Sunday, January 08, 2006

In Which Christine Flowers Makes a [Greater] Fool of Herself

Christine Flowers is an occasional columnist at the Philadelphia Daily News who would be mediocre and uninspiring but for the fact that she is wrong on just about everything. She's a Democrat who supports Bush; she makes silly arguments in favor of the "pro-life" movement, against women's rights, and comparing breastfeeding in public to public urination. You name the topic and Christine Flowers will have something to say about it, and her comments will be completely wrong.

Last week, she wrote a particularly silly article, "Dover and the Cult of Science", in which she opined on "the double standard that seems to apply to scientists. The judge in the Dover case showed his disdain for anyone who would challenge the established scientific dogma of evolution, labeling them as transparent liars." I wrote a brief, and harsh, letter to the editor:


I thoroughly enjoyed Christine Flowers recent column,
"Dover and the Cult of Science", because it proved one
of my favorite Mark Twain quotes: "Better to keep
one's mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open
it and remove all doubt."

Please cancel this woman's worthless, wrongheaded
ramblings: Philadelphia already has a bad reputation
for mediocrity and stupidity, and Flowers' column just
makes things worse.
Brendan Skwire


Although I didn't see the Daily News over the weekend, I assume the letter was published, because Ms. Flowers sent me a reply:


Dear Brendan (I hope you won't be too upset at my familiarity)

I had a chance to read your letter to the editor in response to my recent oped on ID and hypocritical judges in the Daily News. Sorry you don't like my writing, but since I'll probably be around for a while, just save yourself the indigestion and don't read anything that has my byline in the future.

And next time, you could always email the source; I have more respect for people who actually engage in dialogue with the writers. I may disagree with them, but I respect them nonetheless. I don't have a blog, but my email is out there for all to use. I don't shy away from challeges.

Cheers,

Christine Flowers

P.S. Nice quote by Twain; it's my favorite. And about evolution-I think it has a lot of gaps. There are a number of missing links out there, and they all seem to have access to computers (present company excepted).


There are some things I don't do, and one of them is get in debates with people about "Intelligent Design" which is "Creationism" but with one extra word and one fewer syllable (I can shorten it to one word and two syllables: BULLSHIT). So I wrote back:


Why would I have a debate with someone who's wrong
about everything, and why would I care whether someone
who's wrong about everything has respect for me or
not?

You obviously misunderstand the purpose of a letter
the the editor, which is to call public attention to
disagreement (or agreement) with a writer who's
writing toward the public?

And please, call me Mr. Skwire. I don't care for
familiar terms from people I don't know personally.


For someone who doesn't "shy away from challenges", Ms. Flowers is certainly a delicate, and quite fragrant, lily:


Oh my, touchy touchy MR. SKWIRE.

I suppose that explains everything. You have an amazingly closed mind, so I think you might want to stay out of Oliver Wendell Holmes free marketplace of ideas...you're a stranger there.

By the way, you might want to consult a dictionary more often and evaluate the meaning of 'mediocre.' It doesn't mean "anyone who doesn't agree with MR. SKWIRE."

And for an analysis from someone who has actually been published in an actual magazine, you might want to review this gem.

Regards,

Christine (I'm not so self-important that I mind when people use my first name...you really need to lighten up)

THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT GUIDE TO SCIENCE [Peter Robinson]
Longtime NR contributor Tom Bethell has just published a superbly outrageous
new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science. Tom exposes the fraud,
greed, self-dealing, and sheer humbug in the "science" of half a dozen
topics, includingthe ban on DDT, cloning, and global warming. Does Tom take
on Darwinism? Oh, indeed he does.
Evolutionists say that intelligent design does not rise to the level of a
theory, and they may be right....If the advocates of design can invoke an
invisible Designer, or God, who can prevail over all difficulties any time
He wants and design any form of life at will, then we are more within the
realm of magic than of science. If there is nothing that an Intelligent
Designer cannot do, then the theory of intelligent design is unfalsifiable,
and not scientific for that reason. One critic of intelligent design,
Douglas H. Erwin, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution, told the
New York Times: "One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed. That's
a fundamental presumption of what we do." But a comparable criticism can
also be leveled at Darwinism. If material causes only are admitted, and
nothing exists in the universe but molecules in motion, then evolution must
be true-a logical deduction from the premise of materialism. We are
indubitably here, along with millions of other species, so how did we get
here? Materialists have no choice but to accept that the molecules whirled
themselves into extraordinarily complex, conscious beings.


