Every state has a little Florida Man in it. In Wenatchee, Washington, Cameron Wilson was carrying a gun in his front pocket — we’re already in the territory of Bad Ideas — when it went off and sent a bullet ripping through his testicles.
Upon arriving at the hospital, a doctor was operating on the gunshot wound when a balloon of marijuana slipped out of Wilson’s anus, court records show, according to the report.
I grew up in the lush, cosmopolitan, progressive Western side of Washington, and it’s terrible to say, but Mr Wilson is representative of how we saw the Eastern half of the state, which was the domain of conservative ranchers, feral teenagers, and a thriving drug trade. And now, there’s a proposal to split Washington in two! It makes sense at a cultural level — East and West are very different places — but it makes no sense at all that Eastern Washington would want it. They’d lose all the economic benefits of sharing resources with the wealthy Puget Sound region, and they’d no longer be able to check the more progressive policies that come out of Seattle. They’d be a poor, arid, politically weak rump of a state.
Worse, the proposal is coming from Matt Shea, a Christian Identitarian who wants to wage Biblical war on sodomites, atheists, communists, and heretical Christians (“Biblical war” means, to him, killing any man who resists and taking their women and children as slaves), and who was divorced for spousal abuse, and who organized and led a hate group in Spokane. He’s completely wackaloony.
Shea claims his breakaway state of Liberty would rival Texas in prosperity. Except, or course, that Eastern Washington lacks oil or a seaport or much of anything in the way of industry or trade. They do have cows. And sagebrush. Pretty scenery. Rocks.
Oh, and real estate and a massive nuclear waste site.
And though Liberty would have far fewer people, it would gain national political clout and rival or surpass many other Western states in population and wealth. It would be larger than Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. It would continue to capture billions of federal dollars to clean up the Hanford nuclear site.
It’s also populated with people who shoot their balls off. The kind of people who would vote for Matt Shea.
“Our purpose is to disrupt people’s routine, and disrupt their peace,” coalition leader Brandi Grayson said. “Because racism is very inconvenient for people who have to live with it in their day-to-day life, whether in school or in work. It’s very inconvenient. And it’s very disruptive. So we, in a sense, want to give people a glimpse of that.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos suggested Monday that teachers hold demonstrations over issues such as compensation during “adult time” so they don’t cause harm to students by disrupting educational hours.
“I think it’s important that adults have adult disagreements on adult time, and that they not ultimately hurt kids in the process,” DeVos said when asked if she supported teacher strikes at the Education Writers Association national seminar in Baltimore, according to The Associated Press.
Well, you see, Betsy, if they don’t disrupt the work you are paying them poorly to do, you won’t feel any incentive to change their working conditions…ah, Christ. No one’s going to get through to that dimbulb. But the point is to wake people up to the vital work they’re doing, not to make continued neglect easy.
There are two kinds of people out there. The ones who won’t cross a picket line, or will get out of their car to join a Black Lives Matter protest, and the complacent ones who are more outraged at a 15 minute delay in getting to The Gap or having to make arrangements to accommodate keeping the kids at home (which can be a difficult sacrifice, I will admit), then they are at endemic racism or that teachers have to pay out of pocket to buy supplies to teach their kids.
Now the complacent ones have got a new complaint. People are throwing milkshakes at fascists, bigots, white ethnostate advocates, neo-Nazis, and preening political assholes. Oh, dear. Suddenly they have discovered a sense of empathy for white fascists that they never had for their victims.
Seth Andrews is unhappy with this development. It’s childish to act against scum.
The guy who is really over the top is Sam Harris, who sees these as practice runs for assassinations.
Harris, of course, is the guy who wouldn’t go anywhere without a security team, who’d show up for conferences with armed burly guys in the wings; even when he flew to Australia, he had a security guard escort him on the plane. It was comical. That was at a time when I was getting daily death threats in my mail, was showing up for events without fear, and Mr Paranoid needed a big man with a gun to keep him safe. You know, Richard Dawkins was showing up at these conferences sans bullet-proof vest and a SWAT team, and he was always a far bigger target than Harris.
For years, people who write about the dangers of the right have been belittled as “keyboard warriors”, myself included. I could easily write ten thousand words about the villainy of fascism, and be mocked for not actually doing anything that these vermin would care about — they’ll continue on their merry, vicious way no matter how many pleading op-eds beg them to stop, or exhort opponents to vote. But let a few people rise up and actually piss off a bigot, let them act to express their righteous anger, and suddenly a subset of the people who profess sentiments in favor of the Left are whining, piously deploring that matters have escalated and decrying action.
Too late. The escalation occurred when Nazis marched, chanting anti-semitic slogans and appearing on the news calmly calling for genocide, and when they used clubs, guns, and vehicles to injure and kill protesters. That was when we needed violence to be stopped. Now is when public condemnation has to be loud and undeniable, when those who foster violence need to be shamed and exposed, by people who also reject the use of violence. A thrown milkshake is an effective tool to denounce the monsters in our midst.
