If we must have celebrities, can they at least have some principles?

I don’t expect much of a Kardashian, at least they’re just in the business of marketing themselves for money. I didn’t even expect much of Ellen Degeneres — she’s always just been a happy clappy talk show host, so I’m not surprised when she admits to her friendliness with corrupt mass-murderer George W. Bush. I never watched her show anyway, and I will just continue to do the same. But jesus fuck, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I expected more of you than that you’d laughingly share a microphone with climate-change-denying, gay- and trans-hating, apologist-for-racists Ben Shapiro.

On Sunday, Neil deGrasse Tyson will appear on an episode of The Ben Shapiro Show. According to a promo clip, they’ll be “talking about everything from physics to climate change to abortion to transgenderism,” Shapiro, the conservative firebrand who is known for antagonizing liberals, says. “We’ll get in all sorts of trouble.” Tyson sits in a chair across from him, nodding and bursting into a laugh at the end.

The chumminess between the two men seems to have already bothered some of Tyson’s co-workers. “In my experience, museum-affiliated scientists are required to vet all media appearances through our communications department,” tweeted Jacklyn Grace Lacey, an anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson heads the Hayden Planetarium. Just Friday, Shapiro covered the Democratic LGBTQ town hall on his show, implied homosexuality is a “social viewpoint,” and said the town hall was “discrimination against religious people.” Given those, and other views, Lacey had “SEVERAL questions.”

Tyson has a new book out, and this appearance is part of his book tour — his publicist probably sees this as a grand opportunity to connect with Shapiro’s hundred thousand listeners. Does anyone believe that Tyson will strongly and fiercely confront Shapiro’s idiotic beliefs? He doesn’t do confrontation, he tries to educate and persuade. OK then, does anyone believe Tyson will convince any of Shapiro’s fan base, even plant a tiny seed of doubt in their heads? I don’t, not for a minute. Instead, I expect an hour of chummy bonhomie (buy my book), followed by a pretense that they’re good friends (buy my book) parting on good terms (buy my book) with reassurances that while they may have some differences of opinion (buy my book), they still recognize each other’s humanity (buy my book). It’ll be just as convincing as Ellen’s blithe relationship with her good friend George.

Furthermore, Tyson is touring accompanied by his own shadow, the harassment (and worse) accusations against him, which have been quietly buried. Shapiro knows that if the conversation really gets “in all sorts of trouble,” he has a knife he can pull on Tyson.

But this media tour is about more than just getting his face in front of more people. Tyson has a more delicate task this time around, as it’s his first book after being accused of sexual misconduct. Last year, Tyson issued a rebuttal … in which he basically admitted to crossing several boundaries—like inviting his assistant to his apartment for a late-night hangout—while also claiming not to have done anything wrong. He was allowed to keep his job following closed-door investigations by his employers, the actual findings of which weren’t shared with the public, a frustrating move given the public-ness of the accusations themselves (from multiple women, including the former assistant, who claims he made lewd comments to her, and a former classmate, who claims he raped her). But after a year of staying (relatively) quiet, at least in terms of major interviews, this week of book press is serving the dual purpose as a mini redemption tour. Whenever Tyson is asked about the accusations, it’s always along with the fact that the institutions cleared him, which means the question mostly comes in the form of inquiry about what the past year has been like for him, rather than on what he allegedly did or whether he’s sorry. The answers he’s been giving fit with his original response to the allegations—that he’s just a bumbling dude who wants to help people learn.

He won’t actually confront Shapiro on his bigotry and ignorance, because if he does, Shapiro will neatly sidetrack the discussion into a tirade against feminism and how #MeToo has gone too far and gosh, doesn’t Neil have his own story of vicious feeemales trying to destroy him?

If Neil deGrasse Tyson were to go on a book tour focusing on science and education, which he’s good at, more power to him. He is not going to accomplish that, though, by going on the show of a professional troll and science denialist with a horde of bigots who love their anti-SJW delusions. He’s either going to stir up the hatred of that 100,000 creeps, which will do nothing for his book sales, or he’s going to be a marshmallow who panders, and he’s going to lose even more support from women and those who favor social justice. There is no safe path here — it’s a disastrously bad move on his part.

It may be that he’ll just confirm this prediction.

Shapiro and Tyson are rather alike in their insistence on their own viewpoints as rational and therefore correct. “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” reads Shapiro’s pinned tweet. That sentiment parallels a famous Tyson quote, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Shapiro was recently in the news for questioning the validity of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers on the basis of what he saw as a lack of evidence, despite extensive reporting corroborating the women’s stories. Like Tyson, he picks and chooses what counts as evidence in these situations, and then performs objectivity. It shouldn’t be surprising that Tyson is including him as a stop on his book tour.

