20 July 2018

The Christian Right and the last bastion

As I anticipated here, Trump's kowtowing to Putin in Helsinki hasn't dented his base's support for him at all (it's blowback from the tariff wars that is starting to undermine that support).  Superficially this seems surprising.  Don't Republicans venerate Reagan largely because of his toughness against the USSR?  Aren't they supposed to be super-patriots, outraged at the thought of foreign meddling in the US or any hint of subservience by a US leader to a foreign one?

Part of the explanation is the standard Trumpanzee insistence on justifying absolutely anything Trump does, rather than face the humiliation and cognitive dissonance of accepting that they made a mistake in voting for him.  But in the case of Russia, there's a more specific issue.

Since long before Trump, the core of the Republican base has been the Christian Right.  Evangelicals are Trump's most loyal supporters.  They're willing to overlook the obviously non-Christian character of his personal life so long as he does all he can to attack gays, abortion, and separation of church and state.  In that sense, they're pragmatists.  They care about winning battles, not about who's delivering the victories.

But they're very aware that, over a longer time frame, they're losing.  They've been losing the culture wars for over fifty years (actually for about four hundred years, but I'm talking about what's most prominent in the minds of people alive today).  With every passing year, the conservative Christian percentage of the US population shrinks, the number of non-religious people grows, gay marriage becomes more widely accepted, Christian sexual taboos are more ignored, non-Christian religions become more a normal part of the American landscape.  They've been reduced to fighting to carve out a few special rights to discriminate within a larger culture they consider essentially hostile.  They're becoming just one of many minorities making up a pluralistic society, which is the same position all other groups have long held -- but the Christian Right doesn't believe in a pluralistic society.  They believe their religion's taboo system should rule over the lives of everybody, Christian or not.

Putin is probably not much of a believer personally any more than Trump is, but he's transforming Russia into a Christian authoritarian state and is enforcing the taboo system -- gays are viciously persecuted, and there have been moves to restrict abortion, despite overwhelming popular acceptance of abortion rights.  To many right-wing US Christians, Putin's Russia is the last bastion of Christian supremacy.  So their support for Trump and for his alliance/subservience to Putin makes a kind of sense.

To the extent that the US and Russia are in conflict, don't expect the American Christian Right to put country before religion -- at least, not reliably.  Ironically, their position is somewhat like that of American communists during the cold war.

17 July 2018

The Trump end-game

Two new factors in our politics are working together to weaken Trump more seriously than ever before in the year-and-a-half history of this misbegotten parody of an administration.  One is undermining him among Republican party leaders, the other among his base -- and together they may give our country its best chance yet to get this absurd and vicious man out of office at last.

The former, of course, is Trump's craven press conference in Helsinki on Monday, which is inspiring horrified condemnation from prominent figures across the political spectrum.  For a collection of such reactions, see here; for responses from Republicans only, see here and here.  Many of the latter are timidly phrased, in keeping with the abject cowardice which has distinguished most Republican leaders when dealing with Trump ever since the 2016 primaries.  But they're there, and the much tougher statements of McCain and Flake -- who can speak more freely because they will never again have to fear the votes of enraged Trumpanzees -- doubtless reflect what others are thinking.

The other factor is Trump's trade war, which is starting to inflict some serious pain on some of those same Trumpanzees.  I gave examples in the last link round-up, from Tennessee and South Dakota, as well as the fact of Trump being branded an "economic traitor" in the pages -- well, pixels -- of Forbes.  This trend will escalate.  The countries Trump has attacked with tariffs, which include Canada, Mexico, China, western Europe, and Japan, are being smart and targeting their retaliatory measures at the red states specifically, because they know that only the Republicans who represent those states can bring Trump to heel.  This trade war is between red America and the rest of the world -- blue America is neutral.  It will be easy for the rest of the world to continue to target the red states, because they are heavily agricultural, and today the world has a glut of food production capacity relative to global population.  The countries to which red America exports food products can easily find other suppliers; it will be much harder for red America to find replacement markets.

This offers a potential lifeline to our endangered red-state Democratic Senators this November; some are already making opposition to the trade wars an issue.  It may even shift a few House races our way in the red states.

As for the Republican leaders, there's been plenty of anecdotal evidence that most of them dislike Trump -- he's insulted and humiliated them plenty, after all -- but stand with him in public for fear of losing the Trumpanzee votes they need to stay in office.  If trade-war losses erode that base support for Trump, just as leaders' alarm at his degraded performance in Helsinki stiffens their spines, then more of them may come around to accepting the need to get rid of him -- enough to make a real difference.  If Mueller's final report shows real evidence of collusion with Russia, and they get walloped with a massive blue wave in November, Trump's position will become even weaker.

