Recognizing the enemy

You have by now no doubt heard of the story of Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock and his statement that pregnancies resulting from rape are part of “God’s plan” (much the way, incidentally, Trayvon Martin’s murder was part of “God’s plan” too – God has shitty plans, people). People have been chewing this over and reminding as many people as they possibly can that yes, this is what Republicans actually believe – the only part of it that was a ‘gaffe’ is the fact that Mourdock was accidentally honest about what his party believes about rape and women’s rights.

The reaction north of the border has, as it reliably does, contained more than a little smug anti-American sentiment, along the lines of “well that’s what happens when you live in America. Thank the Old Gods and the Seven that we don’t have that kind of abhorrent nonsense here in Canada. And to a certain extent they’re right: we don’t have the same kind of mainstream toxicity pouring from the mouths of our political candidates… at least not as often. But when we do get it, it’s just as bad: [Read more…]

How is religion like delicious yummy corn?

Disclaimer: the central metaphor of this post is scatological, so if you have a particularly weak stomach, might I suggest you watch this video instead.

There is a far-too-common meme that exists among a subset of the nonbelieving community that goes more or less like this:

Well of course religion has led people to do bad things. Nobody is denying that. And I certainly don’t believe there’s any truth to it, but some people believe sincerely and do good things. It’s therefore neither fair nor is it accurate to paint all expressions of religion with the same brush. Religion has inspired people to do great good, as well as great evil.

Perhaps one of the most celebrated of those holding this opinion is Chris Stedman, who has published an excerpt from his upcoming book ‘Faitheist’ at Salon: [Read more…]

Okay, I actually DON’T ‘get’ this one

I talked earlier about people who criticize those who don’t respond positively to cruel and dehumanizing humour as not ‘getting it’.

What’s the matter? You don’t think that this is funny? Why, just because it’s all based on the abuse of oppressed people? Because it’s cruel and deeply offensive? Because the jokes are built upon an edifice that manifests itself in deeply un-funny ways that result in the suffering and sometimes death of your fellow human beings?

My point was that people who don’t laugh at racist/misogynistic/ableist/whatever jokes don’t suffer from some deficit of humour. It’s not that we simply lack understanding of why an asshole would find it funny to humiliate or otherwise insult a class of people based on an unfair power structure – it’s that we understand the harm those kinds of jokes cause.

That being said, there are definitely some things I don’t ‘get’, and this ad from the GOP is one of them:  [Read more…]

Good thing we’re studying the important issues

We live, as we ever have, in a time of great uncertainty. Climate change is undeniable, but specific and plausible paths forward are seemingly beyond our grasp. We face an inscrutable economic future, with a whirlwind of contradicting ideas constantly blowing around us. Despite the progress we’ve made unlocking the mysteries of the cell and the double-helix, human health is still very much a crap-shoot. Genetic manipulation of food, once seeming to hold the promise for the cure to world hunger, has revealed itself to be far more complex than we could have imagined. In the face of these interminable unanswered questions, it’s hard to look at the scientific enterprise as something upon which we can consistently rely.

And yet, even with such epistemic despondency so justified, there are occasional bright spots where we can lean confidently upon the rigour that science provides us and make confident conclusions about the world. For it is science, that great illuminator, that has finally bestowed upon our poor race a great and fundamental certainty, answering once and for all one of the great questions that has plagued mankind, lo these many years: does getting an HPV vaccination turn your daughter into, like, a total slutbag? [Read more…]

No noose is good noose

Hey folks! Remember that time that Clint Eastwood did something hilarious?

Clint Eastwood did end up stealing the show at Mitt Romney’s formal appointment as his party’s choice for the US presidential election but perhaps not in the way he or the candidate would have wanted.

The 82-year-old’s rambling gravel-voiced conversation with an empty chair – supposedly supporting an invisible Barack Obama – proved a bizarre and confusing warm-up act for Romney.

“Mr President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people?” he asked. He berated Obama for not learning from the Russian experience in invading Afghanistan. It was George W Bush who ordered US troops into the country.

For your convenience, the word “hilarious” has been temporarily redefined to mean “sad and pathetically embarrassing”. Eastwood, in a fit of improvisational zeal, decided that it would be an effective strategy to bring out an empty chair to symbolize the President and then have a one-sided conversation with him/it in front of an international audience. Columnist Jamelle Bouie noted that the image of an old white man angrily lecturing an imaginary Obama was a perfect encapsulation of the entire Republican election process.

So that happened, and it was weird, and after a couple of weeks we all just kind of moved on from it. Well… almost all of us: [Read more…]

“Misogynist” is NOT “the new nigger”

Sometimes I read things on the internet that make me furious at how clueless and exploitative they are. Other times I read things on the internet that make me laugh myself sick at how unbelievably shallow and idiot they are. It is a rare occasion indeed when I have the opportunity to experience both reactions simultaneously, with a good deal of nausea thrown in the mix:

There were words the upper class used to keep those lower beings in line, and check those who’d forgotten their place. One of these words seemed more effective than the others.


That was what they were, after all. Niggers weren’t the same as human beings. They were legally and socially less than the privileged class. Niggers could be harmed and the police probably wouldn’t help them. Niggers were subject to vigilante justice.


Misogynists aren’t the same as other human beings. You don’t have to listen to anything a misogynist says. They aren’t allowed the same rights as everyone else. Debate with the superiors? Pfft, what for? They are just a bunch of angry misogynists after all. Don’t talk to me because you hate women…Nigger. Their misogynistic posters got torn down? Serves the niggers right! Debate? No, they are dangerous nig- oops, I mean, misogynists.

