Interview with Horned Fur Hat Viking Guy (Jake Angeli)

January 13, 2021 • 2:15 pm

Somebody found an old interview (actually a monologue) with Jake Angeli, aka Jacob Chansley, aka QAnon Shaman, aka Hornéd Fur Hat Viking Guy. Angeli now has his very own Wikipedia page (it took me years to get one, but all he had to do is don a stupid hat, paint his face, and run into the Capitol!), and he’s been arrested for “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds”.

The Shaman wouldn’t eat when he was in jail because the food wasn’t organic, but Wikipedia reports that now he’s getting his organic food. That’s because he’s very special. We love him, though he can’t spell “pedophile” (7:41).

I listened to the whole thing, but I doubt you’ll make it past one minute. He probably has a tinfoil hat under the fur one.

Also, watch out for pizza signs with devil horns on them.

My heart is broken: Eric Clapton and Van Morrison release an anti-mask and anti-lockdown song

December 21, 2020 • 8:45 am

Shoot me now! According to the Vanity Fair article below (click on screenshot) Van Morrison wrote a song, “Stand and Deliver”, clearly meant to denigrate Britain’s public-health restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. Worse—the song was performed by Eric Clapton (below).  Both of these guys were musical heroes of mine, but now I’m not so sure. And I wasn’t aware that this is Morrison’s fourth anti-lockdown song. Well, nobody ever claimed the guy was fully on the rails, but—et tu, Clapton?

You know, a lot of rock stars were loons or nasty s.o.b.s, but so long as they produced good songs, I didn’t much care. But this time they’ve released an odious song!

A few words from the Vanity Fair article:

Eric Clapton and Van Morrison, both age 75 and therefore at 220 times the risk of death from COVID-19 compared to people 18 to 29, have released a blues-rock track raging against public health codes.

“Stand and Deliver,” written by Morrison and sung by Clapton, includes couplets like “Do you wanna be a free man / Or do you wanna be a slave? / Do you wanna wear these chains / Until you’re lying in the grave?”

It continues “Magna Carta, Bill of Rights/The constitution, what’s it worth?/You know they’re gonna grind us down/Until it really hurts/Is this a sovereign nation/Or just a police state?/You better look out, people/Before it gets too late.”

The phrase “stand and deliver” is associated with highwaymen, suggesting that Morrison and Clapton feel that governments scrambling to keep their populations alive are somehow stealing from them. The track concludes with the line “Dick Turpin wore a mask too.” Turpin was an 18th century British criminal known for highway robbery.

The song was released just as a new and faster-spreading COVID strain was identified in the United Kingdom, with a 40 percent increase in cases from just one week ago. British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock called the new strain of COVID “out of control.”

Earlier this year, Morrison referred to preventive measures as pseudoscience, and “Stand and Deliver” marks his fourth anti-lockdown track after “Born to Be Free“, “As I Walked Out,” and “No More Lockdown.” This latest, though, is the first to infect another Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Snopes adds this:

In late 2020, music legends Van Morrison and Eric Clapton announced they had collaborated on a new a single, to be released on Dec. 4. They announced the profits were going to Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, a philanthropic project to support musicians whose livelihoods have been harmed by a series of lockdowns in the U.K., designed to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s the song, with the lyrics below. There’s no doubt it’s about opposing pandemic restrictions. If you don’t believe that, read the lyrics—especially the last line. I have to say, though, that this is a pretty crappy song. I doubt you’ll be hearing it on the oldies stations in the future.

Lyrics: (my emphasis in last line; Dick Turpin was a highwayman).

Stand and Deliver

Stand and deliver
You let them put the fear on you
Stand and deliver
But not a word you heard was true
But if there’s nothing you can say
There may be nothing you can do

Do you wanna be a free man
Or do you wanna be a slave?
Do you wanna be a free man
Or do you wanna be a slave?
Do you wanna wear these chains
Until you’re lying in the grave?

I don’t wanna be a pauper
And I don’t wanna be a prince
I don’t wanna be a pauper
And I don’t wanna be a prince
I just wanna do my job
Playing the blues for friends

Magna Carta, Bill of Rights
The constitution, what’s it worth?
You know they’re gonna grind us down, ah
Until it really hurts
Is this a sovereign nation
Or just a police state?
You better look out, people
Before it gets too late

You wanna be your own driver
Or keep on flogging a dead horse?
You wanna be your own driver
Or keep on flogging a dead horse?
Do you wanna make it better
Or do you wanna make it worse?

Stand and deliver
You let them put the fear on you
Slow down the river
But not a word of it was true
If there’s nothing you can say
There may be nothing you can do

Stand and deliver
Stand and deliver
Dick Turpin wore a mask too

h/t: Barry

Social-justice turbulence at Haverford, self-abasing administrators, and some lessons

December 5, 2020 • 1:00 pm

I see that Quillette is now being demonized by many Leftists as some sort of “alt-right” or conservative website. And although some of their articles are indeed too Right-wing for me, most of the articles seem to be doing what I do—calling out the excesses of the Left, the same excesses that, I suspect, held back the predicted Blue Wave in November’s election. Further, it’s not a good idea to denigrate an entire website as a way of avoiding—or urging others to avoid—reading anything published there. Regardless of what you see as Quillette‘s overall ideology, you will benefit from reading some of its pieces, if for no other reason than some of the follies of the Left, which threaten a liberal government, simply can’t be found in mainstream media.

