Atheism Plus and bell hooks’ “Feminism”: A Letter to Radio Dispatch

Feminism-is-for-everybody1-192x300Back in March, I wrote an email to the Radio Dispatch podcast about their book club book Feminism is for Everybody. They read and responded to it, and I finally got around to replying. My reply incorporates some thoughts on Atheism Plus, so I thought it would be perfect to use as a post here. Below is my letter.

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Alleged Hastings Crash Video Is Evidence Against Assassination

There’s a video out there (below) that purports to be footage of footage from a surveillance camera which just happened to record the crash that killed Michael Hastings.


Assuming the video is what it says it is (I wish the camera person had captured the time/date in the frame), it appears to be pretty clear evidence that Hastings was going crazy fast (100 mph I’d guess), tapped his brakes too hard which severely upset the car’s balance (b/c of how fast he was going), and instantly careened into a curb and tree.

Now, you can’t see the car’s balance being upset, nor can you see it crash, but you can see what I’m 90% sure are the brake lights coming on, then the light from the initial impact (hitting the curb and then a tree – which I assume ruptured the gas tank), and then a large flash of light which I believe is the (rapidly vaporizing) gas from the ruptured fuel tank igniting.

I also think the video rules out ECU tampering b/c of the fact that his brakes appear to have been working.  If the ECU was hacked, the brakes would have most likely been disabled.

Also, the explosions at the end of the video are fiery explosions like you’d expect from a gasoline fire, not the violent, high velocity (and thus virtually flameless) explosion you’d expect from a tactical explosive.

TLDR: Assuming the footage is genuine, Hastings was speeding like crazy on an empty urban street, very late at night, hit his brakes too hard, instantly upsetting the balance of his car, thus smashing into a tree and exploding which is a common occurrence in such a violent collision, (probably) even in a brand new Benz.  This is also the most parsimonious explanation.


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Why did NPR’s Warren Olney use insidious “Some People Say” journalism to belittle Occupy Wall Street?

Journalists sometimes use the phrase “Some people say…” in order present an argument without explicitly associating themselves with that viewpoint. It’s a rather lazy and problematic technique; the problem is that when people hear the phrase, “Some people say…” it lends credibility to whatever statement comes afterwards. The psychological effect at play here is the “Illusion of Truth Effect” (likely a subset of the well-established “mere-exposure effect“), which causes people to believe statements they’ve heard before, sometimes even if the context is negative, such as “Statement A is false.” Journalists should know about this insidious effect and should be very wary of inserting defamatory claims that “some people” may have said, even if it is being brought up only to play Devil’s Advocate. (The skeptic community even developed a handbook for responsible debunking.) A recent example was David Gregory’s question on Meet The Press about whether Glenn Greenwald should be charged with the crime of aiding and abetting Edward Snowden. When Greenwald strongly objected to the question, Gregory’s defense was that he was “just asking a question” that was “raised by lawmakers as well.” This is a weak defense; in the question’s original phrasing, Gregory essentially accepted the accusatory premise himself, and many viewers will surely come away with the idea that calling for Greenwald’s arrest is something other than a ludicrous suggestion. Either Gregory was ignorant of the fact that his journalistic approach was irresponsible, or, worse, he was purposely slandering Greenwald.

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Posted in Alternative Media, David Gregory, Greenwald, media, Meet the Press, NPR, Occupy, Skepticism, Snowden, Warren Olney | 2 Comments

Why people don’t, but should, but wont, care about domestic spying

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already aware that surveys show that a majority of Americans don’t really give a shit about domestic spying. For instance, take this gem on GIZMODO (seriously, please take it and burn it).

I’m not naive enough to think that this information can’t or won’t be abused, and PRISM’s merit as a legalized threat deterrent is for other, boring people to decide. People who own suits, people whose other decisions similarly have zero bearing on my life. As far as walking down the street or through a grocery store, I’d bet PRISM has less impact on the average American life than a corn subsidy does.

This reasoning, this apathy, seems typical of most Americans.  Their acquiescence to domestic spying is usually justified with retorts like “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide” or “google already tracks everything I do”, etc. etc. Continue reading (530)

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Patton Oswalt, Humility, and Masculinity

[Update below. 6/27.]

Promoting humility is one of the primary purposes of my posts on this blog. It was a central point in my review of the Zero Dark trailer, my “Progressive Case for Romney,” and my forays into discussing the conflict between Israel and Palestine. So I take notice whenever “admitting you’re wrong” is portrayed in a positive light. This is what Patton Oswalt did in his recent piece in Salon Slate entitled “Thievery, Heckling, and Rape Jokes,” in which he acknowledges he was wrong about the existence of a problematic rape culture in America, and he admits that he was only considering his own experiences, leaving out those of the female half of the population.

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Charging Tsarnaev

According to what I’m reading, Dzhokar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a WMD.

I find this to be an encouraging sign.  I applaud the executive branch for choosing to not pursue this as an act of terrorism, but as a criminal act.

Esentially what I think the president is doing here is seeking to set a legal precedent for what will and wont be considered “terrorism”.  Or, to put it another way, the POTUS is effectively saying that “terrorists are members of radical organizations w/ a heirarchy and organizational structure, but lone wolfs are merely criminals”.

