Reader Bryan sent this video from NASA that shows Mars mission experts discussing the landing of Perseverance. At last we can see some video of the parachute deploying, the head shield falling off, and the skycrane lowering the rover to the surface. It’s amazing! They show video and photos from several cameras.
The discussion still going on, so scroll back to when you start seeing images of the rover module (about -1 hour and 10 minutes when I post this). Don’t miss this.
The article in Quillette shown below (click on screenshot) is odd because the author is listed as “Quillette Magazine”, with no indication who did the research and writing. Claire Lehmann? Other people? If it’s a consortium of editors, they should really say so. Nothing is gained by completely anonymous publication.
Nevertheless, it’s an informative and fair piece that does three things: 1.) summarizes data showing that transgender female athletes who compete with biological women have an advantage not overcome by testosterone suppression, 2.) attacks, successfully, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU’s) new campaign to make transgender females equal to biological females in every respect, including sports, and 3.) proposes one solution to the dilemma of “how do we allow transgender women to compete in sports?” (There is no issue with transgender men, which is part of the article’s solution to the dilemma.)
It also answers the complaint of transgender rights advocates that we shouldn’t be concentrating on women’s sports. I will respond, as I always do, by asserting that the moral and legal rights of every transgender person should be respected, and full equality mandated for all but a few areas. One of those is sports, and the reason why critics like me concentrate on it is not because we’re using sports as a way to denigrate transsexual people or deny them other rights, but simply because transgender activists often insist that the mere claim that one is a woman (or man) makes them so, regardless of whether they’ve had medical intervention. (This is the ACLU’s claim, for instance.) Ergo, anybody who wants to claim that they’re a woman, whether or not they’ve had surgery or hormonal intervention, is a woman and can compete in women’s sports.
And if the ACLU wants to die on that hill, and call people like me “transphobes,” let them, for their ideological insistence applied to all areas will eventually be the death of women’s sports—sports whose autonomy was fought for for years and now codified in Title IX. And if women’s sports die, or are taken over by transgender women, it will be the silence of biological women athletes that brings this about.
Let’s take the last complaint first. It’s expressed here by a social psychologist:
As a social psychologist, I understand why using women’s sports to argue against transgender rights works. But it is tough to imagine a more morally bankrupt position: “I’m going to make you sit in a gender that doesn’t fit you so my daughter can win her soccer game.”
This sounds good at first, but doesn’t deal with the fundamental unfairness that many perceive of biological men (some with surgery or hormone treatments, some not) competing against women whose physiology and morphology make them less liable to win in any physical competition. Further, the Quillette article proposes a solution that sounds workable for refuting the “making you sit in a gender that doesn’t fit you” argument.
First, nobody denies sex differences in sports; if there weren’t any, we wouldn’t have separate women’s and men’s sports. Here’s the performance advantage of biological males over biological females, separated by sport (caption below from a paper I mention below). These are differences between cisgender men and women:
One solution to these differential shas been the Olympic solution: a biological male can compete in women’s Olympic sports if their serum testosterone levels have been below 10 nanomoles/liter for a year before the competition. This, however, is more or less arbitrary, as this Guardian article below suggests. It reports on a newish study (right below it) showing that testosterone suppression does not remove all the sports advantages of being a biological male.
Click on the screenshot:
The article is based on the paper below in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (free, and free pdf download):
The summary from the Guardian: two years of testosterone suppression didn’t eliminate all the advantages of biological maleness, though it did for pushups and situps (but see caveats below).
However the new study, based on the fitness test results and medical records of 29 trans men and 46 trans women who started gender affirming hormones while in the United States Air Force, appears to challenge the IOC’s scientific position.
The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that before starting their hormone treatment trans women performed 31% more push-ups and 15% more sit-ups in one minute on average than a biological women younger than 30 in the air force – and ran 1.5 miles 21% faster.
Yet after suppressing their testosterone for two years – a year longer than IOC guidelines – they were still 12% faster on average than biological females.
The trans women also retained a 10% advantage in push-ups and a 6% advantage in sit-ups for the first two years after taking hormones, before their advantage disappeared. But the researchers say they “may underestimate the advantage in strength that trans women have over cis women … because trans women will have a higher power output than cis women when performing an equivalent number of push-ups”.
On the other hand, trans men, who took testosterone supplements, became equivalent to biological men after two years, except that the trans men did more situps than biological men (this is why biological males aren’t allowed to take testosterone supplements, and highlights one possible difficulty with Quillette’s solution of allowing trans men to compete with biological men in an “open” category).
The paper below, published in Sports Medicine, concludes that even after three years of treatment, transgender women still retain advantages over biological women in nearly every physiological, morphological, and performance test reviewed, and sometimes those advantages were considerable.
We already know that the ACLU, while engaging in its admirable work on civil rights, including transgender rights, has gone off the rails with the latter, insisting that transgender women must be equal to biological women in every respect. This is largely due to the zealotry of the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Transgender Justice, Chase Strangio, who has done good work on trans rights but is a “trans fundamentalist” when it comes to sports.
Here are four claims that the ACLU has made and which Quillette critiques. Every claim is either misleading or wrong. I won’t discuss them (I’ve dealt with some before), as you can read the article:
Relevant to the last one about separate teams, here’s Quillette‘s solution:
One promising option, for instance, would be to preserve the traditionally defined female category while also rebranding the male category as an “open” category that’s available to anyone. This would allow a biologically male trans woman, or someone who is intersex, to test their speed, skill, and strength in a fair competition, while also not forcing them to submit to a designation they may find inaccurate or demeaning. Once overwrought ideological claims about the nature of gender identity are stripped away, in fact, open athletic categories may even provide a forum for real diversity and universal inclusivity, which is the ostensible goal of those demanding that women compete against male bodies.
