11 November 2018

Link round-up for 11 November 2018

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

o o o o o

Darkness descends.

The gods must be crazy.

Don't beam me up yet.....

What's the name of your metal band?

Ann Coulter -- pwned!

Class resentment rears its head.

How many will read your book? (found via Calvin).

Are there bad people in "the caravan"? (found via Shaw Kenawe).

Look, when you dial a wrong number, just admit it.

I dunno, Melania might wear this.

Here's a guide to being politically correct for Halloween.

Organic vegetables, better in every way.

The real loser concedes the election (found via Fair and Unbalanced). 

Check out the sky photography of Matt Bluejay Searles.

Here's a good collection of all those cases where Brits and Americans use different words.

Sometimes you don't know right away.

There's some truth in both.

Some people have goofy ideas about cardinals.

You just know he wants to.

Anti-vaxxers are this dumb.

Tumblr shuts down people's blogs for garbage reasons.

See fascinating views from above (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

These cartoons are right on target, and this one (found via Hackwhackers) is exactly what's going on.

"Wait, there's some assholes out there just letting their baby 'cry it out'?"

It's merely a social construct.

Don't use honesty as an excuse.

The "woke people" are annoying as hell (just as Bill Maher said).

The often-cited Bible passage John 3:16 needs to be understood in context.

To non-American readers -- yes, a lot of the US really looks like this.

A judge stands up to Trump's ruthless fossil-fuel fetish.

Gods are basically comic-book superheroes.

There's a price to pay for being a collaborator.

"Other countries don't do this.....not even Russia."

A powerful enemy of legal marijuana has fallen.

Google has made some concessions to its rebellious employees.  But more must be done about the new corporate colossi.

Fascism has come to America, and yes, it is wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

Some damned ugly religious shit is going on at the Air Force Academy.

Genesis may have evolved from an ancient parable of worker revolt.

American military fetishism is empty and meaningless.

Trump's lashing out reminds blogger El Jefe of a notorious movie scene.

While the ignorant still fret about "overpopulation", the world has gone through a dramatic drop in birth rates.

Soon, the House Committee on Science will be led by someone who actually accepts science.

Don't bash technology for what are actually social shortcomings.

Really fixing global warming will require doable, but radical, changes to the energy industry.

In Switzerland, new technology allows paralyzed men to walk again (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Britain's £50 note may soon honor a persecuted hero.

Happy are those who can get help for their problems.

Trump wouldn't enjoy German press conferences.

Empowering women is the key to prosperity.

Efforts to contain Ebola in the Congo are being thwarted by armed conflict and, apparently, the local equivalent of anti-vaxxers.

RedState warns that Republicans' grip on the South and Texas isn't as strong as they think.

Democrats can be competitive in red-state Senate races.

Driftglass has an evocative post on the labor and rewards of street-level campaign work.

Susan Collins's vote for Kavanaugh will haunt her in 2020.

Even if Democrats want to be bi-partisan, Trump won't allow it.  He is not the President of all of us.

Voting felt different this time.

Yes, this is evil.

Elections have consequences, even in Kansas.

PM Carpenter has chosen his 2020 Presidential candidate.

Trump's weakened position may make him more dangerous, and the same is true of the Trumpanzees (found via The Mahablog).  And the Republicans' dangerous fascistic leanings are just going to get worse (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

The new Democratic House majority has a lot of work to do.  Mike the Mad Biologist has some more suggestions.  And they have won the power to protect the Mueller investigation.  But they must avoid promising what they can't deliver.

Say it loud -- we won.  The nation has rejected Trumpism.  And there's more to come.

[Image at top found via Calvin]

10 November 2018

A good read

Since Tuesday, the Debbie-downer moan-groan-doom-gloom defeatist element that always irritatingly hovers around the liberal blogosphere has been especially active, trying to squelch any feelings of celebration because -- well, actually I don't get the "because" part.  Some people seemingly can't be happy unless they've got something to feel miserable about, which is fine, but they want everyone else to be miserable too.  Anyway, Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog dissects one of these gloomfests here, using facts and logic as scalpels.  It's a good read, and will give you some pointers on debunking this stuff if it shows up in your own comment threads.

09 November 2018

Inexorable evolution

During the time of Trump, some have wondered why the conservative white mostly-religious males who make up the Republican base seemed so angry and resentful so much of the time.  Their party, after all, controlled the whole federal government -- shouldn't they have been happy at having so much power backing up their views?  They often behaved as if they felt powerless and persecuted.  Why?

