Notes and Comment Blog

More methane please

May 31st, 2017 11:32 am | By

And the last one: EPA halts Obama-era rule on methane pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has halted an Obama administration rule to cut down on pollution of methane, a greenhouse gas produced at oil and natural gas drilling wells.

The EPA on Wednesday said it had issued a 90-day stay of agency rules designed to limit methane leaks at drilling sites, as well as rules setting standards for equipment and employee certification.

President Trump ordered the EPA to reconsider the methane standards in March when he signed an executive order to repeal several Obama administration climate regulations.

Let’s just go ahead and trash the climate. What difference does climate make anyway? If you don’t like the one you live in, just move to somewhere else!

The decision to roll back its methane standards comes as Canada begins the process of tightening its standards. Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their methane reduction strategies together in 2016.

Environmental groups have said they will sue over the decision to reconsider the methane rules. In a Wednesday statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the Trump administration is “giving its friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to continue polluting our air.”

Oh stop whining. We can always wear gas masks.

More mercury and arsenic in the water please

May 31st, 2017 11:16 am | By

The second top story under “trump administration epa” – Rule to limit mercury and arsenic in waterways is delayed by the EPA.

Naturally. Let’s not be hasty about keeping mercury and arsenic out of waterways…in fact let’s not do it at all. People can always drink bottled water.

The Environmental Protection Agency would like to delay an Obama-era rule that limits the amount of toxins power plant operators can dump into waterways, the agency announced late last week.

In a new rule, expected to be published this week in the Federal Register, the agency has proposed delaying the compliance dates of the 2015 Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines until the EPA reviews them.

Environmental groups characterized the EPA’s decision to delay implementation of the rule as in line with the Trump administration’s attempt to conduct a broad rollback of regulations designed to protect public health. The Obama administration estimated that the 2015 rule would keep 1.4 billion pounds of toxic metals and other pollutants out of waterways each year.

Who is most likely to be poisoned by this move? The people Trump claims to love and want to help, that’s who. The people who don’t live in leafy suburbs with good water treatment systems.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the proposed delay, if finalized, will give the administration time to “carefully consider the next steps for this regulation.” He also touted the decision as one of nearly two dozen “regulatory reform” actions that he has taken during his brief tenure as EPA administrator. The decision is designed “to protect the environment, jobs and affordable, reliable energy,” he said in a May 25 statement.

Then he lied, since the decision is obviously designed not to protect the environment.

These people are like evil villains out of fairy tales.

In an earlier press release announcing his decision to reconsider the final rule, Pruitt said “some of our nation’s largest job producers have objected to this rule, saying the requirements set by the Obama administration are not economically or technologically feasible within the proscribed [sic] timeframe.”

“Job producers” is of course Republican code for corporations and shareholders. They produce as few jobs as they possibly can, because jobs cost them money.

The protections targeted steam electric power plants — which often run on coal— that dump large amounts of toxic pollutants into streams every year.

Electric plants dump 64,400 pounds of lead, 2,820 pounds of mercury, 79,200 pounds of arsenic, and 1,970,000 pounds of aluminum into the country’s waterways every year. Some of these pollutants, including arsenic, are known carcinogens, while others, such as lead, have been linked to developmental and reproductive problems. This pollution has also been linked to fish die-offs, the EPA explained in 2015.

Nobody wants to eat fish anyway. Just get a Big Mac.

We respectfully request raw sewage in Puget Sound

May 31st, 2017 10:58 am | By

Al Franken was on Fresh Air yesterday, and he said one thing that ratcheted up my dismay level one more notch.

GROSS: Things are so divided now in America and in government, in the Senate, in the House, do you feel like it’s possible now for you to have friendly relations with people in the government who are, you know, like, 180 degrees away from you on politics, on science, on climate change?

FRANKEN: Oh, man. There is stuff going on in the EPA right now on science where they’re just getting rid of the scientific boards that oversee the science, and it’s really awful. It’s really – this administration does not believe in science, it seems. And they’re getting, you know, people from industry. And they think there’s too much regulation. And they have – we have someone who is – Meredith’s (ph) a professor from the University of Minnesota, who I just talked to yesterday, who sort of oversees all these scientific boards.

