Yancho Sabev - CC-BY-SA-3.0

No Sting Songs for You

August 15, 2019

When federal contractors want to stomp all over the LGBTQ community, the Trump administration hands them metal cleats. BuzzFeed reports on the Labor Department’s draft rule:

The Trump administration on Wednesday formally proposed a new rule to let businesses with federal contracts cite religious objections as a valid reason to discriminate against their workers on the basis of LGBTQ status, sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, and other characteristics — thereby skirting worker protections created by past presidents.

The move marks President Donald Trump’s latest effort to weaken the civil rights of minorities with ambiguous rules that grant agencies wide discretion to let companies off the hook when accused of discrimination.

Emma Green at The Atlantic looks at the bigger governmental picture of this abysmal-yet-expected development:

There is good reason for this single-minded focus on administrative rulings and executive orders: Faced with a gridlocked Congress, much of Obama’s second term was dedicated to taking executive action on issues that were hopeless in the legislature—LGBTQ rights chief among them. This strategy was highly controversial. Many critics, including some of Obama’s natural allies, saw these initiatives as temporary solutions that would invite backlash and confusion. Arguably, that’s what’s happening now.

Meanwhile, as YouTube seems incapable of dealing with the torrent of anti-gay hate material on its platform, a group of LGBTQ creators is saying that it’s their videos that are being pulled down. The Post reports:

The LGBT creators allege YouTube’s software algorithms, as well as its human reviewers, single out and remove content that features words common in the LGBT community, such as “gay,” “lesbian” or “bisexual” and has caused them to lose advertising revenue.

Elizabeth Bruenig at the Post speaks to a wide range of evangelicals about their feelings toward Trump, and comes away more or less convinced that they will come out in even bigger numbers for him in 2020 than they did the first time, “partly to ensure another Supreme Court pick and partly because the backlash against them has cemented so much of what they already suspected about liberals’ attitudes.”

Glenn McConnell at New Zealand’s Stuff discusses his own penchant for conspiracy thinking in the case of Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide, describing being “lured into the fake news labyrinth”:

The truth of the matter is shocking enough. A billionaire killed himself before he could stand trial for using his almost limitless wealth to abuse a great number of girls, and he was mates with some of the West’s most powerful leaders.

These circumstances have led American columnists to call the story “the Disinformation World Cup”.

The lies are just believable enough that they can be weaponised for political adversaries, and the man at the centre of it all is dead. The plot line sounds like a Hollywood thriller, but it plays out in real time through unregulated social media networks.

Dan Funke talks to Psychology Today about the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, here discussing the denial of the existence of mass shootings:

Confirmation bias and motivated reasoning mean that we discard information that detracts from our narrative, but we also discount information to resolve cognitive dissonance. So, if we have a core belief that guns make us safer, then becoming a mass shooting denialist helps resolve evidence to the contrary. It’s basically a kind of gaslighting with a goal of downplaying the danger of guns.

Gordon Pennycook will be at CSICon 2019 to discuss fake news and analytic thinking, and we get a preview in Susan Gerbic’s interview with him for Skeptical Inquirer.

Also coming to CSICon, Dr. Jen Gunter, here interviewed by Vox‘s Julia Belluz, who calls Gunter “officially Paltrow’s nemesis.”

Tara Isabella Burton, writing for the New York Times, looks for what drives the violent extremism we are experiencing with all these mass shootings:

… what nearly all of these perpetrators shared was a cosmic-level worldview that fetishizes violence as a kind of purifying fire: a destruction necessary to “reset” the world from its current broken state. This atavistic worldview idealizes an imagined past, one that predates the afflictions of, say, feminism and multiculturalism.

On far-right message boards, these men discover — or are indoctrinated with — intoxicatingly simplistic etiologies that claim to explain the apparent chaos of contemporary life. Instead of cosmic battles between God and the devil to explain the problem of evil, they find conspiracy theories: The world is secretly run by a network of Jews planning to wipe out the white race; oppressive feminazis are planning to make men obsolete. …

… This brotherhood has its own hierarchy and its own hagiography. Those who have committed mass murders are often venerated as martyrs for their causes: Elliot Rodger, the misogynist gunman behind the killings in Santa Barbara, is lauded across the incel internet as the “Supreme Gentleman;” within hours of the El Paso shooting, the gunman was deemed a “saint” on white nationalist forums. To commit an act of terrorism may not yield the same metaphysical reward promised by radical Islam to its martyrs, but it nevertheless assures practitioners a certain kind of in-group status. So long as there is an internet, their chosen brothers will remember them.

Big Think seeks to understand secular humanism, and they go to the right source:

The people over at the Center for Inquiry define Secular Humanism as “A comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance.” They further explain this by saying:

“Secular humanism is a lifestance, or what Council for Secular Humanism founder Paul Kurtz has termed a eupraxsophy: a body of principles suitable for orienting a complete human life. As a secular lifestance, secular humanism incorporates the Enlightenment principle of individualism, which celebrates emancipating the individual from traditional controls by family, church, and state, increasingly empowering each of us to set the terms of his or her own life.”

People really need to stop being surprised when Rep. Steve King says stuff like this:

What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?  Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.

NBC 4 in California reports on how Optimal Health/Straw Chiropractic has been duping patients and “preying on their declining health”:

Online complaints call Optimal Health/Straw Chiropractic a “total scam,” accusing the company of using “scare tactics” and “playing on emotions of desperation.” One reviewer advises patients to run away.

Meanwhile, a bill in Congress would bring the full scope of chiropractors’ pseudoscientific practices under the coverage of Medicare.

Here come the anti-vaxxers challenging New York state’s new vaccine laws, including RFK Jr, stuffing themselves into an Albany courthouse. Gothamist reports:

Many who stand to be affected by the new law gathered outside the State Supreme Court on Wednesday dressed in white. Organizers said their uniform harkened back to Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentinian women who protested the murder and disappearance of their children during their country’s military dictatorship.

You must be kidding me. I don’t think Sting will be writing any haunting ballads for these people.

New Zealand’s Newsroom reports on the homeopathic treatment of autism through “CEASE” therapy, Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression. Practitioners, of course, blame vaccines for all your ills. Autism NZ’s chief said, “As an organisation our comment on all of these [unproven therapies] is we don’t look for a cause and don’t look for a cure. To be frank it’s quite offensive to be doing it.” Correct.

Flat-Earth rocket guy has postponed his launch until Saturday. Seems he bought a bum water heater off Craigslist. Probably part of the round-earth conspiracy.

A Kentucky school finds a loophole to the display of “In God We Trust”: hanging a framed one-dollar bill.

Hedge fund gazillionaire Ray Dalio recommends the 15 books you’re all supposed to read, one of them being Richard Dawkins’ River Out of Eden.

Quote of the Day

August 17th will mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The Daily Telegraph in Australia notes this gem of trivia:

After hunting around for a new backer, Idle met with former Beatle George Harrison who agreed to put up $US4.5 million. Asked why he was willing to back the project he later said: “I just wanted to see the film.”

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

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