I believe it's because their main grievances have always been cultural, not political.  They don't like gay visibility and the growing respect for gay rights and gay marriage.  They don't like women's independence and the acceptance of abortion.  They don't like the self-assertiveness of black Americans and the growing presence of Hispanic culture and the Spanish language.  They don't like visible sexuality, especially unconventional sexuality.  They don't like secular culture and outright mockery of religion.  They don't like the way the health-care crisis is fostering support for a major government role in protecting people (even as it dawns on them that the old system is intolerably cruel even to themselves).  They particularly don't like it when they themselves, and their beliefs and prejudices, are the target of scorn.  They feel that they should be the dominant group, or at least those who set the tone and character of society, and they resent being more and more a marginal fringe.  American culture is inexorably evolving away from what they think it should be, and it alarms them.

The Republican party, and especially Trump, have played expertly on these feelings, but even with political power, there's little they can do about such trends.  Politics, it is said, is "downstream" from culture -- culture eventually shapes politics, but there is very little politics can do to affect culture.  Republicans can change laws to torment and hurt groups they don't like, but this doesn't make the cultural mainstream share their dislike of those groups -- if anything, it breeds sympathy for them, and ultimately a backlash.

Even with all federal power in the hands of a right-wing party led by a character as ruthless as Trump, cultural evolution is simply continuing, almost as if politics didn't exist.  The growth of the non-religious percentage of the population continues.  Mass culture -- movies, music, and so on -- still reflects the views and values of the educated, pluralistic, outward-looking coastal cities.  Religion and traditional values are still widely treated as faintly ridiculous.  Trump called neo-Nazis in Charlottesville "very fine people", but being identified among the marchers there still got people fired and ostracized, and being filmed venting a racist rant has the same effect.

Hence the frustration of the knuckle-draggers -- politically they'd won everything, but in terms of the stuff that was really bothering them, it didn't seem to matter.

Expect even more anger and resentment after this week's election as the reality of it sinks in.  Politics is still downstream from culture.  Trump's 2016 win was a freak event -- trendlines are never perfectly smooth, and anomalies and setbacks do happen.  But what happened on Tuesday was normality beginning to reassert itself.  The country is still inexorably changing, still evolving away from the old pattern the Trumpanzees long to restore.

This manifested itself politically this week, not only in our victories, but even in many of the defeats.  Republicans won a lot of stuff by narrow margins that they "should" have won overwhelmingly.

When a Democrat in Texas gets within three percentage points of beating an incumbent Republican Senator -- the country is changing.

When Republicans defeat a black woman for Governor of Georgia by only a tiny margin (so tiny, in fact, that it's not yet certain that they defeated her at all), and manage to do it only by using the most flagrant, brazen vote-suppression schemes since the Jim Crow era -- the country is changing.

When states as red as Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska pass ballot propositions to expand Medicaid, and Republicans who spent years trying to repeal the ACA have to flat-out lie and masquerade as the defenders of its provisions -- the country is changing.

When an out lesbian gets elected to Congress from Kansas -- the country is changing.

At worst, a wingnutized Supreme Court might reverse Obergefell, but that wouldn't affect the growing public acceptance of gay marriage, and most states other than the most benighted fundie hellholes would reinstate it on their own.  Or the Court might reverse Roe, but if substantial numbers of women who wanted abortions were actually blocked from having them, the backlash would sweep away the forced-birth fetishists in most state legislatures along with the laws they passed.  Either ruling would, within a decade, be seen as another Dred Scott -- a horribly embarrassing mistake in dire need of correction -- and deep down even the wingnuts know it.  Indeed, I strongly suspect that John Roberts, conscious as he is of the Court's reputation, would not allow such errors.

And don't even get me started on what would happen if the Republicans managed to make Christianity the country's official religion.  You just know that whatever concrete form this took would be as trite, cringe-worthy, and phony as any money-grubbing TV evangelist, and would immediately become the butt of joke after joke.  Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live would have a field day.

The wingnuts bark, but the caravan moves on.

o o o o o

See also observations on the election by other bloggers -- Tengrain, Shaw Kenawe, Hackwhackers, PM Carpenter, Libby Anne, Professor Chaos, Donna M, John Pavlovitz, David Futrelle, Robert Vella, El Jefe at Juanita Jean's (on Texas), Simon Alkenmayer (for the discouraged), Crazy Eddie (on Michigan referenda), Booman (on the suburban realignment), and the inimitable Shower Cap.

07 November 2018

Wave or no wave, it was a win

A few disjointed observations on the morning after a late night.....

1) Whether anyone believes the term "wave" is applicable or not, this was a win.  We beat the Republicans in every arena except the Senate, where they had a map strongly tilted in their favor.  If their biggest triumphs were wins in states as red as Indiana and North Dakota, they're in trouble.

2) The new House majority looks ready and eager to do what we elected them to do -- fight back against Trump.  This is the key to more wins in the future.  Voters turned out in such numbers because they're mad as hell about what Trump and his gang have been doing to our country.  Those we elected need to show us that they will fight for us, not make nice with the enemy.