If a large cohort of Congressional Republicans turns against Trump, will we see him impeached and removed?  It's possible, but I think a Nixonian scenario is more likely.  Yes, Trump is the kind of guy who would prefer to fight impeachment tooth and nail, doing further damage to the government in the process.  But if a delegation of Senators were to meet with him privately and point out the likely consequences for him if he were removed and prosecuted for whatever Mueller can prove he did both in office and before, and offer a full pardon from Pence if he steps down without a fight, he might take the deal.

A couple of potential wild cards should be mentioned.  First, we should be prepared for the possibility of some kind of incident manufactured either by a cornered Trump or by the Russians right before November, with the aim of shifting the election outcome -- a staged terrorist attack or cyber-attack, for example.  The intent would be to scare voters into rallying around Trump and by extension his party.  I doubt it would work, and for the Russians to do such a thing would be hugely reckless given the consequences if it were traced back to them.  But it may happen.

Second, there's the ultimate nightmare scenario.  If Trump feels threatened enough and angry enough, might he go for the whole enchilada -- suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, try to establish an outright dictatorship?  I can't judge how likely it is that he'd attempt that, but I don't believe he could succeed.  Most Republicans in positions of power would not support such a move -- they've all seen how quickly he turns against allies as soon as they displease him in some way, and not even the most Trump-loyal Republicans would feel truly safe in the long term if Trump held unconstrained power.  Also, it would require at least the passive acquiescence of the military, who are sworn to defend the Constitution -- and if you don't feel you can count on that, remember that much of the rank and file of the military is black or Hispanic.

Finally, some on our own side are actually leery of impeachment because they believe Pence would be worse than Trump.  I hope that the last couple of months have dispelled that notion.  Yes, Pence is a religious extremist and might be worse than Trump in certain areas of domestic policy, but he's also more of a conventional politician and would be unlikely to make gross blunders like starting an economy-wrecking trade war or giving the Kim regime everything it wanted in exchange for essentially nothing.  Even before Helsinki, Trump's subservience to Russian interests led some to conclude that Putin must be manipulating him via some kind of blackmail.  That wouldn't be the case with Pence.  Nor does Pence share Trump's impulsiveness and belligerence which pose the worst threat of all.  And he'd be presiding over a Republican party left bitterly divided by the fall of Trump.

This last year and a half have been nightmarish, and there's certainly further nastiness to come.  But we may soon get the chance to show that American democracy can confront and overcome the biggest challenge it has faced since the Civil War.

[Image at top found here; image at end found via Calvin]

15 July 2018

Link round-up for 15 July 2018

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

o o o o o

Litterbug pwned!

Frolic with the playful pony people (found via Mendip).

Make your own rainbow.

It's one turtle all the way down.

Burn, baby, burn!

Explore the mathematics of the Eucharist.

Next time a proselytizing pest knocks on your door, try this.

Incels entertain bizarre ideas about some women's affection for horses and dogs.

Take inspiration from an achiever.

Excuses for control-freakery persist over time.

Harassers need education.

You have animals on your face (found via Professor Taboo).

The designer of this label must have been indulging in the product.

Imprisoned in its crystal tomb, the ancient evil wyrm dreams of rising again to ravage the world.

Nantes, France has a theme park with stunning cyberpunk-style animals.

The Spartan Atheist is conducting an experiment in tolerance, at a safe distance from home.

I like it better as a skate park.

This kid is smart.

Here are some things you didn't know about animals.

A heroic dog saved six lives.

Don't be fooled by coincidences.

She would have had every right to punch him out.

Here's some background on a classic movie scene.

These idiots can concoct a conspiracy from just about anything.

Why won't millennials spend money?

A right-wing prosecutor squeezes out another huge steaming pile of civility (found via Scottie).

See Strzok pwn Gowdy.

If you are or were a Christian, how did you know you were "saved"?

There must be something on these videos they don't want you to see.

What a weird obsession with virginity.

At Amazon, getting sick is a firing offense.

Just use a normal taxi FFS.

Wingnuts in Oklahoma try to stifle the decision of the people.

How would this person's story have turned out if abortion were illegal?  Republican leadership doesn't reflect the membership's views on RoeSome wingnuts are in denial about public support.  States that ban abortion would face a backlash.

Segregation was more recent than people think (found via Perfect Number).  Remember that Trump and many of his gang are in their seventies -- they grew up when this was normal.

The Senate undermines democracy, and it's going to get worse.

Migrants suffer gross abuses in US custody, including children (found via Scottie).

Micha the anthropologist wonders how to celebrate Independence Day in the time of Trump.

Fascism starts regimentation early (watch for signs of that here).  Be on guard against category-think.

