Bills must be paid in advance — a good policy for this administration

There’s going to be some kind of ridiculous Trump rally in Minneapolis tomorrow — I reserved two seats, but somehow, I don’t think my butt is going to be filling them. The Minneapolis mayor has the right idea, though: he is billing the Trump campaign in advance for security and the venue. Smart move. Trump has a reputation for stiffing the cities he visits.

With impeachment threatening to end the Donald Trump gravy train, the white supremacist con man in chief is retreating to what he does best: holding fact-free campaign rallies. The problem with Trump’s rallies is that they cost a ton, and, as with everything Trump, the bill for them is never paid. Some cities, such as Orlando, have asked that the costs for the rallies be covered upfront. Minneapolis, Minnesota, is expecting a Trump Nazi rally on Thursday. It has reportedly sent a $500,000 bill to the campaign to cover security costs and the use of the Target Center. Early Tuesday morning, Trump began his usual childish Twitter attacks, this time against the “lightweight mayor” of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey. Retweeting his campaign manager Brad Parscale, Trump moaned about Frey trying to stop his rally. Of course, Frey isn’t stopping the rally; he’s merely being proactive and fiscally responsible in trying to get his constituents reimbursed ahead of time, due to the Trump campaign’s history of stiffing or shorting cities on huge security bills.

Of course, Trump’s countermove is to threaten to sue the city, claiming the bill is inflated. I suspect it’s a conservative estimate. I wouldn’t want to be driving around the city tomorrow.

The city said it reached the $530,000 estimate based on the methodology it used to determine the costs of past major events, like the 2018 Super Bowl and Final Four. The public safety expenses are expected to be around $400,000 and the other $130,000 would be the result of lane closure fees, traffic control and various other costs, Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill said in an e-mail Tuesday.

The Trump campaign said in the statement that if the city does not agree to honor the contract by 11 a.m. Tuesday that they would go to court.

You know, he never intends to pay what he owes, ever.

We’re still looking for ways to raise money

I hope there hasn’t been much depreciation in an older body, because I’m thinking just selling off one kidney would get a whole lot of us out from under some legal debt.

All the other defendants are younger and their body parts are probably worth more, but if I sold off an organ, I’d also have some left over to get a fancy new microscope for the lab. They’d probably use the excess for something youthfully frivolous.

By the way, while we wait for a decision on the Minnesota case, the next step is a hearing in the Arizona case, in which Carrier, acting as his own lawyer, gets to depose the woman he harassed, which is all kinds of fucked up. Isn’t it nice how the legal system enables his ongoing harassment?

What is Zuckerberg’s net worth in rubles?

This would be unbelievable if it were a scene in a Red Scare movie made 70 years ago, but this is from an official intelligence report from congress.

Kremlin-directed operatives opened champagne when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, according to a communication disclosed in a new Senate Intelligence Committee report outlining Russia’s sweeping social media efforts to help him win.

“We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne … took one gulp each and looked into each other’s eyes …. We uttered almost in unison: ‘We made America great,’” one operative at the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency said in the message obtained by the Republican-led committee.

The long-pending report by the Intelligence panel concluded that Russia directed an aggressive social media campaign to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump in the 2016 presidential election and warns similar efforts to interfere in U.S. politics are still under way. It was a bipartisan endorsement of the finding made by U.S. intelligence agencies and often questioned by Trump.

It really needs to be read with a thick Russian accent, and with mocking laughter at the end. One of the operatives ought to be Mark Zuckerberg. Somebody make this movie, now!

New speakers added to Sovereign Nations conference!

Exciting news! I criticized that silly Sovereign Nations conference that was endorsed by Dawkins, but is run by a freakin’ far right Catholic not only for its religious premise, but because it only had three speakers: Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose, who don’t have a reputable idea between them. You’ll be thrilled to learn that they have now added two more speakers to the roster, Andrew Doyle, a comedian of sorts who really hates social justice, and Titania McGrath, a radical intersectionalist poet.

