You British and your fondness for understatement

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has announced his retirement at the age of 95. I don’t quite see the point of retiring from a job as a figurehead, but I guess even Walmart greeters can expect to see some time off, so good for him. The BBC did report on it, and made this statement that made me laugh:

He is famed for off-the-cuff remarks he has made at royal engagements around the world over the years.

Yes, I suppose you could say that.

One down. So when are y’all getting rid of the rest of the royal family?

7th District Republicans, making our choices clear again

I live in Minnesota’s 7th congressional district. Our representative is a Blue Dog Democrat, Collin Peterson.

I do not like Peterson.

I never voted for the guy until the last election, when I held my nose and punched his name in the voting booth because the Republicans have become the party of intransigent ignorance and bigotry, so even Peterson looks good in comparison. Unfortunately, I think he relies too much on the odious nature of the opposition to skate by.

And then I looked at the Facebook page for the Minnesota 7th Congressional District Republican Party. They really hate Collin Peterson. They think he’s a liberal, dont’cha know. By comparison with the poison they spew, I guess he might be.

What brought me to look at their page was that I learned that the 7th district Republicans, my neighbors, had posted this:

Wow. My neighbors suck.

Head Muslim Goat Humper? Seriously, dudes? Can you get any more racist?

Worst thing about it: now I’m going to have to vote for Collin Peterson, or whatever Blue Dog substitute comes along, again, and it left a foul taste in my mouth last time.

How did you celebrate Trump’s 100 days in office?

I went to the rally for the People’s March for Climate in Fargo. I guess 200,000 people attended the march in Washington, DC. That’s more than attended his inauguration! People are protesting all around the world.

Meanwhile, Trump has fled the capitol and all the contempt for his presidency to try and restore his confidence with another of his silly, itty-bitty rallies in Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he’ll stare into a mirror and struggle to reassure himself that he really is loved, as tears stream down his cheeks.

The President must be a zombie

Virginia Heffernan:

THIS is what makes my head spin: The president is not a moral figure in any idiom, any land, any culture, any subculture. I’m not talking about the liberal enlightenment that would make him want the country to take care of the poor and sick. I mean he has no Republican values either. He has no honor among thieves, no cosa nostra loyalty, no Southern code against cheating or lying, none of the openness of New York, rectitude of Boston, expressiveness and kindness of California, no evangelical family values, no Protestant work ethic. No Catholic moral seriousness, no sense of contrition or gratitude. No Jewish moral and intellectual precision, sense of history. He doesn’t care about the life of the mind OR the life of the senses. He is not mandarin, not committed to inquiry or justice, not hospitable. He is not proper. He is not a bon vivant who loves to eat, drink, laugh. There’s nothing he would die for — not American values, obviously, but not the land of Russia or his wife or young son. He has some hollow success creeds from Norman Vincent Peale, but Peale was obsessed with fair-dealing and a Presbyterian pastor; Trump has no fairness or piety. He’s not sentimental; no affection for dogs or babies. No love for mothers, “the common man,” veterans. He has no sense of military valor, and is openly a coward about war. He would have sorely lacked the pagan beauty and capacity to fight required in ancient Greece. He doesn’t care about his wife or wives; he is a philanderer but he’s not a romantic hero with great love for women and sex. He commands loyalty and labor from his children not because he loves them, even; he seems almost to hate them — and if one of them slipped it would be terrifying. He does no philanthropy. He doesn’t — in a more secular key — even seem to have a sense of his enlightened self-interest enough to shake Angela Merkel’s hand. Doesn’t even affect a love for the arts, like most rich New Yorkers. He doesn’t live and die by aesthetics and health practices like some fascists; he’s very ugly and barely mammalian. Am I missing an obscure moral system to which he so much as nods? Also are there other people, living or dead, like him?

It’s true, and it’s strange. I wonder if this is the secret to his success: he’s a completely amoral cipher, and his supporters simply project their values onto the blank slate of his narcissistic personality.

Goddamn police

Fire these cops.

Five twelve-year-old kids walking home from a basketball game; a policeman pulls up, opens his car door, and immediately pulls a gun on them and tells them to get on the ground. Nobody gets shot this time, fortunately, but it’s hard to watch — those poor kids are initially confused, and then terrified, and you get to hear them crying and wailing in fear as the brave police officer calmly and politely threatens them with death.

