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‘Stunning reversal’ in South Carolina

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In a historic vote, which the Associated Press called a “stunning reversal” the South Carolina House passed a bill early this morning, in concurrence with the Senate, to take down the flag from the State House lawn.

The South Carolina House approved a bill removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, a stunning reversal in a state that was the first to leave the Union in 1860 and raised the flag again at its Statehouse more than 50 years ago to protest the civil rights movement.

The move early Thursday came after more than 13 hours of passionate and contentious debate, and just weeks after the fatal shootings of nine black church members, including a state senator, at a Bible study in Charleston.

“South Carolina can remove the stain from our lives,” said 64-year-old Rep. Joe Neal, a black Democrat first elected in 1992. “I never thought in my lifetime I would see this.”

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law with pens representing the nine people who were killed in the recent Charleston shooting. Each pen will be given to the families of the victims.

When historians write about this moment in our nation’s history, they will surely remember Rep. Jenny Horne:

The flag is scheduled to be taken down at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Written by Jeremy

July 9th, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Palin ‘unleashed’

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Unlike some progressive commentators, I think Sarah Palin was far from drunk in this video response to a speech by Elizabeth Warren that is available on her website. Apparently, it is completely unedited.

Although the arguments are strained throughout, she went off script at about the 2:30 minute mark and seemed to briefly divert from her prepared remarks a couple other times later in the video. For someone with Palin’s resources, this shouldn’t ever happen, especially on the Internet. In any case, she seems sober enough to me.

Indeed, anyone who remembers the 2008 election cycle will recall that, when trying to make candid remarks on the fly, a tangled web of words — a dictionary hodgepodge, if you will — is about what we should expect.

I particularly enjoyed the analogy in a New York Times article from 2008 about Palin’s disastrous interview with Katie Couric:

… Couric asked Ms. Palin, Senator John McCain’s running mate, what she meant when she cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as foreign affairs experience. Ms. Palin could have anticipated the question — the topic of their interview, pegged to her visit to the United Nations, was foreign affairs. Yet Ms. Palin’s answer was surprisingly wobbly: her words tumbled out fast and choppily, like an outboard motor loosened from the stern (italics mine).

“That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada,” she replied. She mentioned the jokes made at her expense and seemed for a moment at a loss for the word “caricature.” “It — it’s funny that a comment like that was — kind of made to — cari — I don’t know, you know? Reporters —”

Ms. Couric stepped in. “Mocked?” Ms. Palin looked relieved and even grateful for the help. “Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.”

Here is a link to the full video on her website, and here is Cenk Uygur’s take on it.

This isn’t Palin drunk. This is just Palin “unleashed,” as Uyger said. Palin’s handlers should advise that she never go off script, or if she must, invest in a good video editor. But after seven years of this, that’s probably asking too much.

Written by Jeremy

July 6th, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Petition to take down the Confederate flag

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Written by Jeremy

June 19th, 2015 at 6:21 pm

On the New South: ‘Look to the future’

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I have “microblogged” a couple things on Facebook the last couple days, as I have been out of town and have not had much time to spend on the site. In the next couple posts, I’ll provide a few thoughts on the tragic church shooting in Charleston and the ongoing and seemingly perennial Confederate flag controversy in my home state of South Carolina. If you would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found here.

First, a lot of friends from my home state have been chiming in on the Confederate flag issue, and most, but certainly not all, at least among my circle of acquaintances, have been symptathetic to the argument that at this point in the history of the South, the Confederate flag is, at best, a relic and should take its rightful place in a museum, and not on the State House grounds.

Here is the main part of a post from Facebook user Josh Roberts, reposted by former high school classmate, with which I agree wholeheartedly:

… I have two main points to make:

1: the flag simply makes our friends and neighbors feel like shit. To have it flying on the grounds of our seat of government, right there on Gervais St, makes many of our fellow citizens feel, and rightly so, that THEIR history of violent oppression, some of which Alan detailed, is being ignored and devalued. What our black brothers and sisters feel about that flag is very real. And how are they supposed to feel when the state they’re citizens of so flagrantly waves their pain in their faces? History is fascinating and exciting, and it’s who we are, but it’s just that: history. It simply doesn’t belong flying on the state house grounds, because it is so divisive. The Confederate Relic Room is right down the street. The State Museum is right down the street. History books are in every school. Everybody knows about the Confederacy, and that’s not going to change. Just don’t have it on a flagpole at the State House. The US flag and the SC flag are the only ones that belong there.

