Today is the day

Today, the Minnesota legislature is supposed to vote on gay marriage. I know because the pressure has been at fever pitch — I got three phone calls yesterday from advocacy organizations calling to get me to call my representative. I’ve told NOM to take a flying leap, but Minnesotans United, despite the annoying dunning, have my favor.

Apparently, my representative, Jay McNamar, is one of those dumbass undecideds. He’s been waffling over the issue, an uncertainty which doesn’t just leave me cold, it makes me actively dislike him. I’ve called him several times to tell him that this is the civil rights issue of our era, and if he can’t make up his goddamn mind about something as basic as human decency, he’s not on my side. If he votes against it, he’ll never have my vote ever again; if he can muster a little integrity and principle, maybe I’ll reluctantly put a mark next to his name on a ballot next time around.

But the word is that we’ll know today. Don’t disappoint me, Minnesota!

If the air force wants to recruit rapists, they’re off to a great start

A man, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who was in charge of a branch of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, was arrested after groping and assaulting a woman in a parking lot. How can that be? Didn’t he read his own specialty’s literature on sexual assault?

Maybe he did. You should take a look at the Air Force brochure on sexual assault. Not one word telling men not to do it, but lots of lecturing to the woman readers on what to do.

“It may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist,” reads the brochure (.pdf), issued to airmen at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where nearly 10,000 military and and civilian personnel are assigned. “You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attacker has a weapon.”

The brochure, acquired by Danger Room, issues a series of guidances on “risk reduction” for sexual assault. Among others, it advises people under sexual attack in parking lots to “consider rolling underneath a nearby auto and scream loud. It is difficult to force anyone out from under a car.” A public affairs officer at Shaw, Sgt. Alexandria Mosness, says she believes the brochure is current.

While the brochure also explains that sexual assault is not always committed by people who “don’t look like a rapist” — attackers “tend to have hyper-masculine attitudes,” it advises — it does not offer instruction to servicemembers on not committing sexual assault. Prevention is treated as the responsibility of potential victims.

You know who is going to love that brochure? Rapists. Informing their victims to submit as a matter of official policy is simply a delightful inducement to go out and get some by force.

There is apparently some administrative inertia to making changes in the rape culture on air force bases.

“To any rational person this is completely backwards and shows the scope of epidemic,” Purchia added. “Fundamental reforms are needed — the reporting, investigation and adjudication of sexual assault must be taken out of the chain of command.”

That’s a step that the military has been reluctant to take. At today’s hearing, Welsh and Donley expressed concern that doing so might pose a risk to “good order and discipline,” as Donley put it. (“This is not good order and discipline,” replied Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand of New York.)

That’s exactly what I was thinking. How does rape fit into the ideal of good order and discipline?

Christian de Duve has died

Christian de Duve won the Nobel prize in 1974 (along with Claude and Palade) for his work on the biochemistry of the cell. He also wrote several books on the origin and evolution of life. Here he is speaking at the Lindau meetings a few years ago.

Christian de Duve is now dead at 95, by euthanasia.

“It would be an exaggeration to say I’m not afraid of death, but I’m not afraid of what comes after because I’m not a believer. When I disappear I will disappear, there’ll be nothing left,” he told the Belgian daily Le Soir just a month ago.

De Duve had decided to commit euthanasia after suffering a fall in his home but was awaiting the arrival of his son from the United States in early May in order to die surrounded by family.

“He left us serenely and refused to take anti-anxiety pills before the final injection. He left with a smile and a good-bye,” his daughter Francoise told Le Soir.

What a dignified and honorable way to go!

How about if we all end the killing?

One point! One demand! Atheists must be hanged!

Half a million Islamists marched in Bangladesh, chanting their desire to murder people who don’t believe in their demented, angry god. I take that personally — they want to kill people like me, for the crime of not thinking as they do. If I’d been there, that mob would have torn me to pieces.

