27 June 2017

Random observations for June 2017

Being rich doesn't usually mean you can do anything you want to do.  It does usually mean you can avoid doing what you don't want to do, which is actually more valuable.

o o o o o

Too much immigration can be worrisome, but the time to really worry will be when nobody wants to immigrate here.

o o o o o

I've almost always done the cautious thing, the proper thing, the unselfish thing.  It has not made me happy.

o o o o o

Most religious people are not the enemy.  Religion is the enemy.  It's an infection that religious people are suffering from.

o o o o o

Put yourself first.  Nobody else will.

o o o o o

Any shouting person is boring.

o o o o o

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" is a quote I've always hated.  The state exists for us; we do not exist for the state.

[For previous random observations, see here.]

25 June 2017

Link round-up for 25 June 2017

People interact with statues.

Heh.  And heh.

"You gay people have a lot of drama," says drama queen.  This principal doesn't get it either.

With ads, placement matters.

These people exist.

Too much politics -- time for puppies and baby seals.

Stupidest rape attempt ever (found via MendipNote: may not be true -- see comments).

A classic race is run.

Cats are an evil conspiracy.

Welcome aboard.

Pastor John Hagee wants to prosecute women for.....well, see for yourself (found via Mendip).  But how would the police monitor for occurrences of this crime?

Pagan Egypt had the best mythologyMore here.

Wonder Woman is an inspirational movie, but it could have been very different, and much worse.

Is America great again yet?

Appreciate the laundry-folding machine.  And show a little respect for the peanut worm.

Sleep under starry skies, indoors.

Crazy Eddie recognizes World Giraffe Day and National Seashell Day.  He also takes a look at icebergs and ants.

Millennials are killing everything, but maybe they just have better ideas.

Avoid polarized thinking about other people.

We'll kill you, but.....

Don't be fooled by fake news, even (especially!) when it's something you want to believe.

Evangelicals have lost their way.

Can't find good employees?  Here's why.

Read a debate on seat belts.

Here are reasons why some Christians don't proselytize.  But here's someone with no self-awareness.

Vampires are taking over the Republican party from zombies.

Texas enacts a new discriminatory law.

"Neocrusaders" agitated about Sharî'ah law have a lot in common with those they condemn.  (In case you missed it, the same blogger left an info-filled comment here about the actual Crusaders.)

The Alt-Right is divided and quarrelsome.

He hides, then punishes those who don't see him.

Three cheers for a unanimous Supreme Court ruling upholding free expression.

Follow these laws and everything will be fine.

Here's a warning about yeast infection cream.

The Bible condemns many.

See what the wingnuts have been up to lately.

Senators ignore women's testimony about religious violence.

One group that should have spoken up for Philando Castile is oddly silent.

Christian hate doesn't end even when you're dead.  Christian love is even worse.

NOM has lost, but vows to keep slogging on.

Extremists are extremists -- including these.

The end of slavery began a desperate effort for family reunions.  And remember the story of Ruby Bridges from a century later later.

The fight against global warming continues, even without the US.

Hemp plastic can help save the environment.

Cultural diversity enriches university life.

Hot weather inspires an unusual school protest in the UK.

After their election disappointment, Britain's Conservatives back down on some of the nastiest austerity stuff -- but some very nasty stuff remains.  Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn becomes a thing on the internet.

The Church of England shielded a molesting bishop for 20 years.

The people in the Grenfell Tower died because.....

Afraid of turning gay?  Grow a beard.

This purports to show examples of ad censorship in the Middle East, but I'm suspicious -- almost none of the images have any text in a Middle Eastern language.  (For comparison, here's an actual Arabic ad image for Frozen).

A President re-elected in a landslide takes on an unelected theocrat.

Iran's retaliatory missile strike against Dâ'ish (ISIL) sends a broader message.

Kaveh Mousavi suggests how to respond to a jihadist attack.

Enraged at looming defeat, Dâ'ish destroys a venerated 800-year-old mosque.

Religious nut attacks woman for wearing shorts.

The Saudi regime demands that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera.

Eqbal Dauqan had to fight hard to become a scientist.

Trump is useless, so foreign leaders are working around him.

TPM and Electoral-Vote.com look at the special elections.

This is Ben Sasse.

Trump has now admitted that Russia interfered in the election, and the CIA has learned that the orders came from Putin himself.  Dallas county (a blue county in the red sea of Texas) was a hacking target.

