September 05, 2014

#WendyDavis discusses her abortion — political fallout vs #GregAbbott?

Wendy Davis speaks to supporters. Lisa Krantz/AP via Houston Chronnicle
Wendy Davis, in her new memoir, openly discusses an abortion she had for medical reasons:
Davis, in a copy of the book obtained by the Express-News, wrote that her unborn, already loved third daughter had an acute brain abnormality. She said doctors told her the syndrome would cause the baby to suffer and was likely incompatible with life. 
After getting several medical opinions and feeling the baby they had named Tate Elise “tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her” in the womb, she said the decision was clear. “She was suffering,” Davis wrote.

She has discussed more  a previous termination of an ectopic pregnancy that would have threatened her own life, but talked little about this.

That said, on the political front, since officially announcing her run for governor last December, Davis has been pretty gun-shy to talk about issues of reproductive choice in general, even though it was a filibuster over a draconian new law — a law that would have prevented the abortion she had — that propelled her to the statewide limelight just over a year ago.

So, is she prepared to take the bit in the teeth more? Or, is she going to continue to think she can successfully chase after GOP-leaning suburban white women by continuing to soft-pedal this issue?

Given that she hadn't talked that much about this abortion before now, I don't see how she can continue to soft-pedal the issue. Greg Abbott's minions are going to double down on the "Abortion Barbie" slurs.

Yes, Abbott himself is playing it polite for public consumption:

"The unspeakable pain of losing a child is beyond tragic for any parent. As a father, I grieve for the Davis family and for the loss of life."
Call me back when the wingnuts go on the attack, to see if he disavows them.

And will those wingnuts try to claim she's not that religious, despite saying she baptized the ... fetus? dead baby? What do we call it? Again, those suburban GOP-leaning white women aren't going to be any more likely to vote for her today than they were yesterday.

As for "what do we call it"? I'm with Ted Rall on this, and have been ever since I read his take, which is in this blog post about the "Gordian knot" of the issue:
Abortion is murder. In my view women have — and ought to continue to have — the right to murder their unborn babies. Each abortion is a tragedy, some necessary and others not, and all of them are murder.

I can't say it any differently, although I might want to put it less bluntly. And, Wendy Davis couldn't either. 

And, Rall's bluntness shows how this is indeed a "Gordian knot," and why outsiders, especially pre-viability, have no business judging the women cutting the knot, nor any business restricting their ability to do so.

At the same time, as I've blogged before, if you believe in an invisible man upstairs, especially an omnipotent one whose allegedly an Intelligent Designer, then you have to believe this guy is also the Great Abortionist, because as many as 1/3 of human pregnancies abort, for genetic abnormalities and other severe medical reasons.

Therefore, wingnuts? If you accuse the modern world of "playing God" with abortion, you're exactly right.

The book goes on public sale on Tuesday. Stay tuned for more takes on it.

As a secularist, and one with a European-type semi-cynical take on life, I'm not on board with this from the book:
I’ve long believed in angels on earth, in a higher power, in moments when someone or something comes into your life out of the blue and saves you from the dangerous path you’re on.
Not me.

Because, elementary logic, Wendy Davis.

Why didn't that higher power prevent this fetus/baby from having the brain defects in the first place? Why didn't it prevent the ectopic pregnancy before that?

Columbia Journalism Review officially shark-jumps on #IFLS

First, CJR senior writer Alexis Sobel Fitts writes a five-webpage cover story about "I Fucking Love Science" and its founder, Elise Andrew.

In doing so, she commits these cardinal errors:
1. Writing the story about herself as much as Andrew.
2. Ignoring Andrew's seeming very deliberate violation of not just journalistic ethics, but ethics in general through not honoring copyright of NUMEROUS science-related photos, including a number by Google+ friend of mine Alex Wild.
3. Not talking to anybody who could and would have told her about this. (Wild is among those commenting on the page.)

In other words, it's shoddy journalism for being:
1. Self-centered
2. Lazy
3. One-sided

And, other trade publications and blogs are weighing in, too. Here's Knight Science Journalism Tracker:
For starters, the profile appeared in a journalistic publication, written in an unjournalistic way, about a person whose work is not journalism. Go ahead and debate what that J-word actually means in the comments, but I’d argue that several of the fundamental tenets of journalism – such as accuracy and unbiased reporting – are missing from the CJR piece (which also happens to be this issue’s cover story).
 Instead of taking a measured, balanced look at the person behind a media phenomenon, the profile came off as an overly sunny PR puff piece. After all, Andrew is not journalism’s first self-made brand. And, oh, by the way, the profile mentions almost as an aside, there is a history of copyright infringement and plagiarism accusations being directed at IFLS.
That's about right. 

