31 January 2012

Must-read #1: empowered bullies

Sorry for the light posting -- this whole month, especially the last couple of weeks, has kept me exhaustingly busy. Since I haven't written much, here's a must-read item from Noahpinion which captures very well what I've long thought is the essential problem of libertarianism -- its cultists rhapsodize endlessly about "liberty" (a word they prefer to the more plain and concrete-sounding "freedom"), but the practical result of implementing libertarian schemes in the real world wouldn't be an increase in freedom or liberty as we generally understand those words; it would be a society of empowered bullies.

30 January 2012

Bach the sublime, served four ways

Cantata BWV 147, instrumental original:

Vocal, performed by Celtic Woman:

Modernized version:

As used in a Japanese advertisement:

Thank you, V. M.

29 January 2012

Link round-up for 29 January 2012

I wonder if this cathedral is available for temperance meetings.

Test your beliefs against the Bible.

Some experiences are better left untried.

Yes, that's a cow.

Check out the Romney income calculator and see how long Mitt would take to earn your annual income.

Here's libertarianism condensed into one tweet.

Sorry Newt, we can't annex the Moon. Stewart and Colbert revel.

Why go to the Moon when Earth has all this?

Musicians don't want their work associated with Republicans.

I don't see why anyone still uses Facebook.

Rupert Murdoch supported SOPA.

Another witness debunks Brewer's claims about her conversation with Obama.

Bullies have allies in the Tennessee legislature -- and in part of Minnesota.

The Republican party has become a Manichean party of rage, and Fox News is a big part of the reason. Gingrich is a pied piper of doom; he and Palin can still rally the forces of nuttiness. There will be no deus ex machina candidate or brokered convention. Here's a sane conservative trying to talk sense to the crazies.

Gingrich's campaign is mostly funded by one man.

Jack Jodell looks at Romney's views on labor issues and foreign policy -- and at the Republicans' bogeyman Saul Alinsky (who once used farting as a tool of political activism).

Raped and pregnant? Oh, quit whining.

North Carolina Republican Larry Pittman wants to bring back some traditional methods of justice.

Let's treat the Pope as the criminal conspirator he is (found via Republic of Gilead).

If you like beating up women, New Hampshire Republicans want to make it easier for you.

There's a lot to be said for gay parenting (found via Ranch Chimp).

Meghan O'Rourke takes down Caitlin Flanagan's reactionary and simplistic thinking about girlhood.

All religion is crap. Here's why.

Republicans are still trying to wreck science education.

Congress has questions on Google's privacy-policy consolidation.

Gingrich once took a sane position on marijuana.

Yes, Ron Paul knew about those newsletters -- which makes him a liar. But we already knew he's something much worse.

Andrew Sullivan's readers weigh in on the Daniels SOTU response.

You don't need to be stupid to be prejudiced, but it helps (sent by Republic of Gilead).

If they'd do it to Giffords or Dr. Tiller, they'd do it to a cat (found via Politics Plus).

Here's more on the religious threat to free expression in Britain and how some are fighting back.

If you visited Europe before 2001 you may recall some of these (well, the pound still exists).

This idea will give "meter maid" a whole new meaning (found via Mendip).

EU austeritards who point to Ireland and the Baltics to justify their policies are "demented".

The EU is seizing even more sovereign powers from its member countries, but resistance is growing, especially in Britain and Greece.

The struggle in Syria is escalating.

Texas is getting into modern power generation.

The WSJ practices blatant dishonesty.

Worst diet ever.

Best drink ever.

Best thing to stop doing.

A stem-cell treatment for macular degeneration has been tested on humans in Los Angeles, with impressive results (found via Parsley's Pics).

28 January 2012

Two maps of Germany

For much of late 2011 the top news story in Germany was not the euro crisis, but the discovery of a small neo-Nazi terrorist cell which had murdered at least ten people over a period of several years. The case, along with the Breivik massacre in Norway, has focused attention on the threat of violent right-wing extremists in Europe.

In this context I found the following two maps illuminating. The first shows the distribution of votes for the NPD, Germany's most far-right political party, which is a good proxy for the distribution of extremist right-wing views in the population:

Notice how there are just six of Germany's sixteen states where the NPD gets over 2% support: the five states which formerly made up East Germany, plus Berlin (half of which was also part of East Germany). Although the far right in Europe largely defines itself by hostility to non-Western immigrants, these states are not, as you might think, the ones with the most immigrants; except for Berlin, they have the fewest, since most of the immigrants came before Germany was re-unified, and in any case immigrants head for the most prosperous areas because that's where the jobs are. Most Germans (and most Europeans) are unhappy at the presence of large immigrant populations, often for good reason -- but that doesn't lead most of them to extreme-right views.