Electoral-Vote.com has a comparison of the House and Senate ACA repeal bills.  Don't assume that Republican defections will stop the Senate version.

If Trump fires Mueller, what happens next?

21 June 2017

Video of the day -- Exodus


An evocative short film from France (no dialogue, so you don't need to know French).  Comprehension note:  the dying animal at the beginning is bigger than you think.

19 June 2017

The common threat

Britain has suffered yet another terrorist attack.  A driver deliberately plowed his van into a group of Muslims leaving a mosque in London, injuring ten; there was also one death, although it's unclear whether it was actually caused by the van attack.  The driver, who has been arrested, was heard yelling "I want to kill Muslims".

As national leaders have pointed out, this event was not qualitatively different from the jihadist terrorist attacks which have happened in the UK and elsewhere.  The only difference was the choice of target, and in a truer sense that was not different either.  Like the Manchester attack and the earlier London vehicle/knife attack, this was an assault by a violent extremist against peaceful citizens.

It's often said that terrorism seeks to divide people.  An essential step in defeating that aim is to recognize who the two sides in this conflict actually are.  It's not Muslims against the secular community (I call it that rather than "Christian" since most people in the UK are non-religious).  It's the violent extremists of whatever stripe against the whole general public, secular or Muslim or Christian or whatever.

The UK is perhaps well-positioned to grasp this due to a comparable conflict which plagued it a few decades ago -- Northern Ireland.  Catholic and Protestant extremists each carried out terror attacks against people of the other religion, and in the case of the Catholic extremists, sometimes in England as well.  So long as Protestants in general thought of Catholics in general as the enemy and vice versa, the conflict was insoluble.  In fact, of course, the real enemy was both groups of extremists, who were waging a war against the general population of Northern Ireland.

(Note also the recent Dâish (ISIL) terror attack on Iran which, like France and the UK and the US, has been active in helping the Arab and Kurdish forces fighting Dâ'ish.  This attack is hard to square with the naïve view that Dâ'ish and Iran are both part of some homogenous terror-supporting Islamic bloc at war with the West.)

We in the US need to grasp this too.  There is a developing tendency here to compare lists of Islamist terror attacks with those carried out by right-wing extremists and bigots of various types, as if these were two separate and contrasting phenomena and we had to decide which of the two is worse so as to decide which one to fight the hardest.  That's the wrong way to look at it.  The jihadists and the gay-bashers, KKK, abortion-clinic bombers, and people like Dylann Roof and the Portland MAX knifeman, are far more alike than different.  As violent extremists, they are all waging war against peaceful people and against the core Western values of pluralism, freedom, and the rule of law.  They are all the enemies of the rest of us.

18 June 2017

Link round-up for 18 June 2017

Enjoy some amusing cats, some baby hippos, these pesky pandas, and this honkin' huge fish.

Ken Ham blames atheists for his "Ark Encounter" scam's utter failure (both found via Mock Paper Scissors).

It's not a good day for these two.

Star Wars, religion style!

A centuries-old relic is discovered.

What if LOTR was like modern politics?

This was a library, long ago.

We could really use Wonder Woman right now, but watching the movie may have side effects.  Here are a few behind-the-scenes pics (click to enlarge).

Here's a photo of Melania Trump's father.

Microsoft is still trying to push Windows 10 on us.

If you think shoplifting is OK, read this.

See what a bullet does to a block of gel.

This phone app sounds good for personal security.

A pastor explains why he reads ex-Christian Bruce Gerencser's blog.  Here's another reader who just can't let go of the arrogance.

Old pallets can be useful.

Stop coddling net Nazis.

What is the "war against religion"?

Hadrian did mourning on a lavish scale.

Karen the Rock Whisperer remembers growing up Catholic, and escaping.

12 June marked two very different anniversaries.

A California woman demonstrates faith-based parenting.

It's really true, a higher minimum wage is good for business.

Finally, a little justice for Flint MI.

"Pro-life" legislator kills thing.

Wingnuts launch yet another ineffectual boycott.

Salvation by grace alone is a morally-incoherent concept.

A Texas Alt-right rally attracts some wacky characters.  These didn't attract much of anybody.

Denounce homophobia wherever it appears.

Here are some resources for learning stuff for free.

