Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional

Details are scanty here: the entire text is this:

(CNN)A federal judge in Texas said on Friday that the Affordable Care Act’s individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law must also fall.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.
I guess we’ll know more tomorrow, but if you get details, by all means put them in the comments. Next stop: the Supreme Court.

Australian traffic lights signal virtue

This is not something to be outraged about, even if you’re like me and find great distress in the Regressive Left. After all, the people who designed these traffic signals mean well (but don’t they always?): they’re trying to make gay couples seem welcome. I suspect, though, that gay couples don’t face much opprobrium in Australia, and, at any rate, they celebrate gay male couples rather than lesbian couples (stick figures are clearly “men”, as you see below). At any rate, click on the headline below to go to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s report:

From the article:

Eight new lights have been set up in the inner-north suburb of Braddon featuring both male and female same-sex couples.

The lights function like any standard pedestrian crossing signal.

But they have marked an important crossroad in Australia’s history, coinciding with the first anniversary of the same-sex marriage postal survey results.

Here is one of the eight new lights, erected at a total cost of $5,500 (I assume that’s Aussie dollars). Note the cute little heart. (Blind gay people, however, won’t get the advantage of this signal, so it may be ableist.)

Photo: ABC Canberra: Michael Black

But wait! There are more signs to come:

The installation costs amounted to $5,500 with a considerable proportion involving setup costs.

It’s estimated future projects will cost less and feature other diverse silhouettes at significant places around the city centre.

See below (and here)!

More than a year ago, female traffic light signals appeared in Melbourne’s CBD as part of a gender-equality push.

But the same-sex couple lights are believed to be an Australian first, although similar lights have been set up in Europe.

Here’s the female light, clearly indicated by the presence of a skirt:

Photo: ABC News: Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden

Can we expect a hijab-wearing woman next? Or someone with a cane: the universal but invidious sign of “seniors”? Don’t be so sure it won’t happen.  At any rate, when I saw the above I wondered, “How many Aussie women really wear skirts? Wouldn’t a generic stick figure stand for both men and women? And so I did a Google search of Canberra crowds, and turned up this picture:

I think the generic Aussie sign should be wearing shorts (and perhaps carrying a tube of Foster’s).

Andrew Sullivan responds to me and others about his faith

Andrew Sullivan’s latest “The Intelligencer” column in New York Magazine has three subjects: Theresa May, gay jokes (he’s for them), and why atheism, like his Catholicism, is a religion. On December 9, I wrote a critique of Sullivan’s original column about atheism (“America’s new religions“), as well as giving him praise for recognizing the similarity between extreme Leftism and Rightism on one hand and conventional religions on the other.  Others, including Steve Pinker and Ezra Klein, also went after Sullivan for his take on atheism, and he tries to answer all of us.  I won’t speak for the others, but I will recount—and briefly reply to—Sullivan’s response to me. His words are indented; mine are flush left.

He makes two points. Here’s the first:

Jerry Coyne, for his part, argues that there is nothing in our genes to make us religious. I didn’t elaborate this point, but it’s rooted in the link I provided to a book, God Is Watching You, which is a pioneering work in evolutionary biology, and political science. I’d love to know what Jerry might make of its argument.

I didn’t argue that there is nothing in our genes that incline humans toward faith. I was responding to Sullivan’s claim of “genes that make us religious”, which was this:

It is, in fact, impossible not to have a religion if you are a human being. It’s in our genes and has expressed itself in every culture, in every age, including our own secularized husk of a society.

And my response was this:

Note the link in the first sentence, which doesn’t at all show that religion is “in our genes”—whatever that means. We don’t know of any “God genes”, and if by “religion genes” Sullivan means either “we like to look for greater meanings” or even “we have a tendency to accept the delusions of our elders,” well, yes, that’s probably true. But if religion is in our genes, how come so many people don’t express it? Or have those “genes” been selected out of the population of northern Europe?

Yes, of course there are aspects of our personalities and mentation—which are partly evolved and partly socialized, but all involving biology—that may incline us toward religion. One is Pascal Boyer’s notion that we’re evolved to detect agency in nature (it’s supposedly adaptive), and it’s easy to then impute that faculty to a “higher” agency. Or, as Dawkins has suggested, we are evolved to be credulous, because believing what our parents tell us helps us survive and reproduce. Combine these two and you get historically persistent and ubiquitous religiosity.

