Ask Iris: How is Sam Harris wrong? Part 1.

A friend and Loyal Reader™ forwarded me a recent screed by Sam Harris. He asked if I would be willing to indulge him in letting him know what in it, if anything, I think is “objectionable, disagree with or find otherwise ill-advised.” Harris’s post, entitled “What Hillary Clinton Should Say about Islam and the ‘War on Terror,’” is written in the form of a proposed speech that he would like for the Democratic nominee for president to give before the November election. “Its purpose,” Harris says, “is to prevent a swing toward Trump by voters who find Clinton’s political correctness on the topic of Islam and jihadism a cause for concern.”

I did a debunking of Harris almost two years ago on this very topic. It was a tedious exercise, mainly because like all right-wing conservatives and reactionaries, he bases his irrational, evidence-free, simplistic, black-&-white views and arguments, such as they are, on falsehoods and factual inaccuracies that are a cakewalk to disprove. The task was all the more unbearable because I’ve always found Harris an unoriginal and uninteresting thinker and a witless and dull writer, so much so that I’m genuinely amazed he is not a regular op-ed columnist for the New York Times.

That said, he is certainly an incendiary polemicist. Or he tries to be anyway, but for me he comes off as smug and comically uninformed as any ordinary Fox News host. Except for a few items that popped up in my feeds, Harris had largely dropped off my radar. Those sure were a couple of doozies, though. Last year he made his jaw-dropping claim that far-right fabulist and then-presidential candidate Ben Carson is “one of the best people” on the subject of Islam and terrorism, even as Carson’s “own advisers admit [he] struggles with grasping basic facts surrounding international conflicts.” Before that, Noam Chomsky—who is the farthest thing from an unoriginal and uninteresting thinker or a witless and dull writer—ate him for lunch. Oh, and then there was that one time I made a bobblehead of Sam Harris for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

harrisbobblehead

Researching for today’s post, however, I came across many more Harris grotesqueries that I was fortunate enough to miss, ignore or block from memory: support for racial profiling, torture, preemptive nuclear war, demanding that the US government admit that it is and ought to be “at war with Islam” and that “The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.”

Sensible fascists. Jeezus.

A decade ago, Harris wrote that Muslim immigrants to Europe exploit the Western values of their host countries by “demanding tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the genocidal hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques.” He is inexplicably unaware that, in accordance with his much-touted “Western values,” his fellow US citizens not only demand “tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the genocidal hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques churches“—and also happens to be the foundational principle upon which US “civilization” is and has always been based—they fucking receive it. He’s also unaware that immigrant populations assimilate to their host culture within a few generations—well, at least if they’re treated decently, for instance by having their host country not declare war on their religion or its presidential candidates threatening and demonizing them.

I honestly don’t know why I am undertaking this task again. Maybe because I find it troubling that anyone but a Fox News viewer would take the guy seriously on this issue, when conducting a cursory investigation into the facts and evidence for yourself will reveal how completely and utterly wrong he is about a unique nexus between Islamic religious ideas and terrorism (and misogyny), as well as how unethical, irrational, irresponsible and dangerous it is to promote such falsehoods. Maybe I’m doing this because I have some unhealthy masochistic tendencies I really should bring up in therapy. Maybe it’s because I like honoring the 1940s-era pianist and comedian Oscar Levant who said, “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”

Well, regardless, now I’ve gone and done it. My comments and edits to Harris’s latest…whatever it is are in blue.

SPOILER ALERT: Sam Harris is still wanking all over the same, tired hobbyhorse. He has learned nothing. And he likely never will.

Continue reading

All Olympians Are Great Athletes; A Few, However, Are Not Yet Good Role Models for Rational Decision-Making

Introduction

The Olympics have been amazing. We are smitten with wonder, admiration and respect for the beyond-belief levels of sustained brutal training, laser focus and genius-level skills exhibited by those who rose to Olympian heights, let alone scaled the summits—called podiums. And then there are people like Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and other Superpersons, who no way could have been born on this planet. Something is going on here, and I hope Donald Trump will soon be asking pointed questions, raising suspicions about these Promethean heroes and heroines who infiltrated themselves amongst talented but still mere mortals.

Speaking of Michael Phelps, let me raise a question: What’s with those circular bruises? A little investigating reveals that Michael The Great might invest too much credulity in New Age, alternative/integrative/traditional Chinese medicine BS.

Cupping is a fad involving the flow of one’s vital life force via the suction of heated glass bowls applied to the skin. Holy hocus pocus. How come American or other Olympic officials indulged athletes flaunting their cups on prime time world TV? Such appearances were inadvertent ads for pseudoscience. The exposure of cupping marks on winners bestowed an air of legitimacy on baseless and potentially harmful treatments—all of it beamed into the consciousness of impressionable children and gullible adults. C’est dommage.

