There are six of them?

I saw the first Sharknado movie — it failed to reach the low, low standard of being so bad it was entertaining. But now I learn that there have been multiple sequels, and they’re working on a sixth? I think they’re reaching. I didn’t watch 2, 3, 4, or 5 — didn’t even know they existed — and the synopsis of #6 doesn’t appeal at all.

After losing his family to the deadly sharknados, Fin (played by Ian Ziering) discovers the ability to travel through time using the sharknados as a sort of portal. His mission is to bring his family back to life through the powers of time travel and/or prevent the threat of the terrifying fish funnels altogether. In a new spin on Sharknado 5‘s world-traveling plot, Fin’s time traveling will bring him in contact with all manner of legends and historical figures. You can read the full synopsis below:

“All is lost, or is it? Fin unlocks the time-traveling power of the SHARKNADOS in order to save the world and resurrect his family. In his quest, Fin fights Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and even takes a ride on Noah’s Ark. This time, it’s not how to stop the sharknados, it’s when.”

The movie poster shows the hero holding a chainsaw. There must always be a chainsaw.

I hear there’s a Fifty Shades of Grey sequel. The concept makes my stomach churn, but I think I’d rather see that. Or maybe I’d rather give in to a masochistic urge to bleach my eyeballs. So many choices!

Billy Graham is dead

Y’all remember Billy Graham, right?

On the account of James Warren in the Chicago Tribune, who has filed excellent stories down the years on Nixon’s tapes, in this 1972 Oval Office session between Nixon, Haldeman and Graham, the President raises a topic about which “we can’t talk about it publicly,” namely Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media.

Nixon cites Paul Keyes, a political conservative who was executive producer of the NBC hit, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” as telling him that “11 of the 12 writers are Jewish.”

“That right?” says Graham, prompting Nixon to claim that Life magazine, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and others, are “totally dominated by the Jews.”

Nixon says network TV anchors Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite “front men who may not be of that persuasion,” but that their writers are “95 percent Jewish.”

“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” the nation’s best-known preacher declares.

“You believe that?” Nixon says.

“Yes, sir,” Graham says.

“Oh, boy,” replies Nixon.

“So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

“No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,” Graham replies.

Magnanimously Nixon concedes that this does not mean “that all the Jews are bad,” but that most are left-wing radicals who want “peace at any price except where support for Israel is concerned. The best Jews are actually the Israeli Jews.”

“That’s right,” agrees Graham, who later concurs with a Nixon assertion that a “powerful bloc” of Jews confronts Nixon in the media.

“And they’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff,” Graham adds.

Later Graham says that “a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”

After Graham’s departure Nixon says to Haldeman, “You know it was good we got this point about the Jews across.”

“It’s a shocking point,” Haldeman replies.

“Well,” says Nixon, “It’s also, the Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”

Now look at how the cookie-cutter obituaries in the major news media are translating this:

The skinny preacher with the booming voice evangelized to nearly 215 million people over six decades and prayed with US presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Several presidents, including Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, relied closely on his spiritual counsel.

Let’s not mention what his ‘counsel’ was, mmm-kay? Might expose the dishonesty of the phrase “Judeo-Christian” that evangelicals love to tout.

But now he’s dead. Good. Wish it had happened a few decades earlier.

Biohackers: irresponsible showboats trusting homeostasis to keep them alive

Look. When this guy thinks maybe biohacking has gone too far, you know biohacking has gone too far.

Zayner is no stranger to stunts in biohacking—loosely defined as experiments, often on the self, that take place outside of traditional lab spaces. You might say he invented their latest incarnation: He’s sterilized his body to “transplant” his entire microbiome in front of a reporter. He’s squabbled with the FDA about selling a kit to make glow-in-the-dark beer. He’s extensively documented attempts to genetically engineer the color of his skin. And most notoriously, he injected his arm with DNA encoding for CRISPR that could theoretically enhance his muscles—in between taking swigs of Scotch at a live-streamed event during an October conference. (Experts say—and even Zayner himself in the live-stream conceded—it’s unlikely to work.)

Josiah Zayner has done lots of stupid stunts. Now he calls himself a “social activist”, which apparently in his mind means someone who does irresponsible and ineffective stunts to provoke the public to be similarly irresponsible. Now he’s waking up, a little bit, to what he’s been doing.