But that doesn’t mean that there are genes for specifically believing in God. We don’t know of any, nor do we really know of any genes in general that tend to make us religious. All we can do is speculate about why religion took hold, and why it was ubiquitous, which is what Boyer and Dawkins (and Dennett as well) have done. It’s all speculation! I haven’t read God is Watching You, but I’m pretty conversant with the genetics of human behavior, and I’m dubious about whether Dominic Johnson’s book gives strong evidence of genes for religiosity. (And I guess I’ll have to look at that book now, but jeez, how much can a man do?)

At any rate, Sullivan’s claim that religion has expressed itself in every culture, in every age, and so on is hardly evidence for its genetic basis. After all, so has pedophilia, a manifestly maladaptive trait. And the claim that “it’s impossible not to have a religion if you’re a human being” is flatly wrong. I am one such human, and there are many others. Finally, Sullivan doesn’t answer my question about why, if religion is in our genes and ubiquitously expressed, it’s vanishing so rapidly in the West. People can get along fine without religion. And he really needs to admit that neither agnosticism nor atheism (his definitions) are NOT religions. They’re nothing like religions. They are manifestations of skepticism.

And as for that atheism, Sullivan claims that well, it’s still kinda sorta religion:

. . . . He [Professor Ceiling Cat, Emeritus] then says that equating atheists with believers because of the intensity of their belief system is fundamentally wrong: “Most atheists simply reject the notion of God because there is no evidence for one … There is evidence that could surface that would convince many of us — I am one, Carl Sagan was another — that a divine being existed. But we haven’t seen any such evidence.”

I accept that and respect it. But this is surely a better description of what I’d call agnosticism, which in its more profound expressions, is quite similar to the doubting faith of nonfundamentalist Christians (my attempt to explain this religion of doubt is in Chapter 5 of my book, The Conservative Soul). Atheism, in contrast, is the positive denial of any God or “godness.” We can debate these definitions ad infinitum, but my diagnosis is directed more at the new Hitchens-Dawkins-Harris atheism than more agnostic varieties, prompted by John Gray’s little masterpiece, which treats these questions at the length and depth they deserve.

This is an argument about semantics, and hardly worth debating. I’ve said repeatedly, as has Dawkins and anyone with a scientific bent, that we can’t be absolutely certain that there’s no God, but the evidence isn’t there at all, so we can be nearly certain: close to 7 on Dawkins’s 7-point scale running from fervent belief to absolute certainty. But I am an atheist, and so is Dawkins, and if you don’t believe because there is no evidence, well, that’s not materially different from being absolutely certain there’s no God because there is no evidence. Those who profess atheistic “certainty” could probably be convinced of gods if there were evidence for Gods. Such folks seem to Sullivan like absolutists because they’re not scientists, and so don’t they don’t think of empirical truth as provisional.  Sullivan’s definition of atheism as “positive denial of any God” isn’t that far from the a-Nessie stand of “positive denial of the Loch Ness monster”—which of course is Sullivan’s own stand (if he’s rational). The gap between 6.9 and 7.0 isn’t so large!

As for John Gray’s “little masterpiece,” I’m not inclined to read it. After having a several-year bout with the likes of Plantinga, David Bentley Hart, Karen Armstrong, and others, I don’t want to go another round with an atheist-dissing atheist who’s also an anti-progressivist.

Finally, what about Sullivan’s claim that my “agnostic” near certainty of no God is “quite similar to the “doubting faith of nonfundamentalist Christians”? Sadly, he’s wrong here, for there’s a huge difference. While liberal Christianity may involve doubt, atheism—or Sullivan’s characterization of “agnosticism”—does not involve faith. Why is a doubt based on lack of evidence anything like accepting a divine and resurrected Jesus or a theistic god?

I’m hoping that, as Sullivan moves toward the center of the political spectrum, he comes to realize that the Vatican is one of the world’s great promulgators of “fake news.” And it’s sad for me to see a man I respect, a man whose mind can be changed about politics, remain so adamant about Jesus and Catholicism.

See you next Friday.*

*Only kidding! I’ll be here all week, folks!


A new FIRE survey on freedom of speech in American colleges: mostly good news

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a new report on speech codes on American campuses, highlighting the changes over the last few years (click on screenshot below to see it). The arc of free speech is bending in the right direction!

