I almost seriously blogged about this

I almost seriously blogged about this Onion-esque story about Michele Bachmann:

Dr. Stephen Hawking’s recent statement that the black holes he famously described do not actually exist underscores “the danger inherent in listening to scientists,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) said today.

Rep. Bachmann unleashed a blistering attack on Dr. Hawking, who earlier referred to his mistake on black holes as his “biggest blunder.”

“Actually, Dr. Hawking, our biggest blunder as a society was ever listening to people like you,” said Rep. Bachmann. “If black holes don’t exist, then other things you scientists have been trying to foist on us probably don’t either, like climate change and evolution.”

Rep. Bachmann added that all the students who were forced to learn about black holes in college should now sue Dr. Hawking for a full refund. “Fortunately for me, I did not take any science classes in college,” she said.

Bachmann’s anti-Hawking comments seemed to be gaining traction on Capitol Hill, as seen from the statement by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science Committee, who said, “Going forward, members of the House Science Committee will do our best to avoid listening to scientists.”

Given all the bat-shit crazy things Bachmann has said in her life, this is perfectly plausible. It wasn’t until it was pointed out to me that the author of the article, Andy Borowitz, is a comedian that I realize this was made-up. This is an indictment of a few things. Most obviously, it’s an indictment of my familiarity with Borowitz. It’s also an indictment of the career Bachmann has led, not that this is the worst thing she has ever uttered, whether fictionally or not. (The worst was when she continued the lie about vaccines and autism.) But perhaps most of all this is an indictment of the New Yorker. The reason I posted this on other social media sites first is that I saw the source was what I thought was a serious outlet. I maybe expect some tongue-in-cheek articles if I’m looking at an “Odd News” section of some site, but I don’t expect to see work from The Onion when I’m not actually on The Onion. Why does everyone want to follow CNN’s lead of making shit up?

Sexism and incoherency

I recently came across a link on Facebook about women cutting their hair short. Apparently there’s a small fringe out there that particularly cares about this one way or another. That fringe, of course, is feminists. However, an even smaller fringe – the one the feminist in the forthcoming link attacks – also cares:

The ‘manosphere’ really hates short-haired girls. On “game” forums and in personal dating manifestos, the wickedness of short-haired women pops up time and time again as theme and warning – stay away from girls who’ve had their hair chopped off. They’re crazy, they’re deliberately destroying their femininity to “punish” men, but the last laugh will be on them, because the bitches will die alone. Yes, there are people who really believe this. In 2014.

The term “manosphere” is one of those “Shut up, I win!” buttons on the Internet, much like the word privilege or, in the non-virtual world of the early to mid-20th century, “uppity” in reference to black people. It more or less comes from Anita Sarkeesian, a non-gaming female who once played a few games casually as a kid. She believes the gaming world is part of this so-called “manosphere”, even though she has admitted that she doesn’t even play games (skip to 2:40). Indeed, she thinks first person shooters are “just gross”. One might plausibly presume that she hates all movies too because the Friday the 13th series is icky. But I digress.

Getting back on the original annoying horseshit, author Laurie Penny wrote an article describing her personal experience with a select group of people who care more about her hair than she does. For her, this is a devastating indictment of the White Male Privilege Machine:

[A man on the Internet] writes that long hair is “almost universally attractive to men, when they’re actually speaking honestly…Women instinctively know this, which is why every American girl who cuts, and keeps, her hair short often does it for ulterior reasons . . . Short hair is a political statement. And, invariably, a girl who has gone through with a short cut — and is pleased with the changes in her reception — is damaged in some significant way. Short hair is a near-guarantee that a girl will be more abrasive, more masculine, and more deranged.”

The essential argument is: Men like long hair, and what sane woman would ever want to do anything that decreases her capacity to please men?

The advantage of articles like this, pantomimic though they be, is that they make misogyny legible. There was a time when feminists had to do that all by ourselves, but now we don’t have to point out the underlying assumptions of a lot of the bullshit we deal with every day, because there are people on the internet doing it for us.

Who gives a shit? Yes, there are people who are really vocal about their personal preferences. Some of them even have these preferences for dumb reasons. That isn’t an indictment of anything except the individual expressing his opinion.

