Y’all are reading the wrong book

I finished Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House a while back. It was an entertaining soap opera, dishing out the scorn for Trump, but ultimately, it was just kind of like familiar, comforting pop music, where everything is predictable, you already know all the words, and you’re later going to recollect it as an annoying earworm.

Last night I finished a much better book: David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. It’s better written, and it has a more powerful focus. Instead of gossiping about that deplorable scamp in the White House, it’s all about the deplorable electorate that put him there: the right-wing militias that freely trample on the law, the fanatics who cover their cars with slogans, the thugs who are thrilled with Trump’s tacit endorsement of violence against brown people, the Nazis who were orgasming over his election. Wolff’s book makes our current situation seem like an aberration driven by a few horrible people; Neiwert’s tells us that no, there’s something rotten lurking in the heart of America that is making Republican criminality possible.

One book’s message implies that all we need to do is get rid of a few clowns at the top, and the True America will come shining through. The other tells you that the True America has a lot of human infrastructure that needs repair. It sure would be nice if all of our problems could be embodied in one gibbering orange hemorrhoid that could be neatly excised from the body politic, but you know deep down that that is not true. Maybe you should read a book that confronts the realities of our situation.

FOOBAWL

The other day, an event occurred that rocked the entire state of Minnesota. I wondered why Twitter and Facebook went briefly insane.

I have a few observations.

Vikings fans are a godly people. I lost track of how often people would shriek out the name of the Lord.

There sure are a lot of people who wear that Vikings purple. I guess that’s OK. It’s a nice dramatic color. I’d wear it if it didn’t immediately label me a Vikings fan.*

Why do so many people record themselves watching TV? Is there a family member who is coolly ironic, watching with a sense of detachment, who knows that Uncle Joe is pretty much guaranteed to go amusingly apeshit at some point in a football game?

This is a game the Vikings were losing until the final few seconds, when there was an amazing pass and run for a touchdown (I was impressed, even). Does that mean that the coolly ironic person with the camera was watching Uncle Joe in anticipation of seeing him break down and cry? Because that puts a cruel twist on these videos.

Were they disappointed when Uncle Joe was instead gushingly overjoyed? Or did a Grinch scenario play out here? If so, we need people to start recording people who are recording people watching football games.

I am not a football fan, and I wasn’t watching the game in real time. But now I’m thinking it might actually be entertaining if there were a sports show that specialized in only showing the last 30 seconds of games. Games with dramatic conclusions like that one would be rare, with most just ending with a buzzer and one team walking off the field dispiritedly, but that would be true to the games, too, and you wouldn’t have to wade through 3 hours of bother to find out who wins.

*You can look up the official hex codes for the colors here, or the Pantone numbers, in case you want to go buy a bucket of house paint in those colors.

Mary’s Monday Metazoan, for real: Turtles are achieving the feminist ideal!

It’s true. 99% of the hatching Pacific Green Sea Turtles are female, thanks to rising temperatures, since sex determination is temperature dependent in these species.

Will the feminization of the oceans be the change that finally persuades Republicans to do something?

PS. Feminists don’t really want to get rid of males. Well, not all of them. Not all of the time.

Genes are not a justification for racism

David Colquhoun opines on that disgraceful eugenics conference at UCL. It’s all good, but I just want to single out this part, with its useful links:

Recently some peope have demanded that the names of Galton and Pearson should be expunged from UCL.

There would be a case for that if their 19th century ideas were still celebrated, just as there is a case for removing statues that celebrate confederate generals in the southern USA.  Their ideas about measurement and statistics are justly celebrated. But their ideas about eugenics are not celebrated.

On the contrary, it is modern genetics, done in part by people in the Galton lab, that has shown the wrongness of 19th century views on race. If you want to know the current views of the Galtan lab, try these.  They could not be further from Thompson’s secretive pseudoscience.

Steve Jones’ 2015 lecture “Nature, nurture or neither: the view from the genes”,

or “A matter of life and death: To condemn the study of complex genetic issues as eugenics is to wriggle out of an essential debate".

