23 April 2019

The real and the abstract

Individual humans are real; they exist as physical organisms occupying space and having thoughts, feelings, and awareness.  Societies and nations are abstractions that have no existence apart from the will and belief of the individual humans that comprise them.  They have no reason for being except to serve the needs and wants of those individual humans.

To speak of some individual humans as being a "burden on society" is as insane as speaking of how much faster buses could travel their routes if they didn't need to carry passengers, or how much more efficiently a hospital could function if it just got rid of all the patients.

One of the most valuable things about being an atheist is that I know my life's purpose is decided by me alone.  My life is not cluttered up with some "plan" or "higher purpose" imposed by a "God" -- or in reality, of course, by those humans who claim to speak for that God.

"Society" is not an entity or an organism.  It is an abstraction, a word we use to quickly refer to a network of relationships among a vast number of distinct individuals.  Society and the nation exist for you, not you for them.  To believe otherwise is mental slavery to those humans who claim to speak for an abstraction.  It's the man behind the curtain brainwashing you with intimidating slogans and images so you'll obey his will instead of your own.

21 April 2019

Link round-up for 21 April 2019

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

o o o o o

The tinfoil-hat contest has a winner!

There are reasons why we don't use seeing-eye cats.

Harold is gonna be a rebel.

Don't miss the alligator and the pumpkin.

Yes, your cat is the boss, but.....

Now this is how you quit a job.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Does natural selection still work on a technological species?  Does stupid behavior still reduce an organism's chances of reproducing?  You be the judge.

Let's discuss the hard questions about Frankenstein's monster.

Ranch Chimp celebrates the Mueller report in his own style.

If you liked my previous post, here's another horrid animal.

The Captain America character has a history.

How did "420" get its modern meaning?

There exists a semen-obsessed cult of magical orgasm avoidance (yes, really).

If Trump sends migrants to the sanctuary cities, housing is available.

Fiction sites on the internet are not a "safe space", nor should they be.

Here's an important reminder for racists.

This church is offering a miracle cure for 95% of all illnesses (found via Nan's Notebook).

"No, he doesn't want that."

Unseen, they listen.

Here's the origin of the expression "riding shotgun".

Avoid being useful, and maybe they'll leave you alone.

How is it possible for Christians to be unaware of contradictions in the Bible?  These things are blindingly obvious.  Don't they read it?

The internet is drowning in ads.

How much of a sacrifice was it?

This school needs to do some educating.

Even kids' watches can be a threat to privacy these days.

Church membership in the US is plummeting, especially among Hispanics.

The ban-abortion crowd's newest heroine may not be quite what she seems.

New York authorities crack down on the religious institutions fueling the city's measles outbreak.

Congress has a sexual harassment problem.

Wingnut laws will make terrible situations even worse.

Evangelicals insist that their 2,000-year-old book about goat sacrifice and talking snakes is the best guide to how artificial intelligence should be used.

Don't count on the media to report anything worthwhile about the Green New Deal.

There is a more profound pathology lurking behind Trump.

Lo Imprescindible looks at banned and challenged books, inspired by Karen Pence and a gay rabbit.  Found thereby, these lists of most-challenged library books year-by-year.

Republicans, the party of disease.

Arizona finally repeals a backward law.

This kind of thing is ruining American education.

Across America, fundies are trying to force their doctrines on the whole society.

Bluzdude debunks some right-wing internet propaganda.

Reality-denial eventually turns totalitarian to sustain itself (found via Aunt Polly).

Students walk out to protest Pence -- at a Christian university.

Republicans think Americans are stupid and don't deserve what other nations have.

No, science and religion aren't reconcilable.

Joanne Chory has a new approach to fighting global warming.

This is how far robotics has come in ten years.

Anti-science ideology does exist on the left, though it's not as bad as rejecting evolution and global warming.

Over half the chicken meat at supermarkets is tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria (and this is in Germany -- just imagine what it's like in the under-regulated US).

Violent bigotry is on the rise in France.

Here's some perspective on the Notre Dame fire.  Stop it with the whataboutism.  Don't fall prey to superstition, or conspiracy paranoia, or to nonsense about all the fake kitsch that was stored in the cathedral.

Gangster regimes fear the free flow of information.

Arab Israelis are more progressive than you might think.

Iranian atheist blogger Kaveh Mousavi explains why declaring the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization is a bad idea.

Have you chosen a candidate yet?  Here are five obstacles Buttigieg will need to overcome, and watch how the story of the Darryl Boykins tapes plays out.  Remember, he once wore something very different from that white shirt and tie.  Bryan Fischer joins in the religious hysteria over him.  Oh, and this person exists.

Trump actually showed some human decency here, but he still shouldn't be President.

Guard against purity tests and rigidity from all sides.

Ocasio-Cortez isn't kowtowing to the oligarchy.