The kids were in the “wrong place at the wrong time”. They tell a distraught parent afterwards “you have to understand our position as well”. Yeah, I understand your position very well, you cowardly motherfucker: you are confident that you have the right to use deadly force against unarmed children, if you even have the slightest suspicion that they might be “bad guys”. They were “just doing their job”. They completely fail to understand the perspective of others. One mother summarizes the situation perfectly: “Y’all didn’t see a gun but y’all pulled a gun on my kids”. The earnest certainty of the police officers is galling — they absolutely think they are in the right, but they threatened children with a gun.

Treat these cops the same way they would be treated if they pulled this shit on white kids in a white suburban neighborhood — you know they’d be off the force in a flash, and the chief of police would be getting savaged in the press for incompetent management.

This is unacceptable.

I need to go to more conferences

I have been away for most of this week, at an HHMI conference. It was enlightening and informative, and I came away with many new ideas. It was also a packed schedule, starting early in the morning every day and going on until late at night, and I was not keeping up with the news, so I missed a few things.

Bill O’Reilly was fired for his sexual harassment antics? About time.

Jason Chaffetz is not going to run for re-election, and may even retire early? Well, that was unexpectedly good news.

Now I’m really sad that my conference ended, because my time offline was accompanied by the increasing crumbling of the Republican asshole edifice. If only this conference had gone on for a few more weeks, imagine all that could have happened: I’d have become a somewhat better biologist and teacher, the Republican leadership would have all retired, Ivanka and Jared would be arrested for corruption, Donald Trump would have been indicted and impeached, the tensions with North Korea and China and Russia would have eased, the Syrian civil war would have ended, world peace would have broken out, the Catholic church would take their vows of poverty seriously and divested, turning over all their assets to NIH and NSF, and I would have won a Nobel prize for not blogging.

HHMI clearly needs to schedule much, much longer conferences.

The Science March and partisanship

[Guest post from Sam Roy]

There is a lot of talk on the March for Science being “non-partisan” and above “politics.” Three points on this:

  • When science is under attack by the powers-that-be, the defense of science is a political act, and we should not shy away from this.

    What this regime has unleashed is potentially catastrophic in its consequences for humanity. Humanity confronts a warming planet, with rising sea levels, melting glaciers and extreme weather events causing droughts and famine; it is nothing short of a crime against humanity to accelerate this by denial of global warming, by muzzling of climate scientists, by de-funding this research, approving fossil fuels and oil pipelines, and effectively undermining any global response to this crisis. Humanity confronts increased incidence of global pandemics; it is nothing short of a crime against humanity to de-fund public health research. Let’s not forget Trump’s inhumane, mean-spirited and chauvinistic response to the doctors and nurses who went to Africa to deal with the Ebola crisis, tweeting, “The “US cannot allow EBOLA infected people back” and they “must suffer the consequences.” Imagine what his policies and response will be to the next pandemic outbreak!

  • The March for Science should be non-partisan, if that is to mean NOT favoring the “Democrats” over the “Republicans”.

    Let’s not forget that not a single prominent Democrat has come out and boldly proclaimed that evolution is a fact – all life on planet Earth evolved from common ancestors over nearly 3.5 Billion years. Democrats have constantly conciliated with Christian fascists and Biblical literalists who have waged well-funded and deceptive campaigns to undermine the teaching of evolution in schools. They did not oppose Betsy deVos, the Christian Fascist Secretary of Education, on this front despite her well-known and historic efforts to impose this worldview on society, denying generations of children the science of evolution and the scientific method. To rely on the Democrats to “save” and “defend” science is a fool-hardy enterprise.

  • But the March for Science should be Partisan – In the Name of, and For Humanity!

    The March for Science has a wonderful celebratory spirit in sharing science with the world.

    At the same time, let’s recognize that this regime – the Trump/Pence regime – is a fascist regime, posing existential threats to humanity, including with nuclear brinksmanship. Some say it may be true but it’s not useful or too scary or too polarizing. Imagine if some didn’t raise the alarm about AIDS, when the powers-that-be refused to even acknowledge it – because it’s not useful or too scary or too polarizing. Imagine if they knew in 1933 what we know now about Hitler and the Nazis. Let’s call scientific reality for what it is, let’s not make this mistake – for the sake of humanity.

    The terror unleashed on millions of immigrants in this country by this regime is very real, and is happening – right now! The world’s most devastating bomb short of nuclear was dropped – last week. Today they threaten an unbelievably catastrophic war against Korea. Imagine what harm this regime can do over the next few days, weeks and months with its levers of power, bludgeoning truth and repressing dissent as it carries out its horrors.

    We need to drive out this regime – at the soonest possible moment.