Monday, October 26, 2009

A couple of new links of note...

First up is Pat Cahalan, who I came across on this thread at Adventures in Ethics and Science. Pat was far more patient with the nut providing the AR extremist side of the "dialogue" happening over there. My only real complaint about Pat's Daily Grind, is that it isn't particularly "daily." But he more than makes up for this with posted implications of mad scientist proclivities - I am holding out to see if he is down for the invasion of Canuckistan.

Next up; I have been remiss in not adding Rational Rant to the blogroll. SBH mostly writes about rationality and early literature - mostly Christian. He also occasionally busts out with some posts about Portland, OR, my adopted hometown from which I am currently in exile. Loving me some rational thinking and Portland, I also love me some SBH...

I suppose I should also admit with a great deal of horror and shame, that I totally failed to blogroll that damned Canuskistanian, Jason Thibeault, who admits to being a lousy Canuckistanian. In spite of being a Canuckistanian (maybe because he is rather lousy at it), I have grown quite fond of him and his soon to be partner in marriage, Jodi.

A new addition to the seed sciborg collective, is David Sloan Wilson's Evolution for Everyone. I think I am going to have some fun with this one...

Finally I get to the most exciting addition to my blogroll - Addiction Inbox. I actually came across Dirk's blog several months ago while doing some research on addiction - then I promptly forgot all about it. My lovely partner Juniper emailed me the other night to mention it to me after seeing it at DM's blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post Modern Extremism: Steven Best, Civil War and Animal Rights

A post modernist world view is full with important conversations. The world as we know it is rife with uncertainty and instability is a way of life. The status quo of the Western world is political upheaval, economic turmoil, cultural clashes and a growing discontent with political and traditional social institutions. It is bleak picture, chaotic and at times simply terrifying. For some the obvious choice is to latch tight and hard to the familiar - religion, patriotism and a past who's sun has set. For others it is obvious that we must accept change, while working hard to minimize the chaos of inevitable extreme social transformation - holding onto the past as we develop viable new paradigms. But for some, nothing short of total revolution will suffice. A complete shredding of the past for a presumably bright new future, heretofore only viable on paper and in the classroom.

For some taking the important discussions fostered by postmodernism to an extreme is the
only answer.

A couple of posts ago, I linked a clip of Dr. Steve Best discussing terrorism, which he euphemistically described as "direct action." The shorter clip I embedded in that post provides a taste of the linked clip from which it was edited. If you have not watched it and don't want to spend ten minutes of your life with Dr. Best, I highly recommend that you check it out now - it is only about three and a half minutes. The longer clip actually makes for a much more intensive watch, but the shorter clip encapsulates the points that I want to touch on here quite reasonably.

There are a lot of things that jumped out at me, but the most obvious and I suspect the most important involve the past of Dr. Best. As the chair of the philosophy department at the University of Texas, El Paso, Best teaches Anarchism, Marxism, Feminism and Postmodernism. Yet he feels that none of these philosophies is radical in the sense that animal rights is radical. What is striking is that he virtually throws the rest under a bus, completely marginalizing them with the statement that unlike animal rights activism, none of these philosophies requires us to change our daily habits.

While I am not an anarchist, Marxist or ultimately a postmodernist (I am, as I consider it, a feminist), I have a fair grounding in all of these. And ultimately I believe that if the human race survives, a responsible anarchy is inevitable - though a very long ways off. The thing is, one needn't even fully embrace any of these philosophies to find them changing their daily habits and behaviors. While the only one of these I would consider a part of my identity is feminism, all of these have changed my daily habits, in that they have significantly influenced my thinking and the decisions that I make. I suspect that I have rather more respect for the philos that Best has spent his life teaching, than he does.

What really strikes me and is rather a continuation of this point, is when best describes his relationship with his university, in the context of teaching animal rights. While I have little doubt that Best is a true believer, I also have little doubt that part of his reason for embracing animal rights, is that he finally found a philosophy that created conflict with his university. His whole demeanor changes when he is describing this, his mouth turning up into a smirk of obvious glee.

To be clear, I do not think that Best bases his support for animal rights on the controversial nature of his teaching. Nor do I think that Best has completely rejected the rest of what he has taught. I have no doubt that Best is passionate about human rights philosophies. What I suspect is that the quest for controversy has largely driven his movement through radical philosophies, until he landed on animal rights and the advocacy of full out civil war. I believe his passion for it is genuine and unwavering. But I suspect what brought him there was being a radical extremist in need of a Cause, a priest in need of a Faith.