Privatizing air-traffic control?  Not so fast.

Religio-wingnuts bewail re-paganization of Western culture -- and you ain't seen nothin' yet, you turkeys!  Speaking of paganism.....

Ranch Chimp has some tough questions in the wake of the Scalise shooting.  Progressive Eruptions has some reminders.

David Clarke's jail has something of a history (found via Mendip).

Andrew Breitbart left a legacy.  NBC is about to destroy its reputation.

A Republican says other Republicans are eating shit fish, or something like that.

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been known for a long time.

Ignorance of science is frighteningly pervasive in our country.

This person wasn't vaccinated.

Even in the US, clean energy is booming beyond expectations.

Consider how arrogant scientists really are (found via Yellowdog Granny).

It may be that stars normally form as binaries.

There aren't reptiles.

It has arrived.

The conventional wisdom that Jeremy Corbyn was too far left for British voters has been shattered.

The Grenfell Tower fire, rooted in "free market" mania, is Theresa May's hurricane Katrina -- and popular fury is still growing.

The Irish potato famine was caused by capitalism.

Here's how voting works in Australia.  And just offshore, there's a gay island kingdom.

Assimilation in action -- Germany gets a gay-friendly mosque.

Moan, whine, sin, penance, blah blah blah.....

I would board this flight without hesitation.

Follow the example of the perfect man.

The ghastly sentence of blogger Raif Badawi shows that the Saudi regime isn't so different from Dâ'ish (ISIL).

Muslims are the main victims of Islamist extremism.

A hacker is giving Dâ'ish (ISIL) a gay make-over on the net (found via Mendip).

Women in Iran and Afghanistan used to dress differently.

Chinese investment creates jobs in Ohio, but there are problems.

Trump and his gang are trying to discredit Mueller.

Only mass deportation can save America (found via PM Carpenter).

Hard-core Trumpanzees vote by tribe, not interests.

A fight is brewing in the Senate over medical marijuana.

Bernie would have won, except for.....

Hysterical Raisins looks at Sessions's testimony and Trump's "praise me" cabinet meeting. Even RedState is nauseated by the latter event (but they still don't know the difference between "reign" and "rein").

Karen Handel is against LGBT civil rights because religion (of course).  If she loses, it will be despite admitted Republican gerrymandering.

Trump's abandonment of the Paris agreement is a big steaming pile of (redacted).

Rural Americans resent minorities, and me.

When Republicans demand respect from us, remember this.  Then go read this.

RedState bemoans the divisions Trump has wrought among wingnuts. The Guardian celebrates the rising tide of anti-Trump activism.

Tweet!  Tweet!

[150 days down, 1,312 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!] 

16 June 2017

A fire in London

Around 1:00 AM on Wednesday, a fire broke out in the Grenfell Tower, a 24-story apartment building (some might say "tenement") in London housing about 500 people.  Partly due to flammable cladding on the outside of the building, the fire spread rapidly.  The building had only a single stairwell and fire alarms did not work.  The BBC has pictures of the results here.  45 fire trucks and hundreds of firefighters struggled for hours to defeat the fire.  The battle was marked by dramatic events such as a woman trapped on the ninth floor throwing her baby to a man on the ground (he caught it successfully).  So far 30 people are confirmed dead, and the final number will certainly be much higher.

Though near an affluent area, Grenfell Tower was public housing and a high proportion of the residents were immigrants and minorities.  Residents and even the fire department had long complained that the building was dangerous, with its flammable cladding and nonexistent or ill-maintained safety systems, but nothing was done.  Similar accusations have been made about other low-income housing in the area.

Last week's shock national election result in the UK, in which the Conservative party barely clung to power while the opposition Labour party made dramatic gains, was largely a verdict on the Conservative agenda of austerity and deregulation (some American blogs took it as a rejection of Brexit, but the only significant national party that repudiated Brexit, the Liberal Democrats, lost big).  In the popular vote, the Conservatives beat Labour by only 42% to 40%.

And now, the Grenfell Tower fire is rapidly becoming a symbol of the fruits of the Conservatives' agenda.  Regulations had been loosened, money to local authorities for enforcement and maintenance had been cut, and politicians had vented punitive and contemptuous attitudes toward the poor (sounds depressingly familiar).  Guardian writer Polly Toynbee sums up the harsh indictment, and this collection of stories shows how anger over the disaster is developing.  If the fire had happened a week before the election rather than a week after, the Conservatives might well have lost.

