Saturday, July 31, 2021

You're Acting in a Cliche Fashion

 I can't recall too many times when Ginger has plopped down into a box in accordance with the 'if I fits I sits' meme.  Last night, she decided to forgo her usual spot on top of my backpack, and acted like a cliche:


Later on, she returned to form, and decided to sprawl out in luxurious fashion on the shelf where we typically keep the cat food:


She's pretty blissed out in the second picture, mauling a toilet paper roll in which a catnip satchel was placed.  She's not that much of a catnip fiend, but I guess she wanted to continue her streak of cliched behavior.

Friday, July 30, 2021

By 'the Internet', He Means 'QAnon'

Via Tengrain, we have the handwritten notes of former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue detailing a conversation regarding Trump's efforts to pressure the DoJ to indicated that last year's presidential election had been corrupted.

Trump asked DoJ officials to sow the seeds of doubt so he and his flunkies in Congress could work to overturn the election: The most bizarre part of the conversation was the famously tech-illiterate Trump chiding Donoghue for 'not following the internet like I do': Trump doesn't use the internet, as a whole, so by 'the internet' he meant 'Twitter'. As NBC's Ben Collins pointed out, Trump's Twitter feed at the time was a farrago of misinformation provided by grifters and trolls: Yeah, by 'the internet', Trump basically meant 'QAnon'. At the end, this most consummate of grifters, the conman who conned his way into the Presidency of the United States, turned out to be a mark himself.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Wacky Solutions to Nonexistent Problems

Via Tengrain, we have the news of the passing of Ron Popeil, who was half P.T. Barnum and half Rube Goldberg.  Popeil was an evangelist of consumerism, his particular genius lay in inventing wacky solutions to non-existent problems.  In a typical Popeil commercial, routine tasks were portrayed as ordeals which could only be overcome through the use of a 'Ronco' product. Not everyone can be a Jacques Pépin, for those people, there was Ron.  In my recollection, this portrayal of haplessness reached its apotheosis in the Pure Comedy Gold of his 'inside the eggshell egg scrambler':


The bar of 'Deck the Halls' at the end knocks it out of the park.

Not all of Ron's products were useless, there's plenty of utility in a fishing rod you can fit in your briefcase so you can catch sunfish in the Corporate Park pond during your lunch break:


Apparently, it even works.

Later in his csreer, Ron went long-form, creating half-hour infomercials to appeal to insomniacs, stoners, and the unemployed.  His best infomercial, with its clever 'set it and forget it' slogan, was for a not-all-that-ridiculous home rotisserie:


Again, I watched a review to see that it doesn't suck, though I imagine it uses a lot of electricity.  It seems like the perfect appliance for a stoner who bought it as an impulse purchase, involving no guesswork about temperature settings.  Set it and forget it, indeed!

One indication of Mr Popeil's greatness is the fact that Weird Al sang a song about him, oddly enough with Ron's half sister Lisa singing backup vocals:


Who among us hasn't wanted to shine some pennies, mend some leather, or Krazy-glue their head to the bottom of a big steel girder?   For all of those not-necessarily-necessary desires, Ron Popeil had a wacky solution.  Thanks for all the years of honest entertainment and occasional useful gadgets, Ron-even after they set you in the ground, we won't forget you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

An Ugly Picture of a Handsome Boy

The picture came out better than I expected it would, it was literally a shot in the dark, taken in haste lest the subject decided to bolt.  When I arrived at work, the largest stag that's been haunting our site was lying down in a well-shaded section of our property between the parking lot and the main building.  He was startled by my headlights, enough to convince him to stand up, but not enough to get him to bolt.

The stag moved into the bushes across from the main doors, and stood still while I walked toward the entrance.  At one point, we were probably about seven feet apart, close enough for me to see the shiny wetness of his nose.  I made sure to move slowly, with no sudden motions, and took out my smartphone.

The light wasn't good, and I had to hastily attempt a focus in the dark, but the picture came out better than I expected:

I think the image has a bit of an impressionist air, with its soft focus and ambiguous lines.  It's not a pretty picture, but the subject is a very handsome boy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Secret Science Club Zoom Lecture: The Worst Chowder Ever!

Tonight, my great and good friends of the Secret Science Club are presenting a topical lecture by marine ecologist and zoologist Dr Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, who made the headlines recently when he discovered the mass die-off of tidal organisms due to the recent PNW heatwave.  Dr Harley's website is a good resource for coastal ecology.

Dr Harley began his lecture by thanking Margaret and Dorian for a chance to step back from frantically cataloging the damage done by the heat wave, with the assistance of his student.  He titled his lecture 'Well that Stunk', describing the die-off as a pungent event... if someone had dumped a wheelbarrow of mussels on your front lawn, and they rotted for a few days, you'd get some idea of the stench.  This was an unprecedented event in the PNW.  A friend of his described it as the new smell of climate change

Why should we be concerned about climate change?  There are a lot of things we care about that are effected by it?  Dr Harley cited such organisms as red sea urchins and abalones, which are valuable commodities.  Kelp and sea grass are secondarily important- they provide habitats for organisms and protect the coasts from wave erosion.  He also cited the wonderful biodiversity in the tide pools of the Pacific- he was hooked into marine biology by hermit crabs.  As a human, he gets a charge out of nature, and will work to preserve it.

Rocky shores, and marine benthic systems in general, are ideal for studying the effects of climate change.  These coastal organisms already live at the limits of their environments.  The interactions of the organisms in this environment are important- organisms such as mussels and barnacles compete for space, sea stars clear mussels to provide niches for barnacles.  The combination of environmental and predatory factors results in patterns- there are usually bands of shellfish beds, kelp beds, and grassy areas.  These bands can be studied to determine changes, such as temperature changes.

There is a zone where the horn of plenty algae thrives, typically between a layer where the barnacles thrive and where the mussels and grazers thrive.  The algae can be moved higher up where the barnacles are, but it will die of lack of hydration.  Moved lower, the grazers will devour it. Studying the upper limit of the horn of plenty on Tatoosh island, it was discovered that the limit was stable until about 1993, then dropped, stabilizing at a lower level around 2000.  Successive summers of excessive temperatures caused this change.  Around 2005, the limit lowered again due to heat exposure.  Is the limit dropping, or is it being squeezed, possibly to nothing?

In the 1950s, a marine botanist named Tom Widowson measured the different bands of organisms on the coast.  Dr Harley obtained his doctoral thesis to obtain old data, he joked that the thesis "smells like old knowledge",  Dr Harley was put into contact with Dr Widowson, who game him Google map coordinates for all of his research sites.  He was able to correlate the upper limit of the barnacles and the upper and lower limits of mussels with temperatures, and found that the upper limits of both barnacles and mussels were lower, but the lower limit of the mussels didn't change much, so the habitat of the mussels has been squeezed to about half of its former extent.  