Meanwhile, doesn't CJR have a managing editor? Who let this crap be printed? Let alone, who decided this was the magazine version's cover story?

Well, these people let this crap be published:
Editor in Chief & Publisher
Elizabeth Spayd
Deputy Editor in Chief
Brent Cunningham
Associate Editor/Production Editor
Christie Chisholm
Associate Editor Kira Goldenberg

Click here to email them. Or here to suggest this, their own piece as a "dart" under the mag's "Darts and Laurels."

Worse, who made the decision to let Fitts double down on her indefensible writing with a follow-up that's even worse in some ways?

As for the claims that Andrew's not gotten any "boosts" or "helps," one of Fitts' new, additional claims? Uhh, wrong!

From a March announcement by former national late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson:
Science Channel greenlit new series “I F-ing Love Science,” executive produced by CBS’ “Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson. Ferguson made the announcement via a videotaped message at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on Saturday.
So, please, that's not even close to being true.

Just stop it.

Fitts is doubling down on being:
1. Self-centered
2. Lazy (couldn't do a teh Google for the Ferguson bit?)
3. One-sided

Hence my comment on the follow-up piece:
I'm a journalist who didn't study journalism in college, and I didn't train inside one of "legacy media's great institutions," but I still know ethics, including of attribution. So, Alexis, does Ms. Andrew deserve a "free pass" on ethics? Copyright issues apply across all streams of journalism, and communications beyond journalism, including public relations, non-journalistic book writing and more.
And, if Fitts likes the snarkiness of "new journalism," I added:
Can I copy your mugshot for for-profit use without attribution? How much of your original piece can I copy without attribution? 
So, in addition to that comment, I asked CJR on those pages to fire Fitts. 

Oh, and you can consider firing David Uberti, too, or whoever above his head had the idea of now tripling down on the craptacular and putting both Fitts original story and her "apologia" follow-up under this week's must-reads of the week.

#Philosophy — too broadly defined today, or too narrow? Vs. #scientism, #religion, #metaphysics

Massimo Pigliucci has another interesting, somewhat thought-provoking, guest column at Scientia Salon. (Seeing as I'm the only person who has submitted anything directly connected to aesthetics there, although Massimo's defense of the humanities is somewhat connected, I need to finish up work on my own follow-up piece.)

Speaking of follow-ups, in his first piece, Mark English decried philosophy for, among other things, being "parasitic" on religion. He used that exact word after I, among others, challenged his original claim that philosophy was too dependent on religion. Unfortunately, I didn't do a follow-up to his response, noting that the likes of Hume were writing about religion-based metaphysics specifically in order to purge it from philosophy.

Well, in his current piece, English claims that philosophy is defined too broadly.

It's not a flat-out paean to scientism, but could certainly be seen as broadly supportive of that attempt at greedy reductionism, to claim that everything is reducible to the natural sciences. (Or, if you're more greedy yet, I suppose one could propose #mathematicism, the idea that everything is reducible to mathematical formulae, the more of them that are a priori, the better.) Given that the title of his first piece was, "Does Philosophy Have a Future," I don't think it's at all unfair to say that English has one foot, at least, in the scientism camp.

But, let's get beyond that.

In the current piece, among other things, English says philosophy is "thinking about thinking."

To me, the issue, if we're getting into definitions, maybe Mark is defining philosophy too narrowly, even while lamenting it operates too broadly.. First, is political science philosophy? Arguably yes. Second, under the "thinking about thinking," the "philosophy of X" idea has room to grow.

Related to that, is "thinking about thinking" the best way to describe philosophy? I think not. If, like me, people accept at least some validity to the idea of "subselves" and the idea of consciousness not being fully unitary, and related issues, along with accepting the idea that we're just not quite so rational as we might want to believe about ourselves, calling philosophy "thinking about ***," let alone "thinking about thinking," is probably too limiting.

In short, to counter Mark, who thinks philosophy is too broad, I'd say it's too narrow. I'll add, per the "political science" issue, that Kung Fu Tzu, for example, arguably philosophized about politics more than anything else. So did Hobbes. And, I bring Master Kung into the issue to note that English has limited himself to Western philosophy only.

Wittgenstein gets brought into the discussion there, too. To the degree language is limited, and philosophy of language has made limited investigation of non-verbal communication, and its emotional content vs its rational thinking content, this is all the more reason to state that philosophy is probably too narrowly defined in too many people's minds.