And she is really alarmed. This is very, very bad. It’s hard for me to have very good relations with people who are doing that.

It drives me nuts.

Here’s a little experiment for you: Google “Trump administration epa” and see what comes up.

Under Top Stories right now I get

EPA halts Obama-era rule on methane pollution

President’s EPA counsel calls meeting over boat discharge in Puget Sound

Rule to limit mercury and arsenic in waterways is delayed by EPA

Those are all dated today.

The middle one could be benign, but of course it isn’t. This president’s counsel calls a meeting to talk about not preventing boat discharge in Puget Sound. More raw sewage for the Sound! Shut up and stop complaining!

The Washington Department of Ecology is near the end of an effort to ban boats from discharging raw and partially treated sewage into Puget Sound. Except, the waters may soon muddy.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s senior counsel called a meeting with Ecology Director Maia Bellon Wednesday morning.

“I typically work with the Seattle office of the Environmental PA to talk about these issues. I’m a ‘glass is half full person.’ I’m going to look at it as an opportunity to talk about Washingtonians want the Puget Sound to be treated with the utmost of respect,” Bellon said.

The Regional EPA director has already approved the designation of a “No Discharge Zone.” The process is still awaiting a public comment period, and boats will get five years to comply. Still, Bellon was confident the NDZ would become a reality.

Not so fast! What about all those cruise ships that might want to save money by dumping all that sewage? Won’t somebody think of the shareholders?

President Donald Trump’s EPA counsel is reacting to a petition from Washington maritime stakeholders. They’re critical of the NDZ designation, arguing it will be too costly for maritime business and doesn’t do much to stop pollution. It will require some boats spend $175,000 in upgrades for storage tanks.

The petition reads: “We respectfully request that EPA rescind the February 21 determination to allow for a thorough review of Ecology’s petition by you and your staff. The final determination was hastily promulgated and disregarded legitimate stakeholder concerns in favor of an expedited review designed primarily to avoid scrutiny by the Trump Administration. We respectfully request that you publish in the Federal Register a notice rescinding EPA’s February 21 determination and provide direct notice to the Washington Department of Ecology to cease any NDZ rulemaking pending EPA’s reconsideration. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

Will they comply? Of course they will. The “stakeholders” always come first.

“I think it’s unprecedented. I’ve not heard of any No Discharge Zone petitions across the United States in 26 states we’ve looked at this,” Bellon said.

Bellon says her office has taken extra time to work with stakeholders, and believes if the Trump administration reverses the regional EPA ruling, it would be illegal.

“We have a lot of swimming beaches where our families and our kids swim and recreate,” she said. “We fish out of the Puget Sound. We collect shellfish out of the Puget Sound. So, having those human pathogens or bacteria are problematic, and we should be eliminating those sources of pollution.”

Any bets?

Think of the children

May 31st, 2017 10:01 am | By

Then there’s this one.

In case you don’t yet know what Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of, it’s a video in which she holds up a facsimile severed head of Trump, streaming blood (as severed heads don’t, so that part is weird).

It’s a crap thing to do, I agree with him on that much. I don’t want Trump doing it to the people he hates, so we can’t do it to the people we hate.

But. Trump’s pious invocation of his children is disgusting. What about all the children of all the people he has mocked and insulted and degraded over the past several decades? Has he ever considered their feelings for one instant? Of course not. For that matter, did he consider Barron’s feelings when he decided to try to be president? It doesn’t look as if he did, does it.

Meanwhile…Judith and Holofernes:

Cristofano Allori, Judith and the Head of Holofernes, 1613

Constant negative press qsrrtnf

May 31st, 2017 9:44 am | By

Last night just after midnight his time Trump had a brainfart on Twitter.

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” the tweet began, at 12:06 a.m., from @realDonaldTrump, the irrepressible internal monologue of his presidency.

And that was that.


Time passed. The tweet stayed, and the world wondered.

