Let me declare my biases up front. I voted for Elizabeth Warren yesterday in Minnesota. She was my first choice among the huge field of Democratic contenders. Like hers, my main priority is seeing as many of her plans as possible enacted. My next four choices dropped out before I got to vote. If I have to choose between Sanders and Biden (I don’t), my choice is Sanders, but the margin is very narrow, based mostly on candidate negatives on both sides, and easily shifted by things like VP choice.
I also spent nearly a decade doing actuarial (pension) math for a living. I’m not a trained actuary, but I have a lot of experience in determining probable outcomes in situations with a lot of variables. More importantly for this post, I’ve spent an awful lot of time identifying and making explicit the assumptions that go into these calculations.
Yes, I’m writing this (or compiling it from various places I’ve talked about the question over the last few days) because of the pressure for Warren to drop out of the race. At best, it’s based on assumptions about what would happen to her votes that don’t match the best information we have. At worst, it’s counter-productive to seeing progressive issues move forward.
Let’s start with the assumptions being made about what will happen if Warren drops out. The two big assumptions are:
People who are prepared to vote for Warren will switch predominantly to Sanders.
Those votes will roll up to enough of a gain in Sanders delegates to prevent a brokered convention.
There’s also a third assumption I’m seeing in my social media that Warren really wants delegates so she can throw them to Biden specifically to prevent Sanders from becoming the nominee. I’ll talk about what can happen at the convention later, but I’m not going to address this assumption directly because:
It’s coming from a small minority even of Sanders supporters.
Those are the same people who think snake emojis are solid politics.
Their reaction to this post will be the same no matter what I say.
Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely hilarious. I was really just looking for a lighter movie than our last several, something we could mock with affection instead of out of self-defense. Then I came across The Werewolf of Washington. Shot and released during the Watergate scandal, it stars Dean Stockwell as a very sincere member of the White House press who just happens to have lycanthropy.
So that’s what we’re doing Tuesday. You’re welcome to join us.
For whatever reason David Silverman decided he needed my attention on Valentine’s Day.
Let's ask 3rd wave feminists thinks about @realamberheard and her taped admission of spousal abuse. Should we shun her forever starting now, or does amber get due process? They pushed against Depp, but now there are recordings. Tag your wokists @szvan how about some dialog?
Is this it @szvan@hemantsblog? Do wokists protect admitted abusers like @realamberheard because revenge for other men? Is that bigotry? Is this social justice or vengeance? Let's discuss with civility (like the old days)
You said I could stop. But before I do, one more question:
Would you support a "more will be named" public list of women who make false allegations against men, thereby hurting feminism, metoo, and real victims of sexual assault? We need to protect society from bad actors, no?
I eventually figured out he thought I should have something to say about this because of the Reason Rally.
Hey @hemantsblog maybe write about the kneejerk expulsion of Johnny Depp from reason rally 2 when @realamberheard made that false allegation now that the recordings of her abuse are out? The atheist movement lost a huge innocent ally that day. Our wokism hurt us huh? Maybe?
I had nothing to do with the 2016 Reason Rally besides deciding at the last minute to attend and to volunteer for the associated conference. I helped out wearing someone else’s name badge.
I didn’t say anything about the original allegations of abuse. I did mention Depp in 2016, but I noted that newbie atheist podcasters weren’t going to learn much from Lawrence Krauss talking in a workshop about how much he enjoyed working with Depp.
Lyz Liddell, executive director of the Reason Rally Coalition, a paid position she likens to a community-building pastor, says organizers were disappointed when Depp and Heard withdrew.
“We were like, ‘Wait! What?’” she says. They then learned about the abuse allegations, she says, and “we absolutely support Amber and hope they can both have success in their personal and professional lives.”
I confirmed with another Reason Rally board member that they have no recollection of a discussion about kicking Depp out. Silverman is offering to testify, but…well, I’ll get to that.
Silverman continued to tag me in gems like this well after being told to stop:
She's an adult who has NEVER done what I asked. Why do I need to heed her command when she is obviously hiding? Hiding is BS. She's a movement leader now and she has responsibilities.
Hadn’t heard of Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class? Well, that’s because his publisher didn’t make review copies available. So the first places to get their reviews out were those feeling no need to take a critical view of the book, like openly white supremacist sites and The Federalist. Unsurprisingly, they think it’s great.
The reviews that do engage critically will take longer. “Critically” here means “Does this accurately represent our best knowledge of the subject?”, rather than “Ugh, don’t like.” Not that those are mutually exclusive. Asking those questions take time.
Some scientists and science communicators have already gotten a head start, however. They can do that without seeing the book because they’ve been dealing with the “evidence” and the arguments on this topic for ages. And of course, because heritability is an easily misunderstood topic, there are some good explainers out there.