Except they can’t even do that right. Titania McGrath is a fictional character, invented by…Andrew Doyle. I guess that’s one way to stretch the budget, counting all the imaginary people living in the heads of your speakers.

Last April, I decided to set up a satirical account on Twitter under the guise of radical intersectionalist poet Titania McGrath. She’s a po-faced young activist who, in spite of her immense privilege, is convinced that she is oppressed. She’s not a direct parody of an existing individual, but anyone who regularly reads opinion columns in the Guardian will be familiar with the type. Given that such individuals are seemingly impervious to reason, and would rather cry ‘bigot’ than engage in serious debate, satire seemed to be the only option.

Doyle is the living embodiment of Mr. Gotcha, that smug know-nothing who pops up to declare that criticisms of society by people who benefit from society are invalid because they live in a society, and who thinks that you can’t decry the abuse of privilege if you have any hint of privilege yourself. It’s a cunning ploy to universally reject the voices of everyone on the planet who finds the status quo intolerable.

Wow. That conference is going to be a barrel of laughs and hypocrisy. I wonder if anyone will attend?

Poster wars!

It’s happening again. Our local [SATIRE!] campus troglodytes and assholes, the College Republicans, are splattering corkboards with their messages of resentment. They really don’t like the fact that we’ve got students who don’t think like they do and expect to be tolerated, so they’ve been putting up argumentative, emotional posters in reaction to statements of fact. Like these two in the science building.

Uninformed Liberals?

On Your Campus?

Its More Likely Than You Think.

Your Gender Identity

and Pronouns are not real

& not Valid

Freedom of Speech

applies to both genders equally

Stand up for your fellow

Students

Even if they have differences

This Poster is Produced and Paid for by your student fees, Hey UMM, GROW UP, LIVE IN REALITY. -CR’s’

Transphobic Bigots?

On Your Campus?

It’s More Likely Than You Think.

Your Gender Identity

and Pronouns are Real

& Valid

Freedom of Speech

Not Freedom From Consequences

Stand up for your fellow

students

Respect their existence

This Poster Is Produced and Paid For By A Private Individual, And Does Not Necessarily

Express The Opinions of Any UMM Club, Organization, or the University of Minnesota

Morris. Hey UMM, Protect your Trans Students.

I can tell that the College Republican poster is a feeble attempt at parroting the language of the tolerant students because they end up undermining their own claims. Should I let the College Republicans know that that is kind of a self-own? Do they really mean to tell a gang of indignantly cis people that their pronouns (he/him, she/her) are not real and not valid?

It’s almost amusing how pissed off the CR’s are at people who affirm their own identities, that they then have to print up posters insisting that “NO, WE KNOW YOUR IDENTITY BETTER THAN YOU DO. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.” Except of course that these conservative clowns want to pass legislation to restrict everyone’s freedoms, and some of them are likely to express their hate with violence.

Joker…I don’t know

I went off to see Joker last night, feeling conflicted. The director, Todd Phillips, has been kind of a dumbass complaining about how he’s a victim of “cancel culture”, so I felt like skipping it just because the guy has a ridiculously thin skin. He’s also been whining about how you can’t do comedy anymore, because his audience has a thin skin.

Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’

This was confusing because Joker is not a comedy. Definitely not. Not a single laugh in the whole show, except for the strained, fake laughter of the central character. It’s a bitter, sad story of a man’s descent into hell.

Another thing it’s not is a comic book movie. It’s got token signifiers — it’s set in Gotham City, with an Arkham Asylum, and a rich guy running for mayor named Thomas Wayne who has a young son, Bruce — and that’s about it. A few callbacks to characters in comic book movies does not make it a comic book movie, although maybe it makes it more marketable. I left thinking it would have been better with no attempt to connect it to the world of comic books, as a character study of a man named Arthur Fleck struggling with mental illness and an uncaring, brutal society divided into the really rich and the really poor. It’s also an interesting exercise in the use of the unreliable narrator.

