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Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

More Than a Bathhouse

When I first started planning the addition to my house, I was mostly thinking of it in terms of the hot tub and the bathroom, and the guest cottages were sort of separate entities in my mind. But as the plan came together and I realized that the new annex was going to have multiple functions, of which the bathroom and hot tub were the only bath-related ones, I realized that calling it a bathhouse was really a misnomer. But by that point I had already started calling the columns “Bathhouse #X”, and since I’m a creature of habit it just kept on that way for 2 years. But once I was done with the roof, and I could really see the thing as a whole, I started referring to the big open space as the atrium because that’s what it is, an open space at the center of the house (the main house and both cottages open onto it).  So even though I am currently working on the bathroom, I’ve decided it’s time to rename these columns; the whole project amounts to a new wing of my house, an annex, so that’s what I’m going to start calling the columns, starting next week. I’m going to go back and relabel the older ones as well, but I’m not going to change the links because it would just be too much trouble and I’m not trying to memory-hole the history of the project or anything. I just have a thing for accuracy, and though it took a while, it finally overcame my inertia.

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Last week I was involved in an online discussion about writing ability, and whether it is actually less common among people who majored in STEM fields vs those who majored in the humanities; I explained that, in my experience as a writer, editor, and former teacher and librarian, it isn’t common in either group, but is slightly less uncommon in the humanities.  I used to edit technical papers as a side gig, and they were often so unintelligible I had to get on the phone to the author to ask what in God’s name he was trying to say.

Of course, the problem is a bit more complex than a simple “which group is better”; certain subgroups of humanities majors, most notably those in the “Ideological Studies” ghetto, are taught to write such convoluted, cumbersome gibberish that after graduation most of them can’t stop doing it even when explicitly told not to.  I was once in a working group trying to draft a press release; despite everyone being told we wanted to keep the language concise, simple, and straightforward for the general public, the draft modifications one group came up with were absolutely larded with academic and identity-politics jargon.  We had to ignore nearly all their contributions in the final draft because the additions, prevarications, disclaimers, lists, and semantically-empty garbage they wanted to insert would’ve tripled the length while crippling the meaning.  It’s important to recognize that this was not truly their fault; for their entire academic careers these participants were repeatedly rewarded for crafting ugly, clunky, unreadable rubbish interchangeable with every other statement of its type, the literary equivalent of an East German institutional building.  Writing ability develops with practice; unfortunately, many students of the past several decades have been taught practices that make their writing worse instead of better.  So, I guess the best summary of the situation is:  Most students start as bad writers.  STEM students tend not to improve.  Humanities majors in traditional fields usually improve at least some.  And “ideological studies” majors improve at writing committee-approved ideological garbage.  People learn what they’re taught.  If they’re taught to write properly, they’ll learn that.  If they’re taught to write improperly, they’ll learn that instead.  And if they aren’t taught to write at all, they will learn whatever they are taught.

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I won’t help you until you help yourself.  –  jail “nurse”

Regular readers know how I feel about abuse of words, especially by government, so this video (called to my attention by Elizabeth N. Brown) really spoke to me.  The links above it were provided by Mike Siegel, Kevin Wilson, Scott Greenfield, Jesse Walker, and Cop Crisis (x3), in that order.

From the Archives

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If you don’t have the right to bodily autonomy then you cannot be said to really be free.  –  Kelly Wright

Crypto-puritans in the libertarian tent have definitely become more numerous.  A few weeks ago at Freedom Fest, I attended a panel on the dangerous liberty-violating laws that may result now that Roe has been overturned.  Despite the fact that there was even a “pro-life” person on the panel who eloquently explained why she was just as concerned as the others, stupid mumbling and a few loud belches of “dead babies!” and the like warned me of what was to come during the time reserved for questions: a long line of propagandists at the mike who didn’t have questions, but instead wanted to appoint themselves as members of the panel without invitation of permission.  So I was forced to appoint myself as bailiff and shout “THIS IS NOT A QUESTION!” when it became clear that was the case, except for the idiot who made an “argument” involving Marxism equivalent to, “this plastic bottle is actually a plant because both are green”; for that guy, I shouted “This is pure bullshit!”  Then there was the guy who promised his question wasn’t belligerent, then proceeded to make a statement just as propagandistic as the half-dozen before him.  We were only saved by the organizers ejecting us for the next presentation.  It felt like an Evangelical convention had invaded a Libertarian one.  By the by, most of the panelists thanked me for my anger later; I could do from the floor what they really couldn’t from the stage: confront rude, disrespectful twatwaffles with a taste of their own medicine.