Climate change has been going on for a long time, and organisms have been responding to it.  Without the data of scientists such as Dr Widowson, these changes might not have been apparent.  Climate change is well underway, what can we expect next?  Organisms can be brought to labs, and temperatures can be manipulate to see what temperatures will kill them.  Dr Harley prefers field work, he studies organisms in a system.  One study involves the use of black and white tiles to manipulate temperatures on a micro level (white reflecting light, black absorbing it).  On a larger scale, heat can be provided by propane camp heaters, which are suspended over seaweed beds to raise temperatures.  In another study, propane turkey fryer kits were used to warm up tide pools.

In general, these experiments warm areas three degrees Celsius, the extent to which the climate is predicted to be warmer by the end of the century.  What should we expect to see happen to these organisms in eighty years.  With the heat wave in June, Dr Harley wasn't prepared for the die-off.  On the first day, he was on a science outreach boat trip, and on visiting a beach, didn't think to photograph the mussel beds.  On the second day, he smelled it before he saw it, and knew that a tragedy was unfolding.  On the third day, he went out with a grad student, and the conditions were unsafe for working under sunny conditions.  While the air temperatures spiked to over 100F, exposed organisms on coastal rocks baked.  Temperatures were 28C above normal, high temperature records were shattered.  In Lytton, BC, the all-time temp record was shattered by 8 degrees- these records are usually shattered by fractions of degrees.  On the coast, rock temperatures were measured at 52.5C (126.5F).  On the black mussel shells, he obtained  temperatures of 134F (56.7C).

Dr Harley did not foresee this occurrence.  He walked, crunching on dead organisms, over the cemetery of an ecosystem he loves.  He showed a gallery of the slain- mussels, crabs, whelks, clams.  Barnacles (he joked that they look like James Bond villain lairs, being 'little volcanoes with trapdoors that reveal the feet, not doomsday devices) suffered incredibly.  Mussels were the poster children of the die-off.  Dr Harley showed a picture of dead mussels, still full of meat.  Thermal images showed temperatures ranging up to 56.7C (134F).  

Dr Harley noted patterns.  Near his house, the carnage was relatively light- only about 20% of the mussels died.  It was a north-facing beach with small mussels.   One of the worst hit areas was a mussel bed on Galliano Island.  The angle of incoming sunlight played a role in the die-off, with 90 degree angle sunlight being particularly deadly.  Mussels in the shade were safe. The coastal seaweed was also affected, rockweed (bladderwort) was killed.  The rockweed provides habitats for other organisms.

How extensive was the die-off?  Dr Harley and his team is expanding the scope of the initial study, along with scientists in Washington, indigenous foragers, seafood harvesting companies.  The Strait of Georgia, and Puget Sound were hit hard.  San Juan Island was relatively unscathed.  Inland waterways without access to cold water were hit hardest.  There are a lot of gaps, so information has to be collected.

How many animals died?  Dr Harley showed a picture of 100 dead barnacles, easily fitting in the palm of his hand.  He calculated the amount of good barnacle habitat in the Strait of Georgia, and determined how many dead barnacles could have died, perhaps ten billion dead barnacles.  With the mussels, snails, worms, and crabs that live in these habitats, Dr Harley is certain that billions of animals died.

Was there any good news?  Hermit crabs might be one of the few winners in the short term- they are mobile enough to avoid dangerous conditions, they had a real estate boom, they are scavengers so they feasted, and they are subject to temperature sensitive parasites which might have died.  Other species, such as sea grass, certain clams and oysters, and sea anemones, did okay.  Some mussels had refuges, sea stars did okay.

What are the ripple effecs of the die-off?  Migrating birds like the surf scoter rely on mussels, will they have enough this winter when they fly through?  What abut juvenile salmon that need cover?  Without filter feeders, will water quality be impacted?

What are the long-term prospects for the BC coast?  Fast growing species with good dispersal, such as barnacles and mussels, may recover in a few years.  Rockweed may take longer.  The problem is that heat waves will be more common.  Species from warmer waters will have a hard time dispersing up the coastline, but invasive species from Asia will thrive.  The ecosystem may soon look more like Southern Japan than California.

What can we do?  We can pressure politicians to fight global warming.  We can make choices to conserve energy?  Local conservation efforts can be formed, allowing better chances for regeneration.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A.  The first question regarded food shortages.  Local indigenous groups will face serious food insecurity risks due to die-offs.  Droughts on the prairies would be more dangerous on a global scale.  Which is more ecologically dangerous?  Changes in average temperature or changes in highs?  Changes in average temperature should effect growth.  Max temperatures are more significant in mass death events.  Eelgrass and kelp are prime habitats for larval organisms, anything which adversely effects them pose dangers to the food web.

Dr Harley stated that working with physiologists is helpful- he is working with researchers studying Dengue fever and notes that the information he obtains studying the rocky coast has utility to studying the African savannah.  

What can citizen scientists do?  Simply taking photos can help scientists determine the limits of where organisms live.  There are more citizens than scientists.  People have been contacting him about preservation efforts, such as cloth tents to shade mussel beds, or using pumps on boats to mist coastal areas- these efforts just aren't practical for protecting wide stretches of coastline.

Why not seed species from the south by hand?  This is being done with forests- southern genotypes are warmth adapted.  Marine larvae are more mobile, so this hasn't been discussed as much.  This assisted migration is risky, such as the introduction of cane toads to Australia.

Climate change is providing selection pressure, on an evolutionarily significant scale, which will most likely result in lower genetic diversity.  Dorian joked about a 'planet of the hermit crabs' situation.

Some bastard in the audience asked about ocean acidification- he has studied this subject for years, using turban shell snails as a subject- the shells have yearly growth rings, and the snails are growing slower in acidified conditions.  Oyster larvae are sensitive to ocean acidification, which worries oyster farmers.  The acidification and temperature change could form a one-two punch.  The die-off has ensured that his grant money in the foreseeable future will fund warming research.

Another question involved the benefits to invasive species from global warming- most boats coming into British Columbia arrive from warmer ports, so warming gives them an advantage.  Also, if native organisms are continually shocked by disasters, they are less resistant.

Another questioner asked about the dangers of seafloor mining- there are manganese nodules on the ocean floor which can be dredged up.  This poses danger to poorly known ecosystems such as glass sponge reefs.  Can it be done in an environmentally responsible way?  This requires a lot of study.

The final question was, how screwed are we climactically?  Can coastal ecosystems recover?  He recounts students coming up to him with tears in their eyes.  The oceans will go on without us, but they won't look like they do now.  Coral reefs are forming in the Carolinas, the Mediterranean is looking more like the Red Sea.  Ecosystems are resilient, warmth adapted organisms will expand their ranges.  Dr Harley is hopeful, but things are changing fast, and it would be nice to apply the brakes.

