Category Archives: Uncategorized

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Investigated For Sexual Misconduct #MeToo (Updated)

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There was an accusation made in 2014 about an early 1980s rape by Tyson, but that never went anywhere and as far as I know was never proven. When that accusation resurfaced recently, a pysics professor, Katelyn Allers, came forward to relate a 2009 story of unwanted touching ad an AAS meeting. The incident was not viewed as especially traumatic by Professor Allers, but it was seen as inappropriate at the time. Ashley Watson, while working as an assistant to Tyson, relates “red flag” moments, attempts at persuasion to have sex, during her time working for him, and talks about misogynistic comments. Those allegations are all summarized in a report that came out yesterday in Buzzfeed News, but was initially summarized on a blog at not-my-favoriate-blog-site, Patheos.

And now, according to the Buzzfeed report, Fox Broadcasting and National Geographic, the producers of the Cosmos reboot hosted by Tyson, are investigating these incidents.

The statement by the producers of Cosmos: Continue reading Neil DeGrasse Tyson Investigated For Sexual Misconduct #MeToo (Updated)


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Thwarting another attack on climate science, Michael Mann releases his own emails

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You’ve heard about the “scientific method.” If your memory is excellent, and you took a lot of science classes in American schools, you learned two of them, because life science textbooks and physical science textbooks teach somewhat different concepts called “scientific method.” If you study the history of science, even at a superficial level, or do actual science, you will find that the “scientific method” you learned in high school, the very same “scientific method” people who either love or hate science, but are not scientists, and talk a lot about science, incessantly refer to, is not what scientists actually do. Neither the procedures for developing a study nor the inferential process of advancing understanding follow this method, or at least, not very often. Doing science is much more haphazard and opportunistic, nuanced and visceral, much less clean and predictable. Like the famous physicist once said, “The scientific method; that is what I fall back on when I can’t think of anything else do to.”

But there is one thing that is found common to most scientific endeavors, and without this thing science would not progress very quickly or very far: Continue reading Thwarting another attack on climate science, Michael Mann releases his own emails


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Voting With A Porpoise

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A new book to help educate our small fry on the importance and meaning of voting: Voting With a Porpoise by Russell Glass, Sean Callahan and Daniel Howarth (illustrator).

It is a whale of a book:

A pod of dolphins (and their porpoise friend, Petey) is in trouble. Their reef no longer provides the food they need to survive. The pod can’t figure out what to do until Petey suggests they hold an election to decide.

2018 Parent and Teacher Choice Award winner, Voting With a Porpoise is a fun, timeless, and beautifully illustrated story that teaches children how elections and voting have the power to solve hard problems.

The authors created this book to help change the culture around elections and voting. To that end, 100 percent of the profits for Voting With a Porpoise will be donated to 501(c)(3) non-partisan voting-related causes focused on getting more people of all backgrounds to the polls, such as Rock the Vote, Vote.org, TurboVote, and others.

This book is the next best thing to lowering the voting age to 16! Or lower!


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Is Blackface Ever Racist?

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In order to answer this question, we have to talk about Jim. Jim Crow.

The term “Jim Crow” can refer to the set of laws based on the claim that black people in America are inferior to whites, are to be kept from opportunity, and segregated. Lynching is an option. The law implements this philosophy by codifying segregation and repression.

But Jim Crow was also an actual person. Well, not really a person, but a character played by a person, prior to the Civil War, that war that ended slavery.

After that war, the law, society, and politics changed, giving free blacks, most of whom were former slaves, opportunity and meaningful freedom. This change was widespread, rapid, and dramatic. Suddenly, there were black elected officials, for example. Black kids went to schools with their elders, and African American literacy rates rose rapidly. African Americans voted and actively participated in the political process. African Americans began to accumulate some wealth, and to own land, and were free to use public accommodations.

But the Federal government dropped the ball and these changes were not supported or enforced, and the northern white establishment quickly gave sway to the southern racists. There was a rapid fire series of events often associated with mini battles involving police, troops, and angry townspeople, that pushed African Americans back down. In some counties or cities, even at the state level, there were two sets of ballot boxes during elections. The legal one where everyone could vote, and the whites only box. Generally, the white only ballots were the ones that were counted.

This is when the Jim Crow legal philosophy emerged. White America oversaw the dismantling of most of the post war advancements, using the Jim Crow laws.

Besides the Jim Crow laws, another part of that regression was the widespread construction of civil war monuments across the south, honoring southern generals, troops, etc. Also, monuments were erected to celebrate the white victories in the post Civil War battles mentioned above. These monuments were explicit acts of oppression of black Americans.