It’s certainly possible for a libertarian to be against abortion for themselves and/or in principle, but the second the state becomes involved, using violence to abrogate women’s bodily autonomy, there is no honest way to describe support for such a regime as “libertarian”.  This recent article by Kelly Wright explains it perfectly; it’s rare that I agree with every point made in a persuasive essay, but this is one of those times.  The article is well worth reading in its entirety and I strongly urge you to do so, but here’s the core of the argument:

Are the lives of hypothetical future babies (blastocysts, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not babies) worth more than the lives of actual living breathing pregnant individuals?  Are people with the capacity for pregnancy nothing more than walking, potential incubators?  Even if we concede the argument that a fetus is a person with individual rights, libertarians should still oppose abortion restrictions.  If someone is invading your home, you have a right to repel them, especially if your life is at risk.  It follows that if someone is invading your uterus then you also have the right to repel them as well.  Fetuses hijack blood supplies and even begin to leach the calcium out of the bones of the person whose body they have commandeered.  This may seem like a peculiar projection of agency onto fetuses, but it’s no more peculiar than the rights, interests, and souls projected onto fetuses by advocates of fetal personhood and forced pregnancy.  No one has a right to your circulatory system, and if someone has affixed themselves to your circulatory system against your will, you have the right to use force to stop them from doing so.  One rights-bearing individual does not have the right to the calcium in the bones and teeth of another rights-bearing individual…

There’s an incidental point the author makes that you might not have noticed, so I’ll elaborate.  I’ve never made a big deal about people incorrectly calling anything in a pregnant woman’s uterus a “fetus”, because up to now it wasn’t that important.  However, it certainly has become so.  A developing organism of less than 11 weeks gestational age (which is actually 9 weeks after fertilization due to the practice of counting from the last menstrual period) is not, repeat not, a fetus; it is an embryo.  This is important because there is as real and distinct a difference between the two as there is between a fetus and a baby.  Alas, this won’t make any difference at all to prohibitionist politicians, who think the state has the right to classify a bee as a fish, define pi as “3” or declare that the laws of the State supersede the laws of science in any other way.  But using the word “fetus” in a discussion of, say, ectopic pregnancies (when the developing organism rarely makes it to the fetal stage) helps to extend and worsen the scientific ignorance and confusion that prohibitionism relies upon to thrive.  Using the correct terminology won’t sway religious anti-abortion people in the least, because their position is based in belief, not facts.  But it may help the great majority who can be swayed by argument to understand the absurdity and evil of “from point of conception” abortion bans.

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Slang terms come and go; sometimes they enter the vernacular on a more permanent basis, but more often the fade away once their season is done, and using them after that time tends to mark someone as not at all “with it”, to use one example from my youth.  But as you might suspect from someone who was invited to a conference of freethinkers, I don’t much care if young people think it’s funny when I use words like “chick”, “square”, and “dig” without a hint of irony (I’ve even been known to occasionally use “groovy”), just like I didn’t much care if adults disliked it when I used them as a kid.  There’s one term from my youth, though, which has pretty thoroughly vanished from popular use despite being as necessary now as it ever was, and perhaps even more so: “The Establishment”.  It was first used in this sense by British journalist Henry Fairlie, who in The Spectator (September 1955) wrote:  “By the Establishment, I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised.”  The Establishment, then, includes politicians, cops, bureaucrats, banks, well-connected corporations, institutions, academia, NGOs, the mainstream press…all the interconnected parts of the fascist regimes which act collectively to corral people into easily-managed herds.  Most people nowadays, especially (but not limited to) those in the chattering classes, like to pretend that these institutions either act separately, or can be cleanly divided into “wings”; those who buy into this fantasy think it’s perfectly reasonable to be against “capitalism” without also being against centralized government, or believe that institutions which mouth popular “woke” jargon are truly against the larger institutions which pay their bills, or imagine that a TV news network which airs propaganda for one of the so-called “wings” is different in some substantive way from one which prefers to air propaganda for the other “wing”.  But as I’ve discussed many times, this is nonsense; the machine of authoritarianism is vast, complex, and has many parts which seem separate or even adverserial to shallow thinkers, but in reality all work together (sometimes by design, but more often by necessity) to either reduce all individuals to soulless parts of that machine, or else crush those who refuse to be used thus into pulp.

