21 August 2019

Quote for the day -- legitimately horrifying

"Americans are broken, brainwashed slaves of one of the shittiest hypercapitalist hell holes on Earth, but they think they have it better than everyone else because they're not taught about the rest of the world -- and if you explain some of the basic human dignities everyone else is afforded, well, they've been conditioned to scream 'socialism!' and shut down the conversation.  It's legitimately horrifying."

Tumblr blogger "The Learned Wobbly" (more context at the link) -- he's American, as far as I can tell.

20 August 2019

Video of the day -- Moscow Mitch, the musical

A tribute to everyone's least-favorite Senator, by "existentialist cowboy" Bruce W. Nelson (a.k.a. Mangy fetlocks).

19 August 2019


Today marks thirteen years I've had this blog -- one-third of my adult lifetime.  I can't think of any other project, of any kind, that I've stayed with for that long.  Some of us are just meant to blog 😈.

18 August 2019

Link round-up for 18 August 2019

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

o o o o o

Have some messaging humor.

At least if you work here, you're close to the freeway.

We could use a few good Nazi-eating catfish today.

Hackers threaten to seize control of your buttplug.

Very cool-looking cabin -- don't throw stones, though.

For the sinner on the go, it's insta-communion!

Here are 22 things worth knowing about Sweden.

If you meet someone who supports Texas secession (or a separatist white-nationalist ethnostate), show them this.

He wasn't satisfied with merely wearing a tinfoil hat.

Well, it's better than "In God we trust".

See what really happened to Epstein (found via Juanita Jean's).

STEM people and arts people are not natural opponents.  Think what a hellhole the world would be without science/engineering or without the arts.  Here's the real problem.

Whales can jump.

Explore the world of dog photography.

Sometimes you just want to be alone.

I like this guy's spirit.

Everything in the past was too big.  Thank goodness for mass extinctions.

"Revel in some darkfic.  Annoy a puritan."

No one else can see the world within you.

It's the moment before an immortal photo.

I like these surreal comic-format "Dope Rider" vignettes by Paul Kirchner.

Interesting discussion here on what women find attractive in fictional characters.

The Wizard of Oz was a subversive film for its time -- and don't forget the obvious meaning of the ending.

RO reviews TV cooking, cheesecake, and one other thing too gross to describe.  More wholesome items here, plus a couple of giveaways.

Attention all Trump supporters!  Destroy the evil liberal spy cameras!

No, there were not live stegosauruses in Cambodia one thousand years ago.  Here's the carving they're talking about.

Never forget how incredibly stupid some people are.

Evangelicals' complaints about Trump's profanity highlight the depravity of their value system.

Incels contemplate unorthodox dating strategies.

It's not the video games.  It really isn't.  Compare different countries.

The proliferation of streaming services is screwing up internet TV.

This anti-union businessman may have made a big mistake.

The media keep on pushing both-siderist bullshit, but they can't obscure the reality.

Trump listens to the big bankers -- he just doesn't understand them.

Twisted sisters?

Sometimes you can't just stay neutral.

One bigot's rantings failed to ruin this prom.

As Trump's crowds shrink, he sinks deeper into denial.  The remaining Trumpanzees are the hard-core cultists.

Some people don't understand car safety.

Gil Christner, the blogger behind Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, has died.

A new book has four disturbing questions about Christianity.

The Trump regime is trying to remove legal protections for gay and transgender people against discrimination in healthcare.  No matter what you think of those groups, such discrimination is unacceptable.  The post includes a link to send a message opposing the change.

Big Bad Bald Bastard warns my city not to be complacent in the wake of yesterday's failed attempt to start an alt-right riot.

A pastor contemplates the misery of Christmas.

Facebook is spying on you.

Cheer for Trump or get your pay docked.

This family's wealth grows by $100 million every day.

Understand the horror of Calvinism.

The authoritarian mentality is rooted in fear.

Fitness company Equinox struggles to deal with the fallout after news of its owner's fundraiser for Trump.

Darwinfish 2 looks at the Epstein suicide, regulation of social media, and spamments.

Gosh, who would have thought that supporting a bullying bigot makes you unpopular?

Ayn Rand was worse than you think.  A lot worse.

This is perhaps the iconic photo of Trump's toxic reign.

This 1945 "Guide to Command of Negro Naval Personnel" tells us a lot about that time (found via Notes to Ponder).

After the El Paso massacre, more and more Hispanics prepare to fight back.

Heather Heyer's mother has to keep her burial place secret to prevent desecration by alt-rightists.

22 states and 7 cities are suing to block Trump's fake energy plan.