In this year’s survey, FIRE looked at the speech policies of 362 four-year public colleges and universities as well as 104 of “the nation’s most prestigious private institutions.” Private schools, not considered part of government, aren’t obliged to adhere to the First Amendment, but they should, particularly if the school (as many of them do) mentions in its materials that it has a pro-free-speech policy.

FIRE rated all schools using its usual system, giving them “light” or a warning indicator.

Red light: A school has “at least one policy both clearly and substantially restricting freedom of speech” OR requires a login and password to access its speech policies. Their red-light schools include Evergreen State (of course), but also Harvard University, Barnard College, Princeton University, The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the University of Texas at Austin. As you see below, the percentage of all schools having a red-light rating is 28.5%, but, as expected, the percentage is higher among private universities: 47.1%. If you want to find a school’s rating, search at this site. Harvard, for instance, gets a red for its policy on racial harassment (FIRE explains in the last part of the report how certain—but not all—harassment policies violate the courts’ construal of the First Amendment).



Update: A lawsuit has been filed against the University of Texas at Austin. The filing itself is at the link, and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper gives details, including these:

The lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday by Speech First, a national student group that advocates for free speech, names UT President Gregory Fenves and UT System Chancellor James Milliken, among others.

It alleges that UT has “crafted a series of speech codes with numerous vague and overbroad prohibitions on student speech,” including banning verbal harassment that that includes offensive speech, prohibiting rude and uncivil communication via email and on the internet and prohibiting harassment at its University residence halls without clearly defining what constitutes a violation.

The lawsuit also says that the university’s Campus Climate Response Team, which is charged with investigating “bias incidents,” including anything that discriminates against certain racial, religious and political groups, poses a risk to the “unfettered discourse that should be central to higher education.”

Public colleges will increasingly be facing these kinds of lawsuits until they get their houses in order.



Yellow light. These are schools which have policies “that could be interpreted to suppress speech” or policies that “restrict relatively narrow categories of speech”, like those banning “verbal abuse”, which might or might not violate the First Amendment. In other words, there is sufficient ambiguity in the school’s written policies that they could be used to violate a student’s Constitutional rights. 61.2% of all colleges got a yellow-light rating, making a total of nearly 90% of colleges that have some unacceptable restrictions on speech. Yellow-light schools include Yale University and nearly every branch of the University of California (UCLA is an exception, getting a green light this year). Looking up Yale, for instance, I find that its yellow light comes from several policies, including its inclusion of “unwelcome sexual advances” as part of sexual harassment. FIRE thinks sexual harassment becomes unconstitutional when it is persistent and sufficiently disturbing to impede a student’s educational experience—which I believe is the way the courts construe sexual harassment. For example, propositioning someone a single time, even if it’s unwelcome, should not be construed as harassment.

Green light. These are the “good schools,” the ones that don’t have policies that pose a substantial threat to campus expression. Only 9% of all campuses get this rating, but one is the University of Chicago. Another is my undergraduate alma mater, The College of William and Mary.

Warning (“blue light”). These are schools that, while they profess a commitment to free speech, also “clearly and consistently state that [they hold] a certain set of values above a commitment to free speech.” There are six of these schools: Baylor University, Brigham Young University, Pepperdine University, Saint Louis University, Vassar College, and Yeshiva University. Three of these are explicitly religious schools, and I can guess what values they prioritize above free speech. Looking up Vassar, it seems that it gets this rating for its policy on harassment, hate speech, and “bias response.”

All in all, the news compared to previous years is good. Here’s FIRE’s summary of the results:

1.) The percentage of schools earning an overall “red light”rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database has gone down for the eleventh year in a row, this year to 28.5 percent. This is a nearly four percentage point drop from last year, and is over 45 percentage points lower than the percentage of red light institutions in FIRE’s 2009 report.

2.) The percentage of private universities earning a red light rating went below 50 percent for the first time ever this year, coming in at 47.1 percent.

3.) 61.2 percent of institutions now earn an overall “yellow light” rating. Though less restrictive than red light policies, yellow light policies restrict expression that is protected under First Amendment standards, and invite administrative abuse.

