Every time I think about our economic system, I shudder

I’d buy this car before I’d get a Tesla

I am increasingly feeling that the very rich have managed to pull a colossal scam on the whole world, where the grossly incompetent have rigged the system to make themselves wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Witness the collapse of Boeing, the entire goddamn Republican party, and of course, King Goober himself, Elon Musk. I appreciate this review of Tesla’s masterpiece, the Cybertruck.

As the Bay Area is both a nexus for world-class goobers and the region where Tesla used to be and kinda-sorta still is headquartered, I have seen a lot of Cybertrucks out in the wild over the past few months. They are remarkably fake- and shitty-looking in any context (Is that a big toaster with wi-fi next to me at the exit? Who’s driving the scrap metal assemblage with Bryan Colangelo-esque proportions? Why does every Cybertruck driver I glance at appear to be simultaneously peacocking for attention but also totally embarrassed, haunted by the unexamined knowledge that as a maneuver in a culture war they paid $100,000 for a car that doesn’t work?), though I saw one in the Santa Cruz mountains this past weekend. It looked even more jarringly synthetic and stupid in a truck-style environment, as if 10 seconds on a semi-paved road would undo the whole rickety car. I felt, amid standard-issue disgust and mockery, personal embarrassment to be paying through the nose to live in a place where the coolest thing you can do is cosplay as a 6-year-old’s idea of the coolest guy in the world.

Yep, a billionaire is successfully siphoning off $100,000 chunks of cash from upper-middle-class twits by selling them poorly made vehicles. At least most Trabants were still running a year after purchase, I don’t have the same confidence in the Cybertruck. And yet, after a succession of horrible decisions and running companies into the ground, Musk is still filthy rich.

I wonder why I’m losing any faith in capitalism?

The only summary of the Cass Report that I need

I keep hearing from anti-trans activists that this major review of the literature on the efficacy of transgender treatments, the Cass Report, confirms their position, which I don’t understand. What I’ve read of the report isn’t very overwhelming at all. Rather than wading into almost 400 pages of text, though, I thought this succinct summary of the whole thing was very good.

A systematic review collects all the published research in an area and ranks the research based on how likely it is to be reliable. The weakest form of evidence are case reports, where a doctor formally writes up an anecdote about a patient. The strongest form of evidence are randomized controlled trials where patients are randomly assigned to some type of medication or intervention, or to no intervention, or to a placebo, and the groups are compared to see how an intervention compares to alternatives/no treatment/placebo. Systematic reviews of several interventions for trans youth were undertaken by the University of York including puberty blockers, cross sex hormones, social transition, and psychosocial support measures.

The results of each of the systematic reviews was to characterize the overall evidence as weak, which was the Report’s most significant finding and has been widely reported. When looking more granularly at the York papers, a pattern appears of some papers showing a psychological benefit of the intervention, a smaller number showing no change positive or negative, and no papers showing any psychological harm. For example, in the systematic review of the evidence on puberty blockers, several included studies suggested psychological benefits to treatment in a range of areas, while a smaller number of studies found no significant impact. This was summarized in both the papers and the Report as “weak evidence” but could also be accurately described as “weak evidence (in favor of treatment).”

That the evidence was weak is not an indictment of the report — by their nature, case reports are necessarily weak. The alternative is to do controlled experimentation on human children, which is going to be even more problematic! The weak evidence is what we have, and that evidence says that, for the sake of the children, we should be treating kids.

The report itself actively endorses the use of puberty blockers, as well as other treatments, in addition to further studies of their effects. However, it takes a very conservative position on when young people should be allowed to take them, and even discouraged social transitioning in young children.

A full programme of research should be established to look at the characteristics, interventions and outcomes of every young person presenting to the NHS gender services.
The puberty blocker trial previously announced by NHS England should be part of a programme of research which also evaluates outcomes of psychosocial interventions and masculinising/ feminising hormones.

So I don’t get it. Why are the trans haters treating this as a vindication of their position? What I’m seeing is a cautious, conservative review that is compelled by the evidence to give cautious, conservative recommendations in favor of some degree of treatment, and I don’t care how much Helen Lewis and The Atlantic strain to twist it into a condemnation of American policy.

As usual, expect the issue to continue to be unresolved as ideology is used to torment trans kids further.


Last night, I attended a play, Copenhagen by Michael Frayn. I was in the odd position of being invited to participate in a discussion at the end of the play, along with two other professors. I felt a bit superfluous — the play was very good, I didn’t have a lot to add.

