Slap me in the face harder

People who can’t imagine doing good for people are the worst kind of people. Philip Klein is resentful that Elizabeth Warren’s plans might benefit people.

Aside from the cost, which, like her child care proposal, she claims would be covered by her ultra-millionaires tax, the plan would be tremendously unfair to those who have been struggling for years to pay off their student loans.

Yes. It was tremendously unfair to hit a generation of students with excessive costs and dreadful loans. So where were you when those were imposed? Have you been crying out for decades about the unfairness of student debt? Looking at Klein’s usual pro-rich, conservative Republican op-eds, I rather doubt it. But now he’s crying for them.

There are those who may have taken higher-paying jobs they didn’t necessarily want to pay off loans.

Wait, what? They were forced to suffer by taking higher-paying jobs? I don’t think that’s a common problem.

And there are those who have cut expenses to the bare bones to pay off loans while watching their friends with similar salaries eat out and travel and de-prioritize paying off loans. Those who were more responsible will feel justifiably enraged at the idea that those who may have been more profligate will now get a bailout from the government.

Boy, I think this is called projection. Philip Klein is very concerned that slackers and deadbeats might beat the unfairness of the existing system, so we ought to keep that system to punish them. This is how bad systems persist, isn’t it? By this argument that “I suffered through it, so you have to suffer, too” which only perpetuates suffering.

Earth Day!

I’m going to be at this event, up north in Alexandria, Minnesota.

I’m one of the speakers on the list. My wife and I are going to lead the kids in an owl pellet dissection, and let them identify the bones they find therein. Then, naturally, I’m going to talk about spiders and hand out vials with totally harmless little spiders (jumping spiders and cellar spiders) and hand lenses, so then can get close up with our arachnid friends. For the more bloodthirsty among them, I’ll also have a bottle of flies and we can feed them and watch guts getting sucked out.

It’ll be a totally wholesome afternoon.

Hey, I guess my vote can be bought

I’m going to vote for a candidate with this plan:

The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place. That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational — the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.

My plan for broad student debt cancellation will:

  • Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
  • Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
  • Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
  • Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.

Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again. We can do that by recognizing that a public college education is like a public K-12 education — a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation. My plan for universal free college will:

  • Give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees;
  • Make free college truly universal — not just in theory, but in practice — by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs.

Some people will say we can’t afford this plan. That’s nonsense. The entire cost of my broad debt cancellation plan and universal free college is more than covered by my Ultra-Millionaire Tax — a 2% annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth. For decades, we’ve allowed the wealthy to pay less while burying tens of millions of working Americans in education debt. It’s time to make different choices.

Right now that candidate is Elizabeth Warren, but I’m open to others adopting this idea. In fact, I think it ought to be on the Democratic party platform, and that any candidate who wants to represent the will of the American people ought to be promoting it.

Note: I have no student loan debt — I only had a small debt to begin with, and paid it off years ago — I’m not planning to attend college in the future, and my kids have all completed undergraduate education, and I’m not really going to acquire any personal gain from this (although I sure wish somebody’d put this in place round about 2000, before my trio of offspring started marching off to university and broke us). So I’m not really being “bought”. This is a change that would be good for the country. Let’s build up our human infrastructure!

Also note that her plan specifically covers 2-year public colleges, which is just as important as our ivory tower institutions, and that she has specific plans for HBCUs and MSIs. Warren knows her stuff.

Why isn’t every candidate immediately recognizing a good idea and jumping on the bandwagon? Even the Republicans should be able to see the virtues.

Wow! Free Advertising for Jesus!

Fox & Friends (blechh, ick) ran a special feature on the Ark Encounter (puke) last week. Ken Ham is thrilled. Wouldn’t you be, if your cheesy sideshow got a free national promotion on the channel that directly targets your target demographic of yokels and dumbasses?

Answers in Genesis writer and speaker Bodie Hodge was recently interview by Todd Piro from FOX & Friends (on the FOX News channel) down at the Ark Encounter. The resulting 3-minute video on the life-size Ark attraction was phenomenal. Bodie not only explained this world-class attraction but clearly gave its biblical and evangelistic message. How often do you get to hear the gospel on national television?

All the time, Ken, all the time. I’m an American. Evangelical christianity is constant low-level stench that permeates the whole country.

