23 September 2021

It's a funny world (3)


21 September 2021

The AUKUS submarine/missile deal

As I've discussed in earlier posts, the world today stands in a position analogous to the 1930s.  There is still time for the democracies to confront China's expansionism, force the Beijing regime to back down, and get the problem under control without war -- as could have been done in the 1930s if the democracies had been willing to forcefully confront the Nazi regime's early challenges to peace and stability, such as the re-militarization of the Rhineland.  On the other hand, if the democracies appease and accommodate the Chinese gangster-state and treat it as a normal government, its aggression will continue to escalate until a world war is inevitable -- as did, in fact, happen in the 1930s.

The recent AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) military deal is a strong step in the right direction.  The US will sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and, later, long-range missiles as well, while both the US and UK will provide technological assistance -- thus greatly increasing Australia's naval power.  (Electoral-Vote has a brief discussion, but contrary to its speculation, there has been no hint of giving Australia nuclear bombs.)  The deal is a clear signal that the three countries are determined to contain China and are taking concrete steps to enhance their power to do so.

There already exists a regional association of democracies -- "the Quad", consisting of the US, India, Japan, and Australia.  This group, dating back to 2004, is not a military alliance, though the Chinese regime has accused it of trying to develop into an "Asian NATO".  Its focus has been on cooperation on non-military issues such as climate change and covid-19.  AUKUS is an explicitly military alliance, and could indeed form the nucleus of an Asian NATO.  And the US is not de-emphasizing the Quad -- the first-ever meeting of all four Quad national leaders will be held in Washington this Friday.  It's a not-so-subtle warning to Beijing that the US continues to strengthen its ties with India and Japan, and will increase its military cooperation with those democracies as well, as and when Chinese provocations warrant.

The only fly in the ointment is that the submarine deal has seriously offended France, because Australia has canceled a pre-existing plan to buy non-nuclear-powered submarines from that country in favor of acquiring the much more powerful nuclear ones from the US.  The European Union, of which France is a leading member, has also denounced the deal.  This video covers these issues well:

France and the EU have tried to play things both ways with China, wavering between confrontation and appeasement.  This puts them out-of-step with the mainstream of the democratic world, represented by the US, India, Japan, the UK, and Australia.  Shared values in other areas will ensure that their relationship with the US remains strong in the long run, but if the EU countries want to break out of their isolation on the increasingly pivotal China issue, they'll need to align themselves more closely with the AUKUS/Quad agenda and approach.

In the meantime, AUKUS is a piece of good news in a time when we've faced a shortage of that.  On China, Biden gets it.  Rather than repeat the mistakes of the 1930s, he's building strong alliances, forcefully confronting the Beijing gangster-regime, and working to reverse the drift toward a third world war.

19 September 2021

Link round-up for 19 September 2021

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

o o o o o

Time for some doggies.

Here are some new words for modern life.

Even monkeys provide live entertainment (found via Hackwhackers).

Don't be too trusting of an intermediary.

Easily the best drug to use for having sex.

Very successful fishing trip (found via Hackwhackers).

In scool you lern to rite good.

Let creativity loose with signs and suchlike (found via Miss Cellania).


These people have 5,000 H-bombs.

When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Some tips here on how to behave in Italy.

Could you find the stairway?

Marjorie Taylor Greene is an avatar of dumbth.

This is too much to cope with in one day.

Dance like an animal (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Punchy Halloween decoration here.

Make-up can make quite a difference.

We can dream, can't we?

If people try to photograph you, get this scarf.

He has a union job.

Maybe we're fairy-tale creatures to other animals.

".....but I never realised.....the flowers could pick you....."

Detailed discussion and photos here on the making of the stop-motion puppets in the Ghooric Zone video, by the Lone Animator.  It needs painstaking work to get such impressive results.

Important reminder here for creative people.

Falcon punch!

God likes burnt animals and silly hats.

Blogger Carol Seidl describes a life-long relationship with Mt Ranier, with video.  Once, there was a bear.

This was Las Vegas in 1947.

This temple exists.

This is the basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Watch the birdie.

We had no video games.

Meet Pharaoh Sneferu, builder of crappy pyramids.

You don't need a grand ambition.

She's so happy that her daughter is gay.

Dreary clichés are the hallmark of bad poetry and essays.

Kenneth Copeland has "destroyed" covid-19 for at least the third time.

You can now eat dirt and pay lots of money to do so.

Free speech goes both ways.

