Phyllis Schlafly is dead

They say if you can’t say something nice about the dead, you should say nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Antivax, chemtrails, and creationism

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Kent Hovind is getting divorced from Jo Hovind. I guess this isn’t surprising — maybe his former wife is smarter than he is (a hurdle easily cleared), and saw through all the BS and manipulation and realized it was time to get out.

He’s also remarrying, to an anti-vax crank named Mary Tocco. He’s made a video announcement of his engagement, and it’s another bit of obnoxious lunacy. He spends half of it blaming his ex-wife completely for the divorce — I guess he had absolutely nothing to do with it, despite getting the two of them arrested and imprisoned with demented legal advice — and the other half reassuring everyone that he checked with a whole bunch of fellow ministers, ranging in age from 60 to 85, and 15 out of 16 assured him that it was perfectly OK, and then he mumbles on about how this opens up whole new options for his ministry, allowing him to understand all those divorced people out there at last.

I predicted that there would be interesting times ahead for Hovind’s Creation Science Evangelism once he got out of jail — he’d left management of the creationist organization in the hands of his son, Eric, and I kind of figured it would not be an easy transition once he got out and tried to take back the ministry he’d run into the ground with his tax fraud. And it was so. Hovind is claiming that Jo and Eric conspired to steal all the assets of CSE out from under him. It’s gotten very ugly and confusing.

When Kent originally announced that his divorce, he claimed that Eric had stolen from him and would not let him have the web domain “drdino.com”. He claimed Eric sold himself over two-million dollars worth of equipment and supplies. He mentioned a couple of four-wheelers, a copy machine and a fork-lift. Deana Holmes, a non-practicing attorney, who has been following the Hovind story speculated that he was way off on his valuation and that a lot of the supplies were old T-Shirts, VHS tapes, DVD’s and CD’s of Kent’s old non-copyrighted videos which are all on YouTube. I don’t normally take Kent’s public word as fact, but assuming that we have a couple of old four-wheelers, a fork-lift, some office furniture, plus, the material that Deana mentioned, the price that Eric paid for this is probably about right. Deana pointed out that these accusations were pretty stupid in the light of his tax-liabilities and legal problems they could cause for his son. Kent said in court and in public that he took a vow of poverty and owned nothing. Then turned around and claimed publically that Eric and his mother conspired to take everything away from him. Which one is the truth Kent? Did you own nothing? Or did you own two-million dollars worth of items that Eric stole from you? Just like all of Kent’s statements that seem to change to fit the circumstance.

Eric has stuffed his ministry into a shiny new dumpster, called “God’s Quest”, while Kent seems to be trying to set up a place of his own in a gravel pit in Lenox, Alabama, where he’ll build a brand new Dinosaur Adventure Land. I’m sure this marriage with Mary Tocco will bring order out of chaos. After all, look at her credentials.

Mary is co-founder of the American Chiropractic Autism Board (ACAB) 2006, helped manage Hope For Autism, (HFA) a training program for physicians who want to help children with autism recover and is the Vice President of the Foundation for Pediatric Health. She is also the Director of Vaccine Research and Education for Michigan for Vaccine Choice, a non-profit (501c) watchdog group, insuring vaccine choice in Michigan. Mary Tocco is on the Board of Directors for WAVE, World Association for Vaccine Education (www.novaccine.com)

Wait. The American…Chiropractic…Autism…Board? Those words do not belong together.

Once again, the Hovinds — every one of them — set the standard for creationist inanity.

Why present evidence when the critic ignores evidence?

How Brian Cox keeps his cool is quite impressive. Here, he’s arguing with an Australian senator and climate change denialist, Malcolm Roberts, who keeps insisting, quite rightly, that evidence is important, that evidence trumps opinion, that policy should be defined by empirical evidence…and every time Cox shows him the evidence, he simply rejects it, accusing NASA of faking the data, and arguing that the various climatoogical agencies have been colluding to “corrupt” the data.

I guess it’s a step forward that the kooks are at least acknowledging that real data is important, now we just have to carry it through to the next step, of paying attention when the data slaps them in the face.

But Kurzweil is always talking bullshit

I’m not the only one who thinks Ray Kurzweil is an ignorant buffoon — here’s a post dissecting his latest foolishness:

People think the world’s getting worse, and we see that on the left and the right, and we see that in other countries. People think the world is getting worse. … That’s the perception. What’s actually happening is our information about what’s wrong in the world is getting better. A century ago, there would be a battle that wiped out the next village, you’d never even hear about it. Now there’s an incident halfway around the globe and we not only hear about it, we experience it.