The other thing that Best does that is extremely important, is that he is wedding himself and the AR movement to several other causes. In the video he is wedding it to the larger environmental movement. In this essay, he weds it to a great deal more, including the very important and very real struggle for civil liberties. This is a very important tactic to take, because it garners him and the AR movement peripheral allies. People who disagree with virtually everything that the AR movement stands for, are standing with him and with the AR movement on certain issues. This creates the illusion that the AR movement carries considerably more weight than it actually does.

Words define reality, and the animal and Earth liberation movements must resist being defined as violent fanatics and extremists. They must defend themselves rhetorically and philosophically, establishing a sharp distinction between animal and Earth liberation, property destruction, protests, and demonstrations on one side, and bona fide violence and terrorism on the other side.

Notice that he is including property destruction on the side of non-terrorist actions. This is important because the primary tactic of AR terrorists is to burn down or blow up cars, labs and businesses. These are actions that are meant to intimidate scientists and businesses that exploit non-human animals, to terrorize them into submission. And these actions are not happening in a vacuum. Right along side this, is rhetoric about escalation - Best engages in this himself, calling for acts of violence directly against scientists, businesses and institutions that use or engage in animal testing and other people who exploit animals.

It is one thing to engage in peaceful protest and even engage in acts of civil disobedience. It is quite another to terrorize people with carbombs and arson and threats against their person. While he is calling for a sharp distinction, the extremist AR movement (as well as the extremist environmental movement) actually does it's best to blur the lines and obfuscate, so that when the political arm of the movement is attacked by law enforcement, they can cry foul and scream about their civil liberties being violated. By mainstreaming the soft target terrorism, leaders of the AR movement create martyrs of virtually every member of the movement.

When this is all wedded to the very legitimate fight for civil liberties that we in the U.S. have seen destroyed by the patriot act and the war on terror, it often brings people like myself into the fray. And no matter how the AR movement has orchestrated it, when it comes to the issue of civil liberties, I cannot help but come down on the side of liberty and on the side of vast swathes of the AR movement.

What this does is create a critical need on the part of advocates for civil liberties and the freedom of expression to a) be well educated about the people and movements they are defending and b) to make very clear distinctions between defending and supporting. I defend a great deal of expression I strongly disagree with, that does not mean that I support it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Note to Fatass Self...

Yes, that extra twenty-five, thirty pounds has impacted your ability to climb McDanald's play structures...

Definitely not a good idea to have three goes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Animal Rights Redux (updated)

I am not going to take the time right this second, but I am definitely going to address the insanity that is extreme post modernism. My earlier post made an extremist facebook page and that is where I came across this gem:

It is not that all post modernist thought is wrongheaded or bad. There are some perfectly valid discussions to be had. But taken to it's extremes you end up with sentiments like this one, left on Jason's blog - a comment that I think encapsulates animal rights insanity;

"But I am not a violent person. I simply want the violent people dead."

I am going to get to going in some depth about the nature of extremist political movements, especially post modern extremism - but I want to give it the discussion it deserves and will take a few days. I did find the video that the above clip was culled from and highly recommend that you watch it in it's entirety.

In particular, I would like you to pay close attention to the ending where Dr. Best discusses the concept of living in harmony with all living beings. This is a very good example of hitting people where they are likely to be more vulnerable. There are a very few of us, liberal or conservative, radical or down to earth, who cannot identify with that concept in some way or another. It is propaganda of the very highest order and is as effective as it is for a very important reason.

Best believes what he is saying - absolutely. There is little question in my mind that Dr. Steve Best, chair of the philosophy department at the University of Texas, El Paso, takes what he is saying as an article of Faith. When I watched the linked video, I was stirred by it - it spoke to me in a very particular fashion. Even as I was sitting here, picking out the fundamental flaws in his reasoning, angry about his overt support for terrorism - his Faith moved me.

