Nov 102012

By Juan Cole (Informed Comment) Progressives will have to push Obama to the left if we are to get what we want. As for positive accomplishments, here are a few we should pressure him and Congress on:

5. He needs to have the Department of Justice look into the Koch Brother-backed legislation in two dozen states restricting the franchise by requiring a paid-for state i.d., which is a kind of poll tax. In many states, this legislation violates the 1965 Voting Rights act. We can’t let a couple of sour billionaires undo the achievements of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., achievements for which he gave his life.

6. That use of the Department of Justice would perhaps make its workers and its head, Eric Holder, too busy to go around kicking down the doors of medical marijuana clinics and confiscating their computers, records and cash, in states where the state has legalized marijuana. Obama was elected the first time by the youth, and had promised to cease Federal harassment of pot clinics, but reneged and proved much worse than Bush on this issue.

Holder should stop denying the clear medical uses and benefits of pot. In Colorado and Washington states, the same people who voted for him have legalized recreational marijuana. Moreover, the RAND Corp. concludes that legalization would defund the Mexican cartels. If the the Democratic Party continues on this Draconian path, it should not be surprised when it begins losing elections because a substantial younger constituency deserts it for the Green Party.

via Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion.

 November 10, 2012  Posted by at 6:34 am Comments Off
Nov 042012

By Dan Nosowitz (PopSci) But for days, the internet’s most authoritative article on a major tropical storm system in 2012 was written by a man with no meteorological training who thinks climate change is unproven and fought to remove any mention of it.

via Meet The Climate Change Denier Who Became The Voice Of Hurricane Sandy On Wikipedia | Popular Science.

 November 4, 2012  Posted by at 10:55 am Comments Off
Oct 252012

By Rebecca Watson (Slate) In June of 2011, I was on a panel at an atheist conference in Dublin. The topic was “Communicating Atheism,” and I was excited to join Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists in the world, with several documentaries and bestselling books to his name. Dawkins used his time to criticize Phil Plait, an astronomer who the year prior had given a talk in which he argued for skeptics to be kinder. I used my time to talk about what it’s like for me to communicate atheism online, and how being a woman might affect the response I receive, as in rape threats and other sexual comments.

The audience was receptive, and afterward I spent many hours in the hotel bar discussing issues of gender, objectification, and misogyny with other thoughtful atheists. At around 4 a.m., I excused myself, announcing that I was exhausted and heading to bed in preparation for another day of talks.

As I got to the elevator, a man who I had not yet spoken with directly broke away from the group and joined me. As the doors closed, he said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come back to my hotel room for coffee?” I politely declined and got off the elevator when it hit my floor.

A few days later, I was making a video about the trip and I decided to use that as an example of how not to behave at conferences if you want to make women feel safe and comfortable. After all, it seemed rather obvious to me that if your goal is to get sex or even just companionship, the very worst way to go about attaining that goal is to attend a conference, listen to a woman speak for 12 hours about how uncomfortable she is being sexualized at conferences, wait for her to express a desire to go to sleep, follow her into an isolated space, and then suggest she go back to your hotel room for “coffee,” which, by the way, is available at the hotel bar you just left.

What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.

Even Dawkins weighed in. He hadn’t said anything while sitting next to me in Dublin as I described the treatment I got, but a month later he left this sarcastic comment on a friend’s blog:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.

Twitter accounts were made in my name and used to tweet horrible things to celebrities and my friends. (The worst accounts were deleted by Twitter, but some, such as this one, are allowed to remain so long as they remove my name.) Entire blogs were created about me, obsessively cataloging everything I’ve ever said and (quite pathetically) attempting to dig up dirt in my past. The best they seemed to come up with was that I obtained a bachelor of science in communication from Boston University. The horror! I actually made a joke about this in one of the first talks I ever gave, many years ago: “Don’t take my word for it—I’m not a scientist. I have a BS in communication. I literally majored in talking bullshit.”