As for cupping, this silliness has no medical or scientific basis—and it can be quite dangerous, often leading to burns and infections.

Olympian Gullibility

Did you observe the indicators of woo woo at the Games? No, I’m not referring to the many signs of the cross before or after races (is that a good luck charm or a request for outside assistance from a deity?). I’m referring to interviewees who claimed, I am so blessed (as opposed to their rivals who did not get blessed?), the fingers in the air pointing to a deity in the sky (influencing events, doing favors?), other indications that competitors give credence to homeopathy, acupuncture, kinesiology tape and yes, cupping.

What ever happened to the rabbit’s foot?

Cupping?

Basically, cupping entails having someone stick heated suction cups or glass bulbs on the  skin. Olympians said they cupped to ease soreness in order to swim or run faster, jump higher, stay cooler, align their chakras and qi, and/or do whatever they wanted cupping to do for them. But, of course, they had to believe, that is, have faith, just like in religion.

In addition to the ancient Chinese, it seems some North American Indians engaged in cupping, as did Egyptians more than a thousand years before we got to AD 1. It was part of bloodletting at one time, which might now be seen as another form of alternative medicine that might make a comeback, if a movie star or Dr. Oz or Deepak recommend it.

You can find gruesome photos of what cupping might do for you if you allow a quack to suck poisons or toxins from your body by cupping you. Medical doctors consider some of the marks on a 60 year-old Chinese man in a well-publicized case to be third-degree burns. Such wounds usually become infected and possibly septic.

Consider what physician skeptic/debunker David Gorski wrote on “The Science Blog” on July 1, 2016:

Cupping is nothing more than an ancient medical practice based on a prescientific understanding of the body and disease, much like bloodletting and treatments based on the ‘Four Humors.’ it’s all risk for no benefit. It has no place in modern medicine, or at least shouldn’t. After all, we don’t still believe in the four humors that Hippocrates and ancient ‘Western’ medicine invoked for many hundreds of years. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) is based on much the same concepts, just with different names, substituting, for example, the ‘Five Elements’ for the ‘Four Humors’ and attributing disease to imbalances in them, just as ancient Western physicians attributed disease to imbalances in the ‘Four Humors.’ Yet ‘integrative medicine’ rejects one and embraces the other when it should be rejecting them both.

All Hail the Olympians, Anyway

Cupping and other superstitions aside, there is nothing but wonder and appreciation in my view for the magnificent performances shown by nearly all competitors (Hope Solo? Maybe not so much). Olympians are indeed amazing, even more so if not extraterrestrials, after all. Maybe those who inadvertently promoted medical silliness will use their platforms in the future to promote evidence-based medicine, scientific acumen and skeptical inquiry, and maybe even REAL wellness.

May you be well, choose wisely, enjoy the quest and die healthy, but not until you’re good and ready.

GUEST POST: I’ve Seen Bears Kill.

Please enjoy these beautiful thoughts, beautifully expressed, by my friend Ian. (Posted with permission.)

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I think one of the advantages to having been born and raised in Alaska, and having a mother who encouraged me to explore my world, was that in those massive wide open expanses, the unending forests, the freezing lakes and rivers, impassible mountains, and temperature extremes that think nothing of ending your life…

I learned that life is not given to us. That the world doesn’t belong to us. It was not made for us… In fact, for the most part we aren’t even suited to it.

We survive the world. We live small in an unimaginably massive universe that would kill us instantly in our natural state.

I learned all of this before I even turned 5 years old.

So when someone first told me their stories about their God, or their religions, or their books… All I could think was:

“That makes absolutely no sense! Why would anyone make something so mean to us? No. I just don’t believe that. I’ve seen a bear kill. I’ve killed fish. I once fell in a river during the winter. I know I almost died. Nothing invisible saved me. I saved myself! That book is ridiculous.”

I’ve lived another, what? 35 years now?

Nothing’s changed.

We survive the world. We live in that unending and harsh world.

And that’s the best feeling there is. Walk any forest without your tools to save you, and you’ll see. No God. Just you, and the world that makes you.

I’ve never felt more free than in those mornings when the world was about to end me – without malice, without anger, without hatred or rage…

Just the ice wind, blowing into my lungs. Quietly asking,…

“What are you doing here? How are you going to live?”

That Half-Baked Thought Experiment Cooked Up by Self-Entitled Pricks.

Today we are thrilled to have a new post from our long absent and very much missed co-blogger, SJ. I am sure I speak for the entire Palace staff and its Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ when I say, welcome home, sir. It is always a pleasure to have your countenance grace our humble abode.

