Yet another under-reported hate crime

The Quinault nation has some of the most beautiful land in the country, a long strip of the coast of Washington state. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, and if I had my druthers I’d be there right now. Heck, I’d be there all the time, although as a non-Native I’d probably have to live a little further south, like my brother who lives near Grays Harbor. But I’d visit those beaches frequently!

But don’t be fooled. Like everywhere in the country, hate is rising, and Indians are one of the targets.

Hate crimes or abusive behavior against Native Americans, while rarely gaining much public attention, appear to be quite common. According to a joint 2017 study by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University, 39 percent of Native Americans surveyed reported they had experienced offensive comments about their race or ethnicity. Meanwhile, 34 percent said they or a family member had experienced violence for being Native.

Barbara Perry, who conducted one of the first national studies on hate crimes against Native Americans, said few of these kinds of incidents ever get formally reported to the authorities. Perry said victims have grown weary of being ignored or seeing their cases bungled.

“They’ve come to the point where they don’t see the value in reporting,” said Perry, who has written a book on hate crimes against Native Americans and is a chairperson for the International Network for Hate Studies.

Read the whole story, which focuses on the murder of Jimmy Smith-Kramer, a Quinault native who was intentionally run over by a drunk white man in a pick-up truck. The attitude seems to be part of American culture.

In 2013, the Quinault Nation sued several local school districts, accusing them of discriminating against tribal students by dissolving the local athletics league and barring tribal teams from competing in local athletic contests. The exclusion was not only a racist snub, the tribe alleged, it damaged the chances of tribal athletes in the Taholah School District of being seen by college scouts looking to sign up scholarship athletes. The banning of tribal teams came after years of the athletes enduring taunts and slurs.

The suit alleged that dissolving the athletics league violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits agencies that receive federal money from discriminating on the basis of gender, race, color or national origin.

“The racial harassment and disparate treatment to which Taholah student-athletes have been subjected is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive,” the suit claimed.

According to the suit, tribal children had been called “dirty Indians,” “wagon burners” and “sand niggers” at games hosted by Mary M. Knight High School, a defendant school where the student body was 93.9 percent white.

The schools are where the problem is expressed early. What is wrong with these kids? What is wrong with their parents?

David Berlinski crawls out of his spider hole to sneer at science

David Berlinski! Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. He appeared on Fox News last night, with his standard air of disaffected ennui to explain science to Mark Levin. It was a series of own goals.

He has little regard for science — they’re all shallow thinkers. That’s why they’re all atheists, who regard 5,000 year old religious traditions with contempt. He explains what he knows about the academy, which isn’t much, and portrays us all as people who go around sneering at religion. Well, I do…but I’m not at all representative. If I were to interrupt a committee meeting with complaints about the pervasive religiosity of the community I live in, that would be discouraged — we’re supposed to be reality-based, so the question would be about how we can adapt to the reality of our situation, how can we get along with our neighbors, and generally getting specific about our opinions on religion while carrying on our academic business is considered a faux pas. That goes for someone promoting a religion as well as for someone promoting no religion.

Berlinski then accuses scientists, and especially atheist scientists, of being shallow thinkers. That, I think, is generally true of everyone: we work in our little niche, and sometimes some of us poke our heads out and try to explore other ideas more broadly, but we each have our domains of expertise and tend to focus on those. But Berlinski goes further, and wants to proclaim the facts of science as inadequate because they aren’t wrapped up in enough philosophical baggage. For example, he says that the hypothesis that we are nothing but cosmic accidents has been widely accepted by the scientific community, and that is true — people have been looking for a teleological cause for centuries, and failing, while stochastic explanations for physics, chemistry, and biology have been succeeding wonderfully. In the absence of a cosmic plan, we have to accept that we are cosmic accidents.

I think that has significant social and moral and psychological explanations that ought to be explored further. Most scientists don’t worry about it; their job is to accurately describe reality, now let others figure out what it means. That’s not shallowness — science requires a great depth of knowledge — but only specialization. The thing is, if you’re going to claim scientists haven’t done a great job of fitting their answers to the greater puzzle of culture, neither have those advocates for 5,000 year old religious traditions. And the religious advocates have a more challenging job of propping up ideas that are demonstrably wrong and fly in the face of the observed facts.

Berlinski also can’t avoid elitism and lying about the science. Levin makes a mind-bogglingly stupid comment about climate change: they can’t tell us the temperature next week within ten degrees but they can tell us within a degree what it will be in a century, which is a goofy way of confusing local weather with global climate. Berlinski has a unique way of addressing the evidence of climate change: well, the “top physicists” aren’t studying climate change. Berlinski dismisses studies of the climate with I’m talking about top physicists, to get to climate change we all have to go down that ladder all the way down to the bottom. Then he claims that all those petty little substandard physicists who call themselves climatologists are all squabbling with one another with inconsistent results.

Then he gets to what Levin calls “Darwinianism”.

