Way to annoy the Mormons, Orrin

Senator Tammy Duckworth had a baby, and Orrin Hatch stuck his foot (his own foot, not the baby’s) into his mouth. I’m not surprised that the Salt Lake Tribune took notice.

Sen. Orrin Hatch said this week he was fine allowing babies on the Senate floor, but then he asked a follow-up question of his own.

What, he mused, would happen “if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?”

It seems to me that that would mean either a) there were a lot more women senators, or b) a lot more senatorial men were taking their paternal duties seriously. Both sound like good outcomes.

Leave it to a Minnesotan to make the nicest comment, though.

“We could only wish we had 10 babies on the floor,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told The AP. “That would be a delight.”

I had to choke back a comment about how there were far more than 10 Republicans already on the floor.

If you ever wondered why Minnesota has a Democratic-Farmer-Labor party…

Here’s the answer for you. In the 1930s, Minnesota had an extraordinarily successful third political party, the Farmer-Labor Party, or FLP. And I mean really successful.

In 1930, the steady work paid off. Floyd B. Olson defeated the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor, beginning the third and most successful period of Farmer-Labor history. A gifted orator, Olson voiced the feelings of Minnesotans struggling with unemployment and economic hardship. Voters re-elected Olson as governor in 1932 and 1934. He was a sure winner for the U.S. Senate before he died of a stomach tumor in 1936.

Olson’s success, combined with skillful organizing, sparked dramatic growth in Farmer-Labor participation. Dues-paying membership in the party’s association rose to almost forty thousand as organizers set up clubs across the state. Hundreds of Farmer-Laborites held elected offices at all levels of government, from city council to U.S. Senate. In 1936, the FLP captured six of nine congressional seats, the governorship, and a solid majority in the state House of Representatives.

It was a progressive, socialist-leaning political party. It merged with the Minnesota Democrats in 1944, which brought it closer to the center, unfortunately, but at least it had those strong progressive roots. The name means something. This was a party with a tradition of standing strong for labor unions, small farmers, and the social safety net.

Our local Republicans, on the other hand, have always stood for the opposite, which makes it rather ironic that some of them (including our rep, Jeff Backer) have decided to form something called the Republican-Farmer-Labor caucus, or RFL. It’s trying to steal the sentiment, but not the substance, of the DFL. It’s also trying to steal something else. Here’s the logo for the RFL:

‘Round these parts, we’re all familiar with the DFL logo, but maybe you aren’t. Here’s that:

Notice any similarities?

Not even a spark of creativity, or an ounce of effort was put into that. These are terrible, lazy people who are also dishonest.

I volunteered for this?

Warning: posting may be intermittent, and I may be particularly cranky. I volunteered to chair two search committees at once — we’re trying to find sabbatical replacements, and since I’m a terrible person abandoning my colleagues for a year, I felt obligated to put in one last surge of work to get it done. Unfortunately, it’s all coming down in the last two weeks of class, so I’m a little overwhelmed right now. A little. May break down in tears soon.

Also, stress means I wake up at 3am now and can’t get back to sleep, which further increases stress. Who designed this physiology, anyway? This is not the place to stick a feed-forward loop.

I just have to hang in there for a few more weeks, and then as a reward for when everything is all done, I’ve scheduled a colonoscopy.

I don’t think I’ve ever read Writers of the Future

I’ve been an avid devourer of science fiction for decades, so it’s a little odd that I’ve missed out on this anthology, Writers of the Future. It’s been cruising along for 34 years, and apparently they throw a colossal, glitzy gala in Hollywood every year, flying in the authors and partying…for a week? Jeeez, writers…so spoiled, they’re all just rolling in the dough.

And here I’ve never even seen the books, let alone paid for one. How are the publishers paying for this? Oh, here’s the answer.

Yikes. “L. Ron Hubbard presents…” — that’s as good as slapping a glowing green Mr Yuck sticker on the cover as far as I’m concerned. No way would I ever pick up something like that, but at least we know how a few authors can get treated swankily. It’s by selling out to a corrupt criminal cult. Tony Ortega has been writing about this PR gimmick for years, but still authors fall for it and still participate, and they should be embarrassed. Also because paying homage to an extraordinarily schlocky pulp author who founded a religion should be something to be ashamed of.