Take it away, my friend.

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[CONTENT NOTE: This post contains a photographic image depicting a large animal carcass lying in a street, and several impoverished young children.]

Three years ago a I posted a blog here at my favorite palace in which I heaped contempt on the Libertarians’ patron saint, Ayn Rand. The vastly overrated novelist and “philosopher” died in 1982, but her legacy of superficial, egocentric “moral principles” lives on as a quasi-philosophy and cornerstone of a mean-spirited and delusional political party that is, at least for now, marginalized. (Warning: Things can change quickly here in Loonyland, so don’t write the Libertarians off.)

The graphic below was the inspiration behind the present title, and also for my earlier blog. As I wrote then, “The only problem with the graphic is the word philosopher, which belongs in scare quotes. Philosopher, my ass. If Ayn Rand is a philosopher, Michele Bachmann is a Constitutional scholar. Rand is the late-night infomercial of political philosophy. In a sane, educated society, she would be a standing joke, à la Bachmann.”

aynrandposter.jpg

Anyway, and for what it might be worth, my impressions of libertarianism kinda go like this: I got mine; you’re on your own, Jack! If there’s no work where you are, just pack it up and move somewhere else . . . If your wages are too low to support your family, get a second job, or put the kids to work . . . Bootstraps, man! . . . Only the worthy will be rewarded, and the wealthy and powerful (hereafter W&P) will deservedly rule . . . And, as former Republican Congressman Ron Paul explained, if you or your kids get sick, you’ll have to look for a charitable doctor who will let you pay him when you earn your share of the American Dream Pie™.

But not to fear. You see, it’s all gonna work out according to the hallowed magic of the Unregulated Free Market. The libertarian social Darwinist wet dream starts with the elimination of virtually all forms of taxation . . . Then the W&P (acting strictly in their individual self-interest, of course) will start creating an abundance of jobs, and the economy will prosper as never before. Which sounds like good old trickle-down economics, that article of faith if not proven fact among conservatives. Just be ready to run for cover when the trickle is aimed your way, because there won’t be any minimum wage or other protections you might think would be taken for granted in The Greatest Country Ever in the 21st Century. But hey, you won’t have to pay any income tax. Just be sure to read the fine print before you sign on.

In an excellent, recent blog titled, Gary Johnson is worse than Donald Trump, Benjamin Studebaker writes,

Gary Johnson has a tax plan that makes Donald Trump’s plan look left wing. Johnson wants to eliminate the income, capital gains, payroll, and estate taxes completely and replace them all with a flat 23% national sales tax.

That brilliant idea seems to have originated with right-wing intellectual and failed presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, who calls it the “fair tax.” The idea is the wealthy will buy more stuff and pay more taxes . . . what could be more fair than that?

Except that there seem to be a few pesky reality clauses buried in the fine print.

As Studebaker points out, the W&P will pay sales tax on a relatively small portion of their income compared to working stiffs making less than $70,000, who will pay taxes on almost all of their earnings. According to Studebaker, in some places the combined federal and state sales taxes for working people could amount to as much as 50 percent of their income.

Which means that the 23 percent figure can be grossly misleading: The effective tax rate for someone who makes $300,000 and spends $100,000 on taxable goods and services will not be 23 percent but about eight percent of their income! And the effective tax rate becomes vanishingly small as income increases. But never mind that, because the W&P will reward the rest of us by creating lots of jobs, enough so you’ll be able to find a second or even a third job to make ends meet.

Libertarians also intend to balance the federal budget and eliminate government borrowing, immediately. Imagine how virtuous you’re going to feel, knowing you won’t be “burdening future generations with debt they didn’t consent to” (which is immoral, even criminal, according to many Libertarians). And remember their mantra, “Taxation is thievery” (although I’ll go with author Michael Ventrella’s take on that idea).

Social Darwinism, Anyone?

And there’s more, much more: Libertarians virtually worship unregulated free-market competition – which I prefer to call all against all – as the formula for the success of all . . . Well, excepting certain groups, like slackers, dummies, and the elderly who weren’t wise enough to sign up for a private retirement plan. And if a stock market crash wipes out all those private retirement savings? Too bad, those losers should have made provisions. But even then they’ll still have their precious freedom and their ever-so-realistic hopes of becoming members of the W&P class. That kind of economic freedom has got to be the most glorious thing there is!

