William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: Culture (page 1 of 173)

The best that has been thought and written and why these ideals are difficult to meet.

People’s Climate March: The Face Of True Belief #PeoplesClimate

Note the muumuu.

Note the muumuu.

Nice people

Ready for a surprise? I liked everybody I met. I mean it. I liked them so much I hated what I had to write below.

I liked the group which wore real cabbages for headpieces, some of which had cabbage horns. I liked like the anarchists from West Virginia University who were sure the capitalist system which allowed them to go to school and come to this march had failed. I liked the old lady from Miami who flirted with me and told me to be nice in what I wrote “Or I will find you”. Everybody liked the healthy topless women with mariposa stickers on her pertinents.

I liked the guy who said he had home-built his own electric car which could go 100 MPH for 100 miles, built from lithium batteries scavenged, somehow, from Chinese submarines. I liked the Sikh who darted out from under his “Sikhs 4 Climate Justice” sign to flirt industriously but in vain with a pretty Polish girl in a revealing red dress, and who, while managing to get his picture with her, said, “In future, we’ll be able to tell people this is when we first met.”

I liked the young lady who said she had played in orchestras for major movies and who gave me her CD Plastic Bag (one song features what sounds like one being opened) and who very sweetly asked if I would like to cover her musical career.

Remarkably, I saw separately (and without foreknowledge) three of my former students, all of whom I like—and still like.

I even liked the young man from Deep Green Resistance who was advocating, but vaguely promising not to himself participate in, but would, he said, support wholeheartedly if it occurred, “industrial sabotage” and other forms of “militant action” against “nodes” which when taken out would set off “chain-reaction events” to destroy the country.

I liked that absolutely everybody was sincere, absolutely everybody was concerned, absolutely everybody was kind, open, and eager to talk. It was a party and people were of good cheer. I enjoyed myself.


Absolutely everybody believed. They believed a lot of things. Everybody believed that the world was in deep kimchee, and they believed it was far past the time to do anything about it, which is why they believed something should be done now. Namely eliminate capitalism, which everybody disliked. Everybody believed that all the Arctic ice was melting, or already had melted, and everybody believed that climate change was already killing people—30,000 a year murdered by climate change was the figure often repeated.

Many carried signs stating what they believed. “CO22 dumping is morally wrong”, “Fracking = Death”, “Promote gender equality and empower women”, “Combat HIV/AIDS Malaria and Other Diseases”, “Limit Temperature Increase by 1.5 Degrees”, “Free Tibet. Save the 3rd Pole”. A mother pushing a stroller had, “Do you have Feelings about climate change? Let’s Talk.” A group boasted, “We can end climate change.” Climate change could be stopped? Another group thought so and chanted they had to power to stop it.

A man had the sign, “From Gaza to Detroit, clean drinking water is a right.” A lady had “If you like drinking water, stop ozone slaughter.” Another: “1 child per family. (Or adopt) (Domestically)”. The “domestically” was added as an afterthought, a caret in between “or” and “adopt”. A young lady had “We have a right to snow and ice.” One young man wore a t-shirt which said, “Ask me, I’m the expert on the solution.” I asked him what the solution was. He only giggled. Well, they do say that laughter is the best medicine—and is therefore a universal solution.

More: “Carbon DIEoxide” and “End CO2lonization” brought back the laughter theme. More than one marcher wore, unsurprisingly, an “Ithaca is Gorgeous ” t-shirt. Another had a t-shirt which advised, in all capitals, “Disobey.” I asked if I should disobey his shirt, but if I did, I further asked, wouldn’t that make me an obeyer? He looked puzzled, thought for a moment, smiled, and said, “Yes it would.” He kept marching.

A set of marchers carried the sign: “Climate Change is real. Teach Science.” I asked one holder, “Don’t all teachers teach about global warming? Do you know any who aren’t?” This made him pause. He said, “Oh, I just got the sign today. It’s probably happening, though. Some teachers don’t want to teach about evolution.”