All of my schemes musically exposed

How did these guys figure out my plan way back in 2017? I’d only just started exploring the arachnid option back then!

Humankind: I have the solution
To your mess of crime, scandals and pollution
I have done the work
Hey relax, there will be no delay
All my little friends are on the way

Wrap tycoons,
Fatcats, politicians, inside silk cocoons,
Drain them of their vital juices
Raise the flag! Tyrantula tenure has begun
We won’t be around when it is done

The time is now—
I’m gonna let my hungry spiders out,
Because they are the only ones who have the guts
To find and purge the world of all its human sin
They will envenomate our failures!

We can spin a web of hope
Here in my Arachnotopia
Nothing is beyond the scope
Of the grand Arachnotopia

We can spin a web of hope
Here in my Arachnotopia
Nothing is beyond the scope
Of the grand Arachnotopia

Listen to the misanthropes—
Start anew, Arachnotopia!

(You’re gonna get it!)

Charming child casually destroys my marriage

Home again, and alone. I have delivered Mary to Alexandria, about an hour away, where she boarded a shuttle to the airport so that she can go visit our grandson for three weeks. It wasn’t a great drive, either, since we’re in the midst of a moderately nasty winter storm. We left at around 5:30 am, drove in the darkness with sleety wet snow coming down sideways at us. The roads weren’t too bad, but the road signs were plastered with snow that looked black in our headlights, so it was as if someone had spray painted every sign on the route.

Anyway, she made it to Alexandria, I made it back home, she’s gone for a good long while. Darn babies, ripping my comfortable family apart with their adorable cuteness and cute adorableness.

I get to stay home and just work.

Our up-again-down-again signs and the College Republicans make the news!

Exactly as I’m sure they intended — if you can’t make a positive contribution, just be a louder, prouder asshole and the media will eat it up. The saga of our College Republicans made it to the City Paper.

I walked through the hallway that had been papered with hate-signs yesterday this morning, and they were mostly gone. Then I walked the same path a little later, and they were back up — and worse, they’d been tacked up over the positive signs along the hall, obscuring them.

Somehow, the hate signs have just now been torn down again.

Oh, this is going to be a long semester. Can we just declare the College Republicans a hate group, disband them, and be done with it?

We are making some progress locally

We have some [SATIRE!] deplorable students on our campus, and as I mentioned before, they’ve been putting up ugly anti-trans posters all over. This seems to be their obsession this year, to mock and sneer at any students who don’t fit into their very narrow tolerance of how boys and girls (and only boys, and only girls) should look and act. Yesterday, I sighted one of our College Republicans working his way through the tunnel between the science building and the student union trying to paper every available spot with these signs:

In the trash!


Never afraid of being right… more like, never afraid of always being wrong, because none of that is correct.

Well, that’s not good news. This is.

I walked through that tunnel this morning, and everyone of those signs was gone. Torn down and not replaced. Instead, there were a lot of signs affirming gender identity. The only one I could find is the one above, which has a red date stamp, as is required for any flyers posted in the student union. Other places on campus are more of a free-for-all, but apparently whoever was taking out the trash was careful to obey the informal regulations on signage.

Good. Throw ’em all out.

Next bit of good news is that our chancellor has noticed, and sent out a message to students and faculty.

Students and colleagues,

I have heard your concerns regarding language and images being used on our campus that inflame and divide. The University of Minnesota Morris does not condone messaging that is meant to be divisive. That messaging does not support the welcoming community we seek to be.

When we say we support our students and that we value every member of this community, we mean it. While we embrace free expression, we also recognize that exercising this right comes with responsibility. Use of intentionally provocative speech impacts our campus and those targeted in the messaging, leading to individuals and student communities feeling invalidated, isolated, and unsafe. It isn’t acceptable to treat one another that way.

Let me assure you campus leaders take building an inclusive and respectful campus seriously and are taking action in this area. A group is already working on a campus climate evaluation and plan. There will be opportunities to share your thoughts on these issues throughout the year. I encourage each of you to participate.

With details about additional programming to come, we are offering opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to engage in this topic, either by reaching out to me or by contacting any of the following individuals:

For students: Adrienne Conley and Elizabeth (liz) Thomson, Equity, Diversity, and Intercultural Programs

That message came out before the Great Hate Sign Extinction, so maybe some of our students were emboldened…or better yet, some of our staff were authorized to do a clean-up. It just goes to show that leadership matters — you can either enable the worst in our community, or you can inspire the best.