3) The restoration of ex-felons' voting rights in Florida is potentially a game-changer, adding over a million new eligible voters in a state where about nine million people voted in 2016, and where so many elections are so close.  Similarly, voters in several states passed initiatives to end gerrymandering or make voting easier.  These will help us in future elections.

4) Likewise, the fact that O'Rourke came so close in Texas has huge implications.  Texas is not as red as people think; with its giant urban areas and large Hispanic population, it should be a swing state.  But the problem of low minority turnout has long been especially acute there, keeping the state redder politically than it is demographically.  A strong enough GOTV effort could shift it, and O'Rourke has shown the way -- where Wendy Davis lost by 21 points in 2014, he seems to have come within two or three points of Cruz.

5) While the defeat of O'Rourke, Gillum, and (probably) Abrams is a bitter disappointment, all three have made an impression on the national stage, and we'll be seeing them in action again.

6) We took at least seven Governorships away from the Republicans.  State-level power is hugely important.  Redistricting is coming.

7) If Abrams loses, she was only barely beaten, and by some of the most flagrant and outrageous vote-suppression scams since Jim Crow.  If Republicans need such tactics to win in Georgia, you can't tell me the country isn't changing.

8) While turnout was high by the standards of US midterms, it was still low by the standards of most democracies.  There is still a lot of room for future improvement via GOTV work.

9) The other side is still a determined and formidable force.  If our turnout rose, so did theirs.  Our base is bigger, but even 2020 is going to be a hard slog, not a cakewalk.

10) One major wild card remains -- the Mueller investigation.  Impeachment of Trump now would be pointless because there's no chance of conviction in the Senate.  Depending on Mueller's eventual report, that could change.

11) Here in Oregon, there were no surprises.  Kate Brown was easily re-elected as Governor (readers will be unsurprised to know that she got my vote).  Our Congressional delegation remains at four Democrats and one Republican, the latter representing the one mostly rural district that covers the majority of the state.  Ballot initiatives to ban state funding of abortion, and to revoke Oregon's status as a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, were both defeated two-to-one.

12) Finally, a word for one politician who didn't win.  Heidi Heitkamp faced the most difficult race of any Senate Democrat.  But she still voted no on Kavanaugh, refusing to be intimidated.  Yes, she lost yesterday.  But she lost having done the right thing.

Yesterday was not the end of Trumpism.  But it was the beginning of our country's climb back to its rightful place among the world's great democracies.

[Image at top:  Voters waiting in line in Texas]

05 November 2018

For election day

A few reminders:

There has probably never been a time in US history when the differences between the parties were so vast and stark.  All or almost all Democrats in Congress voted against ACA repeal, billionaire tax cuts, the Kavanaugh confirmation, and the rest of the enemy's barbarities; all or almost all Republicans in Congress voted for those things.  Republicans will be essentially united in attacking gay equality, abortion rights, science, the ACA, Social Security, Medicare, voting rights, separation of church and state, environmental protection, and everything else we value; with rare exceptions, every Democrat we elect can be depended on to defend them.

Every Republican must go -- vote against them all. Even if an individual Republican seems decent and doesn't personally support the party's bigotry, theocracy, and kleptocracy, by the very act of running as Republican they are signalling that they regard those things as acceptable in the cause of whatever Republican policies they do run on. They are still a threat, still part of the problem.

If it were true that "voting doesn't change anything", the Republicans wouldn't be working so hard in so many places to stop "the wrong people" from doing it.

If you think your Democratic candidate isn't liberal enough, remember you're still better off with a conservative Democrat who sometimes votes the wrong way than with a Republican who almost always votes the wrong way.  If you think your Democratic candidate is too leftist, remember that the party's overall moderation acts to constrain radicals, while among the Republicans, the greatest source of extremism is Trump himself.

A sobering message from Bill Maher:

Please also read Leonard Pitts Jr.

UpdateThis guy is worth listening to as well.

Put yourself in the place of those whose security and freedom and perhaps their very lives depend on the outcome.

Do it for the kids stolen from their parents and locked in cages.  Do it for the people in Georgia and North Dakota and elsewhere who were robbed of the right their grandparents had to fight so hard for.  Do it to show Trump who's boss.

If you need to relieve the tension a bit, our most entertaining political blogger, Shower Cap, has one last post before the election.

Here are some voter tips and resources (found via Hackwhackers).

For election night, here are poll-closing times for every part of the country.

[Image at top by Jennifer Reitman]

04 November 2018

Link round-up for 4 November 2018

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

o o o o o

Featured link:  Shower Cap's huge Action Guide to the Midterms.