Perhaps, some worried aloud, Mr. Trump had experienced a medical episode a quarter of the way through his 140 characters.

No one at the White House could immediately be reached for comment.

By 1 a.m., the debate had effectively consumed Twitter — or at least a certain segment of insomniac Beltway types, often journalists and political operatives — ascending the list of trending topics.

Oh come on – there are 24 time zones. On the other side of the Atlantic it was 6 a.m., and farther east it was later. On the west coast it was only 10 p.m.

Merriam-Webster tweeted.

In the end the tweet was deleted, and Trump pretended the joke was on everyone but him.

More forced pregnancy

May 31st, 2017 9:30 am | By

The ACLU tells us

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to issue regulations that would allow any employer to deny any employee insurance coverage for contraception based on the employer’s religious beliefs.

Your boss’s religious beliefs shouldn’t be allowed to [affect] your compensation package. Yet here we are.

This is nothing more than an attempt to sanction discrimination against women in the name of religion. If the Trump administration follows through on these plans, we’ll see them in court.

Does Trump actually give a flying fuck about “religious liberty”? Of course not. He does hate women, though, so it makes him happy to be able to take away their rights.

Ceci n’est pas un Premier Gentilhomme

May 30th, 2017 4:55 pm | By

From the Annals of Petty Shit:

The White House on Saturday published a photograph of First Lady Melania Trump flanked by Queen Mathilde of Belgium and other spouses of NATO leaders at the Royal Castle of Laeken in Brussels—and conspicuously left out the name of the the First Gentleman of Luxembourg. Gauthier Destenay, an architect, married Prime Minister Xavier Bettel two years ago, making Bettel the first European Union head of government to marry a same-sex partner. Photographs of Destenay chatting and shopping with other NATO spouses went viral after the Thursday meeting.

Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standing and wedding

The source was Facebook so I had a look and found that they’ve updated it to include Destenay, but why not do that in the first place? Because petty shit.

What was the orb?

May 30th, 2017 4:31 pm | By

It appears that Trump’s Twitter account puffed up with bots over the past few days.

As conspiracy fever grips the nation — and American citizens struggle to answer questions like, “What was the orb?” “Is the pee tape real?” And, “What was that red light blinking at the White House over the weekend?” — a new mystery has emerged: Over the weekend, Donald Trump, the worst Twitter user of all time, and also the president, gained more than 5 million followers.

Even for Trump, that is a lot. What does it all mean? What is he planning? The #resistance — the cohort of Twitter users all racing to be the first smug reply to any of Trump’s tweets — is keeping a close eye on the situation.

Dear me. I can’t imagine calling myself part of a “resistance.” I loathe Trump with the fire of a thousand suns but he ain’t the Nazi occupation.

At any rate, the bots don’t necessarily mean much.

Here’s the thing about Twitter bots: Anyone can buy them for anyone, for relatively cheap. Just because the bots swarmed to Trump doesn’t mean they came from him or his team. Creating a Twitter account doesn’t even require a verified email address, making it easy to generate new, imaginary users. Plus, there are dozens of much more likely, and much more mundane, reasons to set up a bunch of bots besides “declaring cyberwarfare on the American people.” Maybe you run a business that sells inflated follower counts, so you create a bunch of bots and direct them to follow your paying customers. Maybe you’re a spammer who wants to DM links to people or hijack hashtags.

A good reason to think that this is just a run-of-the-mill scammer? A survey of numerous new Trump followers shows that many are also following celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Ellen DeGeneres, Barack Obama, Jimmy Fallon, and LeBron James, and brands like ESPN and CNN — the same types of popular accounts that are regularly suggested to all new users during Twitter’s initial onboarding process.

Could be Putin, could be just ordinary Twitter noise. For the moment, don’t panic.

He loves a bully

May 30th, 2017 2:51 pm | By


German leaders – who say that the United States remains their most important international ally and an important partner whose friendship they want to maintain – feel Trump has prioritized relations with authoritarian nations like Saudi Arabia instead of democratic allies. Many were shocked when Trump declared in Riyadh that “we are not here to lecture” the mostly unelected assembled leaders – then blasted European allies in Brussels for not spending enough on defense.

