18 June 2018

Video of the day -- an incompetent abroad

Bill Maher assesses the Trump-Kim summit, and a few other recent events.

How to comment on Blogger blogs if you don't have a Blogger account

This seems fairly straightforward to me, but perhaps it doesn't seem that way to people who aren't familiar with Blogger.  Over the years a number of people have told me they tried to comment here, but were not able to.  Perhaps they were confused because the interface looks different from those of other platforms such as WordPress, Disqus, or Tumblr, or perhaps they thought their accounts on those systems would work for commenting on Blogger (they don't).  So here's how to do it:

At the bottom of the post, click on the link that says "comments" or "post a comment" -- if you're looking at just one post rather than the blog home page, it will be at the very bottom, after all the comments which are already there.  It will take you to a screen which looks like this (click picture for larger version):

Choose the "Name/URL" option by clicking on the button to the left of it.  That will open up two boxes which look like this:

Type your internet name of choice in the top one.  If you want your name to link to your blog, type your blog URL in the bottom box -- you can still post a comment without entering an URL, however.  It will also work with the URL of any other kind of website you have, such as a DeviantArt page.  Then type the text of your comment in the large rectangular area above and click the orange "Publish your comment" button at the bottom.  If you're on a blog which uses moderation, as mine does, the comment won't actually appear until it's approved.

Note that this doesn't log you into anything.  It's just a way to comment for people who don't have Blogger accounts.

17 June 2018

Link round-up for 17 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Go into the port-a-potty, come out into the Twilight Zone.

The chili comes with the usual extra.

She easily beat three strong men in a tug-of-war (found via Hackwhackers).

Best church sign ever.

Here are some real musical chairs.

Artificial intelligence may know us better than we know ourselves.

How big is the frog going to be?

Old family recipes often have interesting origins.

Here kitty kitty.....

Bluebird of Bitterness finds some perfectionists at work.

She Who Seeks speculates on the sexuality of superheroes.

Professor Chaos fisks Megan McArdle's incoherent attack on the NFL kneeling protests.

Calvin rounds up some Trump images (don't miss the collection of epithets).

Crazy Eddie looks at the decline of shopping malls and department stores across the US.

Murrmurrs tries to reason with the Trumpanzees.

The enemy is bizarrely freaking out about The Shape of Water.

Some people really are this ignorant.

You can print a lion.

Non-native speakers enrich the language.

The younger generation leads the way.

This should be the poster for the future movie about Trump's regime.

Acceptance of homosexuality is increasing in every religious group, though atheists and agnostics are still the best and the more nutball Christian sects are the worst.  Even US Muslims are much more accepting than Evangelicals, an indicator of secularization progressing among the former.  Here's one surprising case of enlightenment -- but more is needed than just a change of heart.

Don't hurt the Trumpanzees' feelings (found via Hackwhackers).  Update: the account is suspended -- it was the last one here.

Yew goan BARN in HAIL, sinnuh!

No, the calendar does not prove Jesus existed.

Weirdo!  (found via Scottie)

What if Trump had brought up human rights with Kim?

"Homophobia simply does not exist."  Thanks for clearing that up.

Sorry, I don't give a shit.

A Dominionist pastor applauds Trump's "stealth theocracy".  Part of the reason for Christianity's decline in the US is its tightening links with disgusting politics.  And fundie doctrine is a profound problem.

No, California is not going to split into three states (anyway, those proposed borders are stupid).

Romance is healthy for teens -- some teens.

Woman who not know fake Chinese proverb from real one should not quote them.

Fundies gonna party like it's 1399.

A homophobic Uber driver gets a reminder of what century this is.  Hopefully, so will this taxi driver.

Religious schools in Florida get state money to spread garbage about science and history.

A few Democrats are finally starting to defend sex workers.  Suraj Patel especially has given the issue a high profile.

The SPLC backs down a little from its stupidest mistake ever.

Fascism rides the bus.

The ACLU now realizes that defending the First Amendment in the age of Trump requires a partisan stance.

Trump is considering putting abducted migrant children in a tent city in the Texas desert.  Here's what's currently going onThis cartoon was too perfect for the cartoonist's Trumpanzee boss (more on his work here).

