The appeal of ISIS

The sudden appearance of ISIS as a major force in the Middle East has taken many people, including me, by surprise. I had initially thought that this was just one more group to seize the headlines, the latest to claim the mantle of the leader of those forces whose aim is to rid the area of foreign military presence, like al Qaeda in the past, to be replaced by a new group in a year or so.
[Read more...]

America’s enemies have taken over the Pentagon

Climate change skeptics have suggested that those who warn about it are engaged in some diabolical plot to foist changes in the US that are harmful. The fact that there is a worldwide overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that this is a real danger and that we are already past the time when we could reverse the effects and now must settle for limiting the damage does not faze them in the least. They have pooh-poohed it as alarmist rhetoric and fear mongering. The more who warn of it, the wider the conspiracy is in their minds.
[Read more...]

The complicated issue of trolling and free speech

Internet trolls are at best a nuisance and at worst a menace. They can be vicious, mercilessly hounding those whom they happen to target, and they use their anonymity to their advantage, using reckless language without fear of repercussions. Dealing with them is not easy. While they can be banned in a few situations, the more determined trolls can find ways around such barriers and if they gain allies in their pursuit, the resulting swarm can be hard to contain. The attacks on feminists and others over what has come to be known as Gamergate is an example.
[Read more...]

British and American humor

If there is one difference that I have noticed between American and British sketch comedies, it is that the former depend on more jokes with the set-up and punchline formula, while the latter often have an absurdist element that does not have even any identifiable gag but simply careens from one place to another using just language and non sequiturs to great comedic effect.
[Read more...]

Filling a gap in racial slurs

Racial slurs are horrible things (as are gender and sexual ones) and cover a wide range of people. But Michael Mark Cohen, a professor of American Studies and African American Studies at the University of California Berkeley and who describes himself as white and middle-class, noticed that there is one group of people who do not suffer from having one assigned to them.
[Read more...]