Multicellularity, male privilege and also I need $10 million.

I watched a video of my colleagues at FreethoughtBlogs, Matt Herron of Fierce Roller and PZ Myers of Tentacly Overlord infamy, discussing some very cool science-y stuff about the evolution of multicellularity. One of the most interesting takeaways for me is that it had long been thought that evolving multicellularity would be an exceedingly rare and difficult jump to make. But it has been discovered, only in the last five to ten years, that this is actually relatively easy and common:

Matt (@3:51): I think there’s been sort of a natural assumption that it has to be difficult. And maybe it is difficult to evolve a complex multicellular organism, with lots and lots of cell types and tissues and maybe even organs, because that hasn’t happened very many times. But Rick Grossberg has a paper where he argues basically what we’ve found, which is that at least the initial steps towards a multicellular lifestyle really aren’t that difficult. It’s happened lots of times that we know of, at least a couple of dozen times, and probably more because in a lot of cases these things don’t leave any fossil record. It is surprising, compared to what people thought five or ten years ago, that multicellularity evolves so easily, but now we’ve seen it in several of these experiments. And in a lot of cases it happens within just a few hundred generations.

OMG cool, right?

Then they touch on the intersection of philosophy and biology, and specifically the question of what exactly constitutes an individual organism, as opposed to, say, a colony of creatures that appear to function as one. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets my beanie spinning. I am reminded of my unfortunate encounter with a species known as Physalia physalis, a.k.a. the “floating terror,” a.k.a. the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war, which I would henceforth (and forevermore) refer to as a “sea squirrel.” Despite its similarity in appearance to the common jellyfish—an individual multicellular organism that will also sting the everloving shit out of you if given a chance—it turns out that the Sea Squirrel™ is actually something very different:

[T]he Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which, unlike jellyfish, is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. These polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like a so-called individual animal.

Mind: blown.

These weird little fuckers are carnivorous, wielding their wickedly venomous tentacles to paralyze prey (e.g. small fish), and to inflict upon barefoot beachwalkers excruciating pain even after they are long dead (the sea squirrels, not the beachwalkers).

Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting cephalopod angle here. Blanket octopuses are immune to sea squirrel venom, which is an amazing enough trick to evolve. But these cephalopods go waaaaaay beyond that: they rip the venomous tentacles right off of those critters (hopefully while mocking them mercilessly), and then they carry the tentacles around with them to wield as weapons for defensive (and possibly offensive) purposes. Now that is some serious next level shit, blanket octopuses! I mean, can you just picture that? Because I sure can!

 

octopusseasquirrelweaponsOctopus Wielding Sea Squirrel™ Tentacles Against Douchefish.
©Iris Vander Pluym
8′ x 11′
(oil on canvas)
$10,000,000.00

But! I digress. As beanie-spinning as all of this clearly is (as evidenced by the foregoing blather), it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post. Continue reading

We suck. Help save the oceans.

seaturtle

(image via Avaaz)

It’s no secret that I have no love for homo sapiens (or for Sciuridae for that matter, but they are not the goddamn problem FOR ONCE). I do, however, harbor deep affection and compassion for our cousins that dwell in the Earth’s seas.

papagayocr

This is a picture of all my aquatic friends in Costa Rica.
I don’t have an underwater camera. But since I snorkeled extensively in these waters, I can assure you they are fucking amazing.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marine habitats all over this planet, humans suck giant walrus balls. Hard. In fact, it invites karmic justice of the highest order that President Cheetohead and his merry band of motherfrackers are busy ensuring Earth’s glaciers and polar ice caps completely melt, covering the entire surface of the globe in water. (BONUS: this would also solve the fucking squirrel problem once and for all. Lard knows future aquatic space alien visitors shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.)

But at least occasionally, we humans attempt to mitigate some of the worst aspects of our lamentable existence. If only momentarily, we will put our violent domination proclivities on hold and shift to a collaborative worldview, as if our very lives depended on it. They actually do, of course. And this is one of those moments.

Continue reading

Conversion therapy: kill it with fire.

equality-180

Feel like exercising your constitutional right (while it lasts…) to click links? GOOD!