Or check the writing of UCL alumnus, Adam Rutherford: “Why race is not a thing, according to genetics”,

or, from Rutherford’s 2017 article

“We’ve known for many years that genetics has profoundly undermined the concept of race”

“more and more these days, racists and neo-Nazis are turning to consumer genetics to attempt to prove their racial purity and superiority. They fail, and will always fail, because no one is pure anything.”

“the science that Galton founded in order to demonstrate racial hierarchies had done precisely the opposite”

Or read this terrific account of current views by Jacob A Tennessen “Consider the armadillos".

These are accounts of what geneticists now think. Science has shown that views expressed at the London Intelligence Conference are those of a very small lunatic fringe of pseudo-scientists. But they are already being exploited by far-right politicians.

It would not be safe to ignore them.

Exactly. Remember this when the people calling themselves “race realists” or “scientific racists” try to tell you that they’re arguing on the side of science. They’re not. The scientific consensus is clear, and if you talk to credible geneticists or anthropologists or social scientists, they’ll all tell you that the claims of consistent racial distinctions in behavior or psychology or physiology are pretty much a load of hooey contrived to justify bigotry.

I’ve totally lost track of how many ‘strands’ are in DNA

I’ve been exposed to Judith Kusel, and now I am so confused. You might be wondering who Judith Kusel is, so here’s her own summary.

Judith is a Visionary, Inspirational Writer, Pyramid Crystalline Grid Activator and Soul Empowerment Consultant. She is a remarkable and awe-inspiring woman, who has the ability to tap into the cosmic Super-consciousness fields and to bring forth the Ancient Cosmic knowledge.

Obviously, a totally trustworthy source.

Anyway, I’m trying to figure out one simple point that she often brings up: what is a DNA strand, and how many of them are there? Usually when we talk about DNA strands, we’re referring to the sugar-phosphate backbone and attached nucleotides, so we can say that DNA in a cell is double-stranded, when we talk about genes we can say one strand is the template strand and the other is the sense strand, etc. In that context we can say that DNA is made up of two strands, and sometimes one.

But Ms Kusel thinks we have 12.

We are now, eing [sic] slowly but surely awakened to the TRUTH OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE. As the Higher Frequency Rays are now being added and with is our 12 strand DNA, we are going to shedding more and more of the OLD WAYS, ACTING, THINKING, and BEING… as these simply do not serve our HIGHER PURPOSE ANYMORE.

No, wait, it’s 13.

It has been scientifically proven that the new children, being born since 2007, have been born with 13-strand DNA, which means that they will have far greater abilities than we have ever had.

I’d also like to know what she means by “scientifically proven”, but let’s just focus on a single question right now.

If we have 12 or 13 strands, how can you activate strands #24 and #36?

There are immense changes coming to Planet Earth and her people within the next few weeks and months. Inherently this is because the Platinum, Emerald, Ruby and Diamond Rays as well as the Crystal Clear ones, are now opening up the cell memory banks, as the new DNA strands are being activated – 12, 24 and 36. This means there is far more which is going on inside the human physical, emotional, spiritual and mental bodies than the naked eyes can sense of see.

I think you can understand my problem here. I think what we need is for Ms Kusel to draw the chemical structure of these multiply-stranded DNA molecules so we can more clearly see what she’s talking about.

It might also help explain how a galaxy can have DNA.

Most of those in the royal families intermarried – or brother and sisters married in order to keep the frequencies and vibrations in their inherent DNA and cell structures clear – mostly because of the planet or Galaxy that they came from – bearing in mind that each Galaxy has its own DNA encoded with its own type of vibration.

I mostly want to be able to smugly tell those smarty-pants astronomers that hah, their field is just a minor subdiscipline of biology. I know because a Pyramid Crystalline Grid Activator tells me so.

Erasing women from media

Someone has made a de-feminized version of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Why? I don’t know. There are people who enjoy making fan-edits of popular movies, but this one…its sole explicit purpose is to remove women from it, to remove and minimize central characters simply because they’re women. I guess the motivation has to have been that he resents the autonomy of half the population of the planet, and also has a lot of bigoted opinions about women.

It’s very strange. There are people out there who just hate other people for their sex and sexuality. It’s a sad sick world with people like that in it.

Here are the editor’s change notes. They say so much about him.

