Drag him out of office in handcuffs NOW.

He’s not even aware that he’s tweeting out promises of war crimes.

The UN passed a resolution in 2017 prohibiting this sort of thing, you know. As explained by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova:

“The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, it has become a tactic of war to tear societies over the long term, in a strategy of cultural cleansing. This is why defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue, it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives,” Director-General Bokova told the Security Council, as she spoke in support of the resolution, with Executive Director of UNODC Youri Fedotov and Commander Fabrizio Parrulli of the Carabinieri Italiani.

“Weapons are not enough to defeat violent extremism. Building peace requires culture also; it requires education, prevention, and the transmission of heritage. This is the message of this historic resolution,” she added.

The resolution was prompted by a number of tragic acts of cultural vandalism, many of them by Islamic state fanatics. Now we’re planning to be just like them.

The resolution urges nations to increase efforts to preserve historic monuments and sites in conflict zones. The onset of the 21st century witnessed attacks against global heritage sites increase significantly, including the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan and Timbuktu’s ancient shrines in Mali.

Previous efforts by the Council to safeguard cultural heritage focused on the illicit trafficking of looted cultural relics to fund terrorist activities in Iraq and Syria, where the “Islamic State” militant group destroyed UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Roman ruins at Palmyra.

However, Friday’s resolution called for further international cooperation in investigations and prosecutions of individuals and groups committing attacks against cultural heritage sites, monuments and relics.

The resolution affirmed that “directing unlawful attacks against sites and buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, or historic monuments may constitute, under certain circumstances and pursuant to international law, a war crime and that perpetrators of such attacks must be brought to justice.”

You may recall that religious fanatics in the US, particularly the likes of the Hobby Lobby fundamentalists, were actively looting cultural artifacts from Iraq…also a crime. Now Trump is threatening to bomb major cultural sites in Iran, confirming our status as a rogue state run by barbarians.

Do I need to point out the dishonor of using the Iranian hostages from forty years ago as a justification for destroying art and history, or the hypocrisy of telling Iran to not threaten us by threatening Iran? Very well, I do. Trump is a dishonorable hypocrite and a lying barbarian. He has to go. Soon.

Why aren’t we marching on Washington? Because we deserve this evil clown

Oops. I have to apologize to Floridians. I just accused them of being a collection of stupid, purblind fools who are following assholes into a watery oblivion. It’s not that that isn’t true, but that it’s also true of every state in the Union.

The truth about Trump has become a little bit too obvious. It’s always been obvious, but now it’s accompanied by a marching band with banners flying and megaphones howling it out.

All that, and Congress hasn’t dispatched a police detail to arrest him for gross incompetence and greed, to get him out of office before he does even more harm. And people still go to his rallies and cheer for him.

Fuck, we are so fucking fucked.

Der Spiegel and an egregious failure of journalistic responsibility

I have never actually been to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, although it’s only an hour north of here, and I’ve driven by/through it many times on my way to Fargo and points north and west. It’s a good-sized city as those things go in this region — about 13,000 people — and I’ve had students from Fergus in my classes. Recently, though, Fergus Falls was libeled by a perfidious German reporter.

I blame Der Spiegel. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s a bad trope where some big city newspaper decides to send a reporter to flyover country to figure out how the yokels could have elected an idiot like Trump, and they come in with expectations: they’re going to find a bunch of inbred hicks with no education, no teeth, and a meth or oxycontin addiction, who are slavishly following the orders of their preacher in some benighted Protestant cult (if you’re from the New York Times, you’re also expected to find anything but racism as the cause; foreign papers don’t feel that need). It’s true that if you look you’ll find people who meet your preconceptions, and that you can find them even in the big cities, but the reality is always more complex than that — we have college towns, we have public radio (not just Rush Limbaugh), we have atheists and liberals, and historically, the upper midwest used to be a major center of socialist political activity, and some of those old Democratic-Farmer-Labor people are still around. So don’t show up in our neighborhoods expecting a wash of Republican Red, you’re going to find a much messier story here.

