Kids need to learn to love

Paul Dorr is a cheap coward who has roused the righteous anger of librarians everywhere. He checked out books he personally disapproved of, and recorded himself burning them. Look, guy, you don’t like a book and want to express your disapproval? Buy a copy of your own and burn it. That’s fine. Robbing a library is not cool, and I hope you are tracked down, arrested, fined, and forced to repay the library the cost of the books. And then you should be permanently banned from the library. All libraries, if that were possible.

Dorr is one of those smug Christian fundamentalists who is greatly offended by the existence of gay/lesbian/transgender people, and wants the power to dictate who they are allowed to love, and most perniciously, wants to indoctrinate children in his bigotry. He’s a rotten little man. There is only one good thing about his actions: he has helped spread the word about good children’s books. These are books I knew nothing about, until now! Thanks for that, Mr Dorr, you asshole.

Here are some of the titles he burned.

Now this doting grandparent knows about these books, and Christmas is coming up. This Day in June and Families, Families, Families! both look roughly age appropriate for my little ones, so maybe they’ll get a book or two as presents (don’t tell them! You’ll ruin the surprise.)

I don’t care if those kids grow up gay or straight, I’m never going to tell them who they’re allowed to fall in love with. But by golly, I will work to make sure they don’t grow up full of hate!

They also need to grow up to respect libraries and librarians. What kind of savage raised Paul Dorr?

Seizing the aesthetic high ground

This is an amazing, heroic photo.

Mustafa Hassouna

Not only is it a beautiful image, but the slinger is Palestinian, and the Goliath he’s winging a rock at is Israel. That’s got to sting.

The man in the photo is Abu Amro, and he’s fighting for a just cause.

“I don’t go to protests to get pictures of me taken, but this has encouraged me to continue demonstrating,” he said.

“The flag I was carrying is the same one I always hold in all the other protests I’ve attended. My friends make fun of me, saying it is easier to throw rocks without holding a flag in the other hand, but I got used to it.

“If I get killed, I want to be wrapped in the same flag. We are demanding our right of return, and protesting for our dignity and the dignity of our future generation.”

It’s a sad truth that he does have a good chance of being killed, especially now that Israeli soldiers will be trying to make a martyr of him.

Do not ever read Steve Pinker’s Twitter feed

I made the mistake. His latest 3:

  • Stop worrying about the opioid crisis! It’ll get better! Heath Ledger and Prince will rise from the grave!

  • You should probably vote for some Democrats, even though they have problems. Maybe there are a few problems on the Republican side, but I don’t see them, because my rose-colored glasses make red parties invisible.

  • It’s only a few bombs! We don’t need to worry until at least 0.05% of the public are sending bombs through the mail to elected officials.

So, really, just don’t bother reading Pollyanna Pinker. It’ll make you angrier, and we’ve got a surplus of rage right now. Just read this and laugh.

At least he’s the favorite scientist of cockroaches everywhere.

Geneticists have the right answer. Now they just need to work harder to disseminate it.

In the past, I’ve been the recipient of floods of angry messages from racists who claim that their beliefs are “scientific”, that by rejecting their defense of “white genocide” I am denying Darwin, that evolution says that white people are distinct and special. I’ve had Jim Watson personally try to convince me that his racism was rational.

They’re all full of shit.

Now, as reported by the NY Times, the American Society of Human Genetics has denounced their ideas. Of course, being the NY Times means that the sensible text is surrounded by alt-right racist memes — lots of them, all blinking and flashing, loaded with false claims about genetics. I almost closed the window to the article because at a glance it looks like it’s promoting pseudo-scientific racism.

Here’s ASHG’s official position:

  • Genetics demonstrates that humans cannot be divided into biologically distinct subcategories. Although there are clear observable correlations between variation in the human genome and how individuals identify by race, the study of human genetics challenges the traditional concept of different races of humans as biologically separate and distinct. This is validated by many decades of research, including recent examples.
  • Most human genetic variation is distributed as a gradient, so distinct boundaries between population groups cannot be accurately assigned. There is considerable genetic overlap among members of different populations. Such patterns of genome variation are explained by patterns of migration and mixing of different populations throughout human history. In this way, genetics exposes the concept of ‘‘racial purity’’ as scientifically meaningless.
  • It follows that there can be no genetics-based support for claiming one group as superior to another. Although a person’s genetics influences their phenotypic characteristics, and self-identified race might be influenced by physical appearance, race itself is a social construct. Any attempt to use genetics to rank populations demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of genetics.
  • The past decade has seen the emergence of strategies for assessing an individual’s genetic ancestry. Such analyses are providing increasingly accurate ways of helping to define individuals’ ancestral origins and enabling new ways to explore and discuss ancestries that move us beyond blunt definitions of self-identified race.