I get comments like this too, and I also permaban the commenters.

There's probably not much we can do to reduce mass shootings.  Nan's Notebook and commenters consider some options.  Here's one thing that definitely won't help.

Boston police are destroying homeless people's wheelchairs.

Trump's Agriculture Secretary insults farmers whose business has been ruined by his trade wars.

72% of Americans support giving legal status to at least some illegal aliens.  57% support letting in Central American refugees, up substantially from last year.

Too many people did sleep through history class.

A lot of things are blowing up in Russia these days.

Japanese police do things differently.

South Korea approves the importation of realistic sex dolls, sending local bluenoses into a predictable scowling snit.

Far-right Catholic news website Church Militant bizarrely posted this flagrant pro-regime propaganda piece about the Hong Kong protests.  On my own post on the topic I got a spamment (rejected in moderation, of course) linking to an even more pathetic screed along the same lines.  Be aware -- clearly the Beijing regime's internet trolls are out in force trying to spin this.

Reminder:  the US is not the only country with frequent mass killings in public places.  Over there they use bombs instead of guns, but that's a trivial distinction.

The Saudi regime is trying to force a political prisoner to deny she was tortured in exchange for release.

India's Hindu-nationalist government is playing with fire in Kashmir, for political gain.

Western and East-Asian-owned denim factories in Africa are awash in sexual abuse.

Trump continues to insult fellow democracies while cozying up to dictators.

We need to fight not just to keep our House majority, but to expand it.

Yes, yes, every election people talk about Texas going blue and it hasn't happened -- yet.  But the state has been getting steadily more purple, and Republicans are starting to realize they have a problem.  Its political future hinges on one county.

Trump is following the trajectory of an earlier President (who also served only one term).

Warren can broaden her appeal by following the example of past winners.

A list of companies that support Trump is circulating (scroll down) -- I haven't checked this for accuracy.

Democrats can win big next year if we stay unified.

Here's an easy-to-search compedium of the candidates' positions on a wide range of issues (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Donation maps show where each candidate has the strongest support.

A former Republican explains why he'll vote for almost any Democrat next year.

Our chances in the Senate are looking better and better.  Harry Reid supports abolishing the filibuster (I explained here why this will be essential if we win there).

In spite of everything, there's one factor that could get Trump re-elected.

Business owners are open to Sanders's message when it's reported accurately.

Shower Cap reviews the Epstein suicide, Trump's Greenland fantasy, and the rest of the week's madness.

[941 days down, 521 to go until the inauguration of a real President.]

16 August 2019

Challenging the gangster regimes

The world's two largest mafia gangs -- the "governments" of Russia and China -- have recently come under challenge from some of their subjects.  These challenges are not likely to end well, but they serve as reminders of the long-term weaknesses of such regimes.

Since July, Moscow has been the scene of pro-democracy protests drawing tens of thousands of people.  The immediate cause was the official "disqualification" of non-toady candidates for local office (Russia still holds "elections", but de facto bars anyone not loyal to the regime from running), but the real fuel for the protests has been discontent with corrupt authoritarianism and lack of democracy at the national level.  The regime has called the protests "riots" and reacted with mass arrests and beatings, yet the numbers grow with each march.  The city has been put under what amounts to military occupation.  Polling shows 37% of people in Moscow supporting the protests, 27% opposed, and 30% "neutral".

So far the uprising doesn't seem to have spread beyond Moscow, but as Al-Jazeera explains:

In a highly-centralised state like Russia, the capital is possibly the only place that really matters when it comes to regime change.  It is indeed the peaceful revolution in Moscow in August 1991 that ended communism and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.  That revolution was preceded by two years of gigantic rallies with hundreds of thousands in attendance.  Today's protests are still a far cry from those, but they are growing.....

This may actually be the biggest threat to the regime yet.  The goal of the protests is explicitly not to overthrow Putin, but to restore real democracy so that Putinism would have to compete on a level playing field with other political forces.  There are some precedents for a peaceful transition from fascism to democracy (Spain, Portugal, Chile), and after years of total control of the media, Putin has secured enough popularity to be a viable force even in genuinely free elections.  But he must know that his popularity wouldn't last if the press were truly free to report on his regime's massive corruption.

The question is how determined the protesters are to press their case, and how far Putin is willing to go to stop them.  A really bloody Tiananmen-style crackdown might inflame far more people in the city and the rest of the country against the regime.  Many Russians consider Russia a European country, and they did get a taste of democracy, however bungled, in the years following the 1991 Soviet break-up.  They think their country should do better than naked Oriental despotism.