Claas Relotious was not prepared for that. He was assigned to spend a month in Fergus Falls, getting to know the orcs and trolls who lived there, and write a substantial expose for Der Spiegel that would reveal the truth about the Mordor of the Midwest. Because he’s an incompetent journalist, when he didn’t find the facts that fit the story he wanted to write, he made up the facts. So he told readers in Germany that next to the “Welcome to Fergus Falls” sign, there was a second sign that said “Mexicans Keep Out”. He wrote up an interview with a local coal miner…there are no coal mines in Fergus Falls, or anywhere in the state: “There is no history of coal mining in Minnesota, as the state has little or no coal reserves.”

His article was one giant collection of transparent lies, unbelievable garbage that had no connection to reality. He won awards for his “journalism”. Then people complained. Someone at Der Spiegel noticed. Relotious was recently fired.

But Der Spiegel still makes money off of it.

Too late now, of course. Relotius is out of a job and his reputation is shot all the way to Pelican Rapids.

The article, however, lies and all, is still online.

Der Spiegel says it has added notes to Relotius’ articles, indicating they will not be changed until its investigation is completed. If there’s one attached to the Fergus Falls article, one only sees it after one pays a buck-and-a-half to read it.

Der Spiegel now says they were hoodwinked by a con artist. They really do have fact checkers, they insist, who just didn’t catch his lies. It wasn’t the editors’ fault, they say.

Already, every text printed in DER SPIEGEL goes through a thorough fact-checking and vetting process to review the accuracy of every fact stated in an article. When Claas Relotius wrote in his first major feature for DER SPIEGEL, “At Home in Hell,” that the city of Marianna is located “an hour by car west of Tallahassee” in northern Florida, a DER SPIEGEL fact-checker reviewed whether that detail was accurate.

Great. But then they have to reveal that this guy has done all these major stories in the US, in Mexico, in Syria, etc., that he got these amazing interviews with people like Colin Kaepernick’s parents, that he’d published 55 articles in their magazine over 14 years, and had simply made shit up. It wasn’t the editors fault, though, because they wouldn’t have reprimanded him if he’d failed to find a story, oh no. It’s only one bad reporter, and no one else.

When asked about the Fergus Falls story, he admitted that he knew perfectly well that the editors wouldn’t have reprimanded him if he had dropped the whole thing. “I think,” Relotius said last week, “a normal person would have said: ‘Listen, this just isn’t working. I’m stuck and we can’t do the story.'” But Relotius is evidently no normal person. “I tend to want to have control,” he said, “and I have this compulsion, this drive, to somehow make it happen. Of course, you don’t make it happen. You make a fabrication.” When he says “you” here, he can only mean himself and no one else.

Their whole revelation of the scandal reads like a desperate attempt to deflect all blame away from themselves. Relotious was a bad guy, no doubt, but when your fact checkers are so thorough that they double-check the reported distance between two Florida cities, but they can’t figure out that the central figures in his stories do not exist, there is a big problem at the top. They should be embarrassed.

Harris’s devious rhetoric dissected

Uh-oh. Brace yourself for waves of outrage and rationalizations from Sam Harris and his fan boys. Eli Massey and Nathan Robinson tackle Sam Harris, and oy, it is not gentle. One quick sample:

Each time Harris said something about Islam that created outrage, he had a defense prepared. When he wondered why anybody would want any more “fucking Muslims,” he was merely playing “Devil’s advocate.” When he said that airport security should profile “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it,” he was simply demanding acknowledgment that a 22-year old Syrian man was objectively more likely to engage in terrorism than a 90-year-old Iowan grandmother. (Harris also said that he wasn’t advocating that only Muslims should be profiled, and that people with his own demographic characteristics should also be given extra scrutiny.) And when he suggested that if an avowedly suicidal Islamist government achieved long-range nuclear weapons capability, “the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own,” he was simply referring to a hypothetical situation and not in any way suggesting nuking the cities of actually-existing Muslims.[6]