Click on over to Freethought Resistance, then click the link to CREDO* Action’s petition to Congress to ban conversion therapy. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA33), sponsor of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, says of the legislation:

It says it is fraud if you treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist and there’s no medical condition known as being gay. LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.

As a California state senator in 2012, Rep. Lieu was also instrumental in enacting a similar law, the first of its kind in the nation. Just last month, the California law withstood a final appeal to the US Supreme Court based on a “religious freedom” argument. In the wake of the high court’s rejection, there is some momentum on which to capitalize here: the national legislation has been referred to committee in both the House and Senate.

Come on, you godless heathens! You know you enjoy trampling the “religious freedom” of bigoted fraudulent assholes at least as much as I do. Get your click on.

__________
*CREDO Mobile is a lefty activist mobile company: every month it allocates a portion of its revenue to various activist non-profits, as voted and allocated by its customers. (CREDO is, for example, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor.) Consider switching to CREDO as your mobile carrier, and stop funding anti-democratic donors like AT&T that fund conservatives. They offer a lot of the same deals on phones, contract buyouts, incentives, fees, etc.

PETITION: Urge DHS not to appoint David Clarke.

[CONTENT NOTE: state violence, brutality and death]

Apropos my post earlier today about state violence-supporting, authoritarian fascist douchebro David Clarke, here comes a timely petition (via Presente.org):

Dear Iris:

On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told right wing radio he will resign to take a job in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Donald Trump.1

Will you sign the petition and tell DHS Secretary John Kelly to not hire Sheriff Clarke?

Clarke’s resignation is great news for Milwaukee County, but if he really is being appointed to DHS, that’s terrible news for the country. That’s why we’re joining forces with our partners at Voces de la Frontera to stop Sheriff Clark and hold the DHS accountable.

Amazingly, DHS has not confirmed that they actually offered Clarke the job he claims. There’s still time to sign the petition urging DHS Secretary John Kelly to not appoint Sheriff Clarke to any position.

Click here to sign! Don’t forget to share it on social media!

Clarke is incompetent and corrupt. He has abused his power by attacking political opponents. He has enriched himself by acting as a media mouthpiece for white supremacists. He is unfit for any office and should face criminal charges for the deaths and human rights abuses at the Milwaukee County Jail.2

If Clarke is appointed to this position, his job would be to bully other local law enforcement nationwide into enrolling in the 287g program to deputize officers as Immigration agents, as he has tried to do in Milwaukee.3 That is unacceptable!

Click here to sign!

Thank you for all you do and ¡adelante!

– Matt, Favianna, Erick, Reetu, Oscar, Erica and the Presente.org team.

P.S. Can you donate $5 to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see campaigns like this through.

Sources:
1.“Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says he’s taking job in Department of Homeland Security.”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. May 17, 2017.
2.“4 People, Including A Baby, Have Died In A Jail Run By Potential Trump Nominee Sheriff David Clarke.”Huffington Post. November 29, 2016.
3.Bice: Letter details Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s plan for immigration enforcement.”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. March 16, 2017.

__________

Freeze peaches at Berkeley and beyond.

[CONTENT NOTE: violent bigotry. lots of it.]

I am ashamed to report to readers that The Washington Post lured me into a time-wasting, life-sucking vortex with a clickbait headline:

I invited Ann Coulter to speak at UC Berkeley. Here’s why.
My group doesn’t agree with her, but we believe in free speech.

Ugh why. Because I AM WEAK, people, that’s why. Coulter’s appearance at Berkeley is not even happening, and yet still I could not just let this shit stand.  Continue reading

Hitting them where it hurts.

On Freethought Blogs’ Freethought Resistance page, I posted a new petition (via CREDO Action*) to Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen demanding he refuse to allocate campaign funds to any Democratic senator who votes or strikes a deal to advance the confirmation of right-wing extremist Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Directing your activism time, energy and resources toward Democrats, particularly with regard to primary campaigns, is vitally necessary. A primary challenger does not need to win in order to pressure the prevailing candidate to move left on issues that matter. There are far too many corporatist, corrupt conservatives in the party, particularly in leadership positions. If we want to put the pressure on where it counts, we need to take every opportunity to go after wayward conservative Democrats in every way possible. (Yeah I’m looking at you, Chuck Schumer.)