Here is one piece that will repay reading, although it’s long (my printout, in 9-point type, occupies 14 pages). This should keep you occupied on a cold December Saturday:

In some ways it’s nothing really new: the piece describes a meltdown at Haverford College, a posh and expensive school near Philadelphia. What’s unusual about this is that the students went on strike for several weeks, refusing to go to classes or, indeed, do anything college-related. What’s not new is that they issued a set of demands to the administration: the usual mix of the ridiculous to the tame. And the administration, to placate the outraged students, accepted nearly every one of those demands.

To me it’s a scary harbinger of my own school which, despite holding the line on some aspects of free speech, is showing worrying signs of encroaching wokeness. I’m worried that the University of Chicago will go the way of Yale, Middlebury College, Harvard, and now Haverford. But more on that in weeks to come.

The author of the piece, Jonathan Kay, is the Canadian editor of Quillette, and has cobbled together a thorough and engrossing summary of Haverford’s meltdown.  I’ll try to be brief, as I want to discuss his views on the future of fulminating college wokeness.

Earlier this year, before the death of George Floyd on May 25, Haverford was pretty much a school of comity. While there was discussion about various issues, there was not much about race, and a college committee in 2019 noted that there was, as Kay says, “little indication of mass discontent or ideological conflict.” This contrasts markedly with the many statements in the next few months, including some by administrators admitting that Haverford had long been a bastion of systemic racism.

All that changed with the death of Floyd and then the police shooting in Philadelphia on October 26 of another black man, Walter Wallace, Jr., who was bipolar and carrying a knife.  Because it wasn’t clear that the cops had a good reason to fire on Wallace, this predictably led to rioting in Philadelphia. Earlier, the racial unrest of the summer had led the College’s President, Wendy Raymond, to issue a statement of support for the black protestors, and the students began protesting the alleged racism of Haverford and issuing lists of demands.

After Wallace’s death, President Raymond and Interim Dean Joyce Bylander (the latter a black woman) issued a joint letter of anti-racism, but made the mistake of saying that students shouldn’t go to Philadelphia to protest because they could get infected with Covid-19 or “play into the hands of those who might seek to sow division and conflict especially in vulnerable communities.” (It’s not clear whom they meant.)

This statement (like others, reproduced in the article), urging students not to put themselves in “harm’s way”, enraged those students, who saw in it a line drawn between the poor black residents of Philadelphia and the entitled bubble of Haverford students.  A Zoom call ensued on November 5 in which the President, the black Interim Dean, and the black Provost, Linda Strong-Lee, talked to many of Haverford’s 1350 students. The students proceeded to revile the administrators in the call, as usual, but did so anonymously.

And the administrators proceeded to abase themselves:

The President:

Raymond presented herself as solemnly apologetic for a litany of offenses. She also effusively praised and thanked the striking students for educating her about their pain, while “recognizing that I will never understand what it means to be a person of color or be black or indigenous in the United States. I am a white woman with considerable unearned privilege.”

Not only did Raymond announce that she would be acceding to many of the students’ previously listed demands, she also reacted positively to the new requests that students put forward during the call. “All of the recommendations you’ve made here sound spot on and are excellent,” she said. “We can do those—and go beyond them.”

The Provost:

“I’ll just share that I hear your pain, and I know that this is something that rings hollow for you, but I am a black woman who has lived in a black body for 56 years,” responded Strong-Leek, in carefully measured tones that, among all the responses from administrators, seemed closest to escalating into something approaching candor. “My husband is black. My children are black. Every day, I worry about them and myself. Every day, I confront racism. [I’m] Looking forward to working with you and looking forward to making Haverford a better place.” She seemed to be fighting back her own emotions, but ultimately kept her composure.

The Interim Dean:

“I continue to listen and learn, and try to understand the ways in which the college has failed you and how I have failed you,” Dean Bylander calmly responds, ticking off seemingly well-rehearsed talking points. “[I] continue to be committed to trying to work to change and improve the experience of BIPOC students at Haverford.” Her face is a mask of deadpan professionalism. Or maybe she’d simply gone numb.

Eventually, the College acceded to virtually all the students’ demands. But by then the students had gone on strike, refusing to attend classes or extracurricular activities, with the intent being to disrupt the college, make them see how valuable people of color were in running the College, and to spend their time doing teach-ins and reading anti-racist literature. The strike lasted three weeks.

It wasn’t enough that there was a strike, for the striking students tried to punish those “scab” professors who insisted on holding classes during the strike as well as those students who opposed the strike, the latter keeping quiet lest they be forever demonized. Alumni banded together threatening to withhold donations to Haverford unless the students’ demands were met (this is a particularly effective way to effect college change: smack them in the pocketbook).

Social-media statements like this circulated (“Peanuts” is President Raymond’s dog, for crying out loud, and the poor mutt was threatened multiple times with death):

They threatened the President’s dog, for chrissake!

All of a sudden, where comity had reigned, the students, administration, and alumni discovered that all along the school had been a bastion of racism and bigotry:

The students appeared on Zoom under pseudonyms plucked from a list of past Haverford presidents and benefactors. The idea, a strike organizer self-identifying as “Henry Drinker” is heard to say at the 12:20 mark, was to co-opt the names “of the old white men who have made Haverford the racist institution that it is today.”

. . . These details help contextualize the mass email that Dean Bylander and President Raymond sent to the school community on October 28th, a six-paragraph message that student strikers would cite in the days that followed as proof of the “long tradition of anti-Blackness and the erasure of marginalized voices that have come to characterize the experiences of students of color at Haverford.”