In the long run, Russia itself is at risk of disintegration due to ethnic and regional separatist movements.  Putin has succeeded in holding the country together by force, and even expanding it by seizing some Ukrainian territory, but if that force is taken away -- by Putin's death or a serious and visible weakening of the state -- the consequences could be far more dire than in a country unified by a genuine civil society and democratic institutions.

For almost three months, Hong Kong has similarly been the scene of mass protests, mostly in the tens of thousands but in one case reaching a turnout of two million.  The protests began over a proposed law which would have made it easier to extradite prisoners to mainland China, but have now shifted focus to the growing interference of the Beijing regime in Hong Kong's affairs.

Hong Kong has been part of China since 1997, but with local autonomy preserving many of the economic and personal freedoms which existed under British rule.  This has enabled the city to retain its prosperity and status as a major financial center.  Inevitably, however, the grossly corrupt gangster-regime on the mainland has coveted more direct control over such a dense concentration of wealth, while worrying that the existence of an island of freedom might give people in the rest of the country ideas.

Hong Kong's demonstrations have gotten more attention in the West than Moscow's, probably because Hong Kong's open society gives its people more skill at using social media and Western styles of symbolic protest.  As in Russia, the regime has denounced the demonstrations as "riots" and local police have resorted to increasing brutality; the regime has also claimed that the whole problem is being stirred up by foreign meddling, although there is no evidence for this.

Recently the regime has moved paramilitary forces to Hong Kong's border.  It undoubtedly hoped that the threat alone would intimidate the protesters into backing down, but that doesn't seem to be working:

Many of today's Hong Kong protesters are not driven by the hope of halting or undoing China's growing influence.  Instead, they feel this may be the last time they can ever freely express their opinion.  So while Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam recently warned that protesters could push the city into the "abyss," many locals feel that Hong Kong is already in free fall.  The people of Hong Kong, in short, feel they have nothing to lose.....

If the regime actually sends in troops to crush Hong Kong, then given the scale of the protests, the crackdown would probably be far bloodier than Tiananmen.  It would also impress itself far more vividly on the world's consciousness, in living color -- Hong Kong is much more open to the world than Beijing was, and the internet has made the flow of information and images far harder to control than in 1989.

How other countries would react is hard to predict.  Trump, to his credit, has at least urged restraint -- but his record of coddling despots like Kim Jong-un and Mohammad bin Salman and his general disdain for democracy argues that he would react less strongly than a "normal" US President would.  A crackdown might shock Europe out of its drift into a too-close relationship with China -- but remember how many craven and cowardly Western governments and companies slunk back into the regime's bloody embrace as soon after Tiananmen as they felt decency would allow.  There is an odd sort of racism which considers it somehow a normal and expected thing for Chinese people to submit to repression and tyranny which Westerners would never tolerate from their own governments, especially when inconvenient Chinese struggles for freedom interfere with someone's ability to make money off of grubby deals with the despots.

It has been argued that a Hong Kong crackdown would force the danger of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan onto the front burner.  If so, then given that the US ability to defend Taiwan militarily (and even its willingness to do so under Trump) are dubious, such a crackdown might open a debate in Taiwan about how to effectively deter an invasion -- inevitably raising the possibility of an independent nuclear deterrent.  This would certainly give the Beijing regime more pause than anything the West might do in response to crushing Hong Kong.

But historically the regime has always ended up dealing with persistent unrest by violence.  It would, at least, face little domestic backlash -- Hong Kong's wealth and privileges are widely resented in the much poorer and mostly-rural mainland.  A crackdown would show, once again, that the state rests purely on force -- and the rulers would be fairly comfortable with that.  The regime, after all, appears entrenched, invulnerable, and in solid control of its vast territory.  Just as the Soviet regime looked, for decade after decade.  Until it suddenly didn't.

14 August 2019

Tumblrgeddon rolls on

It's now eight months since the Tumblr blogging platform, at the instigation of its owner Verizon, banned most sexually-oriented content.  This triggered a tsunami of anger and ridicule from Tumblr's vast user community, many of whom began migrating to other platforms.  The motive for the ban was pretty explicitly that Verizon wanted to milk Tumblr for more cash by selling more ads there -- advertisers generally don't like buying space on platforms with NSFW material (though the numerous neo-Nazi blogs which also use Tumblr weren't banned or restricted).  Since the ban, Tumblr's traffic has fallen by one-third.  Several Tumblr blogs I used to read have vanished or stopped posting, even though most of them posted little or no NSFW material.