I'll concede that my letter to the editor was harsh, but tough titty: I've seen crueler letters in the Daily News. But other than stating bluntly that I think ms. Flowers is wrong about everything, I made no statements about Ms. Flowers as a person. Ms. Flowers, on the other hand, feels free to make a number of dubious (and by"dubious" I mean "completely baseless") statements about me. And you know, FUCK THAT. I wrote to her boss, Frank Burgos, who's responsible for the Editorial Page.


Dear Mr. Burgos,

A few days ago I sent a short Letter to the Editor at
the Daily News regarding one of Christine Flowers'
columns, "Dover and the Cult of Science", which I
disagreed with.

Ms. Flowers sent me an email, copied below, attempting
to engage me in a debate about "Intelligent Design", a
concept that has been discredited, and criticizing me
for responding to her column on the public forum of
your Letters page. In fact she discourages me from
writing letters to the editor: better I should email
her directly, as she would have "more respect" for me.

I wrote back informing the delightful Ms. Flowers that
I had no interest in emailing with her, and informed
her that a public column invites a public response.
That is the whole purpose of a letter to the editor,
which as you will read, Ms. Flowers doesn't quite
grasp.

Although I expected no further correspondence from Ms.
Flowers, I awoke this morning to find an incredibly
thin-skinned and highly unprofessional email waiting
for me, copied below, berating me and my point of
view.

Mr. Burgos, Ms. Flowers already has a powerful
platform to broadcast her perspective: a column in
your paper. It seems unfitting that one of your
columnists is unable to take criticism, harsh or
constructive.

As you will see, Ms. Flowers' letter to me, which
borders on the hysterical, makes baseless claims about
my character and my point of view simply because I
disagree with her. This is unfair, unwarranted, and
more than a little unhinged. While past
correspondence with your paper has occasionally earned
me a personal response from a writer, never once has
someone replied in such a coarse and vulgar fashion.

If Ms. Flowers wants to write about her belief in
intelligent design or any other pseudo-science she
happens to swallow, that is certainly her right.
However, she cannot expect that readers will not
respond to her writing simply because she has a column
at the Daily News and we don't: that is the worst kind
of Ivory Tower mentality. She is certainly off-base
levying personal attacks on a reader.

Please inform Ms. Flowers that if she wants any kind
of credibility with Daily News readers she has to
learn to take criticism, whether harsh or
constructive. She could learn from the example of
Will Bunch, who regularly gets comments bordering on
the profane at Attytood, and manages to shrug them off
with good humor.

I have copied all of our correspondence below, with
Ms. Flowers' original email to me at the bottom of the
scroll. I'm sure you will agree that her last email
to me is inappropriate, and not the way you'd like
your writers to represent the Daily News, which, like
all newspapers, thrives on the marketplace of ideas.

Mr. Burgos, I expect an apology from Ms. Flowers who
knows nothing at all about me other than that I
dislike her column, but feels compelled to call me
names and question my character. Please inform me as
to what actions you will be taking.

Sincerely,
Brendan Skwire


Updates as they come...
[Update: Welcome Atrios Readers! And I have heard back from the Daily News that they are looking into the matter. Enjoy the site everyone!]
[Update 2: It's interesting that all of Flowers' emails to me were sent before my letter to the editor was even published. Daily News Editor Frank Burgos asked me if I had cc-ed ms. Flowers in my original LTE: I had not. I have no idea where she found my email, or for that matter why she referenced blogging. Google my name: this blog doesn't come up until the 9th page of results.]

