Not going to worry about anything anymore

I got a solid 10 hours of sleep last night — I’m hoping that has cleared the last wisps of fog from this chaotic week out of my brain. I have decided I’m also not going to worry about this election any more: it’s out of my hands because I know who I’ll be voting for, the monstrous orange nincompoop has been wrecking the support of minorities and women, and they’re the ones who are going to decide this year, and most importantly, I have learned that Beyoncé is campaigning for Clinton. Game over, man.

I will worry about the aftermath later, but I think our homegrown candy-floss Hitler has effectively put a bullet in the brain of the Republican party, and there may be long-drawn-out and furious thrashings to come (it never used that brain much, so it’s not an insta-kill), but we’ll deal with those as they arise. Not even going to try and guess what the world will be like on Wednesday.

For now, I’m going drink some coffee and retire to my happy place. Even though that happy place is full of papers I need to grade.

No on California’s Proposition 60

It sounds so well-meaning — Prop 60 would require all porn films to use condoms. That’s got to be good for the actors and actresses, right? If I walked in cold to a voting booth and saw that idea, with no prior research, I’d probably say “yeah, sure” and punch in “yes”. Only it turns out that you really should listen to the people it affects the most, and the porn stars are all dead set against it. I’m not even a consumer of porn, so my opinion shouldn’t matter at all, and this bill seems to be designed to cater to the prejudices and ignorance of us straight unkinky vanilla people.

Proposition 60 looks great at first glance. I wouldn’t fault anyone who doesn’t know anything about it for voting “yes” if that’s all they knew about it. I can easily imagine myself getting suckered into voting for it if I didn’t have such strong connections to the sex worker communities. But the fact is, it’s a lousy law, the latest in a long string of attempts by the AIDS Health Foundation to profiteer off the fear of sex and the stigmatizing of sex work. I want to talk about why it’s a lousy law here, but I want to do more than that, too: I want to use it as a demonstration of why it’s important for everyone in this country who works for a living to pay attention to the organizing efforts of sex workers and support them.

It’s also good to look at who the law rewards, and who it punishes. Even if your well-meaning idea is to protect poor sex workers from their choices, like any good Puritan, maybe you ought to rethink the proposition when the consequences are to do further harm to those you piously wish to “defend”.

Where Proposition 60 is concerned, this reality isn’t just a matter of optics: It determines who the law punishes. Performers who shoot and distribute their own material are subject to prosecution under the law if condoms aren’t visible in their films. The limited media coverage of this point has focused on the argument that married couples who make porn in their own homes could be sued for not using condoms. That’s a legitimate example, but it misses one of the most important points: The porn workers who are most likely to be targeted by such a clause aren’t going to be married, hetero cisgender couples, but those with the most marginalized identities.

Besides who it targets, the enforcement mechanisms of Proposition 60 are weird and poorly thought-out. If the state doesn’t act on a reported violation, any Californian is able to act as plaintiff and sue the producer for not showing condoms in their film. If the lawsuit is successful, the plaintiff — who again, can be any Californian who watched a porn film and didn’t see condoms being used — gets 25% of the judgement. Fines can go up to $70,000 for repeat violations, which is a pretty strong motivation to sit around watching porn that doesn’t turn you on.

Oh, no. That’s all we need — a financial motivation to let yet another collection of straight-laced people to pruriently spend their time watching pornography so they can get the added thrill of passing judgment on others. Getting paid for being prudish and judgmental? Win-win for awful people!

Oy, can I turn around and go back to China?

In a stunning fit of bad taste and bad design, the Newark immigration & customs control has a terrible feature. Everyone landing at that airport gets filtered through a customs screening room, a large space with long, slow moving lines, and mounted dead center is a large television. It is tuned to CNN. My welcome back to the USA was Wolf Blitzer (spit) yammering about two things: emails, and polls. Good god, America, you are being poisoned by the media. Rather than policy, we hear only about trivia and the state of the horse race. Charles Pierce summarizes my feelings.

