The statistics don’t lie: the real reason Trump must be defeated

It’s the correlations. An analysis of facebook likes (we all trust that to be scientific, I’m sure) finds that potential Trump and Clinton voters have radically different tastes on a lot of different issues. Like what movie actors they prefer…

faveactors

OMG. Trump voters like Adam Sandler best? Now we know who to blame for all those terrible movies. We must crush Trump at the polls or we will be flooded with more unfunny, racist crap.

George Takei is a fine person, but he doesn’t really act anymore.

This next one is appalling.

favemovies

God’s Not Dead is the Trumpian favorite? I’m not personally impressed with Harry Potter, but at least it’s not that dishonest shit-smear.

Call me perverse, but now I want Pure Flix Entertainment, the company that made that abomination, to book Adam Sandler for their next god-fapping movie. I’m pretty sure the Earth will crack open to swallow their entire fan-base, creating a new paradise for us survivors.

As long as I’m mentioning science fiction…

The theme for next summer’s Convergence, has been announced, and it’s a good one: To Infinity & Beyond!

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Set on a grand stage of sociopolitical intrigue, melodrama, and conflict, space operas have woven worlds of fantastic adventure and romance to capture our imaginations since the 1930’s. CONvergence 2017: To Infinity & Beyond is a celebration of all things space opera. Whether the hero is fated to a mythic destiny through blood or prophecy, or simply an average galactic citizen caught up in incredible circumstance, their adventures satisfy our hunger for the optimistic triumph of the individual and the common good.

Follow Yale athlete Flash Gordon’s strange odyssey towards interplanetary hero and uniter of planet Mongo, Rey escaping Jakku to join the resistance and realize her connection to the force, or Barbarella’s journey of personal discovery during her mission to rescue the scientist Durand Durand—when we dive into a space opera, we are truly along for a ride of epic proportion. Lovers Alana and Marko struggle to stay together as the battle between the technologically advanced Landfall Coalition the magic-using people of Wreath threatens to tear them apart in Saga. Paul Atreides dodges conspiracy to explore his destiny as religious leader of Arakis’s warrior Fremen in Dune. An Imperial Radch AI embarks on a desperate mission to uncover the truth behind her lieutenant’s murder in Ancillary Justice.

Ah, good old space opera. I will be entertained. Let a thousand Iain Banks panels bloom.

Meanwhile, in not-science-fiction, even more extrasolar planets have been identified, and some of them even look semi-habitable, maybe.

One of the most interesting set of planets discovered in this study is a system of four potentially rocky planets, between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a star less than half the size and with less light output than the Sun. Their orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience radiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth.

And meanwhile, in not-exactly-space-opera-but-is-it-really, there’s been a lot of appreciation for Octavia Butler lately, with people noticing the peculiarity of her fantastic stories not getting their deserved attention from Hollywood. And that makes me wonder if our vision of what is space opera is always seen through a white person’s lens. I hope we can see more “science fiction worlds from a hyper-marginalized lens”. Butler wrote classic sci-fi about aliens and space travel, but always from a weird and often curiously biological perspective — it wasn’t about space empires and space colonialization. Nnedi Okorafor also writes great SF, but with central characters who aren’t modeled after Flash Gordon. You’ve all read Binti, right? And then there’s Samuel Delany — amazing stuff from a gay black man.

So I’m a bit enthused about the prospects for next summer’s con — the topic is wide open for some real science, some standard popular tropes, and for an opportunity to expand our minds. I’m going to have to think about some panel suggestions, but you’re welcome to suggest some, too.

Bye, Bill

I’d heard the stories, but I had no idea how awful William Shatner was. And then…

And then

Thousands of fans turned out for Montreal Comic-Con July 8-10, many to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Overall, the mood was positive, forward-looking, and particularly supportive of diversity in the franchise. But then William Shatner opened his mouth, and took us all back in time (not in a fun Voyage Home way) with a string of sexist jokes.

And no, they weren’t even funny sexist jokes. They just kind of flopped there, looking stupid. He even repeated one of the more pointless ones three times.

So Leonard Nimoy turns out to be a thoughtful, interesting, enlightened human being, and he dies. William Shatner is a raging dillhole, and he lives forever. It all makes the old Star Trek really hard to watch.