Read the background on the petition and then please sign if you are so inclined.

Because fuck these d00ds, that’s why.

__________
*CREDO is a lefty activist mobile company: every month it allocates a portion of its revenue to various activist non-profits, as voted and allocated by its customers. (CREDO is, for example, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor.) Consider switching to CREDO as your mobile carrier, and stop funding anti-democratic corporations that fund conservatives like AT&T. They offer pretty much all the same deals on phones, contract buyouts, incentives, fees, etc.

Attention fellow New Yorkers: please sign & share.

From our friends at Refuse Fascism and Stop Mass Incarceration Network [NOTE: I live in the 6th Precinct]. [NOTE: I live in the 6th Precinct.]

Iris —

#RiseUp!
eNewsletter of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network NYC * March 25, 2017

_____________________________________________

Drop the Charges Against the Stonewall 4!

WE DEMAND – DROP THE CHARGES ON THE STONEWALL 4

Monday, March 27, the trial of the Stonewall 4 is scheduled to start.  The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is calling on everyone to stand up in support and demand that NYC drop all the unjust charges against them.

Who Are They?

The Stonewall 4 are members of the NYC Revolution Club who were part of a Refuse Fascism contingent at the February 4 Solidarity Rally at the Stonewall Inn, a beautiful outpouring of thousands who rallied to protest the Muslim Ban & come together in support of LGBTQ rights.

At the end of the rally and as the Revolution Club was packing to leave, they were confronted by NYPD officers for no apparent reason and 4 Revolution Club members were arrested.  They are charged with 7 misdemeanor crimes including Obstructing Governmental Administration and Resisting Arrest which carry a possible year’s sentence on Riker’s Island.  The charges are outrageous.  People of conscience must not stand aside while dissent is criminalized.

Take these actions in support:

SIGN the Petition!

Add your name to the Petition to NY District Attorney Cyrus Vance and Mayor DeBlasio: Stonewall 4 – DEMAND ALL CHARGES DROPPED!   Spread this widely on social media, to your friends, family and colleagues.

Court Support!

Monday, March 27, 8:30 a.m. – COME TO COURT!  Rally in front of 100 Centre Street, and come into the courtroom with the Stonewall 4.   We will show the Court that we have their backs and that there are people throughout the community who will not be silent in the face of this attack. Invite on facebook. Facebook Event

DONATE!

DONATE  for legal expenses. $3,000 is needed.  Your donation of $100, $50…even $10 will make a difference.


Sunday March 26 Potluck: Meet the Stonewall 4!

Please note time date and time change

6:30 – 8:30 pm Location: Asian American Writers Workshop, 112 West 27th Street 6th Floor, Manhattan (between 6th and 7th Avenues).  Trains: F/C/E to 23rd Street; #1/R to 28th Street

____________________________________________________________________________

Demand the NYPD Stop the surveillance and political suppression of Revolution Club and Refuse Fascism activists!

Demand the DA drop these outrageous charges immediately

Stonewall4@100Centre

Originally published from March 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

There is a pattern of NYPD stalking and surveilling political speech coming to light— from the moment Refuse Fascism first published a full page ad in the New York Times individuals have been targeted for political and legal persecution for spreading the urgently needed political message, “NO! In The Name Of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America!”

What you can do:

  • We need to raise $2,500-$3,000 to cover legal costs for a mainly volunteer legal team so please donate generously here: https://RefuseFascism.org/donate and indicate it is for legal expenses.

  • Sign and spread this petition and video on social media.

  • Next Monday, March 27, pack the courtroom.

  • Join a fund-raising potluck on Sunday, March 26.

On January 4, the day that Refuse Fascism printed a full-page ad in the New York Times, Refuse Fascism activists including several Revolution Club members went outside Fox News headquarters in New York City with a five-foot tall enlargement of the New York Times ad. As they were marching down the sidewalk towards the subway they were followed by NYPD vans, flashing their lights, and an entourage of around 8-12 NYPD officers. These stalkers followed them throughout the city, and all the way 35+ blocks downtown to a Refuse Fascism meeting happening in Greenwich Village, making sure to switch to cops from a different precinct as they got closer downtown and entered that precinct’s jurisdiction on the way to the meeting.

