Keep doing the same thing over and over again

Ha ha ha ha haaa!

At the height of the controversy surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and the revelations that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) bet big on a nationwide joint fundraising tour with her embattled colleague. But new campaign filings show that not only did the gamble not pay off, but that the much-maligned Republicans actually spent four times as much as they raised.

Try harder! You’ve got to spend money to make money!

Since Gaetz and Greene kicked off their joint fundraising committee with a May 7 event at The Villages in central Florida, their campaigns and joint fundraising committee have posted a combined loss of $342,000. And according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, that joint fundraising effort, “Put America First,” reported only $59,345.54 in contributions.

That sort of meager haul would be fine for a dinner or one-time event, but Gaetz and Greene have repeatedly held high-profile events and spent a whopping $287,036.19 to hold them—meaning they’re in the hole by more than $225,000.

Keep digging, you two. I’m sure you can deepen that money pit to at least a million dollars with a little effort.

We don’t want to look frightened, you know

Yesterday I discovered that I am scheduled to teach a course in person in the Fall, as I was putting together my syllabus and organizing my materials for an, I thought, online class. Ooops. I asked the administration if I could instead teach it online; no, they said, the students signed up for a real live genuine classroom experience, so you’re stuck with it. Oh well. At least I’ve got their written denial, which I’ve passed on to my wife, so if I die or am crippled by COVID-19 this year, my heirs will have some legal recourse for restitution.

I am puzzled by how smart people all across the country can make such stupid decisions. As soon as infection rates start declining, they rush to dismantle every decision that made that reduction possible, and woosh, COVID comes roaring back with a new variant, and only after the numbers rocket up again do they start implementing what they should have done all along.

Even the far-right is conceding that vaccinations, at least, are necessary.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, “shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible” and asked that people “ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.” House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, got the vaccine after months of delay and then publicly said, “there shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective.” And Fox News host Sean Hannity, in a widely shared video, declared, it “absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated.” This was treated in the press as an unequivocal endorsement, even though the use of the word “many” was clearly meant to let the Fox News viewers feel like he’s talking about other people getting vaccinated.

That’s from Amanda Marcotte, who points out how superficial this “endorsement” is — they are setting up plausible denial, nothing more, and continuing to promote vaccine denial for their hardcore supporters. They have to have a soundbite on record so that when journalists point out that their bad ideas are killing people, they can pluck that one sentence out to show that, see, it’s not our fault.

All this shows is that GOP politicians and pundits still know how to manipulate the mainstream press’s endless desire to believe the Republicans aren’t really as bad as the #resistance tweeters are saying. But while clips of prominent Republicans saying pro-vaccine stuff might be enough to get the press off their backs — or keep Biden from accusing them of “killing people,” as he did (correctly) to Facebook — it won’t be enough to actually get vaccine-hostile Republican voters to change their minds. Indeed, this should be understood more as a P.R. move to quell press criticism than a sincere effort to get reluctant people to get vaccinated.

Unlike most journalists — who merely watch clips from Fox News, often ones pre-selected for them by the Fox News P.R. team — Matt Gertz at Media Matters and Aaron Rupar at Vox actually put in the miserable work of watching entire shows on the network. And both reported on Tuesday that, despite the hype around Hannity’s viral clip, the overall tenor of Fox News this week has still been that getting the vaccine is a very bad thing that no red-blooded Republican worth his MAGA hat should ever do. Indeed, the out-of-context Hannity clip comes from an episode that was overall anti-vaccine. The Hannity clip “came in the middle of a segment in which he railed against colleges and universities that are requiring their students to get their shots,” Gertz writes. He also points out that Hannity’s show “is bracketed between those of Carlson and Laura Ingraham,” and both of those hosts went hard on the vaccines-are-terrible-and-doctors-are-lying-to-you messaging.

The universities are at least acknowledging that the boat is sinking, which is something, but they’re also telling the crew to get out there and arrange the deck chairs for the evening’s shuffleboard tournament.

I’m also sitting here wondering why I, a supposedly smart person, am just going along with a decision that puts me at greater risk, especially when a safer alternative exists.

Another Minnesota Man story

This Minnesota man doesn’t murder any human beings, instead he just slaughters integrity and reason. From corporate America to conspiracy theory promotion: How a Minnesota man made a career out of anonymously amplifying dark plots.