32 Comments:

Blogger dave said...

I esp. like that plug she gave the latest wingnut justification for this voodoo... comedy gold!

1:27 PM  
Blogger PRS-nyc said...

Gee, I'd like to chime in myself. Why don't you post the email addresses?

1:30 PM  
Blogger Alice said...

This has to be the least important thing here, but is this woman actually a Democrat? I am more than a little sick of I'm a Democrat but. Doesn't Pennsylvania have registration by party? Wouldn't it be possible to check her voter registration?

1:32 PM  
Blogger odyshape said...

I went to read the Dover article and saw that she refers to the South Korean stem cell debacle. She repeatedly calls Dr. Hwang Woo-suk "Dr. Woo-suk." This is completely wrong. Koreans, along with may other Asians, use their family name first, meaning that "Hwang" is the bad doctor's family name and he should be referred to as "Dr. Hwang." This reveals Ms. Flowers ignorance as well as the pretty crappy job by the editors of the paper. I might expect this type of mistake from a small-market rag, but not in a major big city "news"paper. Now, I know that this type of name usage common in Asia might not be common knowledge in the U.S. However, what dismays me is that in writing about the topic, Ms. Flowers obviously needed to do "some" research, and a quick scan of the major news reports on the topic shows that every other report refers to a "Hwang" or a "Dr. Hwang." You would think that someone who writes about a topic in a major newspaper would be more careful about the facts. So, either Ms. Flowers is a careless researcher, or doesn't care about the details (although, as a Korean-American, I find the name thing to be an important detail). The same thing can be said about her editors who let these type of mistakes slip by. She's a demagogue in the worst way, an ignorant one. She caters to the worst in humanity: she feeds on bias and ignorance and the basest, most reactionary parts of our psyches. Kudos for you for pointing this out, but there's no reason to waste your time on a paper that is run by people who care so little about what is printed in their product.

1:40 PM  
Blogger michael said...

what a silly bunt.

1:41 PM  
Blogger dbt said...

ody: I'm sure she just liked being able to call someone she disagrees with "Woo-Suk".

2:35 PM  
Blogger Doctor Biobrain said...

I guess if she's wrong about everything, then it makes sense that she's wrong about which party she belongs in. And can anyone honestly say that this lady would be noticed, were she a Republican?

It's just a label, people. Pick the one that fits and get over it.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Karl Steel said...

We all know that The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science is: a) published by Regnery, which is well known as being founded by a Nazi apologist; b) totally full of shit.

If she's going to have an opinion about science, she should bother to learn something about it from, oh, scientists.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Modthinglet said...

Congratulations. You also made the front page of Dailykos.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Adam Cadre said...

First off, you are correct and she is wrong. Supporting "Intelligent Design" is indeed intellectually indefensible.

But nevertheless, Christine Flowers comes off better in this exchange than you do. Your letter to the editor is void of content - you don't explain why ID is a fraud, but just call her a fool and describe her writing as worthless ramblings. Her reply is very civil. Your reply to her reply isn't; the first paragraph is juvenile, and the last paragraph is, frankly, bitchy.

The net effect is that of a mature woman who happens to be dead wrong arguing with a bratty boy who happens to be right.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Kurt Kaletka said...

Hm. How could anyone be in the business of trafficking their opinions and still be so thin-skinned? And does she get so little reader feedback that she can write to each one of them personally?

3:57 PM  
Blogger ollie said...

The big problem with people like her is that she hasn't grasped that science is not decided by a democratic vote of all people; one must go through a peer review process with competent scientists.

Not all opinions have equal value; not even close.

You might point out that there is a wonderful study (that won an Ig-noble prize) that pointed out that the less competent one is, the less likely one is to recognize one's own incompetence.

