That was quick

The Mooch has been fired. He only lasted 10 days on the job. He didn’t even make it to the opening show of SNL!

Poor guy. He missed the birth of his child to hang out with Trump, his wife is divorcing him for tying his ambitions to Trump, and now Trump has kicked him to the curb. I’m almost feeling some sympathy for him.

So who’s next? Next to be communications director, next to be fired, next to be impeached?

A lovely own goal

The man with a reputation as Dumbest Man on the Internet, Jim Hoft, has a blog called Gateway Pundit.

The Gateway Pundit blog has press credentials at the White House, and Hoft might have a rival: his “journalist” representative is Lucian Wintrich. Wintrich posted this:

They break into our country, steal resources, then do shit like this. And libs still wonder why we are pushing for immigration controls…

You know, those brown people he’s berating look like Indians to me…native Americans. Making that caption incredibly ironic.

The New Atheism is dead. Long live atheism.

I’ve been godless since I was a teenager, and have been vocal about it, too. Richard Dawkins was a life-long atheist, too, and he sat on the idea for The God Delusion for years, his agent telling him the time wasn’t right. Something changed in the early years of the 21st century, though, and rather abruptly, atheism became cool. All of us long-term atheists suddenly had growing audiences; we were mentioned in pop culture; our enemies became even more shrill; and we had this monicker thrust upon us, the “New Atheists”, against our protests, because we were all aware that there was nothing new about it. Maybe we were more aggressive, or maybe suddenly people were listening to us, but really, it was the same old atheism with a fancy artisan label.

And it took off. “The Four Horsemen” — weirdly inappropriate as it was (which one’s Death, which is Pestilence?), as bizarre as it was for four guys to basically declare themselves the inspirational leadership of an intellectual movement, it was a phenomenal PR move. Atheism became associated in the public eye with New Atheism and these four, turning into a vanity project, which was the worst thing that could happen to us all. Now all the flaws in those individuals transferred to how the public saw atheism.

There was the Philosopher, who has probably aged the best by staying out of the public eye to a large degree, and focusing on academic endeavors and ideas like the Clergy Project. If only the others had kept their ego as free of the atheism movement as he has.

There was the Scientist, who contributed so much clarity to atheism, but is now even more strongly associated with deplorably regressive ideas about feminism, and also leapt happily on the anti-Islam bandwagon fired up by his fellow Horsemen. Unfortunately, part of the growth of 21st century atheism was fueled by the burning of the Twin Towers, and we got sidetracked into damning Islam rather than promoting secularism as worthy in itself.

There was the Eloquent Polemicist, the guy with the confident turn of phrase, the certainty buoyed up with wit, who was on board specifically to chant for the neocon agenda, who wanted war, war, war with a third of the world. He was a brilliant speaker and writer, but he was also one of those responsible for turning atheism towards the darkness of ethnic hatred and misogyny. He had help, though…

There was the Dilettante, Mr Hollywood, the fellow who won over a horde of pre-Alt-Right fan boys by cloaking himself in the mantle of [motivated] Reason and doing his best to make racism palatable by saying it all in a mind-numbing emotionless drone. Read the summary. It’s not pretty.

This is how the New Atheism was shaped, by this handful of high profile proponents. I regarded myself as a New Atheist, too, for the longest time (heck, I’m even cited in The God Delusion, making me pretty damned New Athey, I would think), although for the past few years I’ve mainly been criticizing the direction it’s been taking. Too much blithe sexism, too much flirting with racism, far too much association with regressive conservatism, way way too much fucking libertarianism. The captains of the ship have been steering it into catastrophe while being too busy polishing their uniforms.

Symptomatic of the problems is the offense to reason du jour. We’re living in the age of Trump, when evangelical wankers rule the senate and the Supreme Court is being stocked with Christian conservatives. Planned Parenthood clinics are being shut down all across the country. Our president panders to the Evangelical Right by trying to ban transgender people from the military, and flirts with the war hawks by rattling sabers at Iran and North Korea. There are a million crimes that a movement dedicated to secularism, reason, and Enlightenment values ought to be driven to oppose, but no…what we’re supposed to be concerned about is that Richard Dawkins’ Free Speech was curtailed by a radio station deciding they didn’t want to host one of his talks.

