Earlier on my G+ stream, I commented on the matter of a CMU student who protested the Catholic church's coverup of sexual abuse by dressing as the pope, partly naked. I was disappointed that President Cohon had apologised on behalf of CMU to the local Catholic Bishop and the Catholic League. Now the matter has been resolved; she was charged with indecent exposure and not charged further.
It's irritating that Bishop Zubik and Bill Donohue (the latter name you may be familiar with if you track conservative political correctness pushers) had the chutzpah to spew this garbage:
On this, I'm happy that the ACLU is pushing a decent standard; a healthy society is not always polite, and it doesn't fetishise respect.
This is not meant as a commentary on indecency laws, where I've never had much of a position, but if we are to accept such laws, it's purely an administrative matter to enforce them and doing so should not be seen or spoken of as pretending that Catholic (or any other) perspectives should not be mocked. Donohue's still even protesting the artwork "Piss Christ".
There are parts of the left and the right that still would either legally or socially try to stomp out things that offend them. Rape jokes. Black humour. Jabs at their preferred religious ideas. People not using their preferred worlds-of-terms for sex/gender/etc. It's disappointing and dangerous.
In the technical meetups I've been part of in NYC, I've been noticing a demographics shift from them being practically all-male (e.g. 1-2 women in a group of 120) to them starting to have a little bit of gender-diversity (10-15 women in a similar size group). This is a good thing, and I've seen it across several groups. I don't think the content of the groups themselves has changed much to allow this; the groups are racially diverse and have been for a long time (plenty of Indians and Orientals and a fair number of Blacks), but race and gender don't come up as topics either in official content or informal side-channels (and not that I mind most forms of erasure even as I notice it, but that doesn't seem to happen for any category I'm aware of).
I wonder then why we're seeing this demographics shift, and if we can expect it to shift further. I've heard that Etsy has made particular efforts to bring gender-diversity to its workplace, and while I don't approve of everything it's done (they have a highly obnoxious policy of "you must apologise if someone says they're offended by anything you do", apparently), there's much to be liked in other of their methods and certainly in the result. Maybe other companies are doing the same, perhaps the college-gender-gap's echoes (reportedly women are going into college at higher rates than men and achieving more, nowadays) are making their way into workplaces, perhaps the healthy (and unhealthy) ideas from the various flavours of feminism are having an effect, and perhaps the generational gaps are just smoothly dumping people with past inculturations out of the relevant workplaces and eventually into the grave.
One of the things I like, having briefly chatted with some of the leadership of these groups, is that it's happening without any Tim-Wise-style bullshit. People are just showing up (and hopefully staying) without the need for people to babble about power and privilege. On the rare occasion that people have literally objected to women being in the communities, they've been yelled at, but otherwise it's been a nice, smooth, quiet transition without obnoxious third-wave theory. I'm hoping we keep it that way. This is the kind of feminism that IMO should've won.
It'll be interesting to see if the trend continues, and how.
I'm a bit disappointed in this AlJ story summary; it's dipping into uninformed sensationalism, in that it aims for a kneejerk reaction to a story that's not borne by the facts.
The title of the article is: "ex-girlfriend target bleeds when shot", showing a picture of a bleeding doll.
Obviously, were this an accurate summary, we'd be right to be very unhappy about this; it'd amount to promotion of domestic abuse. Kinda. Anyhow....
That's not actually what's going on. I followed a link to @zombieind (Twitter) to figure out what kind of press they were getting for this (shown at an NRA show, generally not a good sign for decency of a company), and from there I visited their website and found the actual product and a wide variety of other targets.
They're zombies and vicious animals. Their whole schtick is to imagine a world where many people have been zombified and you need to shoot them, and need to fend off wild animals too. We're not talking domestic abuse here. We're hooking into a genre where people frequently have to deal with turned loved-ones (and not-so-loved-ones) who have become dangerous. Which brings me to the conclusion that while the company is pretty weird and maybe a bit creepy, they're generally ok. And that Al Jazeera screwed up.
One of the most important things I believe one should do in arguments is to allow for the possibility of your winning the argument without costing the other person too much face. Most people care a lot about face, even though they probably shouldn't; unless your debate is on behalf of a third party, or primarily for onlookers, if you want to actually convince/influence someone, even partially, you should keep it friendly, show you're willing to give when warranted, and if/when you make headway, be as charitable as humanly possible to their person (even if not necessarily their argument).
I'm always trying to figure out ways to do this better.
It's sadly often impossible to have a charitable conversation with people in activist communities because most of them are rotten enough that if you disagree with them, they'll have a variety of ways to argue that they shouldn't even be listening to you, have a bunch of names to call you, etc. If you find such things interesting, you can watch these antibodies when you see bad discourse standards move from one person to another (this whole "argument from positional privilege" thing in third-wave feminism is a great example). Fortunately, there are good ways to unplug those arguments too, but unfortunately they tend to be very jarring for the person who only knows how to argue with them.