It makes me sick.


Is this Putin’s cunning plan?

May 30th, 2017 11:23 am | By

Lawrence Tribe makes some connections for us:

Russia may knows things about Trump’s business dealings it can use to blackmail him. The point of the Emoluments Clause was precisely to prevent that. It could be that the reason Trump carried on like such an authoritarian nightmare at NATO and the G7 is because Putin told him to. The sudden crumbling of our relationship with liberal democratic Europe may be all because Trump has sleazy and/or criminal secrets that Putin is holding over him.

Meanwhile Republicans in Congress are looking fixedly in the other direction.

It could hardly be any more disgusting.

A baseline standard of transparency

May 30th, 2017 10:36 am | By

Norm Eisen told Greg Sargent at the Washington Post that the Republicans in Congress can demand to see Trump’s tax returns.

“The tax committees of Congress have the legal right to demand from the IRS, to examine, and to share tax returns if a proper public purpose is met,” Eisen said.

Democrats have also zeroed in on this point. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has repeatedly pressed the committee’s GOP chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, to use his authority to secure an opportunity for committee members to privately view Trump’s tax returns. Hatch refused, citing limitations on his own authority to do this that Democrats say is bogus. Republicans have blocked other measures designed to access the tax returns.

The important point here is that broadly speaking, most Republicans are inclined against taking whatever steps are necessary to deepen their own (not to mention the public’s) understanding of the Russia affair. There are other measures Republicans could take to try to force access to the tax returns, either through legislation or simply by issuing more forceful calls on him to release them. Again: All we are talking about here is a baseline standard of transparency, one that Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have held themselves to for decades, because they recognized that the American people have a right to this transparency from their public officials, a right Trump does not recognize — and one congressional Republicans are now shrugging off.

They shouldn’t be doing that. It’s immoral and sleazy. We don’t need to know about Trump’s interests because of prurient curiosity, we need to know so that we can tell what his interests are and thus how he might sell out our interests to further his own.

Trump’s pit bull

May 30th, 2017 10:19 am | By

Now Trump’s lawyer has been asked to help the Congressional investigations of Russian efforts to put Trump in the White House. He said no thanks so they’re going to subpoena him.

While much of the media focus in recent days has fallen on Russian contacts made by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, there are few people closer to the president than his longtime lawyer. Insiders consider Cohen to be Trump’s pit bull or consigliere for his role in threatening legal action against Trump critics, gaining notoriety for threatening and browbeating reporters investigating Trump’s background.

He was quoted in 2015 telling Daily Beast reporters, “I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know … So I’m warning you, tread very f—ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting.”


After the 2016 campaign, Cohen left the Trump Organization to become the president’s personal attorney, a job he still holds. From that post, he has continued to weigh in on Trump’s behalf on Twitter and during occasional television appearances.

After Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey, for example, Cohen tweeted, “I believe @POTUS was justified in terminating #Comey as @FBI director. #RT if you agree with me!”

Classy classy classy.


May 30th, 2017 9:15 am | By

Slate points out (as do others) how long it took Donnie the Racist to say anything about the horror in Portland. When he finally did, he of course didn’t mention anything about racism. Also he did it (or more likely a staffer did it) from his official prez account, not the personal one where he constantly erupts at the news media and most of the population.

For a candidate that became a darling of the white nationalist fringe, thrusting them closer to the mainstream of American life, the absence of a statement lauding the bravery of the citizens who stepped in to try to stop a raving racist lunatic was particularly conspicuous. The president returned from his trip abroad Saturday and still waited another day and a half to make an official statement.

He was, Elliot Hannon points out, too busy tweeting about “fake news” and the election in Montana.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

May 30th, 2017 5:05 am | By
Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

Princess Ivanka is empowering us again.

Rock on! It’s a three day weekend, y’all, so turn the music up and make champagne popsicles.

Not all observers were charmed, though.