You can watch the whole thing, and the commentary from the low-wattage bulbs sitting on the couch. You learn that Todd Piro is really easily impressed.

This really is life-size of the ark, he says. I don’t know what that means. The Bible gives some rough dimensions, that’s it, so they filled a rectangle of that size with wood and concrete and steel, does that mean it was real? No, it does not. Also, later, when Todd is asked what most impresses him about the ark, he answers that it was the Big Door. It was really big, you know. Therefore, the Bible is true.

Bogus Hodge is asked why the Ark is so successful (is it?) when religion is in decline all across the country, and he gives a dishonest answer: because it’s non-sectarian and appeals to people of all faiths, with even non-believers coming in droves. That is not true. The Ark Encounter is extremely sectarian, building on an extremely narrow subset of Protestant, evangelical Christianity that likes to pretend that it is universal. It isn’t. I can’t speak for people of other faiths, but I know the non-believers are showing up for the spectacle of stupidity, and to laugh at it.

And honestly, how can he claim it’s designed to appeal to all faiths when he flat out declares that the purpose of the “Ark” is to show the message of Jesus Christ is true? That nonsense is only topped by Todd Piro’s assertion that kids visiting the “Ark” will get a sense of history.

Fox is the propaganda channel, and now they’re promoting the state religion. This isn’t good because, unfortunately, Fox is effective at poisoning brains.

One problem is that once someone gets pulled into the Fox News vortex it naturally leads to other scummier enterprises. You might start out signing up for a Fox email list or one from the president then quickly find your email being sold far and wide to increasingly less reputable charlatans. “The thing that makes me maddest about this is that it’s about money,” one correspondent said. His dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago. “I guess Mike Huckabee has been selling his email to fucking everybody, including one list I noticed when I was getting his email set up called Beyond Chemo. They are selling him his own anger and a bunch of mushroom pills for all the money he doesn’t have anymore,” he said. “He’s gonna die destitute because of this shit and people belong in prison for seeing this as a business opportunity.”

Religion is already a potent brainwashing agent, seeing it team up with an effective disseminator of lies makes for a chilling combination. I’m beginning to think all the zombie movies and TV shows are reflecting a genuine concern that is in the air.

Nurses play cards, cops eat donuts, and other stereotypes

You’ll have to excuse my home state. Walla Walla is a lovely town in a beautiful part of the country, but it is in the eastern half of Washington, which has more than its fair share of rural ignoramuses.

I understand… making sure that we have ‘rest breaks’ and things like that. But I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost… I would submit to you that those [critical access hospital] nurses probably do get breaks! They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!

Sen. Maureen Walsh (R), Walla Walla

I’ve known a few nurses in my time. What I don’t get is why, if they’re spending most of their time playing cards all day, they come home with aching backs and sore feet all the time? I’ve been in hospitals before, and I’m the one who is lying in bed the whole time, while the nurses are all hustling about on tight schedules, getting the work done. What card game is this that can be done in short bursts and is physically demanding?

I must also beg to differ. This Republican is defending an exemption that benefits hospitals, allowing them to demand mandatory overtime from the nursing staff rather than hiring enough nurses to do the job without overworking them, and that means that care for patients is not first and foremost — hospital profits are. Understandably, that is a very Republican position to take.

Damn, but American health care is such a chaotic mess, thanks to capitalism.

Another summary of the Peterson/Žižek debate

This one is from the Guardian.

Peterson’s opening remarks were disappointing even for his fans in the audience. They were a vague and not particularly informed (by his own admission) reading of The Communist Manifesto. His comments on one of the greatest feats of human rhetoric were full of expressions like “You have to give the devil his due” and “This is a weird one” and “Almost all ideas are wrong”.

I’ve been a professor, so I know what it’s like to wake up with a class scheduled and no lecture prepared. It felt like that. He wandered between the Paleolithic period and small business management, appearing to know as little about the former as the latter. Watching him, I was amazed that anyone had ever taken him seriously enough to hate him.

Hang on there, bucko. I’m a professor, I’ve never experienced that. I always have an outline, at least, and a set of points I want students to understand, not that I can claim I’m always fully prepared to give an elegant, well-crafted lecture. I have a bit of anxiety about just showing up and babbling extemporaneously. I have no illusion that I’m good at it.

Peterson clearly has no such concerns.