Dr Harley's lecture was entertaining and informative, and it was most certainly topical.  Kudos to Dr Harley, and Dorian and Margaret for another fantastic Secret Science Club presentation.  Here is a news presentation which encapsulates the heart of this lecture:

It was a sobering lecture, delivered by an engaging lecturer, which is a perfect example of the Secret Science Club experience.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Devin Q-Nes vs Holobiden

My prediction is that next year's Republican primary elections are going to be an utter shitshow, involving the challenging of 'insufficiently right-wing' Tea Party assholes by even crazier QAnon whackjobs.  It is in this light that I am seeing Devin Nunes' transformation into Devin Q-nes- sure, he's corrupt, but his Iberian surname and insufficiently Nordic complection might work against him in a Republican showdown.  At any rate, Nunes has gone full-on QAnon while appearing on Maria Bartiromo's Fox Business show:


 As an aside, I am ecstatic that we have a president who doesn't speak in 30-second soundbites. The presidency is a complex job, involving policies and processes which cannot be expressed in fifteen or thirty seconds. The right-wing has been rendered unable to think coherently by their reliance on memes... they simply cannot formulate more complex thoughts. 

My real takeaway from Nunes' appearance, though, is that he's flirting with a bizarre right-wing conspiracy theory that their enemies are clones, body doubles, or 'deepfakes'.  One of the more horrible QAnon 'influencers' even formulated the conspiracy theory that Biden is right-wing actor James Woods in a mask.  Even the specific 'Biden is a hologram' trope is a few months old.

So far, no primary challenger to Nunes has materialized, but I suspect that he is trying to tack even further right to forestall any ac-Q-sations that he is insufficiently pure.  I have to confess that I am fascinated by the QAnon conspiracy theory, so I picked up on this weird bit immediately, but I suspect that it confused a lot of people not attuned to this sort of thing.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Can't Spell Pretty Purslane Without P

This being the height of summer, I figured it's time for my annual purslane post.  Longtime readers will know that I am obsessed with purslane, which is perhaps my favorite green vegetable.  Put simply, purslane is a tasty, succulent vegetable with a high omega-3 fatty acid content, and it is largely considered a weed because it is ubiquitous.  Purslane thrives in the summer heat because it employs a water-conserving CAM photosynthetic pathway, much like cacti do.  When other plants wither and die, purslane grows with abandon.

My big problem is that most of the really gorgeous purslane plants I have encountered this year are poking through cracks in the sidewalk, exposed not only to car exhaust but to the pee of passing pooches.  I mean, look at this bounty, which might be tainted by nitrogenous waste:



Purslane seeds being tiny, the ability of the plant to germinate in tiny cracks has been celebrated in song, as a metaphor for surviving in adverse conditions.  Here is a small purslane plant peeking out of a miniscule crack in the asphalt alleyway next to my house:


Yeah, I can hardly figure out how that happened myself, and I am a purslane-obsessive.  

This year, I decided to do something I have never done before, because it smacks of cheating- I actually picked a small purslane plant from one of the gardens on the job and decided to plant it intentionally, so it might eventually rival that succulent looking sidewalk purslane plant:


Typically, I eat purslane raw, it has a crisp, succulent texture that I think it would be sinful to lose by cooking (cooking it results in a slightly mucilaginous texture, sorta like okra).  It's tart, though less tart if picked in the early morning due to the role of acids in the CAM photosynthetic pathway.  The plant does contain oxalate, so I make sure to drink plenty of water when I consume it (no biggie on a hot summer day), and prefer to serve it with a high-calcium component such as yogurt or queso fresco.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Jail: Not an Ice Cream Social

 There's a new genre of political mendacity brewing in the fever swamps of the Right, the notion that the 1/6 rioters are political prisoners.  We all saw the footage from that day, this gaslighting is stupid and grotesque.  The latest developments in this story-workshop involve the harsh treatment of these innocent tourists/patriots/innocents at the hands of the carceral system.

The first of these Tales of Woe involves some heavy metal doofus who cried about his two months in jail being 'hell', claiming that he received death threats and had feces thrown at him.  I don't see what he's complaining about- he was okay with death threats and weaponized feces on the day of the insurrection.  He should have felt right at home in the pokey.

Even more cringe-inducing is the cri du cul (sic) of one Joe Biggs, a former Alex Jones associate and street-brawling Proud Boy.  Gone is the bravado and violent rhetoric, replaced by an unconvincing melancholy:

That bit about being tested by white supremacists is particularly disgusting- if they rejected him, it's because his insurrection failed, it's not because he's insufficiently racist. More interesting to me is his lament about being soy-based food, because it is a window into right-wing sexual anxiety, misogyny, and the grifter ecosystem. Sure enough, the Biden D0J is turning these MAGA Marauders into soyboys

The real irony here is that a substandard prison diet is probably the result of profit-seeking among private prison companies, and Trump almost single-handedly revived that industry,  an industry that President Obama was set to kill off.  I'd also note that neither of these ninnies seems like the type to lament the treatment of other prisoners, particularly people of color imprisoned in the course of the Drug War.  I can't really verify this, because at least in Biggs' case, he was banned from all mainstream social media platforms.  At any rate, he's living in the 'tough on crime' MAGA world he craved.

My personal take on the prison system is that it should be used to contain violent offenders, those people incapable of living in society with other humans.  As far as drug sentences go, I am in favor of legalization, regulation, and harm mitigation.  That being said, people who spray bear mace at people they disagree with and attack civil servants with improvised weapons should be locked up.  I believe that jail and prison should be humane, something which I doubt Biggs would have agreed with before he was jailed.  Therefore, I really can't muster any sympathy for the creep.

Friday, July 23, 2021

MLB More Sensitive, Racists Rage

The big culture war story today is the coming name change of the Cleveland Indians to the non-racist Cleveland Guardians.  If anyone has any doubt that 'Cleveland Indians' was a racist moniker, one look at their logo should disabuse them of this notion.  As an added bonus, the new non-racist name is a callback to locally famous statues, giving it an actual cultural resonance.  The only more significant name I can think if would have been the Cleveland Ubu Rois.

Naturally, Native American groups support this change.  Not everybody is thrilled, though, as certain high ranking right-wingers are upset.  A whacko Arizona senator has weighed in in spectacularly stupid fashion, with added bonus stupidity about Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson NOT being traitors.  Not to be outdone, Vulgarmort registered his outrage at the change from a racist name:


It's here where I note that Trump has long hated Native Americans, attacking Northeastern nations as criminals when they were gaining approval for opening casinos.  His vile attacks were insufficient to save his own casino business.

It's a good thing that the name was changed, and that racists are upset.  Society changes slowly, the reactionaries are losing, with this change forming a one-two punch with last year's name change for the Washington Football Team... in that case, I would have been okay the team keeping the name but changing their logo.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Anti-Vaccination Obfuscation

One feature of online nut communities is the concept of hiding one's power levels- the notion, taken from Japanese manga/anime culture, that a superpowered protagonist would project a weaker image in order to fool an opponent into underestimating him-or-her.  The concept has taken root in the white nationalist movement, in which members realize that going mask-off neonazi will typically alienate 'the normies', those mundane people who aren't members of an online subculture.  