From an article in the college newspaper by a student named Soha Saghir:

This campus has failed its Black students (especially Black women and Black nonbinary people), its students of color, and its FGLI [first-generation low-income] students—the very people whose labor is the backbone of this campus. These emails [from the administration] were just one more way in which you and this institution neither feel nor understand how tired, angry, and ready for change we are… In this pandemic, that labor has intensified in unimaginable ways… We are no longer asking for inclusion or diversity since that gives more power to the institution. Instead, we will disrupt that order. We will be going on a strike from our classes, our jobs (which we need), and any extracurricular activities. This campus can’t run without BIPOC. This is not just a reminder that we are valuable to you on campus, but that our lives, minds, and bodies matter.

There’s more, but what’s clear is that all of a sudden students discovered that the school, once peaceful and inclusive, was really a hotbed of racism. Did the school change in such a short period of time, or did outraged students confect a “structural racism” that didn’t exist.

I opt for the latter, having long lived on a liberal campus where such recent accusations fly in the face of the facts.

What bothers me about Kay’s piece is what looks like a correct diagnosis of why the administration caved completely to the students, abasing themselves, losing their dignity, and admitting to an institutional bigotry which didn’t exist. It’s because the administration has nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by standing up to the students. If true, that doesn’t give me much hope:

When campus meltdowns of this type occur, you often see conservative culture warriors demand that administrators take a hard line, demonstrate backbone, “grow a spine,” and so forth. But what is their incentive for doing so? It was once the case that a university president was able to balance different constituencies against one another as a means to achieve some kind of policy equilibrium—liberal students versus more conservative professors, administrators against alumni, this department versus that. But that doesn’t happen anymore: Thanks to the homogenizing effects of social media, all of these constituencies tend to be drinking the same bathwater from the same troughs, and so get caught up in the same social panics at the same time.

And Kay’s solution seems lame: “eventually the trend will reverse itself, and that will be prompted by the students themselves.”  Dream on, Mr. Kay: I don’t see this happening:

The process of sifting through these events at Haverford has convinced me that the ideological crisis on American campuses can’t be solved by administrators—not because they are beholden to critical race theory, intersectionality, gender ideology, postmodernism, or any of the other bugbears of conservative culture critics, but because they simply have no practical inducements for doing so. Ultimately, this is a crisis that is going to have to be addressed, if at all, by students themselves. And in this regard, I do see some green shoots of hope. Nick Lasinsky, a white undergraduate student at Haverford, wrote a beautiful and thoughtful piece called Why I’ve Chosen Not to Strike. And a black student named Khalil Walker wrote an amazing series of comments in which he demolishes the idea that Haverford is a hive of systematic racism. Our culture moves in cycles, and I predict that you will see more of these brave voices in months to come.

I predict otherwise. These woke and outraged students will, since they come from elite colleges, get positions of leadership in the media as well as in other colleges, for many of them will go on to become academics and administrators. And that will make colleges even more woke, and so on. There’s nothing on the horizon to break that cycle.

As I worry about this fate for my own university (our hard-line President, Bob Zimmer, will resign at the end of this academic year), I spend too much time—especially for an emeritus professor—fretting about the University of Chicago. For decades, we were the beacon of freedom of speech and academic freedom among American colleges. This uniqueness was in fact a selling point of the University, who advertised it to potential students and their parents. But it’s crumbling.

Now we stand on an equipoise that could easily turn us into Haverford, especially because many of our students are just as woke as theirs. While I still fight for freedom of speech here, it’s getting harder and harder, and the opposition gets louder and louder. What’s freedom of speech compared to the “harm” you cause by speaking your mind?

Before too long, we may see the time when the University of Chicago is no longer the model for colleges that want to encourage all sorts of discussion and discourage none. And I find that prospect discouraging.

A philosopher infected with confirmation bias explains why evolution proves God

November 15, 2020 • 9:15 am

Religious affirmations like those in this video make me angry, wanting to call philosopher Holmes Rolston III a chowderhead who’s taking money under false pretenses. But I will refrain from such name-calling. Nevertheless, what you hear coming out of Rolston’s mouth in this short Closer to Truth interview is pure garbage: not even passable philosophy. It should dismay all rational people that such a man is not only expressing laughable confirmation biases, but is getting paid for it.

And yet here are Rolston’s bona fides from Wikipedia:

Holmes Rolston III (born November 19, 1932) is a philosopher who is University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University. He is best known for his contributions to environmental ethics and the relationship between science and religion. Among other honors, Rolston won the 2003 Templeton Prize, awarded by Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace. He gave the Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh, 1997–1998.
And remember that the Templeton Prize, was worth over a million bucks, even back in 2003. What did he get it for? This is from Templeton’s press release when they gave him the Prize:

The world’s best known religion prize, [The Templeton Prize] is given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance spiritual matters.  When he created the prize, Templeton stipulated that its value always exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that advances in spiritual discoveries can be quantifiably more significant than those honored by the Nobels.

. . . .Rolston has lectured on seven continents including throughout Europe, Australia, South America, China, India, and Japan.