You never know what’s really happening in the story! It’s told from the point of view of Arthur Fleck, and constantly slips into his fantasies. The woman in the apartment down the hall is his girlfriend…no, she’s not, she’s terrified by him. He’s in the audience of his favorite late night talk show host, and is singled out for praise and brought on stage…no, he’s not, that’s clearly a daydream he’s having. He gets invited to appear on the talk show after his terrible stand up act goes viral…wait, is this a real part of the storyline? Is any of it? The final scene is in Arkham Asylum…is the whole dang movie from start to finish a fantasy playing out in Arthur’s mind?

I like this kind of complicated ambiguity. It keeps me thinking non-stop throughout, and makes me consider seeing it again just to figure out what I missed, and assemble a complete picture of the puzzle. If you’re one of those people who thinks it’s a celebration of incels committing mass murder, you’ve made a very superficial reading of the story. It’s not that, either.

It’s also not about revolution and an underclass rising up to throw off the shackles of the rich, an interpretation one could also make. Arthur is a “hero” in the movie not to a criminal underworld, but to an oppressed majority of working class and poor people living in this grungy hell-hole of a city. They don’t know who he is, he isn’t a leader, he just represents somebody embodying the spirit of one of their signs, “Kill the Rich”. We don’t even know if this is an actual event in the world of the story, or just another wishful thought oozing through Arthur’s head.

I walked out feeling like this is the kind of movie I ought to like, and I sort of did, but the one terrible flaw is that the whole thing is unremittingly discouraging and hopeless. The message is that the world is shit, and it’s even shittier if you’re poor and have a mental illness, and even the wealthy who ought to have it easier are just grim, soulless people who take pleasure in punching down. I guess you could argue that that is all true, and the movie has built an excellent mirror to society. I’d like to be able to imagine one tiny sliver of hope somewhere, though. I guess I’m a bit like Arthur that way.

A new edition of Morris’s own North Star!

Here we go again, another crop of [SATIRE!] wackaloon conservative students here have published their [SATIRE!] alternative newspaper, The North Star. As is their custom, they’ve splattered the cover with the bold declaration that this is [SATIRE!], which only tells me that some of our students have no literary understanding at all. Satire should poke holes in the conventional wisdom and be vaguely interesting, taking the status quo and extrapolating it out to a worrisome conclusion, but this is just a recitation of far right wing talking points with no self awareness at all. Maybe if this were put out by liberal students mocking the right, it could be called satirical…but even at that, it’s clumsy and heavy handed, and not at all entertaining.

The first article is a breakdown of the first amendment to the Constitution. It’s 3 paragraphs that simply restate the words of the amendment, and is [SATIRE!] anodyne, shallow, and boring, written by a [SATIRE!] student who is likewise anodyne, shallow and boring. Fine, keep it up. It’s the highlight.

The second article is intended to welcome freshmen, and warns them about the liberal professors who are going to try and indoctrinate them, makes the usual jokes about “safe spaces” and how conservatives don’t need them, babbles about “victim cards” and “blue hair”, and declares that if you’ve got a penis, you’re a boy, and that there are only two genders. The author is simply an [SATIRE!] ignorant nitwit.

The third article is more insipid reactionary nonsense, trying to explain why politics is treated like a football game. It explains that Obama was one of the most divisive presidents in history, and the Republicans simply elected someone even more divisive, and the Democrats are just as bad. [SATIRE!] Get stuffed, wingnut. That’s just stupid.

The fourth article…oh, boy. It’s titled Dixon’s Tranny Corner, by Dixon. You can guess how bad it is. Being trans is either a mental illness, or you don’t deserve societal support. [SATIRE!] The author is a fuckwit trying to justify their contempt for a minority. They promise to continue this strain of hate speech in future issues.