I dissect how anti-Semites post with plausible deniability (see comments).

Olivia Broustra raises some issues with transsexualism -- worth reading even if you don't agree.  It's disquieting that the original of this post was apparently censored.  See also this disturbing art exhibit (all links found via Aunt Polly's Rants).

There's a reason why the environment is in so much better shape now than in 1960.

Biologists have discovered an octopus town (found via Calvin, who loathes octopuses for some reason).

Life expectancy in the US is falling.

You're way better off getting your protein from plants -- and you'll be helping to make agriculture more efficient.

Immunotherapy shows great promise against cancer (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

The rate of Antarctic ice loss has tripled since 2012.

Remember the first woman in space.

Even before the G7 summit, Canada was starting to push back against Trump's trade idiocy.  A trade war would be madness, and many Americans aren't signing up, though Trump and his toadies are sounding unhingedNewspapers respond to Trump's summit antics.  Canadian blogger Calvin has a message for Americans and some words on Kudlow's insults, while Canadian motorcycle guards offer a gesture.

Catholic clergy in Australia are bitching about a law that would force them to report child molesters to the cops.

France and Italy are far ahead of the US in high-speed train technology (I found the speeds cited here almost unbelievable, but I did some checking and they're accurate).

French police foil an anti-gay terrorist plot.

Dutch survivors of cult slave-labor camps demand compensation.

Japanese truck garden landscaping is now a thing.  Russian vehicle design is considerably less aesthetic.

Arvind Rao suggests five interesting places to visit in Europe which you may not be familiar with.

Argentina takes a step toward legal abortion.

Chilean authorities raid several compounds of a huge child-molestation ring.

The World Cup leads to a minor kerfluffle over "race-mixing" in Russia.  There are more serious issues as well -- as with big sport in general.

Homosexuality was widely accepted in the Middle East until a few centuries ago, but today brutal persecution is widespread.  There's only one country in the region where it's generally safe to be openly gay.

This takes toughness (found via Scottie).

The Iranian theocracy is one of the few regimes that executes minors.

Indian chess champion Soumya Swaminathan takes a stand against misogyny.

Trump imposes tariffs -- stupid ones -- on China.  But China has the upper hand in this kind of fight.

Kim Jong-un is not the sort of person Trump's base would normally approve of.  A Christian effort to downplay his evil is already apparent.  Electoral-Vote and Hackwhackers have reactions to the summit.  South Korea is not happy.

A British newsman comments on Trump's foreign-policy antics.

Burn their lifeboats!  Don't let Republicans escape guilt for their embrace of Trump -- they truly are his party nowThere is no making nice with these people.

Trump's position on Manafort betrays inconsistency.

Vote as if people's lives depended on it, because they do.  The enemy relishes every chance to take the vote away, but people are learning to fight back.  Here's how to register in every state and territory (found via Tell Me a Story).

Apparently the Trumplings thought family separation at the border (now with extra evil) would be a winning election issue.  But even some of the fundies can't swallow this one.  It's also energizing opposition, and Republicans know itThe victims will not forget.

You vill support the glorious leader!

Shower Cap blog reviews Trumpian assholery in Montréal, Singapore -- and Washington.  More infuriating madness here.

The DNC has banned donations from the fossil-fuel industry (both-siderists -- just imagine the RNC ever doing that).

Would Trumpanzees erupt in violence if Trump were removed from office?  (Green Eagle's comment makes a good point.)

For more links, see Fair and Unbalanced.

[514 days down, 948 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

16 June 2018

Image of the day -- judging by appearances

A surprising number of people think like this.  I used to.  The fact is, in most cases you have no idea what's going on in the heads of all those people around you who outwardly appear to be mindless conformists.  Image by XKCD.

14 June 2018

Video of the day -- LHC rap

An oldie-but-goodie:  rapper Alpinekat (science writer Katherine McAlpine) sings of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most important particle-physics research facility, where she was working when she made this.  It's not just a catchy tune, it's educational!

12 June 2018

Sideshow in Singapore

The bad-hairstyle summit in Singapore has ended with news of a deal -- but there's less here than meets the eye.