Seven continents? They left out Antarctica, and I doubt that Rolston has lectured there.  His prize-winning thoughts:

. . . science and religion have usually joined to keep humans in central focus, an anthropocentric perspective when valuing the creation of the universe and evolution on Earth.  Rolston, by contrast, has argued an almost opposite approach, one that looks beyond humans to include the fundamental value and goodness of plants, animals, species, and ecosystems as core issues of theological and scientific concern.  His 1986 book, Science and Religion — A Critical Study and his 1987 Environmental Ethics have been widely hailed for re-opening the question of a theology of nature by rejecting anthropocentrism in ethical and philosophical analysis valuing natural history.

Do I denigrate him unfairly? Shouldn’t I read his many books to give him a fairer assessment? Not on your life: I’m through with the Courtier’s Reply gambit.  Just let me add that Rolston is a believer, with a degree from Union Presbyterian Seminary, the same year he was ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  

Have a listen, and don’t be drinking liquids when you do. The good part is that this is only a bit less than seven minutes long.

Rolston gets a sense of “divine creativity” from the gradual and incremental changes wrought by neo-Darwinian evolution. But in this video he dwells more on serendipity, the “surprises” that punctuate the history of evolution. These include these “adventures that turned out right”:

a.) Swim bladders evolving into lungs (most people think it’s the other way around, but Rolston is right). This is a simple case of an “exaptation“, as Gould called it: the adaptation of an evolved feature into something with a new function.

b.) The capture of a photosynthetic bacterium by another cell to form photosynthetic eukaryotes: plants. (The same happened with mitochondria.) Yes, this is unpredictable, as is all of evolution, and was a major innovation, but it’s not evidence for God.

c.) The evolution of hearing began with a pressure-sensitive cell in a fish. This is another exaptation, though the function didn’t change, but altered a bit. Hearing still depends on pressure change, but we use it for apprehending and interpreting language and other sounds in air. Animals use it for intraspecies communication and detection of predators (which fish also use it for).

I could give a gazillion examples of such “surprises” in evolution, like the evolution of the ovipositor of insects into the stinging apparatus of bees and wasps, the doubling of an entire ancestral genome—twice—during the evolution of the vertebrates, and so on. Nobody can predict where evolution will go, for, as Jacques Monod famously noted in 1977, evolution is a tinkerer. And what about the “adventures that turned out wrong“, like the evolution of large dinosaurian reptiles? God killed ’em off by sending a big asteroid plummeting towards Earth.

The fact is that nothing we see in evolution contradicts the claim that it’s a purely naturalistic process, proceeding via unpredictable events—mutations and environmental change. This is the most parsimonious hypothesis given that we have not an iota of convincing evidence for God.

Then, in response to a softball question by the host, Rolston avers that he sees a theological underpinning of surprise, co-option, and serendipity. But since he also sees the hand of god in gradual Darwinian evolution, he sees the hand of God in all of evolution. In other words, there is nothing Rolston could observe about evolution that wouldn’t, for him, constitute evidence for God. As he says:

“It leaves open a place for surprising creativity . . . that I think exceeds any Darwinian capacity for explanation. Now I said when I began that I can find the presence of God in incremental evolutionary genesis. But maybe if the world is surprising as well as predictable that might further invite places where you might think if I should say, ‘God might sneak into the evolutionary process.’. . . .God may like serendipity as well as law-like prediction and determinism.”

So, If evolution is gradual and smooth, it’s evidence for God. But if there are “surprises”, as there have been, well, that’s also evidence for God. In other words, EVERYTHING is evidence for God. It is an academic crime that someone not only gets paid—and wins a huge prize—for spouting this kind of pabulum, but also is respected for it, for, after all, Rolston is a minister and a believer.

My contempt for this kind of reasoning knows no bounds. It could be filed in the Philosophical Dictionary under “confirmation bias; religion”. (Is that heading a redundancy?) Everything that happens is evidence for God because it’s “what God likes.” But of course if you argue that “whatever happens must be what God likes,” then you have yourself a million-dollar airtight, circular argument.  Some philosophy!

I guess the host, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, sees his brief as drawing out the guest rather than challenging him, and that’s okay. But I would have been pleased had Kuhn asked him this: “Is there anything about evolution that doesn’t give you evidence for God?”  I would think, for instance, that the evolution of predators and parasites that inflict horrible suffering on animals might make one question the existence of God, as it did for Darwin, but I’m sure Rolston has his explanation. Maybe it’s “God likes a little drama in his creation.”


h/t: Mark

The crazy covid/geomagneticism/serpentinization paper is finally retracted

November 10, 2020 • 1:45 pm

Remember that crazy paper by Bility et al. that I highlighted on October 30? He and his coauthors proposed that the symptoms of COVID weren’t really caused by the virus, but by some kind of interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and iron oxides in the body? Their “evidence” was simply that a colony of rats that got sick in their lab showed some changes in their lungs that looked like “silicate/glasslike structures in the lungs and kidneys”. (The connection of the virus itself to these anomalies is unclear.)

The last straw, besides the lack of any experimental evidence beyond observation of changes in sick rats that were, to the authors, suggestive, was the proposal that further study might involve putting jade amulets on rats and seeing if they had preventive effects.

The scientific community reacted with predictable skepticism, and, indeed, outrage. Not all hypotheses are worthy of being entertained, and this was one of them. Elsevier, the publisher of the journal, at first dug in its heels, refusing to retract the paper from Science of the Total Environment. But now, according to New Scientist, the pushback has gotten so strong, and the scientific objections so numerous, that they’ve finally retracted the paper. Click on the first screenshot below, which also has a link to the second one, where the paper has disappeared to be replaced by a retraction notice:

Here are a few of the scientific objections:

“A paper like this gets out there, it’s published in some supposedly peer-reviewed journal—it makes the rest of the field look stupid,” says Joe Kirschvink, a Caltech geobiologist whose research areas include sensing of magnetic fields by humans and other animals. “And that’s a harmful thing.”