There’s even balm for you liberals out there: Libertarians are socially liberal, maybe more so than you are, though they waffle on a few things, like abortion. Just ask Ron and Rand Paul about that (can’t alienate all those religious-right-zygotes-are-humans voters). But for the most part, you’ll be free to do what makes you happy – so get ready to put on your best new duds, or nothing, and go out there and raise hell, so long as you don’t interfere with someone else’s fun. Might be a good idea, though, to pack a gun in that brave new world, because there will be no gun restrictions – freedom, don’tcha know! You may not even be required to have a driver’s license, if you can afford a car. Just free people being free. What can go wrong?

Studebaker’s blog is a good read, with quotes and analyses of several planks from the Libertarian platform. Gotta love this one:

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.

What can go wrong?

And there’s this:

We favor a free-market health care system.We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.

I mean, what can go wrong?

Scenes like this one from the Good Old Days are evidently A-OK with Libertarians.

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Circa 1905. “The close of a career in New York.” Photo by Byron. Posted at Shorpy Historic Picture Archive. Highly recommended.

Do they really think turning everything over to the “free market” will improve the myriad social, environmental, economic, health, education, and infrastructure problems we face? (Feel free to add your own categories.) Or promote peaceful coexistence among our citizens? Evidently they do. Or maybe they don’t care. Fortunately, they are, for now, marginalized. And let’s hope it stays that way: Their entire program is nothing more than a half-baked, egotistical thought experiment, untethered from reality to a scary degree. I’ll even argue that they’re not a serious political party, that they don’t deserve a place at the table when serious adults are discussing real-world policy issues. Like their guru, Ayn Rand, they have created a caricature of human nature to suit their ideological pretensions.

So please don’t throw your vote away on radical ideologues; and if you’re tempted, remind yourself  that their answer for those who can’t afford health care is charity.

One more quote, from H.L. Mencken, offered here with sadness:

No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. . . .

The mistake that is made always runs the other way. Because the plain people are able to speak and understand, and even, in many cases, to read and write, it is assumed that they have ideas in their heads, and an appetite for more. This assumption is a folly.

That about sums it up, I’m truly sorry to say.

Postscript

A smart-ass friend who commented on my first draft wrote, “Sheesh, what do you really think about Libertarians?”

Channeling physicist Wolfgang Pauli, I wrote, “They are not even wrong.” But moments before clicking Send, I had an inspiration and remembered an internet meme I’d slightly modified and saved for just such an occasion.

fractalwrongness-1.png

Save

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New feature! New acronym! VERY EXCITING.

A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship. –Chalmers Johnson

In the ordinary course of going about my life—you know: tormenting conservatives, torturing faith healers, smashing the patriarchy, extracting $82 billion worth of amusement for readers out of the Religion-Industrial-Complex, sounding the alarm about the deadly squirrel menace, all the usual stuff—I have found myself repeatedly thinking a very specific sentiment: most US citizens have no idea what our government does or who it serves. And to be clear, by “most,” I mean the vast, overwhelming majority.

This is true for a number of reasons. It starts with our grade schools serving up steaming piles of shit: the noble escapades of Christopher Columbus, the warm and cooperative relationship between Native Americans and European colonialists we celebrate as a national holiday, a justice system that produces justice, our fearless and vaunted adversarial press, the great cause of democracy for which US citizens routinely sacrifice blood and treasure all over the world, the moral meritocracy of capitalism and The American Dream™, and on and on. Don’t even get me started on the myths we are fed about race. NEWSFLASH: there is no part of U.S. history or culture that is not inexorably linked to Africans dragged to this country in chains, and forced to work under the most brutal conditions imaginable, thereby amassing great wealth for America’s Owners. It continues to this day.

And then of course our rancid corporate media piles it on, 24/7/365, its sins of omission frequently far greater than its whitewashing of reality. We USians are surely among the most propagandized populations in the world, ever. The fog is so thick, we choke on it.

But this is what a ruling class does. This is what a ruling class has always done, and will always do. And so, quite understandably, most US citizens have no idea what our government does or who it serves.

Most US Citizens Have No Idea What Our Government Does Or Who It Serves.

MUSCHNIWOGDOWIS

#muschniwogdowis

!!!

OMG don’t you love it?! I LOVE IT. This ingenious new hashtag is guaranteed to be trending worldwide on Twitter. Any minute now.

Okay, maybe it’s a little clunky. Also: practically unpronounceable. But I am nevertheless finding it very, very useful.

Today’s demonstration of its utility comes courtesy of this headline in The Nation: The Obama Administration Has Brokered More Weapons Sales Than Any Other Administration Since World War II. You can read the whole thing for yourself for a nice overview of how it all works, though not for all the nasty little devils in the details. But the takeaway is this: the Executive Branch of the US government, from the Pentagon to the State Department to the Commander-in-Chief, is a dedicated worldwide sales force shilling for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrup Grumman.