This week Verizon announced that it had sold Tumblr to Automattic (yes, that's how they spell it), the parent company that also owns WordPress.  It's been reported that the price was as low as $3 million -- astonishing if true, since Verizon originally paid $1.1 billion, but it seems clear that Verizon took a huge loss on the deal.  So the Tumblr community can celebrate the fact that, to at least that extent, they have been avenged upon their oppressors.  Automattic plans to keep the sexually-oriented content ban in place and "explore ways to integrate Tumblr and WordPress", a bizarre concept to anyone familiar with both platforms.

In other words, the sale will change nothing, or maybe even make the situation worse.  It's just another set of corporate grey men in grey suits ruling over a community utterly beyond their understanding, and screwing it up in random ways in pursuit of the obscene quantities of money which, to them, are what it's all really about.  MSM reporting will remain clueless, quoting CEO and business-analyst viewpoints while treating the Tumblr blogging community as an amusing menagerie of exotic beasts to be chivvied along in directions chosen by their corporate betters.

As I expressed at the time, in the long run user-owned-and-operated platforms like AO3 or Dreamwidth are the real solution to this problem, even if they cost a few dollars to use.  The platform I use, Blogger, is owned by Google but has so far escaped the plague of corporate meddling in content (users fended off an attempt in 2015) -- so I stay.  But if it does happen here someday, I'll be looking for a new platform myself, even though it's vanishingly rare that I post anything remotely NSFW here.  It's the principle of the thing.

13 August 2019

Asbestos in the World Trade Center -- How First Responders Suffered from Exposure

by Karen G.

When the towers of the World Trade Center came down they rained all kinds of harmful substances on the surrounding area.  Many people were negatively affected by asbestos and other materials from the buildings, but none more so than the first responders.  Some have died from related diseases and others are still sick. And they are still fighting for compensation and benefits.

Asbestos and 9/11

When skyscrapers like the World Trade Center towers are built, hundreds of different kinds of materials are used.  Many are toxic when disturbed and inhaled and the tragedy of 9/11 sent more than 400 of these into the surrounding air.  Among the damaging substances released into the air that day were cement and glass dust, PCBs, dioxin, lead, and asbestos.

Asbestos is a particularly insidious material.  Inhaling its tiny fibers can lead to serious illnesses that are fatal.  It was used in buildings like the World Trade Center mostly as insulation because asbestos protects against heat and fire very well.

When that material is disturbed, it releases the fibers that are needle-sharp.  Anyone in the area will inhale the fibers, which then stick in tissues in the airways.  This can lead to damage and, over years and decades, to lung scarring known as asbestos, lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma.  The latter is an aggressive, deadly cancer of the tissues around the lungs, almost entirely caused by asbestos exposure.

First Responders and Asbestos Illnesses

Many people were exposed to asbestos and the other harmful materials from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the following days, but those who experienced the most prolonged, riskiest exposure were the police, firefighters, and other first responders.

Some of these workers became sick quickly, but asbestos illnesses manifest over many years.  A study from 2017 investigated CT scans from over 1,400 first responders from 9/11.  The researchers found that about 25 percent of them had abnormalities in the pleura, indicative of asbestos exposure and that they may develop mesothelioma.  More workers from that day are expected to be diagnosed with asbestos illnesses in the coming years

Fighting for Financial Support

The first responders who worked on the scene of the terror attacks were supported through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  The fund was created to provide compensation for medical and other related expenses to those workers who were made sick by the materials released that day, including asbestos.

In June of 2019, as the fund began to run low and victim benefits were being cut, comedian and advocate Jon Stewart spoke before a congressional subcommittee.  He lambasted Congress for not showing up in greater numbers and for allowing the fund to slowly run out of money.

The fund was set to expire in 2020, but because of extended and long-term illnesses like mesothelioma, the victims still need compensation.  New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced a bill to extend the fund in October of 2018. But the bill stalled in Congress.  Stewart went to the hearing in an attempt to get a vote and to get the bill passed.

His efforts, and those of other activists and first responders, were rewarded.  Congress finally voted on the bill and agreed to make the fund permanent through 2090.  This ensures the victims of the toxic dust and asbestos fibers released on 9/11 will get the funding and benefits they need for decades to come.

11 August 2019

Link round-up for 11 August 2019

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

o o o o o

Here are some of the most arrogant people on the internet.  Then there's this bozo.  Honorable mentions here.

Keep the kids entertained.

I don't think this is what the designers of the table had in mind.

Finnish blog names are.....interesting.

Don't hog public transit.

Please respect our privacy (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

500-year-old giant piss sharks can get you drunk.

There exist people who would take this seriously.

A historic haunted dildo returns home after an auction (found via Mendip).

Old age has a few perks.

Have fun with a golf ball (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

A cat gets justice in the end.