Kirschvink says the paper contains multiple basic errors. For example, while very strong magnetic fields can indeed influence chemical reactions, the long-wavelength anomalies that are central to the study’s thesis are “three or four orders of magnitude off” from what would be required for such effects, he says. “This results section is a salad of different ideas taken out of context.”

The study also suggests, without experimental evidence, that jade amulets might protect wearers by countering the effects of the long-wavelength anomalies, an idea Bility says he based on records of practices by ancient people in China and elsewhere during a period when geomagnetic conditions were similar to what they are now. Kirschvink says the study’s description of jade’s magnetic properties is incorrect, and that in jade, “the paramagnetic minerals are so weakly magnetized, they’re not going to do anything in these fields.”

Kirschvink says he’s heard from fellow geomagnetics researchers who “are upset that their data is being used in a nonsensical way” in the paper.

The study has also attracted derision on Twitter and PubPeer. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine extracellular vesicle researcher Kenneth Witwer was among those who criticized the paper on PubPeer, writing in part, “Almost all symptoms were restricted to Room Number 1 of two adjacent rooms in Pittsburgh, suggesting that some agent such as an undetected pathogen was responsible for symptoms. Effects of the earth’s magnetic field would presumably be similar in side-by-side rooms at the same facility.”

The retraction notice:


But this isn’t over yet. Bility, who can’t seem to let go of this hypothesis, plans to resubmit a revised paper:

Bility says that in light of the blowback his work has received, he regrets including his coauthors on the paper, and he takes full responsibility for its ideas. His intention, he says, was not to undermine public health officials, but to propose a hypothesis for further discussion and investigation, and he plans to resubmit the paper as a sole author and without mentions of jade amulets or traditional Chinese medicine.

Both Witwer and Kirschvink say the paper’s publication represents a failure of peer review. According to Damià Barceló, the editor at Science of the Total Environment who handled the submission, it had two reviewers, a hydrogeologist and an epidemiologist-toxicologist. In an email to The Scientist yesterday, he wrote that he expects the retraction will take hours or days to appear in Elsevier’s system, and that the resubmitted paper will need to be sent for peer review again before a final decision is made about its acceptance.

Anybody betting that a. there will be a revised paper? Or b. that if there is one, it’ll be accepted? My bet is that Bility will never live this down: he’ll always be the “jade amulets on rats” guy, and shame on the reviewers and editor for publishing this travesty in the first place. It had absolutely no earmarks of serious science.

Finally, although initially people said this paper was just a quirk in the career of a serious scientist, a glance at Bility’s list of publications and manuscripts shows some other dubious work, including this one:

There are also some physics-like papers, including one proposing a “theory of everything.”

h/t: Ginger K

A really funny Trump tweet

November 7, 2020 • 10:00 am

I never put up posts highlighting a single tweet, but this one, by Tr*mp, is so unhinged and rich that it made me laugh out loud. I rarely laugh out loud at anything, much less the words of this loon, but when Matthew sent this to me I audibly chuckled.

Good god! Nobody has called the election for Trump, and few have called the election at all (except for me, and remember that!).

This is the tweet of a nine-year-old having a public tantrum. Somebody give him is blankie!

It’s gonna be a fun ten weeks. I’m not the only one to find the tweet funny:

“BAD THINGS HAPPENED!”: Your President tweets

November 7, 2020 • 8:30 am

Aren’t you glad this loon is on the way out? Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades: this is the man preferred as President by nearly half of America.


There are two lies in the three sentences above.

He takes down Philly:

I could go on, but you get the drift, as you’ve gotten it for the past four years. This is all very amusing—until you remember the havoc this guy can still wreak until Biden is sworn in. Pardons given, ultraconservative judges appointed, wonky executive orders issued, White House china broken. . . .

A bizarre paper in an Elsevier journal suggests that Covid 19 is a geological/magnetic-like phenomenon and can be prevented by wearing jade amulets. Elsevier defends the paper.

October 30, 2020 • 12:30 pm

A really insane paper was just published in an Elsevier journal, Science of the Total Environment, a paper that connects the outbreak of covid with serpentinization phenomena known in geology, as well as the Earth’s geomagnetic fields. At the end, the authors (who hold respectable jobs) suggest that putting nephrite jade amulets on rats may protect them from getting coronavirus.  And maybe it would work for us, too!  It’s gonzo. Of course, we can’t blatantly dismiss it out of hand without at least reading the paper (which I did, and it was PAINFUL), but this nonsense comes about as close to being dismissible as a paper can from just reading the title and the abstract. Click on the screenshot to read the paper, get the pdf here, and see the reference at the bottom.

The “highlights”:

I’m not going to go through the results in detail, which are both experimental and correlational, but even the “experimental” results are correlational: the authors observed, in rats afflicted with a “COVID-19 like disease” (they don’t know its relationship to genuine virus), that dissected rats had deposits of “silicate/glasslike structures in the lungs and kidneys”, which they associate with serpintinization. There was no experimental manipulation; they just saw some of the rats in their colonies get sick (17 out of 92), and cut them open.