September 04, 2014

Green Party disorder

Per friend Perry, the Green Party USA's list of Texas Green Party candidates is sadly and highly incorrect, as this spreadsheet list he created shows.

I sent the national party Perry’s list of Texas Green Party candidates on Tuesday. I wonder if anybody from the Texas Green Party has done so. Per the amount of snark I’ve director toward the absentee candidate for governor, Brandon Parmer, probably not.

And, it's Thursday, and that GP list still ain't updated. Wonder if the state party knows it's wrong, too. Probably not.

As Perry said:
I love the Greens and what they stand for, but sometimes their level of competence really tries my patience. 
Couldn't say it much better myself. 

At some point, if you are both serious and idealistic about wanting to be more than just a protest vote, you have to build organization and recruit better candidates to make that happen.

Also, to riff on the link inside the pull quote from Perry?

Reality-based applies to more than just climate change and opposing wars. It includes not being anti-vaxxer or things like that.

New #TigerWoods still the old Tiger? #RyderCup realities

I had blogged recently about how Tiger Woods' decision to sit out a couple of months, and his decision to withdraw himself from Ryder Cup team consideration.

Well, hold off on that.

First, we know that the reason Tiger is sitting out until December is not just injury, but also the search for a new swing coach, or else the search for how to recraft his swing without outside help.

Second, TW didn't call Tom Watson to scratch himself from Ryder Cup competition; Tom called him.

That said, Tiger was the one who bit the bullet when Tom called it seems. Of course, with Tom calling, he probably realized that he was going to have to bite the bullet because Tom had gun in hand and trigger finger ready. The way Woods' team (Mark Steinberg and "the kid") phrased their press release, it seems clear they were trying to fog things up, but not so much to get too harshly called out if Watson was asked to comment later on, like he was.

I'm shocked, I tell you.

Do you have your proper Texas voter ID? #Snark alert

The federal lawsuit over Texas' draconian new voter identification laws is unlikely to be done before Election Day. Even if it were, the appeals process would start, meaning that the current law would stay in place, even if AG Greg Abbott continues his losing streak in federal court.

The Trib has an intro to the trial, which started yesterday. Of course, the GOP are only trying to filter out poor, brownish people, the kind that Lite Guv candidate Dan Patrick, aka The Stinking Anglo Formerly Known as Danny Goeb™, think smell up our voting process.

And, it's not just Danny Boy.

Our beloved gubernatorial candidate, AG Strangeabbbott, per fellow blogger P.Diddle, has a history of outright voter suppression. I agree with him; the News story is great and deserves a full read.

Of course, the GOP doesn't care about what we know is the No. 1 source of actual vote fraud — other people filling out absentee ballots by mail just to "help out" a senior citizen who's homebound or in a nursing home. Of course, those large white seniors, and even more the 80-plus "super seniors," are likely to tilt GOP. Allegedly. Since we're not even sure how much of this vote fraud exists, we don't even know their voting preferences for sure.

That is, if you're not a rich, white Republican.

This here photo shows you all the voter ID you need in that case. Just a nice donation to the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT.

Per an old TV commercial of my youth days: "CPRIT — too strong for a man running for governor? Made for a woman opposing him?" We shall see.

That said, I know that's John Sharp who's third from left in this photo. People who have read my blog for years may know what I think of him; people who aren't can click his tag below and find out. I deliberately picked this picture because he's in it.

I didn't have a lot of love for Sharp with the 2002 "Dream Team" flop. Various actions and stances of his since then have only decreased my fond regards.

September 03, 2014

Rural #redstate Texas gets left out

The Texas Trib, for all I like to kick it, and all the kicking it deserves, has a good series of enterprise stories about how "Rick Perry's Texas miracle" (which never really existed in the first place, as it was built on out-state moves to Texas plus illegal immigration) has left much of the state behind.

First, you know how Perry, the rest of the GOP, and hangers-on like to tout how the state's electric grid is largely separate from the rest of the nation? (Well, except when cold snaps mean we have to "borrow" power from Mexico.)

Well, that "isolation" may be part of why the energy boom, especially in West Texas, is adding a pretty penny to electric bills.

Second, in many of the same rural areas, for a variety of reasons (like the now-unconstitutional school finance system) has stuck municipalities, small school districts, and small counties with ever more debt. You can find out your local debt load here.

And, at the same time, taxes (along with "fees" and other euphemisms) also get pushed down from Austin to local levels.

But yet, all of these places won't "bite" on Wendy Davis' sometimes pandering rightward. She could sell them a real populist message on corruption at CPRIT that's connected to both opponent Greg Abbott and incumbent Rick Perry. She could talk about how Medicaid expansion will help poor white folks as well as poor minorities. She could talk about how Abbott's blockade of better school funding hurts their small town schools. None of that panders rightward.