As they note, this would be opposed by both conservatives and extreme Leftists, but my problem is different: the possibility, which I didn’t realize until I read the papers above, that testosterone supplements, which I think continue over life, may give an advantage to trans men over biological men in some areas.
What we know now is that arbitrary hormone limits, like the IOC’s, aren’t useful in light of data showing that even with testosterone reduction, trans women retain considerable strength, height, and muscle-mass advantages, acquired at puberty, over biological women. Dealing with that is a tough ethical and practical question.
As for transgender rights, all of us agree that with a few narrow exceptions like sports, incarceration, rape counseling, and the like, trans women should be considered the moral and legal equivalents of biological women. The rub is sports, and, as Quillette writes:
The most humane way to help and support transgender people isn’t to pretend that slogans and hashtags will magically transform them into something they’re not. It’s fine to say that “trans women are women,” full stop, as a matter of certain legal entitlements. But biology doesn’t care about what pronouns we use. And trans athletes shouldn’t be encouraged to inhabit a state of denial. There are creative strategies we can implement to invite, and even celebrate, the participation of trans athletes in all sports. But they can be implemented only once we admit the real differences that exist between the two—and only two—sexes.
I won’t go into why sex in humans is binary, as I’ve discussed that many times before. This article reiterates the data.
By the way, Quillette, could you please let us know who the authors of your articles are? Even the New York Times “editorial board” editors are known to the public. “Quillette Magazine” as an author tells us exactly nothing.
As I wrote two days ago, Smith College “whistleblower” Jodi Shaw finally resigned from the College after criticizing them repeatedly for their intense and what she sees as divisive hyper-racialism, which all started with an old complaint from a black student about racism, a complaint that Smith itself found bogus. The College made her life hell, and she finally had to leave to keep from going crazy.
Shaw’s attempt to get help from Smith was futile, for Smith College has gone into full Robin DiAngelo mode.
Shaw had enough when she was accused in a public struggle session of “white fragility.” Smith has shown not an iota of compassion for her, clearly wanting to get rid of her (a employee of Smith’s Residence Life division) but also to avoid publicity. (Donors won’t be happy with what’s going on at Smith.) Smith’s President, Kathleen McCartney, even wrote an insensitive letter to the College community implying that they’d like to fire Shaw, but couldn’t because of the law.
Shaw refused a monetary settlement from Smith, which was trying to buy her silence in return for cash. They had already started investigating her and had put her on leave. A divorced mother of two, Shaw made this video about her resignation. She’s clearly stressed out and is taking some time off from making videos:
Shaw has now set up a GoFundMe campaign to help not only with her living expenses, but also with legal expenses: as she says in the video above, a lawsuit is apparently in the offing that accuses Smith of racial bias against her. Click on the screenshot below, showing that her plea has already far exceeded its goal of $150,000. The number of donors, and the amount raised so quickly, suggests that there are many people who are mad as hell with the infusion of Critical Race Theory into colleges, and aren’t going to take it any more.
Sadly, as you see below this screenshot, GoFundMe seems to have put a hold on the donations, and it’s not clear why. Shaw suspects “ideological reasons,” and I myself suspect Smith doesn’t want money being raised for a lawsuit against them. Based on their behavior in this case already, I find the college reprehensible. So far I have no reason to doubt Shaw’s assertions.
Click below; I wouldn’t donate to GoFundMe yet if you want Shaw to get the money, for they may not give it to her. But there are alternative ways to fund her (see below):
Here’s her description on GoFundMe’s hold on the funds. There’s a link to alternative funding sources (go here or click on screenshot) that cannot be stopped:
Alternative support includes PayPal or a check to her home address, which you can find at this link. If they eliminate the link above, I have that information.
Here’s her message on GoFundMe:
Through an increasing emphasis on trainings and programs grounded in Critical Social Justice, an incredibly dehumanizing ideology that posits a person’s immutable characteristics as more important than their individual character, Smith College and other institutions like it have created and nurtured a hostile work environment for staff, students and faculty.
I took a public stand against these dehumanizing policies and practices at Smith College in a series of YouTube videos. My hope was that I could not only improve working conditions for staff at Smith, but for working people everywhere who suffer under similar policies in their workplaces.
Smith responded by placing me on a leave and under investigation. During this time I was offered a settlement in exchange for my silence. In the end it was a decision between comfort or freedom. I chose freedom.
Since I cannot return to the psychologically abusive environment without further jeopardizing my mental and physical health, I have decided to leave the College.
But my fight has not ended. In some ways it has just begun. Please join me in standing up to a divisive, destructive ideology that threatens to tear our country apart. Help me hold Smith College accountable for its actions in a court of law.
Today we have some nice photos of (be still my heart) Antarctica taken by reader Mike Hannah, an evolutionist and paleontologist at the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Mike’s captions and narrative are indented; click the photos to enlarge them.
I have been fortunate to spend five seasons in Antarctica as a palynologist on two scientific drilling projects – The Cape Roberts Project (1997 – 1999) and ANDRILL (2006 – 2007) . These pictures are all from my association with ANDRILL – it was the only time I got my camera to work!
The first image is of the American McMurdo Station on Ross Island (where New Zealand’s Scott Base is also situated). Although I was part of the New Zealand programme, we worked and were quartered in McMurdo, which has a population of over 1000 in summer. The photo was taken from the top of Observation Hill, where a look out was kept for Scott and his party, hoping that they would return from the South Pole.
This is the view from my office window – across McMurdo Sound to the Royal Society Range – part of the Transantarctic Mountains.