Overturning Roe won't be enough for the enemy.

Tim Berners-Lee has a plan to save the internet by decentralization (link from Marc McKenzie).

🎵🎵Planets in the sky, with diamonds🎵🎵.

Early July saw record heat all over the northern hemisphere.

The British turned out in droves to welcome Trump to their country.  Here's how he's viewed in "the original Washington".  Scotland's head of government had something better to do than meet with him.

Civility be damned, people have every right to protest this scumbag.

German TV has fun with the baby Trump balloon.

Trump's tariff war is already driving closer trade ties between Germany and China (found via Jill Dennison).

Estonia is prepared for a Russian invasion.

El Al's response to religious harassment of female passengers hasn't been what they claimed.

These soccer players found a way to circumvent Russia's ban on the rainbow flag.  Of course, fascists have no sense of humor.

%$#@% theocracy arrests people for dancing.

Twenty years in prison for not wearing a scarf.

Tunis has its first woman mayor, but reactionary religious attitudes persist.

Trump's "deal" with Kim has precedent.

While Trump rants in Belgium, the House and Senate declare near-unanimous support for NATO.

Check your voter registration and keep checking.  Here's a site you can use (note:  see comment by Aurora Silvermane below).

The Republican party attracts world-class bigots and ignoramuses.  It's also becoming more anti-science as Trump drives sane people out.  The MSM should stop being distracted by rallies.

Hard-core Trumpanzees are spite voters.  Read the comments on this post (click "show comments" at the bottom) and imagine trying to have a rational conversation with these people.  See also the comments here.  And this is hypocrisyWhat happened to civility anyway?

Here's a round-up of reactions to Kavanaugh.  The fundies are lukewarm.  His biggest vulnerability is on health care, something Senate Democrats can use against him.  Ed Brayton makes the case that he won't endanger Obergefell.

Trump's tariffs begin to bear fruit domestically (several good comments on this one).  Patience is wearing thin in South Dakota.  Here's another example.  This Forbes piece calls him an economic traitor (found via Juanita Jean).  This import item is being hit hard (found via Hackwhackers).

Shower Cap reviews the week in Trumpworld.  Calvin has a round-up of images.  Green Eagle has a new wingnut wrapup (that Ginsburg cartoon, WTF?).

She warned us.

Vox gives two views on what kinds of Democrats can win in the Midwest.

The liberal backlash is coming (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).  It's appropriate to look down on hypocrites.  Strzok set an example for our candidates.  Choice of words will matter.

For more link round-ups, see Fair and Unbalanced, Mike the Mad Biologist, and Perfect Number (who finds Chinese internet censorship less than effective).

This was an actual float at a carnival in Düsseldorf in February 2018.

14 July 2018

Quote for Bastille Day -- the Reign of Terror

"Why, it was like reading about France and the French, before the ever-memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal-wave of blood -- one:  a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell.  There were two 'Reigns of Terror,' if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the 'horrors' of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with life-long death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak?  What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake?  A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror -- that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves."

Mark Twain

12 July 2018

Islam, Muslims, and discrimination

It's occurred to me that, because I've always strongly opposed Islam, some readers may have been a bit surprised by my hostility toward Trump's discriminatory policies and rhetoric towards Muslims.  Nobody's actually challenged me on this, but still, I think it's worth clarifying.

My stance toward Islam is exactly the same as my stance toward Christianity.  And my view of Muslims is exactly the same as my view of Christians.

Just as Christianity is a kind of mental parasite or infection that inflicts itself on human minds, the role of Islam in the Middle East is the same.  Europe and the Middle East are not separate and rival civilizations, but rather parts of the same civilizational region (rooted in the Classical Greco-Roman-Persian world), which has been artificially divided by the two religions -- "the Bloody Twins" -- into, effectively, two occupation zones.  Muslims suffering persecution in the Christian zone are as worthy of sympathy as Christians suffering persecution in the Islamic zone, and the dominant religions driving the persecutions in both cases are equally despicable.  (Yes, I know Trump isn't particularly Christian and has pushed anti-Muslim measures to pander to his base -- but if it weren't for the bigoted fundie subculture in the US, there would be nothing to pander to.)  And always remember that there are people everywhere whose natural human empathy drives them to resist religious fanaticism.

Americans easily differentiate Christianity from American people and culture because we're in America and easily see the complexity of the interactions and conflicts among those things.  The Middle East, distant and unfamiliar, looks like more of a homogenous mass defined entirely by Islam.  It isn't.

Christianity is evil.  Islam is evil.  Most Muslims are not evil, just as most Christians are not evil -- in both cases, they are really victims of indoctrination.  The goal must be to roll back the indoctrination.  Demonizing entire populations is playing the twin oppressors' game.

