I’m home at last

Yesterday was something of a lost day, because I had to drive to Minneapolis to stay in Minneapolis overnight, so I could drop my wife off at the airport at 4am (!) for a flight to Denver. Then I turned around and drove home. The good news: traffic is light at 4am. The bad news: freezing fog most of the way home. It’s not much fun driving through white snow with white fog with all the trees limned in white. So for a little variety I stopped by the shores of Lake Minnewaska, to add a frozen lake covered with white snow. You know, for the visual variety.

Yes, that’s a lake. You can tell by the plates of ice rising up at the edge, where the expanding surface ice buckled and fractured. There are also ice houses off in the distance, but they’re invisible thanks to the fog.

I turned around in Starbuck and got some pictures of trees, at least.

Now I’m tired. I should probably take a nap.

I am impressed by the comprehensive integration of multiple lines of kooky

If you asked me to come up with a unified theory to explain chemtrails, 5G and vaccine paranoia, assassinations, and COVID-19, I would be hard-pressed to do so. When all the gears in your mind have been stripped, though, it is apparently easy to just press everything together in a mish-mash of conspiracy theories.

Wow. I’ve got all kinds of ideas for how to do interesting science with “DIGITIZED (controllable) RNA”. Can I have your protocol?

Get on the Grandmaphone and get her here right now!

This demanding little girl wants her grandma. We got a call from her mother asking if Mary could come down to Colorado for a few weeks to help with the baby, because she’s (Skatje, not the baby) a grad student trying to finish her degree in a year and discovering that babies eat time like hours are fistfuls of cheerios, and of course Mary eagerly agreed. More time with the one of the two cutest kids on the planet? Yes, please. Also we remember what it was like to be gradstudenting with children, and how nice it would have been to dump them on grandparents now and then, but it was our choice to be poor and living far from our extended family.

So today I get to drive Mary to the airport and send her away for a while. It looks like we’ll be spending our 40th wedding anniversary far apart, but that’s OK, our greatest accomplishment in our life together was creating three great kids, so it’s perfectly appropriate to spend that time helping them out.

Well, except me. I get to stay at home alone and teach genetics and introductory biology and feed the cat, instead. I’m helping by proxy, I get to pretend.

I’m not panicking over the coronavirus

It has the potential to be a serious pandemic, but with a strong medical infrastructure, robust public health response, and a sensible, informed public, we can minimize…wait. What the heck…PANIC! Not over the virus, but over the ongoing dismantling of those very things vital to keep the citizenry as safe as possible.

Trump is making massive cuts in biomedical research.

Multiple organizations expressed shock and disappointment at Trump’s budget proposal, which adds $54 billion in defense spending but would slash nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, which funds most basic medical research in the country, as well as eliminate entirely dozens of other agencies and programs.

It would cut the overall Health and Human Services department budget by 18 percent, including the 20 percent budget reduction at NIH, and reassign money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to states.

In response to concerns that we might not have enough doctors if a crisis arises, he has said that we’d just hire more doctors in that case. Doctors are not fungible. They require years of training, and their expertise requires constant maintenance.

Trump seems to think creating a task force and appointing a “czar” is a smart response. We already have experts in infectious disease at the NIH and CDC…you know, those agencies he is defunding. Appointing an ignoramus like Mike Pence, who has no qualification and has a history of botched public health management does not inspire confidence. Nor does having Ken Cuccinelli, Steven Mnuchin, and Larry Kudlow on the task force.

Also, this:

As for our informed public, Corona, the Mexican beer, has taken a substantial hit to their revenues because people are associating it with the virus.

Please note that the beer and the virus have nothing to do with each other.

We’re gonna die.

Fake science is profitable, in some cases

There are many ways that fake science can be promoted: two factors are the profit motive and lazy media. Or are those the same thing? The media has become obliging to industry in part because they also want to make money.

One day at the conference, while six or seven of us were standing in a circle during a break, the conversation shifted to climate change. Because I didn’t know much about the subject, I kept asking the others questions, trying to understand whether the research was any good. A woman who covered the environment for a newspaper out west began laughing, saying that there were about a dozen scientists who said that climate science was nonsense. She kept contact information around for all 12 of them, she told us, because her editors required her to put one of these doubters in every story to provide journalistic “balance.”

Several reporters in the circle giggled. This was my first hint that what I was reading in the media on climate science might be overemphasizing contrarian opinions. Because what everyone in that circle already knew, and I was learning, was that by 2004 thousands of climate experts around the world had published research showing global warming was real, and mostly caused by carbon dioxide pollution from burning oil, coal, and gas.

I’ve noticed that. There are huge numbers of qualified people working at universities around the world who will give you the same strong answer — climate change is real — yet it’s always the same handful of climate “skeptics” who get all the attention. Understanding and accepting the scientific consensus makes you a mundane member of a huge community of informed agreement, disagreeing makes you one in a million, and therefore newsworthy. I’ve joked before that if I wanted to fund my retirement, all I’d have to do is accept Christ in my heart and reject godless evolution, and I’d get daily invitations and honoraria to make my testimony.

But there I’d just be getting bits of cash from little church groups all over the country. If I really want to clean up, I’d have to tap into the oil and gas and coal industry, or maybe Big Tobacco, industries with bigger pockets.