So if it isn't the presence of immigrants that inflames extremism, what does?

Here's a map showing the distribution of recipients of government anti-poverty benefits -- that is, the darkest areas have the highest concentrations of poverty:

Aside from urban pockets in Bremen and the Ruhr, the same six eastern states stand out. It seems that poverty and joblessness (unemployment remains higher in the former East Germany than the rest of the country), and the anxiety and despair they bring, create an opening for extremists.

"Poverty" is of course a relative term. Germany is probably the most socialist of the major countries of the Western world; its economy is strong, inequality is far less extreme than in the US, and poverty is never so abject as what we routinely see in certain parts of the US.

Yet that just makes the implications all the clearer. If poverty and unemployment in a place like Germany fuel extremism, should we be surprised at what we see in some of the poorest parts of our own country, where low-quality education is also a factor? Our former Confederate states, like the former East German states above, suffer from lingering backwardness.

There are elements in our political class whose hopes for winning elections rest largely on the persistence of fringe-right and racist attitudes in much of our population. And those same political elements seem determined to obstruct any policies that would stimulate the economy or reduce inequality, and are constantly trying to sabotage education with crackpottery like creationism and abstinence-only indoctrination. Maybe they know what they're doing.

25 January 2012

Videos of the week -- the man of the hour

A video tribute to the man rank-and-file Republicans are choosing to hold high the banner of lunacy, bigotry, and hypocrisy as he leads them into battle against Obama.

Most analysts thought Romney won Monday's Tampa debate, but a poll of Florida Republicans names Gingrich the winner by eight points.

Found via Republic of Gilead.

Found via Squatlo Rant.

22 January 2012

Link round-up for 22 January 2012

Best T-shirt ever!

Not the best name for a towing company.

Thank the right person.

Ken Ham descends into a dizzy spiral of circular argument.

The I-75 project puts up signs of the times (sent by Shaw Kenawe).

Fox News is being weird about Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek essay on Obama.

There's more to using Google than you know.

Police and school officials are investigating the vile religious threats against Jessica Ahlquist. Here's another example of the hate. But we already have supportive T-shirts.

Andrew Sullivan looks at yesterday's political earthquake in South Carolina. Gingrich is winning Christian Right support as Romney implodes nation-wide. For an example of what sane Republicans are up against, read this PowerLine post, then read the comments. Race 4 2012 (a good site to follow the Republican contest) looks ahead to Florida and considers the shape of the race now.

Don't forget about Ron Paul.

The people spoke and politicians listened -- the evil SOPA plan is dead. Amusing footnote here. Now we must punish those who supported it. By all that we hold dear.....

Florida police tortured a prisoner to death in 2009.

Yes, this is pretty much how the media cover protests.

America rising: GM is once again the world's top car-maker.

Bob Marshall, Republican delegate of Virginia, is disgusting (sent by Mendip).

Obama stands up to the Christian Right on birth-control coverage.

Here's a sensible proposal from one of the dwindling number of sane Republican leaders.

One out of eight Americans must constantly make burdensome accommodations.

Ron Paul cultists threaten a Georgia family with violence and murder (found via Politics Plus).

"They are not your misguided friends. They are your fully intelligent adversaries".

Better-educated people are more likely to see government as a solution.

Republicans may face a devastating defeat this year. But don't get over-confident -- what if they win?

Some of Obama's achievements have gone almost unnoticed.

A majority of Americans now recognize that inequality is a bigger problem than regulation.

British undercover cops enjoy their work perhaps a bit too much.

Violent religious thugs force the cancellation of a human-rights meeting.

Europe's current policies are economic suicide.

The EU finally does something right, confronting incipient fascism in Hungary.

The Turkish government slaps down Perry.

Internet clichés not withstanding, the "Chinese century" is a myth.

Sane people should stay the hell out of Indonesia.

Cetaceans are people too

55 Cancri e is a bizarre place (found via Mendip).

Ancient-aliens drivel assumes that ancient humans were stupid.

The last century revolutionized health.