I’ve experimented with growing the crop out twice, encouraged both times by men I was dating. It seemed like the thing to do to make myself more pleasing to potential boyfriends, potential bosses, and other people with potential power over my personal happiness. Both times, it looked awful. It took a lot of effort and a surprising amount of money to maintain, and it still looked awful, and I didn’t feel like myself. Growing it past my chin took determination, because every day I’d look in the mirror and want to take the razor to it right then and there.

And yet, the amount of male attention I got – from friendly flirting to unwanted hassle – increased enormously. Not because I looked better, but because I looked like I was trying to look more like a girl. Because I was performing femme. Every time I cut it off, I noticed immediately that the amount of street harassment I received, from cat-calls to whispered sexual slurs to gropes and grabs on public transport, dropped to a fraction of what it had been – apart from total strangers coming up to tell me how much prettier I’d be if I only grew it out.

In addition to being a social justice warrior extraordinaire, apparently Penny is also a psychic. Why, that flirting and hassle had nothing – nothing! – to do with her looking better. Clearly it was because she fit into the feminine mold society demands of women. Forget that she is merely begging the question since her entire premise is that society (aka the “I win” button of ‘The Patriarchy’) demands women fit into a particular mold – which, to spell it out – is also her supporting argument.

I responded to this on Facebook, taking care to note that I prefer longer hair on a woman. I also prefer the color green to the color purple. In both instances, my preference is attributable to me as an individual. I don’t prefer these things because I demand one thing or another from women – or even from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The fact is, the consequence-oriented ‘philosophy’ of feminism has a tendency to ignore the individual in favor of sweeping generalizations. It’s offensive on a personal level – I needn’t be stereotyped because of my sex – and it’s offensive on a scientific level in this case: anecdotes do not a case make. Of course, in saying this I got some responses. Here’s one of the first ones from Adam Hirschfeld:

So, you found generalizations offensive on a personal level? hm.

So. Basically, every time someone says you don’t like, it’s offensive at a personal level. Should that be punishable?

The sheer dumbness of this comment should have told me to ignore it, but I didn’t. I responded that, yes, it’s offensive when a person makes a daft generalization about an entire group. Let me add here, I can’t fathom how someone wouldn’t understand how stereotypes offend individuals. As for the red herring about punishment or whatever the hell he was trying to bait me into, I ignored it and instead pointed out that in high school I had long hair. Many people told me to cut it, which I eventually did on my own accord. However, I never attributed the opinions of those people to whatever group to which they happened to belong. Their opinions were their own. Here’s the amazing response I got:

And apparently that just happened. You made a generalization about people who make generalizations.

You see, the problem is- making generalizations is a matter of communication. What you said is akin to a witch hunt. It’s just as dumb as the war on terrorism, or bullying. It does nothing to stop any of them- and ignores all of the actual causes.

If you wanted people to stop generalizing- you’d encourage people to be individuals, to be themselves, and it’s that simple. You don’t have to put a fuckin political action committee together. Yes, people wrongly generalize, yes, terrorists and bullies really do exist- there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that but be the individual you’d like others to be.

…wat

I pressed Hirschfeld to clarify just how I was generalizing. Specifically, I asked if I was generalizing about the author when I said she was generalizing (again…wat) or if I was generalizing when I said I experienced many individuals telling me to cut my hair. I also made the mistake, unfortunately, of noting the incoherency of the rest of his post. Here’s the response:

You mean- you simply don’t want to- or can’t address it. Okay. All you’re doing is redefining the word generalization. We can go down that road, I’m not sure you’re going to like where it leads.

I’m going to skip ahead at this point with a quick summary: After pointing out his inability to use en dashes in any way resembling what one might call “correct”, I said he introduced two random topics (bullying and terrorism) which are seemingly unrelated to the discussion. Apparently there’s some connection in his mind, but he’s assuming I share his views on those topics. Since he never bothered to explain his views, his comparison sucked big balls. His argument was worse than a junior high English paper that was missing an introduction paragraph. He didn’t understand any of this, so I explained it again. Then, instead of explaining how I generalized anything, I got this incoherent masterpiece:

My position is the obvious. Or rather, the obvious for anyone who’s spent two minutes actually thinking about them.

