Branding opportunities

Sep 9th, 2020 3:15 pm | By

About these awesome book deals that do nothing to save anyone: Dahlia Lithwick last November:

These books are not necessarily about saving the country. Take, for example, Bolton, Trump’s hawkish former national security adviser, who reportedly just reached a $2 million deal with Simon & Schuster for a book to come out next year. Now, Bolton could certainly serve his nation right now by confirming what Fiona Hill has testified to regarding the effort to extort Ukrainian assistance in cooking up oppo research for Trump in advance of the 2020 election. Hill has said that when the plot unwound around Bolton, he told her, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” and asked her to convey that to a White House lawyer. Bolton could surely testify to these and other facts as part of a time-sensitive impeachment inquiry that starts this week. Bolton’s lawyer said in a letter to House Democrats Friday that Bolton “was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.” Which sounds like an elevator pitch for an awesome book-to-movie deal. But it’s also a reason he should appear before Congress. Except he has declined to testify, and presumably will not until a federal judge reaches a decision compelling him to do so, a decision that will be appealed and then appealed again and may come long after the impeachment trial has wrapped. For Bolton, the constitutional imperative lies in locking down the book deal.

And Bob Woodward did the same thing – kept vital life-or-death information to himself until the book was ready.

Now John Kelly has not gotten a book deal yet, but he reportedly uses the threat of his future book deal to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t go after him personally. Apparently the former chief of staff assured his boss that while he would eventually write a book about his time in the White House, he’d wait until Trump was out of office. So long as Trump doesn’t denigrate him first. Some use books to ease the conscience. Others use them to keep Trump at bay. You know, party before Country. Brand above All.

(Fun fact: Trump did denigrate him the other day, over the story about Trump’s callous questions to Kelly when they went to Arlington Cemetery together. Maybe that book is being typed even now.)

In spite of all of this, “books” have somehow retained their vestigial illusion of seriousness and sobriety and adherence to truth and higher values. But these books aren’t penned to make us a better polity, to bring us face to face with our better angels, or to illuminate and elucidate democratic values. They’re branding opportunities for an age of media personalities. This is George Orwell, if Orwell had slowly built an international luxury bedding empire, with 1984 as just one rung on the ladder.

Woodward put his book ahead of a lot of lives.

On the hook

Sep 9th, 2020 2:51 pm | By

Siva has a point.

I don’t know why I overlooked that this morning. Why the hell (obvious selfish reasons aside) did Woodward not report the story at the time instead of saving it for his book launch?

I suppose a likely answer is that Trump agreed to the interviews for a book, not a Washington Post story. But maybe in a life or death situation you ought to break a deal of that kind? Just maybe?

The episodic man

Sep 9th, 2020 12:03 pm | By


When Northwestern University psychologist Dan P. McAdams first wrote about Donald Trump’s psyche for “The Atlantic” in 2016, he knew his subject was not your average politician. He just couldn’t nail down why. 

His new book, “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning” (Oxford University Press, March 2020), provides some surprising answers. Trump, McAdams asserts, may be the rare person who lacks any inner story, something most people develop to give their lives unity, meaning and purpose.

McAdams is something called a “narrative psychologist.”

Trump, McAdams argues, can’t form a meaningful life story because he is the “episodic man” who sees life as a series of battles to be won. There is no connection between the moments, no reflection and no potential for growth when one is compulsively in the present.

It has certainly seemed to me all along that Trump is your classic “just one thing after another” guy. It’s all random, all disjointed, all arbitrary; nothing leads anywhere.

Donald Trump is a “truly authentic fake,” writes McAdams, professor of human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. “Trump is always acting, always on stage — but that is who he really is, and that is all he really is. He is not introspective, retrospective or prospective. He does not go deep into his mind; he does not travel back to the past; he does not project far into the future. He is always on the surface, always right now.”

Shorter: he doesn’t think.

“Truth for Donald Trump is whatever works to win in the moment,” McAdams writes. “He moves through life episode by episode, from one battle to the next, striving in turn, to win each one. The episodes don’t add up or form a narrative arc.”

