You won’t get a blue wave if you ignore 99% of the barriers

This is what I worry about, too.

Except I don’t think the conditions that led to Trump are all that complicated. I’d rank them this way:

  1. Racism. Trump appealed to nativist bigotry.
  2. Gerrymandering and voter suppression, Republican party specialties.

  3. A history of anti-government propaganda, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan.

  4. A complacent media sucking up to power.

  5. Russian meddling.

I’d say, though, that the Russian meddling was exploiting weaknesses already present in the country — they just fed the corrupt beast a few snacks. They would have gotten nowhere if the other four factors weren’t also present, and they are our problems.

Those aren’t complicated problems. They’re just intractable and serve the interests of the people in power, so they have no interest in correcting them.

Dang, we’re still being sued for defamation, and the guy has acquired deeper pockets

Hey! Have you been wondering what’s going on with the Carrier lawsuit? I can’t tell you. It’s mostly secret.

I can tell you though, that he has a new friend with money.

And we still need more money.

Just for funsies, here’s the letter Carrier’s new little buddy sent our lawyer, if you like bad letters to lawyers.


I have reviewed evidence recently published arguing your clients have defamed Richard Carrier, and we have become very concerned that your clients may have engaged in dangerous misconduct that threatens a movement and cause we care about (vide

It is my intention to fully fund Richard Carrier’s lawsuit against your clients, unless you can persuade me he has misled me as to the facts, and that your clients do have a realistic chance of prevailing at trial. So in reflecting on whether to support Dr. Carrier, I want to test the facts of the case. Accordingly, I am giving you the opportunity to dissuade me.

Are the facts as Dr. Carrier has laid them out correct, or are there facts contradicting what he has stated, and supporting your clients’ assertions against him? If so, please demonstrate that to me and I will withdraw my support from his case. I will interpret your inability to do so, as confirmation of our expectation that Dr. Carrier will prevail in this case and deserves my support.


Mario Quadracci

More Ark Park details

I mentioned yesterday how the Ark Park attendance is falling short of the exaggerated promises Ken Ham made for it. Dan Phelps provides more details, and also presents Ken Ham’s excuse: it’s because they’re counting all the people, like children under 5, that they let in for free.

Therefore, Mr. Ham is claiming that almost 14% of people visiting the Ark are getting in for free. He is also saying that more people visited in the second year. Although possible, Ham’s apologetics for Ark attendance does not sound convincing. In any case, the Ark is not getting even half of the 2 million projected by Ham in the past. This was especially hurtful to the City of Williamstown, which bent over backwards (and apparently forwards) to the Ark with property tax breaks and selling the Ark nearly 100 acres of land for $2 (not to mention Grant County Development giving the Ark nearly $200,000 cash for locating there). Williamstown and Grant County were sold a bill of goods by AiG when they claimed that the Ark would be the panacea for the City and County’s financial woes.

So even if we accept his explanation (I’m willing), he has still fallen far short of the 2 million predicted visitors, and also, it’s a bit of a bait-and-switch. They begged for tax subsidies and community cash on the basis of bringing in all this tourist revenue with millions of paying visitors who would then contribute to the local economy. You don’t get to pad your numbers with all the people with no money that you’re letting attend for free.

Phelps is also not optimistic that the Ark will sink soon. I agree. Ham has money flowing in, even if it’s less than promised and it’s all going to his organization, rather than the community. He’s doing fine. He’s also planning to expand, because one lesson for grifting is that when you’ve got a lot of plates spinning in the air, it’s best to toss up another one, rather than letting one fall.

The Ark is leaking!

Once upon a time, Ken Ham was enthusiastically bragging about anticipated attendance figures for his Ark Park.

Over the years, secularists launched vicious attacks against the museum. They will increase, as the full-size Noah’s Ark, when it opens in 2016, is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year…

Unfortunately for his glee, Dan Phelps got the actual attendance figures from a Kentucky Open Records Act query: for 2017-2018, the Big Wooden Box got 862,471 visitors. Not bad, but less than half of what he was expecting.