4.) 42 institutions earn FIRE’s overall “green light” rating, up from 35 schools from last year’s report. (Since this year’s report was written, three more universities have earned green light status, bringing the total to 45.) Policies earn a green light rating when they do not seriously threaten protected expression. Only eight institutions earned a green light rating in FIRE’s 2009 report.

5.) Approximately ten percent of institutions surveyed maintain “free speech zone” policies, which limit student demonstrations and other expressive activities to small and/or out-of-the-way areas on campus.

6.) More than 50 university administrations or faculty bodies have now adopted policy statements in support of free speech modeled after the“Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (the “Chicago Statement”), released in January 2015. There were 17 such adoptions in the year 2018 alone (since this year’s report was written, three additional schools joined the list).

You can give credit to the faculty and administration for these improvements, I think, as only rarely do I see students themselves pushing for a free-speech policy that would satisfy FIRE and the Chicago Principles (see below). Certainly even my own University of Chicago’s policy, a model for 50 other colleges, was put in place by a faculty committee, while the students seem to rarely argue in favor of free speech. Further, our student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, cravenly refuses to say anything about free speech. They are too scared of alienating their fellow Authoritarian Leftist students. And they’re a newspaper!

The “discussion” section of the FIRE report is well worth reading, as it has a nice analysis of how college speech codes can comport or conflict with the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment—something that college students should read, too. There are sections about incitement, harassment, bullying policies, obscenity, charging student organizations more for “security fees” when they invite speakers who might prompt demonstrations (those extra charges are probably illegal at public universities), bias and hate speech policies, prior restraint (e.g., requiring students to register well in advance if they want to demonstrate), and the odious “free speech zone” policies, in which colleges restrict demonstrations to a small (and usually remote) part of campus.

Finally, FIRE gives the welcome news that an increasing number of colleges have adopted the “Chicago Policy,” the University of Chicago’s free-speech guidelines created in 2012. Fifty-three schools have now adopted these policies or ones very similar; you can find the list here.

The lesson: not only should more schools look at their policies to see if they adhere to Constitutional provisions and interpretations, but if they make new policies, those policies should be made by faculty rather than the students. That doesn’t guarantee free speech, of course, for a faculty like that at Evergreen State would never endorse the First Amendment, but, unlike days of yore, college faculty are now far more willing to endorse free speech than today’s generation of students.

Readers’ wildlife photographs

Time to think about sending me photos again; seven dollops a week really lowers the tank.  And if you’re reader Peter Ayling, please contact me, as I seem to have no copies of the photos you sent.

Today we have some lovely photos from reader Terry Milewski, who has appeared on this site before (see link below, which contains this video).

Retired Canadian journalist here – the one you blogged about a couple years back being snotty with a cabinet minister about Islamophobia. It seems you’re low on wildlife so, if it helps, help yourself to any of mine from our cottage on Lac Barnes in the woods of Val-des-Monts, Quebec.

They’re here and most are captioned with the right names, I think. Too many to e-mail but download at will if any take your fancy. You seem to be, um, OK for ducks but you’ll see a lot of loons, e.g….

(JAC: I’ve made a selection of photos from Terry’s Lac Barnes Wildlife site.)

…although L. Barnes is small and only supports one pair of loons at a time. Any second pair trying to settle in is driven off. See, we don’t take kindly to no strangers in these parts. Even so, only twice in the past seven years have any young loons survived to have their pictures taken.

You’ll see we also have herons, mergansers, sundry other ducks, hummingbirds, snakes and turtles of at least two flavours – Snapping (Chelydra serpentina) and Painted (Chrysemys picta.) Each laid eggs near the water this year. Plus, we have a variety of frogs, some burly beavers and a profusion of interesting insects.


Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, and the good news is that it’s not Friday the 13th, which we we narrowly missed. It’s Friday, December 14, 2018, with 11 days to go until Coynezaa. It’s National Bouillabaisse Day, but I trust you won’t be eating that stuff as it’s pure cultural appropriation. And it’s World Monkey Day, so celebrate these primate relatives. I have below:

Monkey 1&2:

Monkey 3&4:

On December 14, 1542, after the death of her father James V of Scotland, Princess Mary Stuart became Mary, Queen of Scots at the age of only one week. She reigned until 1567 and then was executed at age 44.