One older gentleman carried a double-sided sign which read “The moral equivalent of” on one side, and on the other, “tearing down Penn Station.” I asked what was the moral equivalent. He said, “Everything that is happening.” He didn’t elaborate, but we agreed, the both of us and in detail, that the current Penn Station is awful.

There weren’t only signs. There were puppets, too. The largest was meant to be, I was told, Mother Nature, but it looked more like one of those frowsy fiftyish women in muumuus who are always holding a bottle as the gumshoe grills them in a 1940s film noir. Another crew held aloft a stretchy, block-long shiny silver tube, at the end of which were hanging objects which looked like the dreadlocks from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator. A smiling young woman told me it represented a mop. “Domestic workers are cleaning up climate change,” she told me.

A group of about a dozen marchers wielded giant white paper birds on sticks, all “soaring” above a paper mâché nest, which was pulled along separately. I couldn’t stop anybody long enough to discover its meaning. Some befeathered native shamans capered about a paper mâché god. I was told they were offering it prayers. It was a popular display because the shamans were dressed in loin clothes and dancing. There was also a drum which beat out a repetitive tune.

On the south side of the park, not too far from Columbus Circle, on a grassy knoll just at the park’s edge, sat about forty yoga people. They all crouched in that cross-legged with pinched-fingers, hands-on-their-knees pose. They had a sign which read “Earth Vigil”. Now I don’t want to detract from these earnest young, almost entirely white, people, who were obviously dedicated. But more than a few would open their eyes to peek at the crowds and smile.

The crowd in the parade went nuts over the yoga people. Every marching contingent came to the edge of the police fence to take snapshots (there were vastly more marchers than spectators at any rate). One lady shouted happily, “Oh look! They’re meditating!” The Hare Krishnas who Hare-Krishna’d by looked down their noses at the yoga people.

A young man came up to me when I was noticing this and said he was happy the parade was inter-faith. He was excited about inter-faith, and noted especially that, to his understanding, Buddhism “was very sex positive, unlike Christianity” and that a lot of people came to Buddhist meetings “to meet girls.” But though he didn’t believe in labels, he often attended a Unitarian Universalist service. He also attended all the good marches, including Occupy Wall Street. To pass the time he took out his soccer ball and bounced it on his knee.

Just about that time some women religious from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas passed by, all coiffed LCWR regulation style, carrying signs demanding justice. I asked one sister what justice meant. She wasn’t sure, and neither was her sign-mate, but she told me to talk to the sister in charge who, said said, might confirm that “justice” meant “acting in harmony with all creation.”

The sister in charge didn’t answer that, but lamented that it was difficult to attend marches like this because all women religious had to raise their own funds, “which is now harder, since we’re all getting older.” I asked if they had any new recruits. She said “only twenty-five”—and that was from all over America (or maybe it was the Americas). None of the sisters mentioned Jesus or anything like that, incidentally.

The two keys

It might not seem like it, but the two confused sign-carrying sisters were the key to the parade. Rather, one of the two keys. Your reporter lost count of the number of times he asked somebody what the poster they were carrying meant, or asked why they had come, but who couldn’t answer except to point and say something like, “You should ask her. I don’t really know too much about it. I just came with my friends.”

This lack of curiosity was especially found in the union marchers, who always like a public event, anything to further their cause. The people wanted to like what their friends and colleagues liked, and to be friendly, they joined in on the fun. Union members thought their appearance would help increase jobs and pay, and the regular people felt it was an excuse to have a good time. It’s not that all these folks didn’t believe in “the cause”, but that they couldn’t or didn’t want to articulate it. Marching was just the thing to do.

The second and larger key was more depressing, best illustrated by the group representing Physicians for Social Responsibility (I coincidentally knew one of the contingent: New York is really a large small town), a group which had initially been against nuclear weapons, they being a “public health threat”, but seeing as that threat dwindled, and that the docs were unwilling to disband, a job well done, they cast their eye towards global warming.

