Milo finds a way to make the news again

If anything, he has a phenomenal sense of bad timing. He opened his mouth again a short while ago.

Now, Observer is reporting that Yiannopoulos’ descent into the political gutter continues apace. Asked by Observer to comment on a story, Yiannopoulos texted, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” He sent a similar comment to a Daily Beast writer.

Yiannopoulos has also sent anti-Semitic messages to the writer and fact checker Talia Lavin. “This past weekend, the nationalist bragged on Facebook and Instagram that he’d sent $14.88 to The New Yorker‘s former fact checker Talia Lavin,” Observer notes. (1488 being a notorious code used by white supremacists to hail each other).

Amid the current brouhaha over civility, it is important to remember that so noxious a figure as Yiannopoulos was once courted and promoted by a White House aide and major Republican donors. The successful campaign to shun and marginalize Yiannopoulos, made in the wake of the BuzzFeed story, now seems more justified than ever.

And then, what do you know, Someone shoots up a newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Maryland, killing 5 people.

Police have confirmed five people are dead and a gunman is in custody after a shooting in the Capital Gazette building in Annapolis.

The exact number of casualties remains unclear, but several are gravely injured, Anne Arundel County police said.

Only one suspect was involved, police said.

“We’re still talking to the individual, we’re engaging the individual, we’re trying to find a motive,” Anne Arundel County police spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure said.

Alas for Milo’s fame, the shooter was not inspired by him. He was — I know, you’re going to be shocked and surprised by this — an entitled white man with a history of misogynist stalking who was very angry with the newspaper for reporting on his abuse. He was also a Trump fan. I know! Who ever heard of such a thing?

McCarthy said the harassment and stalking began around 2009, after they became friends on Facebook. In 2011, she took him to court, where he pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and was placed on 18-months’ probation. Five days later, the Capital Gazette wrote a story titled, “Jarrod wants to be your friend.” It outlined Ramos’ alleged erratic behavior and included alleged emails he sent, telling McCarthy’s client: “go hang yourself,” “you’re going to need a restraining order now,” and “you can’t make me stop.”

“Mr. Ramos was obsessively angry about this particular story,” McCarthy said.

But don’t you worry. This will finally be the mass murder that will stir Republicans into action. Marco Rubio was quite upset that one of the survivors, with a shocked quaver in her voice, said “Thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else.”

Expect immediate legislation to bring an end to this incivility. Expect the Supreme Court to rubber-stamp all attempts to silence people who survive shootings. Expect the president to continue to call out reporters for violence.

Expect the Nazis to continue to thrive.

Harlan Ellison is dead

He was a loud-mouthed jerk, and he was also colossally opinionated and entertaining, and passionate about so many things. I first heard him speak in the early 1980s, and man, he was a fast-talking raconteur.

  • “Repent, Harlequin!” said the Ticktockman
  • I have no mouth and I must scream
  • Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R.
  • Jeffty is five
  • Shattered like a glass goblin

What I really liked, though, was the whole of his story collections. He’d bare his soul describing how he came to write each story (although, sometimes, that soul was “I had to type fast to meet a deadline and get paid”), which was a useful glimpse into a writer’s mind.

You think this is amusing?

Look at all these clips of frogs and toads eating fireflies, and afterwards flickering and glowing as the insects continue to strobe their tail-lights while inside their guts. Maybe it’s a little bit funny, but I’m wondering how it would affect predation on amphibians — after all, it’s night, and now the frog has switched on an internal light.

I’m also imagining the poor doomed bug shrieking, “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering frog; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” They’re desperately signaling for anyone to come, calling down hell on their tormentor.

Hey! The Bell Museum is reopening in July!

I’ve been waiting for this: the brand new, shiny, grand Bell Museum is opening in St Paul in mid-July. Anyone else want to go? I’m all tied up the weekend of the opening, but some weekend in the last half of July I’ll definitely be making the trek and checking it out. I’ll announce a specific date in case anyone else wants to join me and get a selfie with the woolly mammoth.

Shame on you if you use “Rate My Professors” metrics in your evaluations

Jonathan Eisen has been ripping on RateMyProfessors lately with a hashtag, #BoycottRateMyProfessors. Good.

RMP is a terrible source for any kind of evaluation of professors — it’s more of a place where disgruntled students can vent, which is fine. I do pay attention to complaints, since they’re information I can use to improve, but they’re more useful when they’re on an evaluation form rather than on a website I don’t read.

But there are two big problems here. One is that Google algorithms take RMP seriously as a source for information on academics.

But worst of all…the goddamn chili peppers. You’re supposed to rate your professors on their “hotness”. It’s flamingly sexist.

And before the sniggers come in about me being jealous because my students definitely do not rate me as “hot” — I’d be even more annoyed if they had put one of those stupid red peppers next to my name. Sorry, students, “eye candy” is not and never has been in the job description.

Here’s a really good summary of the problem from the person who started flaming those peppers.

