Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Australian feminist argues for suppression of "incorrect" views

Mind the Fascism! Clem Ford puts up a reasonable-seeming argument below to the effect that the facts behind an opinion should weigh on whether that opinion is given exposure.  If only!  As an extreme atheist myself (I  don't believe in Karl Marx, Jesus Christ or global warming. And I also don't believe in the unhealthiness of salt, sugar and fat). I would love some way of filtering out credulity.  But how do you do it?  What to one person seems factually-based will to another seem hogwash. 

Let me give an example from Clemmie's own misapprehension of what is factual.  She dismisses global warming skepticism on the basis of an "ad hominem" argument:  "Experts" believe in global warming so we all should".  Where are the facts in that argument?  "Ad hominem" arguments are not only one of the classic informal fallacies in logic but they have repeatedly been proved wrong.  A hundred years ago, the reality of continental drift was pooh-poohed.  Now it is an accepted fact.  And combustion is explained by the presence of phlogiston, of course.

And, more to the point, what does Clemmie make of the long temperature stasis between 1945 and 1975 when CO2 levels were soaring?  What should have been 30 years of warming was 30 years of no warming. Has she ever looked at a climate chart and noticed how tiny the calibrations are?  Does she know why that should concern her? Has she ever noticed how pro-warming scientists repeatedly flout basic scientific standards by refusing to share their data and by treating as significant differences which are not in fact statistically significant? 

I could go on but I think it is a pretty good argument that the distinction between fact and hokum that she is keen to make leaves her supporting hokum.  Discourse shepherded by Clementine Ford would rapidly stray away from reality

Former US Senator and political advisor Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once wrote that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts". It remains an unwavering truth in a world where opinions are increasingly viewed as equal to facts, even when those opinions have little more than a suspicion or feeling to back them up.

More recently than that, Ruby Hamad wrote that "We may all have the right to an opinion but that does not make our opinion right – or even worthy of a place in a debate." Hamad was responding to a planned televised 'debate' in which eight people would ponder the question, "Is male privilege bullshit?" before a live audience. In her piece, she elegantly outlined how and why the pursuit of 'balance' has been manipulated to the detriment of journalistic inquiry. But more on that televised debate in a minute.

The science behind vaccinations is a good example of this. Vaccines have saved millions of lives over the past century but sceptics continue to spread their dangerous paranoia across the landscape of the internet, revelling in the phenomenal privilege they get to enjoy from living in countries where herd immunity protects their "free-range" tribe.

But press them on their qualifications to counter decades worth of scientific research and you'll hear about how "Big Pharma" is invested in turning us all into robots.

The rhetoric around anti-choice movements is similarly lacking in insight. When the founder of the annual Warped tour (a music festival whose audience members are predominantly teenagers), invited an anti-choice not-for-profit to set up a stall at the 2016 event, he was roundly criticised. But Kevin Lyman stood by his decision, tweeting, "Punk rock was about welcoming all points of view, you can make your own decisions, and opposing platforms and views are important."

Lyman claims to be pro-choice, but you cannot be pro-choice while also providing microphones to people who support the reduction or removal entirely of reproductive healthcare rights – particularly when those people are manipulating some of the people most at-risk of underage and unwanted pregnancies.

Too many people labour under the bizarre assumption now that everything requires "hearing all sides" if there is to be fair and balanced commentary. But fair and balanced commentary around, say, climate change does not mean that we have to counter the weight of an actual scientist and their quantifiable research with the opinions of someone who loftily refers to themselves as a "climate change sceptic". It's an insult to the time and energy spent by people working at the forefront of their fields to suggest their expertise is little more than one side of the story.

And so to the debate on male privilege. I appeared recently on that episode of Hack Live, a televised version of Triple J's popular current affairs program. Hosted by Tom Tilley, the episode brought together eight panellists to debate the existence of male privilege; something that all reason, logic and (most importantly) evidence supports as being very much real.