As part of the project we got to visit the Dry Valleys – areas that are snow and ice free all year round – the winds are so strong that snow can’t accumulate. Flying into the Taylor Valley, you pass several beautiful ice falls.
Taylor Valley itself is stunningly beautiful, much of it free from snow and ice but with hanging glaciers dripping from the margins.
Another view of the Taylor Valley this time with the Taylor Glacier that fills one end of it, The black stripe running around the valley is the Ferrar Dolerite. The injection of this igneous rock as the supercontinent Gondwanaland broke up is associated with one of the planet’s mass extinctions.
Mt Erebus, Antarctica’s only active volcano, dominates Ross island:
Across McMurdo sound is another volcano – Mt Discovery. I took this picture at about midnight in early January, and did not use any filters! If you look closely, there are Adelie penguins [Pygoscelis adeliae] in the foreground.
Finally, a much younger me on top of Observation Hill next to the cross erected by the survivors of Scott’s expedition in memory of Scott, Oates, Bowers, Wilson and Evans—all of whom perished on the return journey from the South Pole. The famous quote from Tennyson: ”To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” that they inscribed on the cross is now barely legible.
We are predicted to have freeze-thaw cycles every day for the next week, when the temperature goes above freezing during the day but mostly below at night. What this means is ICE FORMATION on the streets and sidewalks. First, the predictions for this week in Fahrenheit and Celsius respectively:
Yesterday afternoon was warm, but then it snowed a tad last night and the temperatures dipped below freezing. When I walked out of my building door this morning, I stepped straight onto the sidewalk, my legs flew out in front of me, and I landed flat on my back. OOF! But though I’m old, I’m also tough, and no harm was done.
The sidewalks all the way to work were covered with a thin sheet of ice; no walking on them was possible. So I hied myself into the street. The streets were covered with ice, too, but there was a thin center strip of snow where the car tires don’t touch the road and melt the snow, so I gingerly picked my way to work down that center. It’s dire today, and there will be a lot of falls and accidents. Here’s one street. I walked on the thin, crenulated strip of snow in the middle, for treacherous ice lay on either side.
Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors Zitkála-Šá (1876-1938; Lakota for “Red Bird”), a Native American polymath and activist. Wikipedia describes her as
. . . a Yankton Dakota writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her struggles with cultural identity and the pull between the majority culture she was educated within and her Dakota culture into which she was born and raised. Her later books were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white English-speaking readership, and she has been noted as one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century.
Working with American musician William F. Hanson, Zitkala-Ša wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera (1913), the first American Indian opera. It was composed in romantic musical style, and based on Sioux and Ute cultural themes
With her violin in 1898 at 22:
News of the Day:
By now many of you have heard of the ginormous electricity bills that some Texans, who subscribed to private energy firms, have been saddled with after the winter storms. One poor schmo got a montly bill of $16,752, which was taken directly out of his bank account. That’s 200 times what he normally pays! He’s had to dip into his retirement savings to pay the bill. The mayor of Houston, one of the hardest hit cities, has called for Texas to pay these astronomical bills. That seems fair. (h/t Jez)
Preliminary investigations of the blown-out engine of United Boeing 777 plane that was trying to fly from Denver to Hawaii show that one or two fan blades might have broken off. An expert on last night’s NBC Evening News, however, says that such an event would not have caused the engine cowling to break off. In the meantime, United, the only carrier that uses this type of engine in the U.S., has grounded some of its 777s for inspection.
The New York Times, in its “movie’ section (?), has published a timeline of the Woody Allen/Mia Farrow case in which Allen was accused, years ago, of molesting his 7-year old adopted daughter Dylan. There’s never been enough evidence to convict or even try Allen, especially in light of other claims that Mia Farrow, enraged at Woody’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi, coached Dylan with her accusation. The new timeline doesn’t add much to what we know already, and I’m not sure why the NYT is even doing this story, except that a new HBO “docuseries,” Allen v. Farrow, has been released. NPR says it paints a damning picture of Woody Allen but adds this:
What Allen v. Farrow doesn’t have: original interviews with Allen or anyone close to the family who might take his side. That includes Mia Farrow’s two children who have spoken in support of Allen — adopted son Moses Farrow, who has accused his mother of abuse, and Mia Farrow’s daughter who became Allen’s wife in 1997, Soon-Yi Previn. (The series notes that Allen and Soon-Yi didn’t respond to interview requests and Moses declined to participate.)
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 498,650, an increase of about 1,200 deaths over yesterday’s figure We are likely to exceed half a million deaths within two days. The reported world death toll stands 2,479,067, an increase of about 5,600 deaths over yesterday’s total. The death rate continues to drop worldwide.
Stuff that happened on February 22 these things:
1371 – Robert II becomes King of Scotland, beginning the Stuart dynasty.
1632 – Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the dedicatee, receives the first printed copy of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems .
1797 – The last Invasion of Britain begins near Fishguard, Wales.
The Brits who guarded the fish were ready, though, and fought off the French in two days.
1819 – By the Adams–Onís Treaty, Spain sells Florida to the United States for five million U.S. dollars.
1862 – Jefferson Davis is officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia. He was previously inaugurated as a provisional president on February 18, 1861.
1942 – World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders General Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines as the Japanese victory becomes inevitable.
See below for more information. These resisters are heroes—imagine opposing the Nazis as a German in 1943! They were caught throwing leaflets into a lobby from the floors above, and executed on the same day that the Nazi kangaroo court found them guilty. Here are Sophia and Hans (right):
In February of 1943, the [White Rose group] was apprehended when leaving pamphlets in suitcases all across the University of Munich. Sophie took to a balcony that overlooked a courtyard and scattered reams of flyers as students exited classes. Her action was witnessed by the school’s janitor, who reported Sophie and Hans to the Gestapo. After being interrogated for nearly 24 hours, Sophie emerged from questioning with a broken leg but a steely spirit. She was quoted as saying, “I’ll make no bargain with the Nazis.”