The big problem with this? It’s not true. Like, at all.

Let’s start with the time period he’s talking about: A century ago. One hundred years. That would put us smack dab in the middle of 1916.

Do you know what was going on in 1916? The world was tearing itself to bits with destructive technology. The United States wouldn’t enter the war until the following year, but World War I was the war that would see men being annihilated with tanks, machine guns, mustard gas, the works. And everybody knew about it. How do I know this, sitting here in 2016? I just walked three feet behind me to a bookshelf and looked for some of my magazines from World War I.

The author is pointing out that one problem with Kurzweil’s claim is that it is simply false; Kurzweil wants to argue that we think the world might be getting worse is that we’re just aware of what’s going on, but clearly, almost everyone had a crystal clear idea of the horrors that were going on a century ago.

But I think there are other problems, as well. The world might be getting worse, it might be getting better, but this is a question about people’s perception of the world, and I suspect most of us think we’re better off than we were a century ago (with significant exceptions for bombed-out nations in the Middle East, or people victimized by terrorist groups, like ISIS or Boko Haram). I know I’d rather live in the 21st century than the 19th or earlier. So his initial premise is wrong, or at least misleading.

Another problem: when was this mythical time that a village could get wiped out and one a few miles away wouldn’t know about it? Communication was slower, but the information would get there eventually. Europe had a series of continent-wide wars in the 17th century; Rome controlled everything from Syria to Britain. Information might have flowed via boat or horseback rather than fiber optic cables, but it’s simply not true that people in the Middle Ages or the ancient world were sitting about only aware of the local dungheap.

It is also egregiously absurd to claim that we not only hear about it, we experience events around the world. We don’t. For instance, the latest news from Nigeria is that Boko Haram is still holding 200 girls captive. Are you experiencing it? Have you felt even a tiny fraction of the pain the families of those girls have felt over the last two years?

And finally, I have to point out that his definition of ‘better’ is unstated and implicit — he assumes that a better world is one where people have more and faster information about events in the next village or the next continent. Why? In particular, if we do nothing with the information we have about the next town over, how does that improve the planet?

But then, this is Kurzweil all over: ignorant of history, ignorant of science, but mumbling words of technological wish-fulfillment and making his fans happy.

The lying must be contagious

batboy

You’d think Rudy Giuliani would have 9/11/2001 seared into his brain, since he shrieks about it so much. But here’s Giuliani, stumping for Trump:

Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.

He must also trust that the Trump fans are friggin’ idiots, too.

You don’t believe Giuliani could possibly have said that? Here it is, at 57 seconds into this clip. Most remarkably, before he made that claim, he listed specific attacks by radical islamic terrorists, in 2001 and 1993.

Maybe he thinks Obama has been in office for 23 years?

What are the assnuggets up to now?

invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-1978-donald-sutherland

There are horrible, awful, no-good people everywhere who are doing wretched things and making the world a worse place. Let’s catch up with a few of them.

  • James O’Keefe, still lying for a living. The fraud was caught trying to make another video in which he pretends he’s someone he is not, in this case, he tried to commit election fraud to ‘prove’ it is a serious problem. It isn’t. Unsurprisingly, he was immediately caught trying to fake his identity in Michigan. This is a succinct summary of O’Keefe’s entire career.

    “James O’Keefe is a professional liar,” Dickerson said. “He just isn’t very good at it.”

  • Do you know of the all-time horrible person, Mike Cernovich? He’s an MRA and general Twitter troll, a conspiracy theorist and racist, and an advocate for rape. Not a nice guy at all. But he got invited to appear on a Fox News show called Red Eye, which prompted howls of outrage, not from lefty liberals, but from far right wingnuts who have their own reputation for looniness.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s a nutcase,” said right-wing author and radio host Ben Shapiro. “Granting any legitimacy to a fringe kook like Mike Cernovich, and all of the attendant nastiness and problems, is close to insane by any cable network.”

    “Are you serious?” asked Ben Howe, a writer and editor of the conservative blog RedState, when informed of Cernovich’s Fox News appearance. “He was a guest on fucking Red Eye? They’re giving this motherfucker legitimacy? Oh my god!”

    Shapiro is a former editor at Breitbart, and fan of the Tea Party. When you’re so extreme that you’re getting repudiated by the likes of Shapiro and Howe, just say goodbye.

