Angels in the sky!

We have arrived in Duluth a few days before a big air show, and the Blue Angels are practicing all around our hotel. It would be terrible if we were trying to sleep, but right now the frequent “whooooshes” are entertaining.

Unfortunately, I only brought my macro lens kit with me, none of my long lenses, so this was the best I could do, even when they were doing low altitude flyovers of the hotel parking lot.

So that’s what a philosophy degree is good for

You remember creepy ol’ Colin McGinn, the philosopher who wrote icky sexual messages to his students and assistants, fantasizing about them giving him handjobs and suggesting that they have sex precisely 3 times over the summer. He’s sort of in disgrace now, except…

McGinn has just opened a consultancy firm to give professional ethics advice to businesses. You read that right. One of the skeeviest philosophers around is selling his dubious ethical skills to corporations. Sounds like just the right kind of thing that corporations might want, but isn’t what they need.

He has a stunning rationale.

McGinn is best known for his work in philosophy of mind, but believes he’s well placed to advise on a variety of business issues, including sexual harassment. “I have insider knowledge of that,” he said. “I consider myself an expert in that subject, having gone through a process, and discussing it with lawyers and so forth, and having to learn about it in detail.”

I was blatantly guilty of sexual harassment, therefore I’m exactly the right person to advise you on sexual harassment. Brilliant.

(R) stands for (RACIST)

If you are a Republican, you’re racist. If you vote Republican, you are a racist. If you live in a county that voted for Trump, you live in a racist county. Trump himself is an unabashed racist.

That isn’t name-calling. That’s simply an obvious fact at this point. Our incompetent bigot of a president is letting it all hang out.

At an arena rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump quadrupled down on his recent racist attacks on four female Democratic lawmakers. He also chastised one of them for using “the big, fat, vicious…F-word” against him, alleging, “that’s not somebody that loves our country.”

“She looks down with contempt on the hardworking American, saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country,” the president said of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), to cheering from the crowd, many of whom began chanting, “Send her back,” enthusiastically joining in on the collective anti-Omar hate.

Ilhan Omar is a hardworking American. How dare he treat her as something else. “Send her back” is a shout of racism. There are no dogwhistles necessary anymore — the Republican party is openly drawing on the ugliest strain of American politics and is amplifying it.

The president’s comments came at a time of his announced nationwide raids on undocumented immigrants, as well as his recent asylum plan that could pose his gravest threat to migrants. This week, his racist tirades were defended, excused, or even laughed off by major players in the national Republican Party, with Team Trump arguing that the president didn’t mean it, or that he was correct to say it, or that he was merely being his typical, funny self.

It seems like it was just a few months ago that conservatives and centrists were wringing their hands over whether it was fair to call these people new American nazis, and they were splitting hairs over whether they were really fascists or not. Can we at least regard that argument as over? We’ve got a demagogue holding rallies (Why is he still doing that? Doesn’t he have work to do?) and leading mobs in racist chants, threatening to deport or jail people, journalists and opposition politicians, for being brown. He’s laughing at us. He knows the Democratic party is spineless and will do nothing. If we accuse him of being a new Hitler, I wouldn’t put it past him to grow a toothbrush mustache to mock us.

It’s 1932. What are you doing?

Road trip, with spiders

Today was a glorious day for a road trip from Morris to Duluth. I told Mary that we should take it slow and easy.

“It’ll be a relaxing, low pressure trip,” I said.

“We’ll make frequent stops,” I said.

“We’ll stop now and then and go for walks to stretch our legs,” I said.

“It’ll be fun!” I said.

“We’ll look for spiders,” I quietly said.

And we did. The first half of the drive was a little disappointing, because it was unpleasantly hot, and spiders are wise and lay their trappy little webs and retire to the coolth under an overhang or in a small crack. We saw spider sign, but not much else. The one exception was this subtle little lady who was quietly lurking under a handrail with her babies at the Big Spunk rest area.

[Read more…]

I don’t think I have enough patience to deal with people this far gone

How do young people become racists? On Reddit (a dubious source, I know), one young man explains how his own self-loathing was easily co-opted into support for “scientific racism”. It started with “4chan related memes, which were the coolest thing on the internet”, and then he gets deeper into LessWrong and other sites, and he discovers the two coolest people ever — Davis Aurini (!) and Mencius Moldbug (!!), which tells me that you have to be dwelling in an intellectual vacuum if you think a skull-posing misogynist and a blithering reactionary are intellectuals at all.