It could yet happen, too.  The Conservatives, eight seats short of a majority in Parliament, have had to form a coalition with a reactionary Northern Ireland splinter party which looks steadily nastier the more closely it's scrutinized.  If the coalition doesn't hold, one possible result would be a new national election.  If so, I won't be surprised if the Conservatives are kicked out of office.  Austerity and small government sound harmless enough in the abstract, but a 230-foot smouldering tomb full of charred corpses makes the reality inescapable.

13 June 2017

Womanly wonder

This isn't really a review of Wonder Woman since I agree with, and have little to add to, the consensus of reviews out there (if you want real internet reviews, here are a couple from Chris Stuckmann and Andre the Black Nerd).  However, I did have a few observations.

First, I'm astonished that the concept of a major action movie with a female lead is such a novelty as to be widely remarked upon.  Really?  It's been 31 years since Aliens.  If that didn't lay to rest any concern about female action heroes being able to draw audiences, I don't know what would.  But apparently some in the movie business still had their doubts.

They should put those doubts aside, because after just 11 days in theaters the movie has made $444.8 million and is still going strong.  It has also, of course, been widely critically acclaimed (deservedly so) and has even won an award for its trailer.  One thing that struck me is that while star Gal Gadot is certainly attractive, the character is not over-sexualized to the point of absurdity, as these types of female characters sometimes are (though Ripley 31 years ago was even less sexualized).  This may be the result of the fact that the director is also a woman, Patty Jenkins, who gives the character the same dignity that similar male characters get -- although any halfway decent male director should be able to do the same.

Though this movie has aroused much enthusiasm among female fans, there's nothing anti-male about it.  Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is also a strong and effective character, not diminished or intimidated by acting as an ally to a biologically-superior female.  Of course I personally loved all the Classical Greek references, even if the actual Classical Greek culture was heavily male-dominated.

If the film has been something of a breakthrough for women-centered art, the now-inevitable sequels may break representational ground in another direction.  DC revealed last year that Wonder Woman is bisexual, and Gadot seems cool with that.  The current movie makes no reference to this, but later ones could.  Some viewers might object, I suppose, but as I always say, the world is full of people who disapprove of things; Lebanon and Tunisia have actually banned the current movie because Gadot is Israeli and once served as a combat trainer in the IDF.  I expect a substantial circulation of bootleg DVDs in those places.

It is perhaps small of me to point out a minor error in the film which no one else seems to have noticed, but which really jumped out at me.  Can you spot it?
The movie is set in 1918, at the end of the First World War, but the map on the wall in the scene where Wonder Woman attacks Ludendorff clearly shows the outlines of the postwar occupation zones imposed on Germany after the Second World War.  No 1918 map would have shown demarcations that did not exist until 1945.

Of course that's a trivial point.  It's an action movie that's far more than just relentless explosions (one of the best action scenes is a battle of small arms vs. archery on a Themyscira beach) and helpless damsels in distress.  If Hollywood truly harbors neanderthals who doubt that women can handle this kind of material, they surely know better now.  I look forward to future adventures from Gadot and Jenkins.

11 June 2017

Link round-up for 11 June 2017

Why would anyone need so much Kleenex?

Progressive Eruptions finds a photo capable of making any gay man renounce homosexuality.

%$#@^# dog digs up everything.

Twitter pwns the Huckabee-Sanders emoji tweet.

If you speak for God, what is he saying?

No ant could resist these traps.

If religion is rooted in instinct, it could explain why non-religious people tend to be more intelligent (from Shaw Kenawe).

Ariana Grande is Satanic, apparently.

Lilly Singh offers a video geography class for racists.

A Trumpanzee shows his true colors (found via Mendip), and Trump, on Muslims, shows hisFundies celebrate him as God's man for our time.

Whose book should you believe?

In Flint MI, the water isn't the only thing that's poisonous (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Here in Portland, more "cultural appropriation" nonsense.

Fringe benefits for cops are getting out of hand (found via Mendip).

Imagine if we held Trumpanzees to the same standard as Muslims.

This is what happens when you let Republicans get their grubby paws on health care -- and on bank regulation.

A study from 2011 strongly suggests that rats have empathy.

T-rex probably wasn't fluffy and cute.

