I don’t think Elon Musk reads Pharyngula

But he did suddenly announce that he was going to fix Flint, Michigan’s water problem right after I suggested it here. It is kind of an obvious ploy for a glory hound, and it seems other people suggested it at the same time I did.

Of course, he also declared that the problem was mostly solved already, so that he’s leaping into a problem he thinks is already fixed, just to get some of the credit — especially since he’s only announced this on Twitter and hasn’t bothered to contact anyone in Flint.

“Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they’ve lost faith in govt test results,” he said in another tweet. “Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.”

Candice Mushatt, Flint’s public information officer, said in an email that neither Musk nor anyone representing him had contacted the city. Flint is replacing pipes and covering the costs involved with that process, she said.

The article also points out that shareholders are getting a little peevish about his grandstanding.

Jesus, Piers Morgan is a terrible person

Watch this embarrassing spectacle: he berates Ash Sarkar for protesting Trump’s visit to London because he claims she didn’t protest Obama’s immigration policies enough. This is a regular “Dear Muslima”: let’s rank offenses so we can tell people to shut up if they haven’t protested everything. Sarkar, at least, hammers back, which was satisfying.

As a teacher, the worst bit for me was when he asks her how many people were deported under Obama, she says she doesn’t know the number but she was aware of the expansion of repressive immigration policies under Obama, and Morgan just badgers her incessantly to name a number when she’s plainly said she doesn’t know. That’s the worst kind of gotcha game. And then he uses the fact that she doesn’t have this one number at her fingertips to claim that Obama is her “hero” — which leads her to point out that she’s a communist and doesn’t support the American Democratic party.

He is just a terrible person. We Americans drove him out of the US by not watching his obnoxious, awful program — maybe the UK needs to catch up with us in this one regard.

Can you have him deported?

Shermer will slide out from under this — it’s like slime on a slug’s back

Here we go again, another exposé of Michael Shermer’s deplorable behavior. He’ll just shrug this one off, too, and no one will care and no one will abandon Shermer. But it does have some interesting points.

If you want to make Shermer cry, hit his pocketbook.

That evening, Shermer told me, he noticed his talk was poorly attended. At dinner afterward, his faculty host told him about Napoleon’s message. Upset, Shermer responded by sending a long email to the SBCC all-campus list in which he accused Napoleon of defamation, said that both Wallace and Napoleon had aimed “to personally harm me,” demanded that The Channels retract its “libelous article,” and told both the school and the student newspaper that they “will pay” for any book sales affected by the coverage unless they pulled the piece.

Carol Tavris disappoints, deeply.

Napoleon says that this was not her intention, and while she did hire a lawyer, she was unimpressed by the threats from Shermer and his legal team. “If they specialize in libel and defamation,” she told me, “they should know that me sharing public articles about you from 2014 is neither libel nor defamation.” Napoleon says she was also surprised to receive an email from Carol Tavris, a prominent psychologist and a writer for Shermer’s magazine, asking her, “in the spirit of feminism and fair play,” to consider that Shermer had been falsely accused, and to apologize for her email.

In the spirit of feminism and fair play, how dare you try to silence women who complain about Shermer’s sexism.

And surprise! Shermer claims not to be litigious, and to have never sued anyone!

“Shermer is notoriously litigious,” said PZ Myers, who received legal notice from Shermer after originally posting the allegations in 2013. “You know that as soon as you say something, he’s going to come down on you with his lawyers.” (In an email, Shermer responded to Myers’ claim by defining litigious as “prone to engage in lawsuits,” and adding: “I have never sued anyone.”)

Right. He just threatens people with lawsuits to bully them into silence. I wonder how many times he has done this and succeeded? Does it outnumber the times he has tried and failed, as he did with me? It’s also ironic that he’s making this claim in an article about the time he tried to threaten a school paper with a lawsuit.

Still, good to know for other people he blusters at: by his own admission, he has never followed through on his threats.

Also interesting that the faculty member who invited Shermer and angrily defended him was, at the time, already under Title IX investigation.