Here’s Berlinski’s arguments: he invents a series of just-so stories. Why did the giraffe develop a long neck? Because he wanted to reach leaves at the top of the trees. (That, by the way, is no element of any modern evolutionary explanation — he seems to be reaching back to vague memories from grade school of 18th century explanations). Why aren’t women born with tails like cats? Women don’t seem to need them, even though it would make them more alluring. He expresses every bit of biological diversity as a matter of whim and personal preference. He explains the problem: the anecdotes pile on interminably, and there’s no fundamental leading principle. Oh, nonsense. Berlinski invents anecdotes, and then uses his ignorance of the mathematical principles underlying, for example, population genetics to claim that population geneticists are just sitting around inventing myths.

He’s an annoying and pretentious kind of fool. He needs to fly back to France and disappear again, because he’s too out of touch to be able to contribute anything to any discussion except for his cultivated air of superciliousness. Which, I will admit, he has honed to razor sharpness. Too bad there’s no substance at all behind it, and that he is such a shallow thinker.

The Incel delusion

How wrong can you be? How twisted can your perspective get? Just ask an incel.

So wrong it makes creationists look reasonable. I’m not even going to try to address any of that BS, except to note that anyone who bases their arguments on sexual market value is delusional and anti-science. Is there a stronger prefix than “anti-“? Like so far to an extreme contrary position that you’re ripping a tear in the fabric of space-time?

Yeah, found on We Hunted the Mammoth.

Why is Jordan Peterson popular with atheists again?

He certainly has some weird ideas we wouldn’t accept if a more conventional Christian said them.

Here Peterson recaptures ground that’s become unfashionable in modern psychology. His model is heavily influenced by Freud and Jung. “You don’t know yourself,” he says. We are not who we thought we were. We carry secret, shameful knowledge that’s scarcely accessible to conscious exploration (Freud). We also carry elements of a Collective Unconscious (Jung) that’s glimpsed via our myths and creation narratives. If you think you are an atheist you are wrong, says Peterson, because your mind has been bent and shaped and molded by a god-fearing past stretching back into the unfathomable abysm of time.

Freud still has some influence with psychologists, I presume, but it’s more like how biologists regard Haeckel: a smart guy who built theories on faulty premises and isn’t considered a credible source any more. Worse, he was someone with immense biases that he pretended were objectively valid. Jung was a flaky mystic. Why would a modern psychologist have anything but a historical interest in either of them?

The “collective unconscious” is nonsense. So is the idea of the kind of ancestral memory Peterson is proposing.

I would certainly agree that cultural influences shape our attitudes and beliefs, and that in a largely Christian country with a long Christian history, you can’t escape exposure. But to argue that we can’t escape that influence in our ideas is like saying that Protestants can’t exist because Catholics existed first, or that we’re all animists because our distant ancestors worshipped gazelles and feared lightning. Our minds were also shaped by a society that (at least among some of us) greatly values science and secularism, and that affects me far, far more than the fact that my great great grandparents were Lutherans, back in the old country.

The There is no such thing as an atheist canard is one of the oldest, tiredest, most pathetic claims by religious apologists. It’s not a mark of wisdom to blurt out a cliche, not even when you dress it up in Freudian/Jungian babble.

So many questions…

John McNaughton

Do you think Trump has ever gone fishing? Ever? If he did, was he wearing a 3-piece suit at the time? What university offers a class titled “Justice Warrior”? The student looks better dressed for fishing than the guy holding the pole — who’s teaching who? Why is he fishing instead of studying? He should know better than to put a book on the ground.

The painter of this bit of propaganda does have to explain what it means, literally.

Is this actually art?

Any serial killers/rapists in my family?

I should warn you: I’ve submitted DNA samples to both the National Genographic project and to 23andMe. As we’ve just learned, that means the police can use that data to connect DNA samples collected at crime scenes to my relatives, which means they have a lead to you even if you haven’t given a DNA sample. Honestly, if I do have any criminals in the family, I would kind of hope they could stop you with that information.

However, I don’t remember giving the police permission to use my genetic information — it was probably buried in tiny print somewhere in an agreement I signed. That’s a bit troubling. OK, a lot troubling. Now I’m wondering who else has access. So, if there’s a disease-associated trait somewhere in my background, are the insurance companies going to knock on the door of my second cousins somewhere and announce that they now have grounds to suspect that there is a medical problem lurking in their genome, and they’d better cough up some increased rates?

The Avengers’ inflationary universe

I went into The Avengers: Infinity War with very low expectations, and they were met, so I guess I can’t complain or ask for my money back or scream that Marvel must die, so I’ll just note that comic book movies are facing the same problems that superhero comic books have always had: when you start with a protagonist with incredible powers, where do you go from there? The answer is usually…ever upward. More powers, more powerful villains, more allies with equal or greater powers, and before you know it, the hero who was stopping purse-snatchers and bank robbers in the first issue is now deciding the fate of the entire universe with a league of demi-gods. And gods are boring.

To counter the boredom in the audience and, I’m sure, the writers, there has to be a series of metamorphoses. The name on the comic book is what sells, so you can’t just abandon 1930s Superman or 1960s Hulk, you’ve got to start changing the characters into brand new beings. New powers, new weaknesses, new conflicts, but the same old label. You know the Superman I read as a kid was not the same Superman kids read in the Depression years is not the same Superman kids are reading in the 21st century, right? It’s protean chaos.