#Cardinals and Jhonny Peralta, NL MVP?

Jhonny Peralta
Yes, in a year that's a bit skimpy for hitters in the NL, with one exception, and with one incredible pitching year, many touts are touting Clayton Kershaw for the National League's Most Valuable Player award as well as the Cy Young.

There area  few challengers, though.

Giancarlo Stanton is having a big year with the bat, having just socked homer No. 35.

However, on Baseball-Reference, he's only No. 3 in wins above average. He trails the Braves' Jason Heyward.

This is a good pause point for two issues.

The first is whether pitchers should get consideration for the MVP or not since they already have the Cy Young. I'm OK with that, since there is the Hank Aaron Award (as overlooked as it may be) for best hitter of the year. I still lean toward a hitter, if things become a push.

The other issue, as illustrated in the Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout race in the AL last year, is whether team record should be a factor.

That gives a bump to Clayton, a bit of a ding to Stanton, and, if the Braves can nab a wild card, a definite dump to Heyward.

It also gives a bump to the No. 4 on the NL WAR list.

This is a man that St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz has been touting throughout the year for his defense — Cards shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Peralta has the second best oWAR of his career, and far and away the best dWAR, largely, but not entirely, due to the Cards' frequent use of defensive shifts. (His dWAR puts him within half a defensive WAR point of defensive whiz kid and Ozzie Smith impersonator Andrelton Simmons, even.)

Heyward is doing the same, at a position that, while not quite as important defensively as shortstop, is important enough, at right field.

As of today, the Cardinals have a two-game lead in the NL Central over the Brewers, while the Braves are 1.5 games out of the second wild card.

To me, at a minimum, that pushes Peralta into the middle of the discussion.

September 02, 2014

Not so fast, Reds fans on Billy Hamilton as NL Rookie of the Year

Sure, his base-stealing has made a big splash, and he's a pretty decent (but not yet fantastic, Reds fans) defensive center fielder, but, is Billy Hamilton a lock to be named Rookie of the Year in the National League?

Not yet, not in my book, which, I'll admit, is partially a "homer's" book on this.

Hamilton's splits show that he's starting to fade in the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, a certain St. Louis second baseman, guy named Kolten Wong, started playing a bit better after coming back from Memphis, then better yet after coming off the IR.

Jacob deGrom is the third candidate with a realistic chance. He's continued to be solid all year, arguably getting a bit better as the year has worn on. I think David Peralta's relative lack of appearances will hurt him. Ditto for Gregory Polanco getting sent back down and Chris Owings' injury apparently knocking him out for the year.

Anyway, this isn't a great crop of ROY candidates overall.

Newspapers are dying, at least in Austin

When I'm in the library in the big city, or nearest thing to one that's nearby, I like scanning metropolitan dailies to see just how they're faring on ad inches.

And, the Tuesday, Aug. 26 Austin American Statesman?

Not faring well at all.

Now, Tuesday's not a great day, but, it's not quite as slow as Monday.

But 12 percent? Four pages worth of paid ads in a 50-page paper? That's sad, and ugly.

(One week later, they were up to a full 15.5 percent for Tuesday, Sept. 3. That said, the paper had been cut to 32 pages. And, some of the paid ads were tax-and-budget season legals.)

Add to it that, as fluff, the Statesman's copy staff (which aren't even in Austin, as all but the sports pages are built at a sister Cox paper, the Dayton Daily News) had two pages worth of house ads. That many house ads, compared to that few of paid ads, stand out like a sore thumb.

That said, even bigger papers aren't that much better off.

With September and rising car sale ads, the Dallas Morning News is now above 40 percent on Saturdays, but, on a Wednesday, which is an "OK/decent" day for advertising, it still normally doesn't break 25 percent. Maybe it pushes 30 at times. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram will run about halfway between it and the Statesman. (This library doesn't get the Houston Chronicle, so I can't comment on it.)

The Waco and Temple papers, as smaller seven-days, run around Austin, it seems, on ad percentages. That said, there's no state capital in Waco or Temple, and there's no major oil or other minerals.

And, let's remember, Texas has a pretty "decent" economy.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, a recent Monday L.A. Times was at just 40 pages. Let's say that they didn't want to run at less than 20 percent advertising. (On all papers, I count classys and obits as straight advertising inches.) Even with the Net economy, surely the Times would have  3x the classys as Austin, and more paid obits, even at higher rates.