The top picture is real, but so is the bottom one.

No, the fact that quantum physics is weird does not legitimize various random bullshit from ancient religion/mysticism.

This hypothesis is far from a full explanation of consciousness, but it's worth reading.

For autistic people, learning is an intense and sometimes frustrating experience.

One problem, two solutions.

Believe absurdities, commit atrocities.  Then there's this nonsense (found via TYWKIWDBI).

This dog can detect covid-19 with 99% accuracy.

Everyone has failures -- don't let them drag you down.

Conspiratardia is a coping mechanism.

Same old bullshit, new words.

Same old bullshit, new tactics (found via Octoberfarm).

Space-X is, uh, different from NASA.

During the first half of 2021, more than three million Americans became first-time gun buyers.

The world has one less hate-filled, anti-vax pastor.  Good riddance.

Who made your iPhone?

No trespassing.

Stop using this ethnic slur.

Oregon faces the consequences of over-hasty school re-openings as the state's second-largest high school is forced to close with hundreds of students and staff quarantining due to covid-19 exposure.

Cancel culture is starting to devour itself, thank goodness.

After months of dud Cyber-Ninja auditing, Trump reinstatement dates, released krakens, etc, it's finally dawning on some of the wingnuts that they're stuck with dreary old reality.

The new bigotry seems weirdly similar to the old.

This Virginia man had an unusual reason for painting a Bible verse on his truck.

History shows vaccines work.

We need to think big about water shortages.  I suspect piping really large amounts of water over the Rocky Mountains is impractical, but he's right about desalinization.

Religion legitimizes abominations.

Some wingnuts are now "treating" covid-19 by ingesting betadine, a skin-care medication meant for topical use only.

One is a choice, the other is not.

Lots of data here on vaccinated vs unvaccinated covid-19 patients at numerous hospitals.

These companies have donated to the sponsors of the Texas abortion law.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.....right?

This website tracks the fates of anti-vaxers.  It's hard work being so stupid.

A pastor quit after realizing the religion he preached for decades was all lies -- and of course his co-believers immediately went into full asshole mode.

Appreciate leaders (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Anti-mask assholes harass restaurant employees even in blue Oregon (McMinnville is pretty close to Portland, only about 25 miles from where I live).

Texas Latinos are trending Republican as Democrats flounder around with clueless identity politics.

Office work has grown shittier over time.

The pandemic of the unvaccinated has effectively created death panels in Alabama and Idaho.

Abrahamic religions want to rule.

Tax enforcement on the rich and powerful has collapsed in less than a decade (found via SickoRicko).

Jericho Brisance examines a wingnut-conspiratard claim about Dr Fauci.

"Defund the police" cost Democrats some House and Senate seats last year; more language bullshit could do the same next year.

Islam openly claims the right to murder.

The US is once again the plague spot of the world.

"Talking about Karens and white feminists and terfs is the way to suck up to the bullies."

Hawaii's overloaded health-care system is threatening to sacrifice the elderly for the sake of covidiots who refused to get vaccinated.

A Republican House candidate in Florida allegedly threatened to sic a hit squad on his primary opponent (found via TYWKIWDBI).

The covidiots are now threatening and harassing hospitals and health workers.

This man does not belong in a women's prison.

In the UK, the Conservatives are becoming the only party supportive of women's rights.  This is the left committing electoral suicide.

"I believe that I will get out of this with the help of God" -- he didn't.

Don't let the Taliban cover up real Afghan culture.

How bad is the Evergrande debt crisis?

China's reckless aggression is leading to closer cooperation among three democracies.

A new company in Kenya recycles plastic into building material stronger than concrete.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

My own posts this week:  some brief observations, and a fearsome alien invader.

16 September 2021

Video of the day -- sic semper tyrannis

A light-hearted item from The Lone Animator, creator of The Ghooric Zone.

