Balticon’s speech code

This week I learned that Balticon is among the science fiction conventions that restricts speech in the name of prohibiting “harassment.” Its “Harassment Policy” states: “Do not use slurs or derogatory comments about a person, group or category of people.” With a presidential election coming up, this could put a real damper on discussions.

As usual, we can expect selective enforcement. I doubt that anyone would get into trouble for saying derogatory things about Orson Scott Card, the Sad Puppies, or conservatives. Speech codes operate to enforce conformity to views that are popular within the group or with the administrators, rarely to enforce a consistent embargo on discussion.

I wasn’t planning on going to Balticon, but it’s still sad to see how many cons are going in this direction, and how few people care.

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Senators propose enslaving women

No matter how low Congress sinks, it can always sink lower. The latest evidence of that is the proposal from the Senate Armed Services Committee to require women to register for forced military service. They aren’t even bothering with a nice name, but calling it the “Draft America’s Daughters Act.” They’re boasting that they want to take people’s daughters and send them to die in foreign countries.

This is the point at which I have to call for civil disobedience. Refusal to register is the only thing that will shut Selective Service down.

I’m not advocating an illegal act. The military draft is slavery, hence a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment and null and void. The World War I era Supreme Court claimed it’s constitutional, but it can’t make a lie true. The Supreme Court’s power to rule on the Constitution provides a check on the government, but it has no more power to rewrite or ignore the Constitution than Congress does.

I’m asking you to uphold the law by not obeying an illegal demand from Congress. If you’re at the age where you’re told to register, don’t. If you’ve got children of that age, encourage them not to submit. Hillary Clinton (I’m resigned to her being the next president) and Congress would love a supply of unwilling soldiers to fight their endless wars. Don’t give them one.

Update: Here’s some better news: The House has removed draft registration for women from a defense policy bill. It’s interesting that it’s Democrats who want to expand the draft and Republicans who oppose it. Some Republicans “questioned whether the Selective Service, which needs $23 million annually to operate, should be abolished altogether with an all-volunteer force.” The answer is yes.

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Idea bias in educational hiring

“Diversity” in progressive educational institutions means physiological variety and ideological conformity. How much does this affect their hiring practices? If your ideas differ from the prescribed “diverse” ones, does that wreck your chances of getting a job?

It’s hard to say for sure. If an applicant’s ideas fall under the realm of religion, it’s illegal to take them into account, but employers can (probably) take ideas on politics, academic freedom, and what constitutes fair treatment of people into account. An article from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania discusses the vague notion of being a “cultural fit” for a workplace. It’s not specifically about academic workplaces, but its questions certainly apply there. The article offers a subtle slap at academic dogmatism: “Research also shows the benefits of diversity in the workplace — diversity of ideas, personality and life experience in additional to racial, religious and gender diversity.”

A study by two psychologists at Tilburg University found that a substantial fraction of academics in social psychology responded that they would choose an equally qualified liberal over a conservative. The method of identifying people’s positions isn’t great; it asked them to position themselves on a scale of “liberal” to “conservative,” with separate ratings for social issues, economic issues, and foreign policy. These are vague terms, but we can read them as “minority viewpoint” in the academic world.

The study found that “the more conservative respondents were, the more they had personally experienced a hostile climate.” Ironically but not surprisingly, “the more liberal respondents were, the less they believed conservatives faced a hostile climate.” The surprise is that a substantial fraction of respondents openly admitted they would discriminate against people with “conservative” views.

One in six respondents said that she or he would be somewhat (or more) inclined to discriminate against conservatives in inviting them for symposia or reviewing their work. One in four would discriminate in reviewing their grant applications. More than one in three would discriminate against them when making hiring decisions.

The good news is that most people said they wouldn’t, but I have to wonder how often the large and noisy pro-discrimination minority pushes them into submission.