How awful was last night’s Trump rally?

This awful.

It’s chilling how the audience boos when he mentions Somalia. Then they cheer when he claims to have stopped the flow of refugees, and is going to insist on more local control of who is allowed to settle here.

FYI: the settlement of Somali refugees in the area was not imposed or forced on Minnesota. We welcomed them here, just as we welcomed the Hmong who settled here earlier. They are not a drain on local resources, they are active members of the community who contribute their labor to our cities. They are part of us. The only outsider here is the orange bigot who showed up on our doorstep yesterday to recruit other deplorables to join in his hate campaign.

We have many Somali students here at UMM, and they are intelligent, hard-working, ambitious members of our scholarly culture. Send more. One thing we don’t need more of is MAGA-hat-wearing neo-Nazis.

The parasitic load just keeps getting bigger

Yesterday, Secular Woman posted an article about these harassing lawsuits by harassers, specifically mentioning the pending litigation by Richard Carrier and David Silverman. These are just the facts.

Richard Carrier was accused of persistent sexual advances and responded by suing two of his accusers, a nonprofit organization that reported banning him from their events, one blogger who collected reports of his behavior from him and others into one place (full disclosure: Stephanie Zvan is vice president of Secular Woman), one blogger who reported receiving reports for further investigation, and both blog networks on which these posts appeared.

Three years after his original suit was filed, Carrier is reduced to two remaining lawsuits. He continues to sue a former student group leader and the atheist blogger who said the claims against Carrier would be investigated. The other suits were dismissed with prejudice for jurisdiction or because the statute of limitations ran out while Carrier fought to keep his suit in a state without anti-SLAPP statutes. None of his claims or those against him have been heard in court, despite him recently telling a judge that was all he wanted. The defendants have spent well over $100,000 on their defense.

In April 2018, David Silverman was suspended from American Atheists after unspecified allegations were made against him. Shortly thereafter, he was fired after a review of “internal documents and communications related to the initial complaint as well as evidence relating to the additional allegations brought to the Board’s attention”. A Buzzfeed News article states that the original allegations involved “financial and personal conflicts of interest” and the additional allegations involve sexual assault.

In September of this year, Silverman filed suit against Buzzfeed, American Atheists, its president, and its chair. He also filed suit against another board member and both his accusers, claiming they had conspired against him. He did this despite both claiming he’d only been damaged by the financial allegations and being on record elsewhere as knowing one of these accusations dated back to at least 2013.

The purpose of these lawsuits is to disrupt and dissipate our efforts. The people who do these things are not our allies — they are opportunists and parasites. As atheism has grown, it’s become a fertile field to exploit, and there have been a lot of bad people taking advantage of us.

The only things lawsuits like these can do is use up the time, money, and energy of our movement and further discourage our activists from speaking up about how they have been treated. As a movement, we’ve spent years fighting past legal threats to warn people about those among us who abuse their power, like Lawrence Krauss and Michael Shermer. This work is critical to keeping our activists and building a stronger movement. If we want them to work for and support us, we must look out for them.

Secular Woman has a simple suggestion.

We at Secular Woman know that many secular organizations and activists already privately denounce lawsuits like these. Some do so publicly. We thank you for that. But we also urge that, as a movement, we work to get better at not rewarding disruptive, punitive, costly lawsuits like these.

Like, for instance, giving the litigious leeches prominent leadership positions in your organization.

Reminder: Marcus is auctioning off knives for our legal defense fund. I’m beginning to think that big, sharp, wicked-flashy knives are the most appropriate item for atheists to acquire nowadays. Also, as always, you can donate directly to our legal defense fund.

AAI did what? They hired who?

Atheist Alliance International has hired David Silverman to be their executive director.

I can’t even.

Silverman is the controversial former head of American Atheists. He was fired after allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault. He used his position of power to manipulate women and abuse them, and was swiftly drop-kicked out of the movement when these allegations came to light.

“He physically pressed me to the wall and began to kiss me forcefully, grabbed my breasts, and put his hand into my leggings where there was actual penetration of my vagina,” she wrote.

R. believed Silverman knew she was interested in BDSM and wrote that he began using insulting language, calling her a “dirty little whore.” He then pushed her to her knees, “where his penis briefly made contact with my mouth,” she wrote.

R. got her feet and said “no,” she wrote. Silverman then lightly slapped her face and said, “You don’t get to say no to me.”