It’s no wonder he’s so bored, then; no wonder he does little but watch Fox and blurt tweets.

“The features of Trump’s strange personality — his orientation to love, his proclivity for untruth, his narcissistic goal agenda, his authoritarian sentiments — can be fully appreciated and understood only if we realize that they revolve around the empty narrative core, the hollow inner space where the story should be, but never was,” McAdams says.

“Empty” is one of the best words for him.

How to share perspectives

Sep 9th, 2020 11:08 am | By

The American Humanist Association is apparently captive. Rachel Deitch, their Director of Policy and Social Justice, ardently defends the “right” of men who identify as women to compete against women in sport. Women have to take a back seat to men who identify as women.

A few weeks ago this story was shared on the Facebook page of the American Humanist Association (AHA) to celebrate a preliminary injunction by a federal judge against Idaho’s backwards Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The comments thread quickly devolved into a malicious and transphobic free-for-all. Faced with an onslaught of posts that violated our social media guidelines, our social media coordinator brought the social justice department in to assist. It took nearly three hours for all of us to properly moderate the conversation, and we’re still actively monitoring the post because the vitriol hasn’t stopped.

She doesn’t include a link to the Facebook post though. That’s disobliging, since according to her it was weeks ago. There are a lot of posts on their account so it’s too much trouble to scroll and scroll and scroll trying to find the right one. Normal etiquette would be to link to the post, since it’s what she’s talking about. It’s only fair to give readers links to the subject under discussion. Also it kind of looks like bad faith not to. Why not link to it? Is she hiding something?

As a team, we did a post mortem: What could we have done differently to stem the harm early? Should we have taken the post down? What can we do better next time? But this exercise doesn’t change the fact that our social media platforms, which are intended to be a positive space where humanists from all over the country can share perspectives and build community, fostered harm with that post.

If their social media platforms are intended to be a positive space where humanists from all over the country can share perspectives, then why couldn’t people share their perspectives on that post? Why did the AHA have to “moderate” the conversation? Why is “men are women if they say they are” the only perspective allowed? Especially when the subject is women’s sport?

So, while elsewhere we’re working on repairing that harm, I’d like to use this space to lay out our perspective. To be clear, as a cisgender heterosexual woman, I am not writing on behalf of transgender athletes. And I encourage people who haven’t already taken in perspectives from transgender athletes to do so now. I also will not attempt to debunk every harmful, transphobic, and transmisogynist myth shared on our page about transgender athletes. Others have already done that more thoroughly than I could.

What about perspectives from female athletes though? Why do we have to take in perspectives from trans athletes but not from female ones? Why are women being told, yet again, to step back and Be Kind and do what we’re told?

But we also have to ask: What are we protecting students from? With the scientific evidence available, sporting bodies have determined that transgender athletes do not have an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes.

The issue isn’t generic “transgender athletes,” it’s male athletes who claim they identify as female. Lumping it all into “transgender athletes” is one of the many evasive dishonest ploys that people use to try to make this shit smell like roses. It’s not true that all sporting bodies have determined that transgender athletes do not have an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes, and the reality is that of course some of them do: specifically, males do.

School athletics teach young people about teamwork, goal setting, self-esteem, and, yes, they also teach about healthy competition. Shouldn’t all students get the opportunity to participate in that learning, and shouldn’t they be able to do that authentically?

Yes, which means female students should not be forced to compete against male students simply because the latter say they are girls. There’s nothing particularly “authentic” about claiming to be whatever you say you are. Saying isn’t magic.

Let’s not mince words. Laws that try to prevent trans athletes from participating in sports or prevent trans students from using the bathroom most suitable for them aren’t about protecting women and girls. They’re about shaming and controlling transgender bodies.

If that’s what we get when we don’t mince words then let’s mince words, because that right there is some stupid crap. I can promise you I have zero interest in shaming and controlling transgender bodies. My interest is in retaining and expanding the rights of women and girls as opposed to handing those rights over to men and boys who claim to identify as female.