In the ID-evolution "debate" (if you call it that), this happens a great deal among the ID believers.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

Hi Adam,

I don't know if you're a daily news reader or not, but I can assure you my letter to the editor was tame by their standards. Furthermore, there is no reason to detail in the letter why ID is a fraud, as the judges in Dover already did that for me.

Flowers' writing usually nets little but derision on the Daily news letters page.

Second of all, as I mention in my post, there is nothing to discuss with regard to intelligent design, and Flowers is clearly looking for a debate: "you could always email the source; I have more respect for people who actually engage in dialogue with the writers." Sorry: homie don't play that game.

I disagree that my reply to her is juvenile. Blunt, yes; but not juvenile.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Adam Cadre said...

Fair 'nuff. I readily concede that I'd never heard of this columnist before, so I don't know the greater context here. The paragraph I described as juvenile rubbed me the wrong way because the mantra "pfff, I don't CARE what YOU think" is one of the things I most despise about the Bushies (remember those rednecks who wrote to the Guardian in '04?). On the other hand, if this had been directed at someone like Ann Coulter or even Mickey Kaus, I wouldn't have batted an eye, so if Christine Flowers is a similar case, so be it.

4:24 PM  
Blogger AD said...

Great work, Brendan. I didn't read the original piece, but I am pretty sure this whole back and forth is a lot more entertaining.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

By the way,
A quick visit to Maddox's Best Page in the Universe (in my blogroll) will go a long way toward understanding my strident tone when it comes to dealing with wingers.

Maddox is something like a god to me.

Adam, I've been so sick of the "who cares what you think" attitude the right wing has adopted for so long, that I've finally begun flinging it right back.

5:12 PM  
Blogger connorfc said...

I just read Ms. Flowers original piece and sent her the following email:

Dear Ms. Flowers:

The web has brought your piece on Dover to my attention.

The most interesting thing about it, to me, is that you don't appear to understand that the real link is not between the Judge in the Dover case and Dr. Hwang Woo-suk, but between the Doctor and the (recently tossed-out) School Board.

Both of them tried to get away with pushing phony science. Both lied about what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Both, in the end, were stopped by people whose only concern was the truth.

You, on the other hand, appear to be more concerned with rhetoric than reality. Your byline says you are a lawyer. Please stick with that profession, where facts can be trumped by a good enough argument. In science it is always the other way round.

Sincerely,


Connor Cochran


It will be interesting to see if she responds.

5:13 PM  
Blogger V said...

I came here looking for a laugh, and was disappointed to see you were the punchline.

Let me be clear on this - being factually correct dosen't give everything you do the stamp of moral authority. You congratulate yourself for bitchslapping away her offer to debate you, and place her every word in the worst possible context...so what? You've left her with the kind of bad taste in her mouth we tend to get from watching the President take on his critics, and provided her with the perfect stereotype of what a liberal is to the right. At best, you're share is a slice of 15 minutes from the exchange - was it worth the price?

I hope you don't think so. I'd like to believe you're bigger than this.

You owe her an apology.

Not because she's right. Because she's a human being.

And so are you.

5:50 PM  
Blogger bigsteveno said...

I'm on your side in the ID debate, but I think it's wrong to publish Flowers' personal correspondence to you. At best it's rude. Your letter to the editor was a public statement; her response to you was not.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Gimbler said...

I disagree - no one owes her an "apology". Brendan wrote a letter to the editor. He didn't challenge her to a debate, or ask for a pen pal.

I think it's great - in fact, I think it's a public service to reveal the content of her emails, that she shouldn't have sent. Do you think this is the first time she's done this to someone?

8:05 PM  
Blogger Tony Lee said...

All the talk about letter-writing etiquette misses one point: Flowers was wrong on the facts when she set up a false analogy between cloning research and ID.

Hwang Woo-suk's original paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal. No new ID research has ever passed this first hurdle to wider acceptance in the scientific community.