Neil Bamforth has a plan to radicalize British Muslims and win an army of new recruits for ISIL (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

JK Rowling takes a stand against some nasty stuff.

Vincente Fox pwns Trump.  Emmanuel Macron, and his country, have messages too.

This post greatly undermines my confidence in Al-Jazeera.  If Hamas can't be unequivocally called a terrorist organization, who can?  Zubin Madon has a harsh and honest response to the ideological coddling of religious terrorism.

Saudi soccer players exhibit disgusting behavior.

Ossoff opens up a lead in the Georgia race.

Electoral-Vote.com assesses Comey's testimony.  Here's how the newspapers headlined it.  Hackwhackers has more reactionsWhich guy is lying?  Trump, meanwhile, has painted himself into a corner.  And Nonnie9999 is tired of waiting for him to grow into the job.

Slowly-vanishing Tangier Island illustrates Trumpanzees' difficulties with understanding cause and effect.

Naomi Klein looks at Trumpism and the politics of fear and shock (I don't think she gives enough credit to the mass resistance in the US, though).

09 June 2017

May's misfire

Well, that was unexpected.  The British Conservative party not only failed to enlarge its majority, it lost enough seats that it now falls short of a majority and has had to form a coalition with a minor party from Northern Ireland to remain in power.  The pound dropped a little following the shock result, though this will probably prove as transient as the economic turbulence following the original Brexit referendum last year.

Enemies of democracy and independence will probably claim this as a repudiation of Brexit, but that's unlikely.  The electorate favored Brexit in the referendum by a margin of four percentage points (larger than the margin by which Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the popular vote here), and the bullying behavior of the European Union oligarchy since then seems almost calculated to turn even more British voters against them.  It's much more likely that the outcome was a reaction to the Conservatives' policy of "austerity" or pervasive spending cuts -- ironically, the same kind of policy which the EU forced on southern Europe for years with disastrous results, and which Republicans are trying to impose in the US.  Even the recent jihadist attacks in Manchester and London make cuts in spending on the police look unwise, regardless of whether or not better-funded police could really have prevented them.

Still, this is going to mean more muddle and delay at the worst possible time.  May may well have to resign, as party leaders in the UK traditionally do after a bad enough election result, and the new party leader would become Prime Minister.  With a shrunken coalition majority to pass whatever Brexit agreement is reached with the EU, the leadership can't afford defections.  The EU side is not happy about any of this either -- having accepted that the UK is leaving, they want to get the departure done with.

There are a few positives.  The number of women members of Parliament has risen to a record high (207 out of a total of 650).  The dramatic gains by the opposition Labour party (though they still have fewer seats that the Conservatives) confounds the conventional wisdom that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's radical-left image would be rejected by mainstream voters.  And austerity is once again shown to be politically toxic pretty much everywhere where people get a chance to vote on it.

[Again, hoping this posts without any glitches -- still don't have my regular computer back.]

07 June 2017

Britain's Brexit (or not) election

Comey's testimony is not the only important political event tomorrow.  The UK is holding a snap election, called by Prime Minister Theresa May in April.  At the time it was expected to be a blow-out win for the ruling Conservative party, but things have gotten a little more complicated.

May called the election largely because of carping from the opposition Labour party over her handling of negotiations with the European Union about Brexit.  Surveys at the time suggested that voters would give the Conservatives an even bigger majority in Parliament than they currently hold, thus delivering a powerful endorsement from the people for May's tough approach.  It didn't hurt that the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (who would become Prime Minister if his party won), is generally viewed as a far-left figure too radical for most mainstream Brits.

Since then, however, two other factors have intervened.  First, May has blundered in a number of areas, partly in proving to be a poor campaigner and partly in pushing unpopular policies such as a tax on elderly people's houses to cover the costs of their health care (she later backed down on this, humiliatingly).  Second, of course, the Manchester and London terrorist attacks changed the subject from Brexit to national security.  Security is usually an issue on which the right does well with voters, but May is vulnerable to the criticism that the attacks happened on her watch.

Unfortunately for Labour, Corbyn is not the best person to capitalize on this.  He's notorious for having called the killing of Osama bin Laden a "tragedy" (what he actually said was that it's a tragedy that bin Laden was killed outright rather than being arrested and put on trial, but that hardly seems any less fatuous).  In the wake of the Manchester and London murders, British voters are unlikely to be in the mood for such talk.