It was on this day in 1900 that quantum mechanics could be said to have begun: Max Planck presented the derivation of his law of black body radiation, to wit:

The central assumption behind his new derivation, presented to the DPG [Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft] on 14 December 1900, was the supposition, now known as the Planck postulate, that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form, in other words, the energy could only be a multiple of an elementary unit:

where h is Planck’s constant, also known as Planck’s action quantum (introduced already in 1899), and ν is the frequency of the radiation.

On December 14, 1903, the Wright Brothers made their first attempt to fly the Wright Flyer airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The plane was in the air for 3 seconds but then stalled. The first successful flight, which lasted 12 seconds at about 7 miles per hour, took place three days later, and is regarded as the first powered flight by an airplane. (There were two more short flights that day.) And someone was there to take a picture of the first one!

(From Wikipedia): First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip.

On this day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and four of his men, as well as 16 dogs, became the first humans and canids to reach the South Pole. Here’s a photo of four of the humans (someone had to take the picture) looking at the Norwegian flag planted at the Pole. A month later, Scott and his men made it there, but they found that they were too late, and died of cold on the way back.

On this day in 1940, Plutonium (Pu-238) was isolated at Berkeley, California. 18 years later, a Soviet Antarctic Expedition became the first to reach the southern pole of inaccessibility. (That’s the place in Antarctica most distant from the edge of the continent.)  On December 14, 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, that the Commerce clause of the U.S. constitution could be used to enforce desegregation.

Exactly 8 years later, Eugene Cernan, during the Apollo 17 mission, became the last person to walk on the Moon. It’s amazing that we haven’t been back in 46 years! Finally, it was on this day in 2012 that the Sandy Hook (Connecticut) Elementary school shooting took place; 28 people died, including the shooter Adam Lanza (that figure includes his mother, whom he shot before he went to the school).

Notables born on this day include Tycho Brahe (1546), Edward Lawrie Tatum (1909; Nobel Laureate and one of the three profs who interviewed me when I applied to grad school at Rockefeller University), Spike Jones (1911), Raj Kapoor (1924) and Jane Birkin (1946).

Those who bought the farm on December 14 include George Washington (1799), Louis Agassiz (1873), John Harvey Kellogg (1852; yes, the cornflakes inventor), Lupe Vélez (1944), Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1953; please read The Yearling), Dinah Washington (1963), Walter Lippmann (1974), Roger Maris (1985), Andrei Sakharov (1989; Nobel Laureate), Myrna Loy (1993), Ahmet Ertegün (2006), Peter O’Toole (2013), and Bess Myerson (2014; the only Jewish woman to ever become Miss America). The New York Times quoted Susan Dworkin in the paper’s obituary, “In the Jewish community, she was the most famous pretty girl since Queen Esther”. That obituary also says this:

Ms. Myerson won the bathing suit preliminary contest wearing a white number stretched by her sister to fit her frame. She also won the talent event, playing Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the flute and excerpts from Grieg’s Concerto on the piano.

As the crown was set on her head, the announcer shouted, “Beauty with brains, that’s Miss America of 1945!”

Ms. Grant said: “When my mother walked down the runway, the Jews in the audience broke into a cheer. My mother looked out at them and saw them hug each other, and said to herself, ‘This victory is theirs.’ ”

But their pride was soon tempered by her encounters with anti-Semitism. Few sponsors, it turned out, wanted a Jewish Miss America to endorse their products. Certain country clubs and hotels barred her as she toured the country after the pageant. Appearances were canceled.

“I felt so rejected,” Ms. Myerson once said. “Here I was, chosen to represent American womanhood, and then America treated me like this.”

Cutting the tour short, she returned to New York, where she agreed to embark on a six-month lecture tour for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, speaking out against prejudice with a speech titled “You Can’t Be Beautiful and Hate.”

I suppose today those people would say they were “anti-Zionists”!

Here’s a one-minute clip showing Myerson’s crowning. Sadly, she fell on hard times, and in later life wound up being tried for federal crimes (she was acquitted), subject to domestic abuse, and pleading guilty to shoplifting.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is messing with Andrzej

Hili: Did you count these stones?
A: Of course not.
Hili: And you said that you are interested in hard facts.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy policzyłeś te kamienie?
Ja: Oczywiście, że nie.
Hili: A mówiłeś, że interesują cię tylko twarde fakty.

A tweet from Steve Stewart-Williams; very clever!

Tweets from Grania: The first is from comedian (and former President of the British Humanists, now Humanists UK) Shappi Khorsandi. She was almost scammed but made a nice cup of tea.