Oh, please. If only we could apply some of that outrage to the case of every woman denied the right to control her own body because Bible-thumping fetus-worshippers hate autonomy. That would be an atheist movement worth following (I should mention that the FFRF, at least, does take a clear position on that).

So…this article by Phil Torres in Salon on the New Atheists. I have to say that Salon has a poor record on writing about atheism — they’ve published some awful crap, and seem to lack any editors competent to evaluate articles on religion or atheism — so I read it with some trepidation. But worse, the article turns out to be dead-on. Don’t you just hate it when someone effectively criticizes something you have been a part of? I’m actually going to have to recommend it, because it does summarize well all the problems with the New Atheism. I agree with it.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.

That version of atheism that is all neocon, libertarian, anti-feminist, and smug cult of personality crap? It has conveniently lumped itself together under the label of “New Atheism”. Reject it. Repudiate it. Scorn it as being soooo 2005.

I say this as a former proud New Atheist, but New Atheist no more.

But still an atheist. Man, that religion junk is so inane that I’m not leaping into its arms because I refuse to accept the baggage of the New Atheism — but you can still be a proud Social Justice Atheist, or SJA, without accepting any fragment of superstition and god-belief.

The Regnery connection

Regnery Publishing has been on my radar for a long, long time. They’re the go-to publishing house for far-right-wing cranks everywhere: Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, every angry loon who mainlines AM talk radio, or babbles on AM talk radio, can turn to Regnery to take the fevered hash festering in their brains and turn it into ink on paper. I’ve been tracking their poison for so long because another collection of kooks using their services are the creationists. The Discovery Institute loves them some Regnery. Wells’ The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design was published with them, as was Icons of Evolution. If you want to lie about science, history, or politics, Regnery will publish it.

But they have another connection. William H. Regnery II has been using the money from his publishing house to promote open racism.

By 1999, Regnery had come to believe that the only future for white people in North America was a reconfigured continent with a white-only homeland carved out of the former United States. He began consorting with Ku Klux Klan apologists, Holocaust deniers, eugenics boosters, and immigration foes. He set up two white nationalist nonprofits and steered money into them. He published fringe-right journals and books. Through his family’s famed conservative publishing house, Regnery had been on a first-name basis with the cream of the Republican establishment. But by 2006, his public views on race left him ostracized from the GOP.

Isn’t that cute? Remember the GOP back in 2006? Odious and dumb, but hey, at least then they repudiated outright, open association with naked racism, even if we all knew they were associated with it quietly, behind the scenes. They ostracized Regnery, at least.

But then, the very next sentence:

Now, he’s back. Working behind the scenes, the retired Chicago business executive has played an important role in making his ultra-right views a part of America’s political conversation in the era of Trump. In what he has described as his crowning political achievement, Regnery discovered Richard Spencer, the mediagenic agitator who invented the term “alt-right.” In 2011, Regnery made him the frontman for his white nationalist think tank, the National Policy Institute, providing Spencer the platform to launch the alt-right movement.

William! Don’t sell yourself short! Richard “Punchable” Spencer is not your only accomplishment: thanks to Regnery Publishing’s contributions to propaganda, Republicans hate education and Republicans hate science, you’ve got a buffoon in the White House, and congress is a nest of vermin. You have burned so very very brightly, William. You’ve done extraordinary things. Revel in your time. Don’t think about what comes next.

But until they are defeated, the Regnerys of the world will continue to promote hateful nonsense.

The white race may go from master of the universe to an anthropological curiosity, he warned the audience. Later he remarked, Whites are unique in welcoming racial aliens into their midst.

Delusional white people will continue to think in terms of master and slave, as they always have. Human beings, however, will continue to meld in all their diversity in complex patterns of descent, as they always have, because all those “racial aliens” are just people.

The problem is all those master race assholes who cannot welcome the fellow human beings in their midst.