14 September 2021

Brief observations

Ivermectin-addled Republicans are now, presumably, de-worming themselves.  Is there any way that we could de-Republican the worms instead?  Rather than Republicans without worms, the world would be better off having worms without Republicans, if that option is available.

o o o o o

It's important to know the difference between "I don't like it" and "it's wrong".

o o o o o

Time travel stories often focus on the need to avoid changing history if you traveled into the past, but if you went further back than just a few thousand years ago, you couldn't avoid it.  The moment you arrived you'd be breathing out bacteria and viruses which didn't belong in that era and to which nothing at the time had any natural resistance.  Just by doing that, you'd probably trigger ecological changes which would have discernible effects on all of subsequent history.

o o o o o

One of the most annoying types of asshole is the type who thinks of himself as a charming gadfly.

o o o o o

If somebody cannot get his point across without saying things like "epistemological" and "intersectionality", he's probably not the best person to be explaining that point in the first place.  It's the writer's job to make himself clear to the reader, not the reader's job to struggle and do extra work to understand bad writing.

o o o o o

The fact that an idea offends or upsets someone is not evidence that it is false.

o o o o o

We do not exist to serve the government.  The government exists to serve us.

o o o o o

The 9/11 anniversary produced a lot of nostalgia for how "unified" the US was right after the attack, in contrast to today's divisiveness and polarization.  That's not how I remember it.  Immediately after the attack we had Falwell and Robertson claiming gays, pagans, abortion supporters, and other groups they disapproved of had caused it by offending God.  There was a spike in assaults against innocent Muslims and against people like Sikhs who were mistaken for Muslims.  In one west-coast city -- it may even have been Portland -- the fire department put American flags on their fire trucks and local assholes immediately demanded they be removed because they might "offend" somebody.  There was plenty of shitty behavior back then.

o o o o o

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

o o o o o

A century from now people will look back on our time, which passively accepts aging and natural death as inevitable, with the same pity and horror with which we now look back on the medieval era that accepted its helplessness in the face of the Black Death as something normal.

o o o o o

I don't know what to call those loathsome people who insist that the world's population needs to be cut to a small fraction of its present size because -- well, for various reasons, but that doesn't matter.  You can't call them Nazis.  The Nazis eliminated millions, these people want to eliminate billions.  It's the next level of evil beyond Nazis.  We don't even have a word for that yet.

o o o o o

If you think beauty is trivial or unimportant, just try to imagine the world without it.

12 September 2021

Link round-up for 12 September 2021

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

o o o o o

Next big thing at parties: sperm confetti.

One Finnish soldier.....

Time for some animals.

How tiresome!

A man's life was saved by ivermectin.

Not quite how gender reveal parties work.

King killed by cattle dung and other Norse tales here (some gruesome).

Yeah, swing that bottle!

Obtain a "political compass" from Jack Chick's art.

Use hemp to avert future toilet paper shortages.

This statue exists.

A millipede casts a shadow (put the sound on).

Eat my face!

Her prayers have been answered.

When playing chess, beware this basic error.

Some sites with amusing stuff here.

What a lucky coincidence!

There will always be some people who don't like you, no matter what you do.

Be wary of computer cables unless you trust wherever you got them.

Impressive art here -- click for full-size to see all the detail.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.....

Finally, an accurate definition of "sin".

This is Mt Fuji.

Interesting story idea and concept art.  I hope it gets written.

Wild boars display sophisticated empathetic behavior.

This is what amoebas actually look like.

Whales have vestigial hands inside their flippers (gruesome image to some; found via TYWKIWDBI).

This fish exists (it's called a mandarin dragonet).  This bird exists too.

The first murder hornet nest to be eliminated in Washington state this year was alarmingly large.

The mystery of "dark energy" might be explained by vast numbers of ultra-powerful alien computers.

Republicans threaten the CEO of Yahoo -- who left that job in 2017.

"Some scientists are religious" isn't actually a very good pro-religion argument.

This is just stupid.  We need to adopt the simple system the rest of the world uses.

No, vaccine mandates are not un-American.

"Fuck the team!"

Even people who claim the Bible provides an absolute moral standard don't really believe it does.

This attempt to create a libertarian/cryptocurrency utopia failed before it even began because nobody involved had the foggiest idea what they were doing.

This is the wrong way to handle death -- or life.

Wingnut reactions to covid-19 and AIDS reveal hypocrisy.

Not much appeal to going to the gym any more.

Flight attendants face a growing problem with asshole passengers.

The dead bear witness.

Interesting info here on how skyscraper design has changed since the Sept 11 attack.  No building is indestructible, but we're making them a lot tougher now.  Paul Wartenberg remembers the day, Shaw Kenawe remembers one victim, and SickoRicko has pictures, including what the site looks like now.  Never forget.

Anti-vaxers are not good people.  What forms of persuasion actually will work to sway them? (found via Hackwhackers).

Bruce Gerencser deals with yet another evangelical asshole.  There seem to be a lot of those.

Wage increases are getting bigger -- but notice that things are still worse than at the end of the twentieth century.