Or you can read this summary at BigThink.

The society, which is the largest professional organization of scientists who work in human genetics, has about 8,000 members. Its statement calls the ideas of white supremacists about genetics “bogus,” “discredited” and “distorted”. The ASHG also makes a clear point that as far as the scientists are concerned, the age-old concept of race is wrong and humans cannot be split into subcategories that would be biologically different from each other.
The reason there is no race purity is due to the genetic intermixing of populations that results from constant migrations which have taken place all throughout human history. The constant movement of people resulted in very blurry genetic lines between groups.

And if you’re wondering whether this is something controversial in the scientific community, the statement goes on to say that the fact that there are no completely separate races is supported by decades of research, including six recent studies like the 2017 paper from the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, directly titled “Human ancestry correlates with language and reveals that race is not an objective genomic classifier”.

It’s a good statement, but ASHG has more work to do — you can’t just plop out a position statement in a journal only geneticists read, and then expect the general public to regard it as authoritative. You need to work at it. Just ask <a href=http://mathbionerd.blogspot.com/”>Melissa Wilson Sayres, who had a few criticisms for ASHG.

Read the whole thread. This is a common phenomenon: scientists who work in these fields know the racists are full of crap, see no point in discussing the crappiness with other scientists who also know they’re full of crap, and think that publishing a statement that “They’re full of crap, full stop” in a journal is sufficient. It isn’t. Evolutionary biologists also don’t talk about creationists at evolution meetings, and geologists don’t talk about flat earthers at geology meetings, except maybe to laugh at them over a beer at the bar after the daily sessions. And the people who do try hard to bring these issues to public attention are sneered at as popularizers who aren’t doing the real work. Meanwhile, racists and creationists and climate change deniers are climbing the civil service ladder and getting elected to high office, and making decisions about science funding.

But at least the meetings remain pure and unsullied by nonsense.

Which means that the scientists are cheerfully unaware of how their sloppy public speaking on the issues gets appropriated by ideologues. The shorthand of science is easily abused, technical terms get colloquialized in invalid ways (see the word “theory” for an example), and sometimes scientists let their biases lead them down unsavory paths (see James Watson) and get treated as respected fonts of wisdom rather than cranky outliers. We also see that the media cannot address what scientists take for granted without giving lots of press to the ignorant, anti-scientific ideas of bigots and fools in the name of ‘balance’ or ‘teaching the controversy’ — it doesn’t matter that there is no controversy, they’ll invent one.

Geneticists are walking through a minefield. They ought to learn about the dangers rather than just taking a blithe, heedless stroll.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowgirls

Waylon & Willie had something to say about this.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love

Well, also, doctors and lawyers have a strong economic advantage over cowboys, who don’t get paid much. It’s not a wise career decision.

But it does have one advantage, the image. Cowboys are the personification of American manliness.

And the girls are going to take that away, too. Felice House is repainting iconic cowboy images with women in them. Shocking, I know. But they look amazing.

Quick! Someone inform them that if there is one job that would pay worse than women’s work, it’s gotta be cowgirl.

Don’t count the Ark Park out yet

There’s something you have to remember when you see those headlines like, “Attendance collapses at Creationist Ark museum!” It’s true that their numbers are constantly dropping — attendance was around 83,000 September last year, down to about 70,000 this past month — but they’re charging about $60 per head, so that’s about $4 million income per month, from a cheesy stupid wooden box in the middle of nowhere. So I wouldn’t exactly call it a collapse, more of a steady decline. We’d have to balance that income with their expenses for the full perspective. The real question is whether they are running in the red yet, or when will that happen? I think they’re currently probably turning a profit, but the operators are almost certainly planning ahead for what they can do to boost the numbers, if they’re smart. And let’s not pretend otherwise: they are stupid bad at science, but cunningly unscrupulous at making money.

I will point out that several years ago, the Creation “Museum” was fading, and I believe they were losing money on it (AiG has multiple revenue streams, though, as well as a horde of gullible people making donations), and they came up with the grand idea of building the Ark Park as a stimulus. That worked, it’s making them lots of money, and it also brought more attendance to the Creation “Museum”, making it profitable again.

What we ought to be concerned about, as attendance drifts gently ever downward, is what gigantic scam they’re planning to pull next to kick their numbers upward again. The $100 million grift of the Ark Park helped them pretend to be relevant again, but the ever-escalating math of the big con means their next project has to be an even bigger boondoggle, and they might have to move up from bilking one state, Kentucky, to getting mega-money from…the federal government.

If you think our federal government is too smart to fall for a far right-wing, evangelical religious con job, that they aren’t a bunch of Kentucky hicks, you better look again.

Who are you voting for?