The bad news is that if you get published in Writers of the Future, no one will read it except Scientologists, and everyone who sees your name listed there will know you’re a sellout. The good news is that no one will crack the cover to see your name on the roll of the shameful.

O my fellow Academics, this poem will rip your heart out with its truth

I wept several times while reading A POEM ABOUT YOUR UNIVERSITY’S ABSOLUTE AND UNWAVERING APPRECIATION OF ITS FACULTY IN SPITE OF SAID FACULTY’S CRAP SALARIES. I might have howled a few times, too, but I blacked out at the end and the last hour has been a blur.

Maybe we need a law against too much raw honesty in our poetry. It’s dangerous.

How to deal with a Shermer attack

It could happen at any time. People are still inviting Shermer to give talks at various events, despite his sordid history. He could suddenly show up on your campus! Do not fear, however. One thing we know about the Shermer is that he’s toothless. He’ll bluster and threaten, but he’ll back down, just as he did in his threats to Santa Barbara City College and their campus newspaper, The Channels.

Following threats to pursue legal action against The Channels, Professor Raeanne Napoleon, and City College as a whole, Dr. Michael Shermer announced in an email Saturday that he was dropping his case.

Although we have an excellent case that I was defamed, it is not worth the time and cost pursuing legal recourse for what is (hopefully) an inconsequential incident, Shermer wrote in his final letter regarding the matter. The letter was circulated on campus email by instructor Mark McIntire.

This is what he always does. He tries to silence people who mention the ugly things he has done with legal intimidation, and when that doesn’t work, he wilts. So don’t let it work! Stand strong!

His threats are empty. The Channels did stand strong.

The Channels maintained its position that the article was not libelous, and again decided to ignore the request to remove it from the website. The editors agreed at this point, however, to postpone publishing any more articles related to Shermer.

“It seemed apparent that there was no case of libel here,” said Aidan Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of The Channels. “Because of that, we didn’t feel it was necessary to respond to the letter at all, let alone fulfill the demands.”

On April 4, Shermer sent a second Cease and Desist to Wallace and Beebe, listing the same demands, but with an extended deadline of 5 p.m. April 12. This time, Anderson responded to the lawyer via email on behalf of Wallace and The Channels.

He wrote that The Channels would not take down the article, and instead invited Shermer to submit a Letter to the Editor. In that letter—which The Channels would publish—Shermer could outline his objections with the article. Shermer never responded.

I guess Shermer’s lawyer agreed. I suspect Shermer’s lawyer has a stack of form letters at hand, ready to go, whenever he gets a phone call: “Who are you mad at today, Michael?”

But also notice that his complaints were effective: “The editors agreed at this point, however, to postpone publishing any more articles related to Shermer.” That’s exactly what he wanted, and he got it.

You should read Shermer’s surrender. It’s pitiful. One of his major complaints is that it was stated that he was investigated by the police, and he quotes his accuser to show…that that was…NOT true?

The newspaper did not fact check the claims nor did they even offer me a chance to respond. That was bad enough, but Napoleon did not simply repeat lies told about me in these blogs, she added a new one:

Although the police did not bring formal charges against him, there have been many witnesses that have publicly corroborated the stories of the victims.

What police? Where? When? Never in my life have I been investigated by the police—or any law enforcement agency—for anything anytime anywhere.

You will not be surprised at his other defense. It was Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed has a solid news division that is quite distinct from their goofy listicles and quizzes section — I think we can guess which one brings in more ad revenue — so it has become de rigeur for the pseudoskeptics to dismiss any uncomfortable facts that the news division brings up by pretending it’s just another bit of clickbait. Read critically, people.

Fact Checking. That’s all it takes to debunk Alternative Facts and Fake News like this, which is why the way The Channels newspaper handled this issue is so inexcusable. There is a reason why no newspaper or print publication or journalistic source of any repute has ever published anything about the allegations against me: they fact check. The author of the BuzzFeed article that launched this whole affair four years ago is a regular contributor to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. There’s a reason he ended up publishing it on a click-bait site that features such articles as “Butt Facts That Will Surprise You” and “Can We Guess Your Favorite Sex Position?”