The rest of the paper is speculation based on correlations of the disease in humans with geological phenomena, leading them to their Big Hypothesis:

Here, we propose that the emergence of COVID-19 outbreaks resulted from the generation of LWMAs [long-wave magnetic anomalies] that exhibit resonance with ferromagnetic-like iron stores in humans, thus enabling the magnetic catalysis of iron oxides-silicate-like minerals and the associated SARS-CoV-2.

And so iron is important, and so is water and geology, so they support their hypothesis with statements like this:

Terrestrial water storage dynamics also account for the disproportionate deaths in populations with African ancestry in the United States during the vernal phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals with African ancestry disproportionally reside in basins within the coastal belt of the Greater Appalachian-Ouachita orogenic belt that spans the South to the Northeastern United States (the so-called Black belt). This so-called Black belt region has been experiencing increased terrestrial water storage over the past decades and experienced increased terrestrial water storage during the vernal phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course that doesn’t explain why, in a single area, blacks are more liable to get infected than are whites.

It goes on:

In the proposed hypothesis, ferromagnetic-like/superparamagnetic iron stores (i.e., ferrihydrite) in humans  is critical for resonant LWMA-mediated magnetic catalysis in COVID-19 pathologies. Iron stores are low in children and increases with age, with the highest levels in the elderly. Males have significantly higher iron stores compared to females. Consequently, COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality risk are directly proportional to age, and male sex is also a significant risk factor for COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality.

Yes, it smacks of quackery, but I’ll let someone like Orac go after the paper as a whole, for life is short.  Oh, there’s one more test they propose:

Furthermore, we propose that Nephrite-Jade amulets (a calcium-ferromagnesian silicate) developed by Neolithic Chinese Medicine to prevent thoracic organ disease, may prevent COVID-19.

. . . It is posited that Jade (including Nephrite) amulets protect the wearer against unseen nefarious forces that cause disease in thoracic organs. Indeed, the romantic language word, piedra de ijada (from which the English word Jade is derived) translates to the stone that prevents disease in organs in the side/flank of the body (thoracic organs). Additionally, the English word Nephrite is derived from the Greek word lapis nephriticus, which translates to the stone that cures kidney disease.

Future experiments and analysis in support of this hypothesis will determine 1) the genomic sequence of the polynucleotide molecules producing the SARS-CoV-2-like antigens in the laboratory rats using next-generation sequencing technology, 2) the ability of Nephrite-Jade amulets to prevent lethal COVID-19-like disease and associated SARS-CoV-2-like infection in laboratory rats in our colony during the equinoctial period. . .

Check out the paper’s bizarre “graphical abstract”, which is reproduced below.

Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade vagina eggs had something to them after all! Well, I will let the experimenters fit the rats with tiny jade amulets and see if they work. I’m betting not. However, in support of their hypothesis, I sometimes wear pounamu (nephrite shapes on necklaces) that I got in New Zealand (they’re a traditional Maori decoration), and I haven’t gotten Covid yet. Maybe we could do the experiment now with the many people in New Zealand, both white and Maori, who wear pounamu. Those who wear amulets should get covid far less often.

Of course Retraction Watch had to feature this paper, and so it did in the article below (click on the screenshot).

The site reproduces some baffled tweets by other scientists, and then inquired of the paper’s first author, Moses Turkle Bility:

We asked Moses Turkle Bility, a Pitt professor who is listed as corresponding author of the paper, whether he in fact wrote it. He confirmed that he did:

…I kindly suggest you read the article and examine the evidence provided. I also suggest you read the history of science and how zealots have consistently attempted to block and ridicule novel ideas that challenge the predominant paradigm from individuals that are deem [sic] not intelligent enough. I [sic] not surprised that this article has elicited angry responses. Clearly the idea that a black scientist can provide a paradigm shifting idea offends a lot of individuals. I’ll be very candid with you; my skin color has no bearing on my intelligence.

If you have legitimate concerns about the article and wish to discuss, I’ll address; however, I will not tolerate racism or intellectual intolerance targeted at me.

Every quack fancies themselves a Galileo, though most quacks are simply quacks. And there was no racism.

We asked Bility for evidence that “Nephrite-Jade amulets, a calcium-ferromagnesian silicate, may prevent COVID-19,” and whether promoting non-evidence-based interventions during a pandemic was a good idea. His non-answer:

Dear Dr. Oransky, please read and understand the article in its entirety, before you make a hasty decision. If I may speculate, you neither understand quantum physics nor spin chemistry; you are making a hasting [sic] decision based on your knowledge of the classical theories that dominate the biological sciences. Also, certainly you being a white male offers you the privilege to think that you have the right to determine who can propose ideas that challenges a dominant paradigm. Other cultures are not primitive, and people of color and indigenous people are not intellectually inferior. Before you jump to conclusions about this article, I suggest you understand quantum physics, and spin chemistry, and how it differs from classical theories, and then read my article. 

The author, who is black, is clearly defensive, and is blaming criticism on his race. But the insanity of this paper has nothing to do with race; it has to do with whether good science is being done, and it doesn’t look like it to me.

Finally, Retraction Watch went to Elsevier, whom I don’t like anyway because they’re price-gougers. And they defended the paper!

We’ve also asked Jay Gan, of the University of California, Riverside, and co-editor-in-chief of the journal, how it came to be published. Gan told us that Damià Barceló, the other editor in chief of the journal, handled the submission. Barceló told us:

The paper went through our standard reviewing process. It was  reviewed by two expert reviewers and only after  several revisions with the agreement of the reviewers it was accepted.