They can't do cages right (don't miss the cute baby rhino).

Whoever designed this knew exactly what he was doing.

Uh oh, no Americans allowed?

Of course Rule 34 applies to Disney.

Ahhhh!!! Zombies!!! (found via Miss Cellania).

Don't over-complicate exercise.

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

This alien villain didn't understand humans very well.

None of the job candidates were satisfactory except one.

What do you do with a million cubic yards of cheese?

Resist the War on HalloweenCelebrate the holiday with NASA -- or Hawaiian style.

Burkman and Wohl reduce political defamation to camp.

If you haven't seen Weird Al's Star Wars version of "American Pie", it's pretty cool.

Scary bird.

Kids are so full of energy.

Check out these photos of libraries.

Welcome to Japan.

Time to make a change.

Cutting off contact with somebody doesn't mean you're afraid of them (found via Queerloween).

Actually, this is exactly how religious hypocrisy works.

Stop worrying about people's taste in fiction.

NFL star Rob Gronkowski did a good deed.

A couple on a cruise found something extra in their room.

Use Halloween to teach about ideology.

It's a pretty good hourly income.

Only in %$#@!# America.

If you're using Bedpage, stop.

Fundamentalist hypocrisy and bigotry just keep getting worse.  More here.

It takes some guts to do this, when you're the only one.

Evangelicals always have ulterior motives.

Green Eagle keeps up with the latest wingnuttery and dissects a whole swampful of Republican delusions.

It's so mysterious where all the hate is coming from (found via Scottie).

Here's a little education on sexual harassment.

Some racists are secretive, subtle, and dangerous.

Republicans can't win the healthcare argumentWatch what they do, not what they say.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a nasty character.

The Florida yoga-studio murderer had a long history of misogyny and blaming others for his own shortcomings.

Must-read post of the week:  Trumpism is Evangelical Christianity's instrument for achieving dominion over society.

Different people emphasize different aspects of their identity, and this affects their political views.

Some millionaires don't want a future of fortified islands of wealth in a sea of poverty.

Fox News apparently doesn't realize smallpox was eradicated 40 years ago.  The info about vaccination rates in Central America vs. the US is eye-opening.

56 major corporations tell Trump to back off trans people.

Trump's tariffs are hurting even the industries they were supposed to benefit.

Worthwhile reading here on racism and anti-Semitism.

"No one forced you to be a garbage person.  You did that."

We've lost two hardy explorers of the universe -- Kepler and Dawn.

Here's why Google employees held walkouts all over the world.

If we don't eat for three days, people will stop having abortions!

Denmark pushes back at Trump's distortions.

This month, Taiwan may become the first non-Western country to adopt gay marriage.

Trump's sanctions on Iran don't pack very much punch, because other countries aren't cooperating.

Pakistan's highest court has overturned a death sentence (!) for blasphemy (!), causing local Islamotards to go completely apeshit.  The victim is still not allowed to leave the country.

If Russia is caught trying to hack US election systems, we are ready to retaliate.

Win or lose, Republicans will get more extreme.

Steve Bannon rallies a massive crowd.

Steve King -- too racist even for the NRCC!

Trump is getting desperate.

State legislatures matter.

"Elections should be about the triumph of ideas; not about who can set up the best obstacle course for his opponent."

The polls are only as good as their turnout models -- let's surprise them.

Batocchio has California voting resources.

Shower Cap reviews the week in wingnuttery.

What if Hillary runs again in 2020?

Evangelicals still love Trump because he's delivering on their agenda.

Republican messaging is misfiring everywhere, but Democrats too must be wiser if they win.

[Image at top found via Hackwhackers]

02 November 2018

Image and reality

The ad above was recently posted by Nick Stella, an Illinois Republican candidate for Congress.  Meant to dramatize the dire economic fate which supposedly awaits Americans if we vote Democrats back into power, it instead exemplifies the sloppy blundering typical of Republicans under Trump -- and subtly raises a point which is the opposite of Stella's intent.

To begin with, the dilapidated street shown is not in the United States.  It's in the village of Jaywick Sands in southeastern England (the Pelosi billboard was added digitally, of course).  In 2015, official British government statistics identified Jaywick Sands as the "most deprived" community in the country.  As a result, images of the village often come up in internet searches for pictures of run-down or decrepit areas.  Most likely some lazy staffer on Stella's campaign found the image that way and decided it would do fine for this ad without checking further.  At least one local official is annoyed at Stella's use of the picture.

One thing that comes to mind is that if this is the worst-off community in the UK, then years of "socialist" (by US standards) government in that country have served it pretty well.  One could easily find dozens of American town and urban scenes that look far more dire.