As humanists, what kind of society do we want? I would hope it’s one guided by scientific evidence but founded on the dignity and worth of every human being. Personally, I was ashamed of how our community represented itself on Facebook that day. While I’m sure a fair number of commenters were trolls, we also must consider that vitriolic and harmful comments also came from humanists. That’s something we will continue to reckon with.

And by “reckon with” we mean ignore or demonize the actual arguments the putative “trolls” were making. Very humanist, much dignity and worth.

For this humanist, and for the American Humanist Association as an organization, bone density and femur-to-hip angles—major points of contention from our Facebook comments—do not make a person, do not make an athlete, and do not make a woman.

So let those female bones be broken on the rugby field and in the boxing ring! It’s the humanist thing to do!

H/t Sackbut

Updating to add: the first Facebook post is here. Thanks Your Name’s not Bruce?

He knew

Sep 9th, 2020 9:25 am | By

How interesting. Trump told Bob Woodward on February 7 how very dangerous the coronavirus is. February 7.

President Donald Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his new book “Rage.”

“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward on February 7.

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. “Pretty amazing,” Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times “more deadly” than the flu.

So it’s not manslaughter, it’s first degree murder – of many thousands.

I figured he’d been told all that of course, but I didn’t assume he’d listened or grasped it. Interesting to learn that he did and did.

Trump’s admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time insisting that the virus was “going to disappear” and “all work out fine.”

No kidding; that’s why it’s murder.

The book, using Trump’s own words, depicts a President who has betrayed the public trust and the most fundamental responsibilities of his office. In “Rage,” Trump says the job of a president is “to keep our country safe.” But in early February, Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was, and in March, admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

In which “to create a panic=to lose the election.”

If instead of playing down what he knew, Trump had acted decisively in early February with a strict shutdown and a consistent message to wear masks, social distance and wash hands, experts believe that thousands of American lives could have been saved.

And he knew that and did it anyway.

Just don’t defame & don’t vilify

Sep 9th, 2020 9:14 am | By

Captain Clinch is gloating.

What is “vilify”? How is it defined? What’s the standard? What’s the threshold? How is the tension between “it is a crime to vilify” and the value of free speech resolved?

Exactly, to the minute, 24 hours between the two.

Here for the ratio

Sep 9th, 2020 8:24 am | By

But the new one is getting piled on too.

Don’t “vilify” this huge threatening man or he will make you pay him $10,000 for the vilifitude.

Brilliant way of putting it; I wish I’d thought of it.

Women?? Hahaha don’t be silly; of course not. Women are the dominant privileged group, they don’t need protection.

Wait…isn’t that vilification?

So don’t vilify people Canberrans!

Sep 9th, 2020 8:05 am | By

It gets more and more sinister.

ACT is Australian Capital Territory, so that’s the Twitter account of the Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Commission – which is disturbing. Apparently it’s against the law to “vilify” people in the ACT, but the ACTHRC doesn’t bother to tell us what “vilify” means. It’s hard to believe that liking Facebook posts amounts to “vilification” under Australian law but who the fuck knows at this point. But don’t worry, folks, just don’t “vilify” anyone and you’ll be fine. (Am I “vilifying” the ACTHRC by writing this post? Probably. Fortunately I don’t live in their jurisdiction.)

Their tweet gloating over the $10,000 that Beth Rep was told to give that former Army captain got ratioed, so this new tweet is apparently a response to the ratio. How dare you disagree with our gloating, laws against vilification of trans people are there for a reason! Of course liking Facebook comments is vilification!

And it applies to other groups too! See?

No tweet for “on the basis of sex” though. I guess vilification of women is fine. Don’t bother giving them a call for a confidential chat about boring dreary probably transphobic women.

Not going anywhere

Sep 8th, 2020 5:35 pm | By

Kolesnikova tore up her passport rather than let her kidnappers force her to leave Belarus.

“She was pushed into the back seat (of the car), she yelled that she wasn’t going anywhere,” Ms Kolesnikova’s colleague Anton Rodnenkov told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Tuesday.

