I still detest him, but McCain did one good thing

The latest iteration of the health care repeal bill was presented to the senate in the dead of night, while most of us were sleeping, and put to a vote. Three Republicans — Murkowski, Collins, and McCain — voted with the Democrats to kill it. The maverick was mavericky one more time.

But still…there were 49 Republicans, and Mike Pence waiting in the wings, willing to wreck the hobbling compromise that they call Obamacare. Remember that. All those other Republican senators who have been occasionally willing to complain about the fool running the country caved and were willing to go along with this abomination: Ryan and Graham voted for it. And remember most of all that McConnell is the arch-villain who has been orchestrating it.

Remember all of them. And remind everyone else when the next election rolls around.

Voted most likely to be a recurring character on SNL

The Mooch.

“They’ll all be fired by me,” he said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)

It’s nonstop hilarity!

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)

Bannon hasn’t been making as much of a spectacle of himself lately — I now realize it’s because he’s working through an intense list of flexibility exercises.

Ken Ham buckles beneath the hob-nailed boot of Caesar!

Yep, Answers in Genesis has folded, but not without whining.

The Ark Encounter has agreed to pay the 50-cent per ticket Williamstown safety assessment fee after a lengthy debate with the city council that has spanned weeks.

Answers in Genesis Co-Founder Ken Ham offered a statement to the Grant County News, in which he explained that Ark Encounter officials never said they would not pay into the fee. He added that the Ark Encounter has been paying into the fee since the city began collecting from businesses on July 1, and offered to pay the city a capped amount of $350,000, later increasing the offer to $500,000.

“Now, we do believe there were, and still are, some issues with the way the ordinance is worded, and we do have concerns about the fairness of such a tax,” Ham said. “The city ordinance makes the Ark Encounter bear almost the entire load for the increased funding for Williamstown’s police, fire and EMS budget.”

Ham said that the organization is still concerned over the fact that there is no cap, and what that might mean for the Ark Encounter’s future.

Ham also notes that despite the large numbers of guests the Ark Encounter serves on a regular basis, calls for emergency services have been relatively small. On average for the year, it’s been about two calls per week, with the majority being in the busiest six months of operation, according to Ham.

Aww, they never said they wouldn’t pay it, they just wanted to control how much they paid. I’m going to try this with the IRS: sure, you guys can tax me at the same rate as anyone else in my bracket, but I’m unilaterally putting a cap of $500 on how much I’ll pay. See, I’m not saying I won’t pay my taxes. I’m also worried that if I make a few million dollars this year, you might demand that I pay more than I do with my middling 5 figure income.

As for his argument than there haven’t been very many calls on emergency services yet, does he even understand what “emergency” means? Why should I pay for homeowner’s insurance, for example? It costs me more than I get back each year! Usually. Except for that time the water main broke and turned my basement into a nicely carpeted lake with floating furniture. But that’ll never happen again!

Thank God someone slapped Paul Joseph Watson

Rhetorically, of course. The man is an ignoramus. He actually objected to a BBC video that illustrated the Roman empire as a vast polyglot melange of varying ethnicities, because, as all good alt-right Nazis know, Romans were all white British aristocrats.

One of his buddies even mocked the idea that there could have been black legionaries — black people have always been slaves, not realizing that this is only a trope that evolved with modern colonialism.

You know, we have these nifty DNA technologies that allow us to examine remains from Roman Britain and learn all kinds of things about the colonizers. They weren’t all Kenneth Branagh clones — the early residents of Roman London were mostly immigrants from all over the empire. Even without DNA analysis, we have written historical records that testify to the diversity imported into the island.

But all you have to do is enjoy Mike Stuchbery’s evidence filled smackdown. Totally righteous.

Another lesson the Nazis might want to learn is that despite the flood of foreigners almost 2000 years ago and despite the measurable infusion of non-white, non-Briton blood, the region did what usually happens with an influx of diversity — the resident population absorbed it and survived just fine, eventually becoming the pasty white Englanders we all know and love. We are all children of mongrels, our blood is spiced up with diversity, and it does us no harm.

TRUMP IS A PIG

Roger Waters was in fine form last night — nonstop passion and fury, with a side of spacey weirdness, just as I like it. A lot of the concert was a nostalgia ride, though: he opened with “Breathe”, and then “One of these days” and “Time”, all with a phenomenal light and video show. He hooked us good. Then he followed up with subversion. “Pigs (three different ones)” was shaped to focus entirely on Donald Trump, and it fit him perfectly despite having been written in 1976. I think Roger Waters is officially my grim prophet of anomie.

He also performed songs from his new album. I noticed that some in the audience were there only for the 30 year old songs and chose those moments to annoy the rest of us by getting up and going to the lobby for a $10 can of ‘cheap’ beer, but those were some of the most intense moments. Sure, the old songs still fit our current situation, but in the new ones he’s howling about the modern specifics; leaders with no fucking brains at all, war, refugees, indifference, accompanied by images of horror blown up into psychedelic abstractions.

The whole evening was beautiful and unsettling. It was art.