Much of this deception takes the form of using code to express catch phrases, using a cryptolect in which seemingly harmless terms, such as the number 1488 or the transformation of the 4Chan babytalk 'fren' being backronymed to signify far right ethno-nationalist.  By obfuscating offensive terms, those in the know can avoid content moderation on social media.  In this light, here is a developing cryptolect being formulated by anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists:

Most of these terms are pretty obvious, they operate on a sub-Cockney rhyming slang level. Other terms are more opaque, as detailed in this NBC story, and serve more as in-group signifiers than as means to redpill potential converts.  

The phenomenon is quite infuriating, if these people devoted as much time to conducting actual research using credible sources as they do to figuring out moderation workarounds, we wouldn't be in the situation we are mired in.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Local Effects of Far-Off Horrors

Yesterday was an odd day in the New York metropolitan area.  The weather forecast indicated that it would be a sunny, hot day, but had to be revised because of hazy conditions resulting from wildfires in the western United States.  Around dawn, the sky looked overcast, but when I arrived at my home, the sun was visible through the smoky haze of the upper atmosphere:

Throughout the day, there were hazardous air condition advisories for individuals with respiratory problems.  Not having any obligations during the day, I pretty much decided to stay inside.  When I left the house to go to work last night, the moon was a reddish color due to the smoky conditions.  Here's the silly 'live' photo I took (the still was a streaky, overexposed mess):

The extent of the wildfires is horrific, and there doesn't seem to be any succor for those individuals fighting the blaze.  Thankfully, the current occupant of the White House isn't the sort to withhold aid due to deep-seated grudges.  Even here in my safe Northeastern home, I'm feeling the effects of the smoke from a distant fire.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Free from the Cone, Free to Roam

The current bit of good news is that Ginger finally is cone free.  Even better, her house arrest is over, so she is once again able to roam around the property, and can accompany me while I'm Scooby-Dooing around the grounds at night.  Just last night, I would have to coax her into one room with a bit of kibble, then close the intervening door so I could slip outside from the other room.  Now, I can leave the door open without a care, and she can survey her domain:


I must note that Ginger has been a very patient patient throughout this entire bit of unpleasantness.  It was a rough month for her, as she is a curious, active cat, but she made it through.  On a nightly basis, she'd sit by the door, meowing, then yowling, to be let out, until I'd bribe her with a treat, but she'd settle down eventually.  

Needless to say, we all spoiled her throughout her convalescence, and I imagine her spoiling will continue for a while longer.  No amount of treats, though, is as valuable as the resumption of liberty.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Dipping Into the Cryptocurrency Scam Well Again

Since I've been writing about right-wing affinity scams and cryptocurrency grifts, I figured I'd mention yet another cryptocurrency scam that I recently found about.  Matt Binder, on his Doomed podcast, discussed a cryptocurrency 'pump and dump' scam run by professional gamers and 'influencers'.  Given the youth of their typical audience member, this scam is particularly grotesque.  For those with an hour and a half, the podcast is well worth a listen, if only for the revelation that such a cryptocurrency as MILF Token exists.

For those unfamiliar with how cryptocurrency works, this primer is a good place to start, though the bewildering array of shitcoins is beyond the scope of the video.  For a  quick overview of the current 'influencer' cryptocurrency scam, this video is the place to start, though it might put you in a stabby mood:


 In one especially egregious case, one asshole joked that the MILF Token cryptocurrency was trash three weeks after plugging it. 

In a follow-up to the embedded video I posted, commentor Coffeezilla noted that one of the influencers plugging a QAnon-friendly 'Save the Children' cryptocurrency held 6.2 million tokens. While the value of these assets is in fractions of cents, at that scale, even a minor pump-and-dump scam becomes profitable:


Cryptocurrencies are a disaster from an environmental standpoint, and a disaster from a regulatory standpoint. The 'meme' altcoins in particular are Dunning-Krugerrands. The fact that web-celebrities are pushing get-rich-quick crypto-scams (well, THEY get rich quick because they get their crypto-coins early on and pump up their value) on young people, who already face a tough job market, and a world chock-full of predatory lenders, is monstrous.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Month on the Job

 My last day off at work was June 18th.  The following Monday, I was knocked for a loop when one of my subordinates called to tell me that he was in the hospital ICU having a couple of stents put in due to an arterial blockage.  It's been a seven-day workweek for myself and my other subordinate since then.  

In the subsequent month, I've forgotten what day of the week it was a couple of times, not that it has mattered.  One of the few things that keeps me tethered to the calendar is the trash pickup schedule- I know that regular garbage goes out on Sunday night, while recycling goes out to the curb on Tuesday night...  thank goodness for the Yonkers Department of Sanitation!  I didn't even take a day off to visit my mother in Virginia on her birthday, I called in a favor, and my coworker worked a double shift so I could skedaddle for a night.  I think I'm still a bit woozy from that necessary expedition.  Hell, it's not like I have had much use for circadian rhythms for a decade and a half...

My coworker is on the mend, he's still at home, working remotely for his primary employer, and he expects to return to us at the beginning of August. Inshallah.  At the risk of sounding cynical, I haven't exactly been averse to working such hours, the main office didn't even blink at the overtime I and my coworker are racking up.  Because of this, I posted a check to pay off the last six months of my car loan yesterday.  I'm looking forward to having a day off eventually, but right now, the freedom of discharging a debt is outweighing the freedom of having a day off, especially while the pandemic seems to be peaking again.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Trump and Dump

I figured I'd follow up yesterday's post about yet another right-wing scam, one more insidious than yesterday's Freedom Fone Foolishness.  I'm skeptical about cryptocurrencies, those digital moneyesque products backed by the full faith and credit of a bunch of sketchy libertarian techbros.  I'm also skeptical about anything MAGA, especially that grift-based ecosystem based on affinity scams and grievances.  

Talking about affinity scams and grievances, I present you you MagaCoin, a cryptocurrency created by a right-wing operative which, well, you have to see it to believe it:

MAGACOIN was created by America First Conservatives out of frustration with “Losing the Election” and a desire to fight back by supporting MAGA candidates in 2022 and beyond.

Approxiamtely 75 million MAGACOINS were created to represent the 75 million voters who were disenfranchised on November 3rd, 2020.

Unlike most new coin releases, MAGACOIN will not hold an ICO (Initial Coin Offering), instead we will be giving away 100 coins to each new registrant in order to build a robust MAGACOIN ecosystem that will work together to gain access to the crypto exchanges and support the MAGA movement.

 Affinity scam?  CHECK!  Grievance?  CHECK!

My favorite thing about this is the giveaway, that 100 MAGACOIN gift that sinks the hook... as the cliche goes, the first hit is free.  By giving away 100 MAGACOINs to interested rubes, the creator has given them a reason to buy in more, and the sunk cost fallacy will probably keep them in.  In an echo of the use of right-wing pundits to push Freedom Fones, there is an offer of 1,000 MAGACOINs to any right-wing media figures who plug the thing.  Doubtless, the creator will be holding millions of units, so every buy in will increase the value of his holdings- your 100 MAGACOINs might be worth a dime, but his millions will be worth so much more.  To me, this screams pump and dump, or in this case, Trump and dump.  It's a case of another shitcoin, an alt-cryptocurrency of dubious value, which can fluctuate wildly when a cult figure mentions it.