10 July 2018

Trumpanzees and fellow-travelers

I think that I shall never see
Aught viler than the Trumpanzee.....

There's an ongoing discussion about whether Trump's voters chose him out of "economic insecurity" or out of xenophobia and a desire to preserve the dominance of white Christians over the rest of the population.  It seems obvious that different motives were uppermost in the minds of different individuals; however, it's even more obvious that it ultimately doesn't matter.

The Republican party has consistently campaigned on, and tried to implement, policies such as taking away women's right to abortion, denying gay people the right to marry and laws protecting them from discrimination, and making the US a "Christian nation" in ways that would de facto make non-Christians second-class citizens in our own country.  To all this, Trump in 2016 added a venomous demonization of Hispanics.  It's just not possible for an even slightly informed person to be unaware of these things.  If somebody simply ignores all that and votes Republican based on economic policy or whatever, they still demonstrate that they are OK with those other policies -- that they're willing to sacrifice the freedom and rights of gay people, atheists, Hispanics, and others as acceptable collateral damage.

We do not owe such people respect, the benefit of the doubt, or an atom of "civility".  We have no obligation to remain passive or genteel in the face of a political movement which is viciously attacking us, as the conservative movement is.  There are good reasons why this conflict is called the culture war, not the culture debate.  As Malcolm X said, "I'm not going to turn the other cheek when some cracker is busting me in the jaw."  There is no moral equivalence between the persecutors and the persecuted.

The only thing to do with such people is to defeat them -- at elections, and by blunting and blocking the destructive policies of this regime by protest, resistance at the state level, or whatever other legal tactics are likely to be effective.  If some less-committed Republicans can be won over to our side, so much the better -- but we have to recognize that with most of them it will be impossible.  People who can defend the border family separation policy on top of everything else Trump stands for are lost to any appeal to human decency.  We're going to have to do this by stimulating the highest possible voter turnout on our own side.

Which brings me to what most will probably consider the big news of the week -- Trump's pick for the Supreme Court.  I have little to add to what I said about this a couple of weeks ago -- we always knew what kind of nominee Trump would choose, and knowing the individual's name makes little difference.  Again, the results will likely be far less apocalyptic and far less lasting than the doomsayers assume.  I'd like to see Kavanaugh rejected by the Senate and the seat held vacant until 2021 so a Democrat can fill it (after McConnell's treatment of Garland, this would be fully justified), or at least until after this year's election so that a hopefully Democratic Senate majority can force Trump to nominate a more centrist candidate; but the odds of this being possible seem remote.  It would require Collins and/or Murkowski to defect and all the red-state Democrats who are up for re-election to stand fast.  It's worth a try, but we mustn't let the near-certain failure of such an effort plunge us into another tiresome round of recriminations, "we're fucked", and cynicism right before the election.

And that brings me to the real threat this nomination poses.  On some sites I'm already seeing a good deal of pre-emptive venom aimed at the red-state Democratic Senators who might vote to confirm, suggesting that the party should abandon them -- or even that progressives should abandon the party -- if they do.  In other words, Democrats who vote the wrong way some of the time should be replaced by Republicans who will vote the wrong way all of the time.  If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the proper response is to saddle the country with a continuing or even enlarged Republican Senate majority.

This is madness.  If those who still support Trump are lost to any appeal to human decency, then progressives like this are lost to any appeal to sanity.  They are de facto fellow travelers -- the practical effect of their stance and actions, which is all that matters, is the same as the practical effect of being a Republican.  They represent an additional hurdle, hopefully a small one, which our turnout efforts will have to overcome.  That's the real danger which the Kavanaugh nomination presents -- the danger of another eruption of purist rejectionism and attacks on our own side at the worst possible time.  We're already facing an utterly disgraceful lack of support by the party establishment for some progressive primary winners.  Progressive rejection of more centrist Democratic candidates is not a response to that problem but a compounding of it.  Our turnout-boosting efforts will need to overcome both obstacles.

Fortunately, the results of special elections over the past year suggests that most ordinary voters are tuning out the negativity and focusing on the task at hand -- getting as many Republicans as possible out of office.  Some our bloggers, commentators, and party leaders could learn a thing or two from them.

08 July 2018

Link round-up for 8 July 2018

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

o o o o o

Australians write e-mails to trees.

Do you know how to behave in an elevator?

This is confusing.

You show 'em, little fella!

There were giants in the Earth in those days.

See tweets from the "second civil war" at Hackwhackers and Mock Paper Scissors.

Churches resort to rock-concert-style gimmickry to draw crowds.

I'm guessing this guy won't get hired for many more funerals.