People keep overloading the concepts of sex and gender with irrelevancies

Trump made a major policy announcement via Twitter (of course!).

Well, gosh. I guess Laci Green has some really high-level support. Does it feel good to have President Trump at your back?

It’s been irritating me for while now when people flatly declare that there are only two genders, or talk about “biological” males, as if there is some scientific justification for dividing the depth of complex behavior in the world into only two categories. There is a legitimate context for modifying “male” and “female” with the prefix “biological”: it’s when we care about what kind of gametes they produce. That’s the only time it makes sense, and it’s certainly important in a genetic and evolutionary context.

But then, what do you do with sterile males and females? Do they no longer have a “biological” sex? In insect groups with caste specializations, nominally female members of the species are effectively neutered, and they acquire specific roles as workers or soldiers. Do we just ignore the complexities of their genetics and morphologies?

Some organisms have more than two sexes: Tetrahymena has seven mating types. The properties of meiosis entail a fusion of only two at a time, so at that level, there is a real kind of binary, but clearly as a population there are other properties that distinguish more than two types. Do we just ignore those?

Trump and Green do something even more devious. Humans have two interfertile mating types, but that only refers to the kind of gametes they produce, not the equipment they use to make babies. After all, if a human female cannot bear children, but can produce eggs, we can now use a surrogate to host the embryo for her, but it doesn’t mean she’s no true female. As it turns out, throughout their maturation, humans develop gender signifiers, both cultural and biological, that have nothing at all to do with reproduction.

It’s weird. Little kids who will not be able to reproduce for a decade or two are assigned a reproductive role — that’s what “biological sex” implies — and given a whole bunch of standards that have nothing to do with making babies to which they must adhere or face serious social ostracism. A fondness for pink is not at all relevant to making babies, yet it’s foisted off on children from a ridiculously early age.

You don’t even have to acquire any lust for a different sex other than your own. Sexual behavior is primarily used for social and personal desires that are completely independent of reproduction. In the best of all possible circumstances (which I agree, don’t always occur), human reproduction is a conscious decision, made with due deliberation. Gay people have babies all the time. Transgender people have babies, too. And straight-up heterosexual couples who could make babies together often decide not to have any children (my god, what is that man doing with his useless penis?).

So why decide that ability to fight in the modern military is defined by whether you wear a dress, make sperm, or take estrogen pills? It’s all bullshit, all the way through.

Yes, I know, Trump framed it as a financial concern, that this is just too costly for a military that will drop $3 million on a single cruise missile. But we know how much transgender health care will cost the military.

To determine the budgetary implications of gender transition-related treatment for Military Health System (MHS) health care costs, we again used data from the private health insurance system on the cost of extending coverage for this care to the transgender personnel population. We estimate that AC MHS health care costs will increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.

In other words, the savings Trump wants to obtain by cutting this service is in the ballpark of what one of his weekend golf trips costs us.

Meanwhile…

According to the Military Times, data from the Defense Health Agency indicate the U.S. Department of Defense spent $41.6 million on Viagra and $84.24 million total on drugs for erectile dysfunction in 2014.

If sporting an erection is a prerequisite for combat, it seems to me that we ought to be encouraging those virile transgender individuals who can accomplish that, while discharging (dishonorably, obviously), all those weak men who need pills to get it up. We’d save a lot of money!

What’s the vibrator for? Sexing turtles.

Herpetologists are a pervy bunch (pdf link).

Once a male turtle was captured, we attempted to induce an erection by applying an 18 cm, variable-speed, silver bullet vibrator to its shell and tail. We vibrated turtles for 10 min or until an erection was achieved, and we recorded the amount of time that it took to induce an erection. Trials were scored as “unsuccessful” if an erection had not been induced by the end of the 10-minute trial period. Our preliminary trials indicated that turtles needed to be fairly relaxed and willing to extend their limbs and tails before the method would be effective.

They seem to have been fairly creative in trying to figure out how to give turtles an erection.

…the methods that have been proposed so far appear to be species-specific and have only been applied to common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), whose penis can be everted by gently bouncing a turtle up and down (De Solla et al., 2001; Dustman, 2013), and Cotinga River toadhead turtles (Phrynops tuberosus), whose penis can be everted by immobilizing the neck and limbs (Rodrigues et al., 2014).

There’s also a detailed discussion of technique.

In general, turtles appeared to respond best when only the tip of the vibrator was touching them and when the vibrator had fresh batteries and was set on the fastest setting. Also, they seemed to respond best when the tip was held firmly against them (rather than allowing it to bounce), but not be pressed hard against them. Both allowing it to bounce and pressing it too hard generally resulted in turtles holding their limbs and tail tightly against the body, rather than relaxing. Additionally, it was often useful to move the vibrator around in small, slow, steady circles. As a general rule, we tried to hold the vibrator against the tail whenever possible (including following the tail if the turtle is waving it from side to side), but if this caused the turtle to retract its tail, then we moved the vibrator to a different position until the tail was extended again. Finally, sometimes males only protracted their penises briefly and quickly retracted them, rather than maintaining an erection. Therefore, it was necessary to watch the cloaca closely.