Science is making real progress in fighting macular degeneration.

20 January 2012

The Republican horror show

So the original eight Republican candidates have been winnowed by half. Nein-nein-nein, the wicked witch, the sane guy, and the moron have quit. The remaining choices are a plastic financial vampire, a megalomaniac Elmer Gantry pit bullfrog with a short fuse, Christine O'Donnell in drag, and that doddering old Jim Crow relic who insists on coming down from the attic every four years to embarrass the rest of the family. Aren't you glad you're not a Republican primary voter?

Don't feel too sorry for those who are, though. Remember how they booed an American soldier, cheered for letting the uninsured die, and gave a standing ovation when the bullfrog put the only black guy in the room in his place for daring to bring up racism. We're not exactly talking the cream of the gene pool here. We've all known people like this -- the kind that lick their fingertips, leave the sound on during TV commercials, and think it's OK to be fat. Now they've stuck tea-bags on their hats and become a political movement. They probably couldn't spell "illiterate" (or even the N-word, apparently), but think they understand the Constitution better than the Supreme Court does. When the bullfrog vented outrage that his ex-wife would do to him what he did to Bill Clinton, these Morlocks drooled with adoration; in fact, they're poised to yank South Carolina out from under the vampire and present it to him as a token of their esteem. And the vampire's looking scared that his tax returns will prove to be the ray of sunlight that crumbles him to dust -- which may well be the case.

The Democrats have been granted the prayer of Voltaire. I'm starting to think this year just might bring us a landslide.

19 January 2012

Video of the week -- through science to the truth

Found via Pajama Dog.

16 January 2012

2011 in review -- year of the masses

2011 was an amazing year. The intense interconnectedness which modern technology has brought to humanity world-wide made itself felt as never before, in a wave of mass protests that drew inspiration from each other despite vast geographical separation and cultural differences. It started in Tunisia, spread rapidly to Egypt and then the rest of the Arab world, then to Europe and our own country, and finally to Russia. Even in China, the tyrants are beginning to tremble.

The circumstances and issues in all these places were different, but the common thread remained. Cynicism, passivity, and defeatism faded before a new realization that ordinary people, organized and energized and determined, can challenge entrenched powers and institutions that seemed as solid and immovable as the Pyramids.

The Occupier movement in the US was a true mass protest. It was not organized or articulate, and it was never clear who, if anyone, spoke for it. But it drew together people of many different kinds who had grasped the central problem confronting our country today -- the explosive growth of inequality to obscene levels, and the destructive stranglehold of the financial parasite class on the economy. For most Americans, real incomes and security and prospects for upward mobility have stagnated and even declined, and we must fight back. The Occupiers may be short on solutions -- may even have created a distraction from real solutions -- but they have, at least, correctly identified the problem.

Originating in Canada but rapidly spreading through the US was another new protest movement, the SlutWalks, triggered by a single clueless police officer's remark that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized". This came to symbolize an omnipresent problem which is hard to define but which we all know when we see it -- the puritanical victim-blaming "slut-shaming" mentality which still taints and deforms sexuality even in our supposedly liberated times. All over North America, women marched to demonstrate that they could and would dress however they damn well pleased and that no one had any right to take it as an invitation, or excuse, for assault.

(Fellow males, do remember that we too have an interest here. Beyond the obvious fact that dressing revealingly does not make women legitimate targets of violence, if society keeps sending the message that it does, then they'll stop dressing revealingly -- and what a drag that would be.)

All these movements were denounced by the powers-that-be in the terms usual for reactionaries in the respective countries. From Cairo to Moscow, authoritarians blathered about foreign agitators (Qaddhafi's regime got so confused as to blame the Libyan revolt on both the US and al-Qâ'idah, unlikely co-conspirators). EU elites grumbled darkly about populism and nationalism. American right-wingers seemed to deal with the Occupiers by slipping into "damn those dirty hippies" mode, apparently forgetting which side from back in the sixties ended up being vindicated by history.

Victory is not yet complete, anywhere. In some Arab lands the old regimes still cling grimly to power with increasingly-bloody claws, while in others there is an ongoing struggle to protect hard-won revolutionary gains against theocratic or military reactionaries. The EU has ignored the mass anti-austerity protests in its member nations, though its grip on them is looking ever more shaky. In our country, the Occupier movement seems to be bifurcating -- an increasingly anarchist faction is descending into bullying of the working class like this and this and will eventually fade away, while the elements that want to achieve real change are joining forces with unions and learning how to work within the political system. And it's too early to tell how Russia and China will turn out.