The elements that make Dr. Best's commentary so very powerful, is the very same element that makes devoted theists - theists who truly believe what they claim to believe, so very effective as recruiters for their religion. And make no mistake. Without gods or supernatural elements, the philosophy that Best espouses is very much a religion. Given his background, I am comfortable in assuming that Best is an atheist. The difference between him and atheists such as myself, is that Best has created for himself a non-theistic religion that excepting a god, carries all the trappings of religions from the dawn of sentience. Faith, dogma, fundamentalism and absolute Belief - Dr. Best's religion has it all, even it's fanatics.

Labels and "The Other"

Greg responded to my ire and explains his reasoning over here. It is an interesting post and I recommend checking it out (along with the Athletes are more likely to be gay post). I am not really going to dive into that post. Instead I want to address the underlying theme of "The Other." Mainly I want to address the absolute absurdity of the concept of "The Other." The absurdity of the notion that because someone is a little different than myself, they are somehow subhuman. I want to be clear from the start, that this is not a sentiment that makes those who feel it special. It really isn't all that complicated - to prove that, I am going to keep this post very short.

We all - every single human being on the planet - wear a lot of labels that define us. While some of those labels are assuredly more important than others, we all have a whole hell of a lot of them. If you really sit down and think about it, you can begin to see that it would be flat out impossible to list them all. Son or daughter, sibling, friend, lover, writer, student, educator - the list is virtually endless. We all attach varying degrees of importance to our various labels, but in the end we are all defined by thousands of factors that contribute to who and what we ultimately are.

Given these remarkably long lists, who the fuck am I to feel superior to anybody, simply because they happen to have a few labels I disapprove of?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Animal Rights Extremists Are At It Again (Updated again)

Just to be sure I am very clear, I do not believe that all animal rights activists are terrorists or extremists. I make three distinctions that are very important. First are the activists - people who engage in peaceful protest and sometimes in peaceful civil disobedience. They belong in the very reasonable category of activist, even though I believe they are wrong. Then there are the extremists, people who do not engage in, but who advocate violence and other terror tactics. And finally there are the terrorists - people who engage in terror tactics. There is a great deal of difference between activism and the latter two categories, while there is only a fine line between the last two. When I am writing about animal rights issues, I am generally not talking about the activists, except insofar as I am talking about something they believe in too.

I just received an email from the David Jentsch PhD, of the organization Pro-Test. Apparently some animal rights extremist web sites have noticed the petition that, if you have yet to sign, you should absolutely sign now. While they do not publicize your personal information, your name does appear and some extremists are now doing searches for information on signatories and harassing us.

Yesterday, a few websites hosted by animal rights activists have encouraged their readerships to visit the list of Pro-Test signatories in order to find names and to contact those persons to express their opposition to animal research. While your email addresses on the website are secure and not publicly listed, the animal rights groups encourage people to use the wide array of Internet tools to find contact information and to use it.

I just got a response to a request for the specific sites involved; The websites "Negotiation Is Over" and "Thomas Paines Corner," have simulposted a piece entitled; "Pro-Test Was Kind Enough to Provide a Directory of Vivisectors." Please be warned that these are extremist hate sites.

David Jentsch was one of the growing ranks of scientists who happen to do research that involves animals, to be attacked by these terrorists, in March of this year. Unlike many of the victims of these attacks - ten on UCLA professors in the past three years, Dr. Jentsch decided that enough was enough and taking the cue from colleagues in the UK, Pro-Test came to the U.S.

As many of you know, I am an ardent opponent of terrorism, regardless of the cause they claim to support. Over the last several months I have tangled with animal rights extremists online, on several occasions. They sometimes pay lip service to opposing these terrorist fucking bastards, but it is more than a little obvious that they have a great deal of sympathy and some have outright appreciation for their actions. I have been vaguely threatened by a couple of these assholes and expect to be in the future.

Terrorism is - always is inexcusable. I have denounced terrorism in the name of environmental issues, losing friends in the process. I have denounced terrorism among the Palestinians - again, losing friends in the process. And I have denounced terrorism for animal rights - and refused to join protests at OHSU, yet again, losing friends in the process. I was told by some of those same animal rights extremist friends, that I am evil. That I am disgusting and my support of animal testing is little different than offering my children for experimentation. I was told that karma would come back on me for being such a horrible fucking person.