I didn’t realize what my actions could result in. I’m just starting to come to grips with that.

Biology is really, really complicated, minor changes can have radical consequences, and we don’t understand 90% of it. OK, 95%. Maybe 99%. When people’s lives are at stake, you poke at it very, very cautiously, because you don’t know what kind of cascading systems failure you’re going to trigger. The system does exhibit a lot of resilience that helps maintain equilibrium, which means these showboats can play games that mostly do nothing, giving the misleading idea that they’re harmless, but all it takes is one accident to set everyone back. Responsibility is an important concept in science.

Contemptible disinformation

It happens every time. A terrible event happens, and despicable conspiracy theorists/propaganda agents respond by spreading terrible lies. It’s happening right now with the survivors of the Parkland shooting, a concerted effort to discredit anyone who criticizes the status quo by lying about the event.

Some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School immediately took to social media calling on President Donald Trump and Congress to do something about guns and calling out commentators like Fox’s Tomi Lahren for saying now wasn’t the time to talk about guns. David Hogg, a student journalist who interviewed students on lockdown during the shooting, made several TV appearances demanding leaders take action. Another student, Emma Gonzalez, called out the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the legislators who do its bidding. Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, went on CNN calling on Congress to do more to “to end gun violence, to keep our kids safe.” Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed, screamed at President Trump on CNN to “do something.” Student survivors are organizing a march on Washington D.C..

And now, Parkland survivors are targets for fake news campaigns, conspiracy theories, harassment and doxxing. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has already suggested that the entire shooting is a false flag, which implies that all of the survivors are actors in an elaborate hoax. As survivors speak up, there are already attempts to attack and discredit them individually.

There are tells that let you know these sources are lying to you. These words are dead giveaways: False flag and Crisis actor. You see someone babbling about that, they’re simply awful, dishonest, crazy people. Another giveaway is when they start piecing together photos of the victims or the crime scene and try to match them to other photos they’ve crudely googled to pretend that the actual victims were actually in Hawaii or something, when all they’ve demonstrated is that people resemble other people. Just shut them down.

There are some people/sources that have negative credibility.

Alex Jones
Tucker Carlson
Fox & Friends
Gateway Pundit
Lucian Wintrich
Dinesh D’Souza
Anyone with the last name “Trump”

And many more. One additional problem, though, is that Twitter has become the perfect propaganda machine — anyone can manipulate it to automate broadcasting thousands of tweets promoting the lies invented by other disinformation agents, masking their origin and making sound like they have a broad base of support.

Information has become a tool to be twisted and manipulated by the right wing. We should be afraid. This is how democracies fall.

Everyone should know by now that Twitter is a bad company

From an inside look at Twitter’s problems with management, technology, and trolls:

At the same time, her defenders say, Harvey has been forced to clean up a mess that Twitter should have fixed years ago. Twitter’s backend was initially built on Ruby on Rails, a rudimentary web-application framework that made it nearly impossible to find a technical solution to the harassment problem. If Twitter’s co-founders had known what it would become, a third former executive told me, “you never would have built it on a Fisher-Price infrastructure.” Instead of building a product that could scale alongside the platform, former employees say, Twitter papered over its problems by hiring more moderators. “Because this is just an ass-backward tech company, let’s throw non-scalable, low-tech solutions on top of this low-tech, non-scalable problem.”

Calls to rethink that approach were ignored by senior executives, according to people familiar with the situation. “There was no real sense of urgency,” the former executive explained, pointing the finger at Harvey’s superiors, including current C.E.O. Jack Dorsey. “It’s a technology company with crappy technologists, a revolving door of product heads and C.E.O.s, and no real core of technological innovation. You had Del saying, ‘Trolls are going to be a problem. We will need a technological solution for this.’” But Twitter never developed a product sophisticated enough to automatically deal with with bots, spam, or abuse. “You had this unsophisticated human army with no real scalable platform to plug into. You fast forward, and it was like, ‘Hey, shouldn’t we just have basic rules in place where if the suggestion is to suspend an account of a verified person, there should be a process in place to have a flag for additional review, or something?’ You’d think it would take, like, one line of code to fix that problem. And the classic response is, ‘That’s on our product road map two quarters from now.’”