At that point, R. said the widely used BDSM safe word, “red,” which stopped him, and then she left. The next day, R. took photographs of bruises where she said Silverman had grasped her, and these pictures were included in her complaint to American Atheists.

Silverman has admitted to taking advantage of his position to indulge in infidelity and have sex with women in the movement. And this is who AAI thinks would be a great person to have on board?

Wishing David a very warm welcome, Gail Miller, AAI’s President said, “David is a well-known public atheist, a powerful leader and a compelling public speaker. He has proven management and organizational skills including leadership of national & local organizations in the U.S. He is a personality who makes things happen.

He will grow public awareness of AAI and our campaigns, he will help the board develop strategy and he will help manage campaigns to ensure they deliver for atheists everywhere.

I’m thrilled to have him on the team.”

Is she even aware that he is currently suing his former employer, and various other people, for his dismissal? This litigious person with a sordid personal history is who they’ve chosen to represent their organization? I agree with one thing, that he will grow public awareness of AAI. It just won’t grow the kind of reputation they want.

This is simply the weirdest, most controversial PR decision they could make, and I don’t understand any of the reasoning behind it. I’m going to assume that some rich, #metoo hating guy somewhere — there’s no shortage of misogynistic jerks in atheism — is applying pressure to the organization to hire the alleged sexual abuser, because that’s what they do. I’ll be curious to discover who’s making big donations to AAI, because this is not an act to make the rank and file happy, but is more likely to be catering to some privileged asshole. Or, I suppose, Gail Miller could be outrageously ignorant about what’s been going on in atheist communities.

What an interesting message this sends: if you’re caught out slapping women and trying to force them into sexual behavior, you might get fired from one atheist organization, but there’ll be another waiting to rescue you and put you in another position of power and influence. Like the Catholic Church, they’ll just shuttle you off to another parish.


Good people are jumping ship from AAI over this hiring decision.

It’s looking a bit like the Atheist Community of Austin debacle, with heavy handed regressive individuals wrecking a solid community.

THIS. IS. MOOOORRRISSS!

It never fails. Mary is scheduled to fly out of the Minneapolis-St Paul airport Saturday around 3, and we planned to leave Morris in the morning for a 3 hour drive across the state, when the computer beeps with a weather alert.

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 4 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 1 PM CDT SATURDAY… * WHAT…SNOW EXPECTED. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 5 INCHES. WINDS GUSTING AS HIGH AS 45 MPH. * WHERE…DOUGLAS, STEVENS AND POPE COUNTIES. * WHEN…FROM 4 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 1 PM CDT SATURDAY. * IMPACTS…PLAN ON SLIPPERY ROAD CONDITIONS. PATCHY BLOWING SNOW COULD SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE VISIBILITY. THE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS COULD IMPACT THE EVENING COMMUTE. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… SLOW DOWN AND USE CAUTION WHILE TRAVELING. THE LATEST ROAD CONDITIONS FOR THE STATE YOU ARE CALLING FROM CAN BE OBTAINED BY CALLING 5 1 1. &&

More Information
…ACCUMULATING SNOW AND STRONG WINDS OVER PORTIONS OF WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA LATE THIS AFTERNOON INTO SATURDAY MORNING… .SNOW IS EXPECTED TO MOVE INTO WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA, BECOMING HEAVY AT TIMES TONIGHT. A NARROW BAND OF 3 TO 5 INCHES OF SNOW IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP ACROSS PORTIONS OF STEVENS, POPE, AND DOUGLAS COUNTIES IN MINNESOTA, WITH THE HIGHEST AMOUNTS EXPECTED FROM NORTHWEST POPE INTO WESTERN DOUGLAS COUNTIES. IN ADDITION TO THE SNOW, WEST WINDS WILL BE GUSTING TO AS HIGH AS 45 MPH, WHICH WILL RESULT IN SOME BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF SNOW AS WELL. THE COMBINATION OF THE SNOW ACCUMULATIONS WITH STRONG WINDS WILL LEAD TO DIFFICULT TRAVEL CONDITIONS FRIDAY NIGHT INTO SATURDAY MORNING IN THE MORRIS, GLENWOOD, AND ALEXANDRIA AREAS.

Perfect timing — the first snowstorm of the year on the day we have to do a lot of travel. Also, the shuttle service we used to rely on for these kinds of events has discontinued all service to Morris.

We’re cut off from civilization! Never mind the trip to MSP, how are we going to survive the outbreaks of looting and cannibalism?