Makes me wish there was such a thing as karma, because I am pretty sure that some scumbag who firebombed someone's car, terrorized someone else's family, blowing up labs and generally terrorizing people - intimidating people to get them to do what the want - they would have some serious repercussions for that. And now these people are out to intimidate some more - over the internets no less. Well, good on them for letting us know that our efforts - small as they may be on the parts of many of us, are not in vain. It is nice to know that they are displeased and feel the need to try to stop us from apposing their extremist and often terrorist agenda.

So please, if you have not signed, now is the time to lend your support. Let these vile cretins know that you support science, you support medicine, you support a better understanding of disease, you support new medicines and improving old ones.

Let them know you support a better future for your parents, your children, your grandchildren, your friends - yourself. Let them know you support the scientists who are helping make that better future and will not tolerate violence against them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A followup to the "Shower Incident"

I am intrigued by the reaction that this experience has garnered. I am not terribly offended - this is partly my fault for not being more clear about how *I* feel about it and unwittingly making it sound somewhat humorous. But I am not entirely to blame, because there have been two distinct reactions that lend me to think that some people got it.

I actually wrote that post at the coffee shop and ended up relating the experience to some of my friends. I told Juniper about it shortly after it happened. And without fail, the two reactions to this fell solidly along lines of sex. On the one hand, every single woman who heard this initially reacted with a great deal of laughter. Not some - not most - every single one of them. On the other hand, every single guy who heard this was entirely squicked out and empathized with my extreme discomfort at the whole experience. Again, not some - not most - every single one. I am not intentionally singling Dr. Isis out - it is just that she is the only one who reacted in comments - but her response is typical of women who have responded to this. Juniper reacted much the same way.

I am not interested in making anyone feel bad, but I do think it is important to really think about the reactions to this. This was not funny - not in the least. I am extremely secure about my sexuality and in spite of being a little heavier than I would like, I am very comfortable with my body. Not just a little - I am a fairly devout nudist who tends to look at clothing as protection from the elements, a chance to accessorize and mostly to cater to the fear of Teh Naked that is so pervasive. Given all that, I was more than just uncomfortable with what happened - I felt absolutely violated. Not as horrible as I would be feeling if he had shoved me against a wall and raped me - or tried to. But violated none the less. And I really can't help but wonder what someone who is insecure about their sexuality and their body - like a substantial majority of people in our society are.

I know men who would have serious issues with ever going into a communal shower again after something like that.

In the interest of bringing something good out of this horrid experience, I would like the women who read this to consider this in a different light. Imagine you have just finished a fairly intense workout. You're sore, your a bit worn out and you have errands to run, so the only comfort you're going to get for some time, is in the shower. You're one of only two people in the locker room when you go into the communal shower and let the hot water soothe sore muscles. You are just starting to wash, when the other women in the locker room gets into the shower and takes a gander around the corner - then gets to showering herself.

When you happen to glance over, you notice she is washing her vagina and looking at you while doing so - she quickly gets to cleaning other bits. You think little of it as you continue washing. But when you happen to glance over again, you notice she is looking at you and rather furiously washing her vagina again. You can't be 100% certain she is masturbating, but it is exceedingly unlikely she's not - and moreover she's ogling you while doing so.

Mind you, she hasn't made any overt moves on you. The closest she has come to expressing interest could easily be, and in fact was, interpreted as just being friendly - not really flirtatious. Yet there she is, ogling you and pleasuring herself.

Now imagine talking about it and writing about it, only to have the reaction from every guy who hears about this laugh about it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Gun Study Critique that Begat the Race Card

Apparently it has become necessary to explain my critique of the gun study and Greg's post on it, because Greg seems to think the argument is still about race and class. He won't explain how exactly, apparently because I didn't ask very nicely - but my argument is apparently about race and class none the less. No matter that he still doesn't seem to have the foggiest clue what I am actually arguing - he thinks he does and he thinks that the argument is racist or classist - or both.

Here is Greg's post on the study and here is the press release on the study. Unfortunately the paper itself is behind a paywall, but for those who might have access, here is the link to that. Greg actually posted the conclusion from the abstract, which is basically the same conclusion of the paper itself.

Greg starts right off by flying way past anything that either the study or the press release had to say, titling his post Carry a gun = you get shot more often. Well no, that is not at all an implication of the study or the press release - but it makes a hell of a headline. What the press release indicates, is that carrying a gun is of dubious value in the event of an assault. It mentions that you are more likely to be shot during an assault if you are carrying one. While I think the study itself is still over generalizing (something the authors themselves admit may be the case), they are limiting their generalization to urban settings.