To add to my suspicion that this is a scam, I found a Reddit post which included a rocket emoji, which signifies the rally cry of 'to the moon', invoked by outsider investors who are attempting to inflate the value of an asset.  This combination of get-rich-quick scam and affinity fraud is raising my hackles.  Some people might get rich, but I think any rank-and-file MAGA mooks are going to get fleeced.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Many Affiliation Grifts Abound

One of the most important essays written about the right-wing is Rick Perlstein's The Long Con, published in the November 2012 issue of The Baffler. The article details the extent to which the American Right-Wing is a straight-up con. Four years later, this kleptocracy reached it's apotheosis when Donald Trump, the biggest carnival barker in the party, was elected president, and proceeded to milk the taxpayers to the extent that he could. Indeed, he continues to do so

Trump is merely the top of the pyramid, though, the Grifter-in-Chief among a pantheon of conmen-and-women. Many of these scams take the form of affinity fraud, scams that depend on a perceived simpatico among group members for their appeal... by buying in, the marks can 'fight back' against 'Marxism' or 'the liberal agenda'. So we come to the topic of today's post, the 'Freedom Phone'. For a mere $500, a MAGA mark can purchase a cheap Chinese-made smartphone that retails for as little as $119. 

The draw is that the phone has a bunch of free right-wing apps preloaded on it to forestall any 'censorship' from Big Tech. The phone is also marketed as 'secure', with features to thwart any tracking attempts, though security expert Matthew Hickey noted that the MediaTek chips employed in it are considered risky:  

“I have never encountered a secure MediaTek device in my entire life. Using MediaTek for anything and expecting privacy or security is fundamentally flawed.” 

Oh, yeah, I can just hear the Silicon Valley tech titans shaking in their boots. 

The promotional video for the Freedom Phone is Pure Comedy Gold, featuring a bro with a tragic hairdo, who claims to be the 'youngest Bitcoin millionaire ever' extolling the virtues of his jumped-up burner phone:

 Tim Apple, beware! 

Not content to let an opportunity to grift the rubes pass them by, a gaggle of right-wing pundits have been touting the Freedom Phone, and in one particularly funny instance, nutbar-and-token Candace Owens tweeted to promote the Freedom Phone using her iPhone.  Cue sad trombone.

The Freedom Phone joins such crappy knockoffs as the Parler and Gettr apps, ersatz products that pose a security risk to the morons who use them in order to escape 'censorship' by Big Tech (seriously, these people really need to read the Terms of Service agreements for apps they use).  These were the same idiots who went nuts for W Ketchup in the early days of the 21st century.  I'm kinda grateful to them for being gullible, the more they overpay for cheap smartphones, the less money they have to purchase firearms.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Nephew Met a Wild One

While at Mom's place on Sunday, I spoke to one of my nephews, who is a college student.  This summer, he is living in an off-campus housing, taking a couple of summer classes, and working at a local amusement park.  It's the last detail which concerns us here...

I was somewhat surprised to learn that he's working as a ride operator, given his age, but on reflection, I realized that he is a lot more mature than your typical carny, and more mature than the typical patron.  Last weekend, he had a run-in with a psycho customer.  This particular customer had two children, the younger of which was shy of the minimum height required.

"Your daughter is two inches too short to ride."

"What if she walks on her tiptoes?"

"That's unacceptable, this rule is for your daughter's safety."

Being a trope-savvy lad, he forestalled any argument by asking, "Would you like to speak with my manager?"  Predictably, she did.

Of course, his manager took his side- there are certain immutable rules which are non-negotiable.  If her child had been ejected from the ride, this woman would have sued the pants off of everybody even remotely connected with my nephew's employer.  More importantly, my nephew isn't the sort of person who would knowingly put anyone, especially a child, at risk.  

It was then that I decided to share the amusement park ride operator's anthem, which is also the conspiracy theorist's anthem, and perhaps the most important political song ever written, albeit one which in 1988 was probably not conceived as a political song:

Being trope-savvy, he immediately joked 'Sounds like an Alex Jones bit." This kid is smart enough to know what the queers are doing to the soil.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Secret Science Club Zoom Lecture Recap: Walk, Don't Run

Tonight, my great and good friends of the Secret Science Club presented a Zoom lecture featuring Dr David Hu, engineer and animal locomotion researcher. Dr Hu is a professor of mechanical engineering and biology and an adjunct professor of physics at Georgia Tech, and his latest book is How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future. Dr Hu had a brush with the political world when Senator Jeff Flake called some of his research wasteful. I like him already, and the lecture is just starting. 

Dr Hu began his lecture with the heights of his career- the two times when he won the Ignobel Prize for studying how animals pee, and another one for studying the cubic feces of wombats. He recounted a 5/25/2016 Fox and Friends story about his 'wasteful' studies and his call-out by Jeff Flake, who accused him of being responsible for 15% of the nation's most wasteful studies (his study about how many times a dog needs to shake to get rid of moisture actually has a bearing on applying medication to the scalp). 

Dr Hu then joked about how he was admitted to MIT by mistake, then began the lecture with a video of water striders, which use hairs on their legs to repel water in order to walk on the surface. Dr Hu noted the beauty of fluid mechanics, showing a picture of a water strider walking on dyed water, and kicking up vortices. Wataer striders use their legs as oars which sweep across the miniscus of water.

Dr Hu then displayed a video of a basilisk lizard running across a body of water- its legs form an air cavity that it slaps against. 


If a human wants to run on water like a basilisk, it would need trashcan lid sized feet and legs fifteen times as strong. To emulate a water strider, the feet would have to have a 10 kilometer perimeter. 

Dr Hu noted that water strider emulating robots could search for oil slicks on the water. 

Dr Hu decided to study cats because they are 'champion animals'. Besides being champion sleepers, cats are super clean. Their tongues are covered with spikes (feliform papillae), which are used for grooming. Each papilla has a concavity which uses capillary action to fill itself with saliva, a natural detergent. The concavity in the papilla matches the hair. Cats use about three teaspoons of saliva each day for grooming, and use saliva to keep cool, in lieu of sweat. Dr Hu patented a cat tongue inspired hairbrush. He joked about cats' ability to form hairballs to deposit wherever they wish. 

Dr Hu then went on to discuss dogs- nobody had studied the drying shake of a dog, whcih starts at the head and travels back. Shedding water is a matter of life or death- a forty pound Labrador would retain about a pound of water after a dip. Fur evolved to keep animals warm and dry, so they need to be able to dry off. Mice, as well as dogs, shake. A rat closes its eyes before shaking because it produces about 20G with the shake. Why can't humans shake dry? Dogs have an adaptation, they have loose skin which can move under the centripetal forces produced with shaking. 

Having shown us enough cute mammals, Dr Hu focused on fire ants- ants are discete, but flow and coalesce like liquids. Not too far from the Georgia Tech campus, fire ants can be collected. In the lab, they put ants in buckets of water to demonstrate rafting behavior. The ants adhere to each other and form a water repellent mass with air pockets. 