Sean G. Turnbull displays many of the hallmarks of a successful upper-middle-class family man, a former film producer and marketing manager for one of the country’s largest retail corporations who lives in a well-appointed home in this Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb. Former colleagues describe him as smart, affable and family-oriented.

But for more than a decade, the 53-year-old has also pursued a less conventional path: anonymously promoting conspiracy theories about dark forces in American politics on websites and social media accounts in a business he runs out of his home. His audience numbers are respectable and his ad base is resilient, according to corporate records and interviews.

Turnbull has identified himself online for 11 years only as “Sean from SGT Reports.” He has amassed a substantial following while producing videos and podcasts claiming that the 9/11 attacks were a “false flag” event, that a “Zionist banker international cabal” is plotting to destroy Western nations, that coronavirus vaccines are an “experimental, biological kill shot” and that the 2020 election was “rigged” against President Donald Trump, according to a Washington Post review.

I still wouldn’t respect or like him, but I think he’d be a better man if he’d merely tossed someone in a woodchipper, rather than making a lucrative career out of misleading the public.

He quit his former job and is doing this propaganda full time! He just sits there and writes absurd lies and is making good money, too.

For years, Turnbull’s operation has generated revenue through subscriptions and donations and by advertising survival products and precious metals, which Turnbull has recommended as a hedge against an impending U.S. economic collapse, the Post review found. He reported that his business was generating between $50,000 and $250,000 annually in 2019, according to a voluntary business survey he answered and submitted to the Minnesota secretary of state that year.

Jesus. We’re doing everything all wrong. Would you all mind if we started advertising buckets of freeze-dried food and gold ingots here on Freethoughtblogs? After all, how are you going to survive the climate apocalypse and the global pandemic without a handy supply of precious metals in your mattress?

I am really curious about these products. Late night television commercials, far right websites, and televangelist programming all push those same two things: survivalist products and precious metals. Why? Is it because their market is all about fear, and these are the things they want, or is it because there is such a high markup and low inventory demand to tap into these things? Are there alternatives that would be equally profitable without filling such a loony niche, and if so, why isn’t anyone exploiting them?

OK, I guess porn is one such alternative.

So many layers…who would have thought AiG could be this sophisticated?

Look at this cartoon. Look at it!

The multi-dimensional wrongness blew my mind. But you know I’m going to have to take it apart, no matter what demons from the pain dimension respond to my provocation.

Let’s start at the top. The Frankenstein’s-monster-headed person is complaining about the hypocrisy of groups imposing their beliefs on others. As examples, he cites:

  • Transgender laws for restrooms: Transgender activists aren’t imposing their beliefs on anyone, they just want the right to pee in private, as I’m sure those Christians also would like. It’s the anti-trans people and Christian lobbyists who want to impose chromosome checks or genital checks or who knows what else on people’s privilege of being able to enter a personal private space for personal private activities.
  • Gay couples suing bakers: Again, these are gay people who just want to buy a cake, like everyone else, who are being denied a common privilege by Christians using the excuse that it’s against their religion to treat one group of citizens differently than another group of citizens.
  • Evolution taught as fact: Right. Because it is. We’d just like to teach the best available explanations with the best available evidence; it’s Christians who have leapt into the fray insisting that we teach bad explanations with no credible evidence to students. I’m afraid that’s what we’re supposed to do in a science class, and it is not acceptable to insert your religious biases and opinions into these kinds of classes. You’ll notice that scientists are not imposing their beliefs on what you get to teach in Sunday school, it’s always the reverse, Christians trying to dictate the content of science classes.
  • Feminist activists marching: How dare women expect equal rights?

What makes this cartoon particularly twisted is that they’re the ones causing problems for everyone else by insisting we must obey their freaky weird rules about gender, sexuality, and science, and all of the things they’re complaining about are people resisting their dominion.

The caption is also fascinating. I agree that standing for a particular belief is obviously in conflict with other beliefs that are in opposition. This idea does put the cartoon in an interesting light, because it means that believing that the things listed are bad makes their opposition clear. So this creepy blockheaded Christian is against equal rights for transgender human beings, is against gay couples loving each other, is against science, and is against women having the same rights as men.. Fine. He just has to acknowledge that opposing those things requires that he impose his beliefs — not his facts, not his evidence — on others.