Dr. Theda does Independence Day his way.

Here's a spectacular time-lapse sky video.

There are some good people out there.  And here are some very good people (found via Frances Langum).

Sixth-graders see through an effort to manipulate them.

Three little facts tell you all you need to know about Amazon.

Trumpanzees rage at a subversive document (found via Hackwhackers).

Join a herd, and feel superior without having to accomplish anything.

It's amazing what incels worry about.

Fundies push public piety on us all.

There's plenty of other content out there to read.

A Christian writer frets that we've noticed there's no good reason for religious taboos.

Respect the pig.

I think this is a call for theocracy, but with all the gobbledygook it's hard to be sure.

Here are some sources of toxic masculinity.

Sometimes, acknowledging who you are is just too dangerous.

If you have a Tumblr blog, read this.

Baptists appear to be targeting detained migrant kids for proselytization.

HuffPost gets a whole lot of right-wing civility.

A former pastor explains why the King James Bible can't be inerrant.

In certain ways, American independence was a mistake.

See what really goes on in those phony "crisis pregnancy centers".

Holy $#!^, is Windows 10 really this bad?

Donald Trump Jr. is having trouble finding a publisher.

If we make people eat their crackers properly, maybe more people will want one.

Evangelical Christianity is full of hypocrisy.

President Carter made the best use of his pardon power.

There is no "war on coal".

Some patriotic movies don't age well (found via Miss Cellania).

Here is one source of the flaming-batshit conspiratardia circulating on some wingnut blogs.  Yes, there are people who believe this stuff.

Christians who oppose Trump are blinded by "demonic deception" (but he also says it's God who is sending the deception???).

You retweet it, you own it.

This foreigner was deemed undesirable and deported.

Check out a few items of religious news (found via Arkenaten).

Hobby Lobby's Independence Day ad merits a little research.

67% of Americans don't want Roe to be reversed (scroll down a bit).  Brett Kavanaugh isn't wingnutty enough for the enemy's tastes.

Sometimes activism is being manipulated (found via Miss Cellania).  I think this essay overstates its case, but it does make some interesting points.

On healthcare, we spend too much and get too little -- but there's a solution.  Here's how our system looks to foreigners.

Workers in the US get a crappy deal compared to other developed countries.

Parrots have brain structures similar to those which enable high intelligence in primates.

The axolotl genome is slowly giving us the secrets of severed-limb regeneration.

Beware the electric flying spiders.

Limitations of artificial intelligence are emerging in facial recognition and self-driving cars.

Trump is escalating his belligerence toward Canada.

The enemy doesn't like Mexico's new President very much.

Here's what actually happens where abortion is banned.

Turkey's increasingly-religious government uses force to suppress Istanbul's once-thriving gay pride parade.

Hong Kong takes a small step toward recognizing gay relationships.

Mother Teresa's "charity" is accused of child trafficking.

The Chinese regime goes all out to censor the internet.  You can bet the fundies, Trumplings, porn haters, campus "speech code" supporters, and other crypto-fascist trash in the West are watching carefully and drawing inspiration.  In Pakistan, WordPress does the control-freaks' work for them.

A church had a message for Manila's gay pride parade.

It's the language of the world's fourth-most-populous country, but hardly anyone speaks it.

On immigration, Trump doesn't practice what he preaches.

No, the Democratic radical left is not like the Tea Party.  But we need different kinds of Democrats to win in different parts of the country.  TPM assesses the debate.  Don't repeat the mistakes of the past (found via Scottie).  Immigration is the top issue with voters, and also the most divisive.

Will the Trumpanzees rebel when trade wars destroy their jobs?  If the business world suffers, it's reaping what it sowed.

No matter how much civility we show, the enemy will always find things to be outraged about -- we must not be tricked into normalizing atrocities (both found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Here's a full list of all the Trumplings who've quit or been fired so far (found via Shaw Kenawe, who commemorates the departure of Scott Pruitt).  The new EPA head makes a small concession to reality.

Jennifer Lewis is taking a big gamble, and the outcome will tell us a lot.

Trump babbles incoherently in Montana.

There's an exodus of prominent Republicans from the party.

Shower Cap blog reviews the latest week of Trumpian madness.

