Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category
One of the most thoughtful objections to modern feminism and gender studies that you are likely to find, and intellectually, this towers above any arguments for feminism coming from Richard Carrier and his ilk, and by the way, it comes from a woman who actually understands the true implications of gender equality:
In December 2006, Christopher Hitchens wrote a column with the above headline in quotes, which included a sub-headline reading, “The pernicious effects of banning words.” He went on to describe a short-lived interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, in which he explained the evolution of the word “stupid” as it relates to politics, noting that John Stuart Mill once referred to the Tories as “generally stupid.” I couldn’t locate a reference to a quote from Mill that actually used these three words in this sequence — ”the stupid party” — so I’m not sure if Hitchens was paraphrasing or referring to an actual quote in some dusty volume.
In any case, the moniker apparently stuck, since eventually, the Tories actually began referring to their party in this way. The late Hitchens has proven himself prophetic beyond his years in this regard since in November 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged the prevailing anti-intellectualism that had run amok in his own party:
“… Stop being the stupid party. … It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.
Near the end of his explanation on MSNBC, Hitchens sucked the air right out of the room when he dared suggest that the word “stupid” may have taken a similar evolutionary journey as other words like “nigger” and “queer,” “and I might have added faggot,” Hitchens informs us in parenthesis. For this insult to the sensibilities of the MSNBC staff, he was quickly hurried off camera and told that the interview was “extremely over.” Taking the case of the former word, he said that while white people have not been afforded the ability to use the word, “nigger,” in any context whatever, however benign, and must always defer to the cowardly N-word, black folks have turned the discriminatory and racist undertones of the word on its head:
If white people call black people niggers, they are doing their very best to hurt and insult them, as well as to remind them that their ancestors used to be property. If black people use the word, they are either uttering an obscenity or trying to detoxify a word and rob it of its power to wound them. Not quite the same thing.
Note the distinction that Hitchens makes in this essay between white people calling blacks derogatory names with the intent to harm versus using “nigger,” “queer” or “faggot” in an explanatory or historical context that I am doing right now.
This brings me to more recent news in which the Associated Press has announced that it will no longer use the words “illegal immigrant” to describe — clears throat — illegal immigrants, and it has for years advised journalists to avoid the borderline derogatory labels “illegals” and “aliens.” This step by the AP is one of numerous ways that it suggests people shy away from labels and focus more on behavior. Presumably, we must now refer to undocumented immigrants by the laborious “people who are living in a country illegally.”
Howard Kurtz today on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” called the change “a bit too politically correct.” I have to agree. While I have and do avoid “illegals” or “aliens” because of their derogatory connotations, banning “illegal immigrant” seems like splitting hairs to me, and while words that journalists use to describe immigrants carry nowhere near the malignant baggage of “spik,” “gook, or “nigger” or any other words racists have embraced to disparage our fellow human beings, AP’s change represents the latest example — add censorship on radio and TV to the mix — of language’s power over us rather than the other way around.
It looks like we can now throw North Carolina in with a growing cluster of states like Arizona, Utah, and to the surprise of no one, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, that don’t mind taking certain liberties with the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause that establishes federal law as taking precedent over state and local legislation. Here is a refresher:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
You see, it’s the second part of this sentence that excites the states rights crowd. And what really stirs them into a tizzy is the word, “nullification,” which is the notion that if states deem that a certain federal law is unconstitutional, like, oh, I don’t know, the simple truth that immigration enforcement is solely the federal government’s responsibility, they have the power to invalidate federal statutes. Except that they don’t. Unfortunately for those folks, the Supreme Court has concretely ruled against nullification in at least two cases (Cooper v. Aaron, 1958, and Ableman v. Booth, 1859).