The students’ hearing began a mere four days after their arrest and, because all pled guilty, they were not allowed to testify. Still, Sophie did not sit quietly throughout the proceedings. She interrupted the judge throughout, with statements like: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” and “You know the war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it?”
She was allowed one official statement: “Time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely un-Christian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up to a righteous cause? I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences.” She and her fellow defendants were sentenced to death by execution, which was carried out within hours of the decision. On the back of Sophie’s indictment, she wrote the word “Freedom”. Her reported last words were, “Die Sonne scheint noch”—”The sun still shines.”
You can hear those words in the video clip below:
2011 – New Zealand’s second deadliest earthquake strikes Christchurch, killing 185 people.
Notables born on this day include:
1732 – George Washington, American general and politician, 1st President of the United States (d. 1799)
Sopie Scholl and her “conspirators” Probst and brother Hans were guillotined with the day after she’d been found guilty of treason. Here’s a tribute to her from the Auschwitz Memorial (h/t Mtthew).
22 February 1943 | Sophie and Hans Scholl & Christoph Probs were executed in Germany for their public resistance against the Nazi regime. They were members of White Rose movement called for active opposition to the Nazi party. https://t.co/4AMOXwj209pic.twitter.com/yB3Yhbaa8v
Here’s a fairly accurate video of her last farewell to her brother and Probst, the pronouncement of her sentence, and her immediate execution (no gore). From the movie “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” (2005). The full film is free on YouTube. This ending is very moving.
1965 – Felix Frankfurter, Austrian-American lawyer and jurist (b. 1882)
If you read this site even cursorily, you’ll know that I’m pretty much what they call a “hard-liner” on free speech. That is, I adhere to the Constitution’s First Amendment, which (with important exceptions) stipulates that the government cannot prevent you from speaking as a citizen. The exceptions, as carved out by American courts over the years, include harassment in the workplace, false advertising, defamation (deliberately lying with intent to harm), speech intended and liable to create imminent violence, and so on. I can’t think of a single form of speech that the courts haven’t already dealt with that should be prohibited. I don’t adhere to European blasphemy or “hate speech” laws, for instance: I think that Holocaust denialism should be allowed and that people should be able to say “gas the Jews”, so long as there aren’t Jews, a gas chamber, and an angry mob at hand.
Moreover, I go further, arguing that even private organizations should go as far as they can in allowing the kind of speech permitted by the First Amendment. For example, I think all colleges should adhere to what public colleges and universities must already adhere to: First-Amendment freedoms. Facebook and Twitter, as far as they can, should do likewise. Nevertheless, I recognize that in some cases private organizations can and should be able to restrict speech. It wouldn’t do, for example, for a business to allow its employees to hurl racial slurs at customers.
So here’s a hard case for me, one that gave me pause. It involves a Canadian comedian, Quebecois Mike Ward, making fun of a disabled kid as part of his act. For that, Ward is now facing judgment by Canada’s Supreme Court. Click on the screenshot to read.
The article notes that Canada, like the U.S., has pretty broad speech laws, but it also has “hate speech laws” against “identifiable groups” and, at least in Quebec, a “right to dignity”. In the case of the disabled kid, Jérémy Gabriel, these rights came into conflict. The minority group in question is the disabled, and the dignity attacked was Gabriel’s, as comedian Ward made fun of him in his act.
About a decade ago, the comedian Mike Ward, of Quebec, mocked the voice of a well-known disabled teenage singer in a standup routine, roasting him for being off-key, making fun of his hearing aid and calling him “ugly.” But he said he had defended the boy to others because he would soon die. When the teen didn’t die of his illness, the comedian joked, he tried to drown him.
Here’s Gabriel’s disability:
Mr. Gabriel has Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare congenital disease characterized by skull and facial deformities. He was born deaf and received a hearing aid implant at age 6. At age 8, he captured hearts across Quebec after singing the national anthem at a Montreal Canadiens hockey game. He went on to meet Celine Dion in Las Vegas, serenade Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican and write an autobiography.
Gabriel is thus a public figure, which to some makes him less immune to mockery. I have to admit that Ward’s comedy crossed the line for me, as I don’t find it funny at all. It’s mean-spirited. But that’s a different question from whether what he said was illegal. Remember that comedians often cross the line to make a point. Sarah Silverman, Lenny Bruce, and Dave Chappelle are just three. Chappelle, in fact, often goes after other black people, like Jussie Smollett, using the n-word, and that’s legal in the U.S. (the piece on Smollett, at the link, is also very funny). Silverman, I believe, has made fun of the aged, and perhaps the disabled. A lot of American comedy would, it seems, violate Canada’s “hate speech” and “right to dignity” laws.
The mockery of Gabriel was part of Ward’s act that also went after other folks:
Mr. Ward, a stand-up comic who has twice won “comedian of the year” in a prestigious Quebec comedy award show, has appeared on television internationally, and is known for his trenchant comedic style. In 2008, his joke about a 9-year-old girl who was abducted spurred death threats against him.
The Supreme Court case took root in 2010, when the comedian used his act to make fun of people in Quebec seen as being above criticism, and targeted celebrities like Celine Dion. He also targeted Mr. Gabriel and, among other jokes, made fun of his hearing aid, calling him “the kid with the subwoofer” on his head. The show was performed hundreds of times between 2010 and 2013, and disseminated online.