2, 5, 9.

Solarpunk has an interesting aesthetic.

I liked this comic about an ambiguous giantess.

Australian birds are too damn smart.  New Zealand birds were too damn big.

An iconic photo turned fifty this week.

Sea animals dream.

Some decidedly eccentric shoe designs here (sent by Willie).

It's the "golden" rule.

This arrow can point only one way.

Ghidorah the three-headed monster suffers an existential crisis.

Air travel these days can be an epic adventure.

Don't put an octopus on your face (how do people get this dumb?).

"Without imagination there is no horror."

"You already killed them."

Nan's Notebook hosts a discussion on the (not so) great unwashed.

RO posts about driver's licenses, art, the most pretentious shoes ever, and various other stuff.

A Minnesota museum hosts an exhibit of art made from plastic trash.

Tumblr is still doing this crap.  Well, if Verizon is looking to sell it, maybe things will improve.

Animation fandom is under siege from puritanical hysterics.

This incredible ignoramus is the House Minority Leader.

The town of Vulcan WV once used a novel approach to pressure the state into replacing a collapsed bridge.

Here are some immigration facts worth remembering.

Sometimes people are more honest than they intend.

The boomers vs. millennials thing is a manufactured distraction.

Crazy Eddie celebrates World Lion Day.

Guillermo del Toro wins his star, and shows the flag a bit.

This documentary on The Satanic Temple looks cool.  Also check out the Temple's own site.

Some magnificent libraries here (click pictures to enlarge).

"I've answered the question."

You can find good people in rough places.

Kings are just glorified bullies.

The enemy is unhappy with at least one of Trump's judges.

With the benefit of millennia of advances in hygiene, these idiots choose to literally wallow in filth.

Amazon can't replace libraries.

Hackwhackers has cartoons for the week.

This lawsuit could cost Facebook billions.  Expect a hard fight.

Trump wants to "retaliate" against countries that issue travel warnings about the US.

Feral hogs are a bigger problem than you think.

I suppose this was inevitable -- bullet-proof school accessories.

John Pavlovitz, being a Christian himself, is all the more aware of the hypocrisy of the Evangelicals.

Sex workers' fight for decriminalization is starting to gain support from US politicians.

The "Christian Science" cult is dying out.

Here are the worst bugs to have in your house.

If you're considering leaving Mormonism, this service could help (here's their site).

It's not Trump's fault.  Nothing is ever Trump's fault.

Yes, some atheists believe dumb things, but the person who wrote this is still dumber.

Obama, too, once visited survivors of a mass murder.

Conservatism as a movement is dying, but it's not going peacefully.

This "app" could be useful for tense encounters.

Suicide was Epstein's final escape.  But his death will make it harder, not easier, to hide evidence against other pedophiles in his circle.

Being a Trumpanzee is bad for businessVery bad.

There's an easy way to hack corporate wifi networks.

A left-wing gun owner speaks out.

Advertisers are fleeing from Tucker Carlson's show.

Blaming video games is a long-established lie.

Looks like there's a bit of a breach between Trump and Fox News.

If you think large-scale gun confiscation is feasible, multiply this guy by a few tens of millions to get an idea of what you'd be dealing with (read the comments too).

The craptacular US health-coverage system is causing problems in Canada and Mexico.

Why do religionists engage in such obnoxious and ineffectual preaching?

Whoever supports the Republican party, supports this.

Past Supreme Court rulings prohibit many of the gun-control measures which have been suggested since the recent mass shootings (yeah, it's Fox, but the author is a judge and probably knows more about these issues than the average politician).

Trump used an orphaned baby as a prop in El Paso.  Overall his trip there was a disaster.

A former white nationalist explains why the problem is getting worse, and some things that can be done about it.

Sorry, this kind of shit is never going to be "normalized", even if your sympathizers manage to stop shooting people.

Women in sports lose out from "non-binary" nonsense.

Trump has pardoned the arsonists whose sentencing triggered the Malheur standoff.

A prestigious Catholic school was originally financed by slave-dealing.

The alt-right fetishizes losers.

Vaping may be linked to seizures.

Algae can be grown in deserts without needing fresh water, removes CO2 from the air, and has potential as a protein source.

There are lies being spread about the TMT project in Hawaii.

Here's why whales got so big.

There is probably life on the Moon now.

Rammstein's small pro-gay gesture in Russia has struck a nerve.

Moscow has seen a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations, leading Putin to put is own capital under what amounts to military occupation.

Spanish revolutionaries symbolically "executed" the Catholic Church in 1936.