But don’t let that stop the pioneering state of North Carolina, which is now considering a bill that would make it possible for the state to establish laws respecting religion, if not establish a religious state altogether. According to N.C. House Joint Resolution bill 494,
Whereas, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads: “… Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” … Whereas, this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools … each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion … The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
Notwithstanding what the First Amendment says that is completely to the contrary and notwithstanding the Founders’ own commitment to protecting the people against religious tyranny, the other hurdle facing zealots in North Carolina — thankfully the law provides many hurdles to tomfoolery of this sort — the Fourteenth Amendment further protects against the states “abridging” the privileges and rights of U.S. citizens. And, while I realize there are those believers who would just as well ignore the fact that freethinkers and skeptics walk in their midst and breathe the same air, last I checked, nonbelievers’ rights are as equally protected in the Constitution as believers’.
Maybe someone can help me understand the logic in this: P.Z. Myers disagrees with the message conveyed by a stupid meme on Reddit, and instead of ignoring or down-voting the post — or whatever it is people do on Reddit — he brings attention to it and even publishes the offending picture.
If you are offended by something posted on the Internet, why not just move on? Rather, Myers has effectively ensured that this piece of Internet trash will be further proliferated and cached online for years to come from his own site. That’s what I call a good feminist hard at work.
To save people who may come here from Myers’ site or elsewhere the trouble of wading through the comments below, let me clarify a few points. This particular post was a clusterfuck of unintended inconsistencies. I’ve already admitted that, and hell, if I had a do-over, I would have approached it differently. When you blog five years with no filter but your own mind, you might whiff a time or two, and I think it’s important when people call me out if something I write is beyond the pale in some way.
First, let me say that I appreciated Myers’ tone and the way he handled his response to this. Obviously, I routinely publish content with which I disagree for the expressed purpose of outlining what I feel is wrong with it. The intention of the post was, from my perspective as someone who does not adopt the feminist label, to highlight the fact that here was a feminist, Myers, dredging up an image that is probably best left in the bowels of Reddit. He could have just linked to it as I did or simply described it without the link.
The only thing that I question about what he said in response was the distinction he made between something that he views as merely “wrong” versus an offensive image. This, it seems to me, is splitting hairs. If he didn’t find that viewing the image caused a certain amount of displeasure, which is the definition of “offensive,” presumably he wouldn’t have written about it and used it as an example of how Reddit’s reputation is falling “deeper in the slime.” Folks often like to avoid the word “offensive,” claiming that they have thick skin and that little truly offends them, and while that may sound good on paper, that’s not always the case, even if we don’t like to admit it. I’m willing to concede that perhaps all this was erroneous thinking on my part in hindsight — and many of you have made your case — but this is why I bothered to mention Myers’ post in the first place. The delivery, as I’ve said before, left something to be desired.
As for my views on equal rights and feminism in general, I’ve written about this at length, and it most closely resembles John Stuart Mill (Read “The Subjection of Women“), and more recently, Noel Plum 99, although if Mill was alive today, I have my doubts that he would adopt the modern manifestation of feminism because it seems to embrace women’s rights, which is all well and good, but it often does so at the expense of the other half of the population, whereas Mill called for “perfect equality” with no favoritism one way or the other. Noel Plum described a view that I think is perfectly reasonable, that we should be working toward, not necessarily “equality of outcome,” but “equality of opportunity” between the sexes, wherein everyone has the same chance at success in life and everyone is treated as individuals.
Bill Maher caught heat in 2010 from the feminist crowd for referring to Sarah Palin as a “cunt” and a “twat,” as critics at the time called for him to stop using “misogynist slurs” in his routine. First, I think it’s interesting that in this blogger’s critique of Maher’s comedy, she published the words “cunt” and “twat” twice in the same post. One would think that if she wanted these words expunged from society, she would only refer to them as misogynist slurs and not repeat the offending terms.
This is exactly the type of sensitivity to which Maher refers in the above video. While Maher’s words may have arguably been ill-advised, he used the C-word to get a laugh and play on people’s contempt for Palin’s anti-intellectualism. That was the intention, nothing more.
If someone happens to call me a dick or cock sucker for holding a certain point of view that invites a high level of passion, what reason would I have for being offended? I realize that name calling, childish as it is, is not a reflection on me as a male or a person, and further, there is not necessarily any kind of mystical connection between body parts and people. I wouldn’t personally be offended if someone called me a dick because they are just attacking me or an argument I made; they are not attacking the entirety of maledom. Even if they were, why would I care? I would probably just label that individual a grade-A asshole, a generally unpleasant person and move on with my life.