You can watch the whole thing yourself with different players, since it was made into a movie. The movie is also very good, starring Stephen Rea and Daniel Craig, although it is marred by an introduction featuring Michio Kaku.

I saw it as an exploration of ambiguity and interpretation. Somehow our discussion afterwards veered into the virtues of negotiation and giving opponents an opportunity to explain their position, which I thought was a bit nuts. This was an example of the futility of trying to reason with fascists. It was about a meeting between Werner Heisenberg, proud German and head of the Nazi nuclear program (but not a Nazi) and Niels Bohr, half-Jewish Dane whose country had been taken over by the Nazis. This was in 1941, when there was no longer any doubt about the intent of Germany and the homicidal maniac running the country. In 1943, Bohr is going to have to flee his homeland to Sweden when the Nazis decide it’s time to clean up the Jewish ‘problem’ in Denmark.

(Horrible little story: Bohr was then evacuated to England in the bomb bay of a Mosquito fighter/bomber. Really? He was supposed to negotiate with the Nazis?)

Bohr and Heisenberg were two particles with complex and ambiguous relationships that they were struggling to resolve, but their countries, massive aggregates of particles, had a clear, sharp relationship that did not need further focus. The two individuals were old, close friends whose interpersonal relationship was a tangled mess that was well worth a conversation, but don’t extrapolate that to argue that we should be negotiating with Nazis.

Don’t get your hopes up

Donald Trump is in the courtroom again, accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records.

“The People of the State of New York allege that Donald J. Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” Bragg said in an announcement at the time. “Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct. As the Statement of Facts describes, the trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that, the People allege, violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws. As this office has done time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law.”

He’s guilty, guilty, guilty. Everyone knows it, but all it will take is one Trumpian idiot to get on the jury to get him off, and even if he is convicted, he’ll most likely get nothing worse than probation. Go ahead, talk about violations of basic and fundamental business laws — we know that the only real fundamental law is that if you’re rich enough, you’ll get away with it.

I’m not going to pay any attention to this trial. I don’t see the point.

How pathetic do you have to be to be ignored by the press?

The Washington Post gave a lot of attention to Kali and Joshua Fantanilla today, for reasons I can’t comprehend. It’s another example of the press featuring otherwise unnotable nobodies with far right views and giving them a neutral treatment.

The story is about a couple who were, once upon a time, public school teachers who were so offended at the liberal agenda of the schools that they quit their jobs, moved to Florida, and founded their own online Christian school. They were “displeased by some colleagues’ embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement, which both thought was wrongheaded and hateful for what they saw as its anti-police stance.”

So now they offer a YouTube curriculum for $2000-$8000 a head which, to my surprise, is accredited and offers the equivalent of a high school diploma. I don’t know how they get away with it — is Prager U going to be handing out diplomas soon?

There are way too many red flags in the article, like this photograph caption.

Joshua Fontanilla became a Seventh-day Adventist after researching dozens of faiths online. He was drawn to his religion partly for its Bible prophecy.

“Researching” “online” — those two words together are already a problem. The second sentence gives his game away. He was just looking for a religion that would accommodate his prior beliefs about the Bible, and was looking for the religion that would support his conclusion. And then to settle on the Seventh-day Adventists, one of the more batcrap looney Christian sects that certainly does promote prophecy…let us immediately call into question his rationality.

Furthermore, his concerns with the public school system were petty and bigoted.

Around the same time, Joshua Fontanilla said he was also spotting what he perceived as bias at school. His suspicions stirred, he said, when he noticed his high school always announced meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance club over the loud speakers — but not those of other clubs, like his chess group.

Joshua then began combing through the “American Dream” unit of the English curriculum, researching the politics of every author. He concluded that too many (at least 12 of 19) were “left-leaning,” including — as Joshua saw it — “leftist” historian Studs Terkel, “socialist” poet Langston Hughes and “Dem” Walt Whitman.

You know how you get your club meetings announced on the morning PA? You request it. You go to the school secretary and hand them your meeting details. I’m pretty sure schools aren’t biased to favor the Gay-Straight Alliance — if my local school is any example, school boards try to ban such organizations. The GSA was just a more activist organization than the chess club.

As for his categorization of authors he didn’t like — those are McCarthy-ite tactics. If you oppose indoctrination in the schools, don’t charge in and start banning authors whose politics you dislike.

Here’s another red flag:

The couple have ambitions to scale up: Kali and Joshua hope to eventually cross 1,000 students, at which point, they calculate, they will no longer have to pursue side jobs like Kali’s current gig as a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank. So far, Kali has found most success attracting clients through Instagram, despite the fact her account is regularly suspended for “community violations,” she said.