I heard this Virgin Galactic flight was successful: it went up 50-odd miles, to “the edge of space”, and landed successfully. The view was okay, but it wasn’t like you could see the whole Earth, or even much of its curvature. Now if you want to pay $250,000 for that experience, fine, but I wouldn’t give up that kind of dosh unless I was going to the ISS:

What is that cat doing in the ad?

This is the best thing I’ve seen all day:

Tweets from Matthew. The thread below is hilarious as the Brits respond to the NYT’s request as only they can:

The Guardian summed it up (click on screenshot):

A few more responses from Brits:

And to close, some street art:

More on the bogus distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

The more I think about it, the more I see most “anti-Zionists” as anti-Semites, though they fervently assert that they are not Jew-haters. The fact that they hold Israel to standards that apply to no other countries—indeed, that they don’t even mention with respect to other countries—combined with their adherence to BDS’s “one-state” goal, which will eliminate Israel as the state established by the UN, bespeaks to me something more than just political dissent from the policies of the Israeli government.

To me, the touchstone of whether someone is anti-Semitic with respect to “the problem” can be summed up with one question: “Do you favor a two-state solution, or one state with the ‘right of return’?” I go for the two-state solution, though it looks increasingly untenable for two reasons: neither side now seems to want it nor is moving towards it (though Palestinians historically rejected an Israeli offer of this at least five times), and because the Palestinians largely favor the destruction of Israel, with many also wanting the extirpation of its Jewish citizens.

Yes, Bret Stephens is a conservative (and also a never-Trumper), but I prefer to judge opinions without respect to their source. And this piece from today’s New York Times makes a lot of sense to me, though the Israel-haters will denigrate it.

You may be aware that Hezbollah has been digging tunnels under the Israel/Lebanon border, with the clear aim of invading Israel and killing its inhabitants. Israel is engaged in destroying those tunnels, though a stupidly outraged Lebanon says that they can’t destroy them by going underneath the border into Lebanon. The Palestinians in Gaza, of course, are constantly digging such tunnels as well, often using child labor. Does the Left decry this clear intention to invade Israel and kill its civilians? No, of course not.

And the tunnels are the starting point for Stephens’s column.

While I see a clear distinction between critics of the Israelis government (hell, many of them are Israelis) and anti-Semites, I don’t see such a distinction between “anti-Zionists” and anti-Semites. In fact, I think “anti-Zionist” has become a euphemism for anti-Semite, a name that it’s respectable to bear even though it has darker meanings. Stephens explains why (my emphasis):

All this is to say that Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way than, say, readers of The New York Review of Books [JAC: See this absurd article from the Jew-hating NYRB]: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. It’s somewhat like the difference between discussing the effects of Marxism-Leninism in an undergraduate seminar at Reed College, circa 2018 — and experiencing them at closer range in West Berlin, circa 1961.

Actually, it’s worse than that, since the Soviets merely wanted to dominate or conquer their enemies and seize their property, not wipe them off the map and end their lives. Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state — details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it.

Note the distinction: Anti-Zionists are not advocating the reform of a state, as Japan was reformed after 1945. Nor are they calling for the adjustment of a state’s borders, as Canada’s border with the United States was periodically adjusted in the 19th century. They’re not talking about the birth of a separate state, either, as South Sudan was born out of Sudan in 2011. And they’re certainly not championing the partition of a multiethnic state into ethnically homogenous components, as Yugoslavia was partitioned after 1991.

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell. [JAC: I refuse to believe that Hill was ignorant of the meaning of his words.]

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: To be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

As an addendum: have a look at this totally misleading tweet by the Guardian:

Note the implicit moral equating of dead Palestinians and Israelis in the headline. But the reality is very different (quotes from the Guardian):

The killed Israelis:

A Palestinian has shot dead two Israelis and wounded at least two others at a bus stop in the West Bank, after Israeli forces killed two Palestinians suspected of involvement in earlier attacks.

“A Palestinian opened fire at a bus stop killing 2 Israelis, severely injuring 1 & injuring others at Asaf Junction, north of Jerusalem,” the Israeli military said on Twitter on Thursday. An army spokesperson was unable to confirm reports that the assailant had targeted Israeli soldiers.

