Yes, Elvira, I’m angry at someone

But not you. I’ve long been a fan of Cassandra Peterson, AKA Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, because she’s goofy and kitschy and flamboyant and doesn’t take her persona at all seriously. Now she has come out, and revealed that she’s been in a same-sex relationship for almost 20 years, but was afraid to go public about it.

The two have been together for more than 19 years now, with Wierson taking on the role of Peterson’s assistant. They had to keep the relationship quiet because, as Peterson writes, the couple felt they had to protect the Elvira brand. “Would my fans hate me for not being what they expected me to be?” she shares in the book, adding, “I’m very aware that there will be some who will be disappointed and maybe even angry, but I have to live with myself, and at this point in my life, I’ve got to be truthful about who I am.”

And Peterson’s truth? She writes that she’s never been happier. “For the first time in my life,” she writes, “I’m with someone who makes me feel safe, blessed, and truly loved.”

Her fans would not hate her or be disappointed or angry with her for being her true self. The only disappointment is that we have to live in a culture that makes love something to be ashamed of.

I quite enjoy a good Sullivan-bashing, but…

Please do tear into Andrew Sullivan. This review of one of his books in The Baffler does a fine job of highlighting his shallow and contradictory thinking. Everything Sullivan does is a mess, and I have no idea how he continues to be published.

Three decades and four hundred pages later he’s still at it. “Transgenderist ideology,” he writes in “The Nature of Sex,” “is indeed a threat to homosexuality, because it is a threat to biological sex as a concept.” “Native Americans had been the first to discover this continent, and, with it, their own sort of American dream—thousands of years before Europeans imagined theirs,” he declares in an essay about the coronavirus pandemic, as if he actually believes the interpolation of a not particularly clever anachronism creates an equivalence between Stone Age nomads wandering into an unpopulated land and the gun-toting, disease-carrying invaders who stole that land from them ten thousand years later. Writing about Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a Dominican-born professor of classics who “came to see the white supremacists’ cooptation of the classics as inextricable from the classics themselves,” Sullivan tells readers that Padilla “refuses to ‘praise the architects of that trauma as having done right by you at the end.’”

This was one of a dozen times my margin note read “Physician, heal thyself.” But there can be no healing when there’s no ability to recognize one’s plight in others, and Sullivan remains resolutely uninterested in any losses but his own. In his mea culpa on the Iraq War, the final note isn’t “the lives lost, the families destroyed, the bodies tortured, the civilization trashed.” That was “bad enough,” sure, “but what was done to America—and the meaning of America—was unforgivable. And for that I will not and should not forgive myself.” That’s right, folks: as many as a million people were killed in a pointless war that Andrew Sullivan hawked like a fishwife for no other reason than his need to punish as many Muslims as possible for 9/11, but what’s important to remember is that he feels really bad about it. When I read this, I was reminded of Edmund Wilson’s reaction to Brideshead Revisited: “The last scenes are extravagantly absurd, with an absurdity that would be worthy of Waugh at his best if it were not—painful to say—meant quite seriously.”

But, the author of the review, a gay man, also constantly undercuts himself by sexualizing Sullivan, and the review keeps bring me up short.

The subsequent twenty-five years have proven Sullivan a dependable shill for reactionary causes célèbres, whether it’s defending racism and sexism in the name of “science” (“It may be no accident that testosterone-soaked ghettos foster both high levels of crime and high levels of illegitimacy”), opposing hate-crime laws on the grounds that calling someone a “gook” or “n*gg*r” “allows natural tensions to express themselves incrementally,” or undercutting radical LGBTQ activism by insisting that only a $35 marriage license provides “a sense of normality, of human potential, of self-worth—something that my generation never had and that previous generations would have found unimaginable.”

But that was still a few years off. At the time I was less interested in a bangers-and-mash Roy Cohn than in whether or not Maer and Andrew had fucked. I hope they did. No, really, I do. At least then there’d be something about Sullivan I could take pleasure in, if only vicariously.

If a book reviewer were a heterosexual man who kept bringing up his fantasies about the sex life of the female author of the book, would we be fine with that? Sullivan’s sexuality is an OK topic to discuss since Sullivan brings it up all the time, but please, don’t make it about your sexual interests, reviewer. Do discuss Sullivan’s hypocrisy on the subject. I do like that he quotes Sullivan’s own words at length, which is the best way to expose a fool.

I suspect that the way Sullivan continues to be published is by being such an obnoxious contrarian that his fellow obnoxious contrarians think they’re being clever by putting his ideas out there — not because they’re good, but because they are so wildly wrong. That’s why Maher continues to bring him on as a guest, because he’s not favoring ideas, he just wants noise.

