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Colin Bartlett
A primate that is trying very hard to be a ground hornbill.
A primate that is trying very hard to be a ground hornbill.

Colin's posts

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Sharing almost entirely for this one, great quote from Andreas: 

"Insofar as it is practicable, people should not be obligated to live under the government of their most recent oppressors. This covers any ambiguity in the decision principle governing Kosovo, Kurdistan, Crimea, East Timor, Israel, and Palestine: if the people ruling you have tried to murder or deport you recently, they don't get the benefit of the majoritarian principle just because they almost succeeded."
There's been a general tendency among Russophiles to accuse the West of hypocrisy in supporting independence for Kosovo but union for Crimea and Ukraine. This assumes a general majoritarian principle.

And this is sort of true.

I'm generally a majoritarian about this sort of thing: my argument against the ethics (rather than the legality) Southern exit was not that white Southerners didn't have a right to a morally neutral exit, but rather that black Southerners didn't get to vote about whether they would like to continue to be ruled by the people who were presently oppressing them. With that in mind,  I think I can articulate a single good-faith rule that governs regions seeking exit, and which isn't wholly majoritarian:

Insofar as it is practicable, people should not be obligated to live under the government of their most recent oppressors. This covers any ambiguity in the decision principle governing Kosovo, Kurdistan, Crimea, East Timor, Israel, and Palestine: if the people ruling you have tried to murder or deport you recently, they don't get the benefit of the majoritarian principle just because they almost succeeded.

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Citizens of the US and Commonwealth could learn a lot about their own nations' foreign policy by seeing the much more overt version of it coming from Russia.

That said, there's something very troubling that I have noticed coming from the progressive left, whenever a revolutionary movement starts to gain traction. In progressive responses to Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, and Libya, there's been this really ugly tendency to support a movement up until it gets big enough to actually require an international response - at which point the progs tend to drop it like a bad fashion trend, instead focusing on the inevitable ugly elements of whatever revolution it was. I've seen truly incredible things by people who should know better - peace activists arguing that a population unable to defend itself from full-scale military assault doesn't deserve to win a revolution, asking why it matters whether or not Assad used Chemical weapons because "dead people are dead people", and supporting the Russian occupation of Crimea under the guise of "anti-Fascism".

It would be easy to say this was some sort of political hipsterdom, people dropping the cause because the cause was taken up by the mainstream, but I think it is actually a negative artifact of something that is actually overwhelmingly positive: our greater access to on-the-ground information. The cost to the benefit of high-resolution information about a revolutionary movement is the de-romanticisation of what Revolution actually entails. Any successful revolution is going to, by definition, be ugly - it's going to involve creepy nationalists and iphone-toting anarchists and misinformed angry teens and people doing horrible, counterproductive things. By turning our backs on revolutions at the very moment they become big enough for these things to become visible, progressives are actually helping to reinforce the oppressive status-quo. 

None of that is to say that we should accept oppression in exchange for revolution, or that racism, anti-semitism, sexism, homophobia, War Crimes, or Ecocide are any more acceptable when they come from a revolutionary movement than when they come from a government. It's parallel to the saying that the true patriots are the ones who love their country enough to criticize it when it betrays its founding principles: when people are fighting theocrats, kleptocrats and despots, we need to show our love for them and their struggle AND oppose the oppressive elements within, and couch our opposition to those elements within statements of overall support for their fight against an oppressive regime.


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This discovery, while utterly fascinating in its own right, also highlights an  increasingly frustrating problem in biology.

There are  two very different uses of the term "male" and "female" in both biology and its anthropological subset:

First, there is Biological sex - no matter what your chromosome type is or what physical presentation you have or whether you have an inny or an outy or both or neither, if you produce big slow gametes, you're "female" and if you produce tiny fast gametes, you're "male" (and you can be female now and then male a few minutes later). If you have medium-sized gametes, or if you are part of a population that doesn't have discrete size categories of gamete, then you're a "hermaphrodite". It's about the closest biology ever comes to being straightforward about anything.