Here is one example of how it works:

Take the administration’s proposed new 10-year aid deal with Israel. If enacted as currently planned, it would boost US military assistance to that country by up to 25 percent—to roughly $4 billion per year. At the same time, it would phase out a provision that had allowed Israel to spend one-quarter of Washington’s aid developing its own defense industry. In other words, all that money, the full $4 billion in taxpayer dollars, will now flow directly into the coffers of companies like Lockheed Martin, which is in the midst of completing a multi-billion-dollar deal to sell the Israelis F-35s.

What looks like a $40 billion US taxpayer gift to Israel is actually a $40 billion US taxpayer gift to Lockheed Martin. Israeli citizens, by the way, enjoy excellent universal health care, including mental health treatment and dental care for their kids. Unlike, say, the very same US citizens shelling out that $40 billion.

Hell, why not just hand it over directly to Lockheed, with the tiny little caveat that it reincorporate itself as a non-profit? (Hahaha. Oh man, sometimes I really crack myself up.)

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I remember reading something somewhere sometime about war profiteering once being considered an unconscionable crime, if you can believe it. Moneymaking from warmaking is evil, generating as it does massive profits for an elite few out of volatility and violence for the many. Now it is quite literally the American Way.

The ‘defense’ budget is three quarters of a trillion dollars. Profits went up last year well over 25%. I guarantee you: when war becomes that profitable, we’re going to see more of it. –Chalmers Johnson

In closing, ask yourself this question: if America’s Owners (the permanent power factions in Washington DC, a.k.a. the deep state) are perfectly willing to bomb and invade sovereign countries at will, to destabilize and violently overthrow the democratically elected leftist governments of countries whose resources they feel entitled to exploit and install brutal tyrants to guarantee unimpeded access, to assassinate and neutralize labor activists, minority and indigenous organizers or indeed anyone who poses even a minor threat to the profit-making schemes from which they so richly benefit, do you believe for one second that they will ever allow leftists in the US to amass sufficient power to turn the ship of state 180 degrees and put it to work creating more just, peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies?

Aww fuck, I’m sorry. That was a loooong question. Makes my new acronym seem downright pithy by comparison, doesn’t it?

#muschniwogdowis.

Have a nice day

Face-punching for social justice: real vs. rhetorical.

[CONTENT NOTE: discussion of violence, violent and bigoted slurs and “jokes”.]

Via my amazing friend Niki at The Orbit comes this news: George Zimmerman punched in face for bragging about killing Trayvon Martin, witnesses allege.

SANFORD, Fla. — The man who said he shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in self-defense said he was punched in the face while he was talking to people at a restaurant in Sanford over the weekend.

George Zimmerman and a friend called 911 after a man accusing him of bragging about the fatal shooting punched him in the face, authorities said.

Zimmerman is considered the victim in this case, but witnesses inside Gators Riverside restaurant told authorities that the problem started because Zimmerman was bragging about killing the unarmed teen in 2012.

Witnesses said they overheard Zimmerman say to someone, “I love your tattoos. My name is George Zimmerman, you know, that guy who killed Trayvon Martin?” Witness said Zimmerman also showed his identification card.

I commented at Niki’s (awaiting moderation at the time of this posting), but I wanted to expand on that and clarify a little bit here.

I admit to feeling a certain amount of righteous satisfaction from this incident. If there is anyone who deserves a punch in the face, it’s George fucking Zimmerman. Taking a step back though, I wish it was the rhetorical equivalent of violence, and not actual violence. Neither Trayvon’s murder nor Zimmerman’s acquittal happened in a vacuum; they happened in a culture where violence is normalized, expected, and in the case of “stand your ground” laws, practically encouraged.

For example, I’d love to see bros getting right in Zimmerman’s face and telling him to STFU or GTFO of every. single. place. he ever enters, making it perfectly clear that he is an unwelcome pariah there, and that there are unpleasant consequences for him, in the real world, as a result of his (right-wing) views and violent actions.

The problem is that this almost never happens. And not just with Zimmerman, but with all conservative douches. They feel perfectly entitled to occupy and dominate any and all public spaces, freely spouting barbaric and counterfactual nonsense, with nary a peep to counter them. Ever. And why wouldn’t they? Sure, there may be a few eyerolls and whispers, but never any real, unpleasant consequences. Quite the opposite, actually: HIGH FIVE, BRO. And like every bully and oppressor, they will always interpret the silence of bystanders as agreement, thereby reinforcing the legitimacy of their unconscionable views in a perpetual bubble of support and encouragement. It’s what I call “conservative privilege.”