What everyone seems to agree on is that events quickly veered in unexpected directions, and the interaction set off campus-wide discussions at SBCC. Prolonging the controversy, the school recently chose not to rehire the professor who hosted Shermer on campus, Mark McIntire, an adjunct philosophy instructor who taught at SBCC for more than 20 years. The college, McIntire says, told him that he was not being rehired because of deficiencies in teaching. McIntire was also under a Title IX investigation at the time for personal emails he sent to female faculty members after the Shermer incident, which some women reported as threatening. Shermer and McIntire have characterized it as political retaliation.

Birds of a feather. Although McIntire was eventually cleared, sort of.

The Title IX investigation, which was completed in June, cleared McIntire of wrongdoing in his emails to faculty members, but did reprimand him for unethical behavior.

I wonder if he learned his ethical behavior from reading Shermer’s books?

The paper tiger, though, once again admits to his impotence.

Meanwhile, Shermer says he has racked up $3,000 in legal fees. “From where I sit now, I wouldn’t have done anything,” he said, expressing concern over McIntire’s situation.

I also have to sympathize with Raeanne Napoleon, the chair of the chemistry department at SBCC, who posted the letter that got Shermer so upset.

“I didn’t think twice about sending that email,” Napoleon said, adding that she now feels naïve. “I sent that email thinking this is the right thing to do. This is what you do. I watched the #MeToo movement happen!” Napoleon said. “I thought you spoke out against this stuff. I didn’t realize that speaking out would be so hard.”

Yeah, I spoke out. It’s been 5 years since, watching everyone let an accused rapist slide right on by, with no repercussions on his career at all.

A suggestion for Elon Musk

He wants to be a hero, so he rushed to build an impractical, inflexible torpedo to haul through a twisty convoluted cave in Thailand. Apparently, he’s never had to haul a bed frame up some stairs and through a door that you were sure it would fit through because it was only a half-inch too narrow for the frame, and you think maybe if you twist it just right it will fit. Those ingrate Thais just went ahead and rescued the kids without him, and now Musk sounds a bit petulant and pouty about it.

But while Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre co-ordinating the operation, acknowledged Musk’s offer he said that the mini submarine would not have been practical for the cave rescue.

“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,” Osatanakorn told reporters.

In response, Musk said Osatanakorn was “not the subject matter expert”, adding that he believed he had been “inaccurately described as rescue chief”, and should be more accurately referred to as the “former Thai provincial governor”.

Musk is the rescue chief! And the expert on cave diving! And he’d be a better Thai provincial governor!

Poor Elon. I have an idea for him: did you know that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have drinkable water? If he would fly in with a team of engineers and put together a water purification plant, even I would stand up and applaud him.

Except that I’m afraid he’d decide the cleverest solution would be to build an electromagnetic cannon to launch water balloons into the city.

Release the bears, Smithers

Trump is currently in the process of thrashing around, wrecking NATO, but next he’s going to be summoned to stand before his master, and I suspect it’ll go a bit like this.

He doesn’t have to worry for long, though — shortly after that he’ll be back in the embrace of his Republican enablers/incompetents/traitors, and all will be well for him again.

In other words, the status quo will be reset at the beginning of next week’s episode.

The “law” used as a tool for racism

It’s always been that way, hasn’t it? Here’s just another example: an old white woman sees a black youngster selling candy and has to protest, claiming her own righteousness.

The most telling moment in the woman’s complaint:

“They do it all around the country and you should see how they live,” the woman says.

As the teen counts the candy Lopez tells the woman that she’s ignorant.

“How dare you call me a racist, you have no idea,” says the woman to Lopez who completely ignores her and leaves the scene to get cash.

“They”. You should see how “they” live. And then to complain that you’ve been called a racist.

The man who bought all the candy is named Jay Lopez. He was being more than an ally — he was a collaborator. We all need to be more like that. It’s time to subvert the dominant paradigm.

The first comment on the Twitter thread is this one, and it’s also very true:

I’m pleased to say that I’m at my mother’s house this week, and she watches MSNBC, and last night we watched Rachel Maddow together. Just sayin’ there are some grandmas who don’t need their channels changed, and we all know which poisonous network that comment is talking about.