Also, check out the profile:


Views expressed are the brand’s? Her brand has achieved consciousness? Philosophers and scientists and the AI people will be interested to hear that.

But much more so – check out the date when The Brand joined Twitter. November 2016.


Or some combination of identities

May 29th, 2017 6:08 pm | By

Exciting news: the UK has its first ever “gender-fluid” police officer.

A police officer has become Britain’s first gender-fluid officer and is using separate male and female identities while at work.

One some days the officer goes by the name Callum — and on other days goes by the female name of Abi.

The transgender PC has two warrant cards, one in their male name, the other in their female identity.

See what I mean about exciting? I suppose Abi shows up in pink tutus and a mop of curls, while Callum is in camouflage gear and a full beard?

Gender fluid is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, neutral, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities.

Their gender can also vary at random or vary in response to different circumstances. It comes as part of the Met Police’s diversity initiative encouraging officers to “be themselves” at work.


The thing I don’t get though is…so what? What is anyone supposed to do about it? Why bother to announce it?

Unless…are we assuming women and men are so profoundly different that it’s necessary to adjust our behavior and way of talking according to other people’s gender? Do Abi-Callum’s colleagues need to know their gender at any particular moment in order to interact with them appropriately or correctly or otherwise according-to-gender?

Because if so – what about the rest of us? What, especially, about women? What about women, who have been trying for decades to get the world to stop relating to us as if we were defective and incomplete and not too bright? What about us if we don’t want to be simpered at or whispered to or coaxed along or flirted with or patronized or sidelined?

Or to put it another way, where does gender-fluid end and self-absorbed begin?

Why should anyone care what Abi-Callum thinks their gender status is at any given moment? I don’t suppose cops generally make official announcements of their moods every few seconds, so why does Abi-Callum need to tell us about these shifting flowing fluxing “genders” that actually just sound like moods?

Callum, who had been a male male police officer for 13 years, told the Sun: “The first time I walked into a Met building as Abi, I was hyperventilating so much I almost passed out. “I’ve done it a handful of times since and felt so happy that I got to be me at work.

“Abi is a part of me that exists and I want that part to be recognised and validated. “But I’m still me. I’m still the same person whether I’m presenting as Callum or Abi. It’s the same dice. You’re just looking at a different number.”

Yeah see that’s what I object to, that wanting one’s various “parts” to be recognised and validated. That’s ridiculous. We don’t have to go around recognizing and validating everyone. Between friends, ok, they can validate each other if they want to, but people at large? No. How would we ever get anything else done, just for one thing? Who has time to recognize and validate all the people we come in contact with?

Besides I don’t want to. Nobody should want to. It’s just self-obsession, and self-obsession sucks. We need a new woke progressive thing where we stamp out self-obsession. There’s nothing the lest bit progressive about it, after all, and progressives have other work to do. The hell with people’s “genders” and what name they are today and being validated. It’s a big world, and nobody’s Self is the center of it.

Sean Hannity needs your help!!

May 29th, 2017 3:09 pm | By

Sean Hannity is the new Victim of Rampant Political Correctness.

Rumors of Fox News host Sean Hannity being fired kept going while advertisers continued pulling out of sponsoring his show after he pushed for a conspiracy theory regarding the death of Democratic National Staffer, Seth Rich, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.

The report came after media watchdog, Media Matters For America, published a list of advertisers sponsoring Hannity’s show on Fox. Hannity described the move as a “kill shot” aimed at forcing him out of Fox News.

But Sean, this is America, home of free everything, where advertisers can pull their ads any time they feel like it, because that’s FREEDOM.

Jeez, what a snowflake! What a social justice warrior, what a whiner, what a regressive internet thingummy.

While police say Seth Rich’s death was a result of a failed robbery, Fox News’ now retracted story asserted an FBI forensics examination showed he had leaked work related emails to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Explaining the retraction of the story, Fox News later said: “The article was not initially subject to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

Hannity, however, continued to question the circumstances of Rich’s death, citing statements from piracy website founder Kim Dotcom who claimed he knew Rich was a WikiLeaks source.