  • And finally, of course, Donald Trump. Digby writes about the time he pointed his finger at a woman reporter, opened his mouth, and screamed…I mean, told a crowd of fans that she was a liar, and the Secret Service had to act to protect her from the mob.

    He knows very well what he’s doing. He’s intimidating people, especially women, into going easy on him by threatening to sic his violent cretins on them. There was no other reason to publicly name her.

    Pure, vicious demagoguery. Now he’s also primed his thugs in Pennsylvania by declaring that the only way he can lose that state is if there is cheating. This is unadulterated bullshit, of course; he’s currently substantially behind Clinton in the Pennsylvania polls. But you all know what fun we’re going to have the day after the election when Trump makes excuses for his defeat by telling his lackeys to riot.

    Also, why is CNN calling Trump’s lie a “bombshell”? It’s not. It is just an open fabrication.

Academic failures in elementary humanity

Here’s the deal: I am paid to teach, which means I have a professional relationship with my students, and it’s an ongoing relationship that typically extends over four years. My job is to educate them in those domains of biology I specialize in. The administrators here have an expectation that I will show up, be prepared, behave professionally, and engage with students at a level beyond lecturing at them: I advise them on professional opportunities, I write recommendations, I try to help with small crises that might derail their progress.

I do not have sex with them or beat them up. This should be obvious, right? Those kinds of behaviors would be antithetical to my university’s mission and my obligations.

This seems to be a poorly understood concept at the University of Sussex. Dr Lee Salter was a lecturer there. He was convicted of viciously beating his girlfriend (warning: graphic photos of a battered, bloody woman at that link), a woman he met as a student.

This is where it gets into some difficult boundaries. She was a former student, she is an adult, and this was a consensual relationship. That part, you can’t prohibit…but it’s a bit skeevy, and says that you should be keeping an eye on the guy to make sure he is not preying on students.

The part where he batters her bloody was not consensual. That part immediately moves the relationship from slightly creepy (but maybe it was “true love”!) into flagrant criminality. That’s where you’ve revealed that this wasn’t a healthy relationship between two adults, but an abusive relationship with a man who thinks he’s the boss.

Gail Gray, chief executive of RISE, Brighton and Hove’s specialist domestic abuse service, said: “This is not a romantic ‘Educating Rita’ scenario. This is about a man who has abused and exploited his position of power and authority to perpetrate domestic abuse.”

So far, so tawdry. But what is appalling is that the administrators at this university were completely aware of his behavior, and continued to allow him to teach students, despite the clear violation of university policies.

During the 10 month period between his arrest and conviction, Salter continued to teach, the university has admitted, while Ms Smith said she remained so traumatised she was afraid to leave the house.

This is despite regulations laid out on the university’s own website which say “staff and students are subject to disciplinary procedures that, amongst other things, proscribe violent behaviour”.

The policy reads: “The University will take disciplinary action in accordance with its procedures against anyone who behaves in a violent manner including, should it be necessary, the immediate exclusion of the perpetrator from the campus.”

“The University may also seek injunctions to exclude the perpetrators of violence form University premises in order to protect staff and students from further violent incidents.”

These problems will continue to arise as long as the awareness that domestic violence is unacceptable fails to be understood at all levels. Too often, having something written in a policy handbook is a cover-your-ass move to forestall actually doing something about it.

What should have happened is that the university administration should have said, “You’re going on a trial for beating up a former student? You’re not going into a classroom until this is resolved, and are on academic leave.”

His colleagues should have said, “Nope, we’re not working with you until this is cleared up.”

And the students at the university should have been made aware of the charges, so that they wouldn’t sign up for a course and then discover it’s being taught by an accused violent abuser. There’s an element of coercion there — students must take certain courses at certain times to graduate on schedule, so the entire university has to take responsibility for the professoriate, for their safety.

We also discover that this wasn’t unusual for Salter.

Described by Ms Smith as a manipulative and cruel man”, Salter alluded to her of having previous relationships with former students. She said he attended his court sentencing accompanied by another young student from the University of Brighton.

The court heard that Salter’s relationship with that student would be “closely monitored” as part of his sentencing.

Jebus. This is a guy with a thing for young students. He’s a predator. He should not be employed by any educational institution, because he brings disrepute to the entire profession.

Yet the University of Sussex kept him on the job until only recently? I didn’t know that lecturers in media and film were such a rare commodity that they had to be retained at all cost (I know science professors aren’t; if I were tossed out for good cause there’d be a long line of applicants ready to step right into my shoes.)

Zika and political obstructionism

Maki Naro has a very good overview of the Zika virus in comic form.