The full text of the joint statement is here; an analysis is here.  Most of it is diplomatic fluff and vague promises about improving relations in the future; there is language about recovering POW/MIA remains which will be meaningful to those who have POW/MIA relatives.  The main issue is addressed in a single sentence:

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Note that even this is explicitly presented not as something new, but as a reaffirmation of something already declared at the April 27 summit between North and South Korea.  The phrase "work toward" is odd.  North Korea is a dictatorship.  If Kim intends to "denuclearize" his country, he doesn't need to "work toward" that goal, he just has to give some orders.  As for "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", which would include South Korea, this presumably means that the US should not keep nuclear weapons in South Korea and that that country should not develop its own.  This doesn't seem like a significant change to the status quo, since South Korea has no known plans for building its own nuclear weapons and the US could, if needed, deter the North using weapons based on ships or in Japan.

Then, too, there's the fact that this is a deal between two of the least trustworthy leaders in the world.  Kim and his predecessors have a history of making agreements and then flagrantly violating them, and Trump has just unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran -- which, unlike this brief "joint statement", was a full international agreement with an inspection regime for verification and the support of five other major countries, to which Iran had been adhering for three years.  Both Trump and Kim had a lot riding on the summit -- Trump wanted a foreign-policy success, Kim wanted the prestige of a one-on-one meeting with the world's most powerful leader -- so it was pre-ordained that they'd produce something, however vacuous.

The symbolism of this meeting right after the G7 fiasco is terrible.  Trump squabbled with and insulted the Prime Minister of Canada and leaders of other allied democracies, then ran off to shower respect and praise on one of the world's nastiest and most threatening dictators.

Trump will of course brag and claim credit for this scrap of paper and any good that follows, making the issue a new staple of his rallies and Twitter binges, and his loyal Trumpanzees (most of whom probably couldn't find Korea on a map) will eat it up.  And it is quite possible that Kim will indeed take meaningful steps toward peace -- because he now knows his pitiful failed state would be doomed anyway if a war broke out, not because of Trump or yesterday's meeting.  And at the April 27 summit he already agreed to denuclearization and a peace treaty ending the Korean war, something which also had nothing to do with Trump.

All Trump got was a single sentence reaffirming what was already agreed at the real summit, the inter-Korean one on April 27, which didn't involve the US at all.  I've previously noted the American narcissism which assumes all major actions by non-Western leaders or groups must somehow be reactions to some American or at least Western cause.  It wouldn't surprise me if South Korea and other parties involved allow Trump to claim all the credit he wants, if only in hopes of stopping him from messing things up.  But this fundamentally isn't about us.

[Image at top:  one nation, two systems -- slavery vs. freedom, failure vs. success]

10 June 2018

Link round-up for 10 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Who will win the noodle race?

This is a book about religion, apparently.

I can't imagine what problem could be solved by shoving a giant eggplant up one's ass (found via Mendip).

Is it possible to write a completely un-likeable tweet?

I really think he's dancing.

Have some Slavic catposting.

Calvin has found the ultimate sombrero.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the dumbest of us all?

Trumpanzees will not enjoy this comic book.

What if Star Wars had never been made?  Well, we wouldn't have the dedicated fandom.

This ad is appalling and offensive and sends a bad message.

Roosterville has a great image round-up.


Shocking photos prove Canada is a land of horrors (found via Miss Cellania).

Here's a very badly-written story.

A visit to a gay bar prompts some worthy insights about straight men.

Oh, for %^$#@!# sake.  And you just know there are people who will believe this.

Keep your audience in mind.

Miracles aren't what they used to be.

Harry Hamid has had it with the Green party.

I would have had a lot of questions for these three people.

Here's a simple memory trick to help Trump get through his meeting with Mueller.

A gym canceled a gay event for religious reasons, and members and employees started bailing.  Now the enemy is in a snit because the management of the chain came down hard on the miscreants.

Time magazine isn't pulling punches (found via Hackwhackers).

The long history of persecution of left-handed people shows how taboo can demonize the most innocuous differences.

"Keep children away from religion, and the gods will starve to death."

The "Melania mystery" has served to distract the media from the real news about Puerto Rico's massive suffering.

You can't reason with people like this.  But they believe they should rule us all.