For the record, I’m not comfortable with the words “cunt” or “twat” anyway. They are the flotsam of the English language, and if I agree with feminists on one thing, I wouldn’t be sad if they were all but forgotten in the American conscious. I always cringe when I hear them because even forgetting that they are crass insults, they are just ugly words and the equivalent of verbal throw-up. But let’s not confuse my distaste for those words, and the simple fact that they are just that, constructions of letters that, taken together, have little real power except that to which we give them. This is just a theory, but perhaps feminists increase their insulting power by making such a big deal out of it when they are uttered.
That said, feminists, particularly American feminists, when they take offense to Palin being called a misogynist slur, are conflating a specific case of childish name calling into some kind of ubiquitous crime against womanhood itself. Feminists who do this must admit to a high level of disingenuousness when they know full well that was not Maher’s intention, and female attendees to his shows, I would venture to say, have thick enough skin and big enough brains to be able to tell the difference between the two.
If I might say so though, (as someone originally from the UK/Ireland who has lived in the US for 15 years and has subsequently become a citizen) the sheer hypocrisy of American feminism in particular is on a scale of its own. American feminists want to have their cake and eat it. American men have to fucking pay for all the shows and dinners and then make sure the woman has the most fun in the bedroom. European women understand what EQUALITY means. It’s a celebration of the differences.
The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able, the grounds of an opinion which I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social or political matters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life: That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.
I read this to mean that neither women’s rights nor men’s right should take precedence in the overarching conversation about civil rights. Since this matter is far from settled, and any cursory look at some of the entries on FtB and MRA websites will prove this, Mill was way ahead of his time on this one, just like he was ahead of his time on his rejection of Christianity. His autobiography is also well worth a read, particularly the passages about how his father influenced his view of religion.
“People keep coming out, honking horns, taking pictures,” he said. “There has been no negative response.”
Local artist Wendy Prentice volunteered as the project’s “color connoisseur.”
Jackson reportedly stumbled on the location of Westboro Baptist Church while surfing on Google Earth.
He found a “For Sale” sign sitting on a house across from it and immediately decided to buy the house and paint it with the colors of the pride flag.
I haven’t always been a big fan of the rainbow theme within the gay community or, for that matter, the flamboyancy that sometimes emanates from members of that community because if it’s equality they are after, they shouldn’t expend so much energy focusing on how they are so different than everyone else and just focus on getting the rights they deserve. But as vitriolic as members of Westboro have been against, not only gay people, but members of the military, I hope this gives them a good rub. It will surely spruce up the community from an aesthetics standpoint.
Crooks and Liars has an article up about CNN’s recent coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial that concluded earlier today. If you haven’t followed the case, two teens, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilt in the rape of a 16-year-old girl stemming from a party that took place back in August. One of the kids will face a minimum of two years in a juvenile facility, while the other will serve at least one year.
The Crooks and Liars article suggested that CNN anchor Candy Crowley was slanting the coverage almost in favor of the two teens who were convicted of rape:
Crowley was filled with sadness for two young men who took advantage of a drunk and possibly drugged young girl because the judge actually held them accountable for what they did. Instead of wondering aloud why they weren’t tried as adults, she was instead very concerned that now they would have to register for the rest of their lives as sex offenders.
They are sex offenders. And now they’re convicted sex offenders.
I watched a lot of the coverage from earlier today because CNN would “break into” a couple shows that I try to catch every week, Fareed Zakaria‘ “GPS” and “Reliable Sources,” with the latest from Steubenville. While I doubt that CNN’s intention was to appear to be a apologetic toward the guilty parties, this is certainly how it came off during news coverage and interviews.