We'll find out tomorrow.  It's near-certain that May will win.  The real question is whether she can still achieve the enlarged Parliamentary majority she originally hoped for -- and if so, what exactly it will constitute a mandate for, given the shift in the electorate's attention after the recent attacks.

[Apologies for any glitches in this post.  My computer is out being repaired and I'm using a much less familiar machine.]

04 June 2017

Link round-up for 4 June 2017

Have you seen this guy?

Be nice to the roombas of the ocean.

A thrilling time-travel series has gripped fans' attention.

"His name's Wallace."

Sweden's Minister of Education has big plans.

An ant infestation gets out of hand.

"Covfefe" may be Trumpanzee code -- or here's an even scarier interpretation.  Or maybe Trump's a chemistry whiz.

They exist among us.

You know what I meant!

This ad would not sell in the US.

Life in primitive times was difficult and grueling.

Don't scare the box monster.

These chips must be the ultimate Republican snack.

There are 29 million tons of spiders on earth -- could they eat us all?

Amsterdam celebrates an unusual gay adoption.

The Onion has a big collection of Trump documents (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

See 22 pieces of unsexy sex art (NSFW though).

Can you spot the logical error?

Detective Oshiri Tantei always gets to the bottom of the case.

Atheist blogs Tell Me a Story and Margin of Error have interesting posts about death.

Bertrand Russell was a perceptive man.

They are the problem.

Medieval artists had a weird thing about rabbits.

Republic of Gilead, one of the net's best political blogs, has been dormant for two months, but blogger Ahab is still active on Twitter.

Religionists feel the presence of God.

Gays in America have come a long way.

Massachusetts joins the "climate alliance" of states committed to the Paris agreement.

This is not a "religion of peace".  And people don't come much worse than this piece of shit.  Remember these men who stood up to evil.

House Republicans have come up with a law even worse than Sessions's drug crackdown.

Dave Daubenmire wants Christianity to become more violent, while this pastor correctly argues that the Bible endorses slavery (both found via Mendip).

The spirit of fascism rears its head in Vermont.  This thuggery in Portland is almost as disturbing.

What does John 3:16 really mean?

I predict this wingnut campaign against Rachel Maddow will have no effect.

Detroit activists hold a patriotic event for Memorial Day.

An 11-year-old girl was forced to marry her rapist.  Somalia?  Afghanistan?  No, Florida.

Kathy Griffin's "Trump head" picture was disgusting, but the right is in no position to claim the high ground.  Now they're freaking out over a cartoon.

Remember this horrific episode in American history.

Russian "diplomats" keep cropping up in odd locations around the US.

Breitbart's readership implodes as it ignores the Trump scandals.  Fox's Hannity has a Twitter meltdown as his own advertisers flee.

Religion is fundamentally misogynistic.

Recent stories about printed fake rhino horn to fool poachers aren't actually such good news.  Poaching is driving accelerated evolution among elephants.

If global warming were a hoax.....

California scientists develop a super-antibiotic to defeat resistant bacteria.

Libertarian fantasy islands raise a few problems.

Hysterical Raisins has a movie poster for Trump's European trip.  Our allies are giving bad reviews.

No longer able to rely on the US, Japan considers its response to rising Chinese power.

There are good reasons why you don't see many protests in Saudi Arabia.  And how does that country compare with Iran on terrorism?

Trump's budget is no good for his voters.

Booman sees a sign that the Senate Trump-Russia investigation is the real deal.  Green Eagle looks at what we now know.  His Twitter account will be a gold mine for investigators.  We must ensure that the true extent of his misdeeds is not hidden, as Nixon's was at the time.

Trump's dingbat administration posts personal info on abuse victims.

Hecate Demeter argues that a shame-and-blame strategy, not logical argument, is the best way to influence Trumpanzees.

Republicans will be blamed for any future ACA problems.  Darrell Issa is the latest Republican Congressman to hide from his constituents.  Trump himself chickens out on Twitter.

We have an unexpected ally for 2018 -- Rush Limbaugh.

No, Trump is not a master media manipulator.  He can hardly even get people to come work for him.  And he's afraid of real Congressional oversight.

For those who like these link round-ups, TYWKIWDBI and Tell Me Why the World Is Weird have similar recurring features (called "divertimento" and "blogaround" respectively).

