The social justice balancing act

Ally Fogg makes a very good point.

The first recourse of the racist fearmonger has always been to point to one atypical incident, a riot, a murder, a rape, and hold it to be typical, to be both representative of an entire population and the responsibility of that entire population. The left cannot win by pretending there are no criminals, no thugs, no rapists, no damaged people among the shifting sands of humanity. We can win by unequivocally condemning inappropriate and criminal behaviour while simultaneously and correctly insisting that we will not allow ourselves to judge the many by the sins of the few. We will not allow ourselves to be distracted and diverted from our humanitarian obligations by fear, because history shows us where that leads. We will not allow ourselves to turn our backs on those in desperate need, because we are smarter than that and we are better than that. That is the only way the argument can be won.

I would add that one thing that’s become obvious is that if you hesitate to condemn an act because the perpetrator is a member of an oppressed group, the racist fearmongers will then turn around and use that to condemn the entirety of the left of conspiring with the group that they hate. It’s what they do, and they’re very good at it — you might even say it is the dominant trait of fearmongers, that they’re adept at smearing everything into a giant category of blame.

It’s one of the things that makes addressing them difficult: anything you do will get you swept up into the burning shitpile of hatred they keep aflame. So you might as well just do the right thing.

I can’t take no more

I finally unfollowed and blocked Richard Dawkins on Twitter. He retweeted this, and that was just the final straw.

It’s two photos, one of Matt Taylor and his inappropriate shirt (and I suspect Taylor would rather his pals would stop showing it), and the other is of a Muslim woman being executed by a roadside, which is why I’m not posting it directly here, and why you may not want to follow the link. It has a caption: One of these two pictures upsets Feminists. The other one shows the execution of a woman.

It’s a lie. It’s a patently dishonest misrepresentation of feminist views, and it uses the murder of a woman to make a phony criticism of feminists. I can’t imagine how someone could be so insensitive to the crudity of the message and so oblivious to its rank deceit to consider it a worthwhile contribution to any discussion. He’s taken “Dear Muslima” and amplified it with a graphic image and an even more odious comment. And he’s still completely unaware of what’s wrong with it.

Done. No more.

At least it settles one thing: I won’t be attending the Reason Rally. Any movement with that man as its figurehead does not represent me.

Default Human Being

I am not at all a fan of anime (don’t judge me, I just never got interested in it), but in my passing glances at it I had casually wondered why the characters never seem to have any of the attributes I associate with Japanese people. I can’t say I’d ever thought about it much until now, but now I know why: because I have a lot of implicitly racist assumptions.

Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.

As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why? Because to them white is the Default Human Being.

stick-figure

If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.

The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.

Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian”. They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.

Oooh. Processing. Consciousness raised. Will try to adjust perspective from now on.

Whoa. This affects a lot of things, not just anime that I never watched much anyway.

Those troublesome, shaky X chromosomes!

It’s easy to find lists of dumb things creationists say, and I’m familiar with that lot, but here’s a fun new time-waster: Things Anti-Vaxxers Say. Here’s a beautiful example of something I’ve rarely seen so clearly stated: they get the facts totally wrong, actually the reverse of the actual situation, but nope, that doesn’t stop them from inventing a bogus rationalization around them.

You can do your own research but it comes down to chromosomes -- the X chromosome is shaky, and boys have two of them. So they are quite literally twice as likely as girls to be adversely affected by genetic and environmental factors that can lead to the development of autism -- they are at twice the risk, purely because of their gender alone.

You can do your own research but it comes down to chromosomes — the X chromosome is shaky, and boys have two of them. So they are quite literally twice as likely as girls to be adversely affected by genetic and environmental factors that can lead to the development of autism — they are at twice the risk, purely because of their gender alone.

Uh-oh. I have 22 other chromosomes besides my sex chromosomes (I’ve actually seen them!), and…they’re all in pairs. I’m doomed.

But wait! I only have one X chromosome! I’m saved by the reduction in its pernicious influence!

I guess Sweden isn’t perfect after all

Friday was a wild night in which mobs of men ran around the Stockholm train station attacking people. Something must be done about these immigrants! Foreigners!

Only it wasn’t the immigrants doing the attacking. It was native Swedes concerned about the purity of their country.