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The effects of the virus are actually easy to understand: mild, flu-like symptoms in adults, but a significant chance of debilitating brain damage to developing fetuses. You don’t want to get Zika because it’s unpleasant and nasty, but your fetus must be protected from it because it’s devastating.

Unfortunately, the USA has a dysfunctional congress that can’t respond to serious problems anymore. An effort to dedicate money (to the tune of almost two billion dollars) to preventing the spread of the disease was killed because Republicans loaded it with irrelevant, poisonous addenda — baggage to snipe at Planned Parenthood (an organization that is vital to putting together a response) or to allow Confederate flags to fly, for instance.

But especially unfortunately, diseases that cause birth defects are a vector for the pro-life-at-any-cost fanatics to gallop in and wreck any process with their delusional antics. We are supposed to love that tiny slug of human fetal tissue so much that we’ll defy any attempt to combat a virus that will poison its nervous system, and don’t you dare think about abortions. A fetal slug with a deformed, shriveled brain is still to be regarded as a full human person!

If you think I’m making this up, listen to Marco Rubio.

Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties. So I get it.

I’m not pretending to you that that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m pro-life. And I’m strongly pro-life. I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective of the circumstances or condition of that life.

No, he doesn’t get it. He’s lying.

He also doesn’t believe in protecting life, because he’s also in favor of the death penalty, and in fact thinks the big problem with capital punishment is that we don’t shuffle the condemned into the death machine fast enough.

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Meanwhile, Donald Trump thinks we have Zika under control, and is praising Florida governor Rick Scott for how he’s handling it. His little PR helpers are arguing for inaction because birth defects are nothing new.

The United States has been paralyzed by the Republican virus. They know nothing, they do nothing, and they actively interfere with necessary responses to problems. We need to do something about that. Never vote for any Republican, ever.

You could try taking Slate’s challenge, but my challenge is just as impossible

Slate is challenging people to diagram this sentence from Donald Trump:

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

I’m not really interested in dissecting the parts of speech and their relationships to one another as I am in answering a different question about the content: WTF is he talking about? This is going beyond word salad to a garbage salad that has been consumed and excreted and is now swirling around at the sewage treatment plant.

Stop teabagging science, Scott Adams

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Scott Adams, the cartoonist and professional self-promoter, is undermining his brand and marketing himself poorly, again. He is complaining about the DNC in ways that demonstrate that he’s an insecure man and profoundly ignorant.

It’s all about the men, don’t you know.

But if you’re an undecided voter, and male, you’re seeing something different. You’re seeing a celebration that your role in society is permanently diminished. And it’s happening in an impressive venue that was, in all likelihood, designed and built mostly by men. Men get to watch it all at home, in homes designed and built mostly by men, thanks to the technology that was designed and built mostly by men. I mention that as context, not opinion.

Don’t thank technology, guy. Thank sociology for the fact that men build and design things, while women and minorities are relegated to serving the dominant white men, and thereby have their roles diminished. Being the beneficiary of a long history of discrimination does not make you a better person. If you actually worked with women, rather than sitting alone drawing cartoons designed to prove your point, you’d know that they are just as capable as men.

But it takes a special kind of wanker to see other people getting their due and think that acknowledging other people’s achievements somehow diminishes your own. Scott Adams must be fun at children’s birthday parties; he probably goes around reminding the kids that he has birthday parties, too, and he’s had more of them and they’re better than this stupid party.

I’m especially peeved at Adams’ continuing abuse of science, though. This is not science.

I watched singer Alicia Keys perform her song Superwoman at the convention and experienced a sinking feeling. I’m fairly certain my testosterone levels dropped as I watched, and that’s not even a little bit of an exaggeration. Science says men’s testosterone levels rise when they experience victory, and drop when they experience the opposite. I watched Keys tell the world that women are the answer to our problems. True or not, men were probably not feeling successful and victorious during her act.

Apparently, we men are terribly hormonal, and dependent on our testicles to appreciate happiness. Unfortunately, Adams has taken a tiny grain of scientific evidence and mangled it into something unrecognizable.

First, we have to appreciate the fact that testosterone levels fluctuate a lot. There is circadian and seasonal variation, and also individual variation in testosterone levels.