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

[535 days down, 927 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

06 July 2018

Improving words (6)

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

Adoration:  An interminably verbose advertisement

Autopsy:  ESP for cars

Bargain:  Tavern profit

Capricorn:  A vegetable used in making pants that end at mid-calf

Carpenter:  To walk in while complaining

Carrot:  Automotive decomposition

Curtail:  The rear appendage of a nasty dog

Gyroscope:  A special instrument for examining Greek taco-style meals

Hundred:  Fear of barbarians

Incumbent:  Kneeling in a puddle of semen

Intersect:  To bury an entire religious faction

Legally:  A friend of lower limbs

Obscene:  Part of a movie which is set near a Siberian river

Palmist:  A vaporized friend

Preacher:  One who makes you sore in advance

Promote:  In favor of specks

Pumpkin:  What incest practitioners do

Ramparts:  Aesthetic depictions of tilted driving surfaces

Reptile:  A small square of ceramic which maintains your good name

Sub Rosa:  "The Pink Submarine", a gay-oriented remake of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine"

Tarnish:  An asphalt garnish

Torpedo:  A child molester who uses anonymous online communication

Voracity:  And for dinner, she ate the whole town!

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

05 July 2018

Video of the day -- Good Business


Perhaps genocidal colonialism will be a thing for a long time to come.

03 July 2018

Random observations for July 2018

My hearing isn't all that great, but one who can't hear learns more than one who won't listen.

o o o o o

Hating things that are popular doesn't make a person sophisticated.

o o o o o

Is there some law that forbids spelling the word "hypocrisy" correctly on the internet?  Because it sure looks that way.

o o o o o

If "atheism is a religion" as some religionists like to assert, then health is a disease, silence is a noise, vacuum is a substance, and peace is a type of war.

o o o o o

They can ban whatever they want to, but they can't see inside your head.

o o o o o

Liberal Christians shouldn't tell me to be more tolerant of Christianity.  They should tell their fellow Christians to be more tolerant of me.

o o o o o

In some cases, absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. If a hypothesized phenomenon could reasonably be expected to produce certain effects, and those effects are not observed, that does count as evidence against the existence of the phenomenon.

o o o o o

I would put gods and souls in the same category as unicorns and ghosts.  We can't absolutely prove they don't exist, but there's not a sliver of evidence suggesting they do, and it's so unlikely that it's not worth spending any mental energy on it.

[For previous random observations, see here.]

02 July 2018

Fixing the Blogger comment e-mail glitch

A few weeks ago Blogger stopped sending e-mails to notify blog owners about comments.  Here's how to fix the problem.

If you don't use comment moderation and want to get e-mails when someone posts a comment on your blog, go to this post by Debra at She Who Seeks and follow the instructions.

If you do use comment moderation and want to get an e-mail when someone writes a comment and you need to approve it, the process is a bit different.

1) On your Blogger dashboard, click on Settings on the left sidebar

2) Click on "Posts, comments and sharing"

3) In the "Email moderation requests to" box, delete your email address

4) Click "Save settings" at the upper right

5) Re-type your e-mail address in the "Email moderation requests to" box

6) Click "Save settings" at the upper right again

7) You'll get a notification e-mail from Blogger.  Click "Subscribe" at the bottom of the e-mail.

It's working for me now.  If you want to do a test comment to make sure, remember to log out of Blogger first -- the system doesn't send you e-mails about your own comments you write while logged in.

01 July 2018

Link round-up for 1 July 2018

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

o o o o o

Happy Canada Day!

I love these signs, especially the first one.

Koalas are interesting.

Stop the senseless slaughter! (found via Calvin)

This attempt to evade arrest made quite a mess.

See the animals run.

Shelter beneath the magic rainbow.

Here's how to improvise a backpack from a pair of pants -- just in case, you know, you ever actually need to do that.

Scary Mary has tips on getting money and free stuff on the net.

No need for an iPod when you could carry this classic tape recorder.

Cathouse? (found via Calvin)

Computers think differently than we do.

Some serious role reversal going on here.

Not everyone is happy with these new Japanese school uniforms.

I agree with her, unhesitatingly.

Sara Delano Roosevelt had an unusual distinction.

There's something wrong with the ending of the Harry Potter books.

Are we born with a belief in God?  Good discussion in the comments there too.

Civility timeOr maybe not.  Someone actually paid to put up this billboard near Amarillo TX (then the city put up this one).  Here's some more right-wing civility, and a look at a few years backHere's what happenedStand up for reality.

Calvin has a round-up of Trump images.  Scottie has two posts of cartoons.

Here's a chart illustrating media bias.

You can't get away from this tired old crap even on a camping trip.

Trump's response to the Capital Gazette murders reeks of hypocrisy.

To leave this cult, you need legal help -- and stamina.

Don't compare the Red Hen incident to anti-gay discrimination, nor to terrorism(!) (found via Hackwhackers).  Booman sees it as a warning.  The story has a happy ending, and at least we got some good cartoons out of it.  Don't forget this (found via Progressive Eruptions).  Here's a chef who might well serve Sanders.  I'll give John Pavlovitz the final word on the "civility" demands.

".....is this good for the world?"