The fifth article is about feminism. Did you know that many women who claim to be feminists think that having a baby and a career is impossible? True feminists don’t get married or have babies. [SATIRE!] The author really needs to learn what she’s talking about before she opines in a newspaper. [SATIRE!] Ignorance of this caliber ought to be embarrassing.

The final article is about how Tulsi Gabbard is bad because she wants is to reduce military aid to to Israel and withdraw from Middle East hotspots, and that under it all she’s just another far left Democrat like Bernie Sanders. [SATIRE!] He almost convinces me to support her! Then I realize that this isn’t actually satire, it’s just another [SATIRE!] MAGA-hat wearing doofus declaring America Uber Alles.

Sorry, world. I just have to be honest and admit that [SATIRE!] some of our students are goddamned morons.

The Discovery Institute is getting better at shooting themselves in the foot

Abby Hafer has pissed off the Discovery Institute. Good.

Hafer is a professor at Curry College who has done two horrible things: she helped draft a bill for the Massachusetts legislature that would require some rigor in what can be taught in public schools — specifically excluding the use of non-scientific materials for instruction in the classroom — and she has written about the lack of rigor in the Discovery Institute’s propaganda. Uh-oh. That’s a one-two punch that hits the DI right in the gut, so they’ve tried to counter it, ineffectively.

First, they tried to defend their strengths and weaknesses tactic, and claim that the Massachusetts bill weakened academic freedom.

As I’ve noted previously, academic freedom laws are very limited in their scope. They do not authorize bringing in material on intelligent design, nor make teachers teach anything differently. They simply provide freedom for teachers and students to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of controversial scientific issues in the curriculum in an objective fashion. They protect teachers and students who want to engage in scientific inquiry, which means examining evidence critically. If science is defined as investigating nature objectively, then they represent the opposite of “science denial.”

Note the bit I highlighted. There is nothing in the bill against the use of evidence, or critical thinking. To the contrary, it requires that ideas be supported by good fact-based, scientific evidence. The DI claims to support that. The problem is that no one considers the religion-based speculations of Intelligent Design creationism to be either fact-based or scientific.

So what does the Discovery Institute do? They decided to attack the author. They explicitly claimed that Hafer is not a biologist, nor a biology teacher in an article initially titled When non-biologists speak to biology teachers, which is easily discredited by simply looking up her credentials. How lazy are the hacks at the DI? They apparently just assumed that only a non-biologist would ever cooperate with their state legislators, and barreled in, guns blazing. It’s revealing that they’d do so little investigating, a quick googling would have revealed the facts, and further, they’re complaining about an article she published in — get ready for it — The American Biology Teacher, which right there on the front page lists her affiliations: “Dr. Abby Hafer is a Professor at Curry College”. Remarkable. That’s how bad the DI’s “research” is.

Furthermore, all the DI does is fund-raising, lobbying, and the production of propaganda, and they want to complain about an imaginary “non-biologist” trying to dictate to biology teachers? They keep killing irony.

When it was pointed out that their leading claims were trivially false, they hastily changed the title and edited the text to obliterate their stupidities. It is now titled When Biologists Speak to Biology Teachers, Cont.. It’s written by Sarah Chaffee, who is the Program Officer in Education and Public Policy at Discovery Institute, not a biologist. It’s revised to follow an article titled When Biologists Speak to Biology Teachers, no Cont., written by David Klinghoffer, who is also not a biologist. It’s kind of obvious that their preference is to have only non-biologists tell teachers what to do, except when the imaginary non-biologist disagrees with them.

What they’re doing in this edited article is complaining about an article Hafer wrote, titled “No Data Required: Why Intelligent Design Is Not Science”. It’s a straight-forward bit of analysis. She asks a simple question, do the papers promoted by the DI include data and reference evidence, or do they cobble together arguments without presenting supporting data? Here’s the abstract.