This was a group of scientists, so surely they would understand how science worked. I asked them how did they answer critics who showed that global temperatures for the last eighteen or so years bounced around a little, but showed no increase. Didn’t that mean global warming wasn’t true?

“It’s a temporary blip” said one. Another said, “A lot of the heat is in the ocean.” I reminded this doctor that the global climate models claimed to incorporate ocean circulation, and so if the models the IPCC relied on missed saying the heat was in the oceans, the models must be wrong. So why did he still believe? He considered but didn’t answer.

And then I asked him, as I asked many people during the parade, “Actually, for more than two decades, the models have been saying the temperatures would be way up here, but they haven’t increased at all, or only by a little. Doesn’t this mean we shouldn’t believe the models? That they are in error? Isn’t that the scientific way?”

The spokes-doctor narrowed his eyes, now full of suspicion, concentrated on chewing his gum, and considered who I might be. He said nothing, even after a follow-up question. I thanked him and left.

I never from anybody received an answer to any of these science questions. If anybody ever understood me, and most did not, the questions were beside the point. It didn’t matter what the science really said. These people believed.

People’s Climate March: D-Day


Today’s the day!

According to the Mashable’s Andrew Freedman, “the ‘People’s Climate March’ will likely mark the moment when global warming transitions from being a science and policy issue into a full-fledged social movement. Perhaps it will become as large as the gay rights and civil rights movements.”

The worry is that Freedman will be right. Whatever (small-s) science there was will soon be long forgotten, if it hasn’t been already, and all that will matter, like Freedman said about gay and civil rights, will be your level of devotion.

Which had better be all or nothing, or out the door you go, exiled, forced to spend your days writing blog posts for the remnant, hoping for the occasional donation (button on the upper right). You might think you can get by keeping your mouth shut, but it won’t do. If you want to enter into the secular cathedral, full-throated approval is necessary.

Of course, you will not be required to believe what you’re saying. Belief is for the masses and useful idiots. But if you don’t believe, the price you pay for entry is your soul.

Freedman says:

…six busloads of Minnesota climate activists are on their way to New York, along with a “climate train” that set out from California and picked up activists during its trek across the country. At least 3,000 college students are slated to turn out from New York area universities alone. Around the world, more than 2,000 events are scheduled for Sunday as well. In total, about 100 million people globally will be represented, according to the organizing committee overseeing preparations.

Again, the fear is not that Freedman and a handful of devout activists, but that the secular saints which rule our days, believe that wholly fictional “100 million” figure. Strike that. The concern is that politicians will believe others will believe that number, which would give the politicians (they would feel) justification to call for “action”—which will translate into more control for themselves.

And less freedom for you.

See if you can find the (small-s) science in the following:

The People’s Climate March is backed by an unprecedented coalition of 45 major labor groups, including heavy hitters such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — a group that Henn said “doesn’t mess around” — along with prominent grassroots environmental organizations like 350.org as well as religious organizations.

Now SEIU’s contribution to global climate modeling has been even less than Al Gore’s. So why are SEIU and other labor groups concerned? If it really is true that Chicken Little’s worst fears will be realized and that the sky, laden with excess carbon dioxide, really does fall, union members will be just as bad off as even Apple Corporation employees.

Never mind. The answer is as plain as Joe Biden’s thinning hair plugs. For most, global warming was never about the science. It’s a good bet something north of 80% of these marchers won’t know the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit or even why clouds float. But they’ll believe with all their hearts that the climate is out of control—and that what other people have should be theirs and that, dammit, something ought to be done about it.


I’m at the march today and will be writing about it afterwards. Some of the material, and maybe even all of it, will appear on this blog. But some might appear in other places. I’ll keep you updated.


Note: The series on Summa Contra Gentiles will continue next week.