I was sceptical of the show's purpose in the lead up to its filming. But I believed that it may do some good in terms of reaching an audience of young people who may be forming their views on feminism by watching angry YouTubers.

However, after experiencing the indignity of being pitted against people who literally had no idea what they were talking about, I have to abandon my Pollyanna optimism and agree with Hamad's view that it was pointless from the get-go.

I have amassed hundreds of thousands of words of writing on the topic of gender inequality. I have worked with health experts and survivors and persisted through the sludge of the online space to try to conduct a conversation based on facts, research and cold, hard data.

So it was extremely frustrating to listen to the baffling claims put forward by the panel's token men's rights activist that the oppression of men manifests in far more significant and damaging ways than that of women, starting with the fact that (apparently) young women all over the country are kicking their boyfriends in the balls as a joke.

Most of his evidence was anecdotal in nature, and the bits that weren't were drawn solely from an American propaganda film funded by MRAs and headlined by a man who has, among other despicable declarations, proudly claimed he would vote to acquit in any rape trial on which he served as a juror, even if he knew the rapist was guilty.

Yet here he was not only offering his opinions as if they were in any way, shape or form meaningful to the discussion, but being validated in that belief by way of invitation.

Most recently, we've been presented with the gobsmacking, disgusting treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied by not just the nation's lay people but its politicians, media conglomerates and poison-penned journalists. And all because she expressed an opinion on the subject of Anzac Day that was not by-the-book – though nor was it factually wrong.

After Abdel-Magied announced her intentions to move to London this week, Channel Seven posted a poll asking its fans to vote on whether or not she should leave or stay, providing her haters with another avenue through which to bully her.

There's no shortage of irony in the fact that a country whose citizens fight so fiercely to have their rights to an opinion recognised have so gleefully participated in the bullying of a woman who calmly, compassionately and quite correctly expressed her own.

But I guess white privilege has always been good at making some opinions more equal than others.

We are living in very troubling times when it comes to factual analysis and respect for the disciplines of academia. Opinions are not the same as reasonable deductions. They're certainly not the same thing as facts, particularly when based on little more than passionate opposition to what those facts may be.

We have to get over this idea of having to air multiple sides of the same story. As  Hamad wrote in the lead-up to my appearance on Hack Live, on topics like "does male privilege exist'', there is no debate to be had. There's no such thing as balance of opinion when it comes to evidence. There are the facts – and then there are ideas about what we should do about those facts. Anything else is distraction.

And goodness knows we are in too much trouble as a global community to succumb to the dangers of distraction.


Effort to bar child marriage in California runs into opposition

Pandering to a foul medieval religion is more important than  protecting the children

A Bay Area legislator was shocked when he learned from a young constituent that while Californians cannot legally consent to sex until they are 18, they can — with the permission of a parent and a judge’s order — get married at any age, even if their spouse is many years older.

“I thought, that can’t be true in California,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat from San Mateo. “We found that it is true in California and true in many states throughout the country.”

But Hill’s resulting proposal to bar juveniles from getting hitched has been watered down after it prompted strong objections from civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

As the emotional fight unfolds in Sacramento, there’s no agreement even about a basic piece of information — how many minors get married each year in California. People who want to limit such marriages say the total is in the thousands, while those who oppose the bill say that’s vastly inflated.

The state doesn’t keep such numbers, and even efforts to change that are running into resistance.

Within the past year, elected officials in several states have pushed to restrict juvenile marriage, with a law passed last month limiting matrimony by minors in Texas to 16- and 17-year-olds who have become legal adults emancipated from their parents, and one in New York holding the line at age 17 — with a judge’s permission.

Hill wanted California to set a strict line at age 18, but the effort encountered swift opposition from fellow legislators, as well as groups that include the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

While SB273 is still alive and moving through legislative committees, amendments have removed any age restriction. The measure in its current form increases family court oversight to ensure that a minor’s marriage isn’t coerced, including a requirement that judges interview individuals privately.