But it's very hard to imagine the old passivity returning. There will be retreats and defeats, even serious ones, but in the long run the people will win.

Best wishes for the coming year to the newly-awakened world, and especially the people who started it all: the Arabs. I never thought you had it in you. I was wrong.

2011 also saw the deaths of three of the world's worst people -- Osama bin Laden, Muammar Qaddhafi, and Kim Jong Il -- as well as of one of its best. And a personification of evil we'd thought long buried -- Jim Crow -- rose up from the dead, in the form of blatant vote-suppression laws in state after state.

It was a year in which Ireland took a firm stand against evil (to the discontent of some), while many at Penn State embraced it.

Obama ended DADT, gay marriage came to New York state, the US Air Force started upholding the Constitution, the first computer more powerful than a human brain came on line, and yet another religious prophesy fell flat.

I'd like to end this post with a visual reminder of the right-wing contribution to America's national debate:

Just so we don't forget.

15 January 2012

Link round-up for 15 January 2012

This person really hates crows.

See where the trees are.

Here's a little something for the horse's ass in your life (found via Mendip).

The church gets schooled, again and again.

Romney can speak French? What a weirdo!

Here's a handy guide to choosing the right religion (found via What Would Jack Do).

This is the face of a hero -- story here.

A Colorado school found these yearbook photos unacceptable -- what "standard" are they "upholding", Saudi Arabia's? More on prudery, from another source, here.

For really kinky sex, see the Bible.

Too many nettards are in dire need of these spelling tips.

Veterans stand against bigoted violence -- in Massachusetts.

Some fundies really misunderstand freedom of religion.

Abstinence-only "education" fuels attitudes that lead to bullying (found via Republic of Gilead).

Supporters of the evil SOPA plan are backing down -- and Obama has come out against it.

If you're a liberal leaning toward Ron Paul, this is a must-read (found via Smartypants).

Ahlquist wins as a judge orders a blatantly-unconstitutional prayer banner taken down at her school, resulting in the usual Christian love.

Nikki Haley is facing a recall drive -- by right-wingers, for not being evil enough.

Educate yourself on the menace of marijuana.

A Georgia school shows gross cluelessness about slavery.

If you look at Romney's "I like being able to fire people" gaffe in context, it's different but just as bad.

Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign attracts massive support.

Gingrich is another family-values Republican.

Huntsman's campaign is beginning to disintegrate.

Nate Silver looks at how the Bain attacks could affect the general election.

If you don't like the NDAA, look at what really happened and stop enabling it.

A growing minority of economists thinks the US is heading into a strong economic boom, not just a weak recovery -- good news for the country and the Democrats.

Jack Jodell delves into Romney's background and plans. More here; a third post, on labor and foreign policy, is coming.

Film director Paul Haggis encounters creepy religious bullying.

The man who gave us the Bush Presidency says he won't cause trouble this year.

It's not just Santorum -- much of the right wing is waging a war against contraception. More here (found via Republic of Gilead).

We already have this, and it doesn't work.

The MSM are ignoring unions' actions for worker rights.

Republican bullies get a dose of their own medicine.

Tea-party-affiliated Congressmen are, on average, more than twice as rich as other Congressmen.

BP spreads propaganda minimizing the effects of the Gulf oil spill.

Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the US.

US Christians sponsor an honest-to-God witch hunter who has encouraged the murder and mutilation of children.

Britain's Prime Minister picks up a very bad idea all too familiar to Americans.

Scots are divided on the issue of independence from Britain, but all agree they don't want to join the euro.

Italians stage massive strikes against their quisling-regime's austerity policies (background here).

Cardinal Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela of Spain is a paranoid crank (found via Republic of Gilead).

Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Iranian theocracy, approved of men having sex with small children -- even infants. Update (17 January): More here including link to the full text of Khomeini's book (in Persian) and the original text of the quote.

Shark-fin harvesting involves far more cruelty than you think.

Gothic Atheist is back with another tiny, horrifying creature: the epomis beetle.

Food choices can protect your brain as you age.

Watch for these warning signs of medical quackery.

A functioning wire just four atoms wide could be a breakthrough in computer miniaturization.

