It works both ways

Martin Shkreli, the repellent pharma-bro, is now publicly diagnosing Hillary Clinton with Parkinson’s Disease.

He has no qualifications at all for offering medical advice.

Shkreli dropped out of high school his senior year but graduated because he had the necessary credits and got his bachelor’s degree in business administration, not medicine, from Baruch College in 2004. He did not go to medical school.

Yet he has a video that’s over 2 hours long in which he meanders on about this.

If you find this as revolting and inappropriate as I do, I’ll just mention…do you feel the same way about all the non-psychiatrists claiming that Donald Trump, or his mobs of cheering fans, are mentally ill?

Don’t be like Martin Shkreli.

Minnesotans! You have an election on Tuesday! Vote!

Go to the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State to get a sample ballot. Then show up and vote on Tuesday. I want to see a good turnout by responsible citizens on an election that is not presidential. You’ve got to build a collection of people working for your causes at all levels, and stop expecting that you’ll put a magic person in place at the top of the pyramid and make everything work.

And I will unabashedly recommend that if you really despise Trump, you have to vote a straight Democratic ticket. I’m holding my nose and voting for Collin Peterson, Blue Dog Democrat, for the first time ever in this election, despite not liking him at all. Note to all you Stein/Johnson fans: another strike against them is that most of us won’t even find a Green/Libertarian candidate to vote for or against in these lower level elections.

In addition to local representatives, we’re voting on a Minnesota supreme court judge position. We get to choose between 3 people running for the job. Foss, a guy who wants to be a supreme court judge because, as he admits, he can’t find a job; MacDonald, who was endorsed by the state Republican party and lost her last election because she was caught driving while drunk; and Natalie Hudson, the incumbent and a Mark Dayton appointee, who is the only one with experience as a judge.

You might want to vote for the qualified candidate, Hudson.

Go find out who your candidates are and be sure to get out there and vote.

I will be nagging you again on Tuesday, Minnesotans.

By golly, Trump is negging us!

The slimy orange turd is actually going to be speaking in Minnesota on 19 August — he must be really confident if he’s bothering to campaign in a state that’s practically guaranteed to vote for anybody but Trump — and he’s warming us up with trash talk.

So the Washington Times reported, of a Somali refugee program in Minnesota, that, “the effort to resettle large groups of Somali refugees, is having the unintended consequence of creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment, that is both stressing the state’s” — I mean, the state is having tremendous problems, its safety net — “and creating a rich pool of recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups.”

It’s hapenning. It’s happening. You see it, and you read about it. You see it. And you can be smart, and you can be cunning, and tough, or you can be very, very dumb, and not want to see what’s going on, folks.”

I don’t think he knows us at all well, which is another reason he’s going to lose here. The City Pages dismantles his claim that we have tremendous problems.

Here, Trump is referring to the terrible scourge of unemployment in the Twin Cities, where, as of June, the unemployment rate was all of 3.7 percent, second lowest among American metropolitan areas. Statewide, the jobless rate is 3.8 percent, tied for the eighth-best in the country.

As for the “tremendous problems” for our safety net, let’s compare Minnesota to Maine, where Trump was speaking. Maine, with 1.3 million people, has about one-fourth of Minnesota’s population (roughly 5.4 million, give-or-take a few hundred people in town claiming to be relatives of Prince.) Maine finished its budget year with a $93 million surplus. Minnesota entered the 2016 legislative session with a $900 million surplus. Four times the population, ten times the leftover money. A tremendous problem.

That same Washington Times story Trump cited faults Minnesota for spending more than all but one other state (Alaska) on social welfare, according to the local conservative think thank, the Center for the American Experiment. That study found Minnesota spent $4,000 more per-low income person than the average American state.

Leave it to conservatives to believe that spending more on the poor is a black mark against the state, or to assume that Somali is synonymous with terrorist.

I’d love to attend for the frisson of horror, but unfortunately, Trump is charging $1000 a person just to attend, and is looking for $100,000 donations from couples. Somehow, I don’t think attendance will reflect the political preferences of the state at all.

In other important Trump news, it is now an established scientific fact that he has tiny little hands.

Mike Pence, creationist

In 2001, a French anthropologist discovered some very interesting specimens in West Central Africa: the skulls of some 6-7 million year old apes that showed some chimpanzee-like features and some human-like features. He called it Sahelanthropus tchadensis.

In 2002, Mike Pence used the bully pulpit of the house of representatives to denounce Sahelanthropus and the entire theory of evolution, in a pointless exercise of flouting his ignorance. Why, I don’t know; perhaps he thought he could use a scientific discovery to somehow legislate against science? The performance has been caught on video.

It’s an extended riff on the “just a theory” argument, revealing that he doesn’t understand what a scientific theory means. He cites the 1925 Scope trial as the moment where this mere “theory” was legislated into the classroom and taught as fact; wrong. The Scopes trial was the result of a law that tried to prohibit teaching evolution, the side of science lost the case, and the theory has been taught in classrooms ever since because it is the best-supported explanation of the history of life. And evolution is a fact — life has not been static, but species change over time.

Then he claims that we all remember our classrooms illustrated with that linear portrayal of humans evolving from little monkeys to Mel Gibson. Well, I’ve been teaching for 30 years that that linear sequence is wrong, and that evolution is all about branching descent, which is also, as it happens, how Darwin thought about it (that popular Time-Life illustration is a true curse on evolution education).


But I also challenge Pence on his claim that this portrayal was ubiquitous in classrooms. I had a public school education, in the liberal stronghold of King County, Washington, and never once heard the word “evolution” pass the lips of my teachers. What I learned about evolution before college I got from sneaking into the “Adult” section of the local public library, because this was a subject they didn’t even allow children to read about.