And Gabriel said that he was harmed by Ward’s mockery:
Mr. Gabriel, now a 24-year-old political science student in Quebec City, said in an interview that the comedy routine — and the raucous laughter it provoked — destroyed his self-esteem during difficult teenage years when he was already grappling with being disabled. As a result of the routine, he said he was bullied at school, and became depressed and suicidal, while his parents were crushed. He said that after his complaint against Mr. Ward, he also received death threats from the comedian’s fans.
“You are already dealing with prejudices when you have a disability and the process of self-acceptance is even harder when you are a teenager,” he said. “It became a thousand times harder when people were laughing at the idea of me dying. I felt like my life was worth less than others.”
I don’t doubt that Gabriel experienced harm as he describes. But bullying by others was not the intention of Ward, so this isn’t equivalent to the comedian harassing him personally and repeatedly. Further, Ward was a public figure, and making fun of public figures is a regular trope of comedy. Usually it’s not for a disability, but remember that Trump, in his inadvertent Presidential comedy act, made fun of a disabled reporter and was not prosecuted. If one went after Justin Trudeau in a nasty way—and one could!—it could deprive him of his “right to dignity,” even if Trudeau was not a member of an “identifiable group.” But perhaps if someone in Newfoundland made fun of Quebecois, that would be a “hate crime.” I don’t really know how it works in Canada.
At any rate, 9 years ago Gabriel’s family filed a complaint against Ward for breaching the human rights code of Quebec, and the commission found Ward culpable for breaching Gabriel’s dignity, ordering Ward to pay him $35,000 (Canadian) and his family $7000. Ward appealed, and the appellate court upheld the decision except for eliminating the damages given to Gabriel’s family. Ward then appealed to Canada’s Supreme Court, which has heard the case and will rule soon.
Note that other comedians have equally odious aspects of their acts, none of which I think should be illegal:
In the United States, Lenny Bruce was labeled a “sick comic” for his expletive-laced routines, and in 1961 he was arrested on obscenity charges in San Francisco. His defiance helped to clear the way for other iconoclastic comedians.
In France, the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has been repeatedly charged with violating anti-hate laws. He is widely associated with an inverted Nazi salute known as the quenelle. In 2013, he lamented that a prominent Jewish journalist had not died in “the gas chambers.”
As a secular Jew, I find that disgusting bigotry, but it’s not and shouldn’t be illegal.
Canadian comedians are upset, of course, because if the Supreme Court upholds the verdict, it puts comedy on a slippery slope. Remember, the offense Ward committed wasn’t hate speech, but the “right to dignity.” In my view, nobody has a “right to dignity”—at least, not a right to immune from mockery, which is what that right appears to comprise. Once you define a “right” in that sense, there’s no stopping anybody from bringing lawsuits. It would be the death of substantive comedy.
Granted, Ward’s making fun of Gabriel was reprehensible. It served no comedic purpose that I can see, and was mean spirited. And yes, it did harm Gabriel, but I don’t think that Ward intended the bullying and threats to ensue.
Ward may be found guilty under Canadian law, but he wouldn’t be under American law. And, in my own judgment, though what Ward did was vile and not in the least humorous, that’s what people have said about comedians like Lenny Bruce for years. A nasty and uncalled-for joke, for sure; speech worthy of censorship and punishment, no. Not in my view.
The other day, depressed with the number of people I saw expressing sheer joy at the death of Rush Limbaugh, I put up a Facebook post:
In response, people proceeded to inform me, as if I didn’t know, what Limbaugh’s odious political and personal opinions really were, with some adding me that it was really okay to celebrate. (Nobody unfriended me.) After all, his existence was a net minus for the world’s welfare—something I’m prepared to believe—so why not gambol with glee when he died? (Let me note that he died of lung cancer, and it was probably a pretty horrible way to go.)
And, as Frank Bruni notes in his New York Times op-ed below (expressing a view similar to mine), the celebrations were not only widespread, but pretty mean-spirited:
“BIGOT, MISOGYNIST, HOMOPHOBE, CRANK: RUSH LIMBAUGH DEAD.” Those were the words, capitalized and adrenalized, that HuffPost splashed across its home page. Several other left-leaning sites took the same tack and tone.
Of course, they were positively restrained in comparison with Twitter, which is basically talk radio’s less windy bastard child. “Rest in piss” had currency there. The F word, followed immediately by Limbaugh’s name, was taken out for a spin. There was speculation that Limbaugh had gone to a very hot place reputed to have nine circles and a red, horned ruler. There was wishing that he would rot there. One tweet said that Limbaugh “brought a lot of people a lot of joy by dying.” It was liked by more than 35,000 of the morbidly contented. I don’t begrudge them their relief that he’s no longer ranting. But is that really what they want to lavish a cute little heart symbol on?
Not for me. While I don’t mourn the absence of Limbaugh from the scene, celebrating it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t join the chorus of glee, and yet I didn’t understand why. I didn’t feel that I was superior to those who were celebrating (yes, it was mean-spirited, but I can be, too), but something in me baulked at expressing the verbal equivalent of heart symbols.
Part of it was that Limbaugh’s wife was on the news, clearly distraught, and she loved him, as other members of his family must have. So some people are more heartbroken than we are gleeful. And I’m a conscientious objector, which I think has made me wary of celebrating anybody’s death, even an enemy’s.
But most of all, I suppose, I realize how much every human values their own lives. Evolution has instilled strong instincts for self-preservation in us, and few can face a terminal diagnosis with equanimity. Limbaugh himself must have gone through unspeakable mental and physical torments after his diagnosis and before his death. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, and it’s hard for me to look at that and laugh.