Well, lots of dumb papers get published, though relatively more of them in the humanities than in the sciences. This paper won’t do much harm to science or medicine, but it may damage the careers of its authors unless, by a million-to-one chance, they’re right. And certainly Elsevier doesn’t come out looking good on this one.


Bility, M. T., Y. Agarwal, S. Ho, I. Castronova, C. Beatty, S. Biradar, V. Narala, N. Periyapatna, Y. Chen, and J. Nachega. 2020. Can Traditional Chinese Medicine provide insights into controlling the COVID-19 pandemic: Serpentinization-induced lithospheric long-wavelength magnetic anomalies in Proterozoic bedrocks in a weakened geomagnetic field mediate the aberrant transformation of biogenic molecules in COVID-19 via magnetic catalysis. Science of The Total Environment:142830.

Authors of anti-Pinker letter, having failed to discredit him, now write a 35-page academic paper claiming that the media and public misunderstood them

August 31, 2020 • 10:00 am

In July, a group of linguists sent a letter to the Linguistics Society of America (LSA) trying to get Steve Pinker’s status withdrawn as both an LSA distinguished fellow and a designated media expert. I analyzed the letter here and found it totally without merit—just a bunch of tweets that were misinterpreted as racist and misogynistic.

That’s old news, and the LSA of course didn’t do anything to Pinker. Many besides me defended Steve, including his fellow linguists Barbara Partee and John McWhorter, who even cited my “deconstruction” of the risible letter to the LSA:

But now there’s new news: some of the signers of the original letter have written a 35 page paper complaining about people’s and the media’s reactions to the letter—a paper that they’ve submitted to an unspecified academic journal. This link explains their rationale, has a link to a FAQ page, and a link to the pdf of the paper. I can’t embed the link, but this should take you to the paper (click on “pdf”). A screenshot of the title and abstract:


I love the “anonymous” author—someone too scared to put out their name in public. At any rate, the paper beefs about Pinker’s reaction to the original letter, the media’s general taking sides with Pinker, the misconception that the letter was made to “cancel” Pinker (I certainly didn’t say that!), the ad hominem attacks on the letter and its signatories, etc. etc. etc. What the paper does not do is expand on the accusations against Pinker, trying to show that they were just. They can’t, because the accusations were wholly unjust.

The paper is in fact tedious, immature, and obsessed with minutiae: it’s a crybaby paper that simply can’t accept the fact that the original letter was rebuffed, that the LSA didn’t do anything about it, and that the media supposedly distorted its claims. Well, its claims were ludicrous, as is this 35-page attempt to keep the controversy alive.

I don’t know which journal has the unpleasant task of evaluating this screed, but given the quality of journals in the social sciences, I’m sure somebody will publish the paper, if for no other reason than to get clicks. Read it for yourself. I did (quickly), and found nothing buttressing the original claims about Pinker’s supposed bigotry, but much about the hurt feelings of the authors. This isn’t even a tempest in a teapot now—it’s a tempest in a thimble.


h/t: James

A new book justifies looting

August 30, 2020 • 9:00 am

It was inevitable. Although many on the left have downplayed looting and violence that sometimes accompanies protests, there have also been some who came close to excusing the violence, if not justifying it. Now comes writer Vicky Osterweil—on National Public Radio (NPR), of all places—touting her new book, In Defense of Looting. The NPR interview link is below, and since the piece dwells a lot on race, I’ll add that Osterweil is white (not capitalized, though she capitalizes “Black” and “Brown”).

First, the book (click on icon to go to Amazon site).

Below is the Amazon blurb. Note that in the interview below Osterweil justifies both looting and “destroying property”. She at least seems to criticize violence against people (hurting them), though she’s curiously reluctant to be clear about that.
Looting–a crowd of people publicly, openly, and directly seizing goods–is one of the more extreme actions that can take place in the midst of social unrest. Even self-identified radicals distance themselves from looters, fearing that violent tactics reflect badly on the broader movement.
But Vicky Osterweil argues that stealing goods and destroying property are direct, pragmatic strategies of wealth redistribution and improving life for the working class–not to mention the brazen messages these methods send to the police and the state. All our beliefs about the innate righteousness of property and ownership, Osterweil explains, are built on the history of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous oppression.
From slave revolts to labor strikes to the modern-day movements for climate change, Black lives, and police abolition, Osterweil makes a convincing case for rioting and looting as weapons that bludgeon the status quo while uplifting the poor and marginalized. In Defense of Looting is a history of violent protest sparking social change, a compelling reframing of revolutionary activism, and a practical vision for a dramatically restructured society.
The book came out on August 25, and so far the Amazon ratings aren’t very good. I’ve also Googled the book and seen a lot of critiques, but I haven’t read any as I want my take to be fresh.

The NPR interview with Osterweil is below; click on screenshot. Note the title of the NPR sub-site as well as its its motto.

Now NPR is about as woke as the New York Times, but I’m still surprised that it would publish something like this. Yes, the piece may foster discussion (in my view, the main benefit of publishing it is to “out” both Osterweil and her minions who think looting is justifiable), but imagine if a right-winger were to publish a book on, say, why it’s good to destroy abortion clinics. You’d never see that on NPR.

Anyway, read and weep, or, as in my case, get angry, for I see Osterweil’s argument as both weak and indefensible. Code Switch is NPR’s “blog on race, ethnicity, and culture.”

