Ummm, we need to talk. It’s about academic freedom.

No, I thought to myself. Why on earth would I archive this story about some schmuck who intends to launch a rocket as one step in his quest to prove the earth is flat?[1] Continue reading “Ummm, we need to talk. It’s about academic freedom.”

  1. [1]Colin Dwyer, “‘I Don’t Believe In Science,’ Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket,” National Public Radio, November 22, 2017,

Never again, probably

Like many—probably most—men my age (and older), I’ve had some learning to do about personal autonomy, which is usually cited in arguments for legal abortion, but really applies in all cases where someone, anyone, would take a person’s body for purposes not their own. This obviously applies when conservatives insist narrowly that pregnancy is part of a woman’s “essential nature” and, therefore, she shouldn’t be allowed to exercise any control over her own reproduction.
Continue reading “Never again, probably”

Affirmative consent is still a better idea

In recent weeks, dozens of powerful and famous women have come forward against equally powerful and famous men in industries including Hollywood, publishing, art, comedy and business.

Those accounts have emboldened others with fewer resources to post their own stories using the #MeToo hashtag or in other public forums. Allegations have shaken the leadership ranks at prominent institutions, including National Public Radio, ABC News and several state legislatures.[1]

I have three thoughts on the numerous recent revelations of sexual harassment and assault. First, the sheer volume of reports[2] and the fact that it’s about sex suggests a moral panic. That’s not by any means to say the allegations are false—I’m inclined to credit most of them—but rather that we need to be careful in our response. Cathy Young’s cautions about what conduct we really want to ruin people’s lives over[3] seem warranted and probably should be seen as a minimum. Continue reading “Affirmative consent is still a better idea”

Human lives and rights are only important when Charles Blow says they are

In a column yesterday (November 9), Charles Blow launched a diatribe against “all the Democrats who caterwauled last November about how the party had focused too much on courting women and minorities, and ignored angry white men,”[1] and we can reasonably infer that Blow thinks that the aforementioned “angry white men” have little interest in “recognizing, listening to and trying to satisfy the particular needs of particular groups of people who have very different lived experiences in this country.”[2] Continue reading “Human lives and rights are only important when Charles Blow says they are”

  1. [1]Charles M. Blow, “Resistance, for the Win!” New York Times, November 9 2017,
  2. [2]Charles M. Blow, “Resistance, for the Win!” New York Times, November 9 2017,

Occupied Catalonia faces the boot

Talk about putting the shoe on the other foot:

“The word ‘dialogue’ is a lovely word. It creates good feelings,” [Spanish Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy said. “But dialogue has two enemies: those who abuse, ignore and forget the laws, and those who only want to listen to themselves, who do not want to understand the other party.”

Rajoy urged the Senate to approve Article 155 “to prevent Catalonia from being abused.”[1]

The charge that Catalan secessionists “only want to listen to themselves, . . . do not want to understand the other party” applies equally to those who would deprive Catalonia of independence. Second, the primacy assigned to the constitution and to law forgets that institutions need to serve people, not the other way around. And that, ultimately, seems to me to be a huge problem: As near as I can tell, Rajoy’s argument collapses entirely to a provision in the Spanish constitution, “which refers to ‘the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.’”[2] There is nothing here of any benefits for Catalans in Spain, just nonsense about how “Spain without Catalonia and vice versa is a mutilated Spain and Catalonia.”[3] The origins of this drive for independence apparently lie in “a financial dispute [in 2012, during the financial crisis] over the tax contribution that wealthy Catalonia should make to poorer regions of Spain.”[4]

It is already apparent from the violence waged against the referendum that Catalonia held on independence,[5] which Rajoy defended as his “principal obligation . . . to enforce the law and ensure it is enforced,”[6] that Rajoy has no compunctions about using violence. Despite his appeals to public opinion surveys (a methodology I now treat as unreliable[7]) showing a majority even within Catalonia opposing independence,[8] it is clear that Rajoy is unconcerned with what the Catalan public may think of his use of violence against the referendum. The violence itself, directed against an election, undermines the remainder of his claim that his “principal obligation” is also to “protect and guarantee democracy,” and to “protect coexistence and harmony.”[9]

Further, it is apparent that Rajoy enjoys international backing[10] from elites who, on various rationalizations, nearly always oppose secession, except when a secession movement in another country might work to their own advantage.

So I see no constraint on Rajoy’s further deployment of violence to achieve his ends. Catalonia is occupied territory. Now I fear it will feel the boot.