Yes, he might have had a negative effect on the world, but there are many people you can say that about. Not just Trump, but, as I think from comments by some on this site, almost every Republican, from Mitch McConnell to Ted Cruz on down, could be described as having a net negative effect on the world. Even regular people, if they engage in stuff like killing animals for fur or evicting poor people from their homes, might create, through their existence, a net loss in “well being”, however you measure that. If having a net negative effect on the world is the criterion for celebrating someone’s death, then we should constantly be celebrating.
And yet, like Bruni, I think it erodes one’s character to engage in that kind of hate, and I think it’s eroded both Democrats and Republicans over the past four years to engage in the kind of demonization that led to the celebration of Limbaugh’s death. What doesn’t erode one’s character is a measured yet highly negative take on Limbaugh’s legacy, which both Bruni and Andrew Sullivan (below; click on screenshot) offer.
Bruni extols the New York Times‘s own obituary of Limbaugh as the way it should be done:
He earned it. If you’re going to fling your opinions at the world, you must be braced for the world to fling its reaction back at you. Those are the terms of the contract.
And it would be journalistic malpractice and morally wrong to publish obituaries about Limbaugh that merely noted his role in the rise of talk radio and his adoration by millions of listeners. Those appraisals were obliged, for the sake of history and accuracy, to note and be reasonably blunt about how he used his format, what listeners were thrilling to and what impact it had on the country’s political culture.
The Times’s obituary did precisely that. I don’t always agree with the approach and decisions of the news organization that employs me and have never felt any pressure to play cheerleader for it, but I think it handled Limbaugh’s death expertly.
It’s Sunday, and that means that we have a themed photo contribution by John Avise. John’s text is indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.
Sweet Waterbed Dreams
Recently I went to a local park in the late afternoon in hopes of taking some “artsy” photographs. The light was long, the wind balmy, the water wavy. As each American Coot (Fulica americana), Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), or Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) paddled through the waves, it left a smoothed swirl in its wake. In these pictures, the birds are easy to identify, but focus more on the water. The net effect of the conditions gave each picture a unique dreamy aura as the fading light danced off the water’s surface. As darkness fell, I departed, wishing these floating birds sweet waterbed dreams. Perhaps these calming photos can help you sleep well tonight also.
Welcome to the Dog Sabbath: Sunday, February 21, 2021. It’s National Sticky Bun Day, referring to either the toothsome pastry or what happens when you sit on bubble gum. It’s also National Grain Free Day (a day not beloved by farmers), and, in ancient Rome, February 21 was Feralia, a holiday celebrating the spirits of the dead. It is very similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead; here’s a description from Wikipedia:
Roman citizens were instructed to bring offerings to the tombs of their dead ancestors which consisted of at least “an arrangement of wreaths, a sprinkling of grain and a bit of salt, bread soaked in wine and violets scattered about.” Additional offerings were permitted, however the dead were appeased with just the aforementioned.
News of the Day:
I am getting worried about the Mars rover “Perseverance.” After all the brouhaha, all we get from NASA is radio silence: no photos! I hope the thing isn’t broken! Here are tweets (more on her site) by a well known planetary scientist and writer:
We were able to follow mission events by looking at the raw images feed. By now, @NASAPersevere should have deployed its high-gain antenna. Today is the day its mast should raise vertical, giving the Navcams, Mastcam-Z, and Supercam their first light on Mars.
However, NASA did release this cool photo of Perseverance dangling from the skycrane before it was gently lowered to the surface and the skycrane flew away:
A United flight from Denver to Honolulu suffered a bad engine fire yesterday, with pieces of that engine falling all around Boulder. The plane returned to Denver, landing safely with all 241 passengers and crew intact, and luckily nobody on the ground was injured by the engine parts. Here’s one passenger’s video of the mishap (h/t Matthew):
Holy moly. This was United Flight 328. Exterior of one of the engine’s caught fire and exterior pieces of the engine fell into yards over Colorado. @michaelagiulia said: “my parents are on this flight 🙃🙃 everyone’s okay though!” pic.twitter.com/Dnti1PnePS
And heres some debris. Jebus H. Christ in a chicken basket!
JUST IN: Denver International Airport officials tell us United Airlines Flight 328 bound for Honolulu returned to the airport after an engine problem. Neighbors heard a loud boom, took these photos of what look like Boeing 777 engine nacelle in their yards. pic.twitter.com/mklpz3VG4F
Several sources, including the Associated Press, report that Biden is signing on to studying the idea of “slavery reparations” for black Americans, as Congress is considering a bill. This is gonna be a tough one since who will be eligible if there are payments to individuals? And if you say that’s not the way it will come down, well read here:
A House panel heard testimony Wednesday on legislation that would create a commission to examine the history of slavery in the U.S. as well as the discriminatory government policies that affected former slaves and their descendants. The commission would recommend ways to educate the American public of its findings and suggest appropriate remedies, including financial payments from the government to compensate descendants of slaves for years of unpaid labor by their ancestors.
You can imagine the issues that will raise. Besides eligibility, if it’s money to humans, is it a one-time payment or does it go on forever? And are payments of cash really going to alleviate unequal opportunities? There must be better ways to reduce inequality.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 497,403, an increase of about 1,900 deaths over yesterday’s figure We are likely to exceed half a million deaths within two days. The reported world death toll stands 2,473,463, an increase of about 8,100 deaths over yesterday’s total. The death rate continues to drop worldwide.
Stuff that happened on February 21 includes:
1245 – Thomas, the first known Bishop of Finland, is granted resignation after confessing to torture and forgery.
1804 – The first self-propelling steam locomotive makes its outing at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.