Whether this is a semantically sound distinction,I’m glad he’s trying to establish a clearer definition of what terrorism is…hopefully that will have positive implications for how things like a domestic drone program will evolve… (408)

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Four Lions and Two Turds

Today I had what I thought was a novel realization – After finding out that the Caucasian Mujahadeen disclaimed all ties w/ the Boston Marathon bombers, I realized that the Tsarnaev brothers were, knowingly or not, reenacting the very black British comedy “Four Lions“.

However, as this article from Slate from a week ago makes clear, my thought wasn’t so novel…

Oh well, I encourage anyone w/ netflix to watch Four Lions, and anything else (e.g. IT Crowd, Peep Show) that the creators have done as they are thoroughly brilliant and unapologetic. (418)

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No, rationalizing state power is NOT the hallmark of the New Atheists

[Update below.][Update 2, April 8: On his blog, Sam Harris responds to Greenwald and other critics.]

In his column on April 3, 2013, Glenn Greenwald discussed the troublingly Islamaphobic views of the prominent atheist Sam Harris. The two columns that prompted Greenwald’s post were sloppy in their characterizations of Harris’ views on torture and racial profiling (among other things), but Greenwald’s column was relatively fair. As Greenwald documents, Harris is guilty of taking especially pernicious examples of Muslim practice and ideology and declaring that these examples should be viewed as the hallmarks of Islam generally. However, in the course of exposing Harris’ ethnocentrism, Greenwald uncharacteristically stumbled into the similar ideological trap of overgeneralizing. This led Greenwald to make the outrageous claim that “the hallmark of this New Atheist movement” is “exploiting rational atheism to support and glorify US state power and aggression.”  Continue reading (1804)

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Funny/Depressing conspiracy theory poll

Apparently there’s a polling firm called Public Policy Polling that was all the talk last election due to their “unorthodox” questions (the example given in the article, “If God exists, do you approve of its handling of natural disasters?”, sounds like it could have come from an Onion poll) and they have released the results of a survey about common American beliefs in re conspiracy theories….

In sum – over 1/2 of Americans don’t understand fluid dynamics (RIP Bill Hicks, but you were ignorant there); I wouldn’t call  the second item a conspiracy really, more just like speculation as to motive (i.e. was he feckless, demented, or both?); over 1/3 of Americans think April 1 is Earth day; the rest really don’t surprise me except for the NWO one…I assume that’s all wrestling fans?  And big foot…only 14%?  Wow, cryptozoolgy isn’t the sexy beast it used to be…


Conspiracy Percent believing Number of Americans believing
JFK was killed by conspiracy 51 percent 160,096,160
Bush intentionally misled on Iraq WMDs 44 percent 138,122,178
Global warming is a hoax 37 percent 116,148,195
Aliens exist 29 percent 91,035,072
New World Order 28 percent 87,895,931
Hussein was involved in 9/11 28 percent 87,895,931
A UFO crashed at Roswell 21 percent 65,921,948
Vaccines are linked to autism 20 percent 62,782,808
The government controls minds with TV 15 percent 47,087,106
Medical industry invents diseases 15 percent 47,087,106
CIA developed crack 14 percent 43,947,966
Bigfoot exists 14 percent 43,947,966
Obama is the Antichrist 13 percent 40,808,825
The government allowed 9/11 11 percent 34,530,544
Fluoride is dangerous 9 percent 28,252,264
The moon landing was faked 7 percent 21,973,983
Bin Laden is alive 6 percent 18,834,842
Airplane contrails are sinister chemicals 5 percent 15,695,702
McCartney died in 1966 5 percent 15,695,702
Lizard people control politics 4 percent 12,556,562


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Absence, rescission, and income inequality (but maybe i’m just jealous…but I don’t think so)

I haven’t posted to this blog, the blog I started, in a long time….partly this is b/c I got carried away with other things like starting a new job, buying a house that needed remodeling, DIY’ing that same remodeling for two months…and partly b/c I’m lazy…partly b/c my family found out about my blog and gave me shit for posting private family matters, and that made me feel bad….partly b/c I despaired and got disgusted with politics…and partly b/c I just got tired of “skepticism” in re this blog.

That’s not to say I stopped being a “skeptic” (i.e. I stopped using skeptical tools/heuristics in my everyday life like reflecting on my own thinking via metacognition, being on the lookout for specious reasoning/logical fallacies, and applying Bayesian heuristics to everyday claims (i.e. extraordinary claims require extraoridianary evidence).  But listening to the SGU every week like I do, I just grow weary of how insular I perceive the skeptical community to be compared to the approach of someone like NDT on “Star Talk” (which features one of the funniest people I know of – Eugene Mirman)….

But that’s not really why I got “tired” of skepticism in re this blog – I got tired b/c I couldn’t find a way to effectively apply skepticism to politics – to give it an effective voice – that wasn’t already being done better somewhere else (factcheck, 538, snopes, SGG, etc.).  And, I kind of hate to say, most of my blog posts were filled w/ conjecture that was not backed up by much more than my own anecdotal experiences at best, or stereotypes at worst (e.g. Greek bailout posts which it now seems missed the mark quite a bit).

But over the past few months I’ve done some thinking about this blog and what I’d like to contribute to it…and I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that I would like to still keep posting, but I’m going to not really worry about trying to systematically focus on skepticism.  If it incidentally comes up, great. If it expressly comes up, also great.  But ultimately, I’m just going to write about shit I want to write about… (1606)

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