Yeah, and the Los Angeles Times still publishes horoscopes, and the New York Times publishes David Brooks (I’ll leave you to decide which is more appalling.)

There’s a reason why I am still a professor at Chapman University, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a regular public speaker at colleges and universities around the country, and my books are published by one of the most respectable book publishers in the world: they fact checked the allegations against me and dismissed them. Social justice activists whose priorities veer far from the truth-value of claims and allegations have actively tried to get me fired and failed. Why? Fact checking.

That is incorrect. Before I posted any accusations against him, the first thing I did was check the facts — they’re pretty much unassailable. Multiple women stepped forward to complain about his creepy behavior. The reason is not fact checking at all, it’s more like fact ignoring that permits him to get away with it. There are two real reasons he still gets that positive attention:

  1. His chosen domain is the skeptic movement, which you may have noticed has a sexual assault and harassment problem. Major figures in that movement have a history of turning a blind eye to harassment problems. This is the kind of response he gets from skeptic leaders:

    “Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

    “His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

    He only misbehaves himself with women. Well, that’s alright then!

  2. The other reason, the biggest reason, is that he is goddamned litigious. He is litigious as fuck. If you listen to his accusers, he will cheerfully sic a lawyer on you.

I just want you all to know that the power of #1 is fading, as more of these enablers in the movement find themselves out of power. And he’s effectively weakening his main tool, #2, because he threatens but backs down. He has to back down, because if he followed through he’d find himself exposed in the court of public opinion.

“Evangelical” is just another word for “hypocrite”

It’s time to face the facts, evangelicals.

This week dozens of prominent evangelical leaders gathered at conservative Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, to address the “grotesque caricature” of their faith in the Trump era. The organizer of the gathering, Doug Birdsall, told the Washington Post that under Trump’s leadership, the term “evangelical” has taken on too many negative associations, especially when it comes to racism and nationalism. The goal of the gathering, then, was to address these concerns while returning the word “evangelical” to its core meaning. Rather than a political pariah, an “evangelical” is simply “a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus’ work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.”

Nah, that’s not what an “evangelical” is — an “evangelical” is a manufactured identity where the most important part is not the religious side, which is merely used as a prop to signal “purity” and in-group membership, but all the political baggage that has come to the forefront.

This is what “evangelical” has come to mean: a total lack of principle. Corruption. Christianity is the perfect example of a whited sepulchre, to use their own language against them.

The amazing thing is that it wasn’t atheists who created that image of them — they did it to themselves, no assistance necessary. It doesn’t take a cartoon to caricature these people.

U.S. President Trump, center, bows his head during a prayer while surrounded by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, faith leaders and evangelical ministers after signing a proclamation declaring a day of prayer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. Trump declared Sunday, September 3 a national day of prayer for Hurricane Harvey victims. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Now some evangelicals are looking for a way out.

If evangelicalism ever wants to play a more positive role in social and political life, perhaps it’s time its leaders acknowledge that its public image isn’t a “grotesque caricature,” but the thing itself. There’s a weighty theological term and disposition for taking an approach that comes to terms with such hard truths but attempts to chart a new path beyond them: repentance. If that doesn’t happen, then Daniel Schultz is probably right: the meeting at Wheaton will not have accomplished much of anything.

Here’s a weighty theological term for you: apostasy. Get out.

One does not simply walk into Nazidom

One must be guided there, gently, with a series of increasingly radical leaders.

Over at the really racist forum, “The Right Stuff”, the mob of neo-Nazi scum there were chatting about their path to open, proud, assholery, and the SPLC has dissected their commentary. There are no surprises here — they all cite the same old familiar scum, with Jared Taylor and 4chan at the top of the list of influencers.