I do enjoy a good evolutionary psychology take-down in the morning

I read a brilliant review of what may be a brilliant book (I’ll have to read it to find out), Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature” by David Buller. He dismantles a ubiquitous myth among evolutionary psychologists: the idea that women crave wealthy, high-status men, that they’re using a peculiar kind of capitalist economic reasoning when they make significant life-choices about marriage and pregnancy. This appeals to certain kinds of people — incels and “alpha” males and MRAs — who love the idea of the “sexual marketplace” and the notion that with great profit comes great desirability, and the corollary that hey, if you’ve got a girlfriend, you must be a superior Chad.

The evidence, say the evolutionary psychologists like David Buss, is that if you look at polygamous societies where women’s mate choice is freed from at least one artificial constraint, that men can marry as many women as want them, they all come flocking to the highest status males, and high status males have the most offspring. The existence of harems is proof that status is what women are all seeking, and that men with harems are sexually desirable.

(I’ll give you a moment to see the obvious flaw in the reasoning before you read the book’s explanation.)

He criticizes the methodology of David Buss and confirms what I suspected but hadn’t yet researched – that David Buss ignores cultural restrictions on female choice of mates. As Buller says:

…in a well-documented study, the anthropologist William Irons found that, among the Turkmen of Persia, males in the wealthier half of the population left 75 percent more offspring than males in the poorer half of the population. Buss cites several studies like this as indicating that “high status in men leads directly to increased sexual access to a larger number of women,” and he implies that this is due to the greater desirability of high-status men (David Buss 1999 “Evolutionary Psychology the New Science of the Mind”).

But, among the Turkmen, women were sold by their families into marriage. The reason that higher-status males enjoyed greater reproductive success among the Turkmen is that they were able to buy wives earlier and more often than lower-status males. Other studies that clearly demonstrate a reproductive advantage for high-status males are also studies of societies or circumstances in which males “traded” in women. This isn’t evidence that high-status males enjoy greater reproductive success because women find them more desirable. Indeed, it isn’t evidence of female preference at all, just as the fact that many harem-holding despots produced remarkable numbers of offspring is no evidence of their desirability to women. It is only evidence that when men have power they will use it to promote their reproductive success, among other things (and that women, under such circumstances, will prefer entering a harem to suffering the dire consequences of refusal).

The fact that Buss can’t be bothered to account for virtual female slavery when proclaiming female choice is typical of the Evolutionary Psychologist approach. Their belief in the power of biology to control human behavior is so reflexive that they can’t be bothered to consider even the most glaringly obvious cultural factors impacting their claims.

It’s so typical of evolutionary psychologists that they would overlook trivial details like sexual slavery that might interfere with their thesis.

Satan will not save you

Good try, but no, I don’t think this tactic by the Satanic Temple will work.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday night allowed the state to implement a ban on the procedures after six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant, with no carve-outs for rape or incest. Until it is blocked or overturned, the law effectively nullifies the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — which established abortion as a constitutional right — in Texas.

Enter The Satanic Temple.

The “nontheistic” organization, which is headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts, joined the legal fray this week by sending a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanding access to abortion pills for its members. The group has established an “abortion ritual,” and is attempting to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which was created to allow Native Americans access to peyote for religious rituals) to argue that its members should be allowed access to abortion drugs like Misoprostol and Mifepristone for religious purposes.

The people who support anti-choice policies deeply and sincerely (and wrongly) believe that an abortion kills a human being. They’ll simply turn around and say we can’t allow the “abortion ritual” for the same reasons we don’t allow a “human sacrifice ritual”.

One side gaming the laws will just encourage the other side to game the laws right back. This approach also skips right over the crux of the argument: the autonomy of women. Do women have the right to control their own bodies or not? Falling back on the bogus sanctity of religious privileges does not address that at all, and further empowers the religious viewpoint that generates the problem in the first place.

Just basic science

I want to know where these people learn their “basic science”.

That reminded me of this post on We Hunted the Mammoth.

They are so confident and certain when they state absolutely batshit looney misinformation. Where do they learn that kind of confidence? In church, I suspect, because they aren’t getting it in any legitimate school.

I wonder if he confused conception with photosynthesis? Nah, that would be light plus carbon dioxide.

Don’t worry that something might shatter that astonishing confidence. He’s currently doubling down.

Bye-bye, Roe v. Wade

The Taliban is winning everywhere. After taking over Afghanistan, they’ve now conquered American women’s bodies. Texas has banned all abortions after 6 weeks, and our conservative Supreme Court has punted and refused to deal with this assault on liberties.

A Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect Wednesday, as a midnight deadline for the Supreme Court to stop it came and went without action.

Just wait. More abortion bans are coming.

The Texas case comes at a pivotal time for abortion rights, with Republican-led state legislatures around the country having enacted a string of increasingly restrictive laws. The Supreme Court this fall will consider one of them — Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks. Antiabortion activists have urged the court to use that to overturn Roe, the 1973 decision that said women have a constitutional right to abortion.