 Then, there's your Gender, or, as they often call it within behavioral biology, "sex role" - which gender is the (predominately) selective gender in mating, which gender does what in childrearing and/or territorial defense, etc - which tends to be a lot more ephemeral and circumstantial, even within a population. You could argue that "Gender" and "Caste" (in the ant/termite/molerat sense) are synonymous.

So calling something "male" or "female" or "hermaphrodite"  is not itself problematic, if you are careful to denote that you are specifically referring to biological sex and exactly what you mean by it - which both this article and the paper it is based off of are actually pretty careful about doing. 

But gender stuff is  much more complicated. While gamete size predicts a certain propensity toward certain reproductive strategies, there are SO many exceptions, and so many animals that have more genders than they have sexes, that using the biological term "male" and "female" as a shorthand (even if you then go and add prefixes like "super" "ultra" "dominant" or "sneaker") is misleading and causes more trouble than its worth. 

We should really separate gender and sex entirely, at least within behavioral biology. "Male" and "Female" should be reserved specifically to gametic strategy. For gender, have Dandies and Deciders or Beggars and Choosers or whatever, and then build up into your various subcategories and parallel strategies from there.  Because in the meantime, we're stuck with male/female as junkbin gender taxa.

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+Corey Doerscher , this reminded me of my newfound love of Congolese and Nigerian psychedelia, and I thought you might enjoy it.
So, during the various hippie pilgrimages of the 1960s, they left something behind in Thailand which you might not expect: psychedelic rock. I'm sort of sad that you can't find this anywhere other than YouTube videos of rural Thai weddings.

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For anyone who's read Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine", what's going on between Russia and the Ukraine will have some added, and dark, dimensions to it:

After the global public relations debacle that was the Sochi Olympics, combined with the increased national and international spotlight political dissenters like Pussy Riot were gaining, a military crisis that pushes the opposition into reaction-mode is precisely what Putin and his fellow oligarchs need to stay in power. 

Basically, whether or not the Ukrainian revolution succeeds, whether or not Russia successfully pushes the Ukraine into the civil war it's been clearly wanting since the revolution started, whether or not they manage to annex Crimea, Russia will get what it wants out of this - watch what happens to the until-now-growing political dissent within Russia now that Russian soldiers and ethnically Russian civilians are militarily engaged.

And when you see the dissent crumble, when you see how effectively manufactured military crises can be used to stifle domestic political dissent, remember: They learned it from us.

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Happy Darwin Day, Dudes and Dudesses! I made you a thing.

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So there's that, at least!
This is old news, but it's something which isn't mentioned nearly enough:

In the United States, the rate of sexual assault peaked in 1979, at 2.8 per 1000 per year. Since then, it's steadily declined, to a rate of 0.5 per 1000 per year in 2010. In other words, there's been an 88% decline over the past 40 years, and a 50% decline over the past 20.

Better still, there's no reason to doubt the numbers. If this were using the UCR metrics -- a survey of reported crimes -- then this could as easily reflect a decline in reporting rates as a decline in rape. But it's on the NCVS, which is a random-sample survey designed to be sensitive to unreported crimes.

Unless there's some factor leading people to lie in NCVS interviews, this is a real and durable result: there are many, many fewer sexual assaults today than there once were, and the number is still in significant decline -- even without a substantial increase in reports or prosecution.

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Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Tracy Huling and the Prison Policy Initiative have done a fantastic job researching this topic. Tracy included in one of her papers the following quote, “As former New York State legislator Daniel Feldman observed “When legislators cry ‘Lock ‘em up!,’ they often mean ‘Lock ‘em up in my district!.’”  This says it all.

When the ACLU Pasadena Foothills Chapter joined forces with the NAACP, LA Progressive and a host of other Southern California social justice focused organizations to sponsor a talk by former ACLU attorney, Michelle Alexander, author of, New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,  I asked Ms. Alexander to give the audience her condensed version of the prison-based gerrymandering phenomenon.

Characterizing it as a modern-day 3/5ths Compromise, Alexander explained that in most states census residence rules require that incarcerated people be counted at their place of incarceration as opposed to their home address.

She went on to explain that the overwhelming majority of incarcerated people in the United States hail from the major metropolitan centers of this country while the prisons are typically built in non-urban or rural areas. This counting practice results in a shift in population from urban center to rural community thereby increasing the political clout of rural communities while decreasing the political clout of urban communities.