That last sentence is a killer. The implication is that Jesus stands with their beliefs, not with the oppressed transgender or gay people, and not with the nature of the universe. Yet there are many Christians who are pro-trans rights and gay rights, and who want their kids taught good science, and see no conflict between that and their mythical savior who served the poor and oppressed. Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s almost as though blockheaded Christians are kind of ridiculous for appropriating that particular figurehead.

Oooh, I seem to have worked my way through the puzzle box. A mysterious man suddenly stands in front of me. “Hey, you don’t look like Jesus! Who are you?”

Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.

My kind of guy. Let’s go.

Creeping Christianism everywhere

Welp, the good news is that the small town of Morris has a shiny new store, The Homestead. It’s a small big box store that has moved into the location of the old Pamida.

The bad news: it’s run by the conservative apostolic sect that infests this area.

The good news: we walked over to check it out today, and it’s nice and clean and has a fairly good selection. They’re also installing a modern-looking coffee shop, which I think will open by September. This is welcome news, since I haven’t been happy with the Common Cup Coffeehouse in town (also run by churches, goddamnit), because their wifi only works for me about a quarter of the time.

The worstest, most horrible news: they play Christian church muzak nonstop. My eyes, ears, nose, and other orifices were all leaking blood after 5 minutes in the store, and my epithelia were delaminating and the cells dissociating. I might have erupted in flame if I’d stayed longer.

Bottom line: I don’t think they’ll get much of my business. They’ll probably do fine without me.

Minnesota Man?

Wait, wait, wait — we all know what to expect in a headline beginning “Florida Man”. It’s going to be a story about someone doing something incredibly, unbelievably stupid. It’s a trope.

So what do expect from Minnesota Man?

Apparently it’s grisly murder. Bonus points for stories combining Minnesota man and woodchipper. It’s not fair — the wood chipper murderer was in Connecticut.

OK, this one has no woodchipper, but it does have dismemberment and attempts to hide the body in Lake Superior. Good plan, after all, since

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

Unfortunately, Minnesota Man miscalculated and dumped the body in June, rather than November, and Gitch Gumee gladly up-chucked evidence of the crime.

On July 15, the fisherman met with agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and helped them find the area where he saw West drop the buckets. Authorities found one of the buckets and a tote, according to the complaint.

In the tote, agents discovered a male human torso that appeared to have suffered a bullet wound. Also in the bag was a pair of pants and a casino player’s card belonging to Balsimo.

I just want you to know that Minnesota Man stories are not typical of the residents of this fine state, most of whom have not committed multiple murders with mutilation of the bodies.

Florida Man stories, though, are totally representative.

Fire the coach

Tell me if this looks familiar.

I grew up in a conservative environment in Central Texas. I played high school football. I went to an evangelical church in my late teens (where, unsurprisingly, my political views were not warmly received). And I served in the military — and not just in the military but in the testosterone-saturated U.S. Army Infantry.

No! It doesn’t! This is opposite-me. I grew up in a liberal household in the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t play football, I didn’t go to church, and I didn’t join the military. But this is a piece by Charlotte Clymer, who is pissed off at this terrible PE coach in Virginia who insists he won’t recognize his students’ choice of pronouns, because it is against his religion

Leaving aside the fact that the discussion of transgender people in the Bible is quite murky (and rather fascinating)—and thus, as more than a few social conservatives have admitted to me, it’s unclear being transgender is a so-called “sin”—we’re still left with a public employee charged with the welfare of children stating before God and Creation that he refuses to treat certain children with respect and dignity. That, in fact, is abusive.

So what’s familiar? This:

And without fail, men like Tanner Cross would—in some way, shape, or form—call me a girl. They weren’t just the first people to call me a girl. They were the only people to call me a girl or woman before I came out.

Like my 8th grade football coach who really loved calling us “ladies” during practice.

Like my freshman football coach who never seemed to tire of telling us that we “hit like girls” if he felt we weren’t going at full speed.

Like the assistant football coach during my junior year of high school who, on more than a few occasions, said some choice words about how we should try out for the girls volleyball team instead. Oh, and this mocking inquiry toward one of my teammates: “Did your mother teach you how to throw?”

Like during minute one of hour one of day one in basic training when I heard a drill sergeant scream at all of us to “get the sand out of your pussies”. And that was probably one of the more tame things I heard along these lines during my time in the military.

Yes, all those sports movies where male coaches yell at their players with some flavor of misogynistic “encouragement”? Those scenes are based in reality.