To me he was the coolest guy ever. A fearless intellectual who used facts, logic and reason to challenge society’s deepest taboos and come to disturbing conclusions, and a Silicon Valley programmer on top of that. One of his favorite conclusions was that there were biologically distinct human races, and some, like “the black race”, had lower IQ. At this time, 4chan was beginning to go alt-right, with the creation of /pol/, Stormfront brigades, and the pervasive idea that SJWs destroyed OWS and New Atheism, so “race realism” was a big topic there as well. They made it look like a valid scientific theory, with charts and data sheets and all, that just happened to be a taboo because of our collective trauma with slavery and imperialism. Sure, it makes sense that people approach the subject of race with caution, but does that really mean there are absolutely no differences between the races? If the Neanderthals were still alive, wouldn’t these PC leftists be telling us that even they are equal to us?

I was immediately sold on it. Part of the reason is the obvious: it told me I was the master race, and gave me a purpose in life, as a fighter in the war to save western civilization from degeneracy. The incels are always telling you that you are an abomination, that everyone hates you, that you are and will always be been genetic garbage, and the racists let me get some of my self-esteem back.

On top of that, I think part of the appeal of scientific racism is exactly that it feels so wrong. I was ignorant and had never understood what racism was and why exactly it was wrong. I thought it was just a moral failing, and for similar reasons as in “masochistic epistemology”, I was drawn to racist ideas exactly because they were so disturbing. When I was confronted with an argument I didn’t have an answer to – and they do come up with some intimidating statistics and ten-dollar words – I felt like my whole worldview was collapsing, like I was turning into a freak just for being exposed to these ideas, like I would never be able to go back and be accepted by society. There is a reason these far right people like the red pill metaphor so much: they present their ideology as a revelation so profound and disturbing that hearing it will change who you are forever, probably ruining your life. That’s what I felt: knowing this would turn me into an outcast, and I could never trust anyone outside of the alt right.

That rings true. He was deeply ignorant. His intellectual void encountered a body of bad ideas that were “edgy” and swathed in pretentious vocabulary, so he absorbed them. Then he is simultaneously hit with feelings of superiority because he knows the dark secrets, and isolated from better ideas by the feeling that he is now an outcast.

Now I have a couple of questions. How did a garbage site like 4chan become fashionable among young people? And how do we rehabilitate people so infested with bad ideas that they have become pariahs?

Puerto Rico shows us how it’s done

The governor of Puerto Rico is one sorry sexist homophobe, and that fact was exposed when the contents of some of his messages was revealed.

In the chats on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, governor Rossello calls one New York female politician of Puerto Rican background a ‘whore,’ describes another as a ‘daughter of a b****’ and makes fun of an obese man he posed with in a photo. The chat also contains vulgar references to Puerto Rican star Ricky Martin’s homosexuality and a series of emojis of a raised middle finger directed at a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.

What do you think happened then? Puerto Ricans rioted for days!

Of course, it wasn’t just that Governor Rossello was a demonstrable ass, it was also the corruption.

‘Chatgate’ erupted only a day after Rossello’s former secretary of education and five other people were arrested on charges of ‘steering federal money to unqualified, politically connected contractors’.

In contrast, here on the mainland USA we have an even worse president, an incompetent cabinet, and widespread corruption. We aren’t tearing up the streets, although we should be. Instead, we’re trying to play by the rules, work out resolutions in a formal, lawyerly way, which ought to be a good thing. I would be quite satisfied if we were making progress towards resolving the problem of the bigoted asshole-in-chief in the White House through such cautious means. But we’re not. The Republicans are a solid bloc who stand behind Trump no matter what he says and does, while the Democrats … oh god, the Democrats are Democrats. They struggled to put together a censure motion in the House against Trump’s racist tweets, which ought to have been a given.

But as with most attempts to show disapproval with the president, Tuesday’s efforts proved to be ham-fisted. House Democrats formally condemned Trump for his social media missive. But the path getting there was complicated by internal disarray, and overshadowed by the absence of an agreed-upon strategy that culminated in a massive blow-up on the House floor, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused of violating House rules in her attempts to peg the president as a racist.

It was, in the grand scheme of things, a bureaucratic misstep. But for many Democrats it symbolized something far more: yet another illustration of the party’s ineptitude and, ultimately, its timidity in confronting Trump.

“Trump wins all these fights for the simple reason that he’s not getting impeached,” said Adam Jentleson, former chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Every half-hearted attempt to hold him accountable just highlights that Democrats are choosing not to use the most powerful accountability tool available to them.”

Jentleson added, “This is an untenable strategy for leaders who promised real accountability.”

We sit here placid and pacified by the delusion that there is an Official Resistance Party that will persevere to make things right, and we don’t have one. We have a nominal opposition party that is dominated by conservative/centrist/moderates that would prefer to do nothing, in hopes that someday they’ll get a majority and then they can take the place of the Republicans. That’s all they aspire to, getting more committee leaderships, more money from lobbyists, more power to maintain the status quo.