No one can save you from yourself. If you want someone else to keep you safe- let that be the government or some private contractor, they will try. As they fail, you will demand more of them, and they will respond in the only way they know how. They will spy on every thing you do, they will control everything they can and eventually you’ll find yourself in a prison you built yourself.

Because that’s the point of terrorism, it’s not about Islam or Christianity or Judaism, Liberalism, Conservatism, fuck all that. Bad people do bad things, and people go bad for lots of reasons. They enjoy making people suffer and most of the time the only thing you can do is kill them. There is no place you can hide. There’s no low you can sink to that will satisfy these people. No amount of airport scanners can stop this. No amount of roadside checkpoints. And well, if you’re going to kill them, that requires someone to do the killing. The thing they never tell you about war- nobody wins. It’s a blind jab, a last ditch effort. There is no “coming back” what’s done is done, there’s only moving forward.

It’s said that while hunting monsters you need take care you don’t become one yourself. And we have become monsters, or to a large degree anyway. And this type of thing manifests itself in our society in all sorts of nasty ways. One of the most prevalent is bullying. We’ve totally failed as a society to even acknowledge our peoples needs- which we have not been meeting for a very long time. The result is a decay. A societal decay of intellectual, moral, philosophical, educational, political, governmental and pretty much any other realm you can imagine. It seems to intensify as if reaching some kindof singularity- a black hole of stupidity. Where the educated are educated out of thinking, and the thinking aren’t thinkers without an education.

Our society is burning, and we are working very hard to ignore the ashes. So when Billy or Britney- who’s lives are being destroyed around them- takes that to school or wherever and takes it out on another person, we who also feel the same pressures and are adamant to acknowledge it, take it out on them- Someone who really is just another victim. Because to see them as anything but a villain would force us to question our own place in all of this, where we’re really coming from, what we’re really doing, where we’re going- because the answer, is horrible. And you all know it.

Unfortunately for all of us, the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging its existence. So when I make an analogy involving bullying or terrorism to articulate the level at which ordinary people have failed to not only understand a simple problem regarding generalizations but what a generalization even is- there are very few conclusions one can come to, the foremost being that they don’t *want* to know what the problem is.

While I can’t give you even my most basic view on what that is without going on much further, I think it should suffice to say- just start giving a shit, and stop letting other people tell you how and what to think. Your political parties, governments, companies, ideologies, religions, social groups- do not give a rats ass you even exist. They’re just people going along to get along. Making it up as they go along. I’d hold them responsible- but you’re the ones who elected them. So who’s to say who’s to blame? Because damn, it’s starting to look a lot like everyone is.

The way Adam Hirschfeld managed to get off on a tangent about two absolutely random issues while sounding so monumentally arrogant and stupid at the same time is amazing. None of what he said makes a bit of sense. None. What does make sense, though, is that some people like long hair on women. Some prefer short hair. Others don’t care. Just don’t be a douche and lump an entire group together because some of those people happen to be vocal about their personal, singular, individual, entirely-on-themselves preference.

LD 1428 is dead

I attended my first public hearing on a bill last week. The bill was LD 1428, “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom”. In reality it was just special rights for litigious Christians who don’t want to abide by civil rights and health care laws:

During the public hearing on the bill, Apollo Karara of Portland, a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, spoke about his experiences coming to America to escape persecution and asked the committee to oppose the bill. “As a Christian, I am glad that I have the freedom to practice my religion. But I know firsthand how dangerous it can be to decide that your personal beliefs entitle you to break laws that protect us all,” said Karara. “I came to America for safety and freedom–please do not take that away.”

The religious were out in force for this hearing, proudly sporting brightly colored stickers. One mother even had her son read a prepared speech. There are no boos or cheers at these sort of things, but if there were, that would have been the best time for it – not for the kid, though. He did fine for what he was asked/forced to do. The mother, though, was deserving of a boo or two for thinking there is such a thing as a Christian child. Or Muslim child. Or Jewish child. Or atheist child. There is no such thing; there are merely children of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, etc, parents. Not enough people realize this, but I digress.

It looks like the bill has another round of votes in the Maine senate, but it’s as good as dead at this point. We have laws that protect religious liberty pretty well. We don’t need ones that will give special rights to a select few who keep losing on civil rights and other matters at the polls and in the courts.