I am perilously close to perishing for the desire of wanting somebody to win the presidency on the merits. I am tired of polls and micro-analytics based on splitting the electorate into bite-sized pieces. And I am tired of pundits who don’t know dick about the people for whom they claim to be speaking. (Hi, Joe! Mika! Good ta see ya!) And I am tired of surrogates, all of them, and not just the crazy ones that speak for El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago, but all the people dealing in arguments and talking points and bullshit that passed their sell-by dates sometime around last Memorial Day.

One more week of this bullshit, but I do not expect to see an improvement after the election, since our media seem to be totally incapable of considering ideas and actions outside of their effect on Nate Silver’s numbers games.

So I got home some time after 2am, collapsed into bed slept a few hours, and got up to teach my classes. The first thing that greeted me when I opened my office door, unfortunately, was that I’d set the due date for lab reports for the end of last week, and you can guess what I found: piles and piles of papers slid under my door. That wasn’t so bad, though; I expected it, and it was the first major writing assignment of the term, so I’m kind of looking forward to reading them. What I didn’t expect, and that soured my stomach, was that the latest issue of the Morris North Star, our far-right student newspaper, was also stuffed under there. This is what I got to see:


Gag. Thud. Barf. I am so disappointed in some of our students for their lack of empathy, total absence of wit, and outright stupidity. I also heard that someone spoke up at a conservative forum on campus, expressing their fear of being seen as conservative at UMM, and they used as an example their certainty that they could never attend a class taught by yours truly, PZ Myers, while wearing a college republicans T-shirt. Little do they realize that at a small college like ours, where our teabagging students aren’t shy about expressing themselves on their horrible little rag, I already know…and it makes no difference in my biology classes.

Now if I were grading them on their sense of humor or their consciousness of their fellow students, they’d be failing, but I haven’t figured out a way to include those topics on exams about cell biology or genetics. Or if I could test them on hypocrisy — you know they’re not very aware when they can complain that they can’t wear a conservative slogan on a t-shirt (they can) because of ‘political correctness’, but at the same time than can run cartoons that ignorantly denigrate other students because ‘politically incorrect’ is a mark of pride to them.

It’s also the case that I can’t fail students for being assholes, unfortunately.

OK, one bit of good news. This was waiting for me in my mailbox.


Now all I have to do is catch up on my sleep, get over my jetlag, and have this annoying throbbing headache end, and maybe I can read it.

Race for the bottom of the slime barrel!

I was horrified years ago when Fox News emerged as the shambling, dishonest, sleazy voice of conservative thought — I mean, I thought the National Review was a racist organ, but at least they put on bow ties and talked in elevated accents and pretended to be decent human beings, and William F. Buckley Jr. was clearly an intelligent man with odious views. Fox News decided that intelligence was irrelevant and that the odious views were what sold. And the Republican Party embraced it all and decided to jettison intelligence along with decency (although one could argue that they led the way with Reagan).

Brace yourself. It gets worse. Fox News is now passé. It is insufficiently contemptible for the next crop of conservative politicians.

They are all jumping to…Breitbart.

Trump is going to cash in on his electoral defeat by forming an alliance with Breitbart, creating an abomination called Trump TV so far. That may change, since the Trump name is so tainted that it isn’t being used on any of his new hotels.

And if you thought Trump was bad, wait until you get a load of the next generation of far right conservatives. Curt Schilling is considering a political career, and hitching his star to Breitbart. After all, if the primary qualifications for running for office as a Republican are a loud mouth, racism, and ignorance, he’s a perfect match.

Another guy who is trying to rehabilitate his political career by diving into the raging dumpster fire is Dinesh D’Souza. So presidential.

Obama’s dad dumped him at birth & his mom got rid of him at age 10–did they know something we didn’t when we signed up for this guy?

Just wait. After the 2020 elections, when Breitbart is branded as a loser and gets discarded like Fox News, the Republicans will go looking for an even more repulsive vehicle for their views, and we’ll see the rise of Aryan Nation TV. Then, in 2024, when that one goes bust as a medium for getting Republicans elected, they’ll have to go even lower. I don’t know what form that horror will take, though. Maybe they’ll join forces with the Catholic Church.