Hundreds of masked men marched through Stockholm’s main train station on Friday evening, reportedly beating up refugees and anyone who didn’t appear to be ethnically Swedish.

Wearing all-black balaclavas and armbands, the men “gathered with the purpose of attacking refugee children,” Stockholm police spokesperson Towe Hagg said.

Masked men slapping children around? Sounds brave and noble. Also so logical.

After the attack, the Swedish Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group, released a statement claiming the attack had “cleaned up criminal immigrants from North Africa that are housed in the area around the Central Station”.

“Police have clearly shown that they lack the means to stave off their rampage, and we now see no other alternative than to ourselves hand out the punishments they deserve.”

Who was rampaging here? Who deserves punishment? It seems to me that the neo-Nazis just indicted themselves.

This is not how you do science

cyborg_chart2

There is a myth about how science progresses: great men have a eureka moment, and rush in to the lab to do the definitive experiment, often bravely and with the opposition of the Science Establishment, and single-handedly revolutionize a discipline. It’s nonsense. I can’t think of a single example of that kind of work that has gotten anywhere — the closest might be Isaac Newton, who developed some great ideas working privately at his home in Woolsthorpe, but even he was tightly connected to a community of fellow scientists. Science is very much a communal and communicative endeavor, and is built “on the shoulders of giants.”

So I do not approve of the work of Phil Kennedy, which looks like a lot of hare-brained Frankensteinian self-indulgence. Kennedy could not get approval for his experiments in implanting electrodes in human brains — I wonder why? — so he charged off to the Caribbean and had bits of wire and glass stuck deep into his own brain. It did not go well.

The brain surgery lasted 11 and a half hours, beginning on the afternoon of June 21, 2014, and stretching into the Caribbean predawn of the next day. In the afternoon, after the anesthesia had worn off, the neurosurgeon came in, removed his wire-frame glasses, and held them up for his bandaged patient to examine. “What are these called?” he asked.

Phil Kennedy stared at the glasses for a moment. Then his gaze drifted up to the ceiling and over to the television. “Uh … uh … ai … aiee,” he stammered after a while, “… aiee … aiee … aiee.”

Don’t worry, he got better — his deficits were caused by post-operative swelling of his brain, and that eventually diminished, and he started recording data off his electrode.

[Read more…]

Crap. Maher.

How much more atheist disillusionment can you take? At least in this case, the fall isn’t quite as far. Bill Maher used his show to promote HIV quackery. The man thinks you’re dumb to get vaccinated, but drinking the milk of arthritic goats…now that’s brilliant, and will cure you of everything.

Maher hosted—and seemed to take seriously—Dr. Samir Chachoua, who famously injected himself with Charlie Sheen’s blood while treating the HIV-positive actor in Mexico, as revealed on an episode of Dr. Oz that ran earlier this month. Chachoua is not licensed to practice medicine in the U.S., a fact glossed over by Maher, who repeatedly gave the “doctor” the benefit of the doubt as a beacon of hope in the fight against AIDS. Maher furthermore denigrated the usefulness of the antiretroviral drugs that are proven life-savers to promote Chachoua’s supposed miracle cure.

Chachoua claims his cure comes from the CAEV virus, which he says is present in the milk of arthritic goats. “This virus destroys HIV and protects people who drink it for life,” he claimed to Bill Maher. While he didn’t get into the exact science, what he’s offering is a cure not a therapy, which means that after Chachoua’s services, Sheen should be HIV free. Sheen is not HIV negative, which means that Bill Maher should not be taking this quack seriously, much less giving him ten minutes of airtime to spout his nonsense, which is full of evident contradictions. Chachoua, for example, claimed to Dr. Oz that Sheen was “the first adult in history to go HIV negative.”

If that isn’t enough for you, Chachoua claims the regeneration of new heart tissue, new cardiac valves, brain tissue in Alzheimer’s; the clinical improvement and new growth of healthy tissue in systems thought aged, damaged and unsalvageable, placed this therapy in an unparalleled bracket. Reversal of emphysema, cardiac disease, MS, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, AIDS, ALS, diabetes, asthma, organ failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, gulf war syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory and degenerative diseases (with impact even on genetic diseases).

He injected himself with Charlie Sheen’s blood. Now there’s a valid scientific procedure for you, or at least Maher thinks so.