So, it couldn't have had more than a 35 percent edge on retail ad space above the Statesman. That's horrible.

I don't know if he had a typo and actually meant 2015, but Ryan Chittum of CJR said that he expects LA to not have a seven-day print daily by the end of this year. That might be a stark guess, but giving Chittum the year's benefit of the doubt, that wouldn't surprise me at all.

September 01, 2014

Turbulence in Randi-world? Grothe booted, LA office closed at #JREF

Special update, Sept. 24: Jeff Wagg, a non-immediate predecessor of D.J. Grothe's, albeit under different title (assuming that "general manager" = "president," and with the stipulation that at least Phil Plait was intervening), supports Alison Smith's account about an alleged sexual assault by skeptic Michael Shermer at the 2008 The Amazing Meeting, part of this piece by Michael Oppenheimer on misogyny in the skeptical community.

Per the whole thread on which Wagg comments, he adds that Smith told him at that time that Shermer had raped her, as well as her being very drunk before she went to her room.

And, Wagg says Smith's story hasn't changed.

That said, did Wagg contact police himself? It doesn't look like it. He reportedly talked to Randi, but obviously Randi didn't call police. As for why Smith didn't? Well, many rape victims, especially if away from their normal surroundings, are hesitant to do that.

At the same time, even if Shermer was "trying to get her drunk," nobody put a gun to her head. Nobody forced her to let Shermer in her room, either.


I'm not hugely plugged into the world of "scientific skepticism" or "movement skepticism," but the dismissal of D.J. Grothe as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation seems a bit out  of the blue.

Here's the whole release:
In order to achieve cost-savings and greater efficiency, the Los Angeles office of the JREF has closed effective September 1, 2014. All operations have been moved to Falls Church, Virginia. 
 DJ Grothe is no longer with the JREF. James Randi has taken over as acting President. 
 This restructuring is part of an enhanced educational agenda aimed at inspiring an investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers by engaging children and their parents, as well as educators and the general public, in how to think about the many extraordinary claims we hear every day.

Color me, er, skeptical! There's surely more to it than this.

(Update, Sept. 5: Randi provides a pablum update as opaque as the original. This, in layperson's terms, might be called "adding fuel to the fire of rumors." Maybe Randi is now in Bill Nye territory and figures any PR is good PR.)

While I don't follow JREF as much as Center for Inquiry, which I also don't follow a whole lot, I'd heard no major rumors among more plugged-in Facebook friends about significant financial worries.

Beyond that, is Grothe's salary that huge? Probably less money than rent of the L.A. office, along with utilities and expenses. And, the idea that an 86-year-old Randi will be "acting president" in any real sense for any length of time is laughable.

Unless the real president is "Carlos," aka José Alvarez, aka Devyi Peña, aka Uri Geller for all the hell I know. That said, as I've blogged before, I have no doubt that Randi knew who "Carlos" was, and had at least a hint about his identity theft, long before either one came clean.

Out of curiosity, I bopped over to CFI; no beans spilled there about any inside information on this.

Anyway, so, no rumors. And, if it needs change, it surely needs it beyond an 86-year-old being acting president. Maybe Randi, like Paul Kurtz, has founder's syndrome? After all, per Wikipedia, Randi himself was chairman of the board. Maybe Grothe wasn't taking orders well enough or whatever.

Even if other people affiliated with JREF had problems with Grothe, part of that could be larger "alignment" issues. And, beyond the savings in salary and office space, a head of a nonprofit is supposed to help out with fundraising, and Grothe apparently wasn't doing that. If it's as bad as it may be, this can't be a surprise — other than it being a surprise he wasn't escorted out even earlier.

Per a Tweet by Jim Lippard, it is that bad, on funding: JREF Revenue: 2011: $1.56M, 2012: $1.29M, 2013: $887.5K.

Still, the suddenness seems "interesting." Because financial problems, if known, don't suddenly pop up out of nowhere. Ones that bad certainly don't.

Unless .... the board and/or Grothe had been pretending things weren't that bad, and suddenly, voila, their lessor padlocked the doors for nonpayment of back rent in LA.

On the savings? Grothe was getting about $95K a yaer plus benefits. The LA office cost about $85K a year.

That said, Randi himself supposedly pulls down  $250K a year as non-executive chairman. If true? Like with Brian Dunning, behind many a skeptic, there's many a sucker for a guru to follow. Second, Randi's $250K as non-executive chairman of the board (page 7 of the PDF of a recent IRS 990 form) IS a huge amount, and would be at an even larger nonprofit. True, that's from 2012, and in 2013, he made "just" $195K, as reported on the latest 990. The principle still stands, I think.