So what should you read if you want to learn about heritability from experts rather than political scientists whose prior work on the topic hasn’t held up? Try these articles on the basics and methodological challenges of studying heritability. (Please note that some of these sources uncritically discuss the history of scientific work aimed at a “cure” for autism.) Continue reading “Readings in Heritability”→
I fully and freely admit that the impetus for this month’s movie is wanting to watch Bruce Payne chew some scenery. It’s been a while. I have to admit we might be disappointed by Aurora Intercept, though. Not only does Payne play a hero(!!!) for once in his career, but there’s zero evidence of tooth marks in this trailer. Or dialogue, for that matter.
Save the date for the evening of February 23. We’ve rested, we’ve let the news sink in, and we’re ready to talk. We’ll bring you more news soon as we work out technical details for live streaming and confirm special guests. In the meantime, however, just know that our lips are legally unsealed. We can talk. We will talk.
As much fun as that sounds, one of the things we’ll talk about is the cost of suits like these (and what we can do to help with the problem overall, because we’re activists). We have our final bills now, along with our victory, and totals on the debt we’ve taken on over the last three and a half years. We’ll save the details for the 23rd, but know we’ve only paid off about half our total.
Winning frivolous lawsuits is expensive, so this will be a fundraiser, like much of what we do until this debt is retired. There’s no cost to watch us or ask us questions during the event, but donations to our GoFundMe and to Skepticon help us sleep better at night.
I have the strangest feeling that this is one of those movies we’ll need to take a break after, by which I mean watch something decent with special effects that mean well. We might even have to watch a good movie to take the tastelessness out of our mouths. But whatever. We’re watching Hell and Back anyway. Join us if you can handle it.
Last year, author Gina DeWink asked to sit down with me to talk about souls and the afterlife. I agreed, both because I’m glad when someone doing a project like this reaches out to nonbelievers (I’m not the only one interviewed) and because my views on the topic have radically changed over the years with education. It was fun to talk about why I believed something then that I don’t now.
The book, Human with a Side of Soul, came out a couple of weeks ago.
From her vantage point as an open-minded investigative writer from Middle America, Gina Dewink asks a dozen strangers from the medical, scientific and spiritual realms about soul beliefs—along the way, encountering perspectives such as an environmental consultant who believes she’s lived before, a neurologist studying patients in a coma, a medical mystery who survived more than one near-death experience, a Bible-quoting Atheist and more.
Join Dewink’s spiritual journey as she immerses herself in a culture of online groups, hypnotherapy sessions, a sensory deprivation tank and a Buddhist festival to come out the other side with answers. Is there a common belief woven throughout every opinion? Find out in Human, with a Side of Soul.
Read more about it here. You can find the book at the usual online sources or ask your local bookstore to order a copy for you.
I have a piece in The Humanist this month. I’d originally written this for an anthology on political humanism, which has since been cancelled. It’s titled “Why I’m Not a Socialist”.
When talking about economic systems at the level of capitalism versus socialism, we’re talking about balancing the power of competing interests. Failure means consolidating power in one set of interests. Currently in the US we’re seeing the failure mode of capitalism, as we did in the 1920s. I refuse to call it “late-stage capitalism” because the steps taken to hobble capitalism during and after the Great Depression demonstrate this is a matter of political power and will, not timing. But today’s United States is an extreme form of capitalism, in which capital is assigned virtues it hasn’t demonstrated, then granted nearly exclusive access to political power based on those virtues.
This is bad. I shouldn’t have to say that, but sometimes it’s worth stating the obvious.
That doesn’t mean socialism is better, however. When it’s running well, socialism is better than failing capitalism. Of course, capitalism running well is better than failing capitalism as well. Honest comparisons of the two ideologies involve contrasting them best to best and worst to worst.
Truth be told, the differences between them aren’t huge.
Then one of the organizers did an interview on YouTube to promote the conference, and the whole thing was bizarre. It was antagonistic, incoherent, and peaked with sexual assault apologetics that claimed all men had committed assault and involved a (probably joking) threat to assault the interviewer if he attended the conference. Yes, really.
When Hemant Mehta picked up the story, the convention’s other organizer showed up in the comments to say he’d fired the, er, outspoken organizer and was willing to be interviewed. So I did that, or at least I started to. I’m reproducing the exchange here, because edits, deletions, and out-of-order comments make it difficult to follow there. Comments here are posted in the order they occurred.
John Richards [comment edited after my response]: Hi Guys,
It’s John Richards here.
I’m the organizer of the Anti-Theism International Convention.
I hope you might be willing to hear what I’ve got to say about this subject…