Intelligent Design (ID) proposes that biological species were created by an intelligent Designer, and not by evolution. ID’s proponents insist that it is as valid a theory of how biological organisms and species came into existence as evolution by natural selection. They insist, therefore, that ID be taught as science in public schools. These claims were defeated in the Kitzmiller case. However, ID’s proponents are still influential and cannot be considered a spent force. The question addressed here is whether ID’s claim of scientific legitimacy is reinforced by quantified results. That is, do they have any data, or do they just argue? The ID articles that I analyzed claimed to present real science, but they rarely referred to data and never tested a hypothesis. Argumentation, however, was frequent. By contrast, peer-reviewed articles by evolutionary biologists rarely argued but referred frequently to data. The results were statistically significant. These findings negate claims by ID proponents that their articles report rigorous scientific research. Teachers will find this article helpful in defending evolution, distinguishing science from non-science, and discussing the weaknesses of ID.

She contrasted the DI’s “work” with peer-reviewed papers published by real scientists. The DI fails on this simple criterion — they don’t talk about the evidence. They’d rather just say there is doubt and debate, instead of backing up their claims.

Now for the hilarious part: that awkwardly revised DI article simply asserts that Hafer’s claims are wrong, and then to show that she’s got it all wrong, it doesn’t show contrary data — it just says that some scientists question neo-Darwinism! We don’t need no data, all we have to say is that there is a debate.

We know that a significant number of scientists worldwide, such as those who attended the 2016 Royal Society meeting on evolution, question the sufficiency of neo-Darwinism in accounting for biology complexity. Yet don’t tell the biology teachers that! Because they might tell their students, and then, Katie, bar the door!

They also clumsily try to apply Hafer’s methods to a classic peer-reviewed paper in science.

Hafer’s method sounds scientific, maybe. But to see how absurd it is, perform the same analysis on the 1953 article by Watson and Crick describing the structure of DNA. Is the seriousness of this work somehow to be gauged by observing that they use the “argu” root once and “data” three times? No, what matters is what the article actually says.

Except the entirety of the Watson-Crick paper is about presenting their evidence for the structure of DNA, and the DI’s analysis actually supports Hafer’s point, that the words used focus attention on the data, not the arguments, and that their result is entirely congruent with Hafer’s analysis. Just to hammer it home, I had to look up the paper to see how they’re using the word “argument”.

The previously published X-ray data on deoxyribose nucleic acid are insufficient for a rigorous test of our structure. So far as we can tell, it is roughly compatible with the experimental data, but it must be regarded as unproved until it has been checked against more exact results. Some of these are given in the following communications. We were not aware of the details of the results presented there when we devised our structure, which rests mainly though not entirely on published experimental data and stereochemical arguments.

Data, results, results, data, stereochemical arguments. Does the Discovery Institute even realize that in this usage “arguments” is being used to refer to stereochemical structures as evidence for their model of DNA?

Everyone at the Discovery Institute is either a fool or a fraud or both.

What do Erick Erickson, Glenn Beck, Lindsey Graham, L. Brent Bozell III, and so many others have in common?

They were all dedicated never-Trumpers who used terms like “racist”, “fascist”, “immoral”, “charlatan”, “fundamentally dishonest”, and “disgusting” in reference to Donald Trump in 2016, and who are now praising him and telling everyone to vote for him again. In addition to the named hypocrites, throw all of Evangelical Christianity in the sack, along with practically every Republican office holder. Digby doesn’t seem to be able to listen to them anymore, and neither can I.

Watching these people on TV making excuses for Trump and preening before his cult followers is more than I can take these days.

They know what they are doing. They are not rubes being brainwashed by Sean Hannity. And they know very well that Democrats are not an existential threat. With the exception of some of the evangelicals who have been lying their entire lives about who they are and what they care about, this is a calculated career decision based on cowardice.

They aren’t rubes, and we certainly can’t make the excuse that they are “economically distressed”. These are craven liars who are in on the grift.