(This all said, I have a new post on questions JREF's board, contributors and volunteers should be asking, as well as others that the skeptical movement should be asking itself in general.)

And, neither does larger mismanagement. That includes social media mismanagement of posting the same annoucement on Facebook and adding a "no comments" at the end of it. And, now, the beginnings of a flame war between social justice warriors and others have broken out there.

And, it's being abetted by P.Z. Myers, aka Pharyngula, to whom I shall not link. (P.Z. has some information wrong, but, since I'm now also blocked from commenting there with my Yahoo account,I won't try to figure out some other way to straighten him out.)

Meanwhile, the Randi site's forums, which I know led to a lot of interesting discussion, and probably some occasional flaming, are being cut off from the organization? Jim Lippard notes that this is a few days old, and has been done by other skeptical or atheist nonprofits. That said, I think it would be smarter to kill a forum outright rather than hand its ownership over to somebody else. Branding issues, etc.

That said, if you look at the forums homepage and the dog's breath of topics, it should have been either farmed off, killed, or more tightly run, one of the three, years ago. I mean, whoever let it become a generalized political and social commentary site blew it.

Especially given that Gnu Atheist type social justice warriors are "goosing" this whole situation, and probably have been since rumors started a year ago about Grothe's management, the forums should have either been killed outright or handed off to a third party some time ago.

Flip side is that the Gnus are surely at least partially righton the amount of libertarianism under guise of alleged skepticism that runs around JREF. If someone like Sharon Hill, the blank-check defender of Brian Dunning, is that involved, that says something.

As usual, a bit of pox on both houses from where I stand.

And, yes, bad management happens in the skeptics world. Witness both problems Paul Kurtz had at Center for Inquiry and some  that his successor, Ron Lindsay, has had. Some were financial; some were other management issues. 

Related to that, "founder's syndrome" doesn't necessarily just apply to the founders of non nonprofit advocacy-type groups. Witness the "single donor" issue at Center for Inquiry, withdrawing his 25 percent of budget donations when Kurtz was pushed aside. That said, in Randi's case, given that he named the organization after himself, there's an extra twist there.

Beyond that, how many skeptics' groups are needed? One commenter on Randi's forums may be right: Michael Shermer will take over The Amazing Meeting (for now), and perhaps the whole Randi shebang eventually. 

And, Randi  was getting $250K as chairman of the board? Or even $200 after a cut? Really? That is founder's syndrome. At Skeptics Society, both Shermer as president and Pat Linse as CFO make a shade under $80K, per its 990.

But, don't worry, Gnus; if P.Z. and his Freethought Blog co-founder Ed Brayton get the idea for a larger Gnu Atheist "portal" or something, they'll have some of the same issues, in all likelihood.


Update, Sept. 12: Although Grothe is not mentioned, the issue of sexism and misogyny in movement skepticism gets a thorough walk around the block by Mark Oppenheimer in Buzz Feed. The biggie? Naming Shermer's hitherto-nameless 2008 accuser. Shermer, in turn, has issued a long denial. That said, as with other forms of abusive behavior (Ray Rice and his wife) an (alleged) abusee remaining amicable with an (alleged) abuser, whether sexual or physical, is not all that out of the blue. It's surely a minority, but how small of one? On the third hand, and I know the social justice warriors don't want to hear about it — if alcohol was involved, nobody put a gun to your head to make you drink, did they?

It is interesting that Shermer didn't comment on this Randi comment from Oppenheimer's piece, though:
“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference. 
“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.”

Very interesting, especially since Shermer claims, at least on the 2008 issue, to have been sober.

Let me put it this way. At age 60, Shermer is old enough, and has been around movement skepticism enough, to be part of the old guard in more ways than one. 

The overall truth, on Shermer in particular, and Oppenheimer's piece in general, is probably somewhere in the murky middle.


Update, Sept. 18: Skepticblog is being replaced with something new. Jim Lippard has one of the first posts. Questions of "why," that run through my thoughts, are answered well right here, in his tracing the roots of modern movement skepticism back to the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP:
But what were CSICOP’s original goals, and has the organization successfully met them? What are the goals of the other skeptical organizations that have been formed in the U.S. and around the world since (and in a few cases, before) CSICOP, and are they being achieved? Just what is the value and purpose of “organized skepticism” as a movement, as a set of institutions, as a network of people participating in conferences, writing articles and books, recording podcasts and videos, and interacting online? What does it accomplish, what is the broader social context in which it resides, and what is its relation to the institutions, practices, and subject matter of science? Does it do anything that isn’t already done by science, science journalists, science communicators, historians and philosophers of science, social studies of science, science museums, science educators, and just ordinary amateur science-interested people? What can skeptics learn from these other areas? What does it mean to self-identify as a “skeptic”? Where has skepticism gone wrong, and what can we learn from its failures? Are there alternatives to “organized skepticism” that might better achieve all or some of its goals?