Mr Rodnenkov said he and another colleague had been kidnapped on Monday, driven between buildings, and interrogated with hoods over their heads and their hands tied.

They accepted an offer to leave Belarus with Ms Kolesnikova but when the car reached the border she refused to cross. The two men told journalists they did not know where she was now.

She’s a brave woman.

When she ‘liked’ offensive comments

Sep 8th, 2020 5:10 pm | By

Oh no, another huge bruiser of a man victimized by a woman who Liked comments on Facebook. That will be ten thousand dollars madam, pay the cashier.

A dispute over a post on Canberra radio newsreader Beth Rep’s Facebook page was meant to end with an apology to transgender activist Bridget Clinch.

Instead, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal yesterday found Ms Rep breached discrimination laws when she ‘liked’ offensive comments on the post, and ordered she pay Ms Clinch $10,000 in compensation.

Ms Clinch — an Australian Army captain who medically transitioned from life as a male to female in 2010 — first came into contact with Ms Rep after the newsreader made online comments about her after International Women’s Day in March 2018.

Here is the former Army captain:

Transgender activist in a protest t-shirt.

After Ms Clinch complained to the ACT Human Rights Commission about the comments, Ms Rep posted about it on social media, and was subsequently banned from Twitter.

Mediation led to Ms Rep posting an apology on her Facebook page in mid-2018 and paying Ms Clinch $700, but the post attracted 304 comments, many of which were offensive, and some of which were ‘liked’ by Ms Rep.

So the dainty fragile vulnerable ex-captain sued Beth Rep.

Ms Rep, who works for local radio station 2CC, wrote the posts and liked the comments on her personal Facebook page.

The tribunal heard Ms Rep, who works for 2CC, had described herself as a radical feminist who believed in resisting what she called aggressive trans activism.

She told the tribunal that while she was supportive of gender non-conformity, she was concerned about the impact of trans activism on women’s spaces, services and opportunities.

Also, whether the tribunal grasped this or not, gender non-conformity is the opposite of trans, not a synonym for it.

Ms Rep said the online exchange in March 2018 had become heated after a number of provocative and anti-feminist comments were posted.

She argued she did not invite the comments nor coordinate them, and was not an active participant, other than hitting the ‘like’ button.

The comments ranged from “Bridget Clinch is a male bully” to “I hate Bridget and I don’t even know who he is” and the use of the hashtag #istandwithbeth.

It’s possible that I left one or more critical comment. I’m Facebook friends with Beth (or was, she seems to have left it now, understandably) and have commented on her posts and even Liked them.

In addition to paying compensation, the tribunal told Ms Rep to delete “all posts, statements, information, suggestions or implications” on the matter and refrain from the same or similar posts in future.

No wonder I can’t find her on Facebook now.

The bully won. They usually do.

Her requests were burdensome

Sep 8th, 2020 4:36 pm | By

Trump is getting the Justice Department to defend him in that E. Jean Carrol defamation suit.

Not long after the ruling, Trump was given deadlines to produce his DNA. Carroll is a former Elle columnist who alleged that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store. Carroll has claimed that the “Donna Karan coat-dress” she was wearing at the time of the alleged rape has been hanging on the back of her closet door and remained “unworn and unlaundered since that evening.” Carroll and her lawyers have requested a DNA swab so that Trump’s DNA can be compared to sample of unidentified male DNA found on the dress. In February, Trump responded to demands that he provide a DNA sample in Carroll’s defamation lawsuit by claiming that her requests were “burdensome.”

This from a guy who spends most of his time watching Fox, tweeting, and playing golf. Burdensome shmurdensome.

Law&Crime reached out to Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan for comment. She said that timing of the DOJ’s intervention was telling.

“Almost exactly one month ago today, a New York state court rejected Donald Trump’s argument that he is immune from a private lawsuit concerning defamatory statements he made about a sexual assault he committed in the 1990s. As a result of that decision, Trump was soon going to be required to produce documents, provide a DNA sample, and sit for a deposition,” Kaplan said. “Realizing that there was no valid basis to appeal that decision in the New York courts, on the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the U.S. Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’  he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States.”