Before I go into my critique, I will make the same caveat that I made in my comments at Greg's blog. I tend to think that the conclusions being made are likely true. I think that the study's conclusions, the press release conclusion and even Greg's conclusion in the title of his post, are quite likely true and a well constructed study that was able to gather data to support those conclusions would likely find evidence to support those assertions. I just don't think this study reasonably supports any of those assertions because of a serious flaw that attempting to adjust for in the controls does not - cannot compensate for.

The problem with this study, is that the vast majority of the data comes from shootings in areas fo Philadelphia that are prone to extremely high rates of gang activity. The study does not take into account the legality of the firearms in question, or the victim's legal right to be carrying them concealed on their person. The only adjustment made in an attempt to compensate, is that the controls for each case in the study, were taken from the surrounding area and culled for like employment - in most of these cases, unemployment and criminal record - actual crime/s undetermined. Because of this, I do not see how whether or not a given case in the study was a career criminal (i.e. a gang member) can be accounted for.

Now as far as Greg's title assertion goes, this pretty much knocks it out of the running entirely. With a very strong likelihood that a very large percentage, if not a majority of the cases in the study being involved in criminal activities, there is a confounding factor having nothing to do with guns, that makes it more likely the person is going to be assaulted in the first place. I don't think it is at all unreasonable to assume that someone involved in ongoing criminal activities is more likely than people who are not, to be victim of an assault in the first place. To be very clear again, I suspect that Greg's claim is correct. I just don't see this study, or any study that is limited entirely to large urban centers (the gang variable aside) providing any evidence that that is the case.

The assertion made in the press release is rather trickier, but not all that much so. Bottom line, their claim seems to be that carrying a gun in general - regardless of location, increases your chance of being shot during an assault. We won't go into the gang activity variable at all and rest with the obvious - the study authors did not make that claim. Presumably because they did not believe that the evidence they studied could reasonably be extrapolated to populations outside of urban centers. From the paper's conclusion; "Although successful defensive gun uses are
possible and do occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas." Neither that statement, or any other in the paper's conclusion makes any implications about gun use outside of urban areas.

But what about the study itself? For that matter, why would anyone who is not a criminal, have a substantively different outcome during a gun assault? What exactly makes that such a confounding variable?

First and foremost, I want to be perfectly clear that it may not make any difference at all. But there are a lot of factors that could potentially make an assault involving career criminals, different than an assault involving people who are not. Much the same way there are a lot of factors that make an assault involving a police officer different than an assault that does not involve the police. The study did not include police officers who were shot for a reason, I think it is reasonable to say that the study should not include mostly career criminals for similar reasons. Bottom line, they are not civilians in the same sense that police officers are not.

Those factors include, but are not limited to the following. First, civilians with guns (CWGs) who are not criminals and who get involved in an assault, may not be very likely to pull their gun because of a simple assault, while a career criminal may be considerably more inclined to do so. Second, a gangster is very plausibly considerably more prepared to use their gun at any given point, than your average CWG - being so prepared may actually make it less likely the gangster will be shot. Third, gangsters in larger urban centers often operate with a certain amount of discipline and training - some gangs operate on a par with tactical (paramilitary) police units. This could well provide even more of an advantage in an assault, over CWGs. And gangsters are also very likely to attack from some sort of cover and with a certain amount of stealth or surprise - such as drive by shootings.

I consider this a confounding factor that at the least raises doubts about extrapolating this study to the general population. And it would not matter if the study included a large percentage of white gangsters, or any other organized criminals. Indeed, including a large percentage of career or even petty criminals, would create confounding factors. As would including a large percentage of terrorists. It doesn't matter if the gangsters are wealthy or poor, living in the ghetto, or living in extremely wealthy neighborhoods. Being a gangster is the confounding variable, not what sort of gangster one might be or where they live.

I am more than happy to debate this - I am happy to do so here. I could well be wrong and someone might have a stellar argument that convinces me that I am. But my argument has absolutely nothing to do with race or class. Accusations that I am racist or classist, or that my argument itself is those things, is a total non-starter.