The ants with coalesce to form a solid monolayer when there are many ants. and their structure is elastic. They link and delink to react to the environmental conditions. These models can be the basis of swarm robotz which could, for instance, build bridges. 

Dr Hu then shifted to a scatalogical vein. While he was changing his children's diapers, he decided to measure how long it taakes animals to urinate. Small animals don't have the mass to produce enough pressure to form a stream, and form droplets. Baby rats need their mothers to lick their urine from their urethra. He then showed a remarkable video of an elephant urinating and defecating simultaneously. An elephant has a bladder which can hold up to twenty gallons of urine, but most animals take an average of about twenty-one seconds to empty a bladder. Torricelli's Law relates the speed of fluid flowing from an orifice to height of the fluid column above it. The study of the duration of urination is important because it can be used to calibrate artificial collegen urethrae for medical patients. 

The lecture ended with cuboidal scat, which necessitated a trip to Australia, where he collaborated with wombat expert Dr Scott Carver. Because wombats are burrowers, their pouches face towards the back, so the joeys get pooped on. Wombats defecate in latrines, usually raised areas. Why does the bare-nosed wombat produce cubic poop? They probably use their poop as area markers to delinate their home ranges, building 'cairns' of poop. Wombats do noHy ahowed a CT scan of a wombat poophole. He showed a slide of a roadkilled womba, noting the ten meter long large intestine, sliced open to show how a fecal slurry has moisture removed until a dry fecal cube is formed. He compared the shaping of wombat poop to the fomation of the Giant's Causeway as rock cooled. Wombat intestines have stiff sections (four to one in proportion to soft sections) which contract quickly, forming the corners of a fecal poop cube. 

The lecture was followed with a Q&A session. Regarding funding, Dr Hu opined that he thinks biology is in trouble, with the ongoing extinction event and increased interest in human diseases. There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild, elephants may go extinct in our lifetime... he have a lot to learn, but little time. Regarding his kerfuffle with Flake, he urged scientists to fight back. He responded in Scientific American and Flake caved, asking Dr Hu to find the real wasteful spending. Dr Hu declined the offer. The funding for attacks on science continues, though. Why don't cats get sick more often when they swallow dirt? Dr Hu noted that the alimentary canal is one tube from mouth to anus. Stuff such as ticks gets digested, they clean their butts with their tongues, and are okay... if people did that, they'd probably get sick. Asked about robots based on biomimicry, Dr Hu noted that animals are the only models to base water walking or rubble crawling robots.  Dr Hu has upcoming research regarding earwax, which probably has insect-thwarting properties. 

Dr Hu delivered an informative, funny lecture, with a bit of political snark and a heaping dose of advocacy.  He's a very engaging speaker.  Kudos to him, and to Margaret and Dorian.   For a taste of the Secret Science Club experience, here's a video by the Good Doctor: 

Pour yourself a nice beverage and soak in that SCIENCE!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

It's a Death Cult, Part I've Lost Count

The American right-wing is a death cult, pure and simple.  Amid the general disinformation and misinformation, indeed malinformation, this clip from Newsmax is particularly deranged, particularly evil:


The real shcoker here is not the blithe assertion that a disease “supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people” is no big deal, it is that a Newsmax host said that Evolution by Means of Natural Selection is real. Of course, this monster screws everything up by not realizing that the main adaptation that allowed human evolutionary success is our intelligence, the intelligence which allowed us to invent vaccines. The host also betrays a shocking ignorance about viruses and bacteria, they are not 'supposed to wipe out' anything, they are supposed to reproduce, and any pathogenic effects are incidental. The vary fact that vaccines aren't 'natural' is significant, because humans mainly adapt through our culture now, not our genetics. Want to venture underwater? There are machines which can allow that, no need for larger lung capacity, and anti 'bends' adaptations. Want to achieve immunity to a pathogen? Well, vaccines harness the power of the immune system to reduce mortality, but the process is artificial, making it less likely that a disease will, as this creep said, wipe out a certain amount of people. Conservatism is a death cult now, a genocidal death cult, at that.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Mom at 80

I just returned from my whirlwind trip to visit Mom for her 80th birthday- I drove down to her place in northern Virginia straight from work, and drove straight up to work, with a brief stop at the supermarket to buy something for dinner and milk for workplace coffee.   Special thanks go to my coworker Tim, who worked a double shift so I could pull this visit off.

Mom, at 80, is a marvel... she walks six miles a day, and is strong and vital.  She's sharp as a tack, a voracious reader and crossword puzzle aficianada (her pet peeve is that the WaPo Saturday puzzle is too pop-culture oriented).  Here's a candid photo of Mom, snapped as she was discussing how the largest of her three avocado plants, grown from pits (she has one germinating in a coffee mug now), had just recently exceeded her in height:


Yep, that's a picture of an 80 year old... would you care to challenge her to an arm-wrestling match?

Throughout the day, my siblings called to pay their respects, as did several nieces and nephews.  A beloved neighbor, who I think Mom loves because they share the same devotion to family, and a avid gardeners, showed up with a bouquet- it was nice to place a face with the name.  

We had a couple of cold Coronas (she is having work done on the house and always 'tips' the laborers with a cold beer at the end of the workday) and a Chesapeake area appropriate meal of crabcakes, and just shot the breeze all day while the phone periodically rang with a call from her legion of well wishers.  We talk a few times a week on the phone, but that is no substitute for hanging out in person.

Mom is planning on visiting my brother Vincenzo and the grandkids some time around Labor Day, and will, without doubt, make other travel plans now that restrictions have been relaxed and everybody in the family is getting vaccinated (still a bit early for some of the younger grandkids).  2020 was hard on this very sociable lady, so she will make up for a lost year.

For me, the visit was too short, but it was a must-do, I couldn't let my mom spend her 80th birthday alone.  I mean, who was going to help her drink a couple of cold cervezas?  I'll be dragging my ass for a few days, but my heart is soaring.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Mom Turns 80

Today is Mom's 80th birthday.  Because it is a significant milestone, I have decided that I have to celebrate it with her in person.  We've both been vaccinated, and we haven't seen each other for just about a year, when I had to help her out with some stuff.  The unfortunate thing is that it's going to be a whirlwind visit because I've been on a seven-day work week lately due to a co-worker's sick leave.  My other coworker will be working a double shift, from 5PM to 7AM tomorrow so I have time to make the trip without missing any work.

The plan is to hit the road as soon as I leave work this morning (7AM) and to drive directly back to work tomorrow in time to make the 5PM shift.  It sounds rough, but if I need a refresher, I can always pull into a rest stop for a fifteen minute catnap.  I plan on taking a nap when I get to Mom's place, at any rate.  The important thing is to celebrate in person with her.  At any rate, I got plenty of sleep before going to work last night.  