He said things like “Marx thought the proletariat was good and the bourgeoisie was evil”. At one point, he made a claim that human hierarchies are not determined by power because that would be too unstable a system, and a few in the crowd tittered. That snapped him back into his skill set: self-defense. “The people who laugh might do it that way,” he replied. By the end of his half-hour he had not mentioned the word happiness once.

Žižek didn’t really address the matter at hand, either, preferring to relish his enmities. “Most of the attacks on me are from left-liberals,” he began, hoping that “they would be turning in their graves even if they were still alive”. His remarks were just as rambling as Peterson’s, veering from Trump and Sanders to Dostoevsky to the refugee crisis to the aesthetics of Nazism. If Peterson was an ill-prepared prof, Žižek was a columnist stitching together a bunch of 1,000-worders. He too finished his remarks with a critique of political correctness, which he described as the world of impotence that masks pure defeat.

I am not particularly fond of this assertion, though.

And they both agreed, could not have agreed more, that it was all the fault of the “academic left”. They seemed to believe that the “academic left”, whoever that might be, was some all-powerful cultural force rather than the impotent shrinking collection of irrelevances it is. If the academic left is all-powerful, they get to indulge in their victimization.

And that was the great irony of the debate: what it comes down to is that they believe they are the victims of a culture of victimization. They play the victim as much as their enemies. It’s all anyone can do at this point.

I am too powerful and influential and relevant! I am! <flails wildly, falls to knees> I am important!

Validate me! Please!

Žižek vs Peterson: A nothingburger.

I guess Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek had their great debate in Toronto yesterday. You know how I feel about debate and Jordan Peterson, while Žižek is simply someone I don’t read and have no interest in, so you can guess how enthusiastic I was about this event. Fine, you like to watch a couple of gomers share a tureen of warm spit on a stage — knock yourself out, have a grand time, I’m not going to tell you you can’t. I’m more interested in Nathan Robinson’s commentary on it.

I didn’t get far in that, even. The debate started an hour late, and practically the first thing out of Peterson’s mouth is that he didn’t have time to read any of Žižek’s work (neither have I, but I’m not the one challenged to debate him), and even more surprisingly, he admits that he, voluble scourge of Postmodernist Communists, studied up by reading the Communist Manifesto … for the first time ever.

Oh, come on. It’s a long pamphlet, a summary of the ideas for the proletariat. This is the minimal amount of effort you put into preparing for a debate that some of your fans are paying $1500 to see? After you’ve spent years damning an ideology that you haven’t read?

It sounds like Žižek’s performance wasn’t much better.

I hope all the attendees got their money’s worth.

YouTube skepticism is a sham

Several years ago, I engaged this blithering twit who called himself Armoured Skeptic. He was one of a faceless horde of cartoon avatars on YouTube who were making bank on whining about feminism (see also Thunderf00t and every response video to Anita Sarkeesian). Even now his schtick is to complain about Atheism+ and SJWs and self-righteously declare himself a crusader for Free Speech. I guess it’s a strategy that works, because he’s got almost half a million subscribers. Even back in 2015, though, it was obvious that he was a shallow incompetent who titled himself a “skeptic” because that was a shortcut to the claim of critical thinking that didn’t require actually, you know, thinking.

He’s still pumping out the crap, giving “skepticism” a bad name (as if it could be besmirched even more), and now he has appeared on Rebecca Watson’s radar because he, a so-called skeptic, gave credence to conspiracy theories that the Muslims set fire to Notre Dame.

It’s true. You can be a gullible, bumbling, pretentious goofball like Armoured “Skeptic” and gain a large following on YouTube simply by spitting on social justice.

Oh, and here’s another notorious YouTube skeptic/atheist personality who promotes racialist pseudoscience:

Structuralism does not imply that evolution runs on rails

I got a guest spot on Jackson Wheat’s channel, where he’s rebutting a guy who claims that structuralism means that evolution will inevitably lead to humans — that intelligent bipedal mammals are an ideal form that life will converge upon because it is encoded in the natural laws of the universe. That isn’t what structuralism implies at all! Gould and Lewontin’s spandrel paper is not saying that cathedrals are inevitable, but that some architectural features will emerge as a consequence of physical constraints rather than by design.

Jackson explains it all, and I intrude near the end to say a few pro-structuralist marks while totally repudiating the idea that evolution runs on invisible rails that mean certain forms are necessary.