Children in cages, and now…mass graves

Down in Texas, they’re digging up mass graves of immigrants.

LORI BAKER: They’re unmarked, they’re unidentifiable, and there’s no information on these individuals. We anticipate at least several hundred may still be buried within the cemetery.

JOHN CARLOS FREY: As I investigate why so many lost migrants are dying in Brooks County, I hear about forensic teams from Baylor and Indianapolis universities, who have spent the past two years exhuming migrant bodies.

KRISTA LATHAM: I just feel like everybody deserves to be mourned properly. They still have parents or siblings or spouses or children that are wondering what happened to them. So we’re doing this for the families.

JOHN CARLOS FREY: For years, the previous sheriff would give the bodies to a funeral home, that charged taxpayers over a thousand dollars per body, then buried them, anonymously, in a corner of this cemetery.

Can you describe what kinds of bags the individuals were buried in?

LORI BAKER: They’re biohazard bags, trash bags. One was—

JOHN CARLOS FREY: Just regular trash bags?

LORI BAKER: Trash bags. What we found last year, there were coffins that were right next to each other on all four sides, because there were so many people buried in that area. We took one of them down, and we found skulls in between the burials. And so, we just can’t leave any dirt unturned, or we might miss somebody.

JOHN CARLOS FREY: Wait, you have coffin, coffin, coffin, and then, in between coffins, you have skulls.

LORI BAKER: Skull, sometimes.

JOHN CARLOS FREY: These are mass graves.

LORI BAKER: These are mass graves. They’re commingled. Every one is different.

JOHN CARLOS FREY: So you shouldn’t just dump a bag into a hole in the ground.

LORI BAKER: You know, would you want your son buried that way? Or your mom? Or your sister? Or your brother? I mean, this isn’t how you want someone you love to be buried.

We’re supposed to be reassured, though.

Texas says there is “no evidence” of wrongdoing after mass graves filled with bodies of immigrants were found miles inland from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hang on. You’ve got hundreds of unidentified bodies in a mass grave in a single town, with people buried in garbage bags, and yet somehow they don’t think this is indicative of any wrongdoing.

People dying in such numbers at the border that they’ve resorted to mass graves is telling us there is something seriously wrong.

Let’s all hope the Ark eventually sinks

Yet another video on the Ark Park:

I agree completely with Matt Dillahunty’s impression of the Ark: it’s not that impressive. It’s filled with pointless bric-a-brac — wooden box after wooden box filled with nothing, or filled with a static model of an ancient organisms. The “information” inside consists of wall after wall of posters. I’ve said it before: they were so focused on building a great big boat-like object, they put little effort into what goes inside.

I also agree that the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate was a bad idea. I think Nye pulled it off, because Ham was such an obtuse twit that he gave away the show. Nye got the basics right, but there thousands of people who’d have been just as competent at the debate side, and wouldn’t have granted Ham the prestige of a famous opponent.

In other news, the latest assessment of the attendance figures show that Ham has been…exaggerating. He’s been claiming to have had a million visitors in the last year, but the tax payments say that they’ve had 750,000 visitors in the last 11 months, and it’s unlikely that they had one quarter of their entire yearly attendance in one month. Either Ham is lying about his attendance, or he’s been shortchanging the county tax assessors. Either one is possible, I suppose, but neither are particularly ethical.

Congratulations to Ben & Abi!

One of the major reasons I’m out here on the West coast is for the wedding of my nephew, Ben, to Abi (here with her mother).

Wedding accomplished!

Now I get to tell a story. Many years ago, when I would walk home from school back in junior high and high school, I would sometimes walk with a girl who lived a few blocks from me. My little sister Lisa (Ben’s mother), who was then around 5 to 7 years old, would sit on the front step of our house, and when she would see us, she would sing out, “Paa-aul’s got a girrrl frieeend!” and then run inside giggling. Her magic chant apparently was effective since I later married that girl and am still happily married these many years later.

So I’ll return the enchantment, since Lisa is no longer around to do it for him. “Be-een’s got a girrrl frieeend!”

Now he’ll have many decades of happiness. Guaranteed.