Some Democrats see ominous signs in the minefield that faces the party going forward.

“Trump threw us a lifeline and unified us for now,” a senior House Democratic official told The Daily Beast. “But I think what you’re seeing here is what is going to play out national during this election: progressives feeling like they’re always getting pushed aside for the more moderate position and the frustration will continue to boil over.”

“I don’t think our problems are going away anytime soon.”

I see ominous signs in Puerto Rico. If the Democratic leadership can’t pull their heads out of their asses and lead, I see fires in the streets and gunfire in the capitol.

Pretty, pretty Shae

Mary keeps finding spiders for me, and she brought me this lovely Parasteatoda this afternoon. She was remarkably active and was just skittering around in the vial, and she was so plump and pretty and vivacious that I had to give her a bigger cage of her own in the lab, and within seconds of being placed on the frame she was building a big new web — you can see a bit of it stretched between her toes.

I named her Shae. The colony is getting quite large now.

It can happen here

MIRAC — the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee — reports.

At 7:20 a.m. Monday morning, July 15, 2019, MIRAC members got notice that ICE was outside a home around 42nd and Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis. Three of us arrived there within minutes to witness two unmarked all-black SUVs and 1 pickup stopped in the far left lane blocking traffic surrounding a car.

We were too late. This person was most likely following the ‘know your rights’ advice that has been given to the community and did not open his car door. The ICE officers then proceeded to bust out the back window of his car to reach in, unlock the doors and drag this man to the ground.

An observer was across the street, yelling over two lanes of traffic, telling ICE that she wanted to see the warrant. The ICE officer moved his hand over his holster and told her not to dare to cross the street or move any closer to them. At one point the man told the ICE officers to please give his car keys to the observer and ICE told her that if she wanted to see any paperwork to meet them at their “office”.

After ICE left, we talked to a neighbor who witnessed the entire incident. He was very distraught and kept repeating himself, “So this is really happening…” We then took pictures of the damaged window on the car of the man who had been detained. You can see how all the glass fell into the car filling his child’s car seat. He left his work bag in the front seat and his coffee mug in the holder still steaming with hot coffee.

The widely reported ICE raids that President Trump has promised are reported to be targeting 2,000 families with existing removal orders. It is also being reported that there will likely be collateral arrests of individuals in proximity of targeted individuals.

What we witnessed in Minneapolis this morning may or may not have been part of a broader ICE operation. Minneapolis was not on the list of cities that were supposed to be targeted. But this is an important reminder that ICE takes people away every day in our communities, not just when the president publicly announces it. And it’s an important reminder that everyone should know their rights, and everyone has the right to not say or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.


1. Share ‘know your rights’ information on social media and in your neighborhood and with people you know. Here is good information in multiple languages:

2. Consult this guide before posting about ICE operations on social media to avoid spreading unclear or false information:…/a.56963099638…/2716313601715498/…

3. Contact local mayors and police chiefs to ask them to reiterate their commitment to refuse to participate or in any way coordinate with ICE operations, and ask that they immediately inform the public if they receive notification that ICE operations will be carried out in their jurisdiction.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey
Twitter: @Jacob_Frey

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo
Phone: 612-673-2735
Twitter: @MinneapolisPD

Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson
Phone: 612-348-3744
Twitter: @HennepinSheriff

Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter
Twitter: @mayorcarter_

Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell
Phone: 651-266-5588
Twitter: @ToddAxtell

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher
Phone: 651-266-9333
Twitter: @RamseySheriff

That “know your rights” info is a little discouraging, because it tells you all the things ICE is not allowed to do, yet as this example shows, they go right ahead and do them anyway.

The eggs came tumbling down

Yesterday, I showed you that clutch of spider eggs I’d accidentally removed from their silken egg sac. This morning I checked on them, looked into the incubator, and saw they were still resting there in a tight little ball, but when I picked up the vial, they disappeared. The coherent ball of eggs fell apart, and all the individuals went tumbling down, like little beige pearly ball bearings, and they’re rolling around on the floor of their container.

I don’t consider this a good sign — it means that they initially had some adhesive properties and that they’re drying out. Mama Spider puts a drop of mystery fluid in the egg sac as she’s laying eggs, and it’s not clear what that does for them. These eggs may be doomed. I spritzed some water vapor into the vial and also dampened the foam plug to get the humidity up, but we’ll see. I’ll be keeping an eye on them.

P.S. They’re not like chicken eggs, where a fall from 20 egg diameters up is going to crack them all. There are some privileges to being tiny.