Last year, the trip down was bizarre- none of the rest stops were open, and the fast food restaurants were open for takeout only... when I had to answer a call of nature, I merely pulled over into an inactive construction site and peed 'discreetly' behind a concrete barrier.  I'm hoping not to have to repeat that, though I am planning on keeping pit stops to a minimum.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

A Light Read About Horrible People

Tonight, before heading off to work, I figure I'll put up a link to some Pure Comedy Gold (black comedy, indeed, so I guess it's Pure Black Gold Comedy).  If you enjoy reading about horrible people being taken to the cleaners by a horrible person, this piece from the Intercept about a 'doomsday prepper specialist' fleecing a bunch of wealthy right-wingers is the piece for you.  It involves affinity fraud, stolen valor, and right-wing paranoia, coalescing into a series of shell companies which promised to whisk wealthy clients to a doomsday compound in case of... uhhhh... doomsday:

For clients wealthy enough to enroll in Life Continuity but not quite wealthy enough to ship a lifetime’s supply of freeze-dried meals and combat boots to northern Michigan, Moore at least brainstormed other options. Among his hundreds of patent filings is one for a “Rescue Container Method and Apparatus,” which is essentially a large reinforced tomb that would be fixed atop your house, ready to be plucked from the air by a helicopter and whisked away to safety with you, your family, and your survival cargo inside.

I imagine that, even if this were a serious offering, those clients not quite wealthy enough to ship a lifetime’s supply of freeze-dried meals and combat boots to northern Michigan would be considered a lower priority than high rollers.

The comedy crescendo hits when right-wing thriller author Brad Thor writes a Breitbart post titled “When Liberal ‘Journalists’ Attack, Real Americans Suffer” about a man that, within four years, he was involved in an acrimonious lawsuit against.  Again, it's Pure Comedy.

If you're in the mood for a funny story, spiced with a liberal dose of Schadenfreude, this is a must-read.  We all need some comic relief these days, and this fits the bill nicely.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Subway Ark Needed

Today was a fun day, the main story is that a thunderstorm yesterday and the remnants of Tropical Storm Elsa today were a one-two punch to the region, resulting in extensive flooding and rain damage.  I am familiar with the local roadways which are prone to flooding- most of the parkways were built by watercourses, to enhance the parklike setting, so the Bronx River Parkway, Hutchinson River Parkway, and Saw Mill River Parkway are best avoided.  Indeed, these three roadways were closed due to flooding.

I took local roads home, which worked out well because I had an errand to run at a business that didn't open until 9AM, two hours after I clocked out.  Luckily, I didn't encounter any fallen trees on any of the roads I traversed.  When I finally got home, there was water in the basement (the backyard is dirt because its shaded by a humongous oak tree in a neighbor's yard, and there are always children and a dog running around), but I prudently bought a small wet/dry vac on sale at a local hardware store last fall, so cleanup was fairly easy.  I was pretty knackered when I finished.  My upstairs neighbor is going away next weekend, so I might try to plant some water-absorbing ground cover while I have the place to myself.

The real story is that global warming is real, resulting in stronger storms with greater rainfall.  I really can't complain, I'm not sweltering under a heat dome, and I live on a hill, so flooding is not a major problem.  Still, this is an existential problem, if not typically a personal one.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Further Proof of Evolution by Means of Natural Selection

 There is a pretty large population of Republicans who don't believe in evolution- case in point, Marjorie Trainwreck Greene stated that she doesn't believe in evolution.  The beauty of reality is that it doesn't depend on belief- many a non-believer in Darwinian evolution has fallen to natural selection.  Put simply, evolution by means of natural selection is merely the fact that individuals which produce the most offspring that survive to reproduce end up with the most descendants which will produce additional descendants.  The forces of nature which result in this increased survivability select the individuals (and populations) which reproduce more, and the genetic makeup of these individuals accumulate in the population.  Basically, things which reproduce more, reproduce more... it's a fact.

The significance of this phenomenon is apparent in the news (via Tengrain) that the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than Old School COVID-19, has become the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States.  Viruses depend on the cells of other organisms to reproduce, so increased transmissibility is a trait which is selected for by natural forces- it's a clear example of Darwinian evolution in action.

There are a few factors which are at play here- the first is the fact that viruses have very short generations, they reproduce quickly, they accumulate genetic variation quickly, they evolve quickly.  Another factor is that each individual infected by a virus is an ecosystem in which viral evolution can take place- more victims, more chances for new variants.  In these here United States, people who refuse to socially distance, people who refuse to wear face masks, and people who refuse to be vaccinated (usually the same assholes in all three categories) have elected to become laboratories for the evolution of new COVID strains.  For instance, Marjorie Trainwreck Greene, who compared mask mandates to the Holocaust, while refusing to believe in evolution, is unwittingly conducting an experiment in viral evolution.  As I noted before, one doesn't have to believe in evolution to be subject to it.

To someone who strives for scientific literacy, this is particularly maddening.  That Greene should have a vote in public policy which effects the health of Americans is monstrous.  The lambda variant has already evolved, the mu, nu, and omicron variants probably aren't far behind (the kappa variant spilled the water in its head and is powerless)... this pandemic is never going to end at this rate.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

He Was Old and He Would Have Died Anyway

In the rogues' gallery of right-wing propagandists, I find none more odious than Tucker Carlson, the Child of Privilege that has gone full-on neo-Nazi.  He was born wealthy, he doesn't have to push insane conspiracy theories to make a living... well, nobody does, but it's especially galling because Tuck seems to be doing so out of sheer malignity.

Carlson's latest outrage is his claim that elderly COVID-19 victims would have died anyway:

In a report from July of last year, the CDC itemized all deaths from February to May 2020. Found the median age of death from Covid was 78. At that point and for all 12 months of 2020, life expectancy in the U.S. was younger than that. It was 77. Do you think they hyped Covid a little bit? They did. The median age of people dying is older than life expectancy, they hyped it. But it didn’t slow Joe Biden down. Today, he said the administration wants to go door-to-door to make people take the vaccine. 

Even if the raw statistics are true, many younger Americans have died of COVID-19, as this heartbreaking Twitter thread by Dr Cleavon Gilman documents.  This doesn't even take into account the long-term effects of COVID-19 on survivors.  Anecdotally, I know of a woman in her 50s who has suffered permanent cardiac damage as a result of the virus, and I have a neighbor who still has headaches after her recovery a few months ago.

My friends who died of COVID-19 were an 85 year old with a remarkable biography, and a 69 year old man with an effusive, dynamic personality.  They were both seniors, they were both beloved members of the community.  These are the people that Tucker Carlson dismissed with his glib distortions.

Post title taken from this classic song from my youth:

As for myself, I'm old enough to remember when Fox talking heads were ranting about 'death panels'.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Six Months Post-Insurrection

It was six months ago that a Trump-crazed mob of inurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol.  Five people died in the event, and over five-hundred have been arrested.  The appalling thing about the insurrection is that it was entirely predictable, indeed predicted.  Trump urged his supporters to come to Washington DC for a wild protest, and social media influencers amplified this call to action, citing the right-wing claims that the election was stolen.  Thankfully, these people are stupid, and their cell phone data and social media posts placed them in the Capitol.  One hilarious development is that fed-up women used dating apps to identify insurrectionists.  A cadre of online sleuths has been using images from the insurrection to hunt down the perpetrators.  If only the professionals were as diligent!  I'm still appalled by how incompetent the police response to the invasion was, in some cases, I suspect complicity.