I want a world where every time some douchebro (or douchesis?) spews something racist, sexist, homophobic, transantagonistic, ableist, rapey, deadly, dehumanizing, etc. etc., some other coolbro (ideally coolbros and coolsisses) shuts that shit down immediately with CBF (Cat Butt Face) and “STFU or GTFO.” And since I’m fantasizing, with a heavy dose of scathing mockery.

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DOUCHEBRO: Look at that fucking n*gger.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. You sound like a racist piece of shit. Don’t ever say that word around here.

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DOUCHEBRO: Look at that fucking d*ke/f*ggot.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. You sound like a homophobic piece of shit. Don’t ever say that word around here.

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DOUCHEBRO: Look at that fucking r*tard.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. You sound like an ableist piece of shit. Don’t ever say that word around here.

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DOUCHEBRO: That hot chick looks totally wasted. I’ma drive that home and hit that. Heh.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. That’s rape, you disgusting piece of shit. If I see you go anywhere near her I will have you thrown out of here. [BONUS: alerts bartender and checks on woman to ensure she has safe way home.]

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That is how culture shifts.

We will probably always have violent bigots of every stripe among us. We cannot afford to legitimize them. That is precisely what makes the Trump candidacy so dangerous. [<- TW for every goddamn thing at that link.]

Korryn Gaines #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter

The following is a post by my friend and Freethought Blogs colleague Nathan Hevenstone. Nate requested that it be reposted far and wide. I am happy to oblige.

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Just when I thought I could start posting lighter stuff…

Cops shoot, kill woman barricaded with little boy wounded in Baltimore standoff (I don’t know if the video in the link shows the shooting… I can’t get it to play. I’m sorry. Be wary just in case.)

In a fit of road rage, Anthony Vigilotti pointed a handgun directly at a police officer, but was arrested later that day without incident. From his mugshot, it doesn’t even look like he received a scratch in the process.

Jed Frazier pointed his handgun directly at police, but “officers and medics took shelter and continued to make contact with Frazier. Shortly before 3 a.m. Police say they broke the windows in the truck and extricated Frazier. Frazier was treated for minor injuries before being taken to the Lawrence County Jail.”

In a quick search, I found a dozen similar stories from July alone. White men, be they mass shooters like Dylann Roof (Charleston), James Holmes (Aurora), or Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson) — or men like William Bruce Ray, Anthony Vigilotti, or Jed Frazier — all live to face a jury of their peers.

Korryn Gaines doesn’t have a violent history. She was a cosmetologist and, according to her friends and family, a doting mother. She should’ve received the treatment that all of those armed white men received. Somehow, in each of those cases, police found in their hearts to overcome their fears without unloading their guns on those men.

That’s white privilege.

It should be noted that at least 682 people have been murdered by the police this year.

korryngaines

Korryn Gaines posing with her son over her back. Both look very happy.

I really want to say more. I’d like to say how enraged I am, how every time I post something like this, I do it through tears. And that is 100% true. I’m in tears now.

But so fucking what? What do my rage and my tears accomplish?

For those who are already dead, nothing.

I can support Black Lives Matter, and they are still dead.

I can post about them, and they are still dead.

I can show pictures of them being people, and they are still dead.

I can vote, and they are still dead.

I can donate money, and they are still dead.

I can talk about my white privilege, and they are still dead.

I can get out in the streets, and they are still dead.

These people, whose lives did fucking matter, at least to me, are now dead, never to see their children grow up, never to see or meet their grandchildren, or great grandchildren, never to see how there lives would progress into the future…

Because they were murdered by the damn state. Everything I try to do to make some kind of small change, to support a future where this doesn’t happen, doesn’t help the ones who are already dead.

But it can help those who are still alive, and still in danger. I can at least do something for all of you still breathing because, so far, the cops have seen fit to let you live.

God I’m sorry. It means nothing, but I’m sorry. We white people have to make it stop. Things have to change. And I’ll keep using my privilege and my platform to speak up, for those of you who are still alive, because your lives DO FUCKING MATTER. And until this country accepts that, I won’t stop saying it.

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Thank you, Nate.

blacklivesmatter

 

I must have been a VERY good girl.

Behold what the universe hath conspired to deliver up unto me: the skull of a ravaged squirrel.

squirrelskullwatermarkOkay, so technically it might not be the skull of a squirrel. How the hell would I know? I am not some kind of -ologist, people! Nevertheless, I am going to have to insist that it is indeed the skull of a squirrel, because it is just too perfect for my purposes. (Hey—conservatives make up their own facts all the fucking time. Why can’t I for once huh? HUH?)

And what might my diabolical purposes be, exactly? Well I wasn’t quite sure at first. But then I photographed it, the results of which you see above (watermarked). And I found it weirdly, oddly beautiful. Also kind of badass, you know? As in, evoking death and the transience of our mortal existence, or perhaps the face of some imagined alien being.