Chile's experience shows the dangers of a "conscience objection" for medical staff from performing abortions.

The goals of BDS would mean the end of Israel.

An openly-gay man is running for President of Tunisia.

Yazidi survivors of the Dâ'ish (ISIL) genocide seek justice with German help -- though I don't think Europe can provide true justice to the perpetrators, since it doesn't have the death penalty.

India's Hindu-nationalist government hopes to settle hundreds of thousands of Hindus in its Muslim-majority Kashmir territory.  It has put Kashmir under a near-total communications black-out and used live ammunition to disperse protests.  Throughout India, right-wing groups are fomenting hysteria about the Muslim birth rate.

Mahatma Gandhi was a racist and a misogynist.

China has another option for retaliating against Trump -- step up oil purchases from Iran.

Are House Democrats going to start an impeachment inquiry, or are they already doing one, or what?  It's confusing.

Texas Republicans are in an embarrassing squabble over a secret recording.

Stop treating Williamson as a joke.

See which demographic groups support which candidates.  Six states have held polls since the second debate, and Biden has a comfortable lead in all six.

"Moderate" and "progressive" Democratic voters aren't really all that different.

The circular firing squads are already forming.  Cut it out and focus on Trump.

Looks to me like another political troll at work.  Always be wary!

The debate changed nothing -- real voters don't care about the stupid zingers and gotcha moments the pundits love.

Trump's re-election strategy makes any new gun laws unlikely.

Democrats who attack Obama are being foolish, perhaps fatally so.

Williamson won't be getting many votes from the disabled.

Shower Cap looks at gun control and Trump's photo op.

More links here.

Lately I've gotten a succession of rude, hectoring, and long comments (you the readers don't see them because of comment moderation), so I'm linking to this post, which may be of some interest to bloggers generally as trolling intensifies with the approach of the election.  And the trolls could save some wasted effort if they'd just read this.

[Image at top:  algae farm at Columbus, New Mexico]

09 August 2019

Quotes for the day

07 August 2019

Video of the day -- God and the Big Bang

The creation of the universe, explained in 24 seconds.

06 August 2019

Video games?

We've just been through three mass shootings in just a few days (don't forget Gilroy CA) and the wingnuts have been out in force blaming the murders on violent video games (Trump himself has repeatedly said this), gay marriage, "ignoring God", and various other right-wing bogeymen (this nutcase basically posted a laundry list of everything she doesn't like and blamed all of it for the shootings, without any hint of an actual causative mechanism).  The despotic mind-set never lets a good crisis go to waste, and they can't pass up the chance to exploit these murders in an effort, however forlorn, to turn people against the things they wish they could ban.

But their proposed hypothesis does not fit the data.  Most of western Europe has gay marriage and is far more secular than the US, yet rarely suffers from such large-scale murders (and in the few cases where it has, such as the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the Paris attacks of 2015, the perpetrators were most often religious fanatics with roots outside Europe).  Violent video games exist in many countries which suffer far less real-life violence than the US.  Japan has more violent and creepy imagery in its pop culture than any other country, but its murder rate is among the lowest in the world.

Conversely, in the Middle East, religion has a much more dominant role than in the US, there is no separation of religion and state, mass culture and entertainment are censored in ways similar to what the Christian Right and assorted control freaks would like to impose here, homosexuality is illegal in most countries and punishable by death in several, and gay marriage is unthinkable.  And mass killings of dozens of people at a time in public places occur with a frequency comparable to the US.  (They're usually carried out by car bombings or suicide bombings, not guns, but that's a trivial point -- dead is dead, and I can't imagine the choice of weapon makes much difference to the victims.)  Almost all of these attacks are carried out by religious fanatics targeting groups who belong to a different sect or have associated with foreigners or violated some taboo -- just as many of the mass killings in the US have targeted groups such as gays, Jews, or Hispanics who have traditionally been objects of bigotry.

Some mass killings in the US have been carried out by young men who felt alienated and resentful for various reasons and were lashing out almost blindly, but actually a lot of Middle Eastern terrorist bombers fit the same profile -- it's just that the nature of Middle Eastern culture makes it far more likely that such alienation and resentment will get channeled into religious intolerance.

There is a secularization process which happens in societies as they become more modern and economically developed, including growing acceptance of a variety of subcultures within society.  In Europe the process is nearly complete; the US lags behind Europe, Latin America is somewhat further behind, and the Middle East still more so, though progress is happening there too.  Spasms of mass violence seem to be endemic to cultures where the process is still under way, and dominant religious or ethnic groups feel under siege and are trying to re-assert supremacy by terrorizing groups they feel should be subordinate or absent.  I know much less about India, but it at least looks like the murderous riots against the Muslim minority in recent years, and the election of an openly Hindu-nationalist government out to re-assert the supremacy of the Hindu majority, could represent the same sort of backlash against a pluralistic and officially secular society.