Dawkins and “Dear Muslima”

Now that Zombie Pharyngula has been raised from the dead and is sort of walking mindlessly over at ScienceBlogs, I have another complaint, and it’s aimed at National Geographic. Years ago, when they took over, one of the things they decided to do was to port over all the old content to WordPress.

They botched it. They botched it bad.

They got all the articles converted, as near as I can tell, but the comments…huge numbers of comments were lost. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of comments. I told them this, they didn’t care, and that was one of my first presentiments that this whole deal was not going to go well. It didn’t. They did a half-assed job and then neglected the whole thing, until it fell apart.

For instance, take a look at this short post from July of 2011. I remember it because the comments section turned into a huge firestorm of fury and outrage, to the point where people were linking to the comments directly, not my article, all over the place. Look now, and it’s empty, not a single comment survived.

That’s a shame, too, because it was a critical moment in the history of the atheist movement. This was one of the trivial events that led to the disintegration of what had been a growing community, and clued in a lot of us to the rot underneath it all. It was the moment when Richard Dawkins shat the bed.

I at least saved the text of those critical comments, that I also verified were directly from Dawkins himself, so I’ll put them here.

This is “Dear Muslima”.

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


How can you forget “Zero Bad”?

Many people seem to think it obvious that my post was wrong and I should apologise. Very few people have bothered to explain exactly why. The nearest approach I have heard goes something like this.

I sarcastically compared Rebecca’s plight with that of women in Muslim countries or families dominated by Muslim men. Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.
But not everybody sees it as end of story. OK, let’s ask why not? The main reason seems to be that an elevator is a confined space from which there is no escape. This point has been made again and again in this thread, and the other one.

No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.

No, I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.


The Internet doesn’t forget, but it does tend to make those memories fragmented and inconvenient to access.

Hank Campbell did not find Ken Ham objectionable at all…he’s some scientist.

Dan Phelps just reminded me of a laughable example of how wrong Hank Campbell can be. This is something he wrote in 2010.

In another chapter in the Democratic War on Science, Kentucky scientists are concerned about Democratic Governor Steve Beshear’s announcement that the state is partnering with Answers in Genesis (AIG) to create “Ark Encounter,” to make what developers call a full-scale ark including models of dinosaurs. Cost: $150 million.

Yeah, he actually has a series of posts on how the Democrats are the anti-science party, unlike the Republicans.

It has dinosaurs, so these are not the young earth creationists who believe in no science at all (dinosaurs did not exist 6,000 years ago, obviously) but Daniel Phelps, an environmental geologist for the state, believes the tax breaks the park will get (it claims to be creating 900 jobs) is “government entanglement with religion”.

Emphasis mine. Uh, Hank…they claim the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that dinosaurs didn’t go extinct until the Middle Ages.

“I don’t envision people, especially those with science backgrounds, wanting to move to a state where the ‘ark park’ has government support,” says Phelps, though providing tax breaks for anyone creating jobs is not really government support. If anything, it would be discrimination not to give them the same tax breaks it would provide to a company engaged in paleontology.

If a group of paleontologists opened a business and declared that no employee would be hired if they were Christian, that would be the proper comparison. You know that AiG demands that all employees agree to a statement of faith, right?

And doesn’t Phelps live in Kentucky, since he is president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society? Would he not move there because an ark has dinosaurs at a theme park? He must not visit Disney World because he can’t actually travel Back to the Future either.

  1. Dan Phelps has lived in Kentucky longer than AiG has.

  2. You do realize it’s not a problem to have dinosaurs in a theme park, right? The problem is a theme park that outright lies about the science.

I do wonder if Campbell has been informed about Answers in Genesis’s agenda yet. That thing read like an Emily Latella routine, without a punchline.

Hank Campbell and the ACSH have bought out Scienceblogs

Oh, this is going to be an interesting conundrum. You see, good ol’ Scienceblogs magically reappeared on the internets a short while ago — you know, the original science blogging network that I was part of for so many years, that was then neglected, then transferred to the control of National Geographic, and then allowed to languish and eventually die. But now, suddenly, all of my old posts there are back again! Along with all those other interesting people who contributed so much over the years. Thanks! Nice to see it still exists, even as a dead, static archive. (But a lot of the comments on my site are still lost forever: NatGeo really botched an update shortly after they bought it out.)

But then to have it owned by the ACSH brings mixed feelings. You see, the ACSH (or American Council on Science and Health) is an astroturf organization, a pro-big-businees propaganda front, backed by the likes of the Koch brothers and other pro-industry capitalist shills, and I’ve said so. I’ve irritated Campbell (president of the ACSH more than a few times.

So that’s the conundrum. He’s now hosting my evil socialist anti-religious rants on his site (oh, and I don’t get a penny from that) — how long will that last? Even more interestingly, he’s now hosting anti-ACSH arguments, like this one from Mark Hoofnagle. Will the ACSH start deleting posts, or worse, editing them, now that they own the code?

It’s not as if I can do anything about it. It’s just remarkably sleazy. Unsurprisingly, since that’s been my opinion of Campbell for years.