Thought of the day

The argument against the notion that corporations are people is so simple: A corporation is a government-defined, sanctioned, licensed, and registered organization. It exists as a legal concept and will cease to exist as it stands should there be no government. An actual human being, on the other hand, may have a legal definition of sorts, but a human will continue to exist without government.

It’s more than a game

I’ve said it several times in the past, but it always bears repeating: A sporting event is more than just a game. Maybe it isn’t more than that to you. Maybe you don’t care at all. That’s fine. But that doesn’t mean sports don’t matter or that they aren’t important. Here’s an article from just after the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004 after an 86 year drought:

Such pilgrimages to the deceased, common after the Red Sox conquered the Yankees in the ALCS, were repeated throughout the graveyards of New England. The totems changed, but the sentiments remained the same. At Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, for instance, gravestones were decorated with Red Sox pennants, hats, jerseys, baseballs, license plates and a hand-painted pumpkin.

So widespread was the remembrance of the deceased that several people, including Neil Van Zile Jr. of Westmoreland, N.H., beseeched the ball club to issue a permanent, weatherproof official Red Sox grave marker for dearly departed fans, similar to the metal markers the federal government provides for veterans. (Team president Lucchino says he’s going to look into it, though Major League Baseball Properties would have to license it.) Van Zile’s mother, Helen, a Sox fan who kept score during games and took her son to Game 2 of the 1967 World Series, died in 1995 at 72.

“There are thousands of people who would want it,” Van Zile says. “My mom didn’t get to see it. There isn’t anything else I can do for her.”

This was a common sight throughout Boston and surrounding areas. After the Sox made their improbable comeback that fall, people filled the local cemeteries, visiting the sites of their loved ones who never got to see their team win it all.

That sounds like more than a game to me.

Nope, Benghazi still isn’t a story

Try as they might, the Republicans just can’t seem to say anything remotely true:

Prominent Republicans hit the Sunday morning talk show circuit to defend New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, comparing the possible 2016 presidential hopeful’s handling of the burgeoning bridge scandal to President Barack Obama’s response to the Benghazi terror attack and the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.

1. Benghazi is a non-story. 2. Republicans intentionally misled everyone on the IRS “scandal” since it has since been revealed that the IRS was targeting both conservative and liberal groups for greater scrutiny.

“Chris Christie has been totally open here,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday. “He stood there for 111 minutes in an open dialogue with the press. Now, only if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would give us 111 seconds of that, would we find out some things we want to find out about Obamacare, Benghazi, the IRS.”

“What? What bridge issue? LOOK OVER HERE!”

There’s a lot of cynicism regarding our politicians, as there should be. But how anyone ever says the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans is beyond me.

Thought of the day

The reason I don’t find the anti-cosmetic argument of anti-circumcisionists convincing is that these people usually aren’t arguing from any solid principle they’re willing to consistently hold. That is, the anti-circumcisionist argument states that a person’s bodily autonomy is important and should not be violated against his or her will except when medically necessary. That means if your baby has a potentially fatal or life-altering heart defect, for example, surgery is an okay thing to demand. Having foreskin, on the other hand, is not fatal or life-altering, and so circumcision is unjustified. But here’s the problem: vaccines cause the body to create antibodies that otherwise would not be there. This is a change to the body which, depending on the vaccine, may last forever. It isn’t an outward change like circumcision, but that is neither here nor there. If the anti-circumcisionists want to premise their argument on bodily autonomy, then any permanent change to the body is fair game.

Let’s review. Circumcision is not necessary for a quality life, nor is a lack of circumcision inherently fatal or life-altering. Vaccines, too, are not necessary for a quality life, nor is a lack of vaccination inherently fatal or life-altering. The differences that exist between these two examples are plenty, but when we’re talking purely about bodily autonomy? There isn’t a bit of difference. Circumcision permanently changes a part of the bodily. Vaccines permanently change the body’s antibodies. Each example, strictly speaking, can be argued to be a violation of a person’s bodily autonomy. Yet, except for the kooks and quacks, we never hear of any anti-circumcisionists wailing on about vaccines. Funny that. It’s almost as if their primary argument is a lie that isn’t based upon any principle at all.