Jaywick Sands is, by British standards, quite new.  It was founded in 1928 by a private entrepreneur as a beach resort, and over time houses meant for intermittent use became permanently inhabited, especially during the housing shortage that followed World War II.  A severe flood in 1953 killed 35 people and contributed to the decrepitude of the houses and streets; the fact that the place is built on a marsh means that repaired streets deteriorate quickly.

In any case, the Stella campaign's image is no longer representative.  Since the publication of the 2015 statistics, the county of Essex in which Jaywick Sands is located has spent millions to upgrade the village's infrastructure and quality of life -- the kind of "socialist" direct intervention against poverty that Republicans in the US disparage.  Flint, Michigan should be so lucky.  If you want blighted communities in the US to get a better deal, voting against Republicans is one way to help it happen.

30 October 2018

Video of the day -- Bill Maher on Halloween

One of his better rants, I think.  Yes, Halloween represents everything the wingnuts hate.  Let's leave the purse-lipped, priggish scolding and disapproval to them.

28 October 2018

Link round-up for 28 October 2018

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

o o o o o

Is there marriage in Heaven?

This person takes tootsie rolls far too seriously.

Be safe crossing the street.

Write carefully.

Romance can be awkward when lovers are from different worlds.

See if you can figure out why this guy's drone doesn't work.

Farting has consequences.

Temperature rising -- engage heat-dissipation device.

It is not permitted.

Vote for the candidate you prefer.

Debra She Who Seeks celebrates cat Halloween.  Professor Chaos hosts a dance party.  Others carve idiosyncratic pumpkins.  Sail to the land of your dreams on this evil ship (found via Calvin); enjoy the holiday even if the fundies don't like it.

Some great Moon photos here.

There's a new whacked-out wingnut artist on the scene.

"Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin."  Okay.....

This live stream from a Norwegian train cab is oddly soothing.

Guess what it is.  Answer here.

She made time to vote -- will you?

For a simple but elegant outfit, go Greek (see also my post on this from 2014).

That's one way to stop a bully.

If you are this dumb, please don't leave the country.

I kinda hope the spiders survived.

It's not killing, it's suicide.

Imagine Star Wars taking a different path.

High culture is pop culture that lasted.

Americans are rejecting the Biblical God.

Here's a service guide for when prominent Republicans come to your restaurant.

Don't swim in this pool.

I ran across this "alien mysteries" post and was inspired to look into a couple of the "mysteries".  Here are the real explanations for the Baigong pipes and the Betz mystery sphere.  No doubt with a little digging you can find the true stories behind any of the others that interest you.

If you can't make your case without saying things like "ontic" and "epistemic", maybe you don't have a case.

Blogger Harry Hamid gets his payday.

Religion poses a test of integrity.

Very fine people on both sides (found via Frances Langum on Twitter).

Trump scammed gay people -- well, I don't think many were fooled.

Even Satan has his limits.

"Taylor Swift, voix de l'Amérique."

Fundies are getting nastier as they lose power.

Anti-science wingnuts win one in Arizona, but lose one as well.

I think he's busy -- try again later.

The shutdown of Backpage.com has driven sex workers back into dangerous street work and subjugation to pimps.

We knew all along that the mail-bomb terrorist must be a right-winger, because he was dumb.  Green Eagle takes a look at the "vanifesto", which reminded me of this intriguing post.  Here's what we know about the guy, and here are some Twitter reactions.

Is the economy booming?  Not the economy most Americans live in (found via Hackwhackers).

Republicans hate abortion, but they're fine with destroying pregnancies you want to keep.

Professor Taboo massively debunks the idea that the US was founded as a "Christian nation".  Bookmark this one for the mountain of relevant quotes from the Founders and from Supreme Court rulings.  It's from 2015, hence the references to the gay marriage struggle.

Just use goddamn paper ballots like we do, these machines are hopeless.

Jerry Coyne says "misguided", I just say "bullshit".

Correct, both these statements are true.

Here are some tips for dealing with the police.

Green Eagle posts another huge round-up of wingnut insanity.

Religion leads to terrible parenting.

"When highly committed parties strongly believe [in] things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don’t give up on their beliefs -- they give up on democracy."

Here's what's known about the Pittsburgh mass murder.  Even before the attack, anti-Semitic hatred was on the rise (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).  UpdateDon't be an asshole.

Republicans want to give religio-wingnuts sweeping rights to disregard the law.

It's not both sides.

It's the American way.

Religious "morality" is crazy.

False or mistaken accusations do happen.  So do false convictions of the innocent.

This is what fascism looks like.  And this is what a fascist sounds like.

A rapist was sentenced to a women's prison, with predictable results.

It's been a week of Saudis and Republicans trying to out-bullshit each other.

Remember Mary Anning, who didn't receive the honor she deserved in her own lifetime.