It was recommended that I look at The Stranger’s political endorsements for the 2018 election in Washington state — they’re great. If I still lived in Washington, I’d have a crystal-clear idea of who I’d vote for in November. There isn’t a single man mentioned until the 9th race they cover! That’s becoming my rule of thumb now, when in doubt, vote for the woman.

It’s not always a good rule, because there are horrible women, too. For example, here in Minnesota we have a non-partisan election for the Minnesota Supreme Court, with Margaret Chutich vs. Michelle MacDonald. Oh no! Both women! How will I decide? Well, it turns out MacDonald is running because Chutich is married to a woman.

In a recent interview, MacDonald singled out Chutich’s sexuality as helping her decide who to challenge in this year’s election. Three other members of the court are on the ballot this year but are unopposed. “It factored in, but it wasn’t the only reason,” MacDonald said. “ … When that came to me, that piece, I’m just like, ‘Yep, that’s the one.’ ”

MacDonald said she views Chutich’s marital status as her right but cast it as a “liberal view” counter to MacDonald’s conservative philosophy.

“Spiritually, the reason why you connect with somebody is to procreate, basically,” MacDonald said. “And I’m pro-life. You can certainly publish that. I’m not afraid to be pro-life.”

Modified rule of thumb: when in doubt, vote for the lesbian.

Also, her opponent is named “Michelle”. Minnesota Michelle’s tend to be a bit…problematic.

The elections in Minnesota don’t have the clarity of the one’s in Washington, Chutich not withstanding. I’ve got to go in with a clothespin over my nose because too many of our choices stink. Locally, or state rep is Collin Peterson, a blue dog Democrat who opposes abortion rights, because we’re in a rural conservative district and he’s the kind of guy the Trumpistanis out here will support. I can’t stand him. Most years I look at his standing before the election, and if it looks like he’s going to win it in a walk I just abstain from voting for him. Of course, if that’s the kind of Democrat we get out here, you can imagine what kind of slobbering, barely-evolved horror he gets to oppose him from the Republican side, and what kind of odors the ballot is exuding.

You can look at OurRevolution’s 2018 endorsements. They don’t even mention my congressional district. They’re just quietly looking the other way and recognizing that we’re hopeless.

I’m also unhappy with the gubernatorial race. Our Dem candidate is Tim Walz, another conservative Democrat who was taking lots of money from the NRA and is condescendingly position by the state DFL as the kind of guy who will do well “outstate” — the term Twin Cities politicians use for all us yokels living out in the sticks. It’s our local version of “flyover country”. There’s always someone lower than you to sneer at.

I’ll probably vote for him, because his opponent is an even bigger asshole.

And then there’s the tragic case of Keith Ellison, who is running for state attorney general. He has had multiple accusations of abusing his girlfriends, which have been investigated and found baseless…but still, it’s undeniable that the women he’s been in relationships with end up not liking him very much. This is another case where I’d be leery of voting for him, except that his opponent, Doug Wardlow, is stunningly regressive, openly transphobic and homophobic, and a proud member of the Alliance Defending Freedom. Just ask the SPLC about the ADF.

Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBT people on the basis of religion. Since the election of President Donald Trump, the ADF has become one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBT rights working with an ally in Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Yeah, no.

Anyway, I hope everyone is planning to turn out and VOTE. Even if your ballot reeks a bit and you have to wash your hands afterwards. If you don’t vote now, you’re going to have to wear a biohazard suit to enter the voting booth in 2020.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…and Krauss wept and released a dove

Buzzfeed has published a summary of the investigation by ASU into Lawrence Krauss’s behavior. You can read all the details there, but in summary of a summary…

Commenting on these incidents, Searle wrote: “It is inconceivable how a faculty member in the course of carrying out his work responsibilities could believe that the conduct would ever be appropriate.”

Searle described how Krauss discussed strip clubs with employees, encouraged staff to view fan mails including nude photos, and showed them a cartoon of a person bent over with their pants down, revealing their bare buttocks.

The report also described how Krauss and an employee, whose name is redacted, “engaged in conduct towards one another — hugging, touching, kissing — in the presence of staff, giving the impression they were involved in an intimate relationship.” Krauss and the employee denied there was an intimate relationship, and that the interactions were “a form of greeting.”

University investigators concluded that Krauss’s comments “created an offensive environment for some staff members.” Searle agreed that Krauss “was unprofessional and failed as a leader by contributing to and permitting his employees to engage in this behavior and create this type of environment.”

By voluntarily retiring, he has cunningly arranged to have the whole report tossed in a metaphorical trash can, to be ignored forever. He can now go on tour claiming that he was exonerated, because the findings were abandoned and never acted on.

No one can ever claim that Krauss isn’t an intelligent man.