The Last Jedi: De-Feminized Fanedit (aka The Chauvinist Cut)

Specs: 1280×720, x264, 46 minutes, MP3 2.0 audio

Basically The Last Jedi minus Girlz Powah and other silly stuff.

It would probably be easier to make a list of things that were kept instead of things that were changed. Hardly any scene got away without cuts.

The resulting movie is (wait for it …) 46 minutes long.

Yeah I know, it’s not ideal. It’s made from a CAM source (the most recent HDTC one with the Asian hard subs, which is pretty watchable). It has issues. But it had to be done.

You will probably enjoy it most when you view it less as a blockbuster movie and more as some kind of episode from some non-existent mediocre Star Wars series.

Here’s a short rundown of changes (spoilers! full list in description.txt):
– No whiny/reluctant/murderous psycho Luke.
– NO HALDO! She simply doesn’t exist. Her whole subplot doesn’t exist. The Kamikaze is carried out by Poe. ( = Poe dies.)
– Leia never scolds, questions nor demotes Poe.
– Lea dies. Kylo kills her.
– Kylo is more badass and much less conflicted and volatile.
– Kylo takes on more of Snoke’s guards, Rey struggles with a single one.
– No bomber heroism by china girl in the beginning.
– No Canto Bight.
– No superpowered Rey.
– Luke is not a semi-force-ghost and is smashed by the first laser cannon shot. (sorry, I just had to!)
– Phasma is finished after the first blow by Finn. (Women are naturally weaker than men, she isn’t force-sensitive, and we know nothing about any exo-skeleton in her suit)
– Asian chick speaks less, doesn’t bully Finn, Finn doesn’t try to escape, she is never formally introduced. She is just there and occasionally smiles at Finn or screams “Finn!”. She has no sister. Serves her right for all the heinous stuff she did.
– Lots of little cuts reducing the number of female facial shots. Too many to count. (Pun intended.)
– Quite a few scenes rearranged so that the flow of the shortened movie is still somewhat coherent.

Obviously it’s far from perfect. The source is not even on DVD-level. Some of the technical edits were slacked because why not, it’s a CAM source (e.g. some masks and Snoke disappearing). Sometimes there’s an extreme zoom despite the mediocre quality. There are plotholes and continuity errors and some cuts are not as smooth as they should be, especially audio transition-wise. But for what it’s worth, it can now at least be viewed without feeling nauseaus about most of the terrible big and small decisions they made in this film. Also, at least the intro sequence is now very watchable and actually much cooler without all of Leia’s nitpicking. Now it’s all one united Resistance fighting without inner conflict and that’s much more satisfying to watch. Due to the extreme shortening, the whole movie is much more fast-paced now, at times unfortuantely also rushed due to a lack of usable filler footage

There’s also the implicit racism (“china girl”, “Asian chick”). I guess he actually hates a lot more than just half the planet.

Guys. Guys. You should be terrified of this new development.

You know all these accusations emerging about how famous (or not so famous) men are harassing and abusing and ignoring boundaries and being world-class jerkoffs? Some of you are not being dissuaded at all. I’m suspecting that you might be thinking that being an inconsiderate ass is kind of macho, or maybe you’re just oblivious to the idea that trampling all over a woman’s dignity is a bad thing. Welp, you ought to read this explicit,
detailed description of a bad date with Aziz Ansari
. She spills the beans about everything. It’s very TMI.

But here’s the deal. Yes, this woman is explaining how Ansari ignored all of her requests to stop, from gentle hints to clear “NO”s, and awkward attempts to extricate herself from the ‘date’. But again, maybe you don’t care about her desires. But here’s what ought to stop you cold, even if you are a card-carrying member of the MRA/caveman/gorilla school of sexual encounters.

Grace reveals, in cringe-inducing detail, that Aziz Ansari is bad at sex. Clumsy, bumbling, childishly-demanding, needy, with weird quirky behaviors that no one wants to hear about. She doesn’t do it in a vindictive way, either: she’s just objectively reporting what Ansari tries to do on a hot date.

Your performance is being evaluated by outspoken women who won’t be shy about broadcasting everything to the whole wide world. Especially if you’re incapable of respecting them.

Bad Canada, good Canada

Tonight, the CBC is showing a ‘documentary’ called Ice Bridge.