I have a big selection of animated .gifs that I could use to characterize my response. There’s “disgusted black woman“. There’s “Ripley tearing into a room of idiots“, there’s even “angry panda“. Ultimately, after a long and arduous selection process, I think my reaction is best expressed by Tracey Morgan:

Tracey saying "no" in a variety of ways [Read more…]

On atheist smugness and geopolitics

If you’ve been following the news at all, you’ve heard about rampant anti-US protests happening across western Asia and North Africa in response to a video trailer for a movie that supposedly mocks Muhammad, the central religious figure in Islam:

Rioting demonstrators battled with police outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia Monday as violent protests over an anti-Islam film spread to Asia after a week of unrest in Muslim countries worldwide. In an appeal that could stoke more fury, the leader of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah called for sustained protests in a rare public appearance at a rally in Beirut.

The turmoil surrounding the low-budget movie that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad shows no sign of ebbing nearly a week after protesters first swarmed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya in the eastern city of Benghazi. At least 10 protesters have died in the riots, and the targeting of American missions has forced Washington to ramp up security in several countries.

Protests against the movie turned violent for the first time in Afghanistan on Monday as hundreds of people burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base in the capital, Kabul. Many in the crowd shouted “Death to America!” and “Death to those people who have made a film and insulted our prophet.” They also spiraled out of control in Indonesia and Pakistan, while several in the Middle East were calm. [Read more…]


I have loved some of Brett Easton Ellis’ novels. While he himself is a difficult person to have positive feelings about, his work is excellent and unique. Reading and watching American Psycho has been singularly useful to me in explaining corporate behaviour in the age of #Occupy.

And so when I saw this clip of Mitt Romney talking about the mortal lock that President Obama has on poor people:

I couldn’t help but think of this clip of Patrick Bateman saying much the same thing:

Now sure, Mitt’s knife is only metaphorical, but he’s running to have enough power to stab everyone.

It should not be overlooked, by the way, that even when he’s alone, Mitt Romney lies like a cheap rug. It’s also worth taking a look at where this supposed Obama-loving, no-tax-paying, freedom-hating 47% live.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

My application to BigThink

Some of you may remember the story of Satoshi Kanazawa, a “scientist” and “researcher” who made fame by raising some “tough questions” about the relationship between race, IQ, and health outcomes. He also pondered the evolutionary reasons why black women are just so damn unattractive (hint: it’s because they have so much testosterone – I’m not making that up). There was a predictable backlash against this brave scholar simply for asking “the tough questions”, and he was drummed out of academia, never to be heard from again.

But the career necromancers that are the BigThink editorial board have raised this errant genius from the depths of oblivion and have restored him to prominence on their group blog site:

Without a doubt, Satoshi Kanasawa is a willful, and highly effective, intellectual provocateur.  In his scholarship, he has boldly overstepped traditional academic disciplinary bounds to posit interconnections and relationships between our evolutionary past and psychological present that address questions very few of his colleagues are even asking, let alone attempting to answer.  In daring to ask these questions, Satoshi has made us think more than most.

His passion for endeavoring to think bigger and his deep-seeded contempt for the constraints of orthodoxy have informed a diverse body of scholarship that have turned a scientific light on an array of taboos, sacred assumptions and unquestioned — even unnoticed — realities.  Like all heretics, Satoshi has become a lightning rod for criticisms across the spectrum which has only hardened his resolve to defy convention and expectation.  In his public writing and blogging, he doesn’t posture or hedge to insulate himself from attack; on the contrary, he opts for the most extreme hypotheticals couched in the most sensitive, real-world contexts — he then stands firm and unflinching against the blowback.

Such a brave maverick! Not letting little things like “proper research design” or “understanding the topic” or “restricting your conclusions to the strength of the data” get in the way of preaching bold truths! Fuck your taboos of scientific rigour, squares! Satoshi is here to blow to roof off your narrow-minded “needing to do things correctly”! [Read more…]

Finding the faults

Years ago I was in a relationship with someone who for the sake of convenience I will simply call ‘Rhonda’. Rhonda and I began dating shortly after I started undergraduate, and lasted about a year before, for reasons that are not really relevant to the story, we split up. It was an amicable split, and we both said that it was important to remain friends. Meaning what I said, I would invite Rhonda to take part in the things I was doing, we’d talk on instant messaging and phone on a regular basis, and I generally tried to include her the way I would do for anyone with whom I shared a close friendship.

A number of frustrating months passed before I realized that, despite my best efforts, I was deeply dissatisfied with my friendship with Rhonda. While I made regular efforts to include her, she kept me at an arm’s length and consistently begged off socializing with me. It did not help when she began dating someone else – someone I knew, and did not like (a fact she knew well). It was obvious to everyone that Rhonda was romantically involved with this guy, but she refused to talk about it. I will not pretend to some kind of maturity that I did not possess (and may still not), and certainly I had the option of confronting her, but she knew that I was upset and (I believed) she knew about what.

Her failure to talk to me on this issue (and a number of others), either because she was unwilling or unable, suggested to me that we had strikingly different views on what ‘friendship’ meant. So one day I called her on it, and basically spelled it out: we should stop calling our relationship a ‘friendship’, because we were not behaving the way I thought friends should. Whatever it was we had was not a true friendship, and had not been for some time. She was upset, understandably, but as far as I was concerned the only thing I had done was put words to something that was abundantly clear. [Read more…]