None of this means that Twitter is going to vanish soon — after all, COBOL is still around, and software legacies just hang around, decaying slowly, like an assortment of pseudogenes. But still, maybe you should consider jumping ship, since the one way to kill it is to erode its user base. Mastodon is out there, waiting for you with open arms.

Normalizing the intolerable

Here is an article about the Virginia Tech shootings, over a decade ago. It’s remarkable how little has changed, how little has been done.

The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why. As the police cleared the bodies from the Virginia Tech engineering building, the cell phones rang, in the eccentric varieties of ring tones, as parents kept trying to see if their children were O.K. To imagine the feelings of the police as they carried the bodies and heard the ringing is heartrending; to imagine the feelings of the parents who were calling—dread, desperate hope for a sudden answer and the bliss of reassurance, dawning grief—is unbearable. But the parents, and the rest of us, were told that it was not the right moment to ask how the shooting had happened—specifically, why an obviously disturbed student, with a history of mental illness, was able to buy guns whose essential purpose is to kill people—and why it happens over and over again in America. At a press conference, Virginia’s governor, Tim Kaine, said, “People who want to . . . make it their political hobby horse to ride, I’ve got nothing but loathing for them. . . . At this point, what it’s about is comforting family members . . . and helping this community heal. And so to those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere.”

You remember Tim Kaine, right? Democrat? Failed vice presidential candidate? It’s not just Republicans with their heads in the sand. Guess what? I’ve got nothing but loathing for politicians who see their constituents murdered, and who do nothing but kowtow before the NRA. (Kaine does have an “F” rating from the NRA, which just shows how little resistance you have to exhibit to get dinged by those ghouls).

Here’s another dismaying story from 2016. A woman is in an abusive relationship; the guy is good looking and intelligent, but becomes progressively more possessive and controlling. It just gets worse and worse, but she’s in denial and tries to see the man she loves in this domineering, temperamental monster. The relationship doesn’t end until he shoots her in the face.

It’s a metaphor for America. We’re also in a terrible, abusive relationship, where any outsider looking in would say it’s obvious, you’ve got to break it up, you know this is bad for you, why are you tolerating this impossible, self-destructive affair? Get out! Get out now!

Only it’s worse, because in this metaphor, he shoots us in the face, and we don’t leave. He shoots us in the face again, we don’t leave. He shoots us in the face every few days, and we say, “This is not the time to dissolve our relationship, he just shot me in the face. I need time to heal!” And he shoots us again.

We’ve always got an excuse. It’s way past time that we stopped rationalizing this deadly relationship and ended it.

How can you screw up an appeal to the alt-right?

One of the dismaying things about the world right now is that being an alt-right/Nazi/”centrist” is so darned easy: they’re fanatically dominating YouTube*, they’re raking in the Patreon bucks, it’s almost as if mindlessly shouting “MAGA” and “WHITE GENOCIDE” is the magic cheat code for immense popularity. So when I see someone fail, it’s a bit jarring.

Look at Jon del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, as he’s fond of claiming. He’s got the MAGA hat. He’s fond of Trumpian hyperbole and raging at liberals and SJWs. He got banned from WorldCon for his troubles, so he’s busy waving his martyr’s flag. And then he announced that he was going to sue WorldCon, and started a fundraiser to scrape up $10,000 for a lawyer.

He’s raised nothing. He’s a total failure. Maybe it’s because he compared his persecution to that of the entire gay community, which isn’t going to gather much sympathy from the usual gang of racist homophobes. Anyway, it’s nice to see a right-winger fall flat on his face.

*Since I’m trying to participate more in YouTube lately, I’m seeing signs that this may not be entirely true. I’ve encountered a few people who’ve been haranguing me with multiple sock puppets — one guy is up to about 20 pseudonyms — and I’m beginning to suspect that the right-wing success story on that medium is more about fanaticism, misrepresentation, and persistence. Maybe if YouTube were to tighten up their rules on handing out new accounts freely there’d be a change, because jeez, a lot of the problems in their comment threads are due to the deniability and meaninglessness of their contributors.