It’s not necessary to use “Islamophobia” or the r-word in order to conclude that Harris was doing something both disturbing and irrational here. As James Croft of Patheos noted, Harris would follow a common pattern when talking about Islam: (1) Say something that sounds deeply extreme and bigoted. (2) Carefully build in a qualification that makes it possible to deny that the statement is literally bigoted. (3) When audiences react with predictable horror, point to the qualification in order to insist the audience must be stupid and irrational. How can you be upset with him for merely playing Devil’s Advocate? How can you be upset with him for advocating profiling, when he also said that he himself should be profiled? How can you object, unless your “tolerance” is downright pathological, to the idea that it would be legitimate to destroy a country that was bent on destroying yours?

Yeah, that’s the man. He is incapable of speaking plainly because he knows his ideas are patently ugly, so he’s got to wrap them up in layers of plausible denial. I’ve just given up on him, because wading through glop to get to the heart of his arguments, which he’ll always deny, just isn’t worth it anymore.

If only he could show the slightest glimmering of change and growth in response to criticisms…but no, instead he has a cuddle-party with his fellow right-leaning dickheads to reassure each other they’re right and everyone else is a big meanie.

Remember when…?

The month before the 2016 election, when Trump said this?

On Syria’s civil war, Trump said Clinton could drag the United States into a world war with a more aggressive posture toward resolving the conflict.

Those were the days, when people would seriously argue that we couldn’t vote for Hillary because she was a warmonger.

Today, of course…U.S. launches missile strikes in Syria.

Someone is psychic, I don’t know who.

The operation capped nearly a week of debate in which Pentagon leaders voiced concerns that an attack could pull the United States into Syria’s civil war and trigger a dangerous conflict with Assad ally Russia — without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

And that’s the good news?

A new poll shows that the number of creationists has declined to a new low. Hooray! Party time!

Except that the new low is 38% of the American population.

Oh, sure, it’s better, and the trend is going in the right direction, for now, but that’s the kind of percentage that can get a bad president elected. It’s not a majority, but it’s not a fringe group, either. It’s shocking that our citizens can reach adulthood and still be that ignorant.

We’re also supposed to be consoled by the fact that a university education helps some. “Only” a quarter of college graduates are creationists! You go through 4 years of solid advanced education in a first world technological nation, and still a fourth of them come out thinking there might be some merit to the idea that the Earth winked into existence sometime at the start of the Naqada culture in Egypt, or the Uruk era in Mesopotamia. Oh, and hey, the Assyrians must have been shocked that everyone went extinct (except for 8 people) right at the start of their empire. Must have been a small empire.

I don’t know if I want to know how many of our UMM seniors believe in this bullshit. I especially don’t want to know how many of our science majors leave here confident that they didn’t come from no monkey. It can only break my heart.

Two comedians

Good comics challenge those in power. Hacks suck up to power.

Here’s a hack for you: Bill Maher. Bill got together with a Republican, Ben Sasse, and as privileged and oblivious white people are wont to do in conversation, yucked it up by mocking the black and the underprivileged, making light of slavery and using a word white people should never, ever use. I shall refer you to Damon Young, a Very Smart Brotha, for the definitive ruling.

Nigga and nigger are two separate words with two separate meanings and connotations, and White people — regardless of how “down” or woke” they want to be — aint allowed to say either. Sorry, y’all. (And by “Sorry, y’all” I mean “LOLOLOL not fucking sorry at all get the fuck out of here and go kick some gluten-free rocks.”)

It’s a really simple rule. And no, you don’t get an exemption when you’re kicking it back with a chummy conservative senator from a conservative state. Actually, that’s about the worst time you can feel free to get a laugh about black people.

Young has more to say.

It’s apropos that he’d catch this heat — and possibly lose his show — for saying this word, as it provides a convenient intersection for two similar issues: White people vexed that they’re not allowed to say this word, and privileged White people — privileged White men, specifically — lamenting on how political correctness and “outrage culture” has made us too sensitive. Both issues are issues because of (some) White people’s unfamiliarity with the concept of “No.” Where they’re so used to being able to do and say what they want — believing they possess some sort of manifest destined dominion over literally everything — that saying “Yeah, you can’t do this one thing” contradicts their personhood and their Whiteness. “What do you mean I can’t do this one thing? I’m White! I can do everything! I thought the life-long “Do Everything” pass came with the membership package! I need to see a manager!“

I have two objections.