Moline Skeptics looks at the stupidest anti-science conspiracy theory ever (this is real -- I've seen videos on YouTube).

Elephants may have language and a degree of personhood.  They're also rhinoceros molesters.

Here is our eye on the universe.

How deep is the ocean?  This deep.

While Americans struggle to save net neutrality, Europeans are building technology to make the internet truly immune to spying, even by governments.

Maybe Canada gets the Bible right.

The Irish people have voted two-to-one to abolish laws against blasphemy.

A Dutch company which provides abortion pills to women in countries where abortion is illegal is now beginning to serve the US.  The enemy is not happy.

In Europe, too, anti-Semites are blaming Jews for unwanted immigration.

Here's more on the Austrian religious-censorship case.  The law has been used before to harass people who speak out against religion as I do.  I notice the court said that Mrs. S's statements were "aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not worthy of worship."  Careful, assholes, in Islam the idea of "worshiping" Muhammad is considered blasphemous too.

China's fear that Trump is trying to isolate it is driving it to reconcile with Japan.

Support is growing for an EU arms embargo against the Saudi regime.

On election night, watch Virginia.

Here's a state-by-state overview of vote-suppression schemes.  Note how in Washington state, they're actively promoting voting for a third candidate to take votes away from the Democrat.

Josh Marshall isn't buying reports of a last-minute Republican resurgence.  And Trump is revving himself up to be a bad loser.

There are signs that "generation Z" is more politically engaged than millennials (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

This election is not about choosing the lesser evil.

60% of Americans would rather roll back tax cuts for the rich than cut Social Security and Medicare.  Here's more positive polling news.

Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah overwhelmingly support Medicaid expansion (found via The Mahablog).  If we win big in November, it will be because of voters like this guy (found via Miss Cellania).

Fight as if we're losing.  One election won't fix everything, but it will make things less terrible.

Shower Cap reviews the week in politics.

Rick Scott's Trump-style disaster management isn't fooling anyone.

Heitkamp's vote against Kavanaugh has been rewarded with a flood of donations.

The outcome of these races will shape our 2020 strategy.  Next stop, the Supreme Court.

25 October 2018

A shameful verdict

Jerry Coyne today reports a frightening story from Austria.  The European Court of Human Rights has upheld a lower court's conviction of an Austrian citizen identified only as "Mrs. S" for "defamation" of the Muslim prophet Muhammad -- essentially a conviction for blasphemy.  Exactly what Mrs. S said has not been made public, but it apparently involved criticism (during seminars she gave about Islam) of Muhammad's marriage to one of his wives, 'Â'ishah.  According to the Hadîth, a collection of canonical Islamic texts second in authority only to the Qur'ân itself,  Muhammad married 'Â'ishah when she was six or seven years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine or ten (he would have been 53).  Apparently Mrs. S expressed the view that this showed that Muhammad had pedophilic tendencies, which the courts judged likely to offend Muslims and perhaps stir up anti-Islamic feeling.

Remember, the "facts" here are not in dispute, given that Islam accepts the Hadîth as canonical and thus religious Muslims accept its account of the ages of Muhammad and 'Â'ishah at the time of these events.  Nor does the invocation of pedophilia seem questionable; even if you think there is nothing wrong with it, as a sheer matter of accurate meanings of words, a 53-year-old man having sex with a girl of nine or ten surely constitutes a case of pedophilia.  It was apparently for expressing the view that there was indeed something wrong with this that Mrs. S was convicted of "disparaging religious doctrines".

The penalty -- a fine of €480 -- is not the point here.  The point is that the laws of Austria (and of several other European countries) make it an illegal act to express certain opinions about certain beliefs.  By exactly the same logic, one could justify laws that banned any criticism of Leviticus's condemnation of homosexuality, or of Catholic dogma on abortion and birth control, or even of the inanity of creationism.

A couple of months ago I wrote my definitive post on censorship and the advocates of laws against "hate speech", who do exist in the US.  I pointed out that in practice, in Europe, such laws are used almost exclusively to harass people who call attention to uncomfortable truths about Islam.  If Mrs. S could be convicted, I myself could be convicted dozens of times over for things I've said about Islam and other religions on this blog.  And it's not hard to see how such laws would work in practice in our own country.  There is already a vast constituency of Trumpanzees who hate the media for reporting reality (or "fake news", as they call it), and Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a desire to punish those who criticize him or report uncomfortable facts about him.  In Europe, "hate speech" laws punish those who tell the truth about Islam; in the US, they would punish those who tell the truth about Republicanism.

Read Coyne's post, and be very grateful that we have the First Amendment and courts which -- at least so far -- have been robust in upholding its protections for free expression.

24 October 2018

At last.....