Those are the very same monuments that have been coming down lately in the south, the center of protests bringing white supremacists out of the woodwork, the great people on both sides, according to Trump. (See: Taking down New Orleans’ monuments: Not what you think)

So, where does the original Jim Crow fit in? Before the war, Jim Crow was a character played by actor Thomas Dartmouth Rice. He had started playing the role by 1832, probably with blackface from the beginning, but if not, black face was soon added. Jim Crow was an absurd, ignorant, negative depiction meant to denigrate African Americans, mostly in those days slaves. But the black face Jim Crow continued after the Civil War and became the basis for later ministerial shows. Those shows were also meant to denigrate blacks. Stepin Fetchit was a latter day version of this, played by African American actor Lincoln TMA Perry. Perry was the first African American actor to make it big, and he had a long career as a fully co-opted player in 20th century racist Hollywood. Being already black, he did not wear black face, but he played a role fully cognate with Jim Crow.

In fact, post modern revisionists have taken both the original racist Jim Crow image and Stepin Fetchit, made the link with colonial African tropes, to call it all an embodiment of the “trickster” archetype. That’s also racist, that revisionism.

Jim Crow was a very offensive and hurtful parody of black people. Jim Crow was an absurd character meant to entertain racist whites. Jim Crow is where black face began, back in the 1830s Blackface was never not racist.

Blackface Halloween costumes are blatantly racist. Blackface has always, always, been racist. Blackface has been a racist, denigrating, part of white society in America since the early 1830s, when Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice invented this horribly offensive persona. Blackface has never been anything but racist.

And everyone knows this, except Megan Kelly.

NBC, maybe you need to take out the trash. Hey, NBC, thanks for taking out the trash.


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Willa Grows To Cat 5 Unexpectedly, Republicans Rejoice, Twitter Backs Haters

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Willa the Hurricane, poised to make landfall in Western Mexico, has suddenly grown to a Category 5 storm. This has surprised forecasters.

Jeff Masters has a writeup here.

The storm will make landfal somewhere south of Mazatlan, or vicinity, in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesdy. For hours before that, probably starting Tuesday afternoon, there will be dangerous winds hitting the region.

The storm is likely to make an eyewall replacement, which takes several hours and reduces the strength of the storm enough to knock it down a category, temporarily. If the timing of that is just right, Willa may be a Category 4 rather than a Category 5 as it slams into Mexico.

The National Hurricane center does not make storm surge estimates for Mexican Eastern Pacific storms, but the area it is likely to hit looks to me to be very susceptible to flooding of this type.

I note that on Twitter, a very large number of Republicans are rooting for the hurricane to hit the human caravan coming up from Mexico. It won’t, but one might say that any one of those deplorables wishing death and misery to the men, women, and children, in that group of refugees should themselves be slapped hard upside the head. Figuratively, of course, one would not want to incite violence, would one?

I told a few of them (three, exactly) that wishing death to these poor people was inappropriate. Twitter banned me for doing that.

Anyway, good luck everyone in Mexico.


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A variety of cheap books: Lovecraft, Gaiman, Holmes, Bees, Michener, Bass (bones)

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All cheap on the Kindle:

Lovecraft Country: A Novel by Matt Ruff.

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell:

A New York Times Notable Book: “A melodious mix of memoir, nature journal, and beekeeping manual” (Kirkus Reviews).

Weaving a vivid portrait of her own life and her bees’ lives, author Sue Hubbell lovingly describes the ins and outs of beekeeping on her small Missouri farm, where the end of one honey season is the start of the next. With three hundred hives, Hubbell stays busy year-round tending to the bees and harvesting their honey, a process that is as personally demanding as it is rewarding.

Exploring the progression of both the author and the hive through the seasons, this is “a book about bees to be sure, but it is also about other things: the important difference between loneliness and solitude; the seasonal rhythms inherent in rural living; the achievement of independence; the accommodating of oneself to nature” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). Beautifully written and full of exquisitely rendered details, it is a tribute to Hubbell’s wild hilltop in the Ozarks and of the joys of living a complex life in a simple place.

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by John Joseph Adams and including an entry by Neil Gaiman:

The game is afoot! Night Shade Books is proud to present the fantastic adventures of the world’s greatest detective — mystery, fantasy, science fiction, horror, no genre can escape the esteemed detective’s needle-sharp intellect and intuition.
This reprint anthology showcases the best Holmes short fiction from the last 25 years, featuring stories by such visionaries as Stephen King, Neil Gaimen, Laura King, and many others.

