Feminism isn’t a side issue, it is a central issue in any movement with a pretense to rationalism

Richard Dawkins has issued a formal statement via CFI on his disinvitation from NECSS. It is civil, polite, and rational, and concludes this way:

The science and scepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.

It misses the point.

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Michael Moore speaks the truth

He has ten things he wants to tell you about the Flint water supply. They’re rather appalling.

I really don’t understand what’s going on in Michigan, but I know I wouldn’t want to live there. Their governor ought to be in jail right now for what he’s allowed to happen — they’ve been poisoning an entire community for months, knowingly and with no concern at all for the citizens…all while bringing in uncontaminated water for General Motors and state employees. The entire goddamn administration ought to be facing court dates for criminal offenses.

Here’s another level of fucked-up-edness.

According to the NY Times, Snyder was informed in one email that a state nurse told one young mother to not worry about the damage being done to her child when her son’s blood showed an elevated lead level.

“It is just a few IQ points. … It is not the end of the world,” the nurse reportedly told the worried mom.

We’ve been watching too many super-hero movies. While we weren’t paying attention, petty villainy that wouldn’t be credible in a comic book has become a reasonable life-style choice.

I guess the good news for us in Minnesota is that after the botched, self-destructive experiment in libertarian/Republican greed in Wisconsin started torching that state to the ground, the crony capitalists marched east to Michigan rather than west to my state.

David Gorski, a native and resident of Michigan (I’m so sorry!), also addresses the fuckery behind the Flint water crisis. You should read that, too.

Learn from the lessons of others

That’s a good idea: when other countries do something better than we do, we should learn from them, try to emulate their successful parts, and avoid their failures. Here in the United States of America, though, our citizen’s bizarre and obstinate fixation on American “exceptionalism” holds sway, and suggesting that another country, like say Norway, has some better ways of doing things is regarded as unpatriotic, just shy of treachery. In a recent debate, Bernie Sanders might well be the only one able to suggest that we could learn from Denmark (but he doesn’t follow through), while Clinton rejects the thought with a smug “We are not Denmark”, and I would love to hear the squeals and shrieks if the Republican menagerie were asked to contemplate the idea, but it’s something we should take more seriously. We should try to understand what the Scandinavian countries are doing better.

What is it, though, that makes the Scandinavians so different? Since the Democrats can’t tell you and the Republicans wouldn’t want you to know, let me offer you a quick introduction. What Scandinavians call the Nordic model is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That’s two concepts combined in a single goal because, as far as they’re concerned, you can’t have one without the other.

Right there, they part company with capitalist America, now the most unequal of all the developed nations, and consequently a democracy no more. Political scientists say it has become an oligarchy, run at the expense of its citizenry by and for the superrich. Perhaps you’ve noticed that.

In the last century, Scandinavians, aiming for their egalitarian goal, refused to settle solely for any of the ideologies competing for power—not capitalism or fascism, not Marxist socialism or communism. Geographically stuck between powerful nations waging hot and cold wars for such doctrines, Scandinavians set out to find a middle path. That path was contested—by socialist-inspired workers on the one hand, and by capitalist owners and their elite cronies on the other—but in the end, it led to a mixed economy. Thanks largely to the solidarity and savvy of organized labor and the political parties it backed, the long struggle produced a system that makes capitalism more or less cooperative, and then redistributes equitably the wealth it helps to produce. Struggles like this took place around the world in the 20th century, but the Scandinavians alone managed to combine the best ideas of both camps while chucking out the worst.

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Iceland, you have disappointed Ken Ham

Good work, keep it up.

According to a new poll, less than half of Icelanders identify as religious. The other half, obviously, are religious—as everyone has a religion (atheism, for instance, is a religion. When people say they are not religious, it usually means they don’t identify with a church denomination). And the younger generation in Iceland is the least likely to identify as religious, with more than 40% of young people claiming to be atheists (which means they adhere to the religion of naturalism—atheism). And 93.9% of those under 25 believe the big bang created the universe and 0.0% believe it was created by God. Zero percent! Not a single young person they asked said that God created the universe—not a single one.

Well, that was incoherent. I guess that happens when you try to type through your tears.

I find the common accusation that atheism is a religion ludicrous. It’s simply a denial of a negation: not-X is a kind of X! Ham is basically rejecting the idea of a religion at all, since in his simple little brain, everything is a religion. If that’s the case, then I’m going to join the church of Deadwood, hooplehead.

How can you protect a brain by destroying it?


Last week, Simon Davis wrote to me with questions about this cryonic brain preservation technique, which has now been published as How to Freeze Your Brain and Live Forever (Maybe). Unfortunately, my comments did not make it into the story, because, Simon politely explained, there are length restrictions and perhaps, I assume, also because my extended dismissive scorn does not translate well to polite journalism. And that’s OK! Because I have a blog, and I can rant here!

The Brain Preservation Society has a goal: to preserve dead brains today, so they can be reanimated at some distant time in the future. At least, that’s what they say — I’m more inclined to believe their goal is to pocket lots of money exploiting people’s fear of death. Their immediate plan, though, is to develop more thorough mechanisms of locking down the fine structure of brains.

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Sometimes, the truth is murkier than you’d like

The FBI has released video of the Finicum shooting in Oregon. We’ve been hearing competing stories about it: some have said that he was kneeling in surrender, his arms raised above his head, when the FBI gunned him down in cold blood. Others have said he was charging the police like Rooster Cogburn at the end of True Grit, demanding a hero’s death.

The video shows why both stories are going around. Finicum’s car crashes into the snow at a roadblock. He jumps out, arms held up, and runs away from the road, as if he thinks he can escape. But he’s surrounded. There are agents all around. He stops. He turns around. He lowers his arms and fumbles at his belt. Someone shoots, and he falls to the ground. The camera pans around (it’s on a helicopter or drone, and there is no sound), and you see a few brief flashes of gunfire and smoke — I can’t tell whether the occupants of the car are firing or being shot at. Then there is a few minutes of agents standing around, not ducking for cover, before the occupants begin to emerge with their hands up. Finicum’s body is lying in the snow, not moving.

So it’s a little of all of the stories. I think Finicum was in the heat of anger, ran out with the idea of escaping somehow, saw it was hopeless, and fumbled for a gun. I’d rather the law exercised more restraint — I could imagine that if he did pull a gun, he’d have waved it around in futile bravado before dropping it as the hopelessness of his situation sunk in — but I wasn’t there, and I can sympathize with the officers not wanting to risk getting shot at.

What a waste.