People’s Climate March Prep: Your Help Requested

The People's Climate March: you will believe.

The People’s Climate March: you will believe.

It’s party time

Your intrepid reporter, with full bona fides as a people, will be at tomorrow’s People’s Climate March in Manhattan, and you can help. More about how in a moment.

First, if you can go, you should. After all, you’ve been asked to by climatological eminences: “Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.

Michael “I make a nice living with this stuff” Oppenheimer will be there, MIT’s Kerry Emanuel can’t make it but is “delighted it is happening.” Michael Mann, who did to climate science with his hockey stick what Bob Probert did to his opposition, isn’t coming, and admitted-willing-to-lie-for-the-cause liar Peter Gleick won’t be there because he “made an explicit decision not to fly to New York because of the carbon cost.”

But celebrities will be there, and, admit it, that’s what really counts, right?

The festivities have already begun. Last night, to pick an example which to you is at random, you missed “A Queer Response to Climate Change” at the NYC Metropolitan Community Church (W 36th), which asked “How on earth is Global Climate Change a Queer Issue?” Hard to answer:

Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church with 40 years’ experience faithfully and thoughtfully addressing social justice concerns, along with Peterson Toscano, a queer comic performance artist and off-beat Bible scholar, team up to offer a presentation that is guaranteed to expand your thinking, give you hope, and provide direction for you and your community in the face of big changes on our little planet. Discover what your role might be on our new earth and learn how LGBTQ folks and faith communities already have experiences and resources to draw on in the midst of our current and growing climate crisis. It’s time for the ultimate makeover!

Of course, if you weren’t last night veering queer, you were probably angling occult at the “Pagan Mixer in Honor of the People’s Climate March” at the Lovecraft Bar (East Village), which shouted “WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, WITCHES!”

There’s plenty to do today, too. You could head to the “Decolonize Climate Justice” event at the Free University (East Village) which insists

Those most affected by the first symptoms of climate change­­ such as extreme weather and environmental disasters brought on by capitalist exploitation ­­are indigenous people worldwide, marginalized majorities of the Global South and poor people of color in the Global North. These connections are not coincidental…

Tonight there’s the “Apocalypse How? Climate Change, the Political-Economy of Energy, and Reigniting the Radical Imagination” at the Graffiti Night Church (East Village), which boasts, among others,

Eddie Yuen is coauthor of Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth (PM Press), teaches in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department at the San Francisco Art Institute. He is the co-editor, with George Katsiaficas and Daniel Burton-Rose, of Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement.

Socialists will enjoy the “Climate Satyagraha: Revolution on the Ecosocialist Horizon” at the Alwan Center for the Arts (Downtown), which says

Climate change is part and parcel of a global ecological crisis whose driving force is the cancerous capitalist system. Accordingly, though all change must be grounded in local struggle, it must also be integrated with a planetary revolutionary uprising that incorporates the struggles of traditional socialism and its Marxist articulation into the vision of a post-capitalist mode of production centered on the production of integral ecosystems.

And, yes, there are several puppet shows and puppet building events. Where would a demonstration be without giant puppets? See the main events page. For example, tomorrow morning fortify yourself for the day’s activities at the “Queer Planet pancake breakfast pre-march meet-up” at the Abrons Art Center (ass end of China Town) where you can help put the final touches on the “giant puppet drag queens related to the four elements (air, fire, water, earth) plus related drag looks & snappy signage!”

What you can do

But how can you help if you can’t make it to the city?

As said, Your intrepid reporter will be there, voice recorder in hand (unfortunately, no camera), and he will be asking people questions. But what questions?

It will by now be obvious that few to none of the marchers have the least idea how the atmosphere works, and it’s a good bet that a substantial minority of them don’t even know there’s an atmosphere. Further, every thinking person knows these facts. So is there any point asking marchers science questions?

If you were there, what would you ask? Or what other suggestions do you have? Are any of you coming?