The Capital Research Center is an offshoot of the Heritage Foundation, funded by well-heeled conservative millionaires and billionaires. She has a “gig” there? What does that mean? What does a “Senior Fellow” to a right-wing think tank do? I’m just wondering if there were a left-wing think-tank that would pay me a living wage for doing the equivalent of whatever the fuck Kali Fontanella is getting paid for. Somehow, I don’t think those kinds of sinecures exist on my side of the political fence, but I could be wrong. Let me know!

Every one of their complaints are absurd and pathetic, like this one:

…Kali passed a series of posters featuring student artwork, erected every spring as part of a public art installation. This year’s iteration included a painting of a book in chains — and another of a student wearing earrings that each bore the slogan, “ASK ME ABOUT MY PRONOUNS.”

It was just one more reason, Kali told herself, to pray. She sat beside her husband and closed her eyes. Together, they bent their heads to thank God.

Right-wing freaks are so easily perturbed by the most trivial phenomena. I guess praying is the modern substitute for the fainting couch.

I’m just left wondering what the point of the whole article was. I don’t care about the Fontanellas, I don’t want them arrested, but I also want them to fail and stop corrupting children’s education. I don’t think their story is particularly interesting, except as an example of America’s terrible standards for education. But yay, they get a front page feature in the WaPo!

That lost weekend

I think I’m recovered from my horrendous Shingrix vaccination — still a bit wobbly and fatigued, but progress has been made. The terrible thing is that we had a sunny, 25°C weekend, great for spiders, and I mostly missed it, and now we’re about to have a couple of days of heavy rain.

I will say that if you’re at risk of shingles you should get this potentially temporarily debilitating vaccine because shingles is so much worse.

It’s a shingrix kind of day

Yesterday, I got my second shot of the shingles vaccine. “Shingrix” is the right adjective to use for my late night and day — I have all of the symptoms, every one of them, struck with sledgehammer blows.

The worst was the muscle weakness. I tried to get out of bed four times, and every time I realized that the spaghetti noodles my legs had turned into couldn’t to the job, so I just flopped over and went back to my fitful sleep. If anyone is dreaming of beating me up, this would be a great day to do it.

I wasn’t surprised at all

Read this little story.

A New Hampshire county chair for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign lost his job as a police officer in 2006 after he threatened to kill his colleagues and rape the police chief’s wife in retaliation for his suspension for having a relationship with an underage high school girl, according to an internal report released last week upon orders from the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The findings regarding former Claremont police officer Jonathan Stone, which came to light due to a right-to-know lawsuit filed by InDepthNH.org, appeared to catch Trump’s New Hampshire campaign chair, Stephen Stepanek, by surprise. “I just found out about it this morning,” he told Huffington Post Wednesday. “He’s been a Trump supporter for a long time, and he’s been a state representative, and he had, as far as we were concerned, what looked like a great background.” Stone, who won a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2022, was terminated from the Claremont Police Department after making the threats. He would go on to work as a Vermont prison guard and would open a gun store, according to InDepthNH, and gave Trump an AR-15 during his 2016 campaign. Neither Stone nor the Trump campaign’s co-managers, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, responded to queries from Huffington Post. Stepanek said a decision on Stone’s future with the campaign was pending: “I think it will be handled by Mar-a-Lago, in consultation with me.”

Now tell me how surprised you are by every sentence about Jonathan Stone.

The apes are acting funny again

The dingbats of Arizona were up to shenanigans recently. Here they are, speaking in tongues before denying women basic health care.

Although, you’ve got to have the right perspective on this bizarre behavior. It’s just signaling to their fellow apes that they belong, and that they’re not a member of that other ape clan. We tend to overlook the weird things other groups do.

Did you know most of our legislative bodies begin their sessions by talking to an invisible being they call a god? They’ve labeled this behavior “prayer,” and most people take it for granted as a perfectly normal behavior. Some few of us, like me, have our own distinctive behaviors, like refusing to “pray,” and it sets us apart and makes us look weird to the prayer people and the tongue-speaking people.

We need to look deeper. What, besides some goofy ritualistic behaviors, bonds these people into a group? What are their goals? Then we see people like Anthony Kern and Paul Gosar behind it all, and we should recognize that it’s not the silly babbling that matters, it’s the bigotry and authoritarianism. We should read that behavior as a flag to the rest of us, too — don’t let the speaking in tongues bother you as much as the bad ideas simmering underneath.

Look at that photo. Aren’t the red baseball caps also a signal? What about…neckties?

It’s aposematism all the way down.