2. I’m sorry this may come across rudely, but I don’t mean it that way. You are not being “ethnically cleansed.” Here’s the Wikipedia definition. Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory by a more powerful ethnic group, with the intent of making it ethnically homogeneous.[1] The forces applied may be various forms of forced migration (deportation, population transfer), intimidation, as well as mass murder.

That’s not happening to us white southerners. It just isn’t. No one is trying to wipe the world clean of us.
No one is even trying to stop you from flying the Confederate flag at your house, or putting a bumper sticker on your car, or going to a reenactment, or studying the war, or celebrating your ancestors’ bravery. I celebrate mine. No one is trying to stop you from being interested in The Civil War. I signed a petition to take the flag from the State House grounds, not from you.

I urge you to understand the past, but look to the future. We have to move forward with empathy and compassion, together with all the races. To me, an important step to the future is to take down a pretty big symbolic obstacle to the unity we desperately need. …

Well said.

Written by Jeremy

June 19th, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Feminism, MRM and the defenders of equality

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More than two years ago, I expressed my consternationindeed more than once — on some of the nonsense that has been going the last several years online, mainly in the skeptic community, between feminists on one side, others who don’t necessary align with a certain group and on the other end of the spectrum, the men’s rights movement and their apologists. I’m sad to say that the parochialism marches on, as people who should have more in common than not, haggle over who is the real defender of equality.

Also a couple years ago, Steve Shives produced an excoriation of the men’s rights movement and another and another more recently, the first of which was followed last week by a rather smug and pedantic diatribe from YouTube user TL;DR (Teal Dear) and then a man-in-the-clouds-style video blog from someone named Deconverted Man, whose main complaint seemed to be that Shives refused to issue a rebuttal to TL;DR’s video and that Shives deleted a series of posts on Facebook insisting that he provide evidence that the men’s right movement is a hate group, as outlined by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the Facebook post, Shives said he didn’t think “people who defend hate groups” warranted a response from him.

Below is Shives’ original Five Stupid Things About the Men’s Rights Movement:

and TL;DR’s response:

Now, while I agree with Steve on most topics he discusses in his videos and on Facebook, I have disagreed with him in the past, particularly in his apparent hesitance to extend the same skepticism he applies to things like religion, conservatism and most everything else to feminism and liberalism. That said, I can’t really blame him for not wanting to take the time to reply to TL;DR. As I said before in a thread on Facebook, his previous YouTube video, in which he did take the time to reply to another MRM supporter a couple years back, pretty well covered most of the bases, at least from his standpoint.

That said, picking apart every single detail of a 40-minute video that is, itself, a response to a 5-minute video that wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive look at the topic in the first place, would be a waste of time, especially since TL;DR just seems to largely regurgitate MRM talking points — by A Voice for Men’s own admission — ridiculously calls Shives a misandrist and accuses him of adhering to a double standard against men and references an irrelevant 11-century old (!) Saxon law about how harshly authorities back then dealt with men who raped women as if that is supposed to show … Well, I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to show.

But I will respond to a couple of TL;DR’s points on his appeal to history and his analysis of a report from the Centers for Disease Control on domestic violence.

To get started, Shives, near the end of his video, made the following claim:

I think we as a society should be just an intolerant of domestic abuse that victimizes men as we have become, relatively recently I would like to point out, of domestic violence that victimizes women.

In response, TL;DR offers a look back at 10th century Saxony law, ignores the first part of Shives’ statement about domestic violence toward men and complains about the “old historical (argument that) women have been so oppressed and had it so terribly throughout history nonsense, the old, ‘They were treated like chattel bullshit.'”

I’m not sure where the women as chattel argument comes from, but I personally haven’t heard a feminist claim that women have been treated as chattel, unless they were referring to female slaves.

In any case, white females in much of Western civilization did, historically, have few rights and opportunities before the 19th century yet led mostly peaceful lives — with exceptions — and were treated as valuable in society mainly for the purposes of raising children and tending to the home. And these are the women of the world who actually had it the best in life. Black women in the United States and women in other parts of the world could only hope to have it so lucky. There are exceptions again, of course, of women who did come to great prominence and power throughout history — Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I, Victoria, etc. — but for most women up until the late 19th century in the United States obtaining public office, voting or achieving some form of independent, upward mobility was more or less pipe dream.