Your reporter will be at the north end of Columbus Circle wandering around Central Park West sometime after 10 am (the parade begins at 11:30 am), and will likely join at least part of the march. Look for the fellow in the white linen suit and white hat.

160 Eco Prize Winners Take Out New York Times Ad, Beg Money: UN Climate Summit. Update: Fake Winners


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the slickest money grubbing stunt since Al Sharpton met Tawana Brawley. 160 secular self-ordained priests of the Environment have taken out an ad in the far-left New York Times which—

—Nay! Nothing so humble as a mere advertisement. No, sir! This is a declaration, a noble document, a moral plea on par with anything John Hancock put his pen to.

So shattering are the words that we must take them in pieces lest we be destroyed. First, the glamorous headline!

An appeal to the world’s foundations and philanthropists by the world’s environmental prize winners.

Prize winners? We have everybody from Ibrahim Abouleish, 2003 laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, i.e. the “alternate Nobel”, to Ellen Zimmerman, who snagged the 2006 Yves Rocher International Foundation Terre de Femmes (literally, woman covered in dirt).

Aghast that the Earth is heading for 4 to 6 degrees Celsius of global warming, given current policies on the burning of coal, oil and gas;


Terrified that we will lose our ability to feed ourselves, run out of potable water, increase the scope for war, and cause the very fabric of civilization to crash as a consequence of the climate change that global overheating will bring about;


But, say, who cares about potable water when the very fabric of civilization will crash!

Devastated that our governments have not succeeded in slowing, much less stopping, the flow of greenhouse gases into our thin atmosphere, in the full knowledge of these risks, despite a quarter century of trying;


Wait, did they just imply they want to stop all greenhouse gases? Dude.

Aware that the UN Climate Summit in Paris in December 2015 may be the last chance to agree to a treaty capable of saving civilization;


This is it! This is the end. Unless we act now. So how should we act?

Believing that the world’s philanthropic foundations, given the scale of their endowments, hold the power to trigger a survival reflex in society, so greatly helping those negotiating the climate treaty;


Listen up, rich people. We have Tomorrow, and if you want to see her alive, you’d better give it up. Details to follow.

Recognizing that all the good works of philanthropy, in all their varied forms, will be devalued or even destroyed in a world en route to 6 degrees of global warming or more, and that endowments that could have saved the day will end up effectively as stranded assets;

Now, see, this is the danger of writing documents by committee. Above we were threatened with 4 to 6 degrees of warming, but here it’s morphed into 6 degrees “or more”. If they were trying to scare the bejeebers out of the wealthy, they should have agreed on something truly apocalyptic. Why not 13 degrees? Hot and unlucky!

We, 160 winners of the world’s environmental prizes, call on foundations and philanthropists everywhere to deploy their endowments urgently in the effort to save civilization.

If this works, I’m trying it. I mean, if these prize winners are able to shame rich folk into ponying up lest they be destroyed, them I’m having a go, too. Why not? Only question is, what sort of frightener (yes, frightener) should I use?

How’s Send me money or I shall blog again? Or If I don’t see the cash, every channel on every TV will show nothing but The View twenty-four hours a day? Or If you don’t deploy your resources my way, you’re going to feel awfully bad? Maybe, The world might end unless you create a sinecure for me?

That last is a logically true statement, incidentally. I mean, it is true the world might end unless I’m given employment, but only because all contingent propositions with “might” in them are true. That means it’s also true that the world might end in heat death by 2040 unless philanthropists open the taps.

Problem is, I can’t construct a plausible end-of-the-world story with a “might” that doesn’t sound like the plot from a bad Hollywood movie, and doesn’t cause me to blush and worry about the status of my soul.

Maybe you guys have ideas?

Update More Dubious Eco Laureates. “Green energy lobbyists pretending to be eco prize winners have signed a climate change declaration. Its real purpose is to secure more green energy funding.”