Federal judges across the country have cited Roe and other precedents to block six-week bans in other states before they took effect. But the lawsuits that stopped those statutes targeted government officials who would enforce the bans, which proponents dub “heartbeat bills” because they say that is when a doctor can first detect a fetal heartbeat. Doctors opposed to the bills dispute that description, saying the fluttering that is detected cannot exist outside the womb.

The Texas law, in contrast, was designed to make it more difficult for abortion rights advocates to win such pre-enforcement injunctions. The statute empowers individuals, instead of state government officials, to bring legal action in civil court against those who help women seeking a prohibited abortion.

That’s a terrifying twist. All those busybodies who screech and march in front of abortion clinics are now empowered to sue doctors and nurses. Finally, we can appropriately describe something as a “witch hunt”!

Iceland’s culture of accountability

I have entirely favorable memories of Iceland — I’d like to go back someday. But then I get this news that sends mixed messages. The national men’s football team is a horror off the field.

Arnarsdottir told national broadcaster RUV that she and another woman were sexually assaulted in a club in Reykjavík by a well-known player from the Icelandic national team in September of 2017. Both women were left injured and filed police complaints the next day, she said. Arnarsdottir’s family also informed the soccer federation and her parents spoke to Bergsson directly, she added.

The allegations threw Bergsson and the soccer federation into a crisis and put new attention on similar accusations against current and former players on Iceland’s national team. Those accounts include allegations that some players perpetrated a gang rape roughly 10 years ago.

But wait! There’s more! The chair of the Football Association of Iceland had declared that there hadn’t ever been any reports of sexual assaults by the team. Oh, this is familiar: the president of the James Randi foundation also tried to claim that there hadn’t been any reports of harassment at their annual meeting, and boy, did that backfire when women raised their hand to say that they had filed reports. Was the organization in the habit of sweeping any unflattering accusations under the rug?

You can guess what happened one day after the denial.

One day after that interview on national television, Thorhildur Gyda Arnarsdottir spoke out on the same network to say Bergsson’s denial was false, saying that both he and the federation were well informed about an incident she reported four years ago.

You might be thinking there’s nothing like a mixed message in this story — it’s all bad. But there is one positive outcome.

The entire board of Iceland’s soccer federation has abruptly resigned after being accused of mishandling allegations of sexual assault committed by players on the national team — and of covering up at least one alleged incident. The board also issued an apology to the victims, saying it believes them and promising to do better.

Iceland seems to have a culture of accountability. Just to remind you, 40 years ago they had a massive economic crash, and they responded by throwing those responsible in jail.

Unlike all other nations with capitalist-run economies, Icelanders refused to bail out the criminal bankers. Parliament passed emergency legislation to take over the major banks domestic operations and established new banks to handle them. The government, however, did not take over any of the foreign assets or obligations. Those stayed with the original banks gone bankrupt.1

Folk got behind recovery. Many politicians now listened to the people and refused to cut back on social services. People utilized their natural resources to attract the tech industry. Commercial fishing remained strong. The tourist industry bloomed. The International Monetary Fund conceded that Iceland “surpassed pre-crisis output levels”.

Best of all, Icelanders jailed the criminal bankers. By early 2016, 26 bankers had been sentenced to a total of 74 years in prison. Charges ranged from breach of fiduciary duties to market manipulation and embezzlement (thievery). The average sentence was from four to five and one-half years.

See? They do things right. Let’s hope their football team can respond properly and do better.

#IStandWithMeb and the latest TERFy nonsense

The contretemps du jour on Twitter is an attempt by TERFs to take over a trans-inclusive bar in Edinburgh (Meb is the bartender who politely threw them out). Marion Millar, a notorious transphobe who is currently awaiting trial for hate crimes against trans people, was one of the organizers who “innocently” (yeah, if you believe that you’re pretty darned gullible) booked a night out with the girls at Doctors, a pub in Edinburgh.

That would be fine, even TERFs get to enjoy some fish & chips and a pint now and then, except…they saw this as an opportunity to hand out inflammatory flyers and put up gender critical stickers in the rest room and argue with the other patrons and the bartender.

Here’s a good summary of the evening.

Doctors bar in Edinburgh and specifically their manager have come under fire from a torrent of abuse from transphobes on social media who have even been review-bombing the bar on Facebook etc. This after a group of transphobes went to the bar wearing transphobic campaigning t-shirts and armed with leaflets which they attempted to litter around the place. They were politely asked to leave, refused and were escorted out by police.

They got what they wanted, to provoke and disturb other people and get in the news with their brand of indignant hatred, and the staff at the bar dealt with it as responsibly as they could. They also found a target for their hate to focus on, Meb, and an exciting new hashtag they can poison.

