And the Whiteness Award goes to…

Damon Young got hilariously irate with a Trump appointee. But he made a terrible mistake.

Anyway, during a hearing yesterday, Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s homeland security chief, claimed not to know that Norway, one of the world’s whitest countries, was in fact one of the world’s whitest countries. Let’s forget for a moment that, if you take Nielsen by her word, it means that the person in charge of keeping America safe from terrorist attacks lacks the general sense of geographic and demographic knowledge you’d find in a moderately intelligent hedgehog. I literally just Googled “children’s books about Norway” and all of them are either about snow or feature characters named “Snojakta.” She is, under oath, claiming to know less about Norwegians than a 3-year-old.

Instead, let’s focus on her name. Her name is Kirstjen Nielsen. This is, if it’s not the world’s whitest name, a name that didn’t win the world’s whitest name contest because it submitted its application too late and couldn’t enter. This name is so white that it just denied me a car loan. THIS IS THE NAME OF A GOTDAMN VIKING! THIS IS THE NAME OF SOMEONE WHOSE MIDDLE NAME IS PROBABLY BROOMHILDA!

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a Viking-ass, Norse-god-ass name. BUT THERE’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING WRONG WHEN YOUR NAME IS KIRSTJEN BROOMHILDA RAPUNZEL LANNISTER NIELSEN AND YOU CLAIM NOT TO KNOW WHAT COLOR YOUR GRANDPARENTS’ NEIGHBORS PROBABLY WERE.

I think he was too quick to hand out the prize for whiteness. I would like to point out that I am so white I recognize that that name is more Danish than Norwegian, that I live in Minnesota and did not grow up in Clearwater, Florida where good Vikings would melt, that I am married to a woman of Norwegian/Swedish ancestry with a silent “j” in her last name, that I literally named our daughter after a Norse goddess, that I’m of half-Scandinavian ancestry tainted with the blood of the English/Scots/Irish, who are almost as white, and that I should probably get that prize. And there is a shocking percentage of the Minnesota population who could reasonably contest me for it.

Unless the prize is also for being the dumbest white person on the planet, in which case I will gracefully concede to Ms Nielsen. She has earned it.

I finally broke down and got a digital subscription to a newspaper

I’ve been waffling. I’m extremely unhappy with the cowardice of American journalism, so every time some major news source whines at me that I should subscribe and pay even a small amount to support ‘quality journalism’, I grimace and say a few choice words (in my head) and back away. But on the other hand, if we don’t support journalists, how will the situation improve? I go back and forth on this.

But today, I realized that I do need to step up and throw a few dollars at the news media…provisionally. I want to see some improvement or I’ll give up again. The deciding factor was the New York Times. they went all fair-and-balanced on us.

In a note on the Times’s opinion page Wednesday night, the newspaper recognized its critical view of the Trump administration, and said it would feature letters from Trump supporters in the spirit of “open debate” in place of the print edition’s editorial page.

“The Times editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency, on grounds of policy and personal conduct. Not all readers have been persuaded,” the note reads.

“In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close.”

Yup. That abruptly crystallized my decision.

So I subscribed to The Washington Post.

The New York Times will never get a penny from me.

Yet more legal expenses arising

A year and a half ago, Skepticon banned Richard Carrier from its conference for inappropriate behavior. Shortly after that, we announced that we were suspending his posting privileges here pending an investigation of the accuracy of those accusations. Immediately, he stormed off in a snit and demanded that we send him a copy of his blog posts, remove his blog, and then resigned. His behavior simply confirmed that the stories about him circulating on the whisper network were valid concerns, so we were quite content to just let him go his own way.

Unfortunately, he then sued us for the effrontery of merely questioning his behavior. He sued Skepticon. He sued The Orbit. He sued four individuals and three organizations, demanding over a million dollars for this slight.

We’re slowly wending our way through the halls of justice to deal with this absurd situation, and we’re optimistic that we’ll win, if we can just make it to the finish line. If only good lawyers didn’t cost so much money! We’re stretching to keep up, so we just had to increase our goals on legal defense fund to $50,000. Ouch. That hurts. I hope you can donate and help out.

One odd thing: he made the mistake of suing all of us en masse, so we’re sharing the legal expenses, which helps diffuse them a lot. But Carrier is somehow paying all of his legal costs alone, which has us mystified. He wasn’t rich to begin with — before this suit, he often complained about his poverty, and admitted that his wife (now his ex-wife) was covering most of his living expenses. He doesn’t have a job, but instead makes a mediocre living as an itinerant classics scholar (it’s as remunerative as it sounds) with a Patreon account. Yet he’s burning money on legal expenses at least as fast as a whole group of us combined are. This is suspicious. It wouldn’t surprise me if the usual gang of misogynist MRAs and anti-SJW jerks are backing him, which would be an ugly betrayal of all the things he paid lip service to while he was here, and makes us even happier that he packed up his bags and left.

So help us out! Our cause is just, his is more of a vindictive snipe at people he alienated, so please donate to our Defense against Carrier SLAPP Suit fund or to the Skepticon legal fund. We’re committed to fighting this nonsense to the end.

I get email

I don’t usually get proud Trumpsters writing to me, so this was novel.

You are a narrow mind twit. Liberal minded which proves that you are uneducated in real world topics.
Are you gay or a transgender?
Science has proven these people are indeed mentally ill.
Gays and T’s are most definitely immature, selfish and vindictive.
Yet you write in favor of these misfits. The issue with this is you bash conservatives as if you have the right concept about these issues.
Americans voted for Trump. Time you accept that. We have been the so called silent majority.

