The problems with free speech absolutism

These days we seem to see a proliferation of hate speech, the tone being set by the petulant man-child who is currently president of the US, who lashes out at everyone he doesn’t like or who opposes him on anything, using the most incendiary rhetoric. This has given encouragement to all the bigots who see his words and actions as giving them a license to let loose too. The ghastly video below, seemingly cribbed from a scene in the film Kingsman: The Secret Service that shows Trump murdering various journalists, media organizations, and political rivals, was shown at a conference of Trump’s supporters at the Trump National Doral Miami resort and is an example of what is being supported and promoted by those at the very top. (Violence advisory.)


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The Great Paradox of Science to be released on November 20!

I am pleased to say that my book will be released next month and can now be pre-ordered. You can read more about the book and order it here.

As you can see from the flyer below, you can get a 30% discount from the list price of $34.95 if you order from the publisher and use the promotional code so that the cost becomes $24.47. Barnes & Noble is giving a discount of 35% so the cost drop even lower to $22.86. The book will eventually be available at all retailers in print and digital formats.

Oxford University Press will start shipping out copies starting November 20, other retailers in the US on December 18, and in the UK on January 1, 2020. I have no information as yet about the rest of the world but I assume it should be around the same time as the UK.

Marathon records broken

Today came the news that Brigid Kosgei had smashed the women’s marathon record that had stood for 16 years by a massive 81 seconds, with a new time of 2:14:04. What I found interesting in the report was this little item.

Some will also point out that Kosgei was wearing the Nike Next% training shoes, which have been estimated to give between 60-90 seconds of performance benefit over other shoes.

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The annoying smugness of Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais is an atheist, stand up comedian, and actor. He made a pretty funny film with an interesting premise called The Invention of Lying that I reviewed favorably back in 2010. More recently, though, he has joined with those comedians who are ticked off with audiences who do not find humor aimed at marginalized groups to be funny. They claim that they are being silenced for their edgy humor by those who can’t take a joke.
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Trump snubbed yet again for Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the prize this year has been awarded to Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed for his efforts to bring peace between his country and neighboring Eritrea and for his efforts towards bringing “reconciliation, solidarity and social justice” to the region.

Giving the Peace prize to current politicians is always a dangerous thing since they can then go on and do things that make a mockery of it. For example, the committee awarded the prize to Barack Obama in 2009 even though he had done nothing to deserve it and indeed soon after announced the surge of 30,000 troops sent to Afghanistan and increased the drone killings. Of course, nothing could be worse than giving the award to war criminal Henry Kissinger, something the prize committee was roundly and deservedly condemned for.
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Great parallel parking

Parallel parking, when done by a skilled driver, can be a thing of beauty. Some time ago, I reproduced some instructions that I found on the internet that guarantees perfect parking every single time. I have followed those instructions and found that my success rate is much higher than it used to be, though not 100% since sometimes I have to pull out and start again.

But I have to humbly bow before the expert in the video below who squeezes into a space that I would not have even dreamt of trying to get into.
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Good one, Elizabeth!

Yesterday there was a town hall style forum with nine Democratic presidential candidates talking about LGBT issues, similar in format to the earlier town hall on climate change where each candidate came on serially for an allotted time. During it, Elizabeth Warren showed that she is becoming increasingly comfortable thinking on her feet and dealing with difficult questions.

Here she is responding to one such question.

Is this a realistic analysis of the UK political situation?

I have been struggling, and failing, to keep up with all the convolutions generated by the Brexit negotiations and the turbulent politics accompanying it. Polly Toynbee, a columnist for the Guardian, writes that despite the factional fighting at the recent Labour party conference, when compared to what is going on with the Conservatives, the chances for the Labour party to do well in the next UK election (which she thinks will be very soon) are good. I have no way of gauging if this surprisingly optimistic (to me at least) view is justified and hope that some of the readers who are more familiar with UK politics will chime in.
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Yet another email scam on the loose

Earlier today, I got this email.

Hello,
Where are you presently?. I need your help for something very urgent so please get back to me via email as soon as you get this message.
Thanks

The signature line was that of an old friend of mine from Sri Lanka and with her correct professional affiliations and degrees, and the return email address was the one I had for her in my address book.

But I am cynical enough to suspect scams and although I had not seen this one before, I looked it up and sure enough, it was one.

I quickly emailed my friend’s brother to tell him to inform his sister by phone that her email account had been hacked. He wrote back that that had indeed happened and unfortunately his own daughter had fallen for the scam and given the scammer some information though not much. My friend in Sri Lanka and her niece (and who knows how many others) have now got to go through the tedious business of trying to stem the damage.

I am just passing this on to alert others that one should never respond to such emails or give information without contacting the sender and confirming that this is genuine. If email is the only means you have to reach your friend, then you can reply and ask them to give you information that a scammer could not possibly know.