Worse, as I explained in my other post about this, such accusations are extremely counterproductive - whether they come from a privileged white person, or from someone who has suffered actual racism. All they accomplish is to desensitize people to such accusations and make them incredibly unlikely to have the slightest interest or willingness to engage in a serious discussion about racism, classism and/or other forms of bigotry.

It also has the added detriment of seriously detracting from, if not outright destroying that person's credibility when it comes to discussions about racism and other forms of bigotry. It is kind of hard to take someone seriously about racism, when they quite unjustifiably accused you of racism.

Creepy Post-Workout Experiences No One Wants To Have

As often as possible, I avoid having to shower at school, after my workout. Not because I am shy, I'm not - but because the locker room is in the basement by the pool and the lockers are reserved only. So anything valuable has to be left in a gym locker upstairs and it is all just rather inconvenient. I am on the verge of actually paying for locker space though, as I am sure I would be a little more motivated to work out, if I could do so before classes, rather than after - and could leave my workout clothes or swim trunks there while I am in class.

Today was one of those inconvenient days. I had errands to run after my workout and I am not terribly comfortable doing much of anything until I have my shower. So I wandered my sweaty and very sore ass down to the showers after my workout (I was going to swim, but really didn't get my legs in much yesterday). I was only in the shower for moments, when an older gentleman wandered in. We were, I should note, the only people in the shower at that particular moment.

This is a guy who smiles at me a lot when we are both working out, something I assumed was because he's friendly. Honestly, that could still be what it is. So he walks into the shower, turns one on and then for some reason wanders to the other end and takes a look around the corner - then wanders back over to his shower. I am, at this point washing off, having spent a few minutes just standing under the hot water, as my fat ass gets rather sore after working on weights. I haven't though much of the guy, until I glance over and notice he is looking at me. Then I notice he is washing his pecker - washing it very thoroughly. Still not thinking that much of it - he may have just been glancing and had started washing his hair, I turn to wash my own junk.

When I glanced over again, he was again washing his pecker rather furiously - and he was looking at me when I glanced over. When he noticed me glancing over again, he quickly turned away and started making like he was washing other bits, but it was impossible not to notice that his junk was totally standing at attention, as it were. At this point, I quickly finished showering and got out of the shower - he was still in there when I left...

I am not absolutely certain he was masturbating - though I have a pretty strong certainty that he was. And if he was, I am not absolutely certain he was looking at me as jack material - he may well have been watching out so as not to get caught. But again, the way things were playing out, I am fairly certain I was being ogled in the process.

To be sure, I am not at all grossed out by the notion that a guy would whack off to me. Hell, I experimented with boys, though it has been a while. But this was just fucking creepy and gross - would have been just as creepy and gross, had it been a women - though we don't have unisex locker-rooms, so that is unlikely to be a problem - that and I am a tad heavier than I was when I was a pretty boy - and I am no longer quite the pretty boy I once was.

All and all, that was a pretty fucked up shower experience. And it definitely motivates me to get a locker and work out in the early morning hours. Because working out later in the day, I am likely to end up in the shower with this dude again and would really rather not have that five percent possibility that he wasn't whacking off put to the test. And I will note that it is only that slim possibility that he wasn't, that prevented me from talking to someone about it...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Non-Theist Gatherings in Kalamazoo

So two weeks ago Saturday, I ventured to the first meeting and last night to the second. I went to the first assuming that while it could work out as being a pretty interesting time, the odds were more favorable for it being rather awkward. I was quite pleased to discover it was the former. And not only was it interesting, it was really quite an enjoyable time. The first time around I think there were about ten of us, while last night there were nine of us, four of whom were not there the first time. We decided that we'll be meeting twice a month, one Wednesday and one Sunday. We're hoping to find a space that we can have rather more control over for the Sunday meetups, so we can actually engage in activities and more formal speaking - both from within the group and hopefully some outside speakers.

But as it stands, we have had some very interesting discussions, from philosophy to science, to the social sciences, to culture and society - all intertwined with each other and of course, with religion and the lack thereof. All around, I have to say that this is off to a excellent start and the way things are going, this could turn into a very sizable group of diverse and interesting people.