But video games aren't the problem.

04 August 2019

Link round-up for 4 August 2019

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

o o o o o

Kittens!  And more kittens!

Coolest-looking courtroom drama ever, or maybe it's just a really weird ad.

Bad toy design.

Debra She Who Seeks looks at unicorns.

Wherever you're going, here's how to get there.

Here's an ad I can relate to.

Walled in!

Here are some drinks, food, and cars personified.

Some film students are kind of nutzoid, apparently.

"Why is nobody talking about this?"

Cathedrals in Europe are being used for fun things, since hardly anybody there goes to church any more, and the religious pearl-clutchers are in a raging snit about it.

There is such a thing as uranium glassware.

The miniskirts on Star Trek TOS had their own significance in the context of the sixties.

A recent book covers maps of imaginary places.

Some useful advice here.

Everybody should be like this.

Check out this awesome chart comparing the sizes of hundreds of spaceships seen in science fiction.  For the full-size version, click the "download" button at right.

These stolen wedding photos need to be returned to their rightful owners (found via Miss Cellania).

The "Pixar theory" is a good analogy for interpretation of the Bible.

Bishop Nephytos "hetero buggery causes gays" Masouras claims he's speaking for the saints.

Is Instagram displacing blogging?  I can't imagine it could ever be a real substitute.

Never trust someone who over-promises and doesn't deliver at all.

Samantha Bee delves into Russian election trolling (these days we rely on humorist/commentators to do the kind of analysis the MSM used to do).

An atheist blogger responds to a questioning Christian.

"Moscow Mitch" now has a theme song.

Tech experts know the score.

"Because people told me not to, and words are important."

Compare the US and Germany for raising a family (and scroll down for wingnut response).  The US is becoming a hostile environment.

John Barber died in Connecticut over 200 years ago under suspicion of vampirism.  Now his skeleton is telling us about his real life (found via Mendip).

Bastelmania is a blog I just discovered, showcasing the author's art and photographs of Düsseldorf where she lives.  The pictures of the Lambertus Basilica here are particularly spectacular.

Test your knowledge of religion with a simple quiz.  I got them all right except the one on Buddhism.

This kind of bullshit has nothing to do with "trafficking".  They're just harassing honest entrepreneurs.

The arguments against decriminalizing sex work collapse under thoughtful examination.

What if media pundits had always focused on "optics"?

The Catholic Church has a rapid-response team to offer support to priests accused of molestation (found via Joe.My.God).

Personal lifestyle changes do very little to fight climate change.  Focus on the fossil-fuel industry instead, and don't get distracted.

Read this post and especially the comments, and consider that millions of people actually believe that this gibberish describes the underlying reality of the universe.

Trump has found a new way to bully individual military personnel who displease him.

The New Yorker's whitewashing piece on Franken doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

A new book analyzes the Gospels and concludes that Jesus was mythical.

The Donner party met its ugly end because it refused the help of people who could have saved them.

Maybe Trumpism is a sort of adolescent rebellion for the elderly?

Some photographers are unbelievable assholes.

Wingnuts are actually making this stupid comparison.

A blogger who is one of Rep. Elijah Cummings's constituents has a few things to say about Trump's attacks.  Here's The Baltimore Sun's immortal editorial.

Maureen Dowd tries to talk sense to fanatics.

This is disgusting.  It reminds me of the Palin crosshairs ad and Gabrielle Giffords.

A prominent Christian author renounces Christianity, and the usual bullshit follows.  There's no forgetting the damage he did to people's lives while he was a Christian.

Michigan voters passed an anti-gerrymandering ballot measure 61%-to-39%.  Now Republicans are trying to overturn it (found via Shower Cap).

The Gilroy mass murderer was inspired by an antinomian manifesto from 1890.

This took a lot of guts, especially in 1886.

A Lutheran pastor declares US Christianity "a hollowed-out shell in search of a center".

Censorship backfires as an activist changes her views after seeing women silenced from discussing the Yaniv case.  "No one is aided by the trans activist lie -- not even trans people themselves."  (In case you missed it, I recently posted on this issue.)

If the government won't rein in the ghastly private prisons, maybe lawsuits can do it.

The Noah's Ark myth is a big part of why Evangelicals generally reject anthropogenic climate change.

Is it "happening here"?  Remember what really happened there.

Trumpism seems to be embracing the QAnon qrackpottery just as we're finding out how dangerous it really is.