Pence reads about Sahelanthropus and claims to be surprised, that this represents a new theory that human evolution was taking place all across Africa and on the Earth. Uh, what? He also criticizes it because the textbooks will have to be changed, because the old theory of evolution…is suddenly replaced by a new theory.

I really want to play poker with Mike Pence. The astonishment on his face when the second hand dealt to him is different from the first will be something to behold. He will be aghast that the rules of poker get changed with every deal.

And then he gets to his point. Every theory is equivalent. We ought to also teach the theory that the signers of the declaration of independence believed — that humans were created by a creator. The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image, male and female he created them, and I believe that. He also thinks that scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe. Alas, scientists have scrutinized intelligent design explanations for a century or two now, and have generally found them to be useless crap.

It’s clear. Mike Pence is not only a babbling loon, but he’s a generic Biblical creationist who sees Intelligent Design creationism as a loophole to smuggle his religious ideas into the classroom. He’s wrong about virtually everything in that pompous little speech.

He’s lucky in one thing, though: he’s got Donald Trump boldly distracting most of the media from making any noise about Mike Pence’s incompetence and ignorance. Even without Trump, I don’t want this goober anywhere near high office.

A day in the life of a buffoon

This is just 24 hours of political campaigning by Trump. I’m impressed.

  • In a Washington Post interview, Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan against his primary challenger
  • He reiterated that he hasn’t endorsed Sen. John McCain and said the onetime prisoner of war "has not done a good job for the vets"
  • He slapped out at Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, saying "she has given me zero support"
  • He suggested that Americans should pull their 401(k) funds out of the stock market
  • He said he’s "always wanted" to receive a Purple Heart but that having one gifted to him by a supporter was "much easier"
  • He said that the handling of sexual harassment has "got to be up to the individual"
  • He accused Khizr Khan of being "bothered" by his plan to keep terrorists out of the country, and said that he had no regrets about his clash with the family
  • He appeared to feud with a crying baby during a rally
  • He reiterated that "if the election is rigged, I would not be surprised"
  • The sitting president of the United States publicly called Trump "unfit to serve" and urged Republicans to withdraw their support for him.
  • Trump spokesman Katrina Pierson suggested that Obama and Clinton are to blame for the death of Humayan Khan, who died in 2004, when neither were in the executive branch at the time
  • An ally of Paul Manafort told our colleague John Harwood at CNBC that the campaign chairman is "mailing it in," leaving the rest of the staff "suicidal."
  • Sitting GOP congressman Richard Hanna, HP head Meg Whitman and former Christie aide Maria Comella all said they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton
  • The Washington Post released a transcript of its full interview with Trump, indicating among other things that he paused five times to watch TV coverage in the middle of the sit-down
  • A GOP source told NBC’s Katy Tur that Reince Priebus is "apoplectic" over Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan and is making calls to the campaign to express his "extreme displeasure"

This is a whole new level of incompetence. And he’s got three months more to top it!

You could try taking Slate’s challenge, but my challenge is just as impossible

Slate is challenging people to diagram this sentence from Donald Trump:

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

I’m not really interested in dissecting the parts of speech and their relationships to one another as I am in answering a different question about the content: WTF is he talking about? This is going beyond word salad to a garbage salad that has been consumed and excreted and is now swirling around at the sewage treatment plant.

It’s bad to be confined to one choice — but at least there’s no ambiguity about who is the better candidate

I think John Oliver was put off a bit by the blatant American exceptionalism and weird fervor for the military on display at the Democratic national convention — so was I. But as he points out, we don’t have much choice, because Trump is so abysmally horrible.

And Trump is simply incompetent at even the simplest parts of the job that require minimal human decency, or even just the ability to pretend to be a caring person.

Honestly, the main take-away from these two weeks is that, incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist, that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities. And I genuinely did not think that was the part of the job that someone could be bad at.

So there’s a lot to dislike about the Democratic party, and the Republicans are in the process of disintegration — we really need a better party and a better choice. No, not Gary Johnson and the Libertarians — they’re openly incompetent and driven by a failed ideology. Not the Greens, either, as long as they’re led by Jill Stein.

I’ve been getting a lot of pushback from people trying to argue that Stein isn’t anti-vax, because she doesn’t come right out and say it, and “ANTI-VAX” isn’t tattooed on her forehead. But I’ve had to deal with a lot of anti-thises and thats — the climate change deniers, the evolution deniers, the vaccine deniers — and this is pretty much their standard operating procedure. Think Bjorn Lomborg, for instance: because he admits to the reality of climate change, I’ve heard people claim he’s actually pro-environment. It’s not true. He’s just taking a more cautious approach to making his denialism sound reasonable, even while he’s fundamentally wrong.

Mike the Mad Biologist makes a similar case for Jill Stein being a vaccine denier who is straining to make her position seem plausible.

One hideous thing she has been doing is making the standard anti-vaccination arguments. If you follow this stuff, it’s obvious what she’s doing, but there are a lot of newbies who just aren’t aware of how the anti-vaccine game is played.

Anti-vaccinations never come out and say ‘we oppose vaccination.’ It is always couched in terms of altering vaccination schedules, urging ‘caution’, and calling for safer products.

This is really no different than when anti-abortionists come up with bullshit medical safety arguments (or bullshit pre-natal neurology and developmental biology), rather than admitting they want to end all abortions. Nor is it any different from Republicans who are supposedly protecting us from voter fraud, while really attempting to disenfranchise Democrats for partisan gain.

What’s awful is that she is mainstreaming garbage that undermines one of the most successful public health interventions of the 20th century.

Exactly right. And why I’d never vote for Stein.