This is why Trump is such a bad negotiator.

Solar power surges ahead in Minnesota.

Tengrain reports from the family-separation protest in Seattle.  Hackwhackers has pictures from Washington DC and links to pics from elsewhere.  Others take a stand in their own way.

Deep down, Trump is shallow.  And under a regime of lies, truth is treason.

A hidden camera tests people's responses to cake discrimination.

Yes, they do want to force their taboos on everyone else.  And I'm not actually sure this couldn't happen.

Women lose their "chief glory and merit" if they don't breed.

A friend of mine doesn't support.....

We must repudiate these two evils.

Schumer introduces a marijuana decriminalization bill.  It won't pass, of course, but it shows everyone which party supports this idea whose time has come.

Republicans are poised to attack abortion if Roe is reversed, but don't panic just yet.

Here's a new Trump Hotels website.

Can Fox News survive with less hate?

These people exist.

Rick Wiles can still out-crazy pretty much any other wingnut.

Violence marred the San Francisco Dyke March this month.

Electric cars are gaining ground, despite the efforts of the Trumplings and Kochroaches.

THC improves memory in aged mice (but not in young ones).  Next, we need to look at ayahuasca.

Aside from all its other benefits, masturbation improves reproductive fitness (found via Scottie).

They're going to bring back pieces of asteroids.

A new analysis agrees with me about the explanation for the Fermi paradox.

Here's a way to visualize the accelerating loss of ice from Antarctica.

Will Darin Hodge soon find another job?

Canada refuses to back down on trade.

In contrast to Trump, Europe stays tough on Russia.

Mexico will elect a new President today, and the likely winner won't be to Trump's liking.

Sochi after the Olympics is a crumbling ghost town.

Just as I've always said, Western right-wing extremists and Islamic fundamentalists are very similar and rely on each other to keep their followers whipped up.

El Al will stop kowtowing to religious bigots.

Naked woman freaks out uptight prudes, not for the first time.

Here's how Algeria deals with illegal immigrants.

Trump supports brutal Saudi aggression in Yemen.

Women's rights are under attack worldwide, mostly from religion (found via Ahab).  India may not be the worst place to be a woman, but it's got problems.

Trump is about to escalate his trade war with China.

Keep this post handy to address wingnut lies about our views on immigration (found via Hometown USA).  Ignorance-wise, this is what we're up against.

If Trump starts a nuclear war.....

Here's a round-up of the week's primary results.  Ocasio-Cortez's win reminds us that socialism is popular; Booman and Electoral-Vote offer their interpretations.  Respect the hustle.  And don't miss the moment when she won.

RedState is gloomy about Corey Stewart.  Republicans have disavowed Russell Walker, but they created the conditions that embolden vileness.  November will show them even more Evangelical, more Southern, less educated, more rural -- and more dangerous.

The damage Trump is doing was enabled by this kind of bullshit.

The new White House communications director has quite a background.

Obama reminds us not to get complacent.  Be prepared to fight for abortion rights.  Tell Me a Story has links and suggestions for activism.  Hard-core Trumpanzees are stupid assholes, but don't worry too much about them.

"She should be pelted with the feces of all God's creatures, from the lowly droppings of the tiniest lizard to the majestic turds of the blue whale....."

Trump's approval rating took something of a hit from the family-separation policy.  Children taken from their parents are being forced to recite the US pledge of allegiance.

Remember all this when it's time to vote.

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

[Image at top found via Seeing the Whisper]

29 June 2018

Never give up

I have to admit it -- when I saw the news about Anthony Kennedy's retirement, my first thought was, "Oh crap, all the political blogs are going to be unreadable for a week because of all the we're DOOMED! DOOMED! DOOMED! stuff."  The left's tendency to treat every setback as the end of the world has long infuriated me (do read that, it's not half bad, if I do say so myself), even if I too once yielded to it (the only recent post I actually regret writing).  The world has ended at least a dozen times since I started this blog.

This time, though, I've been pleasantly surprised.  Yes, there has been some of the usual doom-and-gloom and a few profanity-laced rants demanding that Democratic leaders do things they do not, in fact, have the power to do.  But there have been some sober responses as well.

Electoral-Vote, a prolific political-analysis blog which deserves to be better known than it is, posts a lengthy discussion of why (a) replacing Kennedy with a wingnut won't make as much difference as people think, and (b) the Supreme Court may not, in fact, be "lost for a generation".  Mock Paper Scissors points out that if we fight hard and win big in the 2018 and 2020 elections, a lot can be done to correct the damage (so don't panic).  Crooks and Liars gives options for channeling energy into resistance right now.  Henry Rollins* admonishes us -- with regard to Trumpism generally, not just the Supreme Court -- not to do the enemy's work for them.  LGBTQ Nation reminds us that just a few decades ago people had to fight under far more dangerous and discouraging conditions, and still won -- and that we will inevitably win because we are the majority now.

