So much for solidarity

It seems I have underestimated a problem. A few days ago, I wrote:

A paradox of feminism is that some women are feminists’ worst enemy. Men are self-serving, albeit shortsightedly, when they say sexist things. Women can be too. The notorious Phyllis Schlafly, for example, “seizes in particular upon premarital sex as depriving women of their means for ensuring their support from husbands.”[1] Schlafly now seems like ancient history, but some conservatives continue to retain views on rape, abortion, contraception, sexuality, and even divorce that seem centuries out of date,[2] and women such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are to feminists what Bill Cosby, Clarence Thomas, and Herman Cain are to civil rights activists.[3]

In that posting, I was discussing Hillary Clinton, who probably lied to a court when she viciously attacked a rape victim in defending a rapist in 1975. “Going well beyond the defense of her client, she embodied women’s well-founded fears of reporting and pursuing charges of rape in the U.S. legal system.” No one who considers her- or himself to be a feminist should do such a thing.[4] Read more

  1. [1]Faye Ginsburg, “The Body Politic: The Defense of Sexual Restriction by Anti-Abortion activists,” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carole S. Vance (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 181.
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The Quixotic Quest to Comprehend Conservatism, Part 1,” May 16, 2014,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Clinton owes rape victims a deeply-felt apology,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2014,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Clinton owes rape victims a deeply-felt apology,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2014,

Money is even more broken than I thought

Writing in the neoconservative Commentary magazine, and purportedly rebutting an op-ed in the New York Times, John Steele Gordon attempts to justify Wal-Mart’s low, low wages:

I doubt that Timothy Egan has ever gone into a store to buy something and, on being told the price, insisted on paying more. So if Walmart can hire a satisfactory employee at a given wage, why should it insist on paying more? For one thing, it would violate its fiduciary duty to the stockholders. For another, it would have to raise the prices its hundreds of millions of customers pay.

Egan’s column, demanding that Walmart pay higher wages, is classic modern liberalism, solving the problems of the world with other people’s money, and using junk statistics to justify it.[1]

Egan had suggested that “Walmart is a net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure.”[2] Read more

  1. [1]John Steele Gordon, “Walmart, Wages, and the Public Good,” Commentary, June 24, 2014,
  2. [2]Timothy Egan, “Walmart, Starbucks, and the Fight Against Inequality,” New York Times, June 19, 2014,

Restorative Justice and #YesAllWomen

I have been grappling with my feelings about #YesAllWomen since the hashtag sprang up on Twitter with women’s legitimate complaints about their fears of men, whom they fear as predators. In my initial reaction I juxtaposed a recognition that these complaints are legitimate and well-founded with a feeling that somehow I was being treated unfairly.[1] I failed to think that through to what should have been an obvious recognition. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The Friendless Zone,” Not Housebroken, May 27, 2014,

You just don’t understand us!

Apparently, despite having earlier accepted a World Court ruling ordering Japan to cease its whale hunt in the Southern Ocean,[1] the country will indeed seek to resume whaling.[2] As deplorable as this is, vegans may particularly note the irony of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s latest rationalization for the practice, as reported by the BBC: “Referring to the respect given to whales by those in towns where whaling takes place, Mr Abe said it was ‘regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood’.”[3]

This, of course, is the same rationalization heard whenever meat-eaters seek to minimize their crimes. They love animals, they say. They revere all life, they say. They buy only ‘humanely’ raised and slaughtered meat, they say.

Anyone who has watched whaling in operation knows better.

Update, 10:39 pm: I wrote the foregoing before seeing this:

“Even if some country thinks that whales are special or sacred, as long as whales are sustainably utilized that view should not be forced on others,” [Joji] Morishita [Japan’s Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission] said.

“…If people in India tried to impose their way of treatment of cows on the rest of the world and tried to promote prohibiting of eating at McDonald’s or hamburgers, what would happen?”[4]

Obviously I’m unimpressed.

  1. [1]Saeed Ahmed, “U.N. court orders Japan to halt whale hunt,” CNN, March 31, 2014,; Chris Butler, “What the World Court’s Ruling Against Japan Now Means for Whales,” One Green Planet, April 4, 2014,; Kristina Pepelko, “Huge Victory! World Court Deems Japan’s Antarctic Whaling Program Illegal!” One Green Planet, March 31, 2014,;
  2. [2]Debra Kay, “Japan Doesn’t Want to Stop Whaling, Despite Ban,” One Green Planet, April 18, 2014,; Elaine Lies, “Japanese whaling group intends to resume its hunts,” Planet Ark, April 15, 2014,; Science, “Japan Says It Will Resume Antarctic Whaling Next Year,” April 15, 2014,;
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Japan to press for resumption of annual whale hunt,” June 9, 2014,
  4. [4]Elaine Lies, “Japan shrugs off embarrassing court loss, vows resumption of Antarctic whaling,” Planet Ark, June 11, 2014,

Benefit of the doubt: The Turing test and sentience

A super computer raised a bit of a fuss this week:

A “super computer” has duped humans into thinking it was a 13-year-old boy to become the first machine to pass the Turing test, experts have said. Five machines were tested at the Royal Society in central London to see if they could fool people into thinking they were humans during text-based conversations.

The test was devised in 1950 by computer science pioneer and second world war codebreaker Alan Turing, who said that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human, then it was “thinking”.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Press Association, “Computer simulating 13-year-old boy becomes first to pass Turing test,” Guardian, June 8, 2014,