During one segment, a CNN reporter in Steubenville even talked with Richmond’s father about how today was the first time he had ever told his son that he loved him and that he was never a big influence in his life. Sob story number one. The father even went on the defensive at one point to suggest that his son might be innocent, although Richmond and his father all but admitted straight out that the teen was guilty when they apologized to the family. CNN also had an attorney come on the air and talk about how the two teens could be damaged for life because their names would now be on the sex offender list, and they would probably have trouble finding work or even a place to live after they got out of jail.
Sure, CNN talked to the plaintiff’s attorney, and the reporter asked how the family was holding up, etc., but after watching CNN for more than two hours today, I can attest that the focus was largely on the two teens. I certainly didn’t hear any experts talking about what residual effects the rape might have on the girl. And I was particularly troubled by a video clip of Richmond breaking down and telling the victim’s family that he didn’t mean for it to happen. Sob story number two. So, a 16-year-old football star, who apparently is capable of memorizing a large playbook and executing those plays on the field, somehow accidentally has a few drinks, inadvertently drops his pants and inadvertently forces his johnson into another human being? That’s believable.
Rape is so serious a charge that, unlike some other crimes, people can’t just serve their time and the go about their business after jail. No, it’s so serious that it haunts them most likely for the rest of their lives. And whether the news channel meant to or not, CNN came off as actually sympathetic to these two guys, and why? Because they just happen to be two years too young to be tried as adults? Bullocks.
While the full implications surrounding the “War on Terror” that was initially waged by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, have been brought to light many times before (here, here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates with The Atlantic recently asked some hard questions that, because of Bush’s declaration and the United States’ commitment to ending terror, don’t admit to any easy answers.
One of the most important and morally gray questions: does torture work, and if so, should we be willing to use it to extract information that is vital to national security. Coates notes some of the inconsistencies surrounding President Obama’s own policy on fighting terror:
The president is anti-torture — which is to say he thinks the water-boarding of actual confirmed terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was wrong. He thinks it was wrong, no matter the goal — which is to say the president would not countenance the torture of an actual terrorist to foil a plot against the country he’s sworn to protect. But the president would countenance the collateral killing of innocent men, women and children by drone in pursuit of an actual terrorist. What is the morality that holds the body of a captured enemy inviolable, but not the body of those who happen to be in the way? (Italics mine.)
I don’t have an answer to that last question. Critics of torture never tire of arguing — and as Quentin Tarantino argues in Reservoir Dogs — a person will say anything to make the pain stop. Or, in the infallible logic of Nice Guy Eddie:
If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!
Or, perhaps Mr. White’s rather nuanced view is correct:
Now if it’s a manager, that’s a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.
What about the view of Creasy from Man on Fire:
I am going to ask questions. If you don’t answer fully and truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to. I’m going to cut your fingers off. One by one, if I have to.
Or, how about Jack Bauer:
Jack Bauer: Ibraham Hadad had targeted a bus carrying over forty-five people, ten of which were children. The truth, Senator, is that I stopped that attack from happening.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: By torturing Mr. Hadad!
Jack Bauer: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: So basically, what you’re saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means, and that you are above the law.
Jack Bauer: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason, and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: Even if it means breaking the law.
Jack Bauer: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is results. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted. In answer to your question, am I above the law? No, sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please, do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because sir, the truth is … I don’t. (“Day 7: 8:00am-9:00am“)
I realize these are just arguments from the minds of entertainment writers, but the questions and concerns aren’t going away because of the Pandora’s Box that Bush opened when he first uttered the words “War on Terror.” Remember his remarks from 2007:
On every battlefront we’re on the offense, keeping constant pressure. And in this war on terror, we will not rest or retreat or withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed.
Admittedly, the extremism would have arisen and grown with or without Bush; the president simply committed the United States and its allies to the impossible task of wiping terrorism in its totality off the map. That was the critical mistake that Bush made. The threat of violence from extremists will never be removed as long as zealots and extremists cultivate the idea that a religion or a powerful leader can rise to such heights that any amount of death and suffering are justified in order to protect them. This is why John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” was so important, and why we should never forget his lyrics:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
As long as zealots have something to kill or die for, they most certainly will because in their deluded and splintered minds, it gives them something, ironically, to live for.