Click the link; you'll learn what Jim plans to cover and more. 

And, for more background, click this link, also included in Jim's piece. Daniel Loxton goes into a bit more depth, already in 2007, on some of these issues.

Also, if Barbara Drescher is part of the new effort at Skeptic, is she still going to be doing anything with Randi, or not? Especially since Randi's own column is reportedly not in the latest issue of his foundation's magazine, that plot thickens, too.

Update, Oct. 7: At the same time, an overall good roundup here of why PZ Myers has no business criticizing anybody else's sexual behavior. Liquor him up as much as Shermer may have been at times, and the yucky behavior toward women he sometimes has shown himself would probably be at the level of rumors of criminal behavior on his own part.

#LaborDay — dying unions ignored by #neoliberal Democrats

That's the simple story — the Republicans, never organized labor's allies (though Robert Taft tried to modify his signature Taft-Hartley Act before he died) don't care, and now, "free trade" social interest group Democrats don't care, either.

But, the reality of the story is a bit more complex. And, today's the day to look at all of it.

Yes, Labor Day is more than a day for a picnic or a barbecue. It's a day to remember the advances of organized labor in the past and its declines today.

It's also a day to remember why those declines have happened — including fingering organized labor's own share of responsibility.

First, a couple of today's anti-worker issues.

Wage theft, from hourly employees,  but also to salaried persons, is becoming ever more common.

And, its methodology grows.

The story notes reclassification of workers as independent contractors, a practice that continues to grow, and in my profession, at daily newspapers, is highly stressful. That delivery driver who throws your paper? He or she is an independent contractor, not a newspaper employee. And, at a daily newspaper, responsible for finding a replacement if sick, wanting any vacation, etc. Remember, a seven-day daily paper gets thrown every day. Think about that next time you hear the phrase "liberal media."

Another trick, seemingly new in the mode of execution, is an electronic version of pencil-whipping time cards.

That said, the penalties, under statutes like the National Labor Relations Act, are usually weak, limited to no more than back pay, possibly with interest.

So, this:
Michael Rubin, one of the lawyers who sued Schneider, disagreed, saying there are many sound wage claims. “The reason there is so much wage theft is many employers think there is little chance of getting caught,” he said.

And, that's the case.

Or, as Harold Meyerson notes in a must read, there's little penalty: 
To get some perspective on how negligible such penalties may be, one just has to look at the 2007 unionization campaign at the Yale–New Haven Hospital, conducted outside the framework of the NLRA. An independent arbitrator ruled that management had committed numerous fair-practice violations and fined the hospital $4.5 million. During the decade of 2000–2009, by contrast, the total of all fines levied nationally by the NLRB for illegal punishment of workers for their union activity came to $36 million, or $3.6 million a year.
That said, wage and hour problems, and the problems of unionization in general, have been almost as bad under Democratic presidents as Republican ones.

It would be easy to blame globalization, given a mix of GOP and neoliberal Democrats in the White House but Meyerson says, not so fast:
(G)lobalization by itself doesn’t necessarily lead to a weakened labor movement and declining worker income. If it did, unionized German manufacturing workers would not enjoy pay and benefits that exceed those of Americans even as their country has become the export giant of the Western world. Because unions are more powerful in Germany than they are in the U.S., and because German law requires large companies to divide their corporate boards equally between workers’ and management’s representatives, multinationals like Siemens, Daimler, and BMW have kept their most highly productive and best-paid jobs at home. Only where corporations have been free to structure globalization to their workers’ disadvantage—that is, in the United States—has it led to massive union decline.
That said, while Tony Blair promoted the "Third Way of new Labour and neoliberalism, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder resisted. But, the Social Democrats are out in Germany and have been for several years, while in France, François Hollande's Socialists look like they will start treading that path.

But labor's woes go beyond globalization, or beyond that and weak domestic labor laws.

And, it's not just that neoliberal Democrats focus on a couple of hot-button social issues to fluff Hollywood and Silicon Valley donors, even while Silicon Valley is relentlessly anti-union, though that is a problem itself.

Beyond that, those neolibs are moving into big-city municipal government, not just the White House and statehouses:
Already, some Democratic mayors, among them Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel and Newark’s Cory Booker, are building coalitions that array their city’s corporate elites and minority communities against their cities’ unions. 
It's really not the "minority communities," it's the "top minority 'players'" who claim to represent "minority communities," which itself illustrates another problem with modern interest-group Democratic Party "liberalism."