Industries create these campaigns because they are effective at confusing the public and the press about science, which helps to slow or stop policy changes that would require stronger anti-pollution laws, or taking products off the market. Today disinformation has become its own industry, one that distorts not only climate science, but most areas of research where studies might influence how the government regulates corporations.

There’s the catch: I don’t want to be effective at confusing the public. Clarity doesn’t pay when your salary comes from liars, though.

But I have to add that money isn’t the only motive to fake science. Creationists are driven by their religion; anti-vaxxers don’t personally profit, usually, and are doing themselves harm; flat-earthers are fueling their ego with contrarianism. Money helps, though.

My representative is in Cracked

Cracked identified The 5 Most Garbage Democrats In Congress, and I knew upon reading just the title that my rep, Collin Peterson, would be on the list. He is. He’s #2.

It sure seems like the climate crisis has split American politics straight down party lines, with Democrats with the 99% of scientists who’ve declared it a global crisis and Republicans, as always, with the 1%. But whoever believes that hasn’t met Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who would set the world on fire himself if it would get his farmers a warmer harvest season.

Peterson is one of the last members of the “Blue Dog Coalition,” which sounds like a D.C. garage band made up entirely of dudes in Birkenstocks, but is actually a faction of Dems who are fiscally conservative and socially apathetic — the kind of Democrats whom Republicans vote for when they want their bi daughter to show up for Thanksgiving. And never having a progressive thought in his head is exactly how Collins manages to stay in office as a Democrat while representing one of the thickest parts of Minnesota’s Trump-friendly farm belt. In fact, Collins leans more Republican than some Republicans, being one of only three Democrats who voted against impeachment and one of two who put their names under a letter asking the Supreme Court to pretty please reconsider revoking abortion rights.

But Peterson’s blackest mark is a sooty one, as he’s the only establishment Democrat still firmly in the climate denial camp, the kind of guy who doesn’t believe in global warming because “we’ve just had the biggest floods and coldest winters we’ve ever had.” As the House Agriculture Chairman, Collins is constantly pushing green deals onto the back burner (the coal one he leaves running all day), pretending farmers are being victimized by green activists and running a scorched-earth policy on climate legislation. No really, his solution for solving the wildfire crisis is to destroy every inch of wilderness to protect his precious farms.

And if you’re wondering how many bridges Peterson is willing to flood for his constituents, this is a man who helped pass a bill to cut aid for starving Yemeni children so he could get his hands on farming funds quicker. Real salt of the earth, this guy.

At every election I’m told to do the expedient thing and vote for this jerk to empower the other, real Democrats. I’m not going to fall for that line anymore. If Peterson is a Democrat, then the Democratic party stands for nothing.

There’s another atheist organization in the swamp

Here we go again. We have a new gang of atheists with the same old meaningless buzzwords: Atheists for Liberty. It’s for Americans who care about Enlightenment Values, specifically Atheists • Agnostics • Freethinkers • Non-religious • Skeptics • Independents • Conservatives • Libertarians • Classical Liberals • Centrists. I notice there are a few labels missing from their list, like liberals, progressives, and humanists, and that becomes even more obvious when you look at their “principles”, which are basically dogmatic conservative Americanism. Of course they worship Free Speech! But mainly because they hate social justice. Even much of the atheist community which used to pride itself on steadfast free-thinking principles, has fallen victim to the poisonous, emotional forces of Intersectionality, Social Justice, and “Wokeness”.

They never get around to saying what “Enlightenment values” are, but it sounds good. I expect that what they really liked about the Enlightenment was the eurocentrism, the racism, the slavery, and the colonialism. Bring back the 18th century!

The founder bios say a lot, too.

Thomas Sheedy is President and founder of Atheists for Liberty. Sheedy is an entrepreneur from Long Island, New York. He is an undergraduate in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs at the University at Albany, where he serves as an Auxiliary Officer for the University at Albany College Republicans. He has appeared on multiple podcasts, blogs, and YouTube video interviews, and has participated extensively in student atheist activism. Sheedy was an Assistant State Director for American Atheists, President of the Long Island Atheists, Event Organizer for Center for Inquiry Long Island, President and founder of the Ward Melville High School Secular Student Alliance, and a member of the Center for Inquiry Student Advisory Committee from Fall 2015 to Summer 2016. Additionally, he is a member of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State‘s Youth Advisory Council. In 2015 he received the Richard and Beverly Hermsen Student Activist Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and was FFRF’s student of the year. He also holds memberships with Turning Point USA at SUNY Albany, Louder With Crowder Mug Club, the National Rifle Association of America, The Ripon Society, and the American Conservation Coalition.

Yikes. American Atheists, FFRF, and Americans United, you disappoint me, coddling this viper in your midst; CFI, I’m not surprised; TPUSA and the NRA, this is exactly the kind of young asshole I expect from you; Louder With Crowder Mug Club, that must be comic relief, right? Crowder is one of the dumbest conservatives on YouTube, and you just pay him money to join that club.

Guess who the advisors to Atheists for Liberty are.

Go ahead, guess.

They’re the usual suspects in the atheist community.

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