Election ballots were mailed to voters throughout Oregon a few days ago, and mine is already here.  Voting to re-elect our Democratic Governor and Representative is a no-brainer, of course (there's no Senate race in Oregon this year), but some of the more local non-partisan races will take a little research.  Fortunately everybody gets a massive pamphlet of voter information as well, and of course my mailbox has been awash in propaganda for days.

Northern Illinois University recently released a map ranking the states by how easy it is to vote in each one, and our state ranks first in the country.  So no one who lives here has any excuse for not voting.  We're one of three states where all voting is by mail, and there are even ballot drop-boxes all over the place for those who don't want to spend their hard-earned money on a stamp.

No doubt you've seen the reports of high turnout for early voting (notably in Texas, though it ranks 46th on NIU's map) and how this could be a good sign for Democrats.  But don't get overconfident -- it's also being reported that the early vote is skewing heavily Republican.  In 2016 most people were sure that Trump would lose, leading the marginally motivated to feel secure enough to throw away their vote on a third candidate or not bother to vote at all.  Never again.

All over the net you'll see the voices of cynicism and discouragement -- "voting doesn't change anything", "both parties are the same", etc.  It's hard to tell which of these are Russian trolls up to their usual tricks and which ones are genuine ideological idiots up to their usual tricks, but in practice the difference doesn't matter.  The real-world effect, either way, is the same -- to help Republicans.

If voting didn't change anything, the Republicans wouldn't be working so hard to discourage "the wrong people" from doing it -- most notably in Georgia and North Dakota, but they're pulling this kind of crap everywhere in the country where they have enough power to do it, even in Kansas, which you'd think would be a safe state for them, if anywhere is.  The enemy knows that voting matters.  A lot.  That's exactly why they want you to believe it doesn't.

As for "both parties are the same", it's astounding that the Bush administration wasn't enough to disabuse everyone of such drivel, but after two years of Trump, the level of willful blindness it requires verges on insanity.  One party's President nominated Kavanaugh and its Senators voted almost unanimously to confirm him; the other party's Senators voted almost unanimously against him.  One party has been fighting for years to destroy the ACA and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions (even if some of them are now lying about it as they see how unpopular their stance is); the other has been fighting like hell to preserve it.  One party is pushing to legalize discrimination against gay people and even dreams of taking away their right to marry; the other supports equality before the law.  One party openly demands the gutting of Social Security and Medicare to pay for the gargantuan tax cut they just gave to the wealthiest; the other will keep those things safe for you when you eventually need them.  One party has kowtowed and made excuses and dodged the subject every time Trump let loose with some vicious rhetorical attack on journalists, minorities, scientists, and anyone else who dares stand up to him, while giving the thugs in Charlottesville a pass; the other -- well, it's impossible to imagine Hillary, Bernie, or any other plausible Democratic President behaving that way, nor would the rest of the party let them get away with it if they did.

I could go on for pages.  You know I could.  There has never been a time in living memory when the differences between the parties were so vast and the stakes so dire.

If you won't vote for your own sake, do it for the people in Georgia, North Dakota, and across the country who have been robbed of the right their grandparents had to fight so hard for.

22 October 2018

Video of the day -- the Saudis, Trump, and us

John Oliver is known as a humorist, but he gives quite a good overview here of the nature of the Saudi regime and its relationship with the US, especially with the easily-manipulated Trump.

Always remember that the Saudi monarchy even less represents the people of Arabia (who have never had a chance to vote for or against them) than Trump and his gang represent us.

21 October 2018

Link round-up for 21 October 2018

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

o o o o o

Dance on the rabbit.

Is it good for squirrels?

Dumb person is dumb (found via Plowing through Life).

Here's how to rescue a cat stuck in a tree, Russian style.

Some people just keep the old car going as long as they can instead of getting a new one.

Where did they all go?

How would wingnuts react to buckets of snakes being dumped on people?

Calvin is getting an early start on Halloween.  Some people are decorating their horses.

If ghosts exist, you might as well shag them.

"We'll see."

Check out these animal X-rays (found via Miss Cellania).

People do change.

What movies scared you when you were young?  (I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned Alien.)

She's ruining an innocent man's life (found via Scottie).

The alt-right is still throwing amusing tantrums about Taylor Swift.

Might it be possible to suppress Republican voter turnout?

Believe them (found via Juanita Jean).

A dating app for Trump supporters leaked its entire user database the day it went live (I wonder if it will reveal a severe shortage of women members).

Here are some things you don't need to be afraid of for Halloween.

This family has issues.

Who got a tax cut?

Priorities, priorities.

Trumpanzees became Trumpanzees due to a kind of future shock and a deep sense of hierarchy.

An Evangelical upbringing ruined this woman's sex life (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Most websites don't honor the "do not track" button.