Trump's family-separation policy is the biggest disgrace of his administration (so far).  It repeats a common thread running through the worst of US history.  And this is still going on with American Indians (found via Donna's post).

Don't talk about being sexually abused -- it makes the church look bad.  If the pastor didn't see it, it didn't happen.

29 states are now fighting back to preserve net neutrality.

The next godawful Christian movie looks like a doozy.

I participate in discussions of libertarian fallacies on discrimination and inequality (see comments).  These are the assholes libertarians view as benefactors.

It took an "inter-denominational" Christian group five years to agree on a rather bland list of rules for pestering people.

Anti-Semites are trying to twist the Trump-Russia scandal for their own purposes.

Ireland's abortion referendum could be a harbinger for the US, but only if we can boost voting turnout among young people.

Bill Maher has some wise words about taking offense and hollow victories (but sorry, Franken had to go).

Yes, the enemy is this deranged.

Whose agenda benefits from the nuclear family?

NRO's Andrew McCarthy isn't celebrating the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling.  Even so, bigots are being emboldened.

Let's make it a month to offend this guy.

"Yes, Donald Trump finally has the Evangelical crowd hissing and spitting at actual Christians in the act of prayer. Surprised?"

Time for Pruitt to put up or shut up.

Are appeals to tribal identity the best way to promote science?  The evidence says no.  Here's why the so-called "other ways of knowing" don't actually work (found via Nan's Notebook).

High heels carry risks.

The reason why you have a big brain is basically a copying error.

Mexico and Canada will fight back against Trump on trade (both found via Shower Cap).  The trade war is already doing damage.  Other countries need to play hardball.

Yes!  Canada is legalizing recreational marijuana.

The drive to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland may fall victim to coalition politics.

Christianists freak out over a Satanic festival in New Zealand.

At the G7, Trump continued to embarrass the US and isolate it from other democracies.  Here are his "best" lines from his press conference there (found via Nan's Notebook).  Can you caption the iconic photo?  But Trudeau respects the business heritage of Trump's family.

Denmark has banned the burqa, joining France, Germany, Belgium, and Austria in doing so.

Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II (ruled 1888-1918) will seem strangely familiar to Americans today.

The Indian subcontinent needs #MeToo too.

"While Government Cheese Goebbels wields the power of the Presidency with all the skill of a heroin-addicted gerbil, he's been more successful at reshaping segments of American culture in his own scowling, racist-as-fuck image."

The Republican party now functions as a cult and is strengthening racist, anti-democracy attitudes among its supporters.  Hackwhackers has a round-up of responses to Trump's claim of lawless power; here's a solid rebuttal (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  Calvin has a collection of images.

Reminder:  teabaggers never took the high road with Obama.

If Trump isn't a Russian agent, he's doing a splendid imitation of one.

Republicans are trying to destroy city-level democracy in Texas.

Trump's pardon power is less of a factor than it appears to be.

Republican leaders believe wishful thinking over real data.  They're getting more confident about holding the Senate -- we'll need high turnout in November to prove them wrong.  Generic-ballot polling still looks good (found via Shower Cap), we've got tested issues to run on, and the enemy has just handed us another.  And that's not only an election issue, it's an attack on the rule of law.

Don't believe Jeff Flake's posturing as the Republican anti-Trump for 2020.

Romney gets it wrong, again.

The Alt-Right is using the Republican party as a vehicle to attain power.

Hackwhackers posts some inspirational essays on Trump.

Added (couldn't resist):  These people are stupid!

For more link round-ups, see Perfect Number, Fair and Unbalanced, and Mike the Mad Biologist.

[Image at top found via Scottie's Toy Box]

08 June 2018


A couple of years ago, in the course of my explorations of the nastier reaches of the internet, I started to notice that Alt-Right types sometimes wrote certain names enclosed by triple-parentheses, like this:  (((George Soros))).  It didn't take long to figure out the meaning.  The triple-parentheses (called an "echo") is used by anti-Semites to mark the names of people who are, or whom they believe to be, Jewish.  Lately I've sometimes seen it used with other kinds of names like (((the FBI))) or (((Hollywood))), to insinuate that these institutions are Jewish-controlled.