Roy Mo[lest]ore is back.

Warren is the candidate of ideas, so why isn't she polling better?

Maybe it's a good idea for our candidates to go on Fox News.

Forget about Swalwell.  He doesn't get it.

Kiko's House has 22 takeaways from the Mueller report.

Shower Cap looks at Notre Dame and the Mueller report, with tons more insanity in each post.

More links here.

18 April 2019

More animals

In the last couple of months I've put up two posts of cat pictures -- and while cats are traditionally the flagship animal of the internet, it's time for some representation for some of the other animals that share this world with us.  So herewith.....

.....humanity's oldest companion, the loyal dog:
(domesticated twenty thousand years ago, long before any other animal)

.....our most powerful war machine for millennia, the mighty horse:

.....our close cousin, the intelligent and sexually-perverted orangutan:

.....the aerially proficient and excessively-large albatross:

.....the sinuous and endlessly-fascinating snake:
(bringer of freedom and enlightenment in the Garden of Eden myth, demonized and shunned ever since)

.....the weird but majestic hammer-headed shark:

.....the ubiquitous and frustratingly-hard-to-exterminate rat:

.....and its perennial trusty companion, the disease-bearing flea:

.....the tiny but industrious leaf-cutter ant:

.....the large and somewhat scary-looking eurypterid:
(yes, this is real, but don't worry, they're all dead)

.....the slow, slimy, slithering snail:

.....the horrifying Amazonian giant centipede:
(those are centimeters, not inches, but still.....)

.....the sinister buzzing tropical anopheles mosquito:
(bearer of the monarch of human-killing diseases, malaria)

.....the indwelling parasitic tapeworm:

I apologize for not making this post realistically representative; for example, the world has more than a thousand times as many beetle species as mammal species, yet I've included four mammals here and not a single beetle.  Still, I hope I've provided a sense of the wondrous variety of the animal kingdom as it extends beyond the familiar domain of felines.

And no, in case you were wondering, I don't actually like animals very much.

16 April 2019

An early reminder

Found via Olofa, where a couple of other bloggers observe:

"Vote Blue.  Perfection is not the goal.  Avoiding Republican plunder and fascism is the goal.  A third party candidate will never appoint a Supreme Court Justice.  A third party vote is giving Republicans the courts and the judges.  That's the reality."

"Americans have a choice and it is Donald Trump, or not Donald Trump.  We are fighting to save our country and ourselves from the most dangerous administration in history, and a vote for anyone who is not the Democratic nominee is a vote for ignoring climate change, tearing immigrant families apart, putting children in cages, and fascism.  If I have to keep going to help you understand why this election is about setting aside your purity tests and voting to save America for our children and ourselves, I don't know what else to do."

14 April 2019

Link round-up for 14 April 2019

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

o o o o o

Bluebird of Bitterness observes Library Week with signs, humor, and book spoilers.

Please support this worthy cause.

British place names are unique (found via Miss Cellania).

Who the hell comes up with these ridiculous clothes?

I like these innovative interpretations of the Bible.

As blogger Tengrain likes to say, birds are jerks.

A prudish prig vandalizes a dentist's Easter display (found via Scottie).

Donna at Tell Me a Story looks at obscure words.

Debra She Who Seeks presents the entries in her tinfoil hat contest.  You still have until midnight Monday to vote on the final winner.

Jono has some seasonal imagery, from a place (Minnesota) with real seasons.

If you like long legs, you'll love this picture.

Back then it was a golden calf -- today.....

A radical cleric has issued a fatwa calling for an assassination.

AO3 should be a model for the future of the internet.

We are now 23.1% of Americans, and growing.

Well said, indeed.

This person exists.  And this person exists.  And this person exists too.

Vine died because it wouldn't accommodate its most creative users.

This probably won't happen, but it should.

Thomas Paine knew a bad book when he saw one.

Religious crackpottery is behind the big measles outbreak in New York City.

The "war on Christmas" is a lie back up by lies.

One is well remembered, the other won't be.

Scottie has another great round-up on religion.

The film and TV industry starts pushing back against Georgia's draconian anti-abortion bill.

Christianity has a revolting obsession with blood.

I guess evil is OK now?

For those who were formerly religious but no longer are, Nan's Notebook has some questions.

Must-read post of the week -- Assange is an utter monster responsible for many innocent people's deaths.

Poverty stalks our wealthy land (read the comments too).

American women are subject to horrific religious control-freakery.

The Mormon Church dials back its bigotry just a bit, not enough.

"True power is the right to be cruel. True freedom is the power to deny freedom to others."

Meeting in the middle isn't always desirable.

Ex-Pope Ratzinger blames the epidemic of priestly child-molesting on gays, the sexual revolution, and "the absence of God" (in the Catholic Church???).