To religio-wingnuts, covid-19 is part of the mythical "end times".

Pronoun pandering is like a gateway drug to more serious insanities.

Here's how to get help in an emergency by pretending to order a pizza.

Despite a noisy minority, racism is still declining in the US.

This is why we need government to regulate business.

Blogger Bluzdude has had it with the anti-vaxers after a terrible personal loss made worse by their bullshit.

Criminal groups making fake vaccination cards are more widespread and sophisticated than you'd think, even entering recipients in the database of vaccinated people.  This means that some percentage of the cases we hear about of vaccinated people getting covid-19 may not be vaccinated after all.

The Wi Spa incident was a wake-up call.

The planned Sept 18 wingnut rally in Washington has a strongly anti-Semitic tone to it.

Biden's anti-pandemic measures were long overdue.  Big Bad Bald Bastard assesses the speech.

DHS worries that Afghan refugees in the US may become targets of domestic terrorism.

Here's why a philosophy teacher has quit Portland State University.

Wingnut blogs have been claiming that a recent report of Oklahoma hospitals being swamped with ivermectin-poisoning patients is false.  News Corpse did some digging and reports the truth (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

The Texas abortion law is outrageous.  Women and girls have a right to not be pregnant, period, no matter what the reason.  Always remember that the true root of the problem is religious extremism.  The law has no penalty for frivolous lawsuits, so.....

You may see this alleged quote by the developer of ivermectin insulting Dr Fauci, which has been going around on the wingnutosphere.  The quote is fake.

Assholes bullying a rape victim is the kind of thing that happens when ideology becomes more important than people.

He thought covid-19 was "bullshit".

Here again are sites where you can donate to help Afghan refugees.

Even here in liberal, highly-vaccinated Portland, hospitals are more swamped than ever by covid-19 patients, many of them young and almost all from the unvaccinated minority.

This guy could become governor of California with a small minority of the vote if the recall of Newsom isn't defeated.

Troll comments have surged this week, so here are links to my "to the trolls" posts (first post here, second here), and to the trans ideology resources list.

Some of the January 6 lynch-mob turdules apparently have impulse-control issues -- not too surprising.

This king was a man of faith.

Wingnuts always need to be at war with something, even if it's their own country.

An Arkansas doctor allegedly gave ivermectin to prison inmates without telling them what it was (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

This kind of thing is why citizens need guns.

Canada too suffers from right-wing government covidiocy.

Even in the UK, religionists are still pushing conversion therapy for gay people.

Meet the new misogyny, same as the old misogyny.

Remember when two million people literally stood together for their freedom.

Mexico's supreme court decriminalizes abortion, moving forward as neighboring Texas moves backward.

The Taliban celebrate a beheading.

China is a land of gross inequality and working-class misery, and its people aren't fooled by the regime's bogus economic statistics (as many Westerners all too easily are).

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

11 September 2021


09 September 2021

Video of the day -- why China can't lead the world

As I discussed a couple of years ago, if you want to understand China, imagine a version of the US where Donald Trump had absolute power and was able to run everything in the country exactly as he wanted, with no restraint or opposition, no criticism allowed, and no possibility of ever voting him out.  That's what China is like.  (See here as well.)  In this video, an American who lived in China for a decade explains why such a regime is not world-leader material, and can't be.  There are fundamental differences between a leader and a bully, and between a democracy (however imperfect) and a gangster-state; and the regime's claims of modernity and prosperity are largely a Potemkin façade, the same kind of bragging bullshit Trump was notorious for.  It's longer than most videos I post here, but well worth watching.

06 September 2021

Religious rigidity and cultural evolution

There exists a fundamental problem with religion (and with similarly dogmatic, quasi-revelation-based ideologies such as certain forms of communism and libertarianism), which I suggested tangentially in this post a couple of weeks ago:

In a religion, truth takes the form of immutable pronouncements from on high, which never change.  If new evidence later surfaces which is incompatible with those pronouncements, so much the worse for the evidence.  For example, the fundies' dogma of Biblical inerrancy keeps them stuck at the level of ignorance attained by those who wrote the Bible thousands of years ago.  Life was created as-is in six days, despite new evidence establishing evolution.  Noah's flood really happened, despite being proven impossible by geology and genetics.  The Egyptian captivity, the exodus, and the empire of David and Solomon were real, despite archaeological evidence that they are mere myths.  Truth, once proclaimed, is forever fixed and unalterable.