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I hear that China is unhappy about this conference…Well, I am unhappy there’s a country in 2021 that has concentration camps.  –  Zdeněk Hřib

Above the Law

The rapist gets a respectful title, while his victims are dehumanized as “offenders”:

A [typical and representative Florida] probation officer…has been arrested [for orally raping] two people [he was given coercive power over by the State]…Jeremy Greenidge…also [tried to coerce] a third [victim, who]…report[ed him]…

Dangerous Speech (#1031)

It’s an atrocity that these grossly-unconstitutional robberies weren’t ruled illegal from the beginning:

Staring down the barrel of an expensive retrial triggered by intentional government overreach, defense attorneys in the Lacey/Larkin case are asking federal Judge Diane Humetewa to release a fraction of the millions of dollars in assets illegally s[tolen] by the prosecution in its bid to starve the defendants into submission…The move forced Lacey, Larkin and their four co-defendants to fight a grotesquely expensive legal war on two fronts…the defense…is requesting that Judge Humetewa…un-freeze four specific categories of funds that should never have been seized because they cannot be traced to any alleged illegal activity.  These assets include…more than $10 million in defense attorneys’ trust accounts…

Working From Home (#1103)

No, these “new regulations” are not “intended to fight child sexual abuse and sex trafficking”. They’re intended to do just what they’re doing:

…creators of adult content were shaken when OnlyFans announced…it would ban adult content…it…reverse[d] its stance only days later after an outcry…[but] creators…are bracing for further disruption.  Groups campaigning against sex [workers]…are pushing credit card companies to impose [increasingly-stringent] requirements for processing payments on behalf of sexually explicit sites, aiming to [choke off sex workers’ income]…But, although [amateurs believe prohibitionist claims that] the policies are aimed at protecting those who might be forced into sex work, [in truth the crusade is directed at harming all sex workers]…The rules…seem innocuous [to amateurs]…but [are]…time-consuming and confusing…creating a bureaucracy that threatens their livelihoods [by consuming time and energy that would otherwise be spent in productive work]…In addition, the new…requirements…are delaying payments…

A Woman’s Point of View (#1114)

A petition to put a decriminalization measure on the ballot in Oregon:

An advocacy group called the Sex Worker Rights Act campaign filed a petition…seek[ing] to repeal Oregon’s prostitution laws and amend other relevant statutes.  The petition also seeks to [bar government from denying employees of sex work businesses status] as “employees” under Oregon law; protect people who are or once were sex workers from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace; and prevent a person’s past or present employment as a sex worker from being held against them in child custody disputes…The petitioners must gather 112,020 signatures to get the initiative on the November 2022 ballot.  Should it qualify, the ballot measure could become a sticking point in the Oregon governor’s race….[because noted prohibitionist] Nicholas Kristof has [announced he is running.  Kristof]… support[s]…a dis[credited and dangerous form of oppressing] sex work[ers] known as the “Nordic Model”—which [officially classifies women as moral inferiors of men]…

The Next Target (#1180)

Lux Alptraum and Erika Moen team up to detail (in cartoon form) how the recent brouhaha over OnlyFans is merely “the latest installment of Visa & Mastercard’s war on porn“.  As they explain, it’s really only the latest in a campaign against free expression that has existed since not very long after the internet became popular.

Quiet Genocide (#1191)

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor“:

The Marriott hotel in Prague [refus]ed to host a conference of activists and leaders from China’s Uyghur diaspora this month, c[laim]ing “political neutrality”…[this] reflects China’s growing ability to extend authoritarian control beyond its borders by making clear to corporations that crossing the party’s red lines will be bad for business…Marriott frequently hosts political fundraisers and events…[and Marriott corporate management said]…hosting the conference would not have violated any “political neutrality” policy…[however] Marriott International issued a profuse apology [for sharing facts Beijing dislikes] in 2018…

Rotting Fruit (#1191)

Now this will set the cat among the pigeons:

Exactly a week before the anticipated start of her sex trafficking trial, Ghislaine Maxwell received permission to call [noted]…memory…expert…Elizabeth Loftus..[who] has questioned the reliability of memory and…[demonstrated that] suggestion can mold it…[Despite the recovered-memory and “sex trafficking” industries’ repeated attempts to portray her as some kind of hired gun for rapists and child molesters]…Judge Alison Nathan granted Maxwell permission to call Loftus—subject to certain limitations that are currently under seal.  The threadbare order states only that the government’s motion to block her testimony is denied in part and granted in part…

If you want to understand exactly why Loftus’ testimony is liable to cause drama, you should watch this and read my academic paper “Mind-Witness Testimony“.

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I have a Google alert set up for my name.  Mostly, it returns stuff I’ve written myself, and mentions in articles written by others; on occasion it even returns articles on other women with the same name (or even similar names, because Google is apparently unable to spell).  But every so often it returns something very weird, such as this article which seems to have been (badly) written in some non-Indo-European language and then run through Google translate, with results falling somewhere between “bizarre” and “gobbledygook”.  I’m pretty sure the “Maggie McNeill” it refers to is indeed me, however, because the lady in question is described as “one Seattle-based typically intercourse employee, Maggie McNeill, whom belittled the shutdown of the analysis web pages…” After all, I am indeed based in Seattle and have been known to belittle things on occasion, and “intercourse employee” is probably a ludicrously-incompetent translation of “sex worker”.  I’m not entirely sure of much after that, though it seems this might be an ad for a “hookup” app, marketing itself with “dirty whore” stereotypes; it also seems to have something to say about the TNA website, though I’m not clear on what.  In any case, I invite you to marvel at phrases such as “babes may not be allowed to create evaluations throughout the blokes that witness these people” and “Many happen to be perverts just like we, searching for a intercourse employees to drink them switched off, ride their pogo-stick, or step-on their testicle while phoning them a dirty, soiled kid“, while trying to figure out why the article is illustrated with a picture of what appears to be a Catholic priest.