The killed Palestinians: both were suspects in terrorist murders whom the IDF was trying to arrest; the Palestinians were both killed after they opened fire on the arresting officers.

Those killings by Israeli forces followed recent attacks that claimed the lives of three Israelis; after one of these attacks, a baby also died in hospital three days later: the infant had been delivered prematurely by caesarean section to a woman wounded in the shooting.

One of the Palestinians was Salah Barghouti, a 29-year-old accused of shooting at Israelis on Sunday at a bus stop near the Ofra settlement. That attack wounded seven people including a woman who was seven months pregnant. [JAC: Note that they don’t mention that he opened fire on those trying to arrest him.]

Doctors performed an emergency caesarean in an attempt to save the unborn child, but he died on Wednesday. His mother remains in hospital in a serious condition.

The other Palestinian killed by Israeli forces overnight had been suspected of shooting two Israelis dead two months ago. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, was killed when forces tried to arrest him near Nablus, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

You can read more about this phony moral equivalence here. Here’s Hamas gloating about the wounding of the pregnant woman and the death of her fetus. If you’re supporting the Palestinians, this is the kind of thing you must swallow. And remember, the concept of martyrdom is not a one-off among Palestinians: it’s the warp and weft that binds their attitude towards Israel. If you think a “one state” solution is viable in view of this pervasive attitude, you’re, well, I won’t use bad language.

Canada repeals its blasphemy law

Thanks to several humanist groups, the Canadian blasphemy law, which hasn’t been much used, has just been repealed. As reported by Humanists UK, the bill passed the Canadian Parliament two days ago and now “awaits royal assent”. (Those ties to the UK still irk me. Why the hell does the Queen have to certify this?)


The repeal followed an e-petition by humanist groups across Canada which called for an end to Section 296. The petition gained 7,400 signatures.In response, the Canadian Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, confirmed that repeal of the blasphemy law was being considered as part of a wider package of justice reform, and in 2017 the Government introduced the Bill to repeal the law.

. . . Canada will be the latest country to repeal its blasphemy laws, following France, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. Ireland is also set to repeal its law following a referendum on the matter in October. Legislation is also being advanced to repeal blasphemy laws in Spain and New Zealand.

Who says that humanist groups can’t accomplish anything?

Now this law hasn’t been much used, like most blasphemy laws in Western countries; but it’s offensive and potentially dangerous to have offense criminalized, even if only on the books. Here’s Canada’s law that was just repealed (click on screenshot to see it on the site:

Note, though, that this is just “blasphemous libel,” which Wikipedia characterizes for Canada as “the publication of material which exposes the Christian religion to scurrility, vilification, ridicule, and contempt, and the material must have the tendency to shock and outrage the feelings of Christians.” I’m not sure if you can still blaspheme other faiths!

And note that Canada retains numerous hate speech laws, with many of the provinces having one or another version of laws that criminalize publication of material promulgating hatred involving the usual factors. Here, for example, is the one from Manitoba:

Manitoba’s The Human Rights Code allows an adjudicator to order inter alia that a respondent pay damages for injury to dignity, feelings or self-respect in an amount that the adjudicator considers “just and appropriate”, and to pay a penalty or exemplary damages (up to $2000 in the case of an individual respondent; up to $10,000 in any other case) if malice or recklessness is involved. Manitoba’s Code is unique in having an “analogous grounds” provision. Complaints can be based not only on the listed grounds (such as sex, age, national origin, etc.), but also on grounds analogous to the listed ones. For example, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission currently accepts complaints based on gender identity.

These aren’t the same thing as blasphemous libel, so the humanists and free-speech advocates still have a lot of work to do.


h/t: Grania

Titiania McGrath suspended from Twitter, then returns in glory and defiance

You may be aware of Titania McGrath, apparently the reincarnation of Godfrey Elfwick. Both Titania and Godfrey trolled the Authoritarian Left by pretending to be social justice warriors and mocking the extremes of that ideology. In fact, both Titania and Godfrey were so convincing that their tweets were taken seriously by some SJWs, and non-SJW liberals like Sam Harris.

As we know, there’s no distance between reality and satire when you’re dealing with the Authoritarian Left. When they start calling out General Tso’s Chicken (not even a real Chinese dish) for being inappropriately cooked and a case of cultural appropriation, then you know you’ve entered the twilight zone. And so there was a gaping niche that Godfrey and then Titania sought to fill.