CBC’s science show The Nature of Things is set to air a documentary that purports to prove the first humans in the New World came across the ocean from Europe and not, as most scientists think, via a land bridge from Asia.

It’s about the Solutrean hypothesis. As you might guess from the description, it’s part of that old school of anthropological thought that tries to claim that Europe is the wellspring of all human progress, spreading outward to bring enlightenment, or at least better weapons, to the more barbarous regions of the world. It’s not impossible that some ancient Europeans, painting themselves blue with woad and bundled up in furs while waving pointy sticks, might have stumbled across arctic ice to Iceland and Greenland and then to North America, but it was damned unlikely. “Not impossible” is insufficient argument to support an idea, however; I suppose it’s also not impossible that little green men landed in England and helped the druids erect Stonehenge with their anti-gravity rays. I’m going to insist on more evidence than pointing and saying, “Well, that’s a mighty big big rock, innit? It’s heavy. How else would the Druids have lifted it? Magic? Hur hur hur.”

This idea that Solutreans from Europe actually colonized and spread across the Americas before Asians got there is of similar quality. It is based entirely on flint tools found in America having a resemblance to flint tools found in Europe. That’s it. The key thing is that Solutrean tools were made by pressure flaking rather than just bashing rocks together — a technique in which you use, for instance, a bit of antler to apply controlled pressure to the edge of a flint tool and snap off smaller flakes, allowing more precision in shaping. Apparently Asians and Indians were incapable of figuring this out.

But there is nothing else to support the Solutrean hypothesis.

There is, for example, no evidence of Solutrean seafaring, and no evidence of their cave art in North America, which would be unusual for a people known for the elaborately painted Cave of Altamira in Spain. There have also been no discoveries in North America of Solutrean human remains. It is just as possible that the American flint blades that look Solutrean were made by ancient Native Americans, and the similarity is just coincidence, or that the blades are not as old as they appear.

Still, the CBC documentary sympathetically casts the two main advocates of this fringe theory as brave resisters against a blinkered scientific orthodoxy. They will “never give up searching for the truth,” says narrator David Suzuki.

It sounds like a miserably bad documentary with a skewed perspective that promotes a couple of fringe scientists. Shame on you, Canada. But at the same time I’m finding this out via Canada’s National Post, a newspaper that leans conservative, and that article isn’t at all shy about pointing out the huge problems with this ‘documentary’.

One major issue is that, while there is no evidence to support it, it is fervently supported by racists, a concern that the documentary actively avoids, while the National Post article discusses it.

One prominent example is the book White Apocalypse by Kyle Bristow, which fictionalizes the theory with a story about the “Solutrean Liberation Front” and their modern-day battles, and argues that ancient Solutreans were exterminated in North America by more recent migrants of Asian background — the ancestors of modern Native Americans.

Paul Fromm, a leading Canadian white supremacist organizer, called the book a “soaring inspirational dramatization of our people taking our continent back from the Third World invaders.”

It is “extremely irresponsible” for the scientists to keep pushing their own lifelong passion in this racist context, Moreno-Mayar said. He mentioned online discussion of the “outdated” Solutrean theory.

“It’s crazy horrible what you see there. You see basically all of these racist ideas that are justifying colonialism, and justifying this super racist way of thinking,” he said. “Most people supporting this are associated with this racist way of thinking, that Native Americans are not really Native Americans.”

The new documentary does not address the issue of racism at all. Bicknell said she was aware of it, but did not address it because she “didn’t want to give it a lick of airspace… It’s just such crap.”

White nationalists love to justify European genocide of the Indians by claiming that they did it first — we were just getting even for all the Imaginary White People slaughtered by Imaginary Barbarous Red Hordes. See also the mythology of the Book of Mormon for further examples. All it’s based on is superficial similarity of some stone tools and several hundred years of White European bias. It is grossly irresponsible of the documentary to bury this association, because you know the show is going to be used by the kinds of ignorant people who get all their information from TV to rationalize further bigotry.

And worst of all, the Solutrean hypothesis is contradicted by the genetic evidence. Not only is the hypothesis built on froth and fantasy and bigotry, it goes against the massive amounts of solid evidence that shows that the native peoples of the Americas are descended from Asian ancestors.