I wonder if Ham inadvertently revealed one of the reasons for the shortfall.

According to our research, around 60% of those visiting the Ark will be unchurched!

So he was predicting that over half the visitors would be unbelievers — you know, people like me, who visited once to gawk and point and laugh. We were there for the spectacle and the absurdity, not for religious instruction. And people like that are not likely to make repeat visits.

They’re still debating the undebatable at Tuam

A horrific crime was committed by the Catholic Church at Tuam, Ireland. Single mothers and their babies were neglected and died at the hands of a “pro-life” religious cult, ignored, and the deaths hidden away, until the remains of about 800 dead were unearthed. They’d been dumped in a septic tank. That is apparently what Catholics consider death with dignity.

So, you’ve found a mass grave…what do you do next? In the case of Irish authorities, you convene a public meeting and ask the locals if it’s OK if they just ignore all those corpses, maybe put up a nice little plaque or a stone over them, and just move on. It turns out the public wasn’t too happy about the idea of sweeping dead bodies under a discreet rug.

The meeting was supposed to gauge opinion on what to do with the site: (a) leave everything as it is but erect a memorial to tell the world how much we care; or (b) fully excavate the mass grave, exhume and identify the remains, and return the lost loved ones to their grieving families and enable them to rest in peace after a formal and appropriate burial.

Spoiler alert — I was rooting for option (b).

Let’s cut to the chase. What we are dealing with here is a mass grave, one containing the remains of abused persons, people discarded as second-class citizens, coercively separated from their families, born in captivity, and denigrated with the zeal that only religious sanctimony and god-fearing hubris can muster.

It seems simply unconscionable that any humane society would respond to the revelation that nearly 800 babies have been interred in an unmarked grave — a septic tank, no less — and say, ‘Well…let’s just leave them there.’

And yet that is what was being proposed for Tuam.

I agree with option (b), with the addition that a good forensic team be commissioned to identify as many of the dead as possible, along with tracing the paper trail to determine the details of who was responsible and who was lost at Tuam, and the bill, no matter what the cost, should be paid by the Catholic Church. And then they can do (a) and put up a memorial that not only acknowledges the victims but clearly assigns all blame to the Catholic Church for the atrocity.

Science in Mexico needs strong leadership

I got a letter from a science student in Mexico who is concerned about the results of their national election in which they elected a new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has begun appointing the various secretaries and advisors to form a government. His concern is that the appointment of María Elena Álvarez-Buylla Roces to the directorship of Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT), the state science council, is problematic.

So I looked into it. My first superficial impression is that she seems to be a good choice: she’s chair of the ecology department at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, she already has a position on CONACyT, and she’s a developmental evolutionary ecologist, a field I find fascinating. She’s qualified and has great credentials. She is so much better than anyone Donald Trump would appoint here that I’m wondering what Mexicans have to complain about.

But then my correspondent points out that she has some troubling ideas about science. In particular, she’s got things wrong about GMOs, which is one of her obsessions.

  • She has mentioned that “Western Science” is the responsible of giving us the flashiest achievements but perhaps the most useless such as putting a man on the Moon.
  • She stated that GMOs are poison and that these can lead to cancer

  • She has mentioned that there is a rise in the US for autism which is caused by the consumption of GMOs

  • She of course links to the Seralini studies.

(The Seralini studies, you may recall, are the notorious bad experiments that claimed to show that the RoundUp Ready genes, not RoundUp itself, caused cancer when injected into rats.)

I might be slightly sympathetic to the argument that the moon landings were a superficial flash in the pan, since we haven’t bothered to sustain that effort, but it smacks of the usual ignorance of a different field of science and engineering than hers — like Sarah Palin’s ridiculous dismissal of fruit fly research. I also am not sure what “Western Science” means. There’s just science, and you can do it no matter what side of the world you live on. And isn’t developmental evolutionary ecology also “Western Science”?