I don’t think we ever asked him to do that, did we? Kaplan said the argument is shocking.

“It offends me as a lawyer, and offends me even more as a citizen. Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent, and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out,” she said.

As far as it takes.

Vroom vroom

Sep 8th, 2020 4:06 pm | By

About that Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

According to a new study, which tracked anonymized cellphone data from the rally, over 250,000 coronavirus cases have now been tied to the 10-day event, one of the largest to be held since the start of the pandemic. It drew motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country, many of whom were seen without face coverings inside crowded bars, restaurants, and other indoor establishments. 

The explosion in cases, the study from the Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics finds, is expected to reach $12 billion in public health costs.

Gee. You could build a lot of good public housing with $12 billion.

“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the ‘worst-case scenarios’ for super-spreading occurred simultaneously,” the researchers wrote, “the event was prolonged, included individuals packed closely together, involved a large out-of-town population, and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures such as the use of masks.”

…“Screw COVID. I went to Sturgis,” read one t-shirt from the rally, where overwhelming support for President Trump was the norm.   

It’s not COVID who got screwed.

Let’s burn stuff to celebrate!

Sep 8th, 2020 2:00 pm | By

This in the Atlantic is from last November:

At least one human life has already been lost as a direct result of the widespread obsession with turning the sex of one’s unborn child into an explosive (often literally) spectacle. In October, an Iowa woman was killed when her family inadvertently built a pipe bomb as part of their gender-reveal party—a gathering at which expectant parents dramatically and colorfully announce the sex of their baby.

The methods for doing so seem to have started out as benign, if stereotypical—cutting into a cake to reveal either blue or pink frosting, say. But in the past couple of years, some kind of communal madness has taken hold, and many of these feats of gender performance have gotten more elaborate, more public, and more dangerous—putting lives and entire ecosystems at risk. Last year, a father-to-be started a 47,000-acre wildfire in Arizona when he shot a rifle at an explosive target full of blue powder (It’s a boy!), causing $8.2 million of damage, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Causing $8.2 million in damage and god only knows how many animals their lives, not to mention the general damage to the environment. But hey, I guess it seemed well worth it to those self-absorbed idiots who started the El Dorado fire last weekend. It’s now burned more than 10,000 acres.

This one particular bit of coast

Sep 8th, 2020 1:41 pm | By

Aw, Mister Nice Guy.

Speaking in Jupiter, Florida, Trump announced he was signing an order to expand a moratorium on offshore drilling to include Florida’s Atlantic coast, Georgia and South Carolina.

Well that’s eccentric. Normally he’s in there yelling “Drill drill drill!” and tearing up laws protecting pesky things like shorelines.

The Trump administration has generally been enthusiastic about oil and gas drilling, but some Florida officials had expressed fear that the state’s tourism industry would be negatively impacted if the moratorium was allowed to expire.

Oh well that explains it then. Mar-a-Lago and Doral.

Trump’s announcement seems to be an attempt to curry favor with voters in a key swing state that could determine the winner of the presidential election.

See above. No further motivation required.

All about the x

Sep 8th, 2020 1:14 pm | By

Oh does it really.

Why why why why WHY does the word “women” need to be “more inclusive”? Should we start spelling “Black” in some funny new way to be more “inclusive”? The suggestion would be seen, rightly, as incredibly insulting. Should we start talking about wxrkers instead of workers? In order to be more inclusive by including plutocrats and bosses and exploiters of every stripe?

What on earth is progressive about changing the spelling of the word for a subordinated group in order to be “inclusive” of people who are not in that subordinated group? Looks like the opposite of progressive to me.

The word “womxn” sheds absolutely NO light on the prejudice, discrimination, and institutional barriers women have faced; on the contrary, it obscures them in favor of talking about the very people who are NOT women – i.e. men.

Nobody knows how to left any more.


Sep 8th, 2020 12:34 pm | By

Hello! Sorry for unusually long silence, there was a power failure here, starting at 3:41 yesterday afternoon and ending a few minutes ago at noon 23. There were about 19 (only slight exaggeration) City Light trucks lined up along the block earlier when I went out to look.