We can no longer be surprised by the Republican party

There was a time when I could hate-read David Brooks, back when I was young and virile and mighty and barbarously savage and could stomach a bit of hackery, but those days are long gone and now I rely on his chief eviscerator, Driftglass, to do the dirty work of rending his pious bullshit. His latest does a fine job of exposing the Republican party’s evasive strategy: always pretend the bad actor was not a true member of the party, and constantly reinvent itself in name only while promoting the same old bad behavior. Brooks is their most experienced actor at pretending to be shocked, shocked I tell you at the shenanigans he previously endorsed but have now been revealed to be criminal failures.

Driftglass also mentions the other curious phenomenon that has so wrecked our country: conservatives ruin everything they touch, and when they are caught at it, they fall upwards into the loving arms of the media, where they then get to spend the rest of their careers papering over their abuses…and bringing in the next crop of crooked conservatives to help them in their propaganda. If you ever wonder how the press got so awful in this country, you can start by blaming Watergate.

Bonus points for citing this Charles Pierce piece. We shouldn’t be surprised that Trump is thinking about refusing to abide by the results of the election. This is exactly what the Republicans have been doing for decades. He’s just more brash and less slithery than your standard Republican con artist.

It also leads to a scary prospect. I think Trump will lose, and lose hard…which just means that all those godawful idiotic Trump surrogates will be promoted to higher positions at Fox News and CNN and all the other outlets, and will never ever go away.

The worst thing from last night’s debate was…

…Donald Trump’s declaration that our national misery and embarrassment won’t end on 8 November. He could lose in a landslide, and his ego will not allow him to accept it — expect the election night to be full of Trumpians declaring that everything is “rigged”. Expect him to go on a rhetorical rampage the day after. Expect his rabid followers to riot. Expect him to show up on inauguration day demanding to be sworn in, and to appear on every freakish far right wing radio show for years to come complaining about how the election was stolen.

I really just want him to go away.

The lies were pretty bad, too. Yes, he did say that he thought Japan should defend itself with nukes…to Chris Wallace, despite denying it last night. He babbled about ending abortion, claiming that a woman could demand one the day before her due date, and that a beautiful baby would be torn limb from limb…which sounds exactly like the kind of grisly lie pro-life kooks love to make up. There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion.

There was also the expected word salad served up every time actual policy was discussed. Here’s what he said to defend his claim that Aleppo has fallen to Assad forces.

Well, Aleppo is a disaster. It’s a humanitarian nightmare. But it has fallen from any standpoint. I mean, what do you need, a signed document? Take a look at Aleppo. It is so sad when you see what’s happened. And a lot of this is because of Hillary Clinton. Because what has happened is by fighting Assad, who turned out to be a lot tougher than she thought, and now she is going to say, “Oh, he loves Assad.” He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama. And everyone thought he was gone two years ago, three years ago. He aligned with Russia. He now also aligned with Iran, who we made very powerful. We gave them $150 billion back. We give them $1.7 billion in cash. I mean cash, bundles of cash as big as this stage. We gave them $1.7 billion.

Now they have aligned, he has aligned with Russia and with Iran. They don’t want ISIS. But they have other things because we’re backing, we’re backing rebels. We don’t know who the rebels are. We’re giving them lots of money, lots of everything. We don’t know who the rebels are. And when and if, and it’s not going to happen because you have Russia and you have Iran now. But if they ever did overthrow Assad, you might end up as bad as Assad is, and he is a bad guy.

But you may very well end up with worse than Assad. If she did nothing, we’d be in much better shape. And this is what has caused the great migration where she has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who probably in many cases, not probably, who are definitely in many cases ISIS-aligned. And we now have them in our country and wait until you see this is going to be the great Trojan Horse.

And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary. Thanks a lot for doing a great job.

That…doesn’t…answer…the question. It doesn’t even make sense. The only thing it confirms is that Trump is an ignoramus.

Lots of luck, Republicans. Thanks a lot for doing a great job. I hope your party does a Joffrey and dies purple-faced and bleeding, but quickly and definitively, at least.

Oh, no…not another debate

Is there any point? Isn’t this whole thing over now?