The issue I described in that paragraph is one form of a more general problem.  In any dogmatic belief system based upon an immutable revelation, it's not just knowledge of the universe that is "frozen" at the point in history when the revelation was received -- it's everything, including morality.

For example, in the time and culture when the Bible was written, homosexuality was taboo (more advanced societies at the same time did not have this taboo, but the specific, rather backwater culture in which the Bible was composed did), whereas slavery was considered moral -- indeed, slavery was a normal part of all complex societies at that time.  Today, the moral consensus has flipped -- in the world's more advanced cultures, homosexuality is now considered morally acceptable, but slavery is not.  It has been fairly easy to adapt civil law to the change -- governments have simply enacted laws against slavery and repealed the ones banning homosexuality.

But the Bible cannot be substantively modified.  Fundamentalist Christian sects which hold the Bible to be inerrant (and hard-line Islamists, whose sacred text is mostly drawn from the same source material as the Bible and contains a similar set of taboos), still insist that homosexuality is immoral.  As long as they hold the Bible to be inerrant, they cannot do otherwise.  Some more liberal Christian sects have dropped the taboo, but then need to explain away the numerous affirmations of that taboo in the Bible -- by claiming these do not mean what they obviously do, or are no longer valid for some reason (so that they are judging some parts of the Bible as no longer inerrant, with which parts being determined by the cultural values of their own time and place).  This enables them to be more modern and tolerant, at the price of philosophical incoherence.  If the Bible's pronouncements are to be judged case-by-case on the basis of present-day values, one might as well just go by those present-day values and skip the Bible entirely.

Note too that the same issue would arise if a new religion (or similarly dogmatic quasi-religion) were established today, fully consistent with modern values.  It would seem completely up-to-date at first, but would steadily fall more and more out of step as culture continued to evolve.  Slavery went from fully accepted for most of human history to being a moral abomination during roughly 1770-1870.  Homosexuality was still almost universally condemned throughout the West as recently as 1950, but today same-sex marriage is accepted by majorities even in backward areas such as the US South.  Meat-eating is still accepted as normative by most people, but moral concerns about it are beginning to gain a wider audience.  We today cannot know what other moral norms will change in the next century or two, or longer.  A sacred text and belief system fully congruent with the moral standards accepted by most readers of this blog, if it were fixed and unalterable like the Bible, would within a millennium seem as barbaric and outdated as Leviticus does to us -- likely far sooner.

It's obvious that human understanding of physical reality needs to be based on evidence, and that it will therefore continue to evolve as new evidence comes to science's attention.  But the same is true of pretty much everything else.  Religion is comforting to those who want fixed, eternal standards and values to live by.  But in the long run there are no such standards, and cannot be.

05 September 2021

Link round-up for 5 September 2021

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

o o o o o

How many cookies do you need?

A truckload of rice triggers a day of drama.

I don't think this is a standard medical procedure.

Look at it backwards.

See a dick pic from the dawn of time.

Airlander 10 is an aircraft made for photo-manipulation (found via Miss Cellania).

These sausages are so small.....

Annoyingly, cats fall asleep in the most inconvenient place.

Nineteenth-century British porn was, well, like this.

Be careful when you follow the masses.

Get lunch here.

God is in his Heaven, encased in a cube of gelatin.

The future isn't what was hoped for, and that may be a good thing.

I guess this was meant to be an anti-smoking ad (the French caption says "smoking is being a slave to tobacco").

Trae Crowder deals with the horse-dewormer nonsense.  Maybe we should try to promote a different horse accessory (found via Hackwhackers).  Or, just let it happen.

Here's how to do a pretty convincing home-made volcano, but frankly the first two brief simulations, and the bottle at 2:50, look to me like depictions of something else.

How can she be older than I am and look thirty years younger?

Green cat here, blue cats here.  Then there's this one.

Three species have fun together.

Most depressing explanation of UFOs ever.

One root, two words.

Your stories don't need to be for everyone.

Some are already counting the days to Halloween.  Very cool witch hats here.

Esme's Cloud is bedeviled by tales yearning to be told.

Wordifull Melanie defies a bully in verse.

Here's what the surf looks like from underneath.

This is Lofoten in Norway.

This is Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

This is the planet Jupiter.

Drip, drip, drip.

This animal exists.

Artists depict alien worlds.

The Lone Animator, creator of the "Ghooric Zone" video I posted last week, has made a panoramic portrait of the various critters appearing in the film.