If you are relatively close to K-zoo, MI, you should check us out. If you aren't, but would like to find other people near you, who are atheists - you should check out this map that Greg posted a while back....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Privilege and the Race Card (Updated)

I think to start, I should be very clear that no matter how introspective and aware I am becoming of privilege, in the context of race and gender, I am still prone to latent racism and misogyny. I can proudly say that I am working on it and that I am far more aware of these tendencies in myself, than a lot of people. But I am a Midwestern U.S. American - the folks who pretty much invented passive aggressive bigotry. Spending one's formative years in this environment is not terribly conducive to having a profound awareness race and privilege - it is likely to be a lifetime of effort to root all of that out.

But I am aware of this and working hard to change it. I think that most of the bloggers I regularly interact with are aware of my attitudes and where I am with all this - it certainly comes up regularly and I am not particularly shy about discussing it. I know that Greg Laden is aware of where I am with this topic, which is why I was rather dismayed about the assumptions he made during a discussion on his blog about a paper that tentatively concluded that carrying a gun in urban settings may make one less safe. My problem with the study, was that the authors evidence was collected in high poverty, high drug trafficking areas of Philly, areas that are pretty much overrun by gangs.

I should note; while this post is aimed rather directly at Greg, I decided to post it here because it is something that a lot of us are guilty of and need to consider. It is our responsibility to very seriously consider exactly what we are responding to and what it actually is, before we bring up racism or other bigotry.

All criticism of the paper itself aside, Greg then decided that I must be expressing racist attitudes. Didn't think to ask me about it - didn't think to consider my motivations or reasoning. Nope, the first thing that Greg Laden thought, was that I must be a fucking racist asshole, because I didn't think that data that by necessity would include a lot of career criminals, can be reasonably extrapolated to the general population - that DuWayne thinks he's "a different species from these inner city ghetto-troglodytes..."

I didn't say this on that post, because I was planning on writing this post. Fuck you Greg. Seriously, Fuck you. How Dare you make that kind of a vile accusation of someone you fucking well know isn't inclined to that kind of vile attitude? How fucking dare you say something that vile about a friend, without even considering asking them about what they actually think first?

I am very consistent in my absolute and utter derision for anyone who engages in the sort of vile behavior that gangbangers engage in. I have repeatedly held that any form of terrorism is reprehensible and utterly inexcusable - whether it be the Taliban, Hamas, the now defunct IRA, the ELF or fucking gangsters and many others. There isn't a single group on that list who's underlying cause I do not have a great deal of sympathy for - I sympathize with every one. I also say the same about ALF terrorists and many others, though I do not sympathize with their causes.

My absolute and utter disdain has absolutely nothing to do with race. It is all about their behaviors - behaviors that I find morally and practically reprehensible. There is no excuse for it - none. I am not and never have singled anyone out based on race or the cause they purport to support - no matter how very strongly I may feel about that cause or reasoning. And to be absolutely fucking clear, I do feel very strongly about race and poverty issues in the U.S. I am horrified by the cycle of poverty and a great many concurrent issues that the neighbors I have had most of my adult life face. But I will not - cannot countenance gang activity. Not because I hate or feel superior to brown, olive or poor people (I fit that last), but because I hate fucking terrorism.

I like you Greg, but this is absolutely disgusting behavior - and not just because it was a defamatory statement about me. Indeed I really don't care about the me in this - my attitudes about race, gender and bigotry in general speak for themselves - ultimately you sully yourself with statements like that, far more than you can sully me. So to be perfectly clear, beyond feeling somewhat betrayed (and yes, a little hurt) by someone I have generally considered my friend, this is not about me. This is about a rather ugly tendency that some people of privilege have, this tendency to use the race card as a chip in rhetorical gameplay - whether it is remotely appropriate or not.

Toaster pointed out something important, that I thought about and more or less ignored as I was writing this. When I am describing the experience of some POC and members of other outgroups, I am not speaking for ALL of them. I know many people who have absolutely NOT had the experience I am describing and sincerely apologize for implying they did. What I am describing is the experience of several people I know or aspects of their experiences, as none of them are the same.

Toaster is absolutely correct, this was inexcusable. But like I mentioned - I'm not perfect, I'm just trying...

Just think about this for a moment Greg. Consider being a person of color (or member of another outgroup). Consider growing up with the problems that implies - having to be better than everyone else, to be considered equal, having to smile and nod when people engage in passive aggressive racism - so as not to make anyone uncomfortable - your own comfort be damned, having to not only consider how your actions reflect on you, but how they reflect on everyone who has the same skin color or other out trait, having to put up with people making assumptions about you, based on their experiences with people who have the same color skin or other out trait. Consider this; This isn't a motherfucking game and the race card is not a motherfucking rhetorical device!

