First Amendment Issues are NOT (necessarily) Free Speech Issues

All freaky, kinky, queer women are human beings.

Not all human beings are freaky, kinky, queer women (more’s the pity).

So how is that related to the first amendment? The First Amendment (FA) protects more than just speech. It protects a total of 5 separate rights. Let’s take a look at the full text and then break it down:

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Science Magazine is Failing Us

Science journalism is failing us in important ways. This post will be far shorter than I might like it to be, but I want it to be readable, and in any case I plan on following up soon with more information and also, I hope, a detailed action plan.

Here I simply want to point out a single article. In another post, I’ll also be discussing an article on the dismissal of Francisco Ayala from UC Irvine and the pattern of sexual harassment that led to that dismissal. But right now, let’s tackle an interesting article with a headline that is … terrible, in ways we will investigate later. The headline reads thus:

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Classic Contributions to Science Journalism #2.1mya

In the coverage of recently published research revealing that stone tools in China – which research suggests were crafted by individual members of Homo erectus – date back 2.1 million-fucking-years, we get this gem contributing to our understanding of why this finding is so important in understanding the habits and abilities of our ancestors and not just their birth dates:

Another key finding is that the new dates show that “already before 2 million years, hominins were able to cope with a range of environmental conditions,” says archaeologist Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands, who is not a member of the team. During the long span of occupations at Shangchen, which is about the same latitude as Kabul, the climate fluctuated from warm and wet to cold and dry. “They must have been freezing their buns off,” adds paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

That’s right, just try reading that entire last sentence out loud and in one take without interrupting yourself laughing. Pure brilliance.

NO KUDOS FOR TRUMP

Every reporter, anchor or commentator who uses any media platform to suggest Trump should be celebrated for signing this executive order promising, “I’m going to cut way back on the torture of children,” must face serious criticism.

You can start with Dana Bash for offering “Kudos to Trump”. Feel free to send reasonably-worded reactions to CNN.


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Stealing Children Is Who We Are

I don’t know Laura Parrott Perry, but I’m loving Perry already.

 

Not sure a country that has a history of selling babies away from their parents in slavery, sending native children to "boarding schools," & separating families in Japanese internment camps gets to clutch its pearls and cry, "this is not who we are." It's who we've always been.

 

True fax.

 

ETA: There’s a good blavity post up about this, and there are probably a great many more. The blavity post itself includes copies of others’ work. I hadn’t seen any “Handmaid’s Tale” references in the critique of Trump’s Steal-The-Children policy, but apparently there have been some. In response, Reagan Gomez tweeted:

Kinda weird that folks keep bringing up the Handmaidens Tale and not like…the real history of this country forcibly separating children (/Native/First Nations/African) from their parents for centuries.

If you send me links in the comments to any more good takes about the US history of separating children from their parents, I’ll add them to the OP.

Guns Have Nothing To Do With Art-All-Night Shootings

Another week, another mass shooting, this time in New Jersey at a festival called Art All Night.

I can already here the mating calls of the 2nd Amendment Republicans:

Too many doors!

Why do they let people were baggy clothes on a summer night?

This is what happens when liberals get together at festivals that value lefty things, like art!

We’ll propose a ban on doors, baggy clothes, and art to save the people just as soon as we find a way to stop all this criticism that keeps happening to us despite the fact we’re only exercising our 1st Amendment rights!

Call your representatives and senators and insist that they vote for the ban on doors, baggy clothes & art! Don’t let them take away your guns! Freedom first!

Fuck.

Would you believe that the CNN story on this this morning included the line:

Authorities have heard that as many as 1,000 people were in the area at the time of the shooting, Onofri said. The festival entrances had no metal detectors, he said.

Yes. Yes of course you would.

As for the people, there’s still one victim in “extremely critical” condition – probably still in surgery. Twenty people were injured. It appears that “one killed” is in reference to a suspect that was killed, probably by police. Unusually for situations like this, there was actually another suspect as well, that one taken into custody alive.

I hope the final death toll doesn’t get any higher.