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Partisans are so hampered by the blinders they’ve voluntarily allowed their “leaders” to strap to their heads that they often come up with truly bizarre interpretations of anything involving members of the enemy tribe.  At the moment, the reigning emperor’s troubled son is one of those:My response to this on Twitter was, “‘Buying a person’? This looks to me like he’s trying to hire a sex worker.”  As it turned out I was wrong; the pictured exchange was apparently with a cousin who was trying to set up an amateur or semi-pro date for him.  But there were apparently a large number of fetishists and nitwits who looked at this and fantasized about “sex trafficking”.  And as is usual for True Believers, the idea that someone with actual experience in the topic at hand might know more than someone without such experience was like some kind of abstruse and esoteric branch of mathematics; a number of these butt-scratchers hastened to tell me that sex work really is the literal buying of a human being.  Now, I’ve taken a flamethrower to this absurd canard more times than I can count, and even speculated on the sexuality of anyone who could believe anything so deeply stupid.  But a new metaphor leapt to mind, so I mocked the imbeciles thus:

So you truly believe that everyone who pays a sex worker has that sex worker to keep, presumably in a hatbox in the closet?  How do you think that works when the average sees about a client per day?  Are they split up into increasingly-smaller fragments that yet retain the appearance of the original, like holograms?  Do you really believe that I am a godlike being, existing in 6 or 7 thousand places all over the planet simultaneously?  It’s a fascinating fantasy; you ought to write it up as a Doctor Who story.  I’m also trying to figure out where “hobbyist” clients, who might see a couple of dozen different workers a year, hide all the women they “buy”.  It must get to be a real strain on storage space; presumably they rent storage facilities in which to store all these holographic harlots.  Or maybe they just flush them down the loo like unwanted goldfish?  Seems like it might be an awful strain on the plumbing.

Twitter is an inherently volatile medium, though, so I thought it best to preserve in a place I can find it again the next time I want to mock the ludicrous beliefs of some prohibitionist chucklefuck.

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To a writer, words are tools intended to convey meaning and express beauty; to governments, words are tools intended to obscure meaning and oppress nonconformity.  To writers, language is the means by which we attempt to convey our thoughts to others; when we succeed, we introduce others to new ideas and possibly give them a new way of looking at a particular topic they may not have considered before.  But to authoritarians, language is a means of constraining thought and smothering new ideas.  Proper use of language opens minds; improper use closes them down.

The obfuscatory language government uses to obscure violence is a prime example.  There are a host of special words by which governments cloak their barbarities: abduction is euphemized as “arrest”, robbery as “confiscation” or “asset forfeiture”, sexual assault as “searching”, and murder as “execution”.  But those traditional terms are quaint and relatively clear in comparison to the obfuscatory language invented by modern propagandists to conceal evils in sterile, bloodless, technical-sounding terminology.  Intentionally ramming another car at freeway speeds with the specific intention of causing someone to crash is cloaked under the boring-sounding phrase “performed a PIT maneuver”.  Firing barbed probes carrying 50,000 volts into another human being is desribed by the apparently-mundane “deploying a taser”.  An armed government thug intentionally murdering someone in the street is called an “officer-involved shooting”.  A sadistic thug paid to torture and rape human beings held in cages against their will is a “correctional officer”, and so on.

The longer and more clinical a phrase, the less emotional weight it carries; Orwell would’ve well understood why the government wants to replace the word “ram” (short, direct, terse, active, hits like a punch) with the phrase “perform a PIT maneuver” (long, indirect, mushy, passive, hits like a nerf ball).  But it’s even more instructive to compare these phrases government operatives use to whitwash their own behavior with those used to demonize “enemies of the state”.  How do cops describe a legally-innocent person they choose to accuse of some crime?  “Perp”.  What about a person who refuses to allow puritanical busybodies to control their consensual, private behavior? “Criminal” (There are a number of even shorter, punchier words for “sex criminals”).  And those who refuse to comply with what they believe to be tyranny?  “Traitors”.  Government actors aren’t incapable of using direct, easy-to-understand language; they’re perfectly capable when they want to represent an ethically-complex situation as a black-and-white one.  But disguising their own abominations requires exactly the opposite approach: confusing simple minds with complex phrases so as to create ambiguity where little exists.

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