Jen Gunter is the official “You stuck what up your WHAT?” doctor

There she goes again, providing informed advice about basic hygiene. Lifehacker has recommended to women that they stuff makeup sponges — you know, those cheap little sponges used for wiping one’s face — up their vaginas when they’re menstruating.

What is it with these advice sites telling people to jam random stuff up their orifices, anyway? Do they think vaginas are just the female substitute for pockets, since they don’t have any on their clothes? Maybe we need more “lifehacks” like “Never lose your keys again! Keep them in your vagina” or “Did you know you have an adorable change purse…in your crotch?”

I could scarcely believe anyone would suggest this, so I checked the Lifehacker site, and had a momentary thrill. The article, right up top, announces that it has been [Updated]! Could this be a rare instance of one of this inanity mills owning up to an error and retracting bad advice? No such luck. They added a bit where they consulted an ob/gyn who declared that there was “nothing special” about the stuff you stick up your hoo-hah, so go for it.

I think I’d trust Dr Jen Gunter’s advice, because she remembers Toxic Shock Syndrome and actually references the medical literature.

Also, any site that advertises “life hacks” is 90% bullshit, anyway.

The mysteries of the newspaper business

There’s a bit of an upset going on over at the BBC — salaries were revealed, and it was discovered that only 1 of the top 10 highest paid news presenters was a woman. This is evidence of unfair compensation and bias within the organization, which is awful enough…but then one Kevin Myers (no relation, I swear) threw gasoline — excuse me, petrol — on the smoldering fires of resentment with a remarkable op-ed in the Sunday Times. It has to be seen to be believed, but unfortunately it was quickly yanked. But not quickly enough.

The row over the gender pay gap within the BBC is the final proof — though none was needed — that the organization is both utterly unreal and irredeemably corrupt.

It’s a baffling beginning, but as you dig a little deeper, it will dawn on you that he’s not calling the BBC corrupt because they have discriminatory salary practices, oh no. He’s calling the BBC corrupt because people are allowed to complain about discriminatory salary practices.

Equally unreal has been the tiresome monotone consensus of the commentariat, all wailing and shrieking as one about how hard done by are the women of the BBC.

I tried finding the wailing and shrieking, but the commentariat are all British. As an American, my standards of what constitutes wailing and shrieking are significantly more elevated.

But as you sink deeper into the muck, it gets wilder and nastier. Much nastier. Anti-semitically nasty.

I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity. I wonder, who are their agents?”

Oh. Jews are grasping and greedy, which is how those two women came to be better paid.

How did this get past the editors? Do they have editors? If they do, are they all bigots who failed to notice the racism here?

They are also misogynists, because this bit also swooshed right over their heads.

Only one woman is among the top 10 best-paid BBC presenters. Now, why is this? Is it because men are more charismatic performers? Because they work harder? Because they are more driven? Possibly a bit of each. The human resources department — what used to be called “personnel” until people came to be considered as a metaoblising, respiring form of mineral ore — will probably tell you that men usually work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant.

It’s also not as if this was a surprise. It turns out this Kevin Myers jerk has a reputation.

Myers has form for causing offence, writing in 2009 a piece for the Belfast Telegraph titled “There was no holocaust” and in 2008 a column for the Irish Independent headlined “Africa is giving nothing to anyone – apart from AIDS”.

So how does he continue to get published? Shouldn’t the editors all have great big signs on their desks, saying “BURN ALL SUBMISSIONS FROM KEVIN MYERS”?

If there are any editors, that is. Or maybe Rupert Murdoch (it’s his paper, naturally) loves his work and has given him carte blanche.

Surreally boring

This video from Kent Hovind starts out weird and then gets incredibly boring. Apparently he’s got a VBS class or something (I am so sorry for those kids), and then he tries something that might have been interesting. Each kid has a paper cutout of the face of some atheist or evolutionist (I’m one of them: skip ahead to 3:45), and he sets it up as if he’s going to debate us, via his students as proxies. It might actually be pedagogically useful, for whatever end you have, to try and have students take the role of a critic of the instructor’s position — It was strange to see my face waved around on a stick, but I was actually looking forward to seeing how they would present my views, especially since Hovind says he wants to debate me (ain’t happening).