Seth Rich’s family made a written plea to Hannity to stop discussing theories surrounding the unsolved murder.

So he finally did, but the capitalist lackeys had already started backing away. Twitter celebrity Dave Rubin thinks it’s an outrage.

“wrongthink” – as if telling lies about a murder victim on a highly popular mass market tv show were a mere matter of thinking. Paf.

The last piece of the Mediterranean

May 29th, 2017 1:52 pm | By

Speaking of Montenegro and Duško Marković and NATO and Russia and Trump…last November the Times reported on an alleged plot allegedly by the Russians allegedly to fuck everything up.

Aleksandar Sindjelic, a veteran anti-Western activist from neighboring Serbia, has become a key informant — and a suspect — in a sprawling investigation into an alleged plot orchestrated by two Russians to seize Montenegro’s Parliament building last month, kill the prime minister and install a new government hostile to NATO.

Mr. Sindjelic’s account of the events includes a visit to Moscow in September to plan the operation and details of the encrypted phones he was asked to use to avoid eavesdropping. He has not directly implicated any Russian officials but has raised questions about the links between state agencies and a murky network of Russian nationalists active in the Balkans and in eastern Ukraine.

The Pan-Slavic alliance versus the demonic West.

After the early-1990s breakup of Yugoslavia, of which Serbia and Montenegro were parts, the Balkan region has been a zone of dark and often lethal intrigue.

To Moscow’s dismay, Serbia and Montenegro, both traditionally close to Russia, have increasingly tilted toward the West, applying to join the European Union and, in Montenegro’s case, even NATO.

With a few thousand soldiers, a handful of tanks and only 600,000 residents, Montenegro — whose application to join NATO was accepted in May and now awaits ratification — is hardly a military powerhouse. But it controls the only stretch of coastline where warships can dock between Gibraltar and eastern Turkey not already in the hands of the alliance.

“There is a big struggle going on,” said Ranko Krivokapic, an opposition leader who has lobbied for years for Montenegro to join NATO. “We are the last piece of the Mediterranean that is not already in NATO, the last piece in a big puzzle.”

Now they’re in NATO…being jostled and pushed by Donnie from Queens.

Russia has campaigned furiously to keep Montenegro out of the alliance, supporting pro-Moscow political groups in the country and Orthodox priests who view NATO as a threat to Slavic fraternity and faith.

“NATO is an occupying force, and I am absolutely against it,” said Momcilo Krivokapic, an Orthodox priest and an estranged relative of the pro-NATO politician. His church in Kotor, an ancient fortress town, is just a few yards from Kotor Bay, a deepwater haven long coveted by both Russia and the West for its strategic location.

In early October, Father Krivokapic presided over a ceremony in Kotor for the foundation of the Balkan Cossack Army, a Russian-led grouping of Pan-Slavic nationalists bitterly hostile to NATO. The priest described the gathering as “just folklore,” featuring men in fur hats and imperial-era costumes.

Uh huh, and those monuments to slavery and white supremacy all over the South are “just honoring our past.”

Useful background for the push by the tiny tiny tiny man.

Is it ever permissible to exclude?

May 29th, 2017 11:01 am | By

Is it racist to have a feminist festival that excludes white people?

The Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has called for a black feminist festival in the French capital to be banned, saying it was “prohibited to white people”.

The first edition of the Nyansapo Festival, due to run from 28-30 July at a cultural centre in Paris, bills itself as “an event rooted in black feminism, activism, and on (a) European scale”.

Four-fifths of the festival area will be set aside as a “non-mixed” space for black women, according to its website. Another space will be a “non-mixed” area for black people regardless of gender. Another space would be “open to all”.

Is separatism an intermediate step on the road to equality? Do minorities need to exclude the majority at times because otherwise they will always be drowned out?

French anti-racist and antisemitism organisations strongly condemned the festival. SOS Racisme described the event as “a mistake, even an abomination, because it wallows in ethnic separation, whereas anti-racism is a movement which seeks to go beyond race”.

I don’t know. I’m not sure if it really does wallow in ethnic separation, or just enact a desire to be the dominant presence for once.