But of course what really, really pushes my button is that it’s a dead squirrel. Because let’s face it: the only good squirrel…is a dead squirrel. I ask you: could anything be more full of win?

Why, yes! Yes it can: its provenance.

__________

My Amazing Lover™ is the proud owner of a planting bed, one that sits beyond a slatted fence and just above street level. It’s full of lovely perennial plants like crocus, white tulips, pulmonaria and some waxy-leafed ground cover I gave him, extracted from the tiny yard behind my palace on Perry Street. He keeps it well weeded, watered and mulched. One day, he said there was something he wanted to show me in the planting bed. He pointed out the disembodied skull, which had a patch of gray-brown fur and some whiskers attached. “I think it’s from a squirrel,” he said.

OMG *swoon*.

The next day we discovered it had been moved, and now rested a foot or two away. The fur patch appeared to be significantly smaller, and I could no longer make out whiskers. By the following morning it had been moved once again, and picked clean by nocturnal scavengers. Circle of life, and all that.

I could not stop thinking about it, that small skull lying in the mulch. (I am super weird. FYI.) A few days passed. My Amazing Lover™ was on his way to me, and called to ask if I needed anything. “I need that squirrel skull,” I said. Like it was the most ordinary thing to ask for in the world.

“Okay.”

A few hours later, I was in possession of a clear ziploc bag containing my prized possession.

THAT’S RIGHT MY PARTNER BROUGHT ME A SKULL THAT MIGHT POSSIBLY BE FROM A SQUIRREL MAYBE.

If that is not the ultimate sign of deep and abiding love…well, I just don’t know what is.

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And because I am about nothing if not sharing the love, I plastered that skull all over a bunch of stuff at my online store, so you too can be part of the #deathtosquirrels revolution.

mugcompositesquirrelskullringWho needs pearls? You can have squirrels.

squirrelskullbandanaSubversive pocket square…
for all your formalwear occasions.

+ MOAR…!

Conservatives ruining everything as usual, this time in Michigan.

[CONTENT NOTE: sexual harassment, assault and rape.]

Well this is an interesting story:

The battle over Michigan State University’s women-only lounge began with a rival school’s male professor.

Mark Perry, who teaches economics at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus, had stumbled upon a news story about the 91-year-old room in MSU’s sprawling student union. “They’d written about what a great space this is for women,” Perry said. “They can go in and take a nap and not be worried about being bothered.”

So a d00d professor at a different college read about this great space for women at MSU, a place where they can relax and study without worry of being harassed by—let’s be clear here—men. And he said to himself, “Wow, I’m so glad for the women of MSU. I wonder how I can help institute the same thing here at University of Michigan?”

Hahaha. I’m just kidding.

He figured it couldn’t be legal. Banning men from a taxpayer-funded study area, Perry thought, could violate Title IX, a federal law meant to protect gender equality on college campuses. So he contacted the school. Nothing changed. He sent a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in June, but the department would not accept it because Perry had not personally endured discrimination.

Professor Perry’s Civil Rights™ were totally being violated at a different university where he neither attended nor worked. Won’t someone think of the discrimination this man did not endure?

Then a writer for conservative news site The Daily Caller highlighted his grievance in a July 12 story.

His grievance, people. This poor man was aggrieved! And nobody cared…except for one heroic blogger at The Daily Commode.

Perry, who blogs about financial issues for the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think [sic] tank, followed up with a post of his own the next day: “Is it really legal for a public university to blatantly violate the civil rights of 50% of its student body?”

Next up from the nutty professor: “Is it really legal for a public university to blatantly violate the civil rights of 50% of its student body by prohibiting men in women’s locker rooms and showers?”

Two days later, MSU quietly shuttered the women-only lounge.

Female students promptly revolted.

Alyssa Maturen, 19, had just switched dormitories to live closer to the lounge, where she studied at least three times weekly. The sophomore marine biology major preferred the option to MSU’s gender-neutral places, where, she said, male students have interrupted work to ask her out.

She created a petition on July 18, writing, “Together we can take back our lounge.” By Wednesday, nearly 5,000 people had signed it.

“I’m signing because as a male, I’ve never felt threatened in a public space in my life, but every woman I know has,” one student commented on the Change.org petition. “I’ve never had to worry about people staring at me or coming up to me and forcing conversation on me while I’m trying to study, but every female college student I know has.”

“I myself have specifically used the women’s study lounge when initially going to the co-ed area to study, but then was harassed by a male student especially late in the evening, which continued even once I told him that I couldn’t talk and had to get my work done,” wrote another.