That said, there's plenty of neolib Democrats in statehouses, too:
Even in such progressive bastions as California or New York, there’d be no guarantee that Governor Jerry Brown, who vetoed a card-check bill for California farmworkers last year, or Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has cultivated an adversarial relationship with many of New York’s unions, would be inclined to make it easier for workers to organize in the private sector. 
The Green Party, on paper, talks about worker empowerment, better wages, etc. However, Greens, or lowercase greens or environmentalists, have often long been skittish about unions.

Unions used to represent heavy industry — big polluters whose workers always sided with their bosses on environmental issues. And, as Meyerson notes, unions were staunchly pro-war in Vietnam, and arguably, by the reception George W. Bush got at Ground Zero after 9/11, still more pro-war than the Democratic Party in general in the current century. (That's ignoring the AFL-CIO's history of being in bed abroad with the CIA any time the CIA wanted an anti-Communist labor front in a country it was trying to destabilize for allegedly being Communist.)

Meyerson notes that the war, and lack of labor organization today, is unions shooting themselves in the foot. That said, he misses one bigger issue which ties to today: national health care.

Harry Truman was the first president to make a bid for that. Everybody knows that the American Medical Organization and big business were two legs of the "stool" opposing him. The third?

Organized labor. It saw generous private-sector health benefits as a prime union recruitment tool. This is of a straight-line connection with the AFL-CIO being suckers for anti-Communism claims, of opposing environmentalists any time they wanted factories to get cleaner, and more.

In the U.S., traditional blue-collar unions have often been as capitalistic as their employees. They've focused on wage and hour gains first, work safety a fairly distant second, and broader employment-related quality of life issues a distant third. Walter Reuther and his emphasis on backing the civil rights movement was the exception far more than the rule.

Indeed, the development of Labor Day, rather than May Day, as the "workingman's day" in the US, argues for that. May Day, which of course had been a pagan Germano-Celtic holiday for centuries, either Beltane or Walpurgis Nacht, was made the International Workers Day in Europe in 1886 — precisely because of the Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1886.

Who made it that? Per Wikipedia:

May 1 was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago that occurred on May 4, 1886.
There you go — a commemoration of the workers, by the workers, for the workers.

That's what it's largely continued to be. And, it's been "maintained" better as such than Labor Day here in America.

Over here, it's a different story. American workers apparently never appreciated what a handshake of solidarity European workers were offering. (Canadian workers do; even though Labour Day is the official holiday, unions generally celebrate May Day more.)

The U.S. Labor Day? Entirely different. Also per Wikipedia:
Labor Day was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September to support the Labor Day that the Knights favored.
Did organized Labor in the U.S. have to agree to this date? No. But it did, instead of celebrating May Day and telling Grover Cleveland to go fuck himself.

Now, wage-and-hour gains are fine, when that's the primary need. But, rather than fighting for table scraps from someone else's power, American unions could have been doing more, and different.

The recent Volkswagen of America union rejection vote brought up the issue that, in Germany, labor representatives get seats on the company's boards of directors. Why didn't George Meany work for that in the 1950s or ’60s? Why didn't he campaign for Americans to get minimum paid vacation rights, and for them to get a third week of paid time guaranteed after either so many years with a company, or in the workforce in general?

Because, the restlessness and workaholism that's in the corporate DNA of many a  company and company CEO is still too embedded in too much of American unionism, especially that of the old industrial unions.

Walter Reuther, just like his French auto labor counterparts, may have read Sartre or Camus, but, I don't think nearly the same percentage of American line workers did, as did their French counterparts. Probably, 40 years ago, hardhats would have called "quality of life" a Communist issue or something.

So, Meyerson probably didn't go quite far enough. If American unionism is to be revitalized, the old building may need to be razed. And the old foundations may need to be blown up along with that.

That all said, I have some personal background for commenting on all of this.

I've never belonged to a union, but I would have no problem joining one as part of a job.

That said, as an adjunct college instructor, I taught at a place in Michigan called Baker College. It had a separate division called "Corporate Services," which was really "UAW Services." Almost every person in every class I taught was a union member trying to get a college degree to do something — to do anything — before the next layoff. The few exceptions were people promoted from the line to white-collar salaried engineering jobs, still in auto plants.

I had not just union workers but one steward, at Flint Truck and Bus, in my classes. We talked, outside of class — and inside of the sociology class I taught — about union sociology issues.