Oh, hey, how about that Rogue One? No asshats involved in that one, I’m sure.

Don’t blame Melania

It’s now clear that Melania Trump’s speech at the RNC last night was partially plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s speech to the DNC. At first I was inclined to doubt: it’s really hard to say two pieces of mushy platitudes are different, let alone alike, but when put side by side it’s clear that there was literal copying and pasting going on.

NPR carried the original text of Obama’s speech. The relevant section is here, and areas of common phrasing have been bolded:

And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

Below is the section of Trump’s speech, as transcribed by Quartz:

From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that their only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

But here’s the thing…I actually have a lot of sympathy for Melania. She’s a non-native English speaker, and she has never trained to be a speechifier — I teach biology students who are told from day one of their arrival at this university that the culminating experience before graduating will be giving a 45 minute talk to the faculty and their peers. They know for four years that this is coming. We coach them along with classroom exercises. I practically hold their hands in the weeks before they have to give it. And still, this one event is the source of tremendous anxiety for many of them.

Now imagine that your career is as a model, and you’re told that you’re going to have to make a speech that will be broadcast around the world, and that will be scrutinized intensely in order to find fault with your husband. The pressure must have been intense, and thus my sympathy for her.

That does not excuse plagiarism, however. But if we’re going to blame anyone, that has to be fastened directly on the Trump campaign team. She had speechwriters composing her talk — my students don’t get that. Her speech should have had multiple levels of inspection. Obama’s speech was very well received, so I can understand using it as a starting framework — but everyone on the speechwriting team should have known that was one of the sources, and been particularly alert to making sure that this kind of sloppy plagiarizing didn’t happen. They were apparently working on this important speech to be given by an amateur for six weeks, and somebody should have been going through it line by line to make sure it was in line with the goals of the campaign, that there were no outrageous errors, and that it just plain sounded good. There must be many people who have heard her practice it dozens of times. A speech like that had to have been vetted out the wazoo, unless it wasn’t, which would also be a problem.

Her delivery was fine, but the content was stolen, and for that we have to blame the Trump staff who gave it to her and coached her on it. And that tells me that there is a gang of lazy incompetents working behind the scenes of the chief lazy incompetent, Donald Trump.

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: As we know on the internet, that’s one mode of communication

Watching carefully, I noticed that two other activities added to the commotion: sloughing of skin and defecation. Like other whales, sperm whales shed skin on a regular basis. This may be a mechanism to reduce the risk of infection and to rid the animals of external parasites. As the whales rubbed against one another, the physical contact dislodged flakes, sometimes entire sheets, of skin, which floated in the water like a blizzard of translucent dandruff.

Group defecation also seemed to play a prominent role. When a dozen or more whales defecated simultaneously, it created a cloud of poop that engulfed the ensemble, obscuring them from view and turning the seawater into an oily soup.

I think it’s a metaphor.

Steve King, keeping the RNC classy

Steve King doesn’t like it when you point out the the Republican convention seems to consist of a lot of angry white people.

“This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie [Pierce]. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?”

If you, like me, found it hard to believe anyone would say something so stupid and wrong, it’s on video.

Hey, at least King is being open and honest in confirming that the GOP is the party of cranky white bigots.

Here we go again: another cock-eyed defense of evolutionary psychology

This Myles Power guy fished up an evolutionary psychologist to write a defense of of EP, which is not at all impressive. I’m sure he could also find an acupuncturist to write many words about the wonders of sticking needles in people, but I wouldn’t be impressed with that, either.

I will just point out that this fellow also has decided that everyone who criticizes EP is ideologically motivated to hate it; it can’t possibly be that we detest it because it is bad science. And of course he pisses me off with his dishonest opening.

Now, before I begin, ask yourself this, if you are against EP, why? Which of the following do you disagree with:

  • Evolution shapes both the morphology and behaviour of organisms
  • Humans are as much a product of evolution as any other organism
  • Humans behaviour should show evidence of being shaped by evolution

Because if the answer is, “well, none of them”, then there is really no need to go anything further. Because that’s all EP is in the end, looking at humans from the point of view of evolution. It’s taking 150 years of evolutionary theory and applying it to human behaviour. That’s it. We can discuss the impact any evolved pre-dispositions have on behaviour in the context of social, cognitive and biological perspectives without name-calling. So we’re good yes?