“I’m signing this because I use this space and it is one of the few areas that I feel safe,” wrote another.

WHAT?! Safe spaces are for “coddling students who can’t handle the real world.” If you find you need a safe space on a college campus, you need to “leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university.” OBVIOUSLY.

Let’s just take a look at the “real world” at MSU, shall we?

Close to 25 percent of female undergraduate students at Michigan State University have been sexually assaulted and 12 percent have been victims of attempted or completed rape, according to a survey conducted by MSU and the Association of American Universities.

Of female students surveyed, 24.8 percent experienced completed or attempted nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching involving physical force or incapacitation…Of female MSU students raped through physical force, 71.9 percent did not report the incident.

Well golly. That’s ONE IN FOUR. But why would women not report their violent rapes? How can we blame help victims if they won’t even do us the courtesy of coming forward?! Hmmm

The U.S. Department of Education determined Michigan State University did not do enough to investigate two Title IX complaints and had a poor process for dealing with sexual assault accusations.

In a report released [in September 2015], federal investigators said MSU’s process for dealing with sexual assault complaints was not compliant with Title IX regulations. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.

“Its failure to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a prompt and equitable manner caused and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment for numerous students and staff on campus during the years covered by [the Office of Civil Rights]’s investigation, 2009 to 2014,” the report stated.

O.o

Alyssa Maturen’s petition to reopen the women’s study lounge also notes that the “lounge was a space where sexual assault victims could go and feel safe, a space away from their attacker.” I mean, what kind of world do we live in where we can just violate the civil rights of harassers and rapists willy-nilly? All men must have access to every space, including—nay, especially!—those where women victims of sexual assault and harassment seek refuge. To ban men from a single room is the exact same thing as denying them access to educational opportunities on the basis of sex! This is nothing short of persecution at its most egregious, people. MISANDRY!!!11!!

Some faculty members don’t think Title IX belongs in the discussion.

“It’s disturbing and troubling to see Title IX invoked in this manner,” said Lisa Schwartzman, associate chair and graduate program director of MSU’s philosophy department. “The Women’s Lounge is the one women-only space on campus. The claim that its very existence denies men access to an equal education is absurd.”

Perry disagrees. The Flint professor notes that women now outpace men in college enrollment and degree attainment…You can make a case that men need more help than women on certain dimensions,” he said. “Men are the ones that have fallen behind on college campuses.”

Now I’m just spitballin’ here, but maybe if there weren’t so many entitled creeps among them, men as a group would have better academic outcomes? It seems like it would be kind of difficult to disturb, harass or sexually assault ONE IN FOUR women while simultaneously focusing on one’s coursework.

Title IX was passed in 1972, stating that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Still, Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, counsel for education at the National Women’s Law Center, said Title IX has allowed for single-sex housing and single-sex facilities.

Not to mention single-sex sports programs. I guess none of the colleges that receive federal funding has an all-male football team. Who knew? Hopefully someone will come along soon and mansplain to me how the existence of a women’s locker room study lounge interferes in any way with the educational programs, activities or opportunities available to men at MSU. Well, except for the constitutionally guaranteed opportunity to harass women everywhere at all times. That’s the civil right that’s really important here. Not, say, a woman’s right (under Title IX or otherwise) to access educational programs, activities or opportunities at a university without being constantly preyed upon by entitled douchebros.

Of course, conservatives hate Title IX; they are uniformly opposed to equality in principle. Shutting down the women’s lounge is typical of their transparent and petty “gotcha!” game, wherein they pretend to care about gender equality while perfectly demonstrating that their views are exactly opposite. I doubt I need to remind anyone here that these are the same assholes who want to strictly segregate everyone based on their biological sex in public restrooms, FFS.

If we lived in a world where equality existed, women would not require separate spaces to avoid harm by men. But we do not live in that world. Here in the real world, safe spaces for women are needed to mitigate gender inequality. Not because women are weak (they are not) or need to be coddled (they do not) but because they can sometimes use, you know, a break from gendered harassment and abuse in order to fucking read a textbook.

Alyssa Maturen’s petition to reopen the women’s lounge is here if you’re inclined to sign and share it.

Here’s a suggestion: if men are such fragile incompetents that they simply cannot take advantage of all the educational opportunities and activities at a publicly funded college if they are denied access to the women’s study lounge, maybe they need to leave, go home, hug their teddies and suck their thumbs until ready for university.

Oh, and one more thing.

Michigan State was one of more than 100 schools being investigated for similar Title IX complaints. Among them was the University of Michigan; the report from that investigation has yet to be issued.

I’m sure with such exemplary professors as Mark Perry running around, the University of Michigan has absolutely nothing to worry about.