[Sequoya’s] achievement was one of the few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people created an original, effective writing system.(Another example is Shong Lue Yang in Laos in the late 20th century).
Here’s a notice in Cherokee writing, published in the Cherokee Phoenix. Sequoyah was illiterate until he created the writing system, which has 86 characters, one for each syllable in the spoken language.
The symbol is a super-imposition of the semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D”, taken to stand for “nuclear disarmament”, while simultaneously acting as a reference to Goya‘s The Third of May 1808 (1814) (aka “Peasant Before the Firing Squad”)
One of the most striking part of Spike Lee’s film on Malcolm was the scene when he was heading to the ballroom along with his family, the attendees, and the killers. In the background you can hear the best civil rights song ever, “Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cook, and in one scene Malcolm appears to roll rather than walk down the sidewalk. It’s very moving.
1975 – Watergate scandal: Former United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman are sentenced to prison.
Notables born on this day include:
1621 – Rebecca Nurse, Massachusetts colonist, executed as a witch (d. 1692)
1903 – Anaïs Nin, French-American essayist and memoirist (d. 1977)
1907 – W. H. Auden, English-American poet, playwright, and composer (d. 1973)
1924 – Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean educator and politician, 2nd President of Zimbabwe (d. 2019)
1933 – Nina Simone, American singer-songwriter and pianist (d. 2003)
1955 – Kelsey Grammer, American actor, singer, and producer
1962 – David Foster Wallace, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (d. 2008)
Those who became the Dearly Departed on February 21 include:
1677 – Baruch Spinoza, Dutch philosopher and scholar (b. 1632)
Banting and John Macleod won the Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1923. A Laureate at 32, Banting remains the youngest person to ever win the prize. His colleague, Charles Best, should have shared the award, but Banting gave him half the money. Here are Banting and Best around 1934; Banting’s on the right.
1945 – Eric Liddell, Scottish rugby player and runner (b. 1902)
1965 – Malcolm X, American minister and activist (b. 1925; assassinated)
I’ve written several times about the plight of Jodi Shaw (here, here, here, and here), the Smith College employee who was demonized and then investigated by her employer because she would not participate in a racial “struggle session” that involved sharing personal details and feelings that she wasn’t comfortable in divulging. As I wrote earlier on:
Shaw had a beef with the College for forcing her to undergo mandatory training in what seems like critical race theory, and in which she was humiliated by the facilitator for her “white fragility”. Kathleen McCartney, the President of Smith, then responded to Shaw’s first video with a cold-hearted letter to the entire College saying, in effect, something like, “Well, we can’t fire Shaw because of the law, but we’ll ensure that all students of color are protected from harm.”
The expected pile-on began after Shaw, single mother of two, an alumna of Smith, and a liberal, began making a series of calm yet determined videos about what she experienced at Smith. The racial divisiveness of the College apparently went far beyond that one “struggle session.” According to Shaw, that atmosphere permeates Smith, is toxic, and was originally set off by a complaint of racism that proved to be bogus. (Isn’t it ironic that policies designed to foster diversity and inclusion often wind up being non-inclusive and creating greater division?)
Shaw was then investigated by Smith, which put her on leave for making her colleagues feel “harmed”, presumably by making the videos that constitute free expression (see Shaw’s explanation here). Shaw filed a long complaint with Smith, to which she received no reply.
I predicted that Shaw wouldn’t last long at Smith, and, sure enough, as Bari Weiss recounts in a post at her own Substack site, Shaw has parted ways with Smith, rejecting a settlement.
Bari reproduces Shaw’s letter of resignation to Smith’s President, and I’ll reproduce it here, too:
Dear President McCartney:
I am writing to notify you that effective today, I am resigning from my position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life at Smith College. This has not been an easy decision, as I now face a deeply uncertain future. As a divorced mother of two, the economic uncertainty brought about by this resignation will impact my children as well. But I have no choice. The racially hostile environment that the college has subjected me to for the past two and a half years has left me physically and mentally debilitated. I can no longer work in this environment, nor can I remain silent about a matter so central to basic human dignity and freedom.
I graduated from Smith College in 1993. Those four years were among the best in my life. Naturally, I was over the moon when, years later, I had the opportunity to join Smith as a staff member. I loved my job and I loved being back at Smith.
But the climate — and my place at the college — changed dramatically when, in July 2018, the culture war arrived at our campus when a student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her because of racial bias. The student, who is black, shared her account of this incident widely on social media, drawing a lot of attention to the college.
Before even investigating the facts of the incident, the college immediately issued a public apology to the student, placed the employee on leave, and announced its intention to create new initiatives, committees, workshops, trainings, and policies aimed at combating “systemic racism” on campus.
In spite of an independent investigation into the incident that found no evidence of racial bias [JAC: Smith’s own investigation showed no bias, either], the college ramped up its initiatives aimed at dismantling the supposed racism that pervades the campus. This only served to support the now prevailing narrative that the incident had been racially motivated and that Smith staff are racist.
Allowing this narrative to dominate has had a profound impact on the Smith community and on me personally. For example, in August 2018, just days before I was to present a library orientation program into which I had poured a tremendous amount of time and effort, and which had previously been approved by my supervisors, I was told that I could not proceed with the planned program. Because it was going to be done in rap form and “because you are white,” as my supervisor told me, that could be viewed as “cultural appropriation.” My supervisor made clear he did not object to a rap in general, nor to the idea of using music to convey orientation information to students. The problem was my skin color.
I was up for a full-time position in the library at that time, and I was essentially informed that my candidacy for that position was dependent upon my ability, in a matter of days, to reinvent a program to which I had devoted months of time.