What these critiques misunderstand is why milkshaking is so potent against Farage and his brethren: It humiliates them. Nothing animates the far right or shapes its worldview quite so much as the desire to humiliate others—and the fear of being humiliated themselves. It’s why alt-right trolls, projecting their own sexual insecurities, enjoy calling their opponents “cucks.” It’s why they rally around blustery authoritarian figures like Donald Trump who cast themselves as beyond embarrassment, shame, or ridicule. They brandish humiliation like a weapon while craving release from it.
Getting doused in a milkshake robs far-right figures of the air of chauvinistic invulnerability that they spend so much time cultivating. They hunger to be taken seriously despite their racist views. They want to be described as dapper, to be interviewed on evening news broadcasts and weekend talk-show panels, and to be seen as a legitimate participant in the democratic process. Most politicians to the left of Enoch Powell would brush off milkshaking as a harmless stunt. For those seeking mainstream legitimacy, it’s another searing reminder that they don’t belong.
It’s also not dismissable as mere virtue signaling, because smearing bad people with dairy products has a cost: the fascists come with thugs who will beat you bloody, and it does have legal repercussions. The people who stand up and embarrass these dangerous extremists are goddamn heroes, as are the protesters who walk out and block freeway traffic for a cause, or the union members who sacrifice their livelihood to better the lives of their comrades.
The people who clutch their pearls and whimper at the effrontery of defying the status quo, on the other hand, are goddamn useless cowards.
The video compares one car driving in traffic to a specific destination, with a Tesla driving through a specially built tunnel with no traffic to the same destination. We are supposed to be impressed that the car on a solitary dedicated path won.
Yes, for those keeping score, in a mere two years we’ve gone from a futuristic vision of electric skates zooming around a variety of vehicles in a network of underground tunnels to—and I cannot stress this enough—a very small, paved tunnel that can fit one (1) car.
The video’s marketing conceit is that the car in the tunnel beats a car trying to go the same distance on roads. You’ll never believe this, but the car that has a dedicated right of way wins. Congratulations to The Boring Company for proving dedicated rights of way are important for speedy transportation, something transportation planners figured out roughly two centuries ago. I’m afraid for how many tunnels they’ll have to dig before they likewise acknowledge the validity of induced demand.
He has apparently scaled down his vision of a high speed “hyperloop” to just this, a car in a fixed, unidirectional tube. It’s kind of like mass transit, except they’ve dropped the “mass” part — everyone gets their own personal subway tunnel.
Man, he’s like a super-duper megagenius or something.
We’re getting close. This week I’m training some students (and myself) in spider classification, and then the week after we’re going to start charging into local residences to sample spider populations, with the goal of getting an estimate of the distribution of synanthropic species and making a baseline measurement of how their numbers change over the summer. So today I’m making signs that we’ll hang up around town to get volunteers.
I’ll be curious to see if my phone starts ringing madly or if I get nothing but silence — I don’t expect a lot of enthusiasm in the community for someone finding spiders in their homes, but maybe they’ll be curious. If I get no response, my backup plan is to show up in some neighborhoods and do some good old-fashioned door knocking.
This isn’t the only project I’ll have going this summer — we’re also going to do some laboratory work with developing P. tepidariorum. Anyway, I’m about to get busy.
Ark Encounter, which unveiled the 510-foot-long model in 2016, says that heavy rains in 2017 and 2018 caused a landslide on its access road, and its five insurance carriers refused to cover nearly $1 million in damages.
In a 77-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Ark Encounter asks for compensatory and punitive damages.
A million dollars in damages…I think maybe God was sending them a warning.
I think that means I’m a natural for the Morris Public Library summer reading club, even if it is mainly geared for children.
You can also win a coupon for a Dairy Queen ice cream cone for reading enough books! I could trample all over those poky little kids for that.
Perhaps more my style is their Silent Reading Club, where you show up, sit quietly, and instead of talking, you read a book. That’s my kind of social event. Next one is tonight at 5. I’m currently reading Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin — it’s got intelligent spiders and cephalopods in it, so it’s like it’s stimulating all of my cerebral erogenous zones.
Now this is high-quality click-bait: Near-Sighted Kids of Martian Colonists Could Find Sex With Earth-Humans Deadly. If only HG Wells had thought of that, his story would have had a more dramatic end as squinty-eyed Martian invaders dropped dead while trying to rape humans. The source for this peculiar claim isn’t that bad, but it’s still bad science. It’s about a guy who makes predictions about the future of human space colonists.
Solomon’s 2016 book, Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution, argues that evolution is still a force at play in modern humans. In an awe-inspiring TEDx talk in January 2018 — which inexplicably still has fewer than 1,000 views — Solomon outlined how humans would change — literally — after spending a generation or two living on Mars.
There’s the problem. These ideas are coming out of a TED talk, which is a good source for misinformation. I listened to it, and it was not awe-inspiring at all, but bad: it starts with the Elon-Muskian notion that the human race is doomed if we stay on Earth and we need to colonize other worlds. He lists a few ways we might go extinct, like a meteor strike, or erupting super-volcanoes, or using up all the resources on Earth. But he has a solution! One way to avoid such a fate would be to spread out beyond Earth, venturing out into the galaxy the way our ancestors spread from our birthplace in Africa.