And it’s not just atheists they hate. Women must live in service to the men, they are to have their rights diminished. Education is to be crippled, reduced to rote memorization of their holy books. This is awful, poisonous stuff, and I condemn it without reservation.

But let me remind you, the United States has been carrying out routine drone attacks against Muslims…attacks that kill children.


So angry mobs threaten and howl and promise to roll their culture back to the Middle Ages. Americans calmly sit in air-conditioned rooms and push buttons and joysticks and send robots through the skies to pour death on civilians. Obama calmly rationalizes the murders and cracks jokes about predator drones.

The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside of the United States.

One side wants to kill people like me, is furious and destructive, and rages passionately about killing the Other; the other side wants to kill people outside our borders, is calm and dispassionate, and marshals machines to execute the Other without risk to ourselves.

I cannot condemn one without condemning the other. Especially since our tactics seem to be so much more effective at butchering people.

Animal-rights activists are the danger to animals

It is possible to have a conscientious opposition to research on animals, and every university has channels by which activists can register their dissent, and by which they can also influence ethical decisions made by institutional animal research review committees. There is a right way and a wrong way to protest. And the wrong way is charge into a lab, disrupt experiments in progress, and “liberate” highly inbred, specialized animals that are dependent on laboratory care for their health and survival. Protesters in Milan chose the wrong way.

Activists occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university say that it will take years to recover their work.

Many of the animals at the facility are genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

I don’t even understand the mindset here. Where are you going to release lab animals to? They may require special diets and care, they most likely have been raised in a very specific environment and have no ability to cope with a different place, and they may have genetic diseases that make them completely unable to compete with wild forms. Years ago at the University of Oregon, ALF pulled a stunt like this; they released lab-bred animals along the side of I5. The only animals to benefit in the area were the red-tailed hawks who saw a sudden bounty of terrified white rodents.

And further, scrambling the data for research into human neurological disorders accomplishes nothing other than slowing research. Why? This is nothing but hatred of science.

There’s not much one can do in the face of determined stupidity other than to show a united front. Sign the Call for Solidarity with the scientists in Milan.

Fortunately for Matt Yglesias, Lindsay Beyerstein only leaves him in a metaphorical smoking crater.

A couple of commenters here have persisted in defending Matthew Yglesias’ odious bleat that life is cheaper in Bangladesh because it ought to be because reasons, and that any anger we Westerners might feel about the horrendous loss of life in the recent factory collapse ought more helpfully be directed to buying clothes made in those collapsing sweatshops so that eventually the people making a few hundred dollars a year will have flat screen televisions just like us.

Yglesias is doubling down. In a followup post, he stands by his conclusion that poor countries need to have less stringent workplace safety standards, and adds, as a prelude to accusing his critics of “poisoning the atmosphere,” [see update at end of post]

I’m not really sure what Americans can constructively do to get better enforcement of building codes in Bangladesh

As it turns out, Lindsay Beyerstein has a possible answer:

A group of Bangladeshi and international trade unionists put forward a bold plan to make the garment industry in Bangladesh safer. A surcharge of 10 cents per garment over 5 years would raise $600 million a year, enough to radically transform the infrastructure of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Walmart and the Gap rejected the proposal in 2011.

So that’s pretty handy: All America has to do to make sweatshops in Bangladesh safer is to stop fucking obstructing their being made safer. It’s win-win!

Oh, and a protip to Yglesias: If you persist in discussing the worker safety aspects of US investment in South Asia, you might want to consider not using “poisoning the atmosphere” as a way to tone-troll your critics. We have a 30th Anniversary coming up late next year that will turn that phrase a bit unfortunate.

Updated: in comments, nialscorva correctly points out that I misread Yglesias’ reference to “poisoning the atmosphere.”  My bad. Leaving the post as it was for transparency’s sake.