14 January 2012

Tribute to a life-form long vanished (thank goodness)

Since mid-2009 this blog has been endowed with a stats counter which I can see whenever I log in, which gives me some basic information about numbers of page views, which countries they're coming from, and how they got here. The latter feature shows me the URLs of sites from which people went to mine by clicking on a link there. Many of these are other blogs, but a lot of people also come to my blog via search engines like Google.

In the case of those search engines, I can also see the search term that was inputted which brought up my blog as one of the search results. For example, if someone typed "Muhammad cartoon" or "Chinese view of Hiroshima" into Google and ended up on my blog as a result, I can see those search terms listed.

Well, ever since April last year, there has been one search term which, week by week and month by month, has consistently appeared more often than any other -- one word that, more than any other, has led search engines to bring people to this blog.

What is that search term? It's "eurypterids".

What, you may be wondering, is a eurypterid? Here's one:

I posted this picture back in March, here, having run across it on the internet and wondered what it was. Don't worry, the picture is fake -- it has to be, because it really is a eurypterid, and the last of them died more than 250 million years ago. But they were real.

These monstrosities belonged to the arthropod phylum (animals with jointed exoskeletons including insects, spiders, centipedes, lobsters, things like that); they were ocean-dwellers. There were 246 species of eurypterids that we know of, and probably many more that we don't know of, fossilization being the haphazard process it is. As far as we know, they were the largest arthropods that have ever existed -- the biggest species were even larger than the one in the picture above.

Despite their appearance, the eurypterids were apparently more closely related to scorpions than to lobsters, and are sometimes called "sea scorpions". They did not have stings like their smaller modern relatives, but would still have been terrifying things to encounter -- just imagine finding a "bug" like the one pictured above scuttling about your kitchen. Not exactly the sort of thing you could just step on. And, yes, some species were amphibious, able to walk on land and perhaps even living on land for part of their life cycle.

But don't worry, you will never meet one. The last of them died before the dinosaurs were even a gleam in evolution's eye. Today, we know of them only from their fossil remains.

So why are eurypterids such a much-searched item on the net? Maybe their appeal is somewhat like that of dinosaurs -- extinct animals far bigger than animals of their type, in human eyes, have any right to be. Given their bizarre and unearthly form, they may also fascinate in the same way as the monster of the Alien movies does. If a modern human were to find himself on the Earth of the Ordovician period, when eurypterids flourished, and beheld them scuttling about and perhaps sizing him up as a potential meal, he might well imagine himself to be on some ghastly alien planet.

Whatever the critters' appeal, it's not limited to English-speaking countries. By now I've actually picked up the Russian word for "eurypterid" (ракоскорпион, ra-ka-skar-pee-OWN), since it crops up regularly in the list of search terms on my stats counter.

Needless to say, this is not a word ever likely to be of much use to me for striking up conversations on the streets of Moscow ("My hovercraft is full of eurypterids"?), but at least I know something not many people in the United States know.

For whatever reason, these long-dead monsters have done much to draw attention to this blog. It seems only right that I return the favor.

13 January 2012

The Bain of his candidacy

Gingrich's scorched-earth campaign against Romney, using Bain Capital as its chief weapon of mass destruction, has implications beyond just Romney's candidacy or the 2012 election. Romney and much of the Republican establishment have denounced this line of attack as an expression of "envy" and as anti-capitalist, but as William Galston observes:

Most citizens make an intuitive distinction between business activities that add value to workers and the economy (running an auto company, for example, as Romney’s father did) and those that shuffle paper to the advantage only of the shufflers.

Or, to use my own terms, the distinction between productive capitalism and the financial parasite class. Even teabaggers harbor an inchoate suspicion of the latter, however much they've been manipulated to serve its interests in practice. What Gingrich has done is to drag this issue into the open and make it explicit. None of this critique is new to us. But it's now coming from a source to which non-liberals are more inclined to give a hearing.

The attack could cost Romney the nomination. More and more Republican establishment figures are sternly warning Gingrich that his line of attack on Romney is unacceptable and must stop. Predictably, this has been followed by a shift of rank-and-file South Carolina Republican voters away from Romney, who now shows as almost tied with Gingrich there. The attacks do resonate with many of them, who are likely to be suspicious of what looks like a clumsy effort to silence the messenger.