I heard that all my life in male environments, and that’s to say nothing of the numerous ways in which society communicates to boys that they shouldn’t cry, shouldn’t appear weak, be the “man of the house”, etc.

Oh yeah. It took me a while to consciously realize it, but public school physical education was all about terrible human beings put in charge of young kids for a few hours a day, where they were committed to indoctrinating us in toxic masculinity and constantly abusing us to make us tough. Coach would call us “pussies”, “fags”, “girls”, “ladies”, “girly boys”, and comment on the contents of our jock strap while doing daily inspections of said jock straps. It was several years of state-sponsored indoctrination that was highly effective, and many of my peers gladly adopted that language and attitude. I could escape Coach fairly easily, but not all my fellow teenagers who echoed that nonsense.

You know, I kind of suspect that one of the primary tools for perpetuating poisonous versions of masculinity is that our schools have a habit of hiring macho assholes like this guy, Tanner Cross. Our communities, perhaps especially in Texas, consider sports to be the whole purpose of an education, and to that end, they “need” tough guys to kick the kids into shape. All they accomplish, though, is to turn a majority of kids away from athletics.

Fire that guy. Or should I say, cancel Tanner Cross. He’s a bad teacher.

How stupid do they think we are?

Answers in Genesis is advertising heavily, but all of the ads I’ve seen miss the mark…or undermine their point. I was sent this link to their evangelism show, which is apparently shown at the Ark Park itself, in one of their rooms with a screen. You don’t need to watch it, I’ll explain what’s in it (at least, the first three quarters, before I gave up in disgust).

Ada, a British woman who works as a journalist for the Progressive Independent Tabloid (PIT) in New York, hates her job. She is sent, with a film crew, to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky — she is not happy about it. The first bit of the video is all about setting her up as a cynical, jaded person who is not impressed by anything. When they arrive, she is interviewing the general manager, who is, in contrast, constantly smiling and optimistic and cheerful. He gives his standard spiel. The Ark replica is really big, and it’s all about bringing God’s word, and…she keeps interrupting him to say she doesn’t want to hear all this, she wants to know about how taxes were used to fund the monstrosity. He says they weren’t (they were), and finally says he’ll stop preaching at her and will show her what it’s all about. So they go inside.

They go into a big empty room with a screen on the wall. Let me just say this is what the whole Ark thing is about — it’s really big and there’s a huge amount of empty space. This part is representative of the whole Ark experience. It’s a great big wooden box with very little content, and everyone spends a lot of time telling you how big it is, as if that should impress you and make you believe in God.

So they go into an empty theater after the reporter expresses her exasperation at the general manager’s preachiness, and they play a movie at her. And the move is…Ray Comfort preaching at the audience, with the familiar, boring Ray Comfort schtick (“Have you ever told a lie?” etc.) Unbelievably, it works, she becomes a convert, sheds her cynicism, and nods along with the general manager, and I threw up my hands and turned off the 25 minute long commercial. Ken Ham must think his potential audience are all a bunch of gullible dumbasses. He might be right.

The other thing I’m seeing a lot of suddenly are YouTube ads for the Ark Park — and I should have warned you, if you watch that terrible video, YouTube will start feeding these things to you (jesus, but I fucking hate the “algorithm”). These are 15 second clips featuring an animated cartoon giraffe who is very enthusiastic about visiting the big wooden box. That’s all they ever show you, that the talking giraffe thinks the Ark is really big. They have shots of him posed in the interior, and it really hammers home the impression that it is a really big wooden box with very little in it.

I don’t know how this advertising works. It’s like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, and sure, if I were passing by I might stop by out of curiosity, but this particular odd roadside attraction will charge you a hundred dollars to park and go inside, and once you’re there, a recording of Ray Comfort will yammer at you about Jesus.

Don’t go. Worst vacation destination ever.

An accurate summary of the space-billionaire pathology

I agree with this summary.

What’s more, the global economic system is rigged so that a guy like Bezos can become a hundred-billionaire while profiting off the labor of over a million employees, some working for poverty wages, who piss in bottles to meet quotas and sometimes die at work. Meanwhile, the activities of the corporations that create these billionaires are ravaging the only habitable planet we’ve got. But because our neo-feudal lords have sold us on a science-fiction fantasy, many look up to them as heroes rather than decrying their obscene and ill-gotten wealth.

Also, this:

Assholes…in spaaaaace.