[136 days down, 1,326 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

03 June 2017

Trump's hot air on the Paris agreement

Trump has finally kept a campaign promise -- and, in doing so, brought near-universal opprobrium upon himself and potentially inflicted some real damage on the world. We'll probably never know whether Trump personally "believes in" anthropogenic global warming (if that's even a meaningful question in the case of a man with such disjointed mental processes), but that doesn't matter.  The important thing about what leaders and governments do is the practical effect, not the motivation.

First, the opprobrium.  Trump's decision has been met with near-universal condemnation from business leaders, state and local governments, foreign governments, and even The Weather Channel.  The harm to our relations with other countries will be far-reaching.  Trump is isolating the US on this issue (found via Progressive Eruptions, which has more commentary).  On one of the major issues of the day, he's abandoned the US leadership role.  And this decision is unlikely to be reversed even if he's impeached, since Pence is just as clueless on climate change as his boss is.

Next, the prospective damage.  Here's a discussion of the likely consequences if the US fails to curb greenhouse-gas emissions (written before Trump's announcement), and they're dire indeed.  However, the world may escape the worst of those consequences after all.  Much of the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is market-driven, and Trump can do little about that.  Already three US states containing 66 million people (more than a fifth of our total population) have formed a "climate alliance" to uphold the Paris agreement, and other states will doubtless join.  Several US cities, including "red" ones like Atlanta and Salt Lake City, and even private companies have similarly committed themselves (found via Tell Me a Story, which has more).  Blue states and major cities account for most of the country's economic output.  If they stick to the agreement, US greenhouse-gas emissions will still decline, perhaps by almost as much as they would have without Trump's action -- and that's what counts.

I concluded some time ago that the main effect of Trump in the Presidency would be to weaken the US position as the world's leading country, and this decision is certainly an example.  But here he's even weakened his own government's role within the US -- as states and cities, like foreign countries, start to work around him in order to get the necessary job done.

[Image at top:  Paris city hall illuminated in green to protest Trump's withdrawal from the agreement]

31 May 2017

Random observations for May 2017

All the great atrocities of history would have been impossible without obedience.

o o o o o

The environment is not a subset of the economy.  The economy is a subset of the environment.

o o o o o

Evolution moves in mysterious ways.  The human propensity for manipulating objects, and our development of spoken language, have given us extremely fine-tuned control over our hands and mouths -- which has revolutionized sexuality.

o o o o o

Casual profanity has become a tired cliché, and boring.

o o o o o

One odd little quirk of US politics is the right's obsessive belief that the left follows the teachings of a person named "Saul Alinsky".  In all my years of following politics, I've never seen any left-wing person mention Alinsky unless they were quoting or replying to a right-winger who had brought him up.

o o o o o

The stupidest argument of the global-warming denialists is that since carbon dioxide is necessary for life, it "cannot be a pollutant".  By this logic, since water is necessary for life, floods and tidal waves can't do any harm.

o o o o o

If you claim to support free expression even for people you disagree with, but in every actual specific case that comes up you find some excuse for doing otherwise (calling it "incitement" or "hate speech" or whatever), then you are not a supporter of free expression.

o o o o o

There are hundreds of Christian sects with slightly (or sometimes sharply) different beliefs about marriage, divorce, homosexuality, women's place in society, whether Genesis should be taken literally or not, what you need to do to avoid Hell, whether Hell even exists, how to treat non-Christians, whether clergy can marry, what happens during the End Times, and on and on.  Many Christians claim they have an absolute truth about the universe that everyone should adopt, but in 2,000 years they've never even been able to agree among themselves on what that truth is.

o o o o o

There is a certain type on the left for whom everything is about racism.  They will never entertain any other explanation of any problem, so long as there is any even remotely plausible way to invoke racism.  In its own way it's as bad a form of tunnel vision as the Sandersite (or Marxist or libertarian) insistence on treating all problems as essentially economic.

o o o o o

Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?  If you're like most people, you have at least one family member or close friend you care about, who does not meet your religion's criteria for getting into Heaven.  If you did actually go to Heaven after your death, would you be able to be happy there knowing that someone you cared about was suffering eternal torment in Hell?

[For previous random observations, see here.]

30 May 2017

Video of the day -- an imbecile abroad


British humor show "Have I Got News for You" looks at Trump's travels.