Humiliated, and knowing my candidacy for the full-time position was now dead in the water, I moved into my current, lower-paying position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life.
As it turned out, my experience in the library was just the beginning. In my new position, I was told on multiple occasions that discussing my personal thoughts and feelings about my skin color is a requirement of my job. I endured racially hostile comments, and was expected to participate in racially prejudicial behavior as a continued condition of my employment. I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting “Rich, white women! Rich, white women!” in reference to Smith alumnae. I listened to my supervisor openly name preferred racial quotas for job openings in our department. I was given supplemental literature in which the world’s population was reduced to two categories — “dominant group members” and “subordinated group members” — based solely on characteristics like race.
Every day, I watch my colleagues manage student conflict through the lens of race, projecting rigid assumptions and stereotypes on students, thereby reducing them to the color of their skin. I am asked to do the same, as well as to support a curriculum for students that teaches them to project those same stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others. I believe such a curriculum is dehumanizing, prevents authentic connection, and undermines the moral agency of young people who are just beginning to find their way in the world.
Although I have spoken to many staff and faculty at the college who are deeply troubled by all of this, they are too terrified to speak out about it. This illustrates the deeply hostile and fearful culture that pervades Smith College.
The last straw came in January 2020, when I attended a mandatory Residence Life staff retreat focused on racial issues. The hired facilitators asked each member of the department to respond to various personal questions about race and racial identity. When it was my turn to respond, I said “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.” I was the only person in the room to abstain.
Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of “white fragility.” They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a “power play.” In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.
I filed an internal complaint about the hostile environment, but throughout that process, over the course of almost six months, I felt like my complaint was taken less seriously because of my race. I was told that the civil rights law protections were not created to help people like me. And after I filed my complaint, I started to experience retaliatory behavior, like having important aspects of my job taken away without explanation.
Under the guise of racial progress, Smith College has created a racially hostile environment in which individual acts of discrimination and hostility flourish. In this environment, people’s worth as human beings, and the degree to which they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, is determined by the color of their skin. It is an environment in which dissenting from the new critical race orthodoxy — or even failing to swear fealty to it like some kind of McCarthy-era loyalty oath — is grounds for public humiliation and professional retaliation.
I can no longer continue to work in an environment where I am constantly subjected to additional scrutiny because of my skin color. I can no longer work in an environment where I am told, publicly, that my personal feelings of discomfort under such scrutiny are not legitimate but instead are a manifestation of white supremacy. Perhaps most importantly, I can no longer work in an environment where I am expected to apply similar race-based stereotypes and assumptions to others, and where I am told — when I complain about having to engage in what I believe to be discriminatory practices — that there are “legitimate reasons for asking employees to consider race” in order to achieve the college’s “social justice objectives.”
What passes for “progressive” today at Smith and at so many other institutions is regressive. It taps into humanity’s worst instincts to break down into warring factions, and I fear this is rapidly leading us to a very twisted place. It terrifies me that others don’t seem to see that racial segregation and demonization are wrong and dangerous no matter what its victims look like. Being told that any disagreement or feelings of discomfort somehow upholds “white supremacy” is not just morally wrong. It is psychologically abusive.
Equally troubling are the many others who understand and know full well how damaging this is, but do not speak out due to fear of professional retaliation, social censure, and loss of their livelihood and reputation. I fear that by the time people see it, or those who see it manage to screw up the moral courage to speak out, it will be too late.
I wanted to change things at Smith. I hoped that by bringing an internal complaint, I could somehow get the administration to see that their capitulation to critical race orthodoxy was causing real, measurable harm. When that failed, I hoped that drawing public attention to these problems at Smith would finally awaken the administration to this reality. I have come to conclude, however, that the college is so deeply committed to this toxic ideology that the only way for me to escape the racially hostile climate is to resign. It is completely unacceptable that we are now living in a culture in which one must choose between remaining in a racially hostile, psychologically abusive environment or giving up their income.
As a proud Smith alum, I know what a critical role this institution has played in shaping my life and the lives of so many women for one hundred and fifty years. I want to see this institution be the force for good I know it can be. I will not give up fighting against the dangerous pall of orthodoxy that has descended over Smith and so many of our educational institutions.
This was an extremely difficult decision for me and comes at a deep personal cost. I make $45,000 a year; less than a year’s tuition for a Smith student. I was offered a settlement in exchange for my silence, but I turned it down. My need to tell the truth — and to be the kind of woman Smith taught me to be — makes it impossible for me to accept financial security at the expense of remaining silent about something I know is wrong. My children’s future, and indeed, our collective future as a free nation, depends on people having the courage to stand up to this dangerous and divisive ideology, no matter the cost.
Weiss ends the piece with her own take (below), which is the same as mine, and links to Shaw’s video asking that the anti-white racism she perceived at Smith be stopped.
What is happening is wrong. Any ideology that asks people to judge others based on their skin color is wrong. Any ideology that asks us to reduce ourselves and others to racial stereotypes is wrong. Any ideology that treats dissent as evidence of bigotry is wrong. Any ideology that denies our common humanity is wrong. You should say so. Just like Jodi Shaw has.
If you would like to help support Jodi with her legal fees during this time — and I hope you do — here is her GoFundMe.
“Diversity and Inclusion” initiatives—”D&I”, as they’re called—may be good at the “D”, but they’re lousy at the “I”. Not only was Shaw was not included, but she was in effect booted out, “excluded.” As far as I can see, Smith was not only never supportive of Shaw, but from the outset sought to push her out of the college. They’ve succeeded. But they have not succeeded at muzzling Shaw, and it’s telling that they offered her money if she would shut up about the College when she left. Now why would they do that? Bad publicity, of course?