Jerry Coyne debunks some "secular humanism is a religion" nonsense.  It's almost too easy a target.

Even on the left, beware of corruption.

A mass grave from the Chicxulub impact has been discovered in North Dakota.

I've been saying this for years -- humans are just not suited to long periods in space (found via Miss Cellania).

The new black hole image is triggering the incel/MGTOW types.  The photo of Katie Bouman's hard drives evokes a historical comparison.  Some people don't quite grasp the technical aspects.  Here's some real background on the image.

A Muslim sociologist explains how to beat your wife (but with a boy playing the role of the wife.....hmmm.....).

Chinese influence in Zambia arouses opposition.

South Africa has been plagued for months by rolling electricity blackouts, and they're going to get worse.  Corruption and shoddy construction in new power plants seem to be the causes.  Johannesburg blogger Arkenaten has been offline for a month due to a long blackout plus thefts of phone/internet cables which haven't been replaced (scroll down to later comments).  The US can't point fingers given how long the power was down in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria, but when this happens in the largest city in the country.....

Biden has a bigger problem than the touchy-feely thing.

Trump is the living culmination of right-wing hate and stupidity.

The 2020 debate must engage wage stagnation and inequality.  Booman argues that if the left goes all-out to make the US a normal Western country, the business world may embrace fascism, setting up a fight we dare not lose.

Voters are with the Democrats on most issues.

Buttigieg now polls in third place in New Hampshire and Iowa.  Some wingnuts are getting a bit concerned about him.  Tony Perkins and Erick Erickson are freaking out Biblically.

Shower Cap reviews Trump's immigration flailing and self-pwning wingnuts.

[Image at top:  The black hole in context, in the midst of galaxy M87]

12 April 2019

Improving words (9)

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

Alternation:  A country that constantly changes

Asphalt:  A place where a certain type of snake is required to stop

Barbarian:  A librarian who also does haircuts

Bullion:  A male cow with some of its electrons missing

Damage:  How old the river barrier is

Defile:  To remove something from the documentation cabinet

Depict:  What the Romans wanted to do to Scotland

Discover:  The record has finished playing

Discrete:  To insult the largest Greek island

Dormant:  A small insect infesting student housing

Dungeon:  A long time period characterized by manure

Farther:  If you do this, she will end the date due to the smell

Fatally:  An overweight comrade

Freezing:  A zap you don't need to pay for

Furlong:  Your dog needs a haircut

Invader:  Swallowed by a Star Wars villain

Lovestruck:  The hauling vehicle of affection

Penultimate:  The supreme writing instrument

Prevent:  To let off one's anger in advance

Province:  The opposite of convince

Rebuttal:  What you need after laughing your ass off

Rummage:  A sorcerer who needs Caribbean-style alcohol to work his magic

Sonnet:  A mesh for catching male children

Warrant:  A tirade about battle


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

10 April 2019

Video of the day -- Bill Maher and Mayor Pete


I don't agree with everything that's said here, and toward the end Maher's interruptions get a bit annoying -- but I'm beginning to see the appeal of this guy.  He is about as much the opposite of Trump as it's possible to be.  He obviously thinks on a deeper level than the usual clichés and ideology, and can extemporize complex ideas in clear language.  Toward the end he makes a point I've long felt is very important -- that freedom is fundamentally a value of the left, and that right-wing libertarianism is profoundly wrong to think as if only government can infringe on personal liberty.

On the other hand, saying he thinks a lot and is good with words is, for me, basically just saying "he's my kind of people".  It's hard for me to judge how much he'd appeal to the great variety of other kinds of people who make up a whole nation.  But when an openly-gay man wins re-election with over 80% of the vote in a city in Indiana -- well, there's something there.

08 April 2019

Could Buttigieg make it?

The recent surge of interest and support for Pete Buttigieg appears to be real, if a bit overhyped.  Most mainstream pundits still consider him a fringe candidate, not in the same league with the "serious" names like Biden or Warren.  But I'm beginning to wonder if he might be just the man for the times.

This is not a period friendly to conventional candidates.  Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016 were both, in their own (very different) ways, outsider/insurgent candidates.  Neither was expected to win his party's nomination; both did so by beating mainstream, conventional candidates.  The smart money was on Hillary and Jeb in those races.  The smart money was wrong.

In general elections, too, there is a constituency for insurgency for its own sake.  These are the people who, to the bafflement of some pundits, voted for both Obama and Trump.  As Electoral-Vote puts it (question 6):

Obama-Trump voters appear to be Republicans (and some disaffected centrist Democrats) who felt the world had crapped on them, and so wanted to vote against "the establishment" and for "change."  To them, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton all represented "the establishment" and Barack Obama and Donald Trump seemed to be outsiders who might shake things up.  The Obama-Trump voters will have an interesting choice in 2020, because Donald Trump certainly did shake things up, but not in a way that helped them.  Some of them will stick with Trump due to the culture wars, which at least makes them feel less bad about the world crapping on them.  However, we doubt they all do.