But he does nothing with it. After mentioning the names of some evolutionists, he drops the whole game and just reads from the Bible for 20 minutes. That’s all.

This is just terrible teaching. It gave me flashbacks to my long-ago confirmation classes, in which I was supposed to memorize Lutheran dogma and repeat it back to the pastor. Eww, I just literally shuddered.

Come on, Kent. Your ideas are batfucking wacko, but I expect a little freaky dynamism to go with ’em, and you can’t even manage that.

Oh, good — someone else didn’t like The Keepers

I started watching this show on Netflix a while back — and it began in a way that sounds so familiar to anyone familiar with the abuses of the Catholic church. A young nun vanishes, and is later found dead, murdered. Who did it? It must have been one of the priests! And there were multiple killings! And all kinds of sordid sexual goings-on, with the accused priest being further accused of calling young Catholic school girls into his office and doing unseemly things.

But it started going all wrong a couple of episodes in. The accusations were becoming increasingly strident, the crimes ever more depraved. And then we discover that there is no actual evidence for this story (other than that yes, there were murders), and that the details are all coming from the repressed memories of Jane Doe, who was recalling all these terrible incidents decades after the fact. Or after the confabulation. Or something. None of it was unbelievable, and I gave up on the show.

Mark Pendergrast watched the whole thing, and also dug up additional aspects of the story that were conveniently left out of the show. Jane Doe (real name: Jean Wehner) has a whole elaborate mythology of incredible events that occurred in the 1970s.

Shortly afterwards, she began to retrieve her first memories of priest abuse, starting with Father Neil Magnus, whom she envisioned masturbating while he took her confession. When she discovered that Magnus was dead, Wehner switched to retrieving memories of abuse by another priest, Joseph Maskell, who had been her high school counselor. She eventually recalled vaginal and anal rape (sometimes with a vibrator), oral sex, enemas, him putting a gun in her mouth, and forced prostitution.

But Wehner’s sex abuse memories expanded dramatically beyond Maskell to include two policemen, three high school teachers, a local politician who practiced a political speech while she performed oral sex on him, three more priests (Father Schmidt, Father John, and Father Daniels), four religious brothers (Brother Tim, Brother Bob, Brother Frank, and Brother Ed), two religious sisters (Nancy and Russell), and another religious brother known only as Mr. Teeth, who read from the Book of Psalms as he had sex with her. Wehner also remembered that she herself killed an unidentified nun at her school.

Yet the millions of people who have viewed The Keepers did not learn many of these background facts. (Netflix is notorious for keeping viewer numbers secret, but Newsweek revealed that it had the top two streaming shows in 2016, both with over 20 million viewers.) What viewers see is that Jean Hargadon Wehner seems to be an attractive, sensitive, self-assured woman with a supportive, wholesome family, and that she claims to have recovered memories of abuse by Father Maskell and a few others.

None of this is how memories actually work, but it does tell us one thing: people are weird. Whether it’s lurid stories of rampaging priests or bizarre tales of pedophile rings in pizza parlor basements, people are capable of believing unbelievable things. Movie makers ought to feel some responsibility for addressing credible issues and dismissing the incredible ones, or they’re no better than Alex Jones.

Dang it, life, stop finding a way

Last year, in hopeful anticipation of a contractor finally getting around to giving us new siding, we hacked away all the brush and shrubbery and saplings sprouting all around our house. We were disappointed: he didn’t get around to us that summer (life in a small town: limited supply of available contractors, high demand).

So this year, he has promised! We gave him a giant bucket of money! He ordered all the supplies! So we took another look at the vegetation around our house.

It had all grown back.

So this morning we’ve been out with pruning shears and weed-eater, trying to destroy the jungle. I think I need a machete and a chainsaw. Or a flamethrower. Or to call in an airstrike. Thinking about exotic plant poisons, or hiring a herd of elephants.

See, this is why I was trained as a zoologist. Plants are apparently my nemesis.