Nevertheless, my shameful past as a college graduate was “exposed” and passed around on social media and forums and blogs, as triumphant skeptics demanded I stop writing and speaking about science since I lacked the proper credentials. (Interestingly, no one has ever petitioned for my three non-scientist podcast cohosts to be removed from the show. Probably just a coincidence.)

Just a week after Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” comment, I was scheduled to speak at The Amazing Meeting (TAM), a skeptics’ conference in Las Vegas that in years past I had fund-raised thousands of dollars to send dozens of women to. In the weeks leading up to TAM, a man tweeted that he was attending and that if he ran into me in an elevator, he’d assault me.

via Sexism in the skeptic community: I spoke out, then came the rape threats. – Slate Magazine.

 October 25, 2012  Posted by at 5:11 am Comments Off
Dec 012011

By Karen E. Klein (Bloomberg) From selling typewriters in his native Ontario, Canada, in the 1970s to wrestling with Microsoft (MSFT) in the 1990s as the co-founder and chief executive of open-source software company Red Hat (RHT), Bob Young has been a fiercely competitive serial entrepreneur. His latest venture is 9-year-old, a website that revolutionized self- publishing by automating the process of creating, printing, and selling books. Young says Lulu had $35.9 million in revenue last year and is approaching $40 million in 2011. Now he’s preparing the 130-employee, Raleigh (N.C.) company for a challenge of its own: Online bookseller Amazon’s (AMZN) recent entry into the publishing arena.
Q: The publishing industry is on something of a roller-coaster ride right now.

A: We are in the midst of a remarkable few years. It’s a phenomenon we all saw coming, but you never know if a transition is going to be a gradual progression over 10 years or it’s going to happen with a sudden spike.

Q: Are we experiencing a spike?

A: There’s a new generation of electronic devices that’s exploded in the past few years — the Nooks, the Kindles, the iPads — that are enabling casual reading to move online. Going back to LexisNexis in the 1970s, people have been delivering content electronically without ever putting it on paper. But now, it’s the romance stories and the books you traditionally read on holiday that are available. Now, instead of buying mom a book for Christmas, you’re buying her an iPad.

Q: What does that mean for the future of physical books and the viability of the print-on-demand business?

A: We operate equally well across all devices at Lulu. And we still ship physical books; it’s still a growing business for us. For instance, we sell books to people who worry that what they put on their computer isn’t going to be readable in 20 years.

Paper is a great storage mechanism for knowledge; it’s the one we’re most comfortable with. One of the benefits of the Kindle is that you can read it in bright sunlight. Well, a book you can read in any kind of light. It’s hard to beat paper, pencil, and an eraser when you’re interacting with a document or you’re taking in knowledge that a teacher is trying to convey.

Q: Does that mean you have hope for the endangered corner bookstore?

A: I sure as hell hope there’s a future for the neighborhood bookstore. If I have half an hour to kill and I have a choice of a coffee shop, a clothing store, or a bookstore, I’ll be hanging out in the bookstore.

The way I see it playing out over the next 10 to 20 years is, the total value of the publishing industry is actually going to go up. If publishing in North America is a $100 billion annual business, I think it’s going to be $150 billion. But $100 billion of that will be electronic. That means the paper version is going to go from $100 billion to $50 billion, and half of all the jobs in the paper publishing business are going to go away.

via Red Hat Co-Founder’s Latest Venture Prepares to Battle Amazon – Bloomberg.

 December 1, 2011  Posted by at 7:14 pm Comments Off
Dec 062009

Standing in line at the bank I watched battle-weary congresspeople on TV argue for what’s right and decent for an American national health care system. And the opposition argued point for point with ludicrous accusations that amounted to protecting their own interests.

That this debate even exists is ridiculous. A government for the people?

I wonder if in a decade I’ll be able to buy my own congressperson. That’s probably the only way I’ll ensure my community’s voices are heard.

 December 6, 2009  Posted by at 7:02 am Comments Off