But of course, publication is not the only test (and is easier than people think).

Once disseminated, Hwang's paper raised red flags among stem-cell researchers, resulting eventually in that research being rejected by his own university and forcing him to resign in ignominy, even as he maintains he was framed by a junior research team member:

"One SNU [South Korea University] insider, when asked to comment about Hwang's move suggested Korea's fallen icon "seems to have lost his mind," alluding to the huge pressure now bearing on him to come forward and confess to the science community."

Note that this happened Dec.23, so Flowers should have known about it. From national hero, Hwang has become a nation's pariah.

Is this a case of a bad apple tainting all of stem-cell research? Yes. His research is pilloried by other stem-cell researchers, who saw it for what it was and called bullshit on it.

But have any IDers taken a cold hard look at ID? No, and they won't — not least of all because there is no data to look at. Instead they make specious references to free speech, fooling commentators such as Flowers who somehow want to bring a postmodern and subjective sensibility to empirical fields of knowledge.

Your letter, Brendan, didn't go far enough.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

I have had the same exchange with one Christine Flowers a whole one time and the arrogance that flows from her column is definitely *not* an act!

I sent her an anonymous ditty a few months ago and she emailed back with my full name so how she matched my name and email I'll never know (just proves that the woman has no life).

I'm a regular contributor of letters to the Daily News (have been for 15 years now - since I was 15 years old) but I have never included my email address in any of my letters.

In her few exchanges with me (my printer was on the blink at the time {never fails, right?} and by the time it was functioning, AOL deleted the emails as they were over a month old, otherwise, I would have printed them out and saved them for posterity) she told me she was a Republican and that it was hard to find Republicans in Philly (waaahhh!). Now it looks as though she can't keep her story straight as to what party she pledges allegiance to.

She also claimed she was open to other peoples' opinion, something I find hard to believe given the fact that she shuts her eyes and ears to anyone who doesn't believe George Bush isn't the Second Coming. (Everyone is entitled to her opinion in her shallow world.)

And how many times do we have to read that she's a Catholic? Who gives a flying rat's ass, already?

If having a weekly soapbox in which to pronounce her moronic views in "The People Paper" isn't enough, her mug appears every other week in the free Metro daily paper, spouting off the same nonsense.

Thank you for giving this self-important twit (and the "liberal" Philadelphia Daily News) a reality check. Whatever happens, I know Frank Burgos is no joke.

10:08 PM  
Blogger V said...

This is about more than a small point of writing etiquite - one need not respect Flowers' shaky grip on reality to understand that simply exposing your sack to a writer of any talent is the same as begging to be publicly castrated. Look at the possibilities from her point of view - what's the downside to reprinting any of this exchange in her column? Shouldn't there be one?

I'm pretty sure there at least shouldn't be an upside.

Either debate her or destroy her.

Don't call it "Mission Accomplished" without any evidence of a victory to show the doubters.

Until it's there, this whole scene is too much like a bad fetish video where the stud chooses to spank himself rather than play. It's better for him than his audience.

Personally, I need to take a shower.

10:45 PM  
Blogger sukabi said...

I find it interesting that she sees fit to hunt up people's personal information - that she wasn't given - and write them personal letters.

where or from who is she getting this information? In Brendan's case he says he didn't cc her with the original letter to the editor -- and the editor confirms this by asking him if he did cc her.

another commenter claims she has also gotten personal (responses) letters from Ms. Flowers from an anonymous email... what's up with that? so either the editors aren't keeping her busy enough with regular work -- or someone is doing some PI work for her.

11:03 PM  
Blogger poemworld said...

Nice post and effort Brendan.

Btw, when someone tells me I have a "closed mind" I tell them, "No, I have an open mind, just not an empty mind."

11:08 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

V: "simply exposing your sack to a writer of any talent is the same as begging to be publicly castrated...
Until it's there, this whole scene is too much like a bad fetish video where the stud chooses to spank himself rather than play. It's better for him than his audience."

