Embarrassing admissions that don’t really embarrass me anymore: part the first

Before we go any further, I don’t actually know that there will ever be a part 2, but who knows, I’ve had lots of embarrassing moments in my life so maybe someday we’ll have a part 3,246. Might as well start out the naming convention with room for growth, then, eh?

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llyris, daulnay, & Iran give us a lesson in correlation and causation: Part 1

So by placing this here, I’m guaranteeing that it will be missed by many, but again I have to say some things that feel inappropriate as a comment (lest they take up too much space) and also might risk being lost on the internet if I ever wanted to track them down again at a later date. So here we are, making an OP out of molehill, again.

The need to say these things arises out of a thread over on Pharyngula. It’s this one, if you couldn’t guess. While PZ’s OP is fine and most of the discussion is as well, a few things crashed together destructively. I think this is important to tackle because it is an example of how people who think of themselves as allies can get called out for good reasons, but the imprecision of everyday language makes it hard for anyone to get past the fact of calling out to actually learn any lessons from it. Trans folk may think that people aren’t honestly trying to be on their side (because, frankly, we’ve seen a lot of bad faith arguments and it can be hard to tell the difference between “bad faith deployment of misinformation” and “good faith repetition of misinformation”) when, yes, they are trying. People working to be allies may simply not understand the lessons on offer and conclude that some is – wait for it – being hysterical. They may even quit listening. And this too is not entirely outrageous since merely being trans doesn’t guarantee that one is a good or even reasonable source of information. Being trans doesn’t prevent someone from saying stupid shit about being trans or about cissexism.

But in this case there is a problem (or two), and a huge one (or two), with things embedded in the comments of Ilyris & daulnay, and I think this needs discussion.

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On Hasbro’s Potato Head Be It

Conservatives: Gender is all about the penis. If you were born with a penis, you’re a man. If not, you’re a woman. These are the inevitable facts about gender encoded in the laws of biology. You can’t change that by just calling yourself by a different name or using a different pronoun, and I won’t submit to your linguistic fascism, not even if you attempt to enforce it through cancel-culture economic terrorism!

Also Conservatives: This no-dick, extruded-plastic root vegetable is a man: how dare you disrespect him by removing his proper title? Next you’ll be calling this nutritious, starchy gentleman “it”! FOR SHAME. Call him “Mister” or I shall boycott your company forever!



Vice-Presidential Precedent

Mike Pence has ruled out invocation of the 25th Amendment. I could try to analyze his entire statement, and I’ll post it below, but right now I just want to focus on one sentence:

Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

Let’s be clear here, Pence is claiming that it would be wrong to communicate to future presidents who aspire to tyranny and the violent overthrow of our constitutional order that such a betrayal of our nation and our constitution renders one, by definition, unfit to hold the power of the presidency.

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I am thankful

Yesterday, while USians were curled up at home feeling thankful and/or gluttonous, feminists around the world were celebrating a different day: the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Few noticed in the US, I’m sure, because of their own major holiday, but there were things to note. In the coverage of the protests by Agence France-Presse, reporters noted that many demonstrations sang A Rapist In Your Path, a song written & first performed in Santiago, Chile.

One might think that Chileans would be particularly proud that a local protest song has become a worldwide dance anthem, translated into dozens if not hundreds of languages on its way to being performed on every continent. (Except Antarctica?) And likely many are, considering how many showed up to those protests, but the government in Santiago is not among the fans: they used water cannon on the dancers. Yes, in another spectacular example of Unclear on the Concept, feminists protesting violence against women were met with violence against women.

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The Death Squirrel (Not?) From Bethlehem

Great Gods of Garlic Gumbo, the derangement is worse than I thought. I am now forced to bring you another episode of Unclear on the Concept.

A couple days ago I created a post expressing my annoyance with particular problematic practices that I have observed frequently to occur in discussions about the so-called Historic Jesus. I was even quite clear that I wasn’t talking about actual historians writing in actual journals:

I won’t contest how this [methodology] is used in the work of peer reviewed historians. Perhaps that is even the best method, certainly it must be among the better methods or professional historians wouldn’t use it. However in the work of professional historians, I think they better understand exactly how limited is the claim that HJ existed.

Outside of arguments in journals, however, I think that this argument ill suits these less professional audiences.


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Travis Pangburn: Chickenhawk

Travis Pangburn, as PZ has brought to local attention, is interested in orchestrating a “war of ideas”. Yet, like the numerous “chickenhawks” of the USA right-wing who constantly advocate the nation commits acts of war while avoiding ever serving in the military, Pangburn seems to flee from those wars when they might involve him fighting on the front lines. One interesting manifestation of this is the strong possibility (examine the evidence for yourself) that Pangburn uses sock puppets to stick up for him, rather than arguing his case himself. But really, the entire thread over on Pharyngula about Pangburn’s latest project is at least as illuminating.

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For Freud’s Sake: Anti-racists are the real racists…again?

A couple weeks ago an NPR bigwig wrote an editorial about how it was wrong to call racism “racism” or racists “racists” because that was a moral judgement, not a factual one.

That. Position. Is. Freuding. Bankrupt.

Treating racism as a matter of moral opinion leads us directly to this place:

[Text Excerpt, emphasis mine:] “If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district … perhaps progress could be made”

Ten days ago, Wonkette’s Dok Zoom did a story on how NPR’s  Keith Woods, VP for newsroom training and diversity, argued against the decision NPR’s newsroom had previously made to label racist shit as actually racist. The conclusion that Dok Zoom came to was this:

that’s a big part of the problem with Woods’s argument: When it’s reduced to a headline, it sure as hell sounds like “let’s not stir up controversy with the mean word racism.”

But I don’t think that’s even the biggest problem with Woods’s argument. No, I think the biggest problem is that when whether or not something is racist or someone is engaging in racism is a moral opinion rather than a factual question, then there is no possible basis on which the media (or anyone, really) can challenge the message “anti-racists are the real racists”. It is the effect of long-standing refusals of news departments to treat racism as a fact that has gotten us to the point where even in 2019 Trump thinks that accusing Elijah Cummings of racism is a good media strategy … and might even be right.

Since we’ve been hearing this asinine argument for more than 50 years now, it seems imperative that the US media pulls its head out of its collective burro and gets busy developing the skills necessary to actually investigate racism as a factual matter, something that either does or does not exist, not a matter of opinion.


Oh, and by the way: Tucker Carlson, when Jon Stewart said you were hurting the US? This is what he was talking about.