The wisdom of Rick and Morty

For years, I’ve been getting this constant urging to debate, debate, debate. We’re supposed to engage creationists in debate. We’re supposed to battle Nazis in debate. We’re supposed to meet bad speech with more speech, which I guess is fine, but why the fuck is the form of the speech supposed to be debate? Debate is a weirdly specific and artificial mode of interaction, it’s often not particularly effective at engaging people, and it never settles anything. I’ve noticed that creationists often prefer to set up debates, because all they’re doing is bringing in a foil who will be ignored while their chosen insipid viewpoint is given equal status with serious, scientific positions.

So why are we giving in to them and doing debates?

Now here’s a beautiful argument that addresses that issue.

Hey folks, today I’d like to talk about the alt-right, debate, and Scary Terry.

If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, you’ll probably remember the Freddy Kruger inspired but legally distinct character of Scary Terry, and his “You can run but you can’t hide, b***h” catchphrase.

He’s mostly known for saying “b***h” at the end of every sentence, but it’s a key plot point that he keeps repeating “You can run but you can’t hide” because Rick and Morty eventually evade and defeat him by not taking his advice, and hiding from him instead of running.

And now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything, let alone the alt-right and debate?

Well, it’s in reference to the talking point that all leftist “SJWs” have to do is debate the alt-right, rubbish their arguments, show them up, and you’ll defeat them!

So when Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, or any other alt-right figurehead says “debate me, that’s the only way you’ll defeat me!” you need to ask yourselves one little question:

“Since when are we taking this guy’s advice on anything?”

The fact is, you can engage with their arguments, you can debunk their claims, make a mockery of their ideas, all without their involvement! Their participation is not required in any of this, you don’t need to help give them an audience for this, they are broadly irrelevant.

The alt-right, the neo-nazis, their currency is attention, they need it to thrive and for their ideas to spread. You can engage with that, without giving them an audience, without granting them participation in the process.

You don’t need to ignore them, you don’t need to stop engaging with their ideology or their rhetoric, but you do need to stop handing them the megaphone they crave. Don’t take their advice and let them set the rules.
Spencer calls for a white ethnostate, and “peaceful” ethnic cleansing.

Ok, let’s debate the idea. It’s absurd on it’s face. What happens to POC who don’t want to leave their homes? There could be no establishment of an ethnostate without violence, so it is a threat of violence.

So, remind me again why I’d need Spencer’s participation to rubbish his ideas?

It is far more effective to cut people like him out of the conversation entirely, talk about his ideas without having to deal with him, or anyone like him, in a debate setting.

Giving them platforms, agreeing to their debates, you’re just being a useful idiot and spreading their ideology for them.

I like it. Cut ’em off. Don’t bestow them the credibility of sharing an equal footing with you. There are terrible, stupid, discredited ideas out there, and the appalling nature of their arguments is not a good reason to elevate their representatives. Tear them down without promoting their proponents.

No more debates.

Burn it all down

Wow. We can start with Larry Nassar, who is torched by Aly Raisman’s words. She also aims the flames at the USOC.

Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits before us now—who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports, who is going to be locked up for a long, long time—this monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.

Much respect for her ferocity.

Why is our government such a mess?

Partly because it is staffed with unrelenting idiots like Nathan Dahm. The Oklahoma senator has filed a bill, Senate Bill 1457, which…well, read it for yourself.

All wildlife in Oklahoma is to be the property of an imaginary being. This could be great news for poachers, who can always insist on waiting for the legitimate owner of the game they shoot to place a formal claim against them. Or that they got approval in their heads from their deity to go hunting.

How to cheat your way into a successful (?) scientific career

Not even the Swedish democratic-socialist paradise is quite perfect. Climb up the academic hierarchy, get a cozy position, and then you too can be hoodwinked into bypassing more worthy candidates to promote glad-handing frauds like Ashutosh Tiwari.

The Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden is quite busy these days with the affair around their fake professor Ashutosh Tiwari, trying to figure out what actually happened inside their own Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). How could a person with some very shady claims to a doctorate, a publication list consisting mostly of papers in his own private predatory journal, titles and awards from his own fake research institutions and predatory conferences fool the system for years in this way? How could he get the prestigious Marie-Curie fellowship, which in turn delivered him a habilitation degree of Docent at LiU and grant money from Swedish public? In this regard, how could he have just last year been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet (VR) if he wasn’t even employed at LiU or anywhere else since early 2015?