The number of times each individual or platform was mentioned as an influence was tallied, and those mentioned by three or more posters are listed in the chart below. Disconnected as they might seem, the most cited influences — the “politically incorrect” 4chan board /pol/ and the American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor — hint at two common paths to the alt-right: either through participation in the rampantly racist and misogynistic online trolling culture of 4chan and its offshoots, or through exposure to Taylor’s variety of pseudo-academic “race realism” that couches timeworn racist tropes in the language of science.

Within alt-right spaces like TRS, these two fibers of the movement are woven together — resulting in an ironic, meme-ified version of old-school race science — and embellished with antisemitism.

Taylor is a terrible, awful fraud who pretends to be scientific, but here online you may be more familiar with the poisonous taint of 4chan, which was also heavily into promoting Gamergate. You remember Gamergate — that obnoxious movement of young men who piously declared that it was all about “ethics in gaming journalism”, a phrase that can only be uttered sarcastically, but was really about flaming misogyny. This guy admits it:

Chan culture was male-dominated and heavily misogynistic. The sexism of these spaces eventually led many into the alt-right. According to one poster, “I always hated feminism and female empowerment, despite liking many elements of the left. When I got older and realized the left was only open to feminists or allies i stopped claiming it.”

This extreme anti-feminism gave fuel to various factions of male supremacy, like Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) and MGTOWs (“Men Going Their Own Way”), who profess to forswear women completely, then complain about them constantly on the internet. Then came Gamergate, a harassment campaign against women in gaming that began in 2014. Anonymous harassers targeted women who worked in or commented on the industry for daring to enter a male-dominated space. Abusers used 4chan and other platforms to organize. After choosing their targets, the mob would dox them, send them rape and death threats, distribute fake pornographic images of them and generally stalk and torment them relentlessly.

It was an extremely important moment in the development of the alt-right, when young men from right-wing online spaces came together in a shared campaign against the “politically correct” culture of the left. One poster described the years 2012 to 2014 as a political “void,” but explained that he was brought back into politics — and entered far more extreme spaces — thanks to Gamergate. After 4chan’s founder Christopher Poole banned discussions of Gamergate from the site, the campaign’s supporters migrated to the more extreme 8chan.

It was all in good fun, right? Funny how the people who drop the word “witch hunt” into conversation so rarely apply it to Gamergate.

Also, I wish this weren’t the case, but there’s another gateway to racism low on the list.

The “skeptics” movement — whose adherents claim to challenge beliefs both scientific and spiritual by questioning the evidence and reasoning that underpin them — has also helped channel people into the alt-right by way of “human biodiversity.” Sam Harris has been one of the movement’s most public faces, and four posters on the TRS thread note his influence.

Under the guise of scientific objectivity, Harris has presented deeply flawed data to perpetuate fear of Muslims and to argue that black people are genetically inferior to whites. In a 2017 podcast, for instance, he argued that opposition to Muslim immigrants in European nations was “perfectly rational” because “you are importing, by definition, some percentage, however small, of radicalized people.” He assured viewers, “This is not an expression of xenophobia; this is the implication of statistics.” More recently, he invited Charles Murray on his podcast. Their conversation centered on an idea that lies far outside of scientific consensus: that racial differences in IQ scores are genetically based. Though mainstream behavioral scientists have demonstrated that intelligence is less significantly affected by genetics than environment (demonstrated by research that shows the IQ gap between black and white Americans is closing, and that the average American IQ has risen dramatically since the mid-twentieth century), Harris still dismissed any criticism of Murray’s work as “politically correct moral panic.”

Oh, yeah, other phrases I’ve come to despise: “politically correct” and “moral panic”. Harris is really good at using all the buzzwords frequently; no wonder he grates on me so much.

Anyway, although I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve grown up steeped in raging racism from birth, it’s interesting to see how new blood is nurtured into pure evil.

That’s Richmond, Ohio, not Richmond, Virginia

Watch this Ohio couple try to explain how the display of confederate flags, and lawn jockeys with bright red lips and afro wigs are not at all racist — why, they’re just honoring Ohio’s role in the Civil War.

It used to be that if you wanted to stereotype someone as stupid, you’d give them a Southern drawl and have them pretend to be a racist redneck. It’s so nice of Midwesterners to step in and break down our prejudices by showing that people can be thick no matter where they live.