Still, Romney will probably be the nominee, if only because those who reject him still can't unite behind a single candidate. But he'll be all the more vulnerable to the Democrats' natural line of attack. Anyone who wants to fend it off by screaming "socialist" will need to explain how Gingrich is a socialist.

Beyond that, the whole issue of the financial parasite class is now being made an explicit election issue in a way it never has been before. If it brings Romney down, then the core raison d'être of the traditional non-theocratic Republican establishment -- the continued subjugation of America to that class, disguised by free-market rhetoric and whatever other squid-ink works best at any given time -- will become much tougher to pursue.

Gingrich is no working-class hero for doing this. His motive seems to be rage at Romney for defeating him in Iowa. The Republicans have embraced the politics of resentment and vindictiveness and exclusion, and now they are destroying each other.

The full 28-minute film on Bain and Romney can be viewed here.

12 January 2012

Quote for the day -- the best of a bad lot

"Mitt Romney is such an ass. He would sell his mother to win the election. He has flipped positions so many times, he would get a 10 on the uneven bars. He makes shit up – like the number of jobs Bain Capital (a venture capital firm – which is designed to make money by getting rid of jobs) has created. He calls Obama a socialist, refuses to release his tax return, ties his dog to the car, denies involvement with Romneycare, thinks only the rich should run for office, thinks corporations are people, claims he is unem- ployed, and touts he is the everyman. But as awful as Mitt is – his rivals for the GOP nomination are even worse."

Axel Grease

Best of the Infidel, 2011

Civilized warfare

The urgent problem of inequality in the United States

Nuclear power -- a dangerous dinosaur

How violence subverts protest

Germany's left turn

Pastor Jones and the barbarians

The future leans left -- the big picture


Rejoice at the death of bin Laden

Fight for reachable pragmatists, not ideologists

The day after May 21

Eternal justice, after all?

Global-warming denialism is a trap for the right wing

A victory for free expression in Europe

Save the economy by restoring taxes to normal levels

Independence Day post -- This land is our land

Mexico rising

Ireland stands up to evil

Republicans becoming divided

The drive toward minority rule in the United States

Politically, I don't have a choice

Teabaggers of the left

Libertarians and liberals (1)

Libertarians and liberals (2)

Super-Earths and sexy aliens

Blasphemy Day International, 2011

Questions on the Occupier movement

Occupy Portland, October 2011

Europe awakens

The European Union vs. European nations

Religion is undermined by contact with other religions

The European Union delusion

Christmas post

10 January 2012

Video of the week -- the parasite class

This is from a pro-Gingrich group. Why do we need Republicans to tell the plain truth that every Democrat should be shouting from the rooftops?

08 January 2012

Quote for the day -- the totalitarian mind

"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.....Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Rick Santorum

Link round-up for 8 January 2012

Art brings the Bible to life.

What if Lord of the Rings had been written today?

The tomb of Jesus has been found!

Check out this hamster-powered submarine (found via Mendip).

This person refuses to run his life on the basis of a badly-written fantasy novel.

This crank says Christians should abandon non-Christian friends or partners.

Let's make one thing sacrosanct for 2012.

The ACLU gets involved when a Missouri public library blocks pagan websites (sent by Mendip).

Hitchens left us some ruminations on Christmas.

Drug legalization is a mainstream position.

The contrast between Santorum and Huntsman illustrates why the latter isn't getting anywhere with Republican voters.

Conservatives love Big Brother.

Jen McCreight has a directory of female atheists.

A scientist speaks out on Gingrich's latest pander to the anti- science right wing.

Santorum has a totalitarian mind-set.

Romney's "locust capitalism" illustrates why I use the term "financial parasite class".

Europe's tallest building is being built in London, but it doesn't really fit in.

Here's a story of deep spiritual belief from Britain.

Finland's schools are among the best in the world, for a surprising reason.

Beginnings of an EU break-up? Greece says it will leave the euro if bail-out talks fail, and member countries are re-imposing border controls. The project was always doomed because there's no such thing as a European people. Meanwhile, austerity continues to take its toll.

Hungary's new constitution is scary; Hungarians, and foreign observers, are alarmed.

Here's one reason I might find Russia a congenial place.

The Inca Empire maintained a fairly complex society apparently without money or trade.

It looks more and more like fracking can cause earthquakes.

Here's a nuclear detonation after one millisecond (found via Mendip).

There are probably billions of planets in the galaxy, but ours is the best. More here.

Stem-cell treatments reverse the effects of aging in mice with progeria.