On January 12, New York police [from the 6th precinct] stalked, arrested, and brutalized a young person associated with Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club. She and a friend were walking through Greenwich Village, on their way to a publicly announced Refuse Fascism event. She was carrying Refuse Fascism posters tucked under her arm. When her friend went into a store to pick up some food, a woman walking behind her read her sign aloud: “Stop Trump/Pence.” Seconds later, this woman—an NYPD cop in plainclothes—and two other cops, also not in full police uniform, grabbed the young woman and began manhandling her. Several police cars arrived, and the assembled NYPD force pushed her up against a car, and shoved her face against the trunk. The police subjected this woman to hours of abuse—political, physical, sexual, and psychological. And in addition to this she has been charged with three misdemeanors facing up to a year in jail. To read the fuller account, go to revcom.us.

On February 4, 2017, as the “LGBT Solidarity Rally” at the historic Stonewall Inn was drawing to a close, four people, revolutionaries with the NYC Revolution Club, and volunteers with Refuse Fascism, were brutally attacked and arrested by the NYPD. They are being charged with seven misdemeanor crimes carrying up to a year’s sentence on Rikers Island.

In a statement Noche Diaz and the other defendants said, “We were at Stonewall to stand with people against the first iteration of the inhumane Muslim Ban. We challenged and connected people with the need to confront the fascist nature and direction of this regime, and that protest alone would not be enough; we need to build a movement and drive the regime from power, and do so not just for ourselves, but in the name of humanity. We were attacked for bringing out this message. We have previously been stalked and arrested by the authorities, followed, and harassed by police and Trump fanatics.”

The stakes of these cases are very high—a key part of fascism is the trampling on and tearing up of civil and legal rights, and there are moves across the country to further criminalize protest, to erode and eliminate the room to even oppose the moves by the regime against the people and the planet. [Read more]

Should the NYPD be able to get away with stalking, harassing and arresting those people who are putting before society the horrors facing humanity with the installation and consolidation of the fascist Trump/Pence regime? NO! THIS CANNOT STAND!

Should the message of Refuse Fascism—the necessity to drive out this fascist regime—be politically and legally suppressed? NO! THIS CANNOT STAND!

Should those people who recognize the horrific consequences for humanity and the planet and are acting to bring this to millions more be surveilled, targeted, brutalized and thrown into prison? NO! THIS CANNOT STAND!

Should the message of those revolutionaries who while doing this sharply put before people the real history of this country, the nature of the system and how things could be radically different, be silenced and suppressed? NO! THIS CANNOT STAND!

This struggle against repression is an important part of the overall struggle to drive out the Trump/Pence regime and YOU are needed.

We are calling on all people of conscience to express their outrage at the illegitimate suppression of political speech, to demand that these charges be dropped, and the surveillance, in particular by the 6th precinct, of Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club members be STOPPED. StopMassIncarceration.NYC http://www.stoppoliceterror.org/

Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Box 941 Knickerbocker Station
New York , NY 10002, United States

Thoughts on yesterday.

[CONTENT NOTE: homelessness, including image of a homeless person.]

It’s a dreary, snowy day in NYC. Not the fun kind of snow that hushes the city in a thick blanket of otherworldly white (and, ideally, melts overnight without a trace). This is a dismal snow, dark flurries of tiny wet flakes that liquefy upon reaching the ground.

But! Yesterday was glorious. It’s days like these that seem to electrify the city (or maybe the city-dwellers?), demanding to be witnessed in all of their vivid splendor and grotesquery. I had appointments and errands on my morning schedule, followed by a late lunch with a dear friend visiting from out of town. This is what I saw. Continue reading

Godwinning for the good.

In case you missed it: a few weeks ago revolutionary badass Sunsara Taylor of RefuseFascism.org, with whom PZ and I are acquainted, appeared on the odious Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox. Because Carlson is an ass-cactus of the first order, he constantly interrupted her, spoke over her and eventually cut her feed. Nevertheless, when the smarmy blowhard shut his lie-hole for a moment and she managed to get a few words in, she stated the rather obvious fact that the fascist Trump/Pence regime is more dangerous than Hitler’s. On account of, you know, having nuclear weapons and an apparent enthusiasm for using them (among other things).

According to Taylor: Continue reading