Steubenville hasn’t learned a thing

The football coach who reportedly joked to his team members about the sexual assault on an unconscious girl, who the team trusted to cover up any problems their behavior might cause, who threatened a reporter and her family if they pursued the case, has had his coaching contract extended another two years.

Symbolic of this unholy marriage of jock culture and rape culture was the revered Big Red football coach Reno Saccoccia who didn’t seem to give a damn that his players could have treated a woman this way. Given Coach Saccoccia’s controversial behavior before and during the trial, which drew national scrutiny, many of us thought he at the very least would be shown the door after three decades of service. We all thought wrong. Today we learned that “Coach Sac”, as he is known, has been granted a two-year contract extension by the Steubenville school board. They made this decision despite the fact that a grand jury is meeting next week to assess whether he and others obstructed justice in the case. Saccoccia was legally required to report the sexual assault as soon as he was aware it took place. The grand jury will determine whether or not he in fact knew and tried to sweep it under the turf.

Two members of his team were convicted of rape and sent off to jail. You know, even if all anyone cared about was his win/loss record, this is not evidence of a good coach.

But maybe they should care about more. Isn’t it peculiar that many atheist and gay teachers are terrified to come out because they know it could cost them their job, yet a coach can facilitate a culture of rape with total impunity?

Snappy one-liners

Ever been in that situation where you see an attractive woman walking down the street, and you’re trying to think of something to shout out, and your mind just goes blank? Here’s a helpful collection of things you could say.


Are you looking to be baffled this weekend? It’s another twitter war, this time under the hashtag #radfem2013, and it consists of a lot of very angry women who are making very weird claims. “Because every time you tell lesbians transwomen are women, you support corrective rape.” “WTF is up with assholes who insist on telling lesbians to fuck men.” “Because demanding that lesbians suck dick makes you not an ally.” “Transwomen are men: predatory men who demand access to women’s bodies.”

It’s bizarre. It’s feminism+transgender hatred.

The lead bigot is someone named Cathy Brennan, who has a rather deranged blog in which she insists her views are the only rational ones.

Radical Feminism is an Evidence-based philosophy. The Evidence suggests that there is a Class of Humans (Women) made subordinate by and to another Class of Humans (Men). The Evidence suggests that Men want to keep it this way, and employ tactics and establish systems to ensure it stays this way. The Evidence suggests that Men commit a disproportionate amount of Violence against Women (Male Violence).

A favorite tactic of Men’s Rights Activists and Trans Activists used to Silence Women who rely on Evidence to support assertions like Penis=Male, Male Violence against Women is an overwhelming problem and Trans Women are Men is the claim that Radical Feminists aren’t “Rational.”

I can sort of agree with parts of the first paragraph: men as a class (but let’s not expand that to all men as individuals) do those things in our culture. But the second paragraph makes a gigantic irrational leap. They are claiming a freakishly conservative sort of genital essentialism: if you have a penis, you are MAN, through and through, and if you have a vulva, you are WOMAN, entirely and completely. Am I the only one who finds this inconsistent and contradictory coming from a group of lesbians? It seems to me they are already expressing the view that their natural desires are not constrained by the behavioral assignments our culture already imposes by definition of the physical apparatus in our crotches.

Transwomen are women…and an even more oppressed subclass of women than these “radfems” are. Saying that does not in any way tell people that they must have sex with them, any more than saying I’m a cis heterosexual male means I’m required to have sex with all women, or any woman for that matter. No one is telling these radfems that they must carry out any particular sex act with any particular individual or class of individuals, yet they’re acting as if acknowledgment of the humanity and worth of trans individuals is a dictatorial smack in their faces.

They sound a lot like right-wing bigots, actually.

Another facet of this argument: the usual lackwits are making triumphant announcements.

ha ha, Rebecca and PZ have finally discovered the RadFem rad hate group after denying their existence for months.