Also, because that wasn’t enough, the California smoke has arrived. UGH. All sympathy to the people of California living with this for the past few weeks.

A positive trend

Sep 7th, 2020 2:23 pm | By


The mayor of Tuscaloosa is letting bars near the University of Alabama reopen on Tuesday, even though the school just reported more than 800 new cases.

800 new cases – hooray, that means it’s time to open up the bars! So that we can try for 8 thousand new cases!

In a press release, Mayor Walt Maddox citied a “positive trend” in results, saying an overall decline in community positivity rates “provides an opportunity for a limited reopening of bars which have sacrificed a great deal to protect our healthcare system and economy.” At the same time, the university reported 846 new cases over the last week—the largest increase in a single week since classes began.

Which Maddox is defining as a decline. Isn’t epidemiology fun!

Even some students were outraged with the decision. One who identifies himself as a freshman at the university tweeted that the mayor was making a “huge mistake” and that the decision made him feel less safe on campus.

Despite being alcoholics. Why is there such an entrenched idea that university students are all chronic drunks? Some university students are actually there to learn things.

Anyway – bars are open, kids, get out there and spread that covid.

Not simply a case of heavy-handed policing

Sep 7th, 2020 1:36 pm | By

Navalny’s condition is slightly improved.

On Monday, the Charité hospital in Berlin said in a statement that Mr Navalny was being weaned off mechanical ventilation.

“He is responding to verbal stimuli. It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” it said.

I think we can assume they won’t be beneficial.

Meanwhile Anna Nemtsova says today’s attack is classic KGB.

Men in civilian clothes with masks covering their faces grabbed the woman inspiring a revolution in Belarus on Monday. They pushed Maria Kolesnikova into a minivan at about 10am local time (3am ET)—the opposition leader hasn’t been seen since.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ brutal leader for the past 26 years, has been cracking down on protests and threatening to arrest members of the opposition Coordination Council for an alleged “attempt to seize power,” but this is not simply a case of heavy-handed policing. It was a classic abduction, a technique of repression favored by the likes of the KGB and its Russian successor the FSB for generations.

The Belarusian KGB has been known for making people “disappear” since the early years of Lukashenko’s rule; for more than a quarter of a century, he has chosen to repress his opponents. His willingness to abuse power is the main reason so many Belarusians want to see him forced out of office and put on trial.

It’s quite a good reason, too. Making people “disappear” is…you know, murder, or if you do enough of it, genocide. Doing it to terrorize opposition is political murder/genocide. It’s not what you want in a government.

Two other members of the 600-strong Coordination Council also went missing on Monday. Frantic opposition staff and their lawyers have been touring the prisons and police stations in a desperate search for their kidnapped colleagues.

This is bad.

Hey let’s make some smoke!

Sep 7th, 2020 11:36 am | By

People can be so stupid. Voluntarily stupid, stupid because not paying attention and not giving a shit, as opposed to unable to help it.

Like setting off a pyrotechnic device in Southern California while fires rage all over the state and the Santa Ana blows.

A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party sparked the El Dorado Fire burning near Yucaipa, which has charred more than 7,000 acres, officials said Sunday.

And doing it at a “gender reveal party” for fucks sake.

According to the Cal Fire San Bernardino Unit, the El Dorado Fire was caused by “a smoke generating pyrotechnic device” used during the party in El Dorado Ranch Park. The fire spread from the park to Yucaipa Ridge, which separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from Yucaipa.

“Cal Fire reminds the public that with the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire”, the agency said in a press release. “Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible.”

People shouldn’t need reminding.

A lot of people had to be evacuated.

More than 600 personnel were battling flames, along with 60 engines, three fixed-wing aircraft and six helicopters, according to the San Bernardino National Forest.

That’s a lot of expensive flame-battling for the sake of creating smoke during wildfire season. Jesus, people.

I hope the kid decides to be enby at age 5 and never deviates from that decision.