“Genetically modified organism” refers only to a process for generating targeted, planned gene changes. A GMO is no more poisonous than organisms with random genetic changes…which are basically all organisms. You could argue that glyphosate is potentially toxic, but study after study has failed to find evidence of that.

There is no causal connection between GMOs and autism. This is just the worst. Autism is the default villain of so many anti-science arguments.

These claims call her judgment into question. There is good reason to have reservations about her appointment. As a citizen of the US, of course, I have no right to impose on the Mexican science establishment, so all I can do is suggest that my Mexican colleagues take a look at the Facebook page for the resistance, #ResisCienciaCONACyT, their blog at # ResisCiencia18, and follow their Twitter feed. Make up your own mind, organize and fight back!

I also have another suggestion. The US president currently has not bothered to appoint a science advisor, and in the vacuum, the default leadership of American science policy has fallen to a guy with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and in general his appointments to science and engineering positions have been jokes (our Secretary of Energy is Rick Perry, who didn’t even know what the DOE was). Perhaps María Elena Álvarez-Buylla Roces could be sent up here to do the job? Maybe even a notoriously anti-GMO scientist would be an improvement on what we’ve got now.

But still…Mexico and the US can do better.

P.S. You know the three largest cities in the Americas are São Paulo, Mexico City, and Lima, right? New York only makes it to #4. The population of Latin America needs a strong agriculture to sustain itself, so why is Mexico rejecting a key strategy for improving their crops?

The Cloudflare problem

Freethoughtblogs uses Cloudflare protection — we need it because every once in a while, some jerk targets us with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, and the worst jerks are the ones who try to shut down free speech in the name of free speech. Unfortunately, as I’ve recently learned, Cloudflare isn’t necessarily one of the good guys — they also shelter various contemptible hate groups, like incels. Follow the link if you want to see examples of violent threats against women and other groups, since I don’t feel like quoting that crap today.

I do appreciate their insistence on remaining neutral on content, though. Who knows who would be shut down if they didn’t explicitly avoid judging the servers they defend?

Civil liberties organization Electronic Frontier Foundation released a poignant statement in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence, highlighting the trouble with selective censorship: “All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with” such as the Black Lives Matter movement, it said.

So sure, if that’s all this was about, I’d agree that staying out of the fight would be a fair and reasonable way to maintain the integrity of the service. But there is also the idea that you shouldn’t be allowed to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater, and some of these sites are inciting violence and murder. It also seems fair to me that there are some limits — that you ought to be able to express unpopular opinions, but are limited in encouraging dangerous activities.

Other companies place these reasonable restrictions on their users.

Private internet companies can reserve the right to terminate a client’s website if its users post content that violates their terms of service, as many did with The Daily Stormer. GoDaddy, for example, does not allow its clients to use their sites in a manner that “promotes, encourages or engages in terrorism, violence against people, animals, or property,” or for “morally objectionable activities.”

Cloudflare, of course, is also free to set such terms, but has argued that it has no business regulating content because it is a security and delivery network, not a host provider.

OK, “morally objectionable activities” is unacceptably vague — there are people who would say that being gay, or skipping church, are morally objectionable. But saying that a client can’t use your service to promote terrorism or violence is a specific and reasonable constraint. We already have that requirement here at FtB, and we’ve invoked it against bloggers here in the past. If Cloudflare had that kind of provision in their terms of service, we’d sign it without hesitation, and we’d be enforcing it here as well as by our hosting service.

We aren’t even close to what is represented by the clients using Cloudflare, though. Follow the link: it’s people advocating mass murder, torture, and rape. These are mobs whipping each other up into ever more furious hate, and there are multiple examples of readers of those sorts of sites taking action and killing people.

Unfortunately, Cloudflare is so ubiquitous it now has an effective monopoly (they also do a really good job of protecting web sites). Does anyone know of any equally capable alternatives?