One sometimes sees the "echo" on sites which are not Alt-Right as such.  For example, when reading comments on a post at Church Militant (a conservative Catholic news site) in February, I was surprised to see it used by one commenter, and challenged him on it.  His response was somewhat evasive -- not all non-anti-Semites would recognize "the tribe" or "globalists" or even "Zio" as references to Jews.  I kept a screencap (click to enlarge):

People with generally-unpopular views or identity, when operating outside their safe zone, often use coded language or symbols which the uninitiated do not understand, in order to attract the attention of any like-minded readers who happen by, who will understand them.  They may even do it for the thrill of showing off their "unacceptable" side in public in a way which will fly over the heads of the "mundanes".  It doesn't immediately put people's guard up the way explicitly (in this case) anti-Semitic language would do.

It's occurred to me that some liberal bloggers may not know the meaning of the "echo", given the pervasive (and unwise, in my opinion) practice of refusing to read or link to right-wing sites.  Hence this post.  If you see someone use it in a comment on your blog, be aware -- the person is almost certainly an anti-Semite who is trolling you in a way he thinks is too subtle for you to notice, and possibly also signaling just in case other anti-Semites also read your blog.  Call him on it.

06 June 2018

Improving words (5)

Some more revised word definitions, based on what the words visibly should mean.....

Address:  A female garment bearing sales pitches

Artichoke:  A painting so bad I want to strangle it

Attire:  The wrath of the phone company

August:  Golden wind

Average:  Hail anger!

Behemoth:  Be he man, be he insect, be he whatever.....

Bigamy:  Amy doesn't like being called fat

Deliver:  To remove a major abdominal organ

Dementia:  The part of Iowa inhabited by liberal-voting giant tree-like creatures from Lord of the Rings

Exorbitant:  A small insect which used to circle the Earth

Farming:  Distant but merciless

Fragrant:  A tirade about shooting one's own comrades

Glove:  Affection suitable for viewing by children of all ages

Hospice:  A zesty flavor offered by prostitutes

Implode:  A large vein of ore rich in small demonic creatures

Inhabitant:  A small insect dressed as a nun

Pentecost:  Five times as expensive

Precursor:  A person who uses profanity in advance

Produce:  Supportive of Mussolini

Trifling:  A casual romantic affair among three people

Warbling:  Jewelry worn for battle

[The previous "Improving words" post is here.]

03 June 2018

Link round-up for 3 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Don't fear the eel robot.

Dr. Theda has some doughnuts for you.  And don't neglect your cats.

Brains!  (found via Calvin's).

Blogger Mike reports a new breakthrough in physics.  I can hardly wait for his explanation of the Sun.

The Russian word under the picture means "stability".

Professor Chaos has some random thoughts.

In ancient times, primitive people used crude tools to preserve entertaining stories.

Yes, there is such a thing as a water-bottle cannon.

Sorry, this bat didn't have the foggiest idea what the hell was happening.

The Christian Right is planning a legislative blitzkrieg against separation of church and state (found via Scottie's Toy Box).

The SBC's official statements on women's equality are full of hypocrisy.

Why the hell do some men do this?  I'm a man and I don't get it at all.  Maybe they're as smart as this guy.

The Michigan legislature has essentially legitimized medical fraud.

The American Bible Society now expects its employees to actually live in accordance with the Bible; several have already quit.

Never be too quick to call someone a Nazi.

Kooky schemes for changing how voting works are often just a both-siderist distraction.

Police stopped paramedics from helping the Parkland students, even after the murderer was caught.

Bruce Gerencser describes how his political views evolved as he left religion.

They did not "give their lives" -- their lives were taken from them.

Here's a truly humane Christian.

What religion you have almost always depends on an accident of birth.

This is what the Catholic Church calls an "expert" on homosexuality.  No matter what the Pope says, Catholic doctrine is inconsistent with tolerance.

Beware of this computer virus -- though if you do get it, I'd recommend going to a computer repair shop rather than trying to deal with it yourself.

Here are eleven forms of harm that religion does (found via Nan's Notebook).

The NFL kneeling movement is the epitome of legitimate non-violent protest -- and the establishment still won't tolerate it.

Calvinism is morally depraved.

Franklin Graham's California crusade illustrates the angry and defensive stance of today's Christian Right.