It’s a compromise, Hill said, but still a positive step. “It’s our responsibility to protect those kids,” he said.

Among those disappointed by the result of the compromise is Sara Tasneem of El Sobrante, who said the amended bill won’t help children and will only make elected officials feel like they did something.

Tasneem was 15 when her father, who belonged to a cult in Southern California, introduced her to a man 13 years her senior. She was forced to marry the 28-year-old in a religious ceremony that evening. Six months later, at 16, she was pregnant and legally married in a civil ceremony in Reno.

“A person who marries a 15-year-old, there’s obviously something wrong,” said Tasneem, now 36. “Putting that label of husband and wife makes something disgusting and not OK seem normal and OK.”

As a teenager, Tasneem dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Instead, she became a mother, with two children by age 19. She would ultimately defy her husband and return to school, and later file for divorce.

“Once you leave your childhood, there’s no going back to it,” said Tasneem, now a business student at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. “All those opportunities and freedom of being a child are gone.”

Activists aiming to stop such marriages say they occur across demographic groups, spurred by religious reasons, cultural norms, pregnancy, financial incentives or, in some cases, to protect someone from statutory-rape accusations because marriage circumvents the age-of-consent requirement.

Nationally, about 5 of every 1,000 children ages 15 to 17 were married as of 2014, according to U.S. census data analyzed by the Pew Research Center — figures that don’t specify where the marriages occurred. Activists for age restrictions estimate that California sees about 3,000 marriages per year that include a minor.

The ACLU and other opponents say that estimate is inflated, noting that just 44 petitions for juvenile marriage were filed in Los Angeles County — which has a population just above 10 million — over the past five years.

The focus of efforts should be on abusive and coerced relationships, regardless of marital status, said Phyllida Burlingame of the ACLU’s Northern California chapter.

Referring to current regulations, including the requirement of a court order allowing a juvenile to marry, she said California had “a strong package of both programs and laws that prevent coerced marriage among youth, and a lack of data showing this is a widespread problem.” Hill’s original proposal, she said, “was a solution that wasn’t necessarily going to have the impact on improving young people's health and relationships that we want.”

Other opponents said marriage is a fundamental right, and that some juveniles not only marry willingly but benefit from the choice.

“Any legislation to eliminate this core right,” said the National Center for Youth Law in a statement opposing Hill’s initial legislation, “must be based on concrete data and information that demonstrates this drastic step is the most effective and appropriate strategy to address the harms being alleged, and that there are not other less extreme options available.”

An early amendment to the bill required the state to collect data on juvenile nuptials, but it was eliminated in committee because of cost concerns. Hill said he is trying to restore that requirement.

Those who backed the initial bill haven’t given up trying to persuade lawmakers to pivot and reconsider an age limit like Texas and New York.

“Initially it was a nice, simple, bright line — either you’re 18 or not. Like a tanning bed or voting, you can’t get a waiver from your parents,” said Sarah Bradshaw of the Feminist Majority, which promotes equality for women. “We’re hoping that people in the Assembly will put teeth back in it.”

The debate has energized people like Nicole, a 29-year-old resident of Stanislaus County who at age 16 married a 24-year-old man with the blessing of a judge.

Nicole, who requested her last name be withheld for safety reasons, said she had been dating the man but was still in high school — and wasn’t ready to settle down. But her grandmother, who was raising her, was extremely religious and pushed the two to get married.

With her guardian sanctioning what became an abusive relationship, Nicole said she felt helpless. “My grandparents were willing to ignore every bruise,” she said. As for her husband, “I think that for him he thought it was a way to protect himself from statutory-rape charges.”

Her husband was killed two years later in a car accident, when she was pregnant with their first child. “I was widowed at 18,” she said. “When most kids were applying for college, I was applying for death benefits.”

Nicole, who now studies computer science at a community college, said a law limiting marriage to 18 and older might have impacted her life profoundly.

“I had no control; I had no say,” she said. “I can't believe how much I’ve missed while I’ve tried to cope with life as a child bride.”