Dispatches concerning human variation

Sep 7th, 2020 6:24 am | By

Nicholas Wade wrote a book on race, published in 2014 to scathing reviews. One of the reviews was in American Scientist. (I didn’t notice at first that it’s written by someone I know slightly: Greg Laden.)

In his new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History, science writer Nicholas Wade claims that race is real—that Darwinian natural selection has resulted in a number of biologically separate human populations characterized by distinct, genetically determined social behaviors. He asserts that many of these differences have emerged over the last 10,000 years and that they explain much of human history. He writes that recent science has “established that human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional” and uses this framework to account for regional variations in economic power and cultural pursuits.

As soon as it appeared, Wade’s book touched off a firestorm of controversy—as he surely knew it would. It’s the latest in a series of dispatches concerning human variation, whose authors in recent decades have starkly divided into two camps, one centered in anthropology and the other in psychology, political science, and economics. Wade is in the latter camp. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, a widely read text by psychologist Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray in 1994, proclaimed intractable human differences in ability between races; the authors based their views on disputed work published by Canadian psychologist J. Philippe Rushton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Meanwhile, anthropologists had developed a divergent concept of human variation, reaching the collective conclusion that the human species is not compartmentalized in races or subspecies (interchangeable terms in zoology). In 1998 the American Anthropological Association adopted its Statement on Race asserting that the best available research shows race to be a social construct that is biologically invalid.

Early reviews of Wade’s book show a familiar division: Anthropologists mostly take a critical view, whereas psychologists and economists generally like the book. Agustín Fuentes, a zoologist and anthropologist, and Jonathan Marks, a geneticist trained in anthropology, are among the more negative; Bell Curve coauthor Murray and famed geneticist James Watson, a supporter of the biological race concept, land on the positive side. The favorable reviews almost invariably echo one of Wade’s key themes: Disbelief in the existence of race results from biased science driven by a left-leaning political agenda. Wade suggests that “any researcher who even discusses issues politically offensive to the left runs the risk of antagonizing the professional colleagues who must approve his requests for government funds and review his articles. . . The result is that researchers at present routinely ignore the biology of race.”

So is Wade right? Are there human races? Is the variation seen between different cultures and locations best explained by genetic differences between human populations? And have anthropologists been turning a blind eye to the evidence in front of them?

There is no shortage of scientific information, and it gives a clear answer: no.

He then gives a quick sketch of the scientific information, and sums up:

Without boundaries or predictive value, race isn’t a valid biological concept. Human races may have existed in the past—just as there are subspecies of a number of different mammals, including chimpanzees—and they could exist in the future. Nonetheless, to this point the history of Homo sapiens has not led to a known emergence of distinct races. We evolved recently, spread quickly, and in many regions interacted readily. Race is a powerful and important social construct, and in that way it is very real, but it is not a biological useful concept for understanding human diversity.

And guess who else weighed in.

Our letter to the New York Times criticizing Nicholas Wade’s book on race

That’s Jerry Coyne criticizing Wade’s book on race.

Sunday’s New York Times Book Review (already up) features a letter signed by 139 population geneticists, including myself. It is, in essence, a group of scientists objecting en masse to Nicholas Wade’s shoddy treatment of race and evolution in his new book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. 

The book was about the genetics of ethnic and cultural differences, and while it made a valid point that ethnic groups do show small but significant genetic differences across the globe, there was no evidence for Wade’s main thesis: that differences in behavior among groups, and in the disparate societies they construct, are based on genetic differences. While that might in principle be true, we simply have no evidence for that conclusion, and it was irresponsible of Wade to suggest that such evidence existed.

I was asked to review Wade’s book for a major magazine, but after reading it became so dispirited that I simply didn’t have the stomach to eviscerate it (pardon the pun). But Allen Orr did a good job in the New York Review of Books; and it was telling that even the Times’s own review, by David Dobbs, was pretty critical. (The Times Book Review is infamous for going easy on books by the paper’s own writers, and Wade has written for the paper for donkey’s years.)

I find that interesting in light of the discussion (especially Coel’s part of it) on A biocultural mélange.