For historian Gerda Lerner, this division boils down to opportunities to pursue what she describes as “abstract thought” and “theory formation” through an abundance of leisure time afforded to men in societies, but denied to women because of familial duties. Instead of discrimination based on gender and traditional familial roles, TL;DR claims that the wealth of men and women has been the “biggest oppressor of people” throughout history, pointing to a “wealth” of powerful female leaders, as if they are supposed to be representative of the whole gender, as if a powerful woman in 6th century B.C. lopping off the head of Persian king, spoken with emphasis in the video for some reason, is supposed to be taken as a profound statement or raise an eyebrow.

Although money certainly has been a facilitator of oppression and has been bound up with power, Lerner presents a different picture as it relates to historical gender roles:

Educational discrimination has disadvantaged them in access to knowledge; “cultural prodding,” which is institutionalized in the upper reaches of the religious and academic establishments, has been unavailable to them. Universally, women of all classes had less leisure time then men, and, due to their child-rearing and family service function, what free time they had was generally not their own. The time of thinking men, their work and study time, has since the inception of Greek philosophy been respected as private. Like Aristotle’s slaves, women “who with their bodies minister to the needs of life” have for more than 2500 years suffered the disadvantages of fragmented, constantly interrupted time. Finally, the kind of character development which makes for a mind capable of seeing new connections and fashioning a new order of abstractions has been exactly the opposite of that required of women, trained to accept their subordinate and service-oriented position in society.

Yet there have always existed a tiny minority of privileged women, usually from the ruling elite, who had some access to the same kind of education as did their brothers. From the ranks of such women have come the intellectuals, the thinkers, the writers, the artists. It is such women, throughout history, who have been able to give us a female perspective, an alternative to androcentric thought. They have done so at a tremendous cost and with great difficulty.


The only other portion of TL;DR’s video that warrants a response is the part about domestic violence. At about the 9:00 minute mark, he takes issue with the following claim from Shives:

Roughly 1.8 million women are battered each year by their partners. The number of men battered by female partners may be just as high. (I stress “may be,” Because it’s not.)

TL;DR’s uses this 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control to conclude that men are “more likely” to experience domestic violence than women. Not insignificantly, he uses the “12 month” category of stats for men and women for incidents that took place in the year before the survey was taken for surmising the rate of physical and sexual violence by intimate partners, rather than the lifetime figures, to slant his conclusion the way he wants it go to.

He also equates the CDC’s category for males who were “made to penetrate” with women who were raped. Even Cathy Young, a long-time and vocal critic of feminism, said this part of the CDC’s report, the part TL;DR uses to make his case, in other words, was “misleading:”

It is safe to assume that the vast majority of the CDC’s male respondents who were “made to penetrate” someone would not call themselves rape victims—and with good reason. (Young said earlier in the article that “made to penetrate” was “usually in reference to vaginal intercourse, receiving oral sex, or performing oral sex on a woman. This was not classified as rape, but as “other sexual violence.”)

But if that’s the case, it is just as misleading to equate a woman’s experience of alcohol-addled sex with the experience of a rape victim who is either physically overpowered or attacked when genuinely incapacitated. …

We must either start treating sexual assault as a gender-neutral issue or stop using the CDC’s inflated statistics. Few would deny that sex crimes in America are a real, serious, and tragic problem. But studies of sexual violence should use accurate and clear definitions of rape and sexual assault, rather than lump these criminal acts together with a wide range of unsavory but non-criminal scenarios of men—and women—behaving badly.

I agree with the sentiment that we should treat all acts of violence against men and women as serious offenses, but it is possible, as TL;DR does, to use the 12-month column for cases of sexual (also using the male “made to penetrate” category) and physical violence to draw a dubious conclusion from the CDC figures, misleading definitions or not.

And even that strategy produces undesirable results for someone looking to show that male-on-female and female-on-male domestic violence is exactly the same or even weighted toward the female-on-male side. When looking at the “Any severe physical violence” category in chart 4.8, the CDC reports that almost 1 million more female victims experienced domestic violence in the 12 months prior to the survey than male victims at 3.16 million women compared to 2.27 million men.

To get overall picture of domestic violence, a more useful picture of the overall trend comes from the lifetime category of those surveyed. If we look at that column in the report, which TL;DR happily ignored completely, we can see that 11.16 million women were victims of outright rape, or 9.4 percent of those surveyed, compared with 9.10 million men, or 8 percent of those surveyed, who were victims of “other sexual violence,” which includes, not just rape (“made to penetrate”), but coercion, unwanted sexual contact and other unwanted experiences. While 9.8 percent of women experienced sexual coercion, 6.4 percent unwanted contact and 7.8 percent unwanted sexual experiences in their lifetimes, the percentage of males with these experiences was 4.2, 2.6 and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Or, we can just look at the overall breakdown to see the conclusive differences in male versus female experiences of domestic violence:

  • More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • About 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) at some point in their lifetime.
  • An estimated 10.7% of women and 2.1% of men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
  • Approximately 1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else during their lifetime.
  • An estimated 13% of women and 6% of men have experienced sexual coercion in their lifetime (i.e., unwanted sexual penetration after being pressured in a nonphysical way); and 27.2% of women and 11.7% of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact.
  • One in 6 women (16.2%) and 1 in 19 men (5.2%) in the United States have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
  • Two-thirds (66.2%) of female victims of stalking were stalked by a current or former intimate partner; men were primarily stalked by an intimate partner or an acquaintance, 41.4% and 40.0%, respectively.

All of which, again, TL;DR happily ignored.

For someone who claims more than once in the video to not be an MRA, he sure seemed ready and able to articulate an impressivly nuanced and accurate picture of the MRM position, such that A Voice for Men put his video right on the front of its website with the following ringing endorsement:

We have rarely found a video that states the MRM’s case so well, or answers some of the more specious criticisms of it so well, as the latest video from TL;DR. We couldn’t help but feature this prominently. Every minute is worth watching for anyone who is still on the fence about what we do.

With good reason, then, TL;DR himself presciently envisioned that Shives or someone else watching the video might not take him seriously. Women haven’t had it all that bad, he seems to say. Look at this narrowly defined set of stats from the CDC; clearly, just as many or even more women rape and beat men than the other way around! Look how harshly offenders were treated for raping women centuries ago. That must surely make up for the next 800 years of misogyny and oppression! Look at these handful of women in history who rose to great power, amassed vast stores of wealth and even dared to kill men in doing so. That must surely prove that women have had plenty of opportunities and weren’t treated nearly as poorly as we were led to believe, right?

Atheists in the South not alone

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Reddit user aggressive_biscuits posted the following photo online of a Rationalist of East Tennessee billboard, which is located about 20 minutes from me in Knoxville:

Credit: Redditer aggressive_biscuits

Credit: Redditer aggressive_biscuits

Written by Jeremy

June 6th, 2015 at 7:09 pm

This — ‘Sarah Haider: Islam and the Necessity of Liberal Critique’

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A much-needed voice of reason in the no man’s land between Muslim apologists and “politically correct” liberals:

On cowardice and fakery

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I, for one, grow weary of phony, out-of-touch public figures who think it’s acceptable to act like total assholes in front of their supporters and then when their distasteful rhetoric and off-color remarks get out into the mainstream, come crawling back, feet tucked deeply in their own mouths, to issue an apology. If you are going to conduct yourself in douche-baggery fashion in public, be unrepentant about it, kind of like Donald Trump. At least that would be sincere.

Sen. Ted Cruz took to social media last night to say he was sorry — you know, where he wouldn’t have to endure the shame of apologizing in person — after making an ill-timed joke about Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his son to brain cancer this past weekend.

Cruz had the better part of four days to tweak that particular part of his speech, yet he proceeded with this decidedly unfunny remark:

Vice President Joe Biden. You know the nice thing? You don’t need a punchline. I promise you it works. The next party you’re at, just walk up to someone and say, ‘Vice President Joe Biden’ and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing.

In an interview after the speech, he called the vice president family’s ordeal “heartbreaking and tragic” and said his prayers were with Biden, but when asked why he made the joke, he shook his head and slinked away in truly spineless fashion:

Written by Jeremy

June 4th, 2015 at 8:09 pm

How to fail in life

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Bring 19 children into the world — a world that from your religious perspective is damned right after Satan, unbeknownst to an all-knowing god, tempts Adam and Eve in the garden — raise your children in this religion, raise your children on intolerance and bigotry, sign a contract with a television network and exploit your family and kids and your religion in front of millions of people “as some sort of zoo exhibit,” downplay the actual seriousness of your sons’ alleged molestation of five girls, four of whom were his own sisters, oh and don’t forget, perhaps most important of all, play the victim yourself and couch the controversy in God’s forgiveness, whereby a disillusioned young man can molest numerous girls — because really, who’s counting? — just so long as eventually, a few years down the road, or 10 or 20, he makes it right with Jesus.

Of course, that we even know who these people are by way of a popular, probably soon to be canceled TV Show, is, itself, an indictment on society.

Time answers its own question

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Jim Romenesko: “We’ve found the killer!”:

Credit: Jim Romenesko

Credit: Jim Romenesko

Written by Jeremy

June 4th, 2015 at 8:04 am

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