Don't waste energy on trolls -- let them leave empty-handed.

An extra set of headphones can be very useful.

Why did God create people?

So many selfies.....

Shitty fake art is shitty.

Know what kind of plant you are.

See the work of a real artist who lived ten thousand years ago.

Learn the dramatic story of the Gimli glider of 1983.

In reality, the T-rex sounded very different from the roars heard in Jurassic Park.

Lo Imprescindible looks at Christian music (the video at the beginning is also pretty interesting).

Afghan street artist Shamsia Hassani evokes the evils besieging her country.

Easy-to-understand graphics illustrate how disease spreads, and why the delta variant is so much more dangerous than the original covid-19 (found via Nan's Notebook).

Why do we tolerate places that look like this?

Well-regulated militiamen train for battle (found via Hackwhackers).

Religion is baloney.

Holding your urine too long is unhealthy.

Education and learning aren't really well understood.

In 2020, renewable energy accounted for 21% of US electricity generation.  There's a long way to go, but we're making progress.

Did Joe Rogan really take ivermectin?

Interesting point here about the usage of the "Karen" slur.

With chronic pain, even a good day isn't all that good.

Republicans never miss a chance to be pointlessly evil.

Watch Bruce Gerencser's speech to Atheists of Florida -- from fiery fundie pastor to self-aware atheist.

No, you dingbat, you do not have "authority" over hurricanes.

This person exists.

Be the wet wood, not the dry kindling (found via Yellowdog Granny).  Remember who is vaccinated and who is not -- and who is filling up the hospitals, like this one in Idaho.  Save your sympathy for those who deserve it, not for those who suffer the consequences of their own stupidity (found via Miss Cellania).  Covidiocy is turning the red states into plague spots, making life unsafe for the few sane people there.

More covidiots here, plus a good chef and an old shark.

Religio-nutter self-pwns by "reviewing" book he didn't even read.

TRA nutter self-pwns by misunderstanding Harry Potter.

At least here in Oregon, hospitality workers' wages are improving as the shortage of willing workers starts to bite.

Ivermectin is becoming its own mini-pandemic.

It's very fortunate that Christians don't really follow the Bible.

Now these scumbags are defending sending rape threats to a 13-year-old.

It's 2021 and some people still literally believe in demonic possession.

Don't turn the Texas abortion law into a race or class issue -- it's a religious war on women, period.  And it's even worse than you've heard.  If you need an abortion, this information may help.  Or, claiming a psychological emergency may work.  The abortion snitch system is already being attacked by pro-freedom activists, and one "religious" group is fighting the law (found via Nan's Notebook).  Maybe it's time to boycott the state -- list of Texas-based companies here.   Momentum is building.  Biden has condemned the law, but what's needed now is concrete action.

Lyft and Uber say they will cover the legal fees of drivers who are sued under the Texas law.

Anti-abortion fanatics have no understanding of the circumstances which often drive women to seek the procedure.

The term "intersex" has been hijacked by ideology and should be abandoned.

What if people don't want a "career"?  (What sane person would?)

Teachers in Michigan face the dual threat of coronaviruses and deranged Trumpanzees.  In Pennsylvania, this asshole is even threatening the school board.

No, misogyny did not originate with colonialism.

Felony charges have been filed against the man in the Wi Spa incident -- who turns out to be a registered sex offender with prior indecent-exposure convictions.  Remember the names of all those "news" sites that claimed this incident didn't happen or was a hoax (links to some of their posts in this thread), and never, ever trust them again.

Nurses and doctors report from the covid-19 front linesHere is another.  It's no wonder so many are quitting.

Here is a dramatic time lapse video of hurricane Ida (found via Hackwhackers).  New Orleans is in a real mess.  It seems very bad design that the electricity for such a large area was dependent on a single tower.  Here are places to donate to help hurricane victims.

A California women's prison responds to the public backlash against mixing male inmates in with the women -- by suspending condom distribution.  Three of the four male inmates already in the women's prison are HIV-positive.

Anti-vax thugs in the South are threatening and attacking vaccination sites -- yes, even RedState disapproves, but check out some of the comments on the article.  These people are not about individual freedom of choice.

QAnon qrackpottery slowly fades away.

Is Rowling "transphobic"?

Covid-19 is surging disastrously in Hawaii -- as usual, almost entirely among the unvaccinated.

This is one of the US Marines killed in the Kabul terrorist attack.

Globally, at least 115,000 health-care workers had died of covid-19 as of May.

