Connect the dots

Start here. Andrew Breibart attended a white nationalist conference in 2006, with panels by Jared Taylor and John Derbyshire.

He was attending with his protege, James O’Keefe.

O’Keefe has acquired some notoriety for dishonest stunts in the name of far right wingnuttiness. Among them was the Landrieu break-in.

According to reports, on January 25, 2010, O’Keefe and his friends Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan visited the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu. Basel and Flanagan disguised themselves as repairmen, and attempted to access the office’s telephone system by saying there was something wrong with the phone lines. O’Keefe was in the office and videotaped the some of the events with his cell phone camera. Office workers smelled a rat and called the authorities. The three of them were arrested, along with a fourth man Stan Dai, and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.


Notice the guy on the right? That’s Joe Basel. It’s a bit embarrassing, but he attended UMM a few years ago — we did not get along. I do find it amusing that one of his complaints was that the university ought to remove all reference to me from its website, because I offended him. So if O’Keefe was Breitbart’s protege, Basel was O’Keefe’s — I guess he’s kind of a third rate Breibart imitator, which is not something to be proud of.

Basel previously was the editor (or some such role) at the Counterweight, the conservative alternative newspaper here at Morris a few years ago. He is now the CEO of something called the American Phoenix Foundation, which is yet another wingnut ‘thinktank’ with a mission.

The mission of the American Phoenix Foundation is to protect the American Republic through ethical, innovative, and technologically driven journalism.

A descendant of Breitbart/O’Keefe/Basel is protecting ethical journalism? OK. I’m laughing, but OK.

Thankfully, Basel is now gone from UMM, and the Counterweight is defunct. Unfortunately, its successor is that rather nasty racist rag, The North Star. It’s editor, John Geiger, was named a Phoenix Fellow by the foundation last year.

Breitbart → O’Keefe → Basel → Geiger, all with a nice infusion of racism throughout. It’s all kind of ugly and incestuous, isn’t it?

Recent North Star wankery

Just so you know, that pathetic campus newspaper, the North Star, which published defamatory accusations that various UMM faculty and administrators were racist because they didn’t give special privileges to white students, is still pushing hard to sue me. They have no grounds to do so; their accusation is that because they detected a “sciencey” smell of chloroform near racks of their rag that were stolen, I must have done it. Their lawyers have been demanding that the university fire me, to which our chancellor has replied with a clear “no.”

But I warn you because I just got off the phone with a Fox News outlet in the New York area; they were asking lots of questions, and apparently the North Star lawyers are distributing their intimidation document far and wide now. The interviewer was deeply offended that I said Fox News has an extraordinarily poor record for journalistic integrity; they said I was impeding the Free Speech of those poor students (they seem to take it for granted that I stole those stupid newspapers); they were outraged that I said this lawsuit was attempted harassment, trying to silence me; and they treated the fact that the campus police asked me questions about the thefts as clear evidence that I was guilty.

Anyway, get ready. It will not be a friendly report, expect a few East Coast wingnuts to show up once it’s out, whining in that wingnutty way and demanding that we respect their entitled inanity.

There goes the Minnesota tourism industry

The movie Fargo warped the image of Minnesota—and now the FX channel is going to be showing a new, 10 episode miniseries titled… Fargo, starring Bilbo Baggins with a Minnesota accent.

An original adaptation of the Academy Award®-winning feature film, Fargo features an all-new “true crime” story and follows a new case and new characters, all entrenched in the trademark humor, murder and “Minnesota nice” that made the film an enduring classic.

Yep, that’s exactly what living in rural Minnesota is like: funny accents, and grim, understated humor over all the dead bodies littering the snow. It’s a sensibility that has always informed my blog, dontchaknow.

Tonight! In Morris!

In addition to be buried deep in grading, tonight I’m hosting our monthly Cafe Scientifique.

The next Café Scientifique will take place on Tuesday, March 25, at 6 p.m., at the Common Cup Coffeehouse (501 Atlantic Avenue, Morris, MN 56267). Brad Heins, assistant professor of organic dairy management at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), will lead the discussion, “Organic Food: Fact or Fiction?” All are welcome to attend. Audience participation is encouraged.

Oh, yeah, I’m also about to step into non-stop class/meetings/lab, not to emerge until 6pm, and then racing off to the coffeehouse, so you may not hear much from me today. It was extremely annoying that FtB was moribund all morning, my normal blogging time.

Yay, brilliant UMM students!

We’ve only had our HHMI undergraduate research program in action for a year, and we’re already seeing success: one of our students has landed a prestigious summer research position.

Ellie Hofer ’15, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of only a few students nationwide selected for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP). EXROP provides outstanding summer research experiences to bright, motivated undergraduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

We like getting rid of our students by kicking them upwards.