The cultural centre La Générale, where the event was to be hosted, and the collective Mwasi, which organised the event, said on Sunday they were the “target of a disinformation campaign and of ‘fake news’ orchestrated by the foulest far right”.

“We are saddened to see certain anti-racist associations letting themselves be manipulated like this,” read a statement posted on the Generale website.

A “decolonisation summer camp” in the north-eastern French city of Reims elicited similar outrage last year, as it billed itself as a “training seminar on antiracism” reserved for victims of “institutional racism” or “racialised” minorities – excluding by default white people.

Possibly an outrage too many.

Didn’t see that coming

May 29th, 2017 10:13 am | By

Talk about ironic. Wise people stashed an emergency supply of seeds in a vault buried in permafrost within the Arctic Circle, in case humanity ever needed it. Only it turns out the permafrost isn’t perma. We done melted it.

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But since then we have learned just how damn fast permafrost can melt.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

It never is in our plans. It was not in our plans to destroy the climate we evolved in by driving around in our awesome cars and flying around on our awesome planes, but it happened anyway. We clearly don’t know enough to live the way we do.

The meltwater didn’t actually reach the vault (this time), and the seeds are safe for now. But scary warning is scary.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”

They don’t know if last year’s high temperatures on Spitsbergen were a one-off or the new normal.

“The question is whether this is just happening now, or will it escalate?” said Aschim. The Svalbard archipelago, of which Spitsbergen is part, has warmed rapidly in recent decades, according to Ketil Isaksen, from Norway’s Meteorological Institute.

“The Arctic and especially Svalbard warms up faster than the rest of the world. The climate is changing dramatically and we are all amazed at how quickly it is going,” Isaksen told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

They’re digging trenches to divert meltwater away from the entrance tunnel, and…hoping for the best.

Passive-aggressive non-retraction retraction

May 29th, 2017 8:28 am | By
Passive-aggressive non-retraction retraction

How “skeptics” operate.

Stephen Knight aka Godless Spellchecker wrote a post on May 25 about the reception of the Boghossian-Lindsay “hoax” that wasn’t really a hoax but rather a not very good satire. His focus is on the pay to publish issue.

I took a look at the journals where PZ Myers, Ketan Joshi, Phil Torres (Philippe Verdoux), and Amanda Marcotte published to see if their paper had ever appeared in pay-to-publish journals. While we do not know the details of how much they paid to have their articles published, or even if they paid at all, below is a list of the journals and their fees where their articles have appeared.

To be clear: I do not know if they (or someone on their behalf) paid publication fees or not. Here is my direct question to these individuals: “Have you ever paid, or had anyone pay on your behalf, a fee for publishing a paper or papers?”

Phil Torres (Philippe Verdoux)

Fee: $2500

Verdoux’ article: Emerging Technologies and the Future of Philosophy


Fee: $2400

Verdoux’ article: Technology and our epistemic situation: what ought our priorities to be?

Now scroll down to the end of the comments to read this:


Phil Torres May 28 3:29 pm

Ketan Joshi: This entire fiasco has been deeply wounding to those who care about facts. Not only was the B&L “hoax” (which “L” is now calling a “joke paper”) riddled with factual errors that neither B&L nor Skeptic have publicly corrected (because doing so would be ideologically inconvenient, of course), but I’ve been asking Stephen for several days to remove my name from this blog post: as a matter of verifiable fact, I have never once paid to be published, and I even attached screen shots of and forwarded editor emails from both Metaphilosophy and Foresight confirming that, contra the claims of this article, which people are still reading, they *do not* charge authors. A correction needs to be made fast because misinformation is spreading — but if there’s one thing this “hoax” reveals it’s that misinformation is, well, kinda okay if it suits your narrative.

Now, Knight did insert an update at the top of the article:

Phil Torres has contacted me by email: “I can honestly affirm that I have never paid to publish an article”. He is working on a follow-up article which I shall link to here when it is published.

I think it’s pretty obvious how insultingly inadequate that is.

“Skeptics” – ugh.