Ms Graduate shouldn’t be so fussy in love

Feminists have sabotaged the personal lives of intelligent women but Libby Purves argues below that they will just have to adapt to it

In an era when more women than men have degrees it’s old-fashioned to insist on marrying someone of equal social status

Hardly an eyebrow is raised at a woman prime minister, Metropolitan Police commissioner, fire chief, general or CEO. But biology cannot so easily be sidestepped, and straight professional women have other pitfalls to negotiate. One is the impulse to produce children, which involves more effort, time and deadline for the female than the male.

A report last week suggested that the old idea that status devolves mainly from blokes is still complicating that situation. Yale University research, presented at an embryology conference in Geneva, claims that the “oversupply” of graduate women in the West means that many can’t find a suitably equal partner, so are freezing their eggs as an insurance measure. Professor Marcia Inhorn suggested that a major problem was that there are “not enough graduates” for them to pair with, the presumption being that a woman with a degree is unwilling to build a family with a man who doesn’t have one.

It is part of the much-discussed phenomenon of “assortative mating”, in which people seek out others as similar to themselves as possible. It may even be, perish the thought, that this intensely narcissistic age makes that even more likely than in the days when it was all about “good family”. But if this anxious egg-freezing educational choosiness is a real trend, it is a sad one.

For one thing, despite the claims of some expensive clinics, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority calculates that each frozen egg has only a 2 per cent chance of resulting in a live baby: even if you freeze a dozen that’s not hopeful. Each thawed frozen-egg IVF cycle gives only a 15 per cent chance. Of course it brings joy to some, who need it for medical reasons, but as lifestyle insurance policies go it’s rubbish. A few American companies fund egg-freezing as an employee perk for bright women: one hopes the said women are bright enough to look at those figures and respectfully suggest spending the money on flexitime, career-breaks and a crèche.

But the really mind-boggling aspect of the Yale report is its unquestioning — and very old-fashioned — acceptance that women must marry educationally upwards, or at least on a level. That idea, sisters, shoots us right back to the pre-Ms age when your status depended chiefly on your man. Yet it is very current.

An American book, Date-onomics, a couple of years back pointed out that as women graduates outnumber men the odds are stacked against finding a bloke with similar education. So it advised moving to Silicon Valley to find available male geeks. Over here, Professor Michèle Belot of Edinburgh University tried to find out whether graduate women really are that choosy, since it could be that “assortative” behaviour is just due to who you meet in the workplace. Her speed-date experiment reportedly found that the preference for similar education endured. And online dating sites report that women tick the “college education” box far more than men do.

Ladies, this is nonsense. In the days before female higher education sensible men just looked for attraction, character, humour and innate intelligence, even if the latter had so far only been given a chance to apply itself to housekeeping and petit point. Likewise, if now a brainy bookish Ms finds herself fancying a manual or craft worker, or a chap who left school at 16 to make his way, she should rejoice. Enjoy encountering a different type of intelligence, a wider experience, the pleasure of sharing your own world with someone not as wearily, professionally immersed in it as you are. That’s not marrying-down, and your children will inherit two diverse strands of intelligence and enterprise. University is not the only route to full, rich, adventurous humanity. It really isn’t.


Australia: Contempt of court action against ministers was conflict best avoided

The Federal ministers escaped being charged after making an apology.  They initially refused to apologize but later backed down.  Reading between the lines, they were put under great pressure to apologize.  A showdown would have provoked a constitutional crisis, which both the court and the government were keen to  avoid.  The article below is a discreet rebuke to CJ Marilyn Warren and her court for bringing on the crisis.  They were undoubtedly unduly sensitive.  They should have just looked the other way.  Judges and their verdicts SHOULD be criticizable by anyone at any time.  Any attempt to punish speech is obnoxious

A legal Pandora’s box was opened recently when three federal ministers were invited to appear ­before the Victorian Court of ­Appeal to ­answer an allegation that they were in contempt of the same court.