Don’t Be This Wrong: Salon Spreads Serious Misinformation

In an article criticizing trump as a Sadist, Salon writer Chauncey DeVega writes a supposedly-factual introduction to what is later a very opinionated piece in such a way as to screw up a very, very important basic fact:

The United States Constitution grants President Donald Trump many powers. They include being the Chief Executive, Chief Legislator and Commander-in-Chief of the military. Not to be content with such powers, Donald Trump has also taken on other roles as well. Donald Trump is the Sadist-in-Chief of the United States of America. Cruelty and meanness are his modus operandi.

Did you catch it? DeVega would have you believe that Trump is constitutionally empowered to be the United States’ “Chief Legislator”.

No. That’s just wrong. It’s so very, very wrong it’s hard to communicate. If you’re from the US or went to grade school here (or even if you just know how to read between the lines of subtle slogans like “No More Kings”), you know that placing primary legislative powers in the hands of the chief executive is exactly what the constitutional framers did not want.

The President cannot set the congressional schedule or call a committee to order. The President cannot introduce a bill before congress or propose language revisions for an existing bill. The President cannot vote in either the House or the Senate. The President cannot amend or authoritatively interpret legislation. The president cannot employ a veto to reject parts of a bill while retaining the effectiveness of other parts: the president must accept all of a legislative act or none of it.

The President is not a legislator and Congress is not a parliament.

We are sufficiently Freuded already without giving Trump even more power. Don’t for a moment concede that the constitution gives Trump any kind of legislative power.

Paleontology Day Continues: Devonian Antarctic Tetrapods!

While ScienceDaily isn’t a science journalism site (it’s an aggregator for university press releases excited about a faculty member’s latest publication) that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value there, it just means that the value varies wildly with the priority (and personnel) different universities assign to writing up good press releases.*1

My latest find there not only details a great new Devonian find (if it holds up, as always, IANAB), but it’s also fairly well written in that it details where and how the crucial fossils were found, why the authors believe they are significant, and what they might tell us, all in sentences constructed to be understandable. Joy!

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Autism = Violence in England Gay Bar Threat? Why not? asks Associated Press

A number of news outlets are carrying a brief Associated Press story on the sentencing of a man arrested in connection with a terrorism threat against the gay community in the smaller Brit town Barrow-in-Furness. You can read it here, if you like.  The story is mostly uninteresting. The man arrested, Ethan Stables, never got the chance to make the spectacular “kill all the gays” attack he’d been threatening, and when time came for his sentencing, the judge assigned him an indefinite term in a psychiatric facility.

What’s odd here, however, is that you don’t go to a psych hospital instead of jail if there’s no psychological or psychiatric problem that led to your crime. Now, it may be that you had a condition from which you’ve since recovered, but you had to have had a condition at the time. So when the Associated Press’ description of Stables lists precisely zero conditions known to have a mechanism that can cause violence but does list “autism spectrum disorder” readers not aware of the state of psychological research might assume, wrongly, that autism spectrum disorder is associated with an increased risk of violence.

This description of Stables originally came from the defense, but we should not allow that to grant the Associated Press a free pass here. In order to prevent crazy-blaming, the AP has a responsibility to avoid dropping any disorder into a story in this context unless they are certain that the disorder has a known correlation with an increase in violence and a plausible explanation of how that disorder might have played a causal role in the behavior at issue. It may be that the records of any court ordered psych examination are sealed, but in that case the AP should not mention any particular disorder, whatever the defense contends. It may also be that the court believed that autism spectrum disorder could explain Stables’ threats of terrorism, but in that case the AP should clearly report that this is contrary to the best scientific evidence we have to date, and absent an explanation of how aspects of autism spectrum disorder played a role in a unique causal chain, the court’s judgement should be clearly labeled questionable. The AP took neither tack. The relevant part is entirely contained in this quote:

Defence lawyers said the 20-year-old, who has an autism spectrum disorder, had been brainwashed by right-wing extremists. But he was convicted in February of preparing an act of terrorism.

Journalism of this recklessness should always be called out for criticism.