Seems a lot of Brits are getting tired of the narcissistic pronoun nonsense.

In Scotland, free speech gets prosecuted, but actual threats don't.

A covidiot campaign in Australia and New Zealand to get truckers to shut down those countries in protest of pandemic mandates -- much talked-up on some US wingnut blogs -- has fizzled out with little effect.

Stop legitimizing Islamist repression of women as "culture".

"The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women."  Any one of these women is worth a hundred sniveling Western Islam-apologists.

Culture?  The Taliban have just murdered a popular folk singer.  But the country they've just taken over is very different than when they ruled it twenty years ago.

Beware of fake news -- recent reports that the Taliban hanged a man from a helicopter are not accurate.  One refugee claims that they are raping dead women (with their penchant for executions, perhaps they anticipate a shortage of live ones?), but some right-wingers' assertions that Islam endorses necrophilia are based on misunderstandings of one hadîth and on a book, the Kanz al-'Ummâl, which Muslims do not accept as authentic.

A huge volunteer clean-up transformed a beach in India from a garbage dump to a safe turtle hatchery.

More here on China's "lying flat" movement.  In a totalitarian state, dropping out is the only safe way to rebel.  The regime is banning "effeminate" men from the media and otherwise trying to fascist-ize popular culture.

UN peacekeepers in Haïti left the locals a few mementos of their presence.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

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My own posts this week:  Afghanistan before Islamist extremism, effective freedom of speech, what religious rule in Afghanistan really looks like, and what's revolutionary about the Texas abortion law.

[Image at top:  Afghan artist Shamsia Hassani]

03 September 2021

Texas's revolutionary law

The extraordinary thing about Texas's new anti-abortion law isn't that it bans the procedure at such an early stage of pregnancy, or that it has no rape/incest exception.  Those are common features of wingnut laws in this field.  What's extraordinary is its provision allowing any citizen to sue almost anyone even remotely involved in an abortion.

A basic fact about how lawsuits have always worked is that the party filing the suit needs to have "standing" -- that is, needs to be able to claim some kind of direct harm from the action which the suit is about.  For example, if somebody owes you money and refuses to pay, you can sue him for the money because his refusal to pay is causing you direct financial harm.  Some random stranger who just heard that the person is refusing to pay up, and isn't owed any money but simply doesn't approve of the guy's behavior, can't sue, because he isn't affected.  This is necessary to prevent the court system from being engulfed in chaos.  If people with no standing could sue over things, then any action that becomes public knowledge and which a lot of people disapprove of could trigger millions of lawsuits.  Courts routinely reject lawsuits on the grounds that the person suing does not have standing to do so.

But this is precisely the norm that the new Texas law seeks to abolish.  It explicitly gives anybody in Texas (or even elsewhere in the country) the right to sue anyone who helps a woman in the state get an abortion, even if they are completely unaffected by her decision to do so.  The purpose of this provision was to make the law hard to overturn, since it's citizens and not the state who are empowered to enforce it.  That's bizarre enough.  But granting a right to sue without real standing is revolutionary.

If this provision is allowed to stand, it's hard to see what could stop other states from using it to destroy any business or interest which is politically unpopular locally.  Blue states could pass laws allowing any uninvolved citizen to sue gun stores or manufacturers if a gun traceable to them is used in a crime.  Anti-porn nuts could be empowered to sue porn websites out of existence even if they've never been affected by material posted there.  Any kind of enterprise or activity that a state government happens not to like could be harassed into oblivion at will by passing such a law.  And remember, even private individuals can be sued without standing under the Texas law, so if it is upheld and sets precedent, any private individual in any other state who does anything which enough state legislators disapprove of could be similarly made a legal target.

Unless the Supreme Court has completely abandoned precedent and the Constitution in order to become a handmaiden of theocracy -- and a number of recent rulings on other issues have not gone the way the wingnuts hoped -- it's hard to imagine it upholding this concept in the long run.

Notwithstanding the ensuing hysterics in the blogosphere, the Court's decision this week not to "freeze" the law did not constitute a de facto overturning of Roe v Wade.  Not even close.  The majority opinion clearly stated: "In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas's law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts," and it conceded that the clinics filing suit had raised "serious questions regarding the constitutionality" of the law.

If opponents of the law are smart, they'll focus on the lawsuit provision and the chaos that would result if it is upheld.  Because if it is, then the country is headed into uncharted -- and very turbulent -- legal waters.