Male   Female  
Age: T Level (ng/dL): Age: T Level (ng/dL):
0-5 months 75-400 0-5 months 20-80
6 mos.-9 yrs. <7-20 6 mos.-9 yrs. <7-20
10-11 yrs. <7-130 10-11 yrs. <7-44
12-13 yrs. <7-800 12-16 yrs. <7-75
14 yrs. <7-1,200 17-18 yrs. 20-75
15-16 yrs. 100-1,200 19+ yrs. 8-60
17-18 yrs. 300-1,200    
19+ yrs. 240-950    
Avg. Adult Male 270-1,070 Avg. Adult Female 15-70
30+ yrs. -1% per year    

I almost certainly have much lower levels of testosterone now than I did when I was 20, but I don’t know, because I’ve never had them measured. Scott Adams did not have his testosterone levels measured, either, but he felt free to claim a nonexistent measurement validated his perception of how science works. Also, despite likely declines in my testosterone over the years, I’m happier and more secure and confident now than I was in my 20s; it’s almost as if environmental circumstances have a greater effect on the cognitive perception of my life.

But also, Adams left out a significant point in those scientific studies, as explained in this paper: Effects of victory and defeat on testosterone and cortisol response to competition: evidence for same response patterns in men and women.

In this study, we report evidence from sport competition that is consistent with the biosocial model of status and dominance. Results show that testosterone levels rise and drop following victory and defeat in badminton players of both sexes, although at lower circulating levels in women. After losing the match, peak cortisol levels are observed in both sexes and correlational analyses indicate that defeat leads to rises in cortisol as well as to drops in testosterone, the percent change in hormone levels being almost identical in both sexes. In conclusion, results show the same pattern of hormonal responses to victory and defeat in men and women.

So, if he were correct (he’s not), then all across America men were experiencing a decline in testosterone, while women’s testosterone levels were rising. Since women outnumber men, that translates into a net gain in American T levels!

Please also note that these hormonal effects are not about “happiness”, but about dominance. I know that to the normal clueless guy dominance is equated with happiness, but it’s simply not true — mammalian hierarchical behavior also increases stress, so it’s not as simple as testosterone being the happy chemical. Testosterone also drives feelings we don’t regard as “happy”.

Throughout vertebrate phylogeny, testosterone has motivated animals to obtain and maintain social dominance-a fact suggesting that unconscious primordial brain mechanisms are involved in social dominance. In humans, however, the prevailing view is that the neocortex is in control of primordial drives, and testosterone is thought to promote social dominance via conscious feelings of superiority, indefatigability, strength, and anger. Here we show that testosterone administration in humans prolongs dominant staring into the eyes of threatening faces that are viewed outside of awareness, without affecting consciously experienced feelings. These findings reveal that testosterone motivates social dominance in humans in much the same ways that it does in other vertebrates: involuntarily, automatically, and unconsciously.

So maybe watching Alicia Keys also made American men less angry and less arrogant…if the song had the purported effect on testosterone levels, which, I emphasize again, was not measured. Personally, I did not feel threatened or diminished by a woman singing a song, so I don’t have any reason to think my testosterone levels were affected at all…but then, I should not deny Scott Adams his perception of the experience. Maybe he felt totally crushed and defeated by a woman musician and his balls actually shriveled.

The song might have had other positive effects.

Elevated levels of testosterone have repeatedly been associated with antisocial behavior, but the psychobiological mechanisms underlying this effect are unknown. However, testosterone is evidently capable of altering the processing of facial threat, and facial signals of fear and anger serve sociality through their higher-level empathy-provoking and socially corrective properties. We investigated the hypothesis that testosterone predisposes people to antisocial behavior by reducing conscious recognition of facial threat. In a within-subjects design, testosterone (0.5 mg) or placebo was administered to 16 female volunteers. Afterward, a task with morphed stimuli indexed their sensitivity for consciously recognizing the facial expressions of threat (disgust, fear, and anger) and nonthreat (surprise, sadness, and happiness). Testosterone induced a significant reduction in the conscious recognition of facial threat overall. Separate analyses for the three categories of threat faces indicated that this effect was reliable for angry facial expressions exclusively. This testosterone-induced impairment in the conscious detection of the socially corrective facial signal of anger may predispose individuals to antisocial behavior.

So maybe the hypothetical reduction in men’s testosterone levels made them less angry, more sensitive to the social cues of their loved ones, and less antisocial? These sound like good results that are not at all in conflict with happiness!

If the Scott Adams Castration Effect* were real, that would argue that maybe we ought to be broadcasting Alicia Keys everywhere. Maybe more Beyoncé is the path to World Peace.


*The Scott Adams Castration Effect is what I’m calling the fearful sensation of diminishment that some men experience when faced with strong women. The poor man. He’s got it bad.