Flesh and Bone: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass:

Anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton founded Tennessee’s world-famous Body Farm—a small piece of land where corpses are left to decay in order to gain important forensic information. Now, in the wake of a shocking crime in nearby Chattanooga, he’s called upon by Jess Carter—the rising star of the state’s medical examiners—to help her unravel a murderous puzzle. But after re-creating the death scene at the Body Farm, Brockton discovers his career, reputation, and life are in dire jeopardy when a second, unexplained corpse appears in the grisly setting.

Accused of a horrific crime—transformed overnight from a respected professor to a hated and feared pariah—Bill Brockton will need every ounce of his formidable forensic skills to escape the ingeniously woven net that’s tightening around him . . . and to prove the seemingly impossible: his own innocence.

The Drifters: A Novel by James Michener:

In this triumphant bestseller, renowned novelist James A. Michener unfolds a powerful and poignant drama of disenchanted youth during the Vietnam era. Against exotic backdrops including Spain, Morocco, and Mozambique, he weaves together the heady dreams, shocking tribulations, and heartwarming bonds of six young runaways cast adrift in the world—as well as the hedonistic pursuit of drugs and pleasure that collapses all around them. With the sure touch of a master, Michener pulls us into the private world of these unforgettable characters, exposing their innermost desires with remarkable candor and infinite compassion.


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Interesting House Races, Georgia to Kansas

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Among these states, there are 53 House seats, 20 held by Democrats, 33 by Republicans. There are probably two seats currently held by Republicans that are going to become Democratic. There are a few others that might change, but not likely. That is a closing of a 25% gap to a 17% gap, bringing Democrats closer to a majority, but with no cigars being handed out.

Iowa‘s 1st district is currently represented by Republican Rod Blum, who seems to be firmly behind Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer, according to 538. Finkenauer has been ahead across several polls in this much polled race, since last February. That includes partisan polls both Democratic and Republicans, as well as the Siena NYT poll and Emmerson College.

This is a takeaway.

Republican incumbent Peer Roskam, in Illinois 6, is somewhat likely to lose to Democratic challenger Sean Casten. The numbers are not statistically separated, but Casten is pulling forward quickly, but mainly in Democratic leaning partisan polls. As recently as early September, the Siena College NYT poll put Roskam ahead by one point. Yet, 538 puts Casten at a slightly higher chance of winning. I’m going to hold off on this and suggest that Casten wins with a large Blue wave.

Illinois 12th district has a Republican incumbent, Mike Bost, with a strong Democratic challenger, Brendan Kelly, who is statistically almost identical, but slightly behind. There is a Green Party candidate, Randy Auxier, running in that race with 3 points. With the Green Party candidate there, I can’t give this race to the Democrats except in a strong blue wave which, hopefully, sinks the Green as well as Red.

In Kansas’s 3rd district, Democrat Sharice Davids seems highly likely to pull off a take away from Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder. The polling is strong, and 538 gives their odds at close to 8:2

Kansas 2nd district is currently held by Republican Lynn Jenkins, who is not running for re-election. Democrat Paul Davis is a tiny bit ahead of Republican Steve Watkins. Polling is sparse and the numbers are variable. This is not one to put in the takeaway list, but it could move there, and is definitely a race to watch.


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Warmaking By American Presidents

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This book is just out: Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss.

Ten years in the research and writing, Presidents of War is a fresh, magisterial, intimate look at a procession of American leaders as they took the nation into conflict and mobilized their country for victory. It brings us into the room as they make the most difficult decisions that face any President, at times sending hundreds of thousands of American men and women to their deaths.

From James Madison and the War of 1812 to recent times, we see them struggling with Congress, the courts, the press, their own advisors and antiwar protesters; seeking comfort from their spouses, families and friends; and dropping to their knees in prayer. We come to understand how these Presidents were able to withstand the pressures of war—both physically and emotionally—or were broken by them.

Beschloss’s interviews with surviving participants in the drama and his findings in original letters, diaries, once-classified national security documents, and other sources help him to tell this story in a way it has not been told before. Presidents of War combines the sense of being there with the overarching context of two centuries of American history. This important book shows how far we have traveled from the time of our Founders, who tried to constrain presidential power, to our modern day, when a single leader has the potential to launch nuclear weapons that can destroy much of the human race.

We are reminded, of course, of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, by Rachel Maddow.

Speaking of Rachel Maddow and books on presidents and war, here is Rachel Maddow speaking with Michael Beschloss about presidents and war and books thereon.


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