First, we should clarify what the author means by “looting”, which she defines as “the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot.” She emphasizes that she’s not defending any expropriation of property by force (I guess she means robbery) or in home invasions. To her, “looting” is something that accompanies protests and riots, and is the (“non forcible”???) taking of stuff from stores, whether they be big department stores or mom-and-pop stores.

She begins her blather by saying that “looting is a highly racialized word” (it comes from a Hindi word that means “goods or spoils”). But what is the point of that? Nobody even knows that, but somehow she has to work the idea of race into her interview as early as possible. Her point is obscure. If “looting” is highly racialized, so is “pajamas.”

Osterweil’s defense of looting is that it is an effective tactic to equalize the distribution of wealth, free the looters from having to work for “bosses” to get stuff (I guess she’s a hard socialist or Marxist), and to demonstrate that the concept of “property” is bogus. But read below. I am not making this up.

Can you talk about rioting as a tactic? What are the reasons people deploy it as a strategy? [JAC: I think the questioner, Natalie Escobar, who throws softballs at Osterweil repeatedly, means “looting” rather than “rioting”, though Osterweil sees looting as a subset of rioting.]

It does a number of important things. It gets people what they need for free immediately, which means that they are capable of living and reproducing their lives without having to rely on jobs or a wage—which, during COVID times, is widely unreliable or, particularly in these communities is often not available, or it comes at great risk. That’s looting’s most basic tactical power as a political mode of action.

It also attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed. It attacks the idea of property, and it attacks the idea that in order for someone to have a roof over their head or have a meal ticket, they have to work for a boss, in order to buy things that people just like them somewhere else in the world had to make under the same conditions. It points to the way in which that’s unjust. And the reason that the world is organized that way, obviously, is for the profit of the people who own the stores and the factories. So you get to the heart of that property relation, and demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.

This is unbelievable. For without some form of capitalism, you’re not going to get fancy televisions, sneakers, and and booze for free. And really, “working for a boss”? In fact, many of the small stores that were looted in the spate of recent riots were mom and pop stores, in which the owners worked not for a boss but for themselves.

Further, if looting attacks the idea of “property”, does that mean that the looters don’t consider what they take as their property?

Finally, no, you can’t have things for free under any society. How are you going to have televisions and clothing unless somebody makes them and you have to pay for them? What kind of society is she envisioning? Clearly one without police, which would be a disaster, but she’s even more Communist than the Soviet Communists. And without “state oppression”, how are you going to have the kind of communism Osterweil apparently wants.

But wait! There’s more! Looting is also a form of liberation. Note that she also justifies riots here:

Importantly, I think especially when it’s in the context of a Black uprising like the one we’re living through now, it also attacks the history of whiteness and white supremacy. The very basis of property in the U.S. is derived through whiteness and through Black oppression, through the history of slavery and settler domination of the country. Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police. It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. And I think that’s a part of it that doesn’t really get talked about—that riots and looting are experienced as sort of joyous and liberatory.

. . . But the history of the movement for liberation in America is full of looters and rioters. They’ve always been a part of our movement.

. . . Ultimately, what nonviolence ends up meaning is that the activist doesn’t do anything that makes them feel violent. And I think getting free is messier than that. We have to be willing to do things that scare us and that we wouldn’t do in normal, “peaceful” times, because we need to get free.

I’m not sure whether people who lose their stores or their cars or their houses (after all, arson doesn’t count as “violence” in Osterweil’s world) are becoming free, and are experiencing joy and liberation. As for the fact that many businesses that were looted were owned by minorities, well, Osterweil says that “most stores are insured; it’s just hurting insurance companies on some level. It’s just property. It’s not actually hurting any people.”

Think about that. Have you seen news reports of store owners who lost their business, who were livid with rage and shaken with sorrow because they can’t rebuild and can’t make a living for a while even if they do? Those people aren’t hurt? Well, maybe not physically hurt, but their lives are severely damaged. And if looting of a mom and pop store is okay, and liberatory, why is shoplifting not okay by Osterweil’s lights? Shouldn’t that be liberatory as well? It’s just property after all, and you get stuff for free and it doesn’t really hurt anybody.

Finally, Osterweil tries to cover other bases, like “what about small business owners?” Her response is that it’s a right-wing myth that small business owners create jobs and are “part of the community” and, anyway, looters don’t really attack the good businesses in the community—only the ones that participate in “modes of oppression.” She won’t admit that any businesses that have been destroyed and looted didn’t deserve that.

She tries to dispel the idea that the looters are “outside people” who aren’t protesting, and the idea that looting is not an intrinsic part of “the movement.” By claiming these ideas are wrong, she’s actually flying in the face of those on the Left who have previously explained looting, trying to say it was the work of outsiders and wasn’t inherent in the protest. But Osterweil has a bigger fish to fry: she wants Marxism.

Osterweil’s words make me livid, for the woman is totally clueless. What kind of country does she think this would be if looting weren’t a crime, and if there were no police? What kind of country does she envision? Maybe it’s in her book, but I can’t bear to read it. It wouldn’t be good for my health.

Osterweil is a dangerous person because her ideas and her book are dangerous, for they provides a rationale for those who would riot, loot, and destroy property. Fortunately, Americans aren’t buying her argument. And I hope they’re not buying her book. There’s no doubt, though, that Osterweil will become a hero to certain people on the Left. Such people are to be avoided.

The author (from Hachette Books profile):

h/t: Eli