The details are amazing. As a post-doc, he created his very own personal journal, appointed himself editor (how prestigious-looking!), and started churning out papers that he “peer-reviewed” himself and approved for publication…and at least some of those papers are full of faked data. Then he got himself a position at a good university and even got promoted on the basis of his voluminous publications.

He even got an external reviewer to submit a review that qualified him for a docents degree. Either it sailed over his mentors’ heads, or it was a formality that was rubber-stamped, because it is an incredible document.

What Tiwari also needed, was an external assessment, to go along with Turner’s promotion statement. And this is where it gets really funny. The assessment was prepared by the biochemist Tautgirdas Ruzgas, professor for Biomedical Technology at Malmö University, and it reads as either a cry for help or a sarcastic attempt at trolling from a bedazzled scientist who cannot believe LiU was about to embarrass itself by making an utter fake a member of their academic teaching staff. Here it begins, in English:

“Ashutosh Tiwari (born 78) defended PhD thesis “Chemical study of plant seed gums” at University of Allahabad, India, in 2005. His PhD certificate and CV do not specify the science subject of PhD thesis. However, judging from the thesis title, master and bachelor education the subject of the PhD thesis is, the most probably, materials chemistry, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry or similar with the gravity in chemistry”.

Yeesh. Tiwari is clearly a crooked fraud, and the bulk of the blame has to rest on his shoulders. But his supervisors and administrators at Linköping University should not be left off the hook. They failed in their responsibility to vet their colleagues and have some standards for the quality of their work. Calcified hierarchies and self-serving panjandrums roosting in them are the bane of progress.

Damn, but I missed an angle. I should have named my blog The Journal of Pharyngula Studies, PZ Myers, ed.

Not a good look, St Cloud

St Cloud is a distant suburb of Minneapolis — it’s about an hour’s drive away from the Twin Cities (can you still call that a suburb?). It’s a nice big town; my oldest son attended St Cloud State University, and still lives there. Unfortunately, it’s also Michele Bachmann country, is very Catholic, and is also infested with wingnutty Protestant megachurches. You get the vibe when you drive through it from just the billboards that seem to feature Jesus and Donald Trump in equal measure.

You can also guess what kind of culture is thriving there. There is a group calling itself the St Cloud White Student Union (not an official student organization at St Cloud State, and they also disavow any connection, but still, piggybacking on the reputation of the biggest nearby college is kind of skeevy) that has been posting signs, illegally, around the area.

Ray Sjogren, a St. Joseph resident, said he first spotted the posters leaving the post office on Wednesday. Signs said “unapologetically white,” “hate speech is free speech” and “there are two genders.”

Each poster contained a logo and the name of a group: “St. Cloud State White Student Union.”

St. Cloud State University spokesman Adam Hammer said in an email Wednesday night that the group is not a registered student organization.

A sampling of their signs:

At least there is a group, #UniteCloud, which is fighting back against this nonsense, and also, reading the White Student Union page, it looks like the racists are minuscule — it could just be one person who has been emboldened to spread more hate speech. But we mustn’t forget that Minnesota does have an undercurrent of ugly hate organizations, they’ve been here all along, and they’ve just been waiting for the proper conditions to blossom and spew their spores. Guess what? Those conditions have arrived.

The real grounds for immediate impeachment

You can read Stormy Daniels account of her affair with Donald Trump for the salacious details, but I don’t care about those. So, two people had sex? Like that’s news. But here’s the part that made my hair stand on end and a snarl curl my lips:

You could see the television from the little dining room table and he was watching Shark Week and he was watching a special about the U.S.S. something and it sank and it was like the worst shark attack in history. He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks. He was like, I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die. He was like riveted. He was like obsessed. It’s so strange, I know.

Fuck you, Donald Trump. Fuck you until you die. And then I wish your body could be chopped into chum and fed to sharks, except you’re probably toxic and unhealthy for them to eat.

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.