When I interviewed at Dartmouth College for a software development position a few years ago, I was asked about my views on diversity. I answered in a way that was honest but hopefully made it difficult for anyone to use my answer against me: That a diversity of viewpoints and experiences was a good thing, but that fake diversity was bad. As an example of the latter, I cited some notes which I’d seen on campus earlier in the day, in which some black students complained that professors treated them as representatives of their race rather than as individuals. The people I talked with seemed to like me; unfortunately, the project I was working on was canceled, so no one got the job. I don’t think my ideas had a negative effect. Still, why should that have been a question at all? The job I was applying for didn’t have any hiring or supervision responsibilities. My views on the topic had no relevance to the job.

More recently I applied for a job with a digital library at a Boston-area university. I thought I did well on my phone interview, but two months later I’ve heard nothing, not even the courtesy of saying they’re going with another candidate. If the managers looked up any of my online writings, they’d quickly see I don’t conform to the progressive orthodoxy. Did that kill my chances? I have no way of knowing. Without naming the institution, I’ll mention that FIRE has given it a speech code rating of “red,” meaning it “has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” I’m sure that a lot of people pursuing careers in academic institutions decide that expressing opinions publicly would be bad for their employment and advancement prospects.

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where people can question established ideas and explore unpopular positions. Instead, too many of them are “safe spaces”: safe from controversy, safe from unpopular ideas, safe from anything that might upset believers in the orthodoxy. That makes them unsafe spaces for people who think.

Update: An op-ed in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof, titled “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance,” reaches similar conclusions.

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Trump and a Scam from the Republican National Committee

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, then left it in draft status. With Trump suddenly begging for money, pieces fall into place now.

A while back, he was talking like a gangster to the Republican National Committee:

They better get going. Because I’ll tell you what, you’re gonna have a rough July at that convention. You better get going, and you better straighten out the system because the people want their vote, the people want to vote and they want to be represented properly.

Just minutes after reading that news article, I opened a piece of mail from the RNC that said “Check enclosed” on the outside. That was just the beginning of the lies in the mailing.
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Two articles on

Recently I signed up for a month’s free trial on, a libertarian site requiring payment to participate. It has some good articles, which you can read without paying, along with the inevitable noise, and it went to free subscriptions a few days ago, so the question of whether it’s worth they money is now moot.

I’ve posted a couple of articles there, to see what reaction they’d get; the answer turned out to be none. Here they are, for anyone interested:

Update: Just to clarify, I signed up with for the professional purpose of making contact with publishers and other writers. So far it hasn’t done anything for me that way, but I’ll give it a while longer.

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News: Downed lines in Nashua, Riverside Dr. closed

Today’s bike ride for a bagel was more exciting than I expected. As I returned home on Riverside Drive, I saw fire trucks across the road. On a closer view, the situation was even worse: Power lines draped over a big trailer truck right at Conway Arena, all the way across the street to where a utility pole was down. The firemen weren’t even allowing foot traffic through, so I had to backtrack to Mine Falls Park and ride to the other side of the turnpike to get home.

Riverside Drive is the only vehicle access point to the Riverside Medical Center and Nashua High School South, so they were cut off from the world till traffic was restored. I don’t know if it has been yet. The traffic light at the entrance to my condo complex was on but blinking, as if its control had been knocked out. There were probably power outages, but they don’t seem to have been widespread.
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Shattered Dreams: A movie of ideas

The movie Bolshevism on Trial, aka Shattered Dreams, is a movie of ideas that’s still worth seeing. Yesterday I saw this 1919 silent under the latter title at the Manchester library, accompanied by Jeff Rapsis. The first title isn’t quite right; utopian socialism, rather than Bolshevism, is its main focus.

An idealistic woman, Barbara, wants to set up a socialist community on an island so that the world will see the happiness it creates. Her friend Bradshaw, who has a rich father, leases the island for them. (The names of the characters in the IMDB listing are different from the ones in the version I saw yesterday. There may have been two significantly different versions of the movie. I’m using the names as I remember them, and I have a lousy memory for names. Sorry if I’ve got any wrong.) Bradshaw’s father despises the project but lets him do it anyway to learn a lesson.
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