This is the life experience of real human beings that you are throwing out on the table, as a way to garner some self righteous, false sense of superiority. This is the shame they have endured, the anger they have endured, the pain they have endured. This is their life! It is not something that your privileged white ass has a right to bandy about as a cheap talking point and nonstarter.

Why don't you rethink that?

Midwestern Winds Fucking Suck!!!11!!1!!!!

Woke up at 3:45 shivering. Checked the thermostat - it was fifty-three degrees. Checked where it was set - sixty-seven degrees. The wind had blown out the fucking pilot, not a very good time at all.

I will be heading for the roof after class today, to figure out what the fucking problem is with the damper. I have a bad feeling the answer would be nothing - that it was just that windy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When I Dream Of Bloggers...

...Weird shit happens. I should note that this doesn't happen often - actually I rarely enough even remember dreams. But in the wee hours of this morning, I was dreaming - in and out of sleep, about Orac, Dr. Steven Novella and medical woomeister, Bill Maher - thanks I suspect, to Dr. Benway's comments here and here. (this is all in regards to Maher receiving the Richard Dawkins Award at the Atheist Alliance International Convention)

The last time I had a blogger dream - indeed, the only other one I remember, was a steel cage non-death match between Greg Laden and Comrade PhysioProf, over who was going to get to be my post grad mentor. The funny thing is, I am really not that arrogant and not only are neither of them in the field I am going into - they aren't even in the same field themselves. I honestly think it was a combination of finding the thought of them in a steel cage match terribly amusing and suspecting that both of them would be excellent mentors that did it to me. In any case, it was a fucking brilliant dream and well worth remembering. And no, I am not going to say who won. Suffice to say, if they were in my field and locale, I would be totally thrilled to have either as a mentor...

So in my dream, not only was Orac a computer, so was Steven. And this takes place in deep space, aboard a science vessel - where there is to be a competition between Orac, Dr. Novella and Maher, for the Richard Dawkins Award. I am unsure whether it was something Orac or Dr. Novella did, or if it was the science vessel itself rejecting him, but moments after boarding the ship, the cabin he was in was decompressed and Bill Maher was ejected into space (to be picked up by the shuttle that dropped him off - no one was irrevocably harmed during this dream), thus removing him from the competition before it really got rolling.

So the competition was soon down to the two worthy competitors - Dr. Novella and Orac. At first they fought computer against computer, until it was realized that both are just too good natured to actually battle each other for the win. There was some tampering of circuitry by their respective well meaning fans, but both were balking at these potentially damaging attacks. Then someone came along with the idea of motherfucking battle bot avatars. The battle was fierce and grueling, but the outcome was inevitable for several reasons. So at the end - in that holographic rendition of a Roman Colosseum, Orac eventually vanquished his frienemy, Dr. Steven Novella.

First and foremost, Orac simply has vastly more experience as a computer. On top of that, Orac is just a touch more "vicious" than Dr. Novella - vicious of course being a relative term, as both computers are really very decent sorts. And finally, it was my dream and while I really do like Novella, I actually read Orac's blog with far greater frequency.

I have to say though, amusing as the dream was (especially seeing Maher pop out that airlock - seriously, that was totally fucking rocking), I really rather would have slept more soundly and not woken up before five am for the second morning in a row...

And while I won't admit who won the battle between CPP and Greg, I will leave you with the visual that haunts me to this day (keeping in mind I only have a picture I made up, of what CPP actually looks like - just trust me, it is haunting). The steel cage non-death match, involved loin cloths, bear grease and bowie knives...


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Note To Self: Never Spend Money In Florida Or Buy Florida Products

Florida sucks - Florida sucks bigtime. If their neck and neck race with TX to execute the most persons found guilty of capital crimes weren't enough, their lack of any protections whatever, for queers who have the misfortune of being trapped in their healthcare system is. Or for that matter their attitude about gays and adoption...Hmm - pretty much anything they have to do with gay rights, I should say - because there are few states that treat GLBTs worse than fucking Florida.

But seriously, if you happen to be gay and there is even a slim chance you might fall deathly ill, do not vacation in or wander through Florida.

Thanks Greg...