It seems unlikely that Biden or even Warren would appeal to these voters.  Buttigieg, as the mayor of a small Indiana city, has a better chance of convincing rural red-state voters that he understands their problems (don't worry, he is one of us -- both his parents were Notre Dame professors).  His policy positions are pretty much those of the Democratic mainstream, but the outsider or insider status of the candidate putting forth such stances matters a lot to how these voters perceive them.  I don't expect him to win over the broad mass of Trumpanzees.  No Democrat will do that.  But being able to win 5% or 10% of them instead of 2% might make the difference in carrying a few critical states.

The obvious question raised by his candidacy is, of course, whether America is ready for an openly-gay President.  But in 2008 there were similar concerns about a black candidate -- and while the country has shown itself since then to have a lot more and worse racists than most of us suspected, I don't think Obama's race actually cost him many votes.  The kind of person who would refuse to vote for a black man probably wouldn't vote for any Democrat.  I think the same argument applies here.  There are plenty of fundies and bigots who would never vote for a gay candidate -- but they probably wouldn't vote for any other Democrat either.

But isn't he too inexperienced?  As with Obama, about whom the same issue was raised, Buttigieg's high intelligence can somewhat compensate for this.  And while his role as a mayor is on a lower level than the Senate, at least he's been a chief executive of something, which Obama had not.  His history as a Navy veteran and intelligence officer in Afghanistan adds some gravitas, as well as countering the feeling some voters may have that a gay candidate is less "manly". 

Isn't he too young?  Well, he'll turn 39 just before inauguration day in 2021.  That's pretty young, but it's hard to imagine anyone who otherwise favored him balking too much at that.  39 is by no means immature (Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister whose response to the Christchurch terrorist attack was widely praised, is 38).  And there's another issue here.

The Republican party is already taking steps to "lock in" Trump as their 2020 candidate, making a successful primary challenge almost impossible.  And Trump is showing increasing signs of dementia.  The election is 19 months away.  It's likely that during that time Trump's mental condition will continue to deteriorate visibly, and will even become a major issue as the election approaches.  This will (a) alarm voters who lean toward Trump but aren't part of his core support, making it easier for our side to win with a "risky" unconventional candidate; and (b) make age in general a more salient issue.  Biden and Sanders are both several years older than Trump, while Warren is not much younger.  All of them are clearly of sound mind now, but Trump's deterioration will make voters wonder whether they can be depended on to remain so through a four-year Presidential term.  An older nominee might prevent us from capitalizing on what will be seen, by then, as one of Trump's most alarming weaknesses.

Buttigieg isn't the only candidate recommended by that factor, of course.  We have several candidates under 60.  But I think age will be a bigger liability than youth.  Older politicians tend to have baggage from earlier times -- behavior or ideas which are no longer acceptable, as Biden's touchy-feely problem exemplifies.  And we're constantly fretting about how to boost turnout among younger voters.  A younger candidate might help.

If Trump dies in office, or is impeached and removed, our candidate will be running against Pence instead.  Buttigieg would, at least, present the most stark possible contrast with a Bible-thumper.

Finally -- well -- isn't his name too weird?  Remember that until Obama, every President had had a family name originating in either the British Isles or the Netherlands.  The thought of "President Obama" sounded bizarre -- until he won the nomination, and people had time before the election to get used to the idea.  Buttigieg's name reflects his Maltese heritage, which is unusual and interesting, but not (except to those die-hard bigots who would never vote for a Democrat anyway) off-putting.  I doubt it will lose him any voters who would otherwise have supported him.

07 April 2019

Link round-up for 7 April 2019

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

o o o o o

People interact with statues.

Bluebird of Bitterness has some bird images and visual puns.

Bluzdude livens up office life a bit.

This thing needs a warning label.

He stole the mountaintop.

Old shark is old.

Check out these cloud pictures.

Some good advice here on writing.

Appreciate Oscar the Grouch.

Wages have stagnated for 40 years, but prices haven't.

Here's how DuckDuckGo makes money without spying on you.

Work has changed.

Which one is really offensive?

Trump denounces a judge who doesn't exist.

It's not millennials who are "killing" everything.

The latest anti-vaccine eruption brings a nuttier-than-usual wingnut out of the woodwork.

Congratulations, you made the top ten!

It is still prejudice -- and bullshit.

Some "feel-good" stories reveal a cruel reality.

This kind of bullshit is what makes the bad guys the bad guys -- don't sink to their level.

Our cities are full of monuments to ignorance.

The Republican war on women is real.

Insane laws have terrible consequences.

McDonald's surrenders in the minimum-wage fight.

Nan's Notebook has a message for Trump supporters (they won't listen).

No, legal prostitution