The enemy wants an authoritarian state modeled on their authoritarian churches.

Flight attendants reveal some secrets (it's gross).

The Cherokee Nation responds to Warren's DNA test.

Republicans don't want you to know the truth about the deficit.

Some women are still harassed by bigots for having interracial relationships (found via Miss Cellania).

Lies are an integral part of fascism and, today, of Republicanism.

Trump's immigration agenda could drive this industry out of the US.

The man of God says murder is no biggie when there's money at stake.

The Republicans are alone in the world in their denial of global warming.

Friends and relatives react with fury to an utterly pointless killing.

This person exists, and there are others like him.

Here are some reactions to the wingnut campaign of slime against Khashoggi.

"Dr." Don Boys explains the Biblical view of rape (be aware, this is ugly).

What is it about Republicans and killing things?

Maybe we can get Kavanaugh interested in global warming.

The European Space Agency is sending a probe to Mercury.

Croatia is home to a wealth of Neanderthal relics.

Gene editing has arrived.  What will we do with it?

Red dwarf stars are prone to "superflares", a bad sign for life or habitability on any planets they have.

Calvin celebrates a win for freedom in Canada.

#%$@!$%!  What century is this???

A bystander thwarts a racist attack in Germany.

Jerry Coyne posts photos of Zagreb.

Kaveh Mousavi has questions and answers on Iran.

The Saudis just do screw things up occasionally (found via Progressive Eruptions).

In the event of a real US-Saudi conflict, here's what each side could do.

Khashoggi was killed because journalists matter.

A bone saw?  My God! (found via Scottie)

Nobody's buying the Saudi cover story.

Trump does words, the Saudis do actions (found via Juanita Jean).

Trump's trade war isn't hurting China very much (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Arusha girls' school imposes mandatory pregnancy tests and expels girls who test positive (found via Scottie).

Activists in Cameroon fight against traditional mutilation of girls.

All the gay candidates for Congress this year are Democrats.

I'm glad this guy is my Senator.

The wingnuts are so scared they're pulling this kind of bullshit in Kansas (found via Tengrain on Twitter).

"It doesn't matter.  We won."  Let's make sure they can't say that this November 7th.

Some Republicans are almost running as Democrats.  But even non-Trumpanzee Republicans can't be trusted.

The fundies are out to thwart the blue wave.

There's good news and bad news.

These cartoons are right on target.

Shower Cap reviews the week.

For millions of voters, health care is the top issue.

How much does the Democrats' huge fundraising advantage really mean?

The internet has made political activism easier than ever (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

When Democrats regain power, they must undo the Republicans' illegitimate seizure of the Supreme Court.

[640 days down, 822 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

18 October 2018

The martyrdom of Jamal Khashoggi

The political internet has been shocked by the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi (if you want to know just how gruesome, Booman has some of the currently-known details).  Bloggers who rarely posted about the Saudi regime before are calling for it to be sanctioned and ostracized, while disgust at Trump's excuse-making and coddling of yet another tyranny is arousing widespread condemnation.

I too have been feeling shocked since this story broke, but in my case it proceeds from a different cause.  I'm shocked that everyone else is so shocked.  Have they really not been aware, all along, of what the Saudi regime is like?  Do they really imagine that its hideous treatment of Khashoggi is unusual?

This is a government that beheads people, that cuts off hands for petty crimes in accordance with Sharî'ah law, that inflicts public floggings, that restricts women's freedom so severely that it makes the Iranian regime look practically feminist by comparison, that brutalizes gays even more harshly than most Islamic states do.  At every turn, the comparisons with Dâ'ish (ISIL) force themselves on one's attention.  The Khashoggi murder is entirely within the norms generally displayed by the Saudi despotism.

Maybe some of the net's naïveté stems from the fact that the current de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Bone Sawman, has (rather like Pope Francis) managed to bamboozle some Westerners into considering him a "reformer" of a traditionally highly-conservative regime.  I'm a little skeptical that this is a major point, though.  Most Westerners don't pay anything like as much attention to Saudi Arabia as they do to the Catholic Church.  Far more likely they simply don't know, and don't care to know, about the utter barbarism of a tyranny (arguably the worst in the Middle East, with the possible exception of Asad's in Syria) which has been propped up by US support for decades.  Perhaps flying into hysterical rage every time Israel dares to defend itself exhausts all the energy they have available to devote to that region of the world.

In any case, the murder of Khashoggi seems to have lifted up the rock a little, and drawn attention to some of the slimy things underneath.  If his death finally wakes up Americans to the true monstrousness of the theocracy which has so arrogantly subjugated the ancient land of Arabia for almost a century, then perhaps it will not have been in vain.

[Image at top found via Scottie]