No. We’re not good. This is classic EP evasion tactics: immediately hiding behind general principles of evolutionary biology, as if disagreeing with EP is exactly equivalent to denying evolution. It’s annoying as hell to every time have a chorus of idiots accusing me of being a creationist because I find evolutionary psychology to be simple-minded to the point of utter uselessness in actually explaining anything about human evolution, and it’s people like this EP proponent who always try to feed that nonsense right from the get-go.

Evolution shapes both the morphology and behaviour of organisms. Humans are as much a product of evolution as any other organism. Humans behaviour should show evidence of being shaped by evolution. Yes to all of those. Accepting basic biological facts does not, however, in any way imply that I must therefore accept the specific claims of a fallacious hypothesis about human evolution. Evolutionary psychologists are not simply applying 150 years of evolutionary theory to human behavior, and it’s dishonest to claim that they are.

I skipped the rest. If the author can’t even be trusted to explain what makes EP a specific and useful approach, but just wants to pretend it’s plain old evolutionary biology, using the same methods and rigor, then I’ve got no use for more games of hide and seek.

But who will replace him?

It sounds like Roger Ailes is going to be fired from Fox News. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, but now I’m wondering who is on Rupert Murdoch’s short list of replacements?

  • Satan? Only problem is that he’s mythological, and is also in high demand to lead Christian megachurches.

  • Pat Robertson? He hasn’t had a sex scandal yet. (Has he? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to think about it.)

  • Alex Jones? He’d probably turn it down as he struggles to fit it into a false flag narrative.

  • The most likely, best choice, who would fit in perfectly with the ethos of the organization: Dick Cheney.

My expectations for this week are rather low

It’s time for the Republican convention in the under-appreciated city of Cleveland, Ohio…and I don’t think this event will buff the place. In case you were wondering who is speaking at the event, here’s the list.

MONDAY

Theme: Make America Safe Again

Headliners: Trump’s wife, Melania; Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, U.S. Army; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.

Others: Willie Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty”; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Marcus Luttrell, retired U.S. Navy SEAL; Scott Baio, actor; Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya; Mark “Oz” Geist, member of a security team that fought in Benghazi; John Tiegen, member of Benghazi security team and co-author of the book “13 Hours,” an account of the attacks; Kent Terry and Kelly Terry-Willis, siblings of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent whose shooting death revealed the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation; Antonio Sabato Jr., actor; Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw, immigration reform advocates; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis.; Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Rachel Campos Duffy, LIBRE Initiative for Hispanic economic empowerment; Darryl Glenn, Senate candidate in Colorado; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Karen Vaughn, mother of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Jason Beardsley of Concerned Veterans for America.

Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. And those damned immigrants.

In case you were concerned that you might miss some of those riveting speeches by exciting, happening people, don’t worry — just turn on your TV. It’ll be there, and there will be a fawning media gently and lovingly ‘reporting’ (this is a fancy word that means ‘describing’ or ‘repeating’ what is said) on it. If you’re hoping to maintain your equanimity during this week of awfulness, though, don’t read Paul Krugman. He knows what’s up.

Yet while most polls suggest that he’s running behind in the general election, the margin isn’t overwhelming, and there’s still a real chance that he might win. How is that possible? Part of the answer, I’d argue, is that voters don’t fully appreciate his awfulness. And the reason is that too much of the news media still can’t break with bothsidesism — the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.

And he gives specific examples!

And in the last few days we’ve seen a spectacular demonstration of bothsidesism in action: an op-ed article from the incoming and outgoing heads of the White House Correspondents’ Association, with the headline “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press.” How so? Well, Mr. Trump has selectively banned news organizations he considers hostile; he has also, although the op-ed didn’t mention it, attacked both those organizations and individual reporters, and refused to condemn supporters who, for example, have harassed reporters with anti-Semitic insults.

Meanwhile, while Mrs. Clinton hasn’t done any of these things, and has a staff that readily responds to fact-checking questions, she doesn’t like to hold press conferences. Equivalence!

I think I’ll just vote “no confidence” in American media and keep the television off this week.