That last point is important to remember.  The fundies, prudes, bigots, crackpots, xenophobes, and assorted knuckle-dragging Deliverance mutants who make up the enemy are a minority of the US population, and their percentage of it shrinks year by year.  Even if they "win" -- by gerrymandering the shit out of everything, passing ever-more-blatant vote-suppression laws, weaponizing the Supreme Court to gut the Bill of Rights, suspending elections, whatever your nightmare is -- all they'll have done is entrench an explicit system of minority rule over an infuriated and self-aware majority which will outnumber them more and more as time passes.  That didn't work out so well in South Africa.  Even a lot of them won't want that scenario, if they're made to realize that's where they're heading.  And our side has the brains.  Our side produces the technology and mass culture that are the sources of America's power, hard and soft.  They need us.  We don't need them.

Even in the short term, their victories are likely to be Pyrrhic.  Take the threat to Roe v. Wade, for example.  There are a lot of voters, especially younger ones, who support abortion rights but don't feel much pressure to vote on that basis or take an interest in state-level races, because deep down they don't really believe those rights could be taken away.  If Roe v. Wade is reversed, or even looks likely to be reversed, the threat will become very real, in the form of the decision-making power on the issue being returned to state governments.  And then the Republicans will face the mother of all electoral backlashes as voters mobilize to protect rights they suddenly realize can be taken away.

I'm not saying this is a good thing.  I abhor the Susan Sarandon "let everything become horrible so the backlash will make it better" stance.  This really would be horrible.  People would suffer terribly; people would die.  I'd rather see Roe preserved.  But if the Republicans finally get their wish on the issue, they'll be opening a Pandora's box which will blow up in their faces.

Don't despair.  Be energized to fight back.  And remember that the Sun will rise tomorrow.

[*Actually Will Stenberg, according to comments at the linked post.]

28 June 2018

Book review -- Christianity vs. the Bible

Things I Never Learned in Sunday School by Nan Yielding (2012)

Most atheists know that the dogmas of Christianity have little or no basis in objective reality.  But it turns out a lot of them don't even have much basis in the religion's own sacred text either.

Nan Yielding became "born again" in her early twenties, spent the next fifteen years in mental subjection to conservative Christianity, and eventually started questioning what she had been told to believe.  Finding that the church had no answers, she started looking for her own, by studying the Bible and other primary sources.  Startlingly, she found that the Bible is not what most Christians believe it is, and she ended up leaving Christianity altogether.  This book, however, is not a personal deconversion story -- it's a systematic explanation of what she discovered and, more importantly, the evidence backing up her conclusions.

To begin with, the religion of the ancient Hebrews evolved over time under the influence of the more powerful cultures by which the Hebrews were dominated in pre-Roman times -- Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic Greek.  Several concepts that modern Christians believe were always part of it were borrowed from Zoroastrianism, in forms quite different from what they have become.  For example, Satan and Hell (each of the two gets a full chapter) don't appear in the Old Testament in anything like their modern Christian versions.  When the passages modern Christians believe refer to them are examined in context and with reference to the words in the original language -- as the book does in detail -- it's clear that they did not mean, and could not mean, what moderns think they did.

The New Testament comes under similar scrutiny.  Passages which modern Christians interpret as prophecies of the distant future (perhaps even our own time), when considered in light of the cultural and political circumstances when they were written, are clearly references to events and persons contemporary with their authors.  The character of Jesus, the resurrection, the role of Paul, the Antichrist, and the nature of God are similarly examined, with similar results.  Modern Christianity, like the ancient Hebrew religion, has evolved over time -- and it has drifted far from its supposed source material.

It's easy, some might object, to assert such interpretations.  But the meat of the book is the supporting evidence it provides.  The basis for each point is carefully explained, and there are 26 pages of endnotes, bibliography, and other resources.  At 170 pages total, it packs a huge amount of information into a relatively short read.  It's well-written and easy to understand, even when discussing concepts not familiar to most people today.  And it's not framed as a debunking of Christianity, but as an inquiry into where its ideas really came from.

There's a saying that the Bible is like those long terms-and-conditions pages you get when you buy software on the internet.  Nobody actually reads it; they just scroll to the end and click "I agree".  Nan did read it, and found that it doesn't say what moderns think it does.  It isn't even about what moderns think it is -- its stories and polemics are addressed to the long-vanished and alien times when they were written, and have hardly anything to say to us at all.

Brief excerpts from the book are here; ordering options are here.  The author's blog is here.