And then there’s another part of the recipe: if the story is getting stale, bring on the crossovers! Mix and match different comic books with different formulas and different tones — it doesn’t matter. Sure, team up Spider-Man and Thor. Set Batman against Superman. Mix up the psychedelic weirdness of Dr Strange with psycho Rocket Raccoon. None of it makes any sense, but nerds love that “What if…” crap.

Infinity War is all that and more. So many characters, each with their brief moment in front of the camera. So many locations — I was getting lost, with sub-groups splitting off and charging on to sub-quests on different planets, different imaginary places on Earth, and absolutely no attention paid to time. Apparently, in the Marvel Universe, everyone who matters has their very own personal faster-than-light travel device. So many plotlines, so many different maguffins (6 arbitrary colored stones means we can easily try to achieve 6 different goals at once! Exactly what makes for an insightful movie). They’re in Wakanda for a yellow rock. They’re in New York for a green one.

Then with that buffet of chaos, they resolve everything in exactly the same way: punch stuff. Lots of punching here. There’s a gigantic set-piece battle with hordes of trans-dimensional demons led by space wizards against the futuristic technology of Wakanda and Tony Stark, and it’s just a brawl with everyone punching everything else in hand-to-hand combat. The main villain, Thanos, doesn’t seem to have any qualities that make him particularly potent, except that he’s very, very big and strong and can beat up the Hulk in a one-on-one fight. Somehow, I just don’t think that’s a quality that would be particularly valuable in a ruler of the galaxy.

And then there are the stakes. The stakes have become so unimaginably high that they’ve become cheap and petty all over again. Thanos’ goal is to kill half the people in the universe for what, in the movie, are simultaneously vainglorious and altruistic reasons. He’ll save us from ecological collapse, and everyone will praise him for it. So — and this is no spoiler, I won’t say who — he kills some of the heroes. In fact, I think he kills more than half, and he wipes out entire vast swathes of the Asgardians and the Dora Milaje. It’s a total bloodbath in there.

Which would be an interesting way to reboot a stale ensemble, and also make the risks the heroes are taking seem genuine and important. The death of a major character should be a huge pivot point for story.

Unfortunately, it’s not. None of them are. The slaughter was so wholesale that it took me right out of the movie. Marvel has just disintegrated multiple, massive profit-making franchises, series that made billions of dollars, in one grand gesture? I can not believe it. Not for a second. Also, if this were a genuine creative decision to reshape their movie universe to go in a new direction, we’d have known about it when the news got out of dozens of Marvel and Disney executives clutching their black bean-counting hearts and dying in apoplectic fits. Therefore, none of the major outcomes of this movie are real. There’s going to be another big budget movie in the near future in which they magically rewind everything and reset it back to it’s diversely profitable state.

We got a hint of that in this movie. One character dies, literally vaporized, and Thanos uses one of his magic rock powers to reconstitute him, take some treasure from him, and kill him again. Trust me on this: none of the deaths in this movie matter to Marvel’s bottom line, and they will be restored and repaired to go on and print more cash. It makes this whole effort futile.

But I will say this for The Avengers: Infinity War, it packed the house. I’ve never seen the Morris theater that full of people. It was also an enthusiastic crowd. The whole theater cheered when fan favorites made their first appearance: judging from the whoops, Thor, Captain America, Bucky, and the Black Panther are immensely popular. Too bad at least one of those four is going to get killed by the end.

The audience also applauded mid-movie when heroes made really good punches in the frequent slugmatches. They laughed at some of the laugh lines (there weren’t many, and they weren’t that great — a sense of humor was one of the casualties of the cosmic scope). It was a wonderfully responsive and enthusiastic audience. I definitely liked that part.

It was also amazing how, at the end of the movie, there was this tremendous hub-bub of conversation. I saw people spontaneously get into excited discussion groups, whipping out their phones and engaging with each other and the world at large, gushing and arguing about the movie. That’s a good reaction. They were not leaving, of course, because as everyone knows, Marvel always puts a teaser scene at the end of the credits, so you have to stay and wait for that. They went completely silent when the scene started — we also got to watch even more beloved movie characters die — and then just erupted and went totally nuts at the reveal of a single simple logo on Nick Fury’s cell phone. I guess we got a hint about who is going to reassemble the fractured mess this movie made of the Marvel/Disney business model.

Except, wait, the next movie is set in the 1990s. That can’t be the restoration, can it? Are they going to milk this comic book tragedy for at least two years?

Guilty, guilty, guilty

Bill Cosby has been found guilty on three counts of sexual assault and faces up to ten years in prison on each. He’s 80 years old, and therefore faces the end of his life in total disgrace. It’s quite the downfall for the guy whose comedy records made me laugh, who was a revered icon at Temple University when I taught there, who became immensely popular as the star of a comedy series. Now this is what he’s come to…a convicted sex offender known to all as a creep.

At least it’s good that it caught up with him at last. Too late for the women he abused, but he gets a small taste of the punishment he deserves.