Glad you couldn’t make it

I just got back from our Cafe Scientifique meeting, and it was a fabulous success: attendance was over 60 (which is why I’m glad you couldn’t make it — it was standing room only as it was) and we had a good representative sampling of the Morris community.


I don’t know what the secret of drawing everyone in was. We did make much flashier signs this month, but also the topic might have been it: Carrie Eberle from the USDA lab in town gave a talk on foraging crops for bees that hit the sweet spot in appealing to farmers, gardeners, science people, and everyone who likes honey. And it was a very good talk.

“The New Atheists as Secular Fundamentalists”

My delightful evening of fun and intellectual stimulation continues shortly, with a guest lecture on my campus from Chris Hedges, who threatens to berate atheists with his typical ignorance. I’m hoping for full-bore hand-waving purple-faced screaming, but otherwise, it’s going to be a failure of a night.

I’ll try to live-blog it, if he says anything interesting.

His introduction is all about his Harvard Divinity School professor’s experiences in Nazi Germany, and how Christianity was coopted by fascists, which led to his book, Christian Fascists, and his concern with the origins of totalitarianism. He also talks about how megachurches absorb people into the fold, and the nonsense at the Creation Museum.

Then he debated Harris and Hitchens. He was upset and angry at how Dawkins and Dennett and Harris and Hitchens replicated the authority structures of the Christian Right. What?

7:45. Suddenly we’re talking about genocide in Serbia. Where’s the connection to the atheists?

Now he says that like like the Christian Right, atheists can only argue against a caricature of religion: they haven’t studied theology! They have gods of reason and science. And this meme stuff is an example of the misuse of science, reflecting the desire of atheists to engineer ideas, and control the way people think.

He really doesn’t like Sam Harris, quoting him on torture and nuking Islamists. I know this would surprise Hedges, but there are an awful lot of atheists who dislike Harris’s ideas, too.

But no: both atheists and the Christian Right embrace the dehumanization of Muslims. We do? I keep hearing things that I reject, being told that this is what I believe to be a New Atheist.

Weird. Now we’re being told of the bizarre practices of Christian Right anti-abortion activists. What drives people into these movements is despair. Relevance? I don’t know. It seems he doesn’t have enough horrible stories about totalitarian atheists so he has to drag in tales of the religious to tar us with their sins.

The New Atheists misuse Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. It’s not a theory about politics or culture, and Dawkins and EO Wilson abuse it to make false claims about society. What? The Dawkins who has said that selection is an inappropriate ideal for human behavior? Freakish. And now he has brought up Social Darwinism. He’s sounding a bit like the loons at the Discovery Institute.

The New Atheists believe that evolution is linear and directed towards a goal and that we believe in using it to justify genocide.

Religion is not irrational, but it is non-rational. Jebus, Hedges, focus. Make an argument and back it up. This is rambling nonsense.

8:05. My brain hurts. This is stupid. Now he’s chewing out science for fracking and global warming and pollution, and blames it on the corporate state. Fine. Do atheists align with the corporate state? Does any of this have anything to do with his thesis?

New Atheists see evil as something outside themselves that must be eradicated and that evil is largely Muslim.

Fundamentalists readily embrace violence, just like Sam Harris, therefore atheists are fundamentalists. How can I possibly defeat such lucid logic?

8:15. I don’t much like Sam Harris. Harris rather detests me. It’s getting a bit old hearing some horrible thing Harris said being pinned on atheists, including me, as a class…by a guy who’s berating atheists for demonizing groups of people.

We seem to be closing with some babble about transcendance and the struggle with the irrational and the need for the sacred, whatever the hell that is. And we get to the heart of his problem: atheists are knocking down his cherished presumptions, and replacing then with squalid monuments to ourselves…which is a form of idolatry.

8:20. He’s blathering incoherently through the Q&anp;A now. This talk has been such a mess of misconceptions and rambling nonsense that I can’t even think of a question. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m at a creationist talk: it’s wrong from word one, so where do you start?

There were two places where Hedges totally lost me with his bullshit false equivalencies. Well, more than two — but these were the big ones.

  • Just as the Christian fascists abuse the bible, the atheists abuse evolution. Dawkins argues for a linear, progressive, utopian version of evolution. Total crap. Dawkins has been quite clear that natural selection is a “clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel” process, and not at all desirable as a model for human relations. Hedges argument relied entirely on misrepresenting what atheist evolutionists have said.

  • Christian fascists have totalitarian authority structures, just like the New Atheists. I just wanted to ask, what authority structures in atheism? He spent a lot of time railing against Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris; one of those three is dead, and the other two are single individuals who’ve written books. I remember attending a Hitchens lecture in which he presented his odious anti-Muslim views, and the audience booed him. These guys are not our rulers. Hedges has simply inflated his animus against a few individuals into a broad brush characterization of every atheist.

It was infuriating.