Things were bad, but they could have been worse- some militia members set up a weapons cache across the river from Washington DC so they could ramp up the violence.  The NYT compilation video is appalling enough, the sheer amount of video footage, much of it recorded by the insurgents themselves, has been mind-boggling.  Again, these people are stupid, cartoonishly so.

The talking point on the right, workshopped by figures such as Louie Gohmert, is that majority of the insurrectionists are political prisoners, while the FBI orchestrated the violence.  I've seen the videos, I've seen convincing evidence of the identities and affiliations of the insurgents... this is pure gaslighting.

As the trials move forward, I don't expect things to get any saner.  I figure it's going to be a L-O-N-G six months coming up.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Dishonest Framing of a Partisan Problem

I used to take pleasure in reading the New York Times, which purports to be the 'Paper of Record'.  On Sundays back in the 1990s, reading the Sunday Times and doing the crossword puzzle was a favored post-hangover ritual after a night of carousing.  These days, though, I don't even bother clicking on links to the website because the way the paper frames stories gives me agita.  I mean, check out this pretty bit of journalistic malpractice from the NYT chief White House correspondent:

Biden fell short?  For months, it has been known that Republicans are hesitating to take the COVID-19 vaccine.  Twenty states have hit the 70% rate of residents receiving at least one shot... all of them majority Democratic states.  Singling out Mississippi and Alabama, these states have fewer than one-third of their residents vaccinated.  In a particularly worrisome development, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is becoming more prevalent in low-vaccine regions.

While the Biden Administration's vaccine rollout has been well-coordinated, there is an even better-coordinated disinformation campaign, mainly on the right.  I've heard whackos claim the the vaccine magnetizes people, that it causes miscarriages, that it neuters young people... if you have the intestinal fortitude, these gentlemen do a wonderful job of cataloging disinformation.  In the face of such intransigence, it's a miracle that Biden was able to achieve a 67% vaccination rate.  This Peter Baker guy can go piss up a rope.  As for the Times, not even Will Shortz can get me to buy the paper anymore.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Something to Celebrate?

While I would say that the country is doing much better than it was a year ago, there are still deficiencies in our culture.  What can one say when The Onion is a better source of news and opinion than the NYT and WaPo?

Is it any wonder that right-wingers kvetched that Juneteenth would replace the Fourth of July? The country has far to go to live up to the lofty ideals enumerated in the Founding Documents. 

Longtime readers will know that one of my all-time favorite songs is Fourth of July by the band X. It's the perfect encapsulation of a malaise gripping a working class couple, which can be extrapolated to encapsulate the malaise gripping the United States: On the lost side of town, in a dark apartment, we gave up trying so long ago

It seems as if a large percentage of the population gave up trying so long ago, even with something as simple as obtaining a free vaccine... President Biden set a goal of 70% of Americans vaccinated by the Fourth of July, a symbolic goal, allowing large outdoor celebrations to resume.  Vaccine acceptance, to a disconcerting degree, falls along political lines, with hardcore Trumpers literally dying to 'own' the libs. We gave up trying so long ago.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the song ends on a hopeful note, with the narrator calling to his partner to shake off her malaise and join in the celebration.  Here's the song's writer, Dave Alvin, singing his masterpiece with members of Los Lobos:


We gave up trying so long ago doesn't have to be our motto.  There are big problems to tackle, seemingly existential problems such as global warming, racism, sexism, and homophobia.  Sure, we can take a day off to celebrate American independence from colonialism (which we have unfortunately imposed on other peoples), but there is work to do.  As Dave Alvin would put it, dry your tears and baby, walk outside.

We can work to make this a country which finally lives up to its lofty stated goals.

ADDENDUM: In a case of esprit d'escalier, the term 'Aspirational Holiday' came to mind when I got up to pee- if we fight like hell, maybe this country will actually be a 'sweet land of liberty'. 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Back for the Weekend, Cone and All

Regular readers will recall that my coworker Ginger was on the injured reserve list, having had minor surgery to remove a cyst on her ear.  This necessitated a fitting with a cone and a period of recuperation at a manager's house.  The instructions were clear, Ginger is to remain indoors for at least another week or so, until the stitches can be removed.  This weekend, the manager is going away for the holiday, so he dropped Ginger off with us:

So far, it's been a tough night for my precious kitty.  She'd been caterwauling to go out until I bribed her with some kitty treats, and she's having problems scratching under the cone (I was able to give her a hand with a neck scratch).  She's even a bit short-tempered... my coworker Tim tried to comb her (she's shedding something fierce) and she swatted at him.  

It's going to be a long, tedious week for my coned cutie.  I've been extra generous with the treats, trying to make up for a non-ideal situation that my dear girl can't understand.  I've been using treats as bribes to occupy her as I hastily exit the building when necessary, to maintain her house arrest.  I'm just hoping that, for the next couple of days, she decides to sleep more than the typical fifteen hours per day.  There will plenty of time to scout around the property once she is fully recovered.

Friday, July 2, 2021

A Brand-New Social Media Sewer

 One of the tenets of Right-Wing grievance culture is a nonsensical claim that Conservatives are routinely silenced on social media platforms.  While high-profile righties like Vulgarmort have been ejected from Twitter and Facebook, it is because they routinely violated the Terms of Service... it's not censorship, the users merely broke the deal.

In the face of such purported deplatforming, a Con-friendly social media platform to rival Twitter in particular is the holy grail of the right-wing tech bro.  We've seen Gab, which probably only has about one-hundred thousand active users, and Parler, which has been on-and-offline... both platforms are hotbeds of racism, antisemitism, and general whackaloonery.  Now, there's a new right-wing Twitter 'alternative', GETTR, run by super creepy former Trump adviser, deadbeat dad, and failed freelance abortionist Jason Miller, using funds from Guo Wengui, fugitive billionaire and Steve Bannon associate. Predictably, GETTR has been a gutter from the get-go:

Ah, yes, who did not see that coming?  Apparently, even the most die-hard Trump supporters, the QAnon set, are upset at the amount of lewd and scatalogical material on the site.  Even the grifters in that cohort are upset at the way the site's being used by amateurs:

It's getting so that a guy can't even make an honest buck selling bleach to rubes as a panacea without Anime Nazis eating up all the bandwidth!

The biggest trolls on the internet all seem to have flocked to the new platform:

That being said, there are a select few who turn out to be too toxic even for the cesspool.

It's not clear if Trump himself will join the site, though Trump doppelgängers have already made an appearance.  It's even less clear how long the site will last, because it is a buggy security risk.  As the Good Professor said, the Shadow can only mock, it cannot make.  I don't think it gave life to GETTR, it only ruined and twisted Twitter.