I've been thinking about an issue that's been raised in the secular community; I'm not sure it's a good issue, nor a bad one. Let me lead up to it by briefly reiterating a position I do hold that supports my ambivilance on this one:
I've come to support the idea of religious chaplains in the US Military. This is because while generally people's faith is a private matter and doesn't need/shouldn't get government support, when people are effectively wards of the state, controlled in almost every matter by the circumstances of their job, the public/private divide effectively disappears (what is truly private in the daily lives of our armed forces?), and we lose the ability to honestly say "on your own time". Without that divide, the state provides a number of things (entertainment too) that they otherwise would not to meet the needs/desires/happiness of their troops. So long as participation in religious content is optional in the fullest possible sense of the term, I'm ok with military chaplains; having them there, giving them a salary, etc.
Now, the issue at hand where I'm still thinking about things is related to this petition to include seculars in interfaith services. I'll take the "no" stance to illustrate its reasonability (and understand that I'm being a bit of a devil's advocate here and I'm actually ambivalent and still working this over); exclusion of seculars from such events acts as a burden on the content of the event because in making the content suitable for seculars, it dilutes or removes the meaning of such services, because the religious framing is how people live their lives and failing to hook into that (difficult to do without angering/excluding seculars) makes for a very dilute event.
Note that this is a privately-run event, but one with public participation by some high-profile political figures, so there are no legal issues involved; the question is just one of "should" and public pressure. For those of you who don't believe in shoulds outside of "separation of church and state" issues, I don't expect you to feel very interested in this issue. For me, the public/private divide is significant but not deciding; there are plenty of private "should"s in my book.
When I was in high school, I was on a Nietzsche kick for awhile; I knew I didn't agree with him about everything, but I did about most things. I was libertarian then, and while N's political philosophy does suggest a kind of individualism, it wasn't explicitly political about it (although N was more-or-less against strong states). If I had to just pick a political ideology for him, I'd probably say "anarchoprimitivist", although that's not quite right either; maybe anarchoclassicist would be more accurate (although over my life I've only met one or two people who might fit that category).
I'm hosting a 2-hour philosophy session on Nietzsche on Monday. It's going to examine the idea of the Übermensch (as I prefer to translate it, transcendant man), and is an alternative to a monthly session run by a local philosophy professor; naturally I'm preparing materials for the class, and expect to give a 15-20 minute lecture at the start. It'll focus on N's "Also Sprach Zarathustra", but I'll be giving the context of Herder, Sturm und Drang, Schopenhauer, and bits of the rest of N's works.
I haven't revisited N much recently; rereading Also Sprach (in English this time; my German copies of his works were lost in one of the most recent moves, and it'd take too long to skim auf D anyhow) is making it clear how far I've since moved away from N, although some ideas I haven't departed from at all. If I ever get around to it (and given that some things have been on the backburner forever, like the grand critique of the LessWrong movement that's still unfinished, don't hold your breath), I think I'm going to want to write about the good and bad bits of N sometime after monday. There are two things that I find particularly important from him:
I like how rich the tapestry is here though.
I'll post the final version of the notes for the meeting sometime after the meeting.
I've been thinking about my conflicting intuitions on Obama's compliment to Kamala Harris, which he has since apologised for; after complimenting her intellect and dedication, he remarked that she was "the best looking attourney-general in the country". This happened at a DNC fundraiser 3 days ago. I've been rereading Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics" recently (among other books) while thinking about a knotty (but unrelated) legal philosophy problem and also thinking about issues between sex-positivity and efforts to desexualise conferences; this is at least worthy of comment. (view full entry for contents)
Roger Ebert died today, of cancer. I'm not in the habit of noting when people die here; there are too many worthwhile people in the world, and even those that stand out as particularly important are numerous. Still, Ebert is on a short list of people I consider treasures of civilisation; his accomplishments are all his (he didn't start a company whose workers' accomplishments will be attributed to him), and his accomplishments were in one of the four realms I think matter the most: science, art, nations, and (small-p) philosophy. I see Ebert as being a philosopher. The paths to philosophy are many, but they are all very human; without an understanding of what it is to be human, the challenges of meaning, the shape of lives, and engagement in culture, philosophy is a disjointed process. Ebert engaged in philosophy; only rarely in esoteric questions, but frequently, seriously, and in a very human way, he wrote a lot about what it is to be human and what we're doing. This came out in his reviews, and it came out in his blog.
The meaning of his life contributed to the meaning of humanity. He was not alone in that distinction, but he was significant.
A few thoughts on the Adria Richards and the shaming incident: (view full entry for contents)