Think and Thrive blog has some questions about animal abuse.

"I can still thank whatever gods are listening that I don’t live in....."

The authors of the Bible had no idea what the universe is actually like.

We need to differentiate news from propaganda, but this is not the way to do it. Maybe this is related.

Rick Santorum shows his true fundie nature talking about misplaced immigrant kids.  In fact, the government may have handed over some of them to human traffickers (found via Shower Cap).

Nowadays military action usually doesn't achieve its goals, but it still has its enthusiasts.

We know what color this dinosaur was.

Why is there so much hype about "epigenetic changes" in DNA?

A year after Trump's betrayal, the Paris climate deal is still going strong.  And despite him, solar and wind power are booming and creating jobs -- even in the US.

Ireland told its bossy clergy to bugger off.  So should we.

One man in Australia has helped save over two million babies.

Even in Germany's most Catholic area, many are unhappy with a plan to place crosses in public buildings.

Practicing Christians are down to 18% of western Europe's population.

You may have seen claims that the EU is planning changes in copyright law which threaten the internet (both found via 両刀使い).  Apparently it's an Alt-Right scam.

Here's yet another case of religious brutality toward children.

Hamas jihadists bombard Israeli civilian targets with mortars.  OK, now back to blaming Israel for everything.

The new ebola vaccine is being put to work in an actual outbreak.

There are people who compare Trump to Jesus.  He actually resembles a different New Testament figure.

If you've always said you would take a stand against evil if given the chance -- now's your chance.

Republicans serve up another steaming pile of racist candidates.

We're winning despite, not because of, weak leadership.

People who vote and fight for what's right sometimes get things done, cynics and pessimists and ideological purists never do.

Shower Cap blog has another round-up of craziness.

Trump is a terrible negotiator.

Heitkamp risks alienating a key voting bloc.

Congress continues its attacks on the safety and income of sex workers by threatening their bank accounts.  Because Elizabeth Warren is one of the key people pushing these attacks, I can no longer support her for the 2020 Presidential nomination.  (I'll still vote for her if she does get nominated, but I'll oppose her in the primaries.)  Another threat has arisen in Nevada.  Some sex workers are standing up for themselves.

[500 days down, 962 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

31 May 2018


The other day I happened to be driving past a church and it occurred to me that I don't really have much idea what people actually do when they go to those places.  I'd always vaguely assumed they engaged in some sort of rituals, and I know that in Catholicism they do that thing where everybody comes up to the front and eats a wafer after the priest has recited some words over it which supposedly "transubstantiate" it into the flesh of Jesus, but aside from that, my concept of it all was rather hazy.  My academic study of comparative religion covered the supernatural beliefs, history, and cultural impact of the various religions fairly well, but details of rituals weren't emphasized.

So yesterday I asked someone who used to attend church (mainline Protestant) when she was younger.  She said there's a sermon by the presiding clergyman, praying, hymn-singing, and passing the collection plate -- and that's about it, though presumably there's some variation between sects and even between churches in the same sect.  I've already mentioned (item 7) why, to me, the concept of praying doesn't make sense.  I've seen videos of a few sermons; the fundamentalist ones seem heavy on ranting, denouncing "sin", and praising God, often with Bible passages illustrative of whatever the preacher is talking about, while the non-fundamentalist ones are more sedate and less intimidating versions of the same thing.  Does an all-powerful being really need praise and declarations of loyalty from the inhabitants of this one tiny speck of the vast universe he supposedly created?  Of course at the time these rituals originated, people believed that the Earth was the main part of the universe, but few modern people are so ignorant.

It's well known that church attendance, for many people, is a social activity -- it's where they meet people who become friends, and keep in touch with acquaintances they would otherwise rarely see.  I guess the shared participation in rituals mostly serves to reinforce group identity -- the rituals as such make little sense, but performing them together creates a sense of belonging.  The sermons presumably remind people of beliefs which most participants supposedly hold but don't actually think about much in daily life.  If so, the decline of church attendance throughout the world, even among people who still self-identify as Christian, is significant -- if they no longer want such reinforcement, they can't be attaching much importance to religion any more.