The Inevitable Red Skins Name Controversy Post

An early Cleveland tail-gating.

An early tail-gating.

Readers have been patiently waiting for the WMBriggs.com take on the Washington Redskins1 controversy, the gist of which is this: Lefties don’t like the name because they feel only they are allowed to worship skin color—generally to say it doesn’t matter at all and to insist it be tracked (and rewarded or punished) everywhere and always—while the Righties, who don’t give a damn about skin color but love tradition, wish the Lefties would take a long walk off a short dock.

Although it’s much been in the news, the Red Skins are only the tip of the political-correctness-berg. You probably weren’t aware, but there are many other teams targeted by the Outrage Police, even in baseball, the only sport of interest worth following in these once United States.

I did some research and was shocked at the breadth of the naming scandal. What follows is a brief summary of the mental agony which awaits us once these become more publicly known.

  1. Cleveland Indians: racist. The Mahatma Gandhi Appreciation Society (Ohio branch) insists the name does not accord with the non-violent philosophy of its idol after a fan was heard in the stadium shouting, “Kill ‘em!” The group plans a stadium sit-in, and say they will eat only raw rice and the dandelions harvested from the parking lot until the name is changed.
  2. Minnesota Twins: homophobic. GLAAD issued a press release intended to jerk tears from readers, in which they groan that single-sex couples can’t have babies, twins or otherwise, and thus feel the name is an insensitive and constant reminder of their constituents’ disability. They suggested the new name The Inclusives.
  3. Minnesota Vikings: racist. The North-American Danes and Nordics (NADA) Knitting Club are incensed over the stereotyping of their ancestry, and point out that many Vikings did not cut open their victims’ chests and splay out their lungs jokingly as wings, and that many Vikings were gentle farmers.
  4. Detroit Tigers: speciest. PETA is angry that animals’ images are being used without their consent and are suing on their behalf, asking for three million dollars and a year’s supply of goats (to feed the tigers). Detroit is seen as a test case, which the teams from the Orioles to the Cubs are watching closely.
  5. Kansas City Royals: anti-democratic. The Howard Zinn fan club of Boulder, Colorado voted to have a vote to vote on the motion to publicize their discontent and announce that since it is 2014 there is no place for royalist thought anywhere in the world.
  6. Los Angeles Angels: theocratic. The American Atheists and Freedom From Religion Foundation joined forces to sue, claiming that since the mayor of that city once threw out a first pitch, there was an unconscionable mixing of state and religion. The parallel suit against the St Louis Cardinals was subsequently dropped after a Bright attended one of the games and realized their mistake.
  7. Texas Rangers: racist. La Raza are organizing a march to the stadium. Participants will carry posters of Chuck Norris’s Lone Wolf McQuade with red Xs painted over them. Special badges to identify marchers will be handed out, though it is expected these will be refused.
  8. Milwaukee Brewers: corrupting influence Mothers Against Drunk Driving are planning a special bake sale on the state capitol steps featuring snacks all under 100 calories.
  9. Pittsburgh Pirates: sexist. The Collation of Women’s Studies Departments expressed “outrage” that the very symbol of misogyny and rape culture should be praised. They said it was “one more indication of the cruel patriarchal tyranny under which we live”. The group plans a rally at the south side Dunkin’ Donuts to “raise awareness” and to cash in on their coupons for limited-time Pumpkin Delite donuts.
  10. San Francisco Giants: sizeist. The San Francisco City Council realized they were falling behind in the latest progressive craze and seized on the opportunity to make themselves feel superior to ordinary citizens. Realizing they had no legal merit to close the Giants’ stadium, one council member introduced a proposal to ban baseballs within city limits, “for the safety of the children.”


1A professional franchise organized to play “football”, a game in which about four to five dozen men sit in booths far away from a field, directing another set of men to do very little and in short bursts, accompanied by a massive number of commercials.

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