  1. This is Bill Maher. He’s kind of the epitome of neo-liberal white obliviousness. It’s a good characterization, but humility and respect for others ain’t how he got his show.

  2. “possibly lose his show”…I am laughing over here. He won’t lose his show! He’s a white male comedian with a reputation for “edginess”, which covers a multitude of sins! Also, it’s not as if he made a Republican uncomfortable.

But you know who is going to lose a show? Kathy Griffin. This one is more complicated.

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I need to go to more conferences

I have been away for most of this week, at an HHMI conference. It was enlightening and informative, and I came away with many new ideas. It was also a packed schedule, starting early in the morning every day and going on until late at night, and I was not keeping up with the news, so I missed a few things.

Bill O’Reilly was fired for his sexual harassment antics? About time.

Jason Chaffetz is not going to run for re-election, and may even retire early? Well, that was unexpectedly good news.

Now I’m really sad that my conference ended, because my time offline was accompanied by the increasing crumbling of the Republican asshole edifice. If only this conference had gone on for a few more weeks, imagine all that could have happened: I’d have become a somewhat better biologist and teacher, the Republican leadership would have all retired, Ivanka and Jared would be arrested for corruption, Donald Trump would have been indicted and impeached, the tensions with North Korea and China and Russia would have eased, the Syrian civil war would have ended, world peace would have broken out, the Catholic church would take their vows of poverty seriously and divested, turning over all their assets to NIH and NSF, and I would have won a Nobel prize for not blogging.

HHMI clearly needs to schedule much, much longer conferences.

But Trump has the spokesperson he deserves!

Charles Pierce thinks Sean Spicer deserves to be fired for this:

You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons, Spicer said in response to questions about the implications of Assad’s chemical attacks.

Then he made it worse.

Hitler was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing.

His own people. On Passover.

That is an epic gaffe. If it were a hook, it would only be used for landing whales, and would require the power of a Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C to hoist it. Decades from now, people will remember where they were on the day Sean Spicer made Melissa McCarthy utterly superfluous; McCarthy is weeping right now, defeated, knowing she could never invent something as ridiculous, oblivious, and insensitive as that comment. Spicer will go to his deathbed regretting dropping that turd from his mouth. It’s going to be in his obituary afterwards. The only person praising the Lord for that remark right now is the CEO of United Airlines.

Since the invention of the spokesperson, there have only been five spokespeople that were rated the most incompetent, the most dishonest. This one left them all behind.

So yes, if Trump were a rational man who valued competence, Spicer should be immediately fired.

But Trump is not that man.

Our ‘liberal’ media at work

Krugman nails it:

One thing is certain: The media reaction to the Syria strike showed that many pundits and news organizations have learned nothing from past failures.

Mr. Trump may like to claim that the media are biased against him, but the truth is that they’ve bent over backward in his favor. They want to seem balanced, even when there is no balance; they have been desperate for excuses to ignore the dubious circumstances of his election and his erratic behavior in office, and start treating him as a normal president.

You may recall how, a month and a half ago, pundits eagerly declared that Mr. Trump “became the president of the United States today” because he managed to read a speech off a teleprompter without going off script. Then he started tweeting again.

One might have expected that experience to serve as a lesson. But no: The U.S. fired off some missiles, and once again Mr. Trump “became president.” Aside from everything else, think about the incentives this creates. The Trump administration now knows that it can always crowd out reporting about its scandals and failures by bombing someone.

Every time I think maybe the media are growing a spine and showing some appreciation of their responsibilities: they see the prospect of a war that will boost their ratings, and suddenly they’re orgasming over missiles. I’m looking at you, Fareed Zakaria and Brian Williams. Fuck you all. Get off the air.