I'm sure that by now most readers are thinking that it's absurd for me to be mystified by something which is so perfectly ordinary to most Americans.  Even most atheists remember going to church before they abandoned religion, and on some level it still seems like a normal thing to them, even if they no longer do it.  Yet I'd ask you to look at it from my perspective too, and realize how incredibly weird, alien, and pointless all the ritual activities described above appear to someone who grew up without religion and never observed them.

I know I'm unusual in this respect.  I've interacted with quite a few atheists over the years, both in the blogosphere and in meatspace, but as best I can remember, none of them grew up completely without religious belief as I did -- every one of them started off in a religion, at least in childhood, and then broke free from it.  This illustrates why atheists are the fastest-growing demographic in the country -- most of the growth comes from people leaving other (religious) groups, not from people being born into atheism.  But since there are so many adult atheists now, there are a lot more children being born into non-religious environments, as I was.  Which means that in the coming decades the country will have a lot more adults like me -- people to whom Christianity and its practices seem as baffling and strange as the rituals of Hinduism or Buddhism do to the typical American Christian.  David Voas touched upon that point in this video:

To many Americans in the future, Christianity will look the way Islam looks to most Americans today -- a group with unfamiliar and bewildering beliefs and practices, largely represented in the popular mind by its extremist minority which holds intolerant, threatening, and frightening views.  It's hard to imagine them finding this appealing.  Even today, the number of atheists who join a religion is tiny compared with the veritable stampede in the opposite direction.  Whatever ground religion loses is, by the time the second generation arrives, lost to it forever.

29 May 2018

Video of the day -- God reveals himself

Found via Figuring Out Where I Belong blog.

28 May 2018

Image of the day -- Americans in action

We stopped them before -- we'll stop them again.

27 May 2018

Link round-up for 27 May 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Save this bewitched dog.

%^*$#@!% illiterate morons.

This doesn't add up.

You will believe a man can fly.

A cat explains dogs.

Explore 700 years of schlong slang.

This packaging does not really make me think of high intelligence.

Evil weapon is evil.

See a history of internet cats.

"This is exactly how physics does not work."

This kids' movie is unsuitable for kids.  OK, they fixed it.

If you want leather shoes, there's now a humane option.

The Lord of the Rings films take you back in time.

Check out the anamorphic art of István Orosz.

People used to give children amazingly absurd names.

Give the ladies their pockets back.

This is how troll commenters work.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a cult, not a solution.

A "personal relationship with God" isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Bitcoin is a gargantuan waste of energy.

We're not "just as bad".

It's both.

Popular Science has some tips on teh shrooms (found via Tell Me a Story).

If you use Tumblr, here's how to deal with the new terms of service.

A rural Oregon school district practiced Bible bullying (found via Hackwhackers) -- but the good guys won in the end.

This is what Trumpanzees are really like.

Confide in your pastor?  Not a good idea.

Here are some great Sam Harris quotes.

This person needs to get a clue.

Dave Daubenmire has some issues about race.

Breaking free from religion is difficult, but rewarding.

US Muslims are abandoning religion at an even greater rate than Christians are.

Arizona makes a lunge back into the Dark Ages.

Republican tax "reform" works its magic in Kansas City.

The Gospels are a muddle of irresolvable contradictions.

The NFL's new effort to suppress peaceful protest smacks of hypocrisy.

To learn the truth, read the Bible.

"Fat acceptance" does real harm.

A father explains his regrets about Christian home-schooling.

These people exist.

A grieving mother gets a taste of God's love.

Wingnuts create fake Facebook pages to depict the Texas school shooter as a liberal.

He raped a 13-year-old?  No biggie, some people steal candy.

A Catholic cardinal says it plainly:  freedom of religion doesn't apply to any religion different from his.

Identity-politics nuts freak out at being called out.

To see the future Evangelicalism wants, study its past and present.

Commenters pwn a Randroid rant about socialism.

It's not easy being a Mediterranean sea turtle.

Some tarantulas keep pet frogs.

As technology advances, the view becomes clearer.

The Alt-Right is a tad disconcerted over the royal wedding.

The enemy is massively freaking out about the Irish abortion referendumJerry Coyne and Rosa Rubicondior assess the mass rejection of Church domination.  One priest delivered an anti-abortion rant in church -- and his congregation walked out.  Here's how the battle was won and lost.  It's heartening to see what factor most influenced voters.