Anyway, tonight the competent, experience woman is going to have to share the stage with the ignorant, egocentric man, and give him unearned equal time. The topics that Hillary Clinton will discuss have been announced:

  • Debt and entitlements
  • Immigration
  • Economy
  • Supreme Court
  • Foreign hot spots
  • Fitness to be President

Note that I said these are what Clinton will discuss. Trump will be off in argle-bargle land, ranting about how great he is and how his enemies will face his wrath and vengeance. One thing I’ve noticed about these debates, though, is that they don’t discuss…science. I think the politicians are afraid of the subject.

But here’s something brilliant: Gaius Publius explains how every one of those topics could be turned into specific questions about climate change. All it would take is some intelligence and willingness to dig a little deeper on the part of the moderator…

Oh, crap. The moderator is Chris Wallace? Fuck it, he’s a schmuck.

The honest-to-god truth finally comes out

I woke up this morning to learn that Donald Trump has totally destroyed the credibility of all of those WOMEN who have been accusing him of sexual harassment and assault. He has proof that WOMEN have been lying.

And that proof is a MAN.

Case closed. Donald Trump has a witness who as an 18 year old British BOY was flying first class on a domestic American flight, and HE had his eyes locked on the WOMAN who claims Trump was pawing at her, and HE swears it was actually the WOMAN who was pawing HIM.

HE has no evidence that HE was even there, but you should believe HIM because HE said so, and HE also said HE has a photographic memory, and also was clearly witnessing the scene through eyes made of cells containing Y chromosomes, and perceiving it with a MALE brain.

The person who was being pawed and might be expected to retain a more vivid recollection than a random passenger on the flight was, well, a WOMAN, and bitchez be lyin’, am I right, fellas?

Of course, Anthony Gilberthorpe also claims to have procured rent-boys for the Thatcher cabinet, that he was engaged to a beautiful American woman who doesn’t exist (is this like the Canadian girlfriend trope, only for the British it’s their American fiance?), and he fed a story that he had AIDS to the newspapers so he could sue them for defamation. HE is not exactly a source with a great reputation for probity, but HE says what the Trump Campaign wants to hear, and HE is a MAN, which adds +10 to all reliability rolls.

That Trump accepts this MAN as a credible source, by the way, adds another oily, repulsive sheen to his trusted television surrogates, Corey Lewandowski, Kayleigh McEnany, Jeffrey Lord, and Scottie Nell Hughes. That isn’t the reek of cadaverine and hydrogen sulfide coming from those people, it is the scent of sanctity and the aroma of veracity, soon to be bottled and sold under the Trump™ brand as the perfume, Honestly.

Two expressions I’ve come to detest

As the Trump campaign steadily sinks deeper into the swamp of racism, misogyny, and anti-semitism, there are a couple of phrases I hear over and over, in multiple variations, and it just needs to stop.

“We didn’t know he was this bad”. I usually hear this one from Republicans. It’s a lie. We’ve all known that he was a colossal boor since at least the 1990s, and he hasn’t gotten worse — this is the same jerk we’ve known for about 30 years. There is absolutely no surprise in his behavior or his record, but people have just always looked the other way. You probably know assholes like this right now, and we’ve always just rolled our eyes, shaken our head, and walked away.

“And now he’s running for President of the United States,” usually said by Democrats with a note of horror. The high office he is running for should not make the slightest difference. Would this be acceptable if he were merely a real estate tycoon, or a ditch digger? Is there some kind of invisible class line such that if you’re below it, it’s expected that you will call women pigs, but once you’re above it, only then does it become rude?

What prompts my irritation is that a friend of mine, a woman, a feminist, and a prominent atheist, has been receiving a flood of hateful comments on facebook that aren’t really that different from what Trump says. We all take this for granted as the normal state of affairs. But I have to wonder…these petty vulgarians have friends — I should say enablers — who retain their associations with them even as they call women “ugly”, “fat”, and “pieces of shit”. They are not shunned. They have their own little communities of hatred. They thrive. They get healthy sums of money from their patreon accounts. They have turned the atheist movement into an embarrassing crap heap.

What I’m learning from Trump is that we can’t expect to see them condemned until a) they’ve been at it for 30 years, or b) they decide to run for president. And until then, the only people we’re going to scorn are the ones who dare to call them out before either of those eventualities are reached.