  1. [1]William Booth and Pamela Rolfe, “Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long,” Washington Post, October 27, 2017,
  2. [2]Spanish Constitution, quoted in British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017,
  3. [3]Pedro Sánchez, quoted in William Booth and Pamela Rolfe, “Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long,” Washington Post, October 27, 2017,
  4. [4]Raphael Minder, “Separatists in Catalonia Win Narrow Majority in Regional Elections,” New York Times, September 27, 2015,
  5. [5]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017,; Peter Geoghegan, “Catalonia votes amid violent clashes,” Deutschewelle, October 1, 2017,; Jon Sindreu, Pietro Lombardi, and Marina Force, “Hundreds Hurt as Catalans, Spanish Police Clash Amid Independence Referendum,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017,
  6. [6]Jeannette Neumann, Jon Sindreu, and Pietro Lombardi, “Catalans Support Secession From Spain in Vote Boycotted by Opponents,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017,
  7. [7]David Benfell, “On a nine percent response rate,” May 28, 2017,
  8. [8]Hans von der Burchard, “New Catalan president wants independence within 18 months,” Politico, January 10, 2016,; Jeannette Neumann and Giovanni Legorano, “Spain Poised to Strip Catalonia of Powers,” Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2017,; Jeannette Neumann and Giovanni Legorano, “Spain Moves to Seize Control of Catalan Government, Call Regional Elections,” Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2017,
  9. [9]Jeannette Neumann, Jon Sindreu, and Pietro Lombardi, “Catalans Support Secession From Spain in Vote Boycotted by Opponents,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017,
  10. [10]William Booth and Pamela Rolfe, “Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long,” Washington Post, October 27, 2017,; Laura Smith-Spark and Claudia Rebaza, “Catalonia government dissolved after declaring independence from Spain,” CNN, October 27, 2017,

To the students (but not only students) who won’t read this

It’s time to grow up. You are not the final word on righteousness no matter how fervently you hold your beliefs. Not any of you (and, yes, that’s a universal claim).

And universities exist for other purposes than your temper tantrums. Yes, you are entitled to invite speakers. That also means your fellow students—oh, here’s a news flash—are entitled to invite speakers. No, you are not entitled to throw a shit fit, let alone commit acts of violence, when they accept. Continue reading “To the students (but not only students) who won’t read this”

Women’s lives are still expendable

I was driving in Berkeley last night, which is a terrible mistake following a Bears (the university football team) game, because traffic is simply gridlocked with too many pedestrians (a common Berkeley malady) but lots more cars. The weather was cool but the young women, almost without exception, wore short, short pants and otherwise skimpy outfits.

I noticed one walking down the street alone. She was wearing a gold (okay, yellow) tube top with the blue “Cal” lettering. She was awkwardly—as if grace were possible in such a situation—pulling it up, as such tops are wont to slip down. She didn’t look like she was having a good time.

Continue reading “Women’s lives are still expendable”

On idealism

I suppose I should preface this by explaining that, no, I’m not speaking of a philosophical doubt of external reality as possibly nothing more than a perverse fragment of one’s imagination.

No, I speak of idealism in a possible perversion of Plato,[1] one I’m surely guilty of myself, of insisting that a thing can and must be the best that it can possibly be. As a notion, idealism is placed in opposition to realism, which itself lies in opposition to fantasy. And so it is that idealism and fantasy are often conflated.

But even in that conflation, what is a fantasy? Is it an unrealized potential? Or is it a nonexistent one? And if it is the latter, who determines what is ‘nonexistent?’ Continue reading “On idealism”

  1. [1]Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (New York: Harmony, 1991).

Failing the test, again

Let this paleoconservative writing sink in for a moment: “‘Thirty years from now, the black and brown coalition plans to pit its new brown majority against aging whites,’ targeting Social Security benefits unless whites support their efforts to compel ‘the younger generation of whites to pay the future bills for welfare and education for America’s new Third-World majority.’”[1]

I want you to let this notion of racial conflict explicitly between whites and people of color sink in real hard because at the opposite end of the political spectrum, Rabbi Michael Lerner has repeatedly warned against demonizing all those (largely working class whites) who supported Donald Trump. He notes that many whites have economic grievances, are not racist, did not create systemic discrimination, but have felt abandoned by the Left and by Democrats, who now speak increasingly for just about every subaltern group imaginable except for folks who suffer various forms of economic injustice. The Rabbi’s warning stands on its own virtue; I do not know if he realizes he is also warning the Left against making a paleoconservative prediction true. Continue reading “Failing the test, again”

  1. [1]Yggdrasil [pseud.], “Republican Immigration Fantasies,” Occidental Quarterly, November 10, 2011,, as quoted in David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

What’s the end game?

The question came up for me in seeing coverage of the much-too-frequent police violence against Occupy Wall Street and again in the Ferguson riots: What’s the end game?

Really, now, I imagine I might have asked police, what’s your fucking end game? Do you really want these kids, who will eventually go back to their neighborhoods and have kids of their own, to forever distrust you? To forever remember your actions in this case with absolute contempt? Why would you even consider taking the risk of worsening community relations? How can you ever hope to ever have civilian cooperation when we see scenes like this? What kind of a country do you even want this to be when you treat it like occupied territory and us like a hostile population?

Now that seems to me to be an insanely rich topic for inquiry and maybe critical analysis. But that’s not the direction I’m following today. Continue reading “What’s the end game?”