I felt like raising my hand and mentioning that one and a quarter billion people still live in Africa, and that there are a lot of people who might wonder who you’re talking to with that “our ancestors” comment.
I’d also want to mention that changes occurring within two generations are going to be physiological adaptations, not evolutionary changes.
And galaxy? Seriously? He’s talking about a pie-in-the-sky effort to colonize Mars, practically our neighbor yet still almost impossible to reach. If we’ve got our pick of the entire galaxy, surely there are better choices than a cold, arid rock that is uninhabitable by humans.
It gets worse from there.
It’s a weird talk. The first half is all about how awful life on Mars would be for our species: the greatly reduced gravity is going to lead to calcium depletion and brittle bones, and much greater complications in pregnancy. The radiation is going to be a severe, even lethal problem — he points out that a native of Mars would receive 5,000 times the radiation dose of an inhabitant of Earth. Babies born on Mars will bear thousands of times more mutations than Earth babies, so miscarriages will be far more common.
You may be thinking that this sounds like a hell-hole, that the tiny population of humans who make it to Mars will be rapidly eliminated by fierce attrition, and that any colony will be far more doomed than anyone remaining on Earth. Not to this guy! He makes some very positive predictions about what will happen to this remote colony.
Far from waiting thousands of years to witness minuscule changes, Solomon instead believes that humans going to Mars could be on the verge of an evolutionary rollercoaster. He expects, among other things, that their bones will be stronger, their sight shorter, and that they’ll, at some point, have to stop having sex with Earth-humans.
But how? Solomon has an almost religious faith in the power of natural selection. Sure, there’ll be lots more mutations, but that just means evolutionary changes that might require thousands of years on Earth will occur in a few generations on Mars. He sort of sails over the fact that his hypothesis bypasses any opportunity for natural selection to work. He’s relying entirely on wishful thinking, that because brittle bones are a problem, a spontaneous mutation that counters it will arise, and rapidly spread through the colony…in a couple of generations. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the cost of selection. You’ve already got a tiny population, and you’re proposing that rare mutations will displace the majority of the individuals in a few generations? What kind of genetic load is he predicting? What is the effective population size of your colony?
“Evolution is faster or slower depending on how much of an advantage there is to having a certain mutation,” Solomon says. “If a mutation pops up for people living on Mars, and it gives them a 50-percent survival advantage, that’s a huge advantage, right? And that means that those individuals are going to be passing those genes on at a much higher rate than they otherwise would have.”
So we’re expecting an extremely rare advantageous mutation with extremely high adaptive value to “pop up” in a colony, while ignoring the greater likelihood of lethal or sterilizing mutations. We’ve got predictable increases in short-term adapations, like rising near-sightedness rates from living in close spaces, but we’ll pretend the predictable increases in cancer rates are negligible. Further, this population undergoing constant, rapid die-off with a few very rare benign mutations will, among other things, lose immune responses due to living in a sterile environment, which is how they’ll lose the ability to have sex with, or even contact with filthy Earth-humans, preventing the possibility of replacement of losses with new immigrants.
But cool, they might evolve new skin tones to cope with the radiation, because turning orange with more carotenes in your skin will be sufficiently protective to compensate for all the other damages.
He’s at least vaguely aware that they’re going to need a large, rich source of human genetic diversity to get all this “evolution” going.
It also means Musk and others will need to consider genetic diversity, to ensure a good mix throughout the population. Solomon argues for around 100,000 people migrating to Mars over the course of a few years, with the majority from Africa, as that is where humans see the greatest genetic diversity.
“If I were designing a human colony on Mars, I would want a population that would be hundreds of thousands of people, with representatives of every human population here on Earth,” Solomon says.
OK, how? At least this is a good example of a biologist telling physicists to do the impossible, rather than vice versa, but I’m just thinking this is silly. The resources required to ship hundreds of thousands of people to a place where the majority are going to die and fail might be better spent improving the sustainability of life on Earth. At least he did early on acknowledge that resource depletion might be a factor that would limit survivability, it just wasn’t clear that he wanted to engineer a situation to make his prophecy come true.
Finally, the fact that his solution relies entirely on unpredictable, chance mutations occurring so rapidly that natural selection has no time to work means that his fundamental premise, that he can make predictions about the fate of human colonies on other worlds, is absolute rubbish.
I don’t mind a little optimism, but it’s the internal contradictions and neglect of basic facts that gets to me.
The prime minister will remain in Downing Street, to shoulder the blame for what are expected to be dire results for her party from Thursday’s European elections – and to host Donald Trump when he visits.
If I were her, I’d ask for something more medieval. Drawing and quartering, burning at the stake, the chopping block? All would be more humane.
So, UK…what slime-oozing gibbering abyssal nightmare are you going to replace her with? I know better than to wonder if politics will improve, it never does.