Man, I think you've confused my blog with one of the smut links on my roll.

11:37 PM  
Blogger V said...

And I think you did. Look, I'll admit my metaphors were bathroom wall graffitti, and you're right to call me on it. But, dude, I was brought here from Kos by the promise of seeing a wingnut flip out and you didn't deliver - read her response again. She's practically genteel by today's standards.

Maybe I'm wrong to expect you to do more for your readers than randomly flip off the people we hate and complain to their bosses when they find you - it's not like you owe me anything more. But I find it hard to believe you can settle for "whatever" and call it a day - otherwise, you'd have simply read her columns and shrugged them off.

Forget me (like I needed to ask)-

Read the other responses here - one believes that you were unreasonably rude, another believes you didn't go far enough.

Can you seriously argue that they aren't both right?

12:01 AM  
Blogger V said...

And I think you did. Look, I'll admit my metaphors were bathroom wall graffitti, and you're right to call me on it. But, dude, I was brought here from Kos by the promise of seeing a wingnut flip out and you didn't deliver - read her response again. She's practically genteel by today's standards.

Maybe I'm wrong to expect you to do more for your readers than randomly flip off the people we hate and complain to their bosses when they find you - it's not like you owe me anything more. But I find it hard to believe you can settle for "whatever" and call it a day - otherwise, you'd have simply read her columns and shrugged them off.

Forget me (like I needed to ask)-

Read the other responses here - one believes that you were unreasonably rude, another believes you didn't go far enough.

Can you seriously argue that they aren't both right?

12:03 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Sukabi: I'm with you, bro. I sent the anonymous email on purpose to see if she'd figure out who I was and damn if that wasn't the case.

What gets me is how much business is she *not* getting (or what's the size of her trust fund or investments) if she has all this time to write these columns (which take a while to compose)? The time she spends talking out of her ass she should put into her practice.

However one feels the bottom line is how did she get a letter writer's information when she wasn't cc'd the original letter? (Unless you can pull up a person's email via Google or another search engine?)

If she were as open-minded as she claims to be (ha!), why take the time to track down someone who disagrees with you?

Oh, and to anyone who thinks her email should have been kept private: She went to the liberty of tracking down someone's private email yet we're supposed to respect her all of a sudden?

Time to quit being nice to these neo-fascists. It's gotten us real "far" as you can see.

1:46 AM  
Blogger sukabi said...

wow, it's interesting to see so many people miss the point.

Ms. Flowers hunted up hunted up personal information on someone(s) to personally respond to and challenge (in Brendan's case) a person who had NOT written to her, who had NOT given her his personal information -- but who had written a letter to the Letters to the Editor section of the paper.

If she weren't on the staff of the paper that kind of behavior would be construed as STALKING.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Brendan said...

sukabi:
BINGO.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Collins said...

Brendan,

I myself just tangled with the irritatingly smug and rather prickly and pompous (IMHO) Ms. Flowers.

She wrote a piece vilifying me in her rag of a paper, and she doesn't know me, never interviewed me and made all sorts of repulsive assumptions about me "See Political Teacher Gets an F, as in FIRED" (June 11, 2010).

Actually, don't see it. It seems to be her typical, slanderous, hideously wrong take on a matter she knows nothing about.

Ms. Flowers also engaged in a sickening e-mail battle with me when I dared to complain at her unfair characterizations of me. I am a fine teacher, with glowing evaluations, and I was recently the (sorry to put it this way, but can't think of another word) victim of political discrimination that moves right to left. Yet, Flowers tries to make fun of me for liking President Obama. Hmmm.

Hypocrisy. It's outrageous.

And, I too will do my damndest now to make sure the world knows about this woman's scurrilous opinion writing, her libelous verbiage.

Thanks for your post. I just found it today--about four years too late!

Best,

Elizabeth Collins

3:27 PM  

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