Key word: Majority.

The argument “because Trump” isn’t particularly persuasive with me, for some reason.

I also feel like pointing out that Trump didn’t win the popular vote, so you’re not a majority…especially since his popularity is in free fall right now.

Ooooookaaaaay…

Mike Cernovich, everyone: hero of the alt-right, crusader of pizzagate, champion of gamergate, alpha male, promoter of the “gorilla mindset”, true believer in literal magic powers:

Everything I do is alchemy. That’s why I believe in magic. Not black magic, not the satanic magic that they practice in Hollywood and that the deep state practices and that the media practice. I believe in good magic, light magic, alchametic magic, Cernovich said. Alchametic magic is ‘How do I create something out of nothing purely through manifesting my will through power and light, which is value.’ That’s white magic. That’s alchametic magic.

Between him and Alex Jones, how is it that these right-wing wazoozles have any credibility at all?

Moors are lovely places, no werewolves at all

This may be my last bit of pleasure reading for a while, as the storm of a new semester strikes. But I’m happy to say I finally got to On the Moor: Science, History and Nature on a Country Walk by Richard Carter, and it was wonderful. Science and history and geography and evolution and culture all tangled up in musings while walking about the moors around Hebden Bridge — I got to visit that place a while back, and it was lovely and dense with a feeling of history. Now you too can sample it! Then get on a plane or train and go visit it! I’m sure Richard will be happy to give everyone a tour.

It’s also interesting for me since part of my paternal family came from that region in the Beforetimes, in the Long Long Ago. Maybe I should pick up a copy for my Out West family.

Another one for the Streisand Effect

There is a naturopath named Colleen Huber who is suing Britt Hermes for pointing out that she’s a quack. Huber runs an organization called The Naturopathic Cancer Society. Hermes had a few words to say about that.

The organization raises money for cancer patients who desire to use, but cannot afford, expensive alternative cancer therapies such as intravenous vitamins, mistletoe injections, and special diets, which is then funneled to Huber’s clinic Nature Works Best and others.

The Naturopathic Cancer Society makes it clear that it exists for cancer patients who do not want to use chemotherapy, radiation, or other medical cancer treatments and maintains a provider network of naturopaths agreeing to treat patients with alternative therapies, even against the recommendations of medical oncologists.

Huber claims that she has developed cancer treatments with a 90% success rate and “without the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.” She boasts on her clinic’s homepage that “most cancer patients who complete our treatments go into remission” and that her clinic has “better results than any other cancer clinic over the last eight years.” These statements meet most of the cancer treatment scam warnings put out by the FDA.

Huber treats cancer patients using an assortment of quacky therapies including strict diets to cut out sugar and intravenous injections of baking soda, high-doses of vitamin C, and other nutrients. She claims to have conducted research on 317 patients over seven years in her clinic using naturopathic nutrients and herbs and the elimination of sweetened foods, which allegedly prolonged the life of her cancer patients.

She claims a 90% remission rate by treating with baking soda and vitamins? Bullshit. She also claims to have carried out the largest clinical study, with 317 patients, which is actually rather feeble, and she says she has the highest success rate of any cancer clinic in the world.

If that were true, she wouldn’t need to engage in any of the tactics she’s up to right now. Someone has bought up Britt Hermes’ associated URLs to hide Hermes’ criticisms, probably Huber or an associate. Even worse, Huber is suing Hermes and demanding she take down a blog post that exposes her quackery. Huber wants to silence statements like this, from a qualified oncologist who analyzed Huber’s data honestly:

Putting aside the ethical issues of the extremely bad study design, the lack of ethics committee approval or patients’ agreement, a quick n’ dirty analysis of the data reveals following odds ratio: 2.1 (95% CI 1.01 – 4.40, p<0.05) in favour of state of the art treatment. In other words, patients under natural care have more than a two-fold higher risk to die.

This is criminal.

I hadn’t heard of Huber until she went litigation-happy, so that’s one good side of this story — maybe the word will get out about the fraud being committed at “Nature Works Best”. The bad side is that Hermes needs donations to support her legal defense. Jeez, but these SLAPP suits seem to be popping up everywhere, always by unpleasant loons with way too much money in their hands.

A reminder for the first day of classes

Treat your students with respect, or you’ll get what you deserve.

The alleged incident, during a University of Guelph anthropology class, was posted on Facebook, in an unofficial university group called Overheard at Guelph, shortly after it happened.

Students said a professor, Edward Hedican, who was filling in for their usual professor, made disrespectful comments to the student, who has “severe anxiety,” while an aid worker was at his side.

He made repeated dismissive comments, suggesting that an acutely nervous student didn’t belong in class.

And then…boom, a student stood up and spoke out for the young man with anxiety, and the whole class walked out. There’s video of the woman who spoke against the professor’s attitude.

Wow. That is exactly the kind of integrity and outspokenness I want for all of my students. I just have to try to avoid deserving the criticisms Hedican got — which actually isn’t too hard. It’s bad news when a fellow professor can’t even clear that low bar.

Also, by the way, that class was huge. With that many students, you have to be able to accept and teach to diverse people. I’ve got it easy, my biggest class this semester has 23 students, and even at that I can see many different sorts of people — you’ve got a few hundred students in your class, and you expect total uniformity and a complete lack of distractions? Get real.