If ever I find myself in Edinburgh again, I’ll definitely seek out Doctors and give them my custom. They sound like good people.

Aubrey de Grey couldn’t leave well enough alone

So, Aubrey de Grey was accused of sexual harassment, and was under a formal investigation. I guess he wasn’t confident about the outcome, because he tried to apply some pressure to potential witnesses, and got caught.

A “necessary” firing by people who are clearly deep admirers of the guy is an interesting combination. It suggests de Grey has been frantic in his efforts to scuttle the investigation to the point his dismissal was completely unavoidable.

I do wonder where he could go after this. I can’t imagine a university would want to be affiliated with him, but maybe some oddball think-tank somewhere would take him on. Or some quack organization — Mercola has money, he could use a celebrity front to help sell anti-aging snake oil.

Uh-oh. This is just going to get weirder. De Grey just posted his response on Facebook, and it’s wild.

with the investigation. Below is the entire text. Decide for yourself. Remember that my mention of the state of Celine’s career “as things stand” was written in the aftermath of the outpouring of support for me and condemnation of her that followed my first Facebook post 24 hours previously.
Let me close by saying that I am in a perfectly fine position to start a new foundation right now, hiring my loyal staff and proceeding as if nothing had happened, but that that is not my plan. I plan to get the truth known, my foundation back, and the bad actors excised from our community. Meanwhile, let’s just keep going.
Text of the email that precipitated today’s action:
Rght mate, if you care about your (and my, yes) friend Celine you will listen up. There is a job you need to do that probably only you are in a position to do, largely BECAUSE of your rush to judgement today that will have cemented her trust in you.
The six-week investigation into Celine’s allegations against me has concluded. It was conducted by someone named Sue Ann Van Dermyden – look her up – good luck to anyone who tries to paint her as a whitewasher. It has found not only that those allegations are 100% fictitious, but also that Celine’s account of them in her posts and her testimony to Sue Ann is replete with grave inconsistencies – AND, with features that clearly suggest she was fed false information by a SRF board member (which you will probably also have inferred from my Facebook post last night, but then it was just me saying it).
The consequence (other than my reinstatement, obviously) is that a new investigation is being launched, again by Sue Ann, but this time investigating SRF so as to identify the actual villain. The existence of that new investigation is going to be made public tomorrow afternoon – unless, drum roll, it is obviated/aborted by new information.
I probably don’t need to spell out anything more. Celine’s career is absolutely over as things stand, and the only reason it actually isn’t is because I am a man of honour who refuses to let somebody (especially a meteoric rising star) be burned at the stake while an actual villian gets away scot free and is thereby emboldened. Yes she will have to take some lumps for being so gullible, but that’s not such a big deal. BUT, what will completely torpedo my rescuing of her is if she is seen to be resisting the identification of the actual villain. So now, as in tomorrow (Thurs) morning, is the time when Celine needs to find her mojo and spill the beans. As of now, a few people are in the frame as the culprit. Celine needs to name names, and fast, so that no one gets to know that this new investigation is happening as a direct consequence of her insincerity to Sue Ann and the world.
And you need to tell her so, as probably only you can. Go to it.
Cheers A

“Celine” is Celine Halioua, one of his accusers who has posted a blistering indictment of the man; SRF is the SENS Research Foundation. His defense is…that someone else harassed her? It wasn’t him? He’s just the gallant knight galloping in to rescue her, and her career is over unless she names a different villain. And then he’ll take the SENS Foundation back and purge it of all the bad people who have been conspiring against him. Or start a new foundation of his own. No matter how it turns out, the woman he harassed needs to take a few lumps.

The guy is delusional. I can see why he was fired.

I guess David Sabatini is a failed scientist now

The fall from grace was precipitous, but it should have happened long ago. The molecular biologist David M. Sabatini has been outright fired from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Whitehead Institute, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he also loses his tenured position at MIT soon enough. Can you guess what prompted his ouster?

An investigation found that he had “violated the Institute’s policies on sexual harassment among other policies unrelated to research misconduct.” No details are available yet, but it’s notable that they were serious enough that he wasn’t merely placed on leave, or slapped on the wrist, or placed under tight restriction on his interactions with student. Nope, just flat out FIRED. Tea will have to be spilled sooner or later, though.

This is not entirely surprising, but I had expected the grounds for his dismissal would be over his frequent cases of forged and falsified data that had already given him a reputation, or perhaps over his amazing arrogance. He’s a guy who, when caught with faked figures in his paper, would turn around and accuse the people who disclosed his errors of being “resentful, anonymous, petty, failed scientists”.

That’s what I thought would bring him down in the end. I hadn’t heard anything about him being a sexual harasser, but we should have figured that that would be a comorbidity associated with terminal cockiness.