04 January 2012

Video of the week -- lord of evil

Some people really, desperately need something to be frightened of. Found via Hello Mr. President.

A Santorum surge from the rear

The final tally from Iowa was Romney 30,015, Santorum 30,007. The champion of the Sane faction of Republicans won by just eight votes over the most theocratic and anti-gay candidate in the field, a man with an underfunded campaign, who lost his last Senate race by 18 points, and who's barely registered in the polls until now.

Ron Paul got 26,219 votes. Add that plus the votes for Perry and Bachmann to Santorum's figure (plus the 58 votes for Cain -- some people really aren't following the news), and the total for the Nutty faction is 74,961, almost two and a half times Romney's number.

Santorum is just the latest not-Romney to surge forth as flavor-of- the-month for the Nutties, of course. Like his predecessors he will likely sink in the polls as he becomes better known (I suspect many fundies don't yet realize that he's Catholic, a religion the Chick-tract wing of fundamentalism considers practically a form of Satanism). But there is clearly a vast chorus of Republicans out there pleading, please, please, anybody but the Sane guy. What's next? A Palin write-in campaign? A draft-O'Donnell movement? I hear David Duke is free. The Republican party has a huge problem here, even if somewhat masked by the fact that the Nutty vote is still divided among several candidates.

02 January 2012

Link round-up for 2 January 2012

Merry Christmas!

This gal is way too excited about banking.

Planet POV has wish lists for Santa from the right wing.

It's possible to be too convenient.

Sometimes, spelling matters.

If you dislike the lyrics, fine, but sing a different song rather than defiling ours.

I think this person (click to enlarge) could be the ideal Republican Presidential candidate (found via Gothic Atheist). Or maybe this one.

"Twilight" is even more creepy and repulsive than I thought (found via Republic of Gilead).

Daily Kos gets e-mail from lunatics.

Here's what five megabytes looked like in 1956.

Becktoxicated goldtards lose money (but don't worry, gold will go up again at the next high-profile crisis -- the cranks always flock to buy).

What would Jesus spend money on?

Which photo bothers you more?

The chimpanzee who died last month probably wasn't the famous Cheeta.

22 Words has some relatively-non-controversial Hitchens quotes.

Dusty read one of my posts on her radio program (61:40-67:50); her own blog is here.

Teabaggers and Republicans are the more anti-science segment of the American people.

Google takes a serious wrong turn on sex work -- more here.

Here's a list of companies and groups supporting the evil SOPA plan, with their contact info.

Religious nuts hold forth on bio-ethics.

Yes, the Republicans did vote to end Medicare.

Gingrich is willfully obtuse on the issue of religious freedom. Pat Buchanan is worse.

Politics is the art of the possible, and what's possible varies from place to place.

Ron Paul hangs out with friends (more here). And yes, he really is a nut.

Who's responsible for the Ron Paul newsletters? Here's a handy chart.

Health-insurance reform is starting to take effect.

There will be only two choices for President this year -- Obama must win. And his chances are improving, thanks to Republican antics. If you're considering not voting, read this.

The Pope wants you to be stupid.

Voter turn-out is critical -- don't depress it.

Britain is re-orienting its foreign policy away from the EU.

Irish World War II soldiers suffered abuse in their own country (found via Mendip, who comments).

One Spanish village has brought back the peseta, Spain's old pre- euro currency that most Spaniards wish they'd never given up.

The EU is too bogged down in out-dated conservative economic dogma to be able to save the euro.

Investing in education really works.

Russia may have reached the tipping point at which democracy becomes inevitable.

Yes, Judaism also has disgusting religious extremists.

Atheists in Brazil still face an uphill struggle.

The inexorable rise of China has long been an internet cliché, but the underlying reality tells a different story.

Too many fattards think it's OK to be fat (this story is from Britain, but no doubt the same is true here in the US). Some effects of obesity resemble those of aging.

Healthy food can protect the brain from aging.

Here's a striking video of geese in flight.

The colossal "king of herrings" may be the origin of sea-serpent tales.

This book gives a new application of Dawkins's "meme" concept to religion-as-virus.

Tom Harkin is a scientific ignoramus.

If aliens visited millions of years ago, the best place to look for evidence is the Moon.

A new agency will speed up the translation of scientific progress into practical results.

01 January 2012

Happy new year!

The link round-up will appear tomorrow.