And, all the while, the incarcerated, almost without exception, cannot vote — which explains the comparison to the 3/5ths Compromise. The compromise was written into the Constitution in 1787 at the Philadelphia Convention and wasn’t replaced until the 14 Amendment was adopted in 1868. It stated:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The reason the compromise was written into the Constitution was to incentivize the South to adopt the Constitution. Because population drives the number of congressional representatives and the tax apportionment, slave states wanted their slaves counted as part of the population. The delegates from the North, which didn’t have as many slaves as the South, didn’t want the slaves counted at all so a compromise was made. Each slave would count as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of tabulating the state’s population and determining how much political power and what share of the federal tax revenue that state would be entitled to be apportioned.

In addressing the census residence rule and specifically prison-based gerrymandering, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund reports:

Over the last several decades, the percentage of Americans incarcerated in prisons has increased four-fold (failed war on drugs). Incarcerated persons are often held in areas that are geographically and demographically far removed from their home communities. For instance, although non-metropolitan counties contain only 20% of the national population, they host 60% of new prisons.

In addition, because Latinos and African Americans are incarcerated at three to seven times the rate of Whites, where incarcerated people are counted has tremendous implications for how African-American and Latino populations are reflected in the census, and, consequently, how these communities are impacted through redistricting.

Political districts are based on population size.The number of people in a geographical region determines the number of Congressional, state and local representatives. When prison-based gerrymandering is employed, district boundaries redrawn to align with census figures results in large portions of what would have been urban population being reapportioned to rural counties.

This is not only a problem for California but for the rest of the nation as well. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that documents the impact of mass incarceration on individuals, communities, and the national welfare, *the United States is on the verge of a national crisis, particularly in situations where the communities that “win” are predominantly white, and the communities that “lose” are predominantly minority_.

#USprisoncomplex   #failedwarondrugs   #gopgerrymandering   #destructionofdemocracy   #prisonpolicyinitiative  

Now you know why the the GOP gerrymandered maps - that familiar shape we continue to see - exists. Man, the republicans are simply a group of unethical, evil politicians who care absolutely nothing about this country or its citizens.

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I am not sure why this is not bigger news, considering that there are first-person reports of all of the relevant details:

For the vast majority of the files Wikileaks released, a team of redactors made sure that no individuals would face retaliation for the information revealed by the cables. Except for those related to Russia and Belarus. (In retrospect, considering that Assange later accepted a job for Russian state media, this might be unsurprising.)

Almost immediately after receiving them, Assange handed unexpurgated files on the Belarusian opposition to a neo-Nazi Belarusan intelligence asset. Now the Belarusan dictator is now cheerfully using the information to persecute any opposition figure who had any sort of contact with the Americans.

I am not sure why almost everyone who supports Assange is unaware of this.

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Those backstabbing fucks in the Obama Administration are planning on delisting Wolves. Upholding the Endangered Species Act was literally the only legitimate reason left to vote a Democrat into the West Wing. 

Also, good luck trying to pin this one on the Republican Congress, Obama apologists.

And from the comments:

Also, from the comments:

"How can you remove a species from the endangered species list in areas where it hasn’t recovered (e.g., western WA & OR, CA, UT, CO, ND, SD, OK, NB, KS, IL, IA and parts of the northeast etc. How much of this is politics-driven and how much is based on sound-scientific research?

I realize that the USFWS did acknowledge that the eastern wolf (Canis lyacaon) of Eastern Canada is a distinct species of wolf, and grey wolves were probably never present in the northeast, yet they probably won’t list that species as endangered?"


"They will argue that (a) the species is “extinct” in most of these areas because no remnant populations remain and (b) there is no suitable habitat for wolves, so there is no point in attempting recovery. And under their new interpretation of ‘a significant portion of its range’ they need not consider the size of range contraction (or “lost” habitat) when making listing decisions.

If you want a 'taste' of what this will look like, check out the FWS’s 5-year review for the Eastern cougar ( They simply declared the population extinct–job’s done."
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