Wrong. I haven’t denied the existence of a demented feminist fringe: what I have said is that the kooks who are constantly denouncing people like me and Rebecca Watson and Amanda Marcotte as “radical feminists” don’t have the slightest clue. The fact that we clearly oppose the weird radfem agenda of transphobic hatred ought to finally make that clear to them…but give ’em a day. They’ll be back to accusing FtB of being a hive of radical feminists again.

You want to see ugly? Here’s ugly. These kooks really hate trans people.

Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch must resign

Occidental College is a small school in northeastern Los Angeles. It’s got about 2,000 students at any one time. And it’s got a huge sexual assault problem: yesterday, 38 students and alumnae of Occidental filed a Title IX complaint with the Federal Department of Education claiming that the college violated civil rights law in its handling of reports of sexual assaults and rapes — which seem to happen on the Oxy campus with terrifying frequency.

Survivors of rape and sexual assault at Occidental report that administrators threatened them with unpleasant consequences when they enquired about the process of reporting a sexual assault. Survivors were warned that the hearings process was “long and arduous.” One survivor was told she’d be the one switching dorms rather than her assailant. When men were found in the course of college hearings to have indeed committed rapes of their fellow students, they were often merely suspended temporarily — and in at least two cases, those suspensions were lifted on appeal and the rapists “sentenced” to writing book reports instead.

Gloria Allred, who is providing the 38 plaintiffs with representation in their Title IX complaint, reports in the video embedded below that when Occidental President Jonathan Veitch was informed that an accused rapist was on the guest list for a social event at Veitch’s home, he responded by issuing a dis-invitation … to two members of the school’s sexual assault task force.

Here Allred speaks, along with several remarkably brave survivors and supportive faculty member Caroline Heldman, the school’s Politics Department chair.

What’s been the response of Occidental College president Jonathan Veitch to the issue? Browbeating sexual assault survivors in the campus press when they dare suggest he’s sitting with his thumbs up his ass:

I’m dismayed that having agreed to that conversation, a number of well-intentioned people have chosen to cast our motives into doubt; vilify dedicated, hard-working members of Student Affairs; question the sincerity of our response; and actively sought to embarrass the College on the evening news. That is their choice, and there is very little I can do about it. I can say that it reflects poorly on their commitment to this conversation and to the broader education that must take place if we are to change a culture we all find repugnant. The repugnance of sexual assault is not open to question; but the policies and procedures that guide our response to those incidents is something about which reasonable people can disagree. I’m sure there are those who feel that confrontation is necessary to exert pressure on the College to do the right thing. But there is a point where confrontation becomes an end in itself—satisfying, no doubt, but counter-productive with regard to our shared aims. When it crosses that threshold and descends into name-calling, vilification and misrepresentation, it undermines the trust and good will of everyone involved. And worst of all, it does not lead to progress on this important issue.

That letter to the campus paper was published March 5. Veitch has since walked it back some, saying that his letter may have “alienated people who care about sexual assault” and clarifying that his intent was to object to “the implication–reported in the media — that the College is not serious about the issue of sexual assault. We are very serious.”

Serious enough to have brought in, just this week, experienced sexual assault prosecutors as consultants to help the school assess and overhaul its enforcement policy. That’s a smart and sensible move.

It’s just too bad that Veitch waited until campus anti-rape activists lit a bonfire under his doubly enthumbed ass, complete with an appeal to the Department of Education to lift the school’s federal funding, before taking a step he should have taken on Day One. Veitch has been president at Occidental since 2009. That means all the students in the video linked above were raped on Veitch’s watch. All the administrative obstacles to survivors reporting assaults against them mentioned here happened on Veitch’s watch. All the stories relayed in the video above: On Veitch’s watch. All the assigned book reports and community service sentences for acts that should have brought jail time and sex offender registry? On Veitch’s watch.

Not that Veitch’s resigning would fix Occidental College’s rape problem: it sounds as though there are a few other administrators with serious culpability who ought to be examined as well.

But it would be a good start.