The Irish vote raises the issue of restrictive laws in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.

Five major nations meet in Vienna to discuss how to save the Iran nuclear deal.  The EU will activate a law banning European companies from complying with US sanctions (this would give them cover to continue trading with Iran).  Europeans worry that the US may permanently cease to be a viable partner in global affairs.

Polish villages get the Good News from Jesus.

Though Tunisia is a democracy, its modernization still needs some work.

The violence in Burma isn't entirely one-sided.

Trump just can't imagine who the FBI informant in his campaign might be (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  And this looks pretty accurate.

The enemy knows what's at stake.  Do you?

The White House sinkhole prompts speculation.

As soon as he took office, Trump implemented the "global gag rule" on abortion (an example of what I meant here by "tries to enforce its religious taboos abroad"), and now wants to impose the same disastrous policy at home.

Most political "independents" shouldn't be taken seriously.

Having Trump on your resume isn't a selling point.

Mueller may have a Samson-in-the-temple plan in case he gets fired.

Republicans will have trouble appealing to younger voters.  In Illinois they've just nominated another godawful candidate.

Trump's negotiating skills stink.  And Pence is a bit reality-challenged.

The 2018 elections may depend on which foreign country has the best hackers.

Shower Cap reviews the week's madness.

For more link round-ups, see Miss Cellania, Fair and Unbalanced, and Perfect Number.

26 May 2018

Victory in Ireland

Yesterday the Republic of Ireland held a historic referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which prohibited abortion under practically all circumstances (no exceptions for rape, fetal non-viability, etc.).  While polling had pointed to a narrow win for repeal, two exit polls show a landslide result, 68% to 32%, for repealing the amendment and thus legalizing abortion.  The margin was even more lopsided among younger voters, 87% to 13% among those under 24.  These are exit polls, and the actual vote counting won't be finished until later today (The Irish Times will have ongoing coverage), but even if the actual margin is somewhat narrower, this is a stunning win in a country that was totally in the grip of the Catholic Church a generation ago and had been one of the strongest bastions of the Church for fifteen centuries.

Ireland has been changing.  Three years ago it became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular referendum (as opposed to court rulings or legislation), by a margin of 62% to 38%.  The current Prime Minister is openly gay.  78% of the population still identifies as Catholic, but weekly church attendance among Catholics is down from 91% in 1972 to 30% in 2011 (14% in Dublin), and many of those who still go do so only for family or social reasons.

Life under the abortion ban was marked by degradation and hypocrisy.  Many women needing abortions traveled to nearby Britain to obtain them, or resorted to unsafe illegal methods.  For some, yesterday's vote was a chance to strike back at oppressive tradition and its enforcers.

Based on what I've been seeing on hard-line Catholic websites, many opponents of repeal followed a strategy of mumbling to themselves, fiddling with beads, and not eating (or as they describe it, praying the Rosary and fasting).  For some reason, this apparently did not prove effective in changing the outcome.  One wishes our opponents would entirely confine themselves to such methods, but I suppose it's too much to hope for.

There is a lesson for Americans here.  Polling before the vote predicted a narrow win for repeal, while the exit polls show the actual result was around two-to-one.  There are a variety of reasons why polling can fail to predict a vote accurately.  In a case like this, where interest and emotion are running high, one possibility is failure to predict turnout.  Pollsters must guess at which groups will actually vote and in what numbers; if actual turnout patterns are different, the actual vote outcome may be far different from what the poll predicted.  In Ireland, by all accounts, turnout was astonishingly high.  The increased victory margin may reflect high turnout among groups that usually vote in only meager numbers, such as young people, or the pro-repeal side may have been more energized relative to its opponents than pollsters expected.  Here in the US, Democrats have often done better in special elections over the last year than polling suggested, and this too may reflect an especially motivated Democratic base.  But in November, the Trumpanzees too may be energized by fear of Trump being impeached if Democrats win the House.  In the polarized and intense politics of the US today, we can't let polls push us into overconfidence or despair.  Turnout will be everything, and every battle must be fought hard.

Update:  The official result is in -- 66.4% for repeal, 33.6% against.