The House takes a near-unanimous stand against the anti-Semitic BDS movement.

Globally, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded.

An anti-HIV vaccine appears effective in tests on monkeys, even against the toughest virus strains.  Testing on humans will likely take years, though.  A new drug, delivered via an implant that lasts a year, could block HIV transmission, but again, human testing will be painfully slow.

Gene editing is being used to treat sickle-cell anemia.

The huge variations in the aging process among different species suggest that it can be controlled.

New forest growth on Staten Island shows how nature reclaims garbage.

Britain just had its hottest day ever recorded.

Another religious nut, more homophobic yelling.

Finland is winning the war on fake news.  It's a lot of work, but the skills to differentiate verifiable information from bullshit will be useful in many areas of life.

Anti-gay bigotry is reaching murderous levels in Poland and Russia.  In Moscow, Rammstein offers a small gesture of defiance.

Russia has declared an emergency over huge wildfires in Siberia.

The Iranian theocracy must be really worried about Masih Alinejad, threatening women with years in prison if their photos are used in her campaign.

Hong Kong protesters have a (rather cumbersome) way of neutralizing tear gas.

Here's what the latest round of tariffs on China will mean.

Real witch-hunting still happens.

Economic and technological development is leading to a collapse of the female birth rate in some parts of India.

Ethiopia just planted over 350 million trees and has plans to plant billions more by October.

The Congo Ebola outbreak is taking root in Goma, a city of two million, and threatening to spread to Rwanda.

Voting is war.

Charlotte NC has been trying to get out of its agreement to host the Republican convention.

Samantha Bee talks with Amy McGrath about unseating McConnell.

Voting for Democrats won't make the country perfect, but will make it a lot better.

For Republicans, climate change is an electoral time bomb.

Must-read political post of the week:  there are some serious problems with the messages the Democratic candidates are conveying.  More here.

More independents now think the Democrats are too radical than think the same about the Republicans.

There's grounds for believing that morality arguments will be effective against Trump.  And his viciousness seems to be alienating suburban women.

This week's debates fomented worthless zingers and gotcha moments instead of substance, and egged on no-hope candidates to damage the ones who have a real shot at the nomination.  They were a Republican push poll in disguise.  But TPM takes a more positive view.

Russian and Republican trolls are at work -- if you see something that makes you want to turn against other Democrats, question it.

Those hundred-and-whatever House Democrats who "support impeachment" are actually supporting an impeachment inquiry (found via Fair and Unbalanced), which is really no different than what the House is already doing. It's not at all the same as actually impeaching Trump, for which support is probably much lower.  The MSM are creating a lot of confusion by treating an impeachment inquiry and actual impeachment as though they were basically the same thing.

Even if impeachment could remove Trump (and we're nowhere near the point where conviction in the Senate is possible), Pence might be harder to defeat next November than Trump.  Read the whole thing for a serious reality check.

A lot more House Republican retirements may be coming. They already include the party's only black House member.

Warren tells it like it is.

There's no room for magical thinking and gobbledygook in a serious political contest.

A good economy may actually help Democrats, not Trump, in the Midwest.

Shower Cap looks at Trump vs. Baltimore and "Moscow Mitch", along with the rest of the political madness.

More links here.

01 August 2019

Improving words (12)

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

Apollo:  A Spanish chicken worshiped by the ancient Greeks

Aspire:  The wrath of a certain type of snake

Assess:  A female posterior

Automaton:  A golden male cat who is also an Egyptian god

Ballad:  An advertisement for spherical objects

Carton:  2,000 pounds of vehicle

Codification:  The act of transforming something into a codfish

Controlling:  The act of harassing prison inmates on the internet

Despot:  To remove small markings from an object

Disembark:  The sound dogs make to express contempt

Exclaim:  A former assertion

Fanfare:  The charge to ride the spinning air-blowing device

Forego:  In favor of self-centeredness

Generator:  Someone who evaluates chromosomes

Hoarse:  The rear end of a British prostitute

Iodine:  To eat one of the moons of Jupiter

Jarring:  A container of jam small enough to wear on one finger

Mandrill:  Vigorous male thrusting

Preamble:  To wander around in advance

Provision:  In favor of the ability to see

Pungent:  An honorable man fond of wordplay

Repose:  To get into position for the artist again

Season:  A male child of the ocean

Stagnation:  The country of male deer

Transparent:  A mother or father who self-identifies as the opposite gender

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

31 July 2019

Video of the day -- where religions come to die

Of all the videos I've posted over the years, this one is probably my favorite.  Posting again for newer readers who may not have seen it.