02 September 2021

Video of the day -- this is what religious rule looks like

This video is from July, before the Taliban had overrun the whole of Afghanistan, but even then they had control in large areas and were showing their true colors.  They are now effectively the state -- their "courts" are real courts and their practices are law.

31 August 2021

Effective free speech

To defend effective freedom of speech, it is necessary to address certain rhetorical gimmicks which are regularly used to attack and undermine it.  Here are a couple of examples.

(To fend off time-wasting digressions, remember that freedom of expression refers to expression of opinion or artistic expression.  Things like threats, libel, doxing, and harassment are not freedom of expression and have never been protected as such.  Obfuscating the distinction is just another tactic the enemy uses to confuse the issue and undermine real free speech.  "Blasphemy" and so-called "hate speech" absolutely are free speech -- they are expression of opinion, however extreme.)

In cases where a corporation or other non-state actor tries to shut down the expression of an opinion, the enemy likes to claim that "that isn't a free-speech issue -- the First Amendment only prevents the government from silencing people, and this isn't the government".  The immediate issue, of course, is that freedom of expression is a general principle, whereas the First Amendment is a law relevant to only one country.  The two are not at all the same.  Freedom of expression is a value worth defending no matter where in the world it is under attack; no one claims the First Amendment applies in Afghanistan or China, but I still feel just as concerned about censorship of ideas there.

Beyond that, the claim repeats the classic libertarian error of believing that the only attacks on freedom that matter are governmental ones.  Libertarians ignore the power of corporations, religions, criminal gangs, and other non-state actors which in many situations pose a greater de facto threat to individual freedom of action than government does.  The same applies to freedom of speech.  Imagine you've been invited to deliver a lecture, to an audience which signed up to hear it, on a topic of importance to you.  As soon as you start speaking, some guy with a bullhorn stands up and starts bellowing hateful nonsense so that the audience can't hear you.  Your First Amendment rights have not been violated -- that guy isn't from the government -- but your freedom of expression certainly has been.

This point does, of course, raise the issue of the conflicting right of owners of platforms to refuse to provide a forum for views they find abhorrent.  The line must be drawn at the point where limitation of content becomes de facto prevention of that content being effectively made available at all.  At one extreme, the fact that I don't allow (for example) pro-censorship or anti-Brexit comments on my blog is not censorship -- a blog is clearly an online soapbox for the views of one person, no one else has any claim to any "rights" on it, and I am not preventing such views from being expressed more generally, since it's very easy for the person who wants to express those views to do so on their own blog or in some other context over which I have no control.  At the other extreme, it would clearly be wrong to allow internet service providers to censor viewpoints, since that would effectively block those views from being expressed at all.  The case of major platforms like, say, Wordpress or Tumblr is very close to this -- whenever they try to ban certain types of content, it generally results in strong pushback from users, and rightly so.

Another popular anti-free-speech gimmick is to frame the issue in terms of "consequences".  The enemy says, "you have the right to free speech -- you just don't have the right to avoid consequences for it".  In practice, this is defending "cancel culture", the practice of hounding and harassing people for expressing ideas that somebody doesn't like, getting them fired from their jobs, etc.  Of course, this is just the guy with the bullhorn shifting to pre-emption.  Somebody threatening you with harm if you say things they don't like is clearly trying to frighten you out of saying those things, in whatever forum, so it is an attempt at suppression of free speech.

In any case, we all know whose language this is.  It's the language of the gang of over-muscled pea-brains with baseball bats lying in wait for you in a dimly-lit parking lot.  "Yeah, the law doesn't stop you from being a flaming faggot any more, but if you act like one in public, there are gonna be --" slaps baseball bat against opposite palm with a loud thwack "-- consequences."  Even when the baseball bat is replaced by doxing and nasty letters to your boss and neighbors, the functional effect and moral status of the action remain the same.

If you're a typical reader of this blog, you really don't want silencing people by intimidation to become an accepted tactic.  Remember, a lot of the people who'd like to shut you up have guns, and you probably don't.  The proper response to speech you don't like is contrary speech, not threats or bullying.

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Eye update:  The visual disturbances have definitely subsided to some extent.  It's almost two weeks now since the original diagnosis, so I'm starting to feel less anxious about the risk of this proceeding to retinal detachment.  The disturbances remain annoying, though.  I can see OK, it's more a problem of constant aggravation and distraction.  I have a follow-up appointment with the ophthalmologist in a couple of weeks, so I should know then what the final outcome is.