After “Godfrey” published a spoof piece in 2016 that fooled the Guardian, and then spewed a bunch of tweets that were considered offensive (as I said, there’s no humor on the Regressive Left), he was finally banned by Twitter last year.

After a period of quiescence, however, an Elfwick clone appeared in the form of the magnificent Titania McGrath (see his/her/their/zir/its Twitter feed).  Here are a few of Titania’s recent tweets:

Titania was notable for his/her/their/zir/its poetry, and produced some magnificent specimens of lyrical and appropriately angry Social Justice Poems. Here’s one:But then Titania was also banned from Twitter. It didn’t last long:

And her reappearance on Twitter was celebrated in the Spectator by none other than. . . Godfrey Elfwick! (Click on screenshot). Clearly, the Spectator is in on the joke.

Now Claire Lehmann, who’s also in on the joke, has enlisted Titania to recount her Twitter Troubles on Quillette. It’s pure McGrath, as you can tell from the title (click on screenshot):

If you’re not familiar with hir, here’s how it begins:

My name is Titania McGrath. I am a radical intersectionalist poet committed to feminism, social justice, and armed peaceful protest. In April of this year, I decided to become more industrious on social media. I was inspired by other activists who had made use of their online platforms in order to spread their message and explain to people why they are wrong about everything.

This week the powers-that-be at Twitter hit my account with a “permanent suspension” (a semantic contradiction, but then I suppose bigots aren’t known for their grammatical prowess). This was the latest in a series of suspensions, all of which were imposed because I had been too woke. The final straw appeared to be a tweet in which I informed my followers that I would be attending a pro-Brexit march so that I could punch a few UKIP supporters in the name of tolerance.

. . . and the ending:

Unfortunately, those who fight for the progressive cause are continually bombarded by alt-right trolls who like to engage in a form of harassment known as “debate.” Only a few days before my suspension, a misogynist referred to me as “shrill and humourless.”  As I was quick to point out, humour is a patriarchal construct. This is why it has been so gratifying to see the success of our current wave of feminist comedians, those brave women who are subverting the genre by ensuring that it doesn’t make anyone laugh.

Do not pity me. As a woman in a heteronormative patriarchal world I am accustomed to males like Jack Dorsey attempting to keep me silent. In my absence from Twitter, I took the opportunity to spend some time at a resort in Val d’Isère, where I could relax and contemplate my oppression. I even managed to write a book which I have entitled Woke: A Guide to Social Justice. I did want to call it My Struggle, but that title was already taken apparently.

I am a healer, a weaver of dreams. I have been put on this earth to defend minorities and fight for social justice. My work is not about ego. It is so much bigger than me. So please make sure you spread the word about my new book so that as many copies as possible can be sold.

Titania is a breath of fresh air in the toxic atmosphere produced by entitled Leftists.  And now, it seems (and only seems, as this may be another joke), that Ms./Mr./Womnyx McGrath has a book in the offing. He/she/zir/its announces it below, and it’s even listed on Amazon UK, scheduled for release in early March of next year (details, of course, are very scanty). Is it for real? Who knows? But it should be required summer reading for all students who are about to start college.

Readers’ wildlife

Reader Tom Carrolan found snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus)! Some of his pictures of eagles will appear next week.

Up in Northern NY surveying Rough-legged Hawks, but…

[JAC: The first one’s either a female or a youngster, as they are flecked with brown, but males are nearly pure white, and you see one in the second photo]

Tom sent this one a few days ago with the caption “Happy Owlidays”:

Reader Peter Jones sent some black swan photos from Australia:

I am not sure if the black swans in Oz (Cygnus atratususe “counter-current heat exchange” in their feet. But, recently I was over in Victoria and at one of its small port towns, Williamstown, on Port Phillip Bay (almost 35 times the size of the more famous Sydney Harbour). A bit of history, the Confederate raider ship, CSS Shenandoah, docked in Williamstown for repairs on January 25, 1865.
The water is pretty cold and I saw these swans standing, sort of asleep, at the water’s edge. I called over to one to ask if they were indeed benefitting from “counter-current heat exchange”. As you can see, in the second image, it indicated they had evolved an even better idea. They were standing on only one leg and automagically reduced heat loss by 50%! [JAC: I can’t see the legs]