Contempt of court is an unlawful interference with the due operation of our system of justice. It is a crime punishable by a fine or ­imprisonment.

The three ministers used ­derogatory language to describe Victorian sentencing decisions and the judges who made them. It was strident political discourse common to the floor of parliament but involving language less common in a legal setting. These comments were reported in The Australian.

If the ministers had been convicted of contempt, they would no longer be eligible under our Constitution to serve in parliament. Given the one-seat majority of our federal government, a conviction of any one of the minsters for contempt could have brought down the government.

One of the reasons for the comparative freedom we enjoy in this country is that we have a ­judiciary that is independent of government. This allows for legal scrutiny of the actions of parliament and the executive by an ­independent umpire.

However, the scrutiny is not all one way. In a common law system, parliament has the ultimate legal power. Judges are appointed by the executive, a legal precedent created by court decisions can be overturned by laws passed by parliament and, in limited circumstances, judges can be removed by parliament.

Federal crimes are tried in state and territory courts. The ­controversy raised by the three ministers concerned whether sentencing under a federal anti-­terrorism law was being applied differently in different states. This was a clear matter of public interest falling directly within the area of the public duty of the ministers.

It raised a range of ­issues for possible further legislation by the parliament, including mandatory minimum sentences, changes to sentencing guidelines or changes to the jurisdiction of courts hearing the offences.

A very wide discretion is given to judges when sentencing criminals, as confirmed by the High Court in the Markarian decision. However, the Victorian Court of Appeal alleged a contempt by the ministers for expressing opinions on matters within the scope of their office. This surprised many people. If the ministers had said the very same words in parliament they would have been protected by parliamentary privilege.

In NSW in the 1990s there was great public criticism reported in the media of the sentences given to the men in several Muslim gangs convicted of the gang rape of several women in Sydney — in some cases it was said the sentences were too low and in other cases too high.

The late editor of London’s The Times, William Rees-Mogg, wrote a famous editorial in 1967 headed “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?”, which led to the release of Mick Jagger the day after he was given a three-month prison sentence for drug possession. No contempt was suggested even by the conservative judicial standards of 1960s England.

For more than 80 years, Australian courts have recognised since the Breadmaker’s case that “it is well settled that a person cannot be prevented by process of contempt from continuing to discuss publicly a matter which may fairly be regarded as one of public interest, by reason of the fact that the matter in question has ­become the subject of litigation ...”

The High Court has since ­recognised our constitutional right to the freedom of political expression.

It has also been accepted since the 1930s that decisions by judges are incapable of what is called sub judice contempt. That is, there cannot be any tendency for judge-made decisions to be prejudiced by the media. The Victorian matters were appeals and there was no jury or witnesses who could have been influenced by what the ministers said. Indeed, when the Court of Appeal recently called the three ministers to ­answer why they should not be charged with contempt, the Chief Justice of Victoria made it clear the statements by the ministers could not and would not influence the appeal decision concerning the sentencing of two convicted terrorists.

The only other relevant category of contempt is a rare kind of contempt called scandalising the court, but that is difficult to establish, especially now that we have a constitutionally recognised freedom of political speech. The subject of the 1930 High Court case of Bell v Stewart was a media article that said the public was amused at the innocence of a court decision that showed the industrial court to be detached from the real world. According to the High Court, that did not scandalise a court and it has not heard an ­appeal involving an alleged contempt of that kind since.

Freedom exists when we all observe our important mutual civil obligations. MPs should be respectful of our courts and courts should not be too sensitive to legitimate debate about the operation of our taxpayer-funded justice system. An appropriate balance will protect two of the most important features of our free society: the integrity, operation and appearance of a fair and impartial court system, and the freedom to express opinions on important public issues no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

The best possible outcome was that the legal Pandora’s box opened and quickly closed again before any contempt charges were laid. Charges would have led to a protracted conflict ­between two important and independent arms of government: our courts and our parliament.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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