase: Are there any real, physical, racial distinctions?

The answer is obvious when the question is asked correctly. Of course there are real, physical differences between Norwegians and Nigerians, Jews and Japanese. It should tell you something about the contemporary left that they are willing to deny a plain fact that everyone knows on the basis of an abstruse theory that barely makes sense. It's a very bad sign when a group is willing to deny plain facts for political ends...

Anyone who denies that there are such differences is welcome to take this bet: take 100 randomly-selected Swedes. Call this group A. Take 100 randomly-selected Sudanese. Call this group B. An average person will be able to tell, at a rate better than chance, which group is from where.

It is utter madness that anyone is having this discussion at all.

The core problem, to my mind, however, is the first problem, the radical, debilitating unclarity of "socially constructed." Begin with a defective concept, and the rest of the conversation will be infected, and defective.

Coates tries to deal with the obvious objection, but, sadly, ends up simply falling into confusion again, writing:
Race clearly has a biological element -- because we have awarded it one.
This may be begging the question by covertly asserting that biology, too, is "socially constructed," or it may be some other kind of confusion...it's almost impossible to tell. But it couldn't be clearer that this response to the biology objection does not work. The differences between groups we are talking about has nothing to do with anything we "awarded" them. They were there before anyone ever thought of them or discussed them. And if you wiped out all our history and all our memories, it wouldn't be long before we noticed them again. If Martians contact us tomorrow, it won't be long before they notice the differences. And that is because the differences in question are real.

There are some real, physical, biological differences between groups of humans. These differences typically correspond to the differences we call racial ones. Humans think a lot of crazy things about race, but nobody is trying to say that everything anyone has ever thought about race is true. All sorts of beliefs about race have been false, and not a few have been pernicious.

But none of that means that there are no real, physical differences between groups of humans.

So: is race "socially constructed"? The question makes little sense because "socially constructed" makes little sense. But, to the extent that the question does make sense, the answer is clearly no.

Conservative Bias In Texas Textbooks

Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society.
There is nothing I can say about that that does not involve a lot of words I shouldn't use in this venue.

Funniest line:

“If anything in politics can move a crowd, it’s holding up an American history book that diminishes the role of the Founding Fathers and Ronald Reagan." 

One of these things, my friends, is not like the others...

Texas history textbooks have been a battleground for years, so this is nothing really new. But it's still a scandal. 

Oh and: an explicable one:
...the Texas Freedom Network issued a press release complaining that just three of the 140 reviewers on the state panel are current faculty members at Texas colleges and that some individuals, such as a used-car-salesman-turned-pastor, seem to have few qualifications for the job. At the same time, several academics with more qualifications were rejected, “a clear sign that for the state Board of Education, years of study and teaching do not count,” said Edward Countryman, a history professor at Southern Methodist.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Julia Carry Wong: The Complicity Cost of Racial Inclusion

This is almost too mind-bendingly horrible to read.

So, y'know...don't...

Start with the incoherent concept "social construction." Add the incoherent-but-patently-false-on-any-plausible-reading "race is socially constructed." Then add a healthy dose of "privilege" talk...

Now you're really on your way to a journalistic train wreck...

Like political correctness before it, this madness from the lefter-than-liberal, SJW left will eventually be ridiculed into oblivion...but boy is it filling the airwaves with godawful bullshit in the meantime...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Atheist Airman Must Swear "So Help Me God" Or Leave USAF


I've heard rumors for years that extremist Christians are running amok at the Air Force Academy...but this is just flat-out insanity.

It's not often that the word "un-American" comes to mind...but it certainly does in this case. Heads need to roll over this.

Women Sick Of "White People" in Brooklyn Drive Couple Out Of Their Apartment At Gunpoint


(Warning: Gawker)

So, many of the comments are outright supportive of the people with the guns...

But...it is just me...or does the article itself seem...insufficiently condemnatory?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Humanists Boycott Pledge Of Allegiance Aiming At Removal Of 'Under God'

Or "atheists" as the Washington Times would have it...

Of course 'under God' has no place in the pledge of allegiance...

But, then, the PoA is creepy as hell and pretty damn un-American...so...I think that going after the 'under God' bit is an instance of the proverbial re-arranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

I neither stand for nor recite that thing, and find it absolutely baffling that any Americans do.  Stand for the national anthem--absolutely. But not for the damn pledge of allegiance.

GOP's Obamacare Nightmare Is Coming True: It's Working

The worst-case scenario for our friends across the aisle?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fox News Propaganda/Cherry-Picking Generates Fever Swamp Furor

     The propaganda from Fox that has allegedly generated paroxysms on the right.
     This same basic point has been smashed many times, but here's the post on Reddit that rehearses the relevant points (Bush signed the SoF agreement, we couldn't get an agreement from Iraq on immunity for U.S. soldiers, etc.)
     The GOP is really getting desperate if they're seriously going to try the Bush-as-great/underappreciated-leader gambit...especially this soon...
Nobody outside the fever swamps is going to buy that.

[Oh and: if we're talking Iraq predictions...]

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Dengue Fever Spreads In Tokyo


ISIS Leader Killed By U.S. Airstrikes?

Rot in hell, shitbag.

[Nope. False alarm. Temporarily suspending celebration. I'm sure we'll be able to resume soon enough...]

Researcher Who Raised Alarm About Rotherham Sex Abuse Says She Was Silenced, Sent To 'Diversity Course'

Insane Leftist Re-Education Camp At U. of Delaware

Presumably, no on here will try to defend this?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Fox "News": Double Standard Re: Beheadings Under Bush, Obama

I am shocked...shocked...

(via Reddit)

C. S. Lewis On Moral Fanaticism

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

The Re-Emergence Of The Hard Left In the U.S.

Recently, the far-ish left has grown in prominence in the U.S. (largely in the guise of the "social justice" movement, and "social justice warriors). 

I contend that we are now experiencing a new version of the "political correctness" debacle of the '90's.  

I also believe that the SJWs, like the PCs, are irrational and illiberal. 

I've long maintained that American liberals are bad at criticizing the illiberal left, because the extreme left is usually insignificant in the U.S. (unlike Europe).  

And I think American liberals are making the same mistake now that they made with PC--they are insufficiently critical of it. 

Liberals already have their own problems, and they share many of them with the hard left--they incline toward the cult of culture, radically overestimating the power and effects of society, they have a tendency to cry "racism," "sexism," "homophobia"...and, for that matter, x-phobia for almost any value of 'x' you care to mention, they tend toward language policing, and so on... The hard left shares many of the same failings...but in greater degree.  

Liberals, already worried about, e.g., racism, and used to battling people who underestimate its prevalence and importance, are too tolerant of, and too slow to react to, those who throw the charge around indiscriminately and over estimate its prevalence and importance (e.g. holding that all whites are necessarily racist and/or that it is impossible for non-whites to be racist--both prominent positions among the "SJW" types...).  

My own view is that the hard left is illiberal, and, as a mostly-liberal dude, I disagree with those who are illiberal. So I disagree with the hard left. 

In fact, I disagree with the far left as much as I disagree with the far right. 

And I think that this is what every approximately-liberal person should do.  

Though I detest arguments of this sort, I'll mention it here: even if left-wing extremism and irrationality doesn't bother you that much, you should worry about its effects. The PCs drove many intelligent, independent-minded college students to the right in the '90's. (In fact, I've always secretly blamed them for George W. Bush...)  The more arguments like this must be emphasized, the more I worry about liberalism...  I don't want to be associated with a position that is ok with irrationality so long as it happens to be associated with allegedly true conclusions...

Of course, some liberals really are leftier than I am, really do conclude that more things are sexist and racist than I do, really believe, for example, that "rape culture" is a perfectly sensible concept that accurately applies to American culture, really do think that micromanagement of people's language is reasonable, and so on...  (I expect that most will draw the line at talk of "cultural appropriation"...but maybe not...) So nothing above, anyway, will move them.  

But, if you are in my sector of the political spectrum, it's time to get concerned about what's happening to the left of you in America right now...  It's still largely confined to parts of the web--as PC was confined to college campuses--but the web is important. And, worse, it does seem to be leaking out...

Air Force Again Requires "So Help Me God" In Oath

This is very worrisome news, obviously.

There have long been rumors that the Air Force academy was overrun by theism...  But this is just mind-boggling.

I've just read that this requirement is inconsistent not only with the practice of other branches of the service, but also with the law.

Needless to say, the administration will have to do something about this...which will prompt new paroxysms of Obama-the-Muslim/Obama-the-Antichrist/Obama-the-God-knows-what from the fever swamps...

(via Reddit)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Milky Way Is On The Edge Of The "Immeasurable Heaven" Supercluster

The mind, it reels

(via Reddit)

The Shadow of Dark Money Haunts the Midterms


Remember democracy? Yeah...those were the days...

The Spider Woman Cover Controversy

Great arguments, bad words, NSFW: (video)

This is the slam-dunkiest slam dunk of an argument I've seen in a long time.

McDonnell Guilty On 11 Counts

Holy crap

Break down of the verdicts:  link

Brainwash: The Gender Equality Paradox


I think this is an absolutely fantastic documentary.

Here we see: a scientifically-minded layperson (actually: a comedian with a degree in sociology) + several actual scientists vs. a couple of pseudoscientific bureaucrats at the "Nordic Gender Institute" (NIKK).

Turns out, Eia and this documentary got the NIKK closed down--a victory for sensible people everywhere...

It's a really informative, entertaining, and engaging video.

The "gender" equality paradox itself is fascinating. I had not heard of it, but it goes like this: in more advanced, more egalitarian/equalitarian countries, men and women tend to gravitate toward traditionally male and female occupations more strongly than in less advanced/egalitarian/equalitarian countries. WTF is up with that??

I very seriously doubt that you will be disappointed if you watch it.

Philosoraptor say: two sickle claws up.

Behold Dreadnoughtus

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Obama's ISIS "No Strategy" Dust-Up


Complete nonsense.

1. People bitch about politicians bullshitting them, then they bitch about it when they're honest.

2. We didn't have a strategy. We shouldn't have had a strategy. A president with a prefabricated strategy is a crap president. George Bush had a strategy ready-made after 9/11, because he already knew what he wanted to do anyway, and used 9/11 as a pretext.

3. It was good to be honest about it. And ISIS gained nothing from that.

4. The lunatics in the fever swamps are going to whine and shriek no matter what Obama says. He could have announced that we'd selectively vaporized every member of ISIS with a new super-weapon of his own devising, and the GOP would still have bitched about it. If Obama walked on water, the GOP talking points would be "Berry can't swim"...  So the GOP should be ignored.

5. Obama's exactly the president I want: you know he's always going to do something reasonable. When Bush was president, I woke up every  morning afraid to open the Washington Post, afraid to see what knew outrage had been perpetrated against minimal rationality and common sense. We don't have to worry about that anymore.

Anyway: while Obama is trying to solve big problems, CNN and company whine about "optics" like a bunch of three-year-olds.

What utter nonsense.

"Wolverine Set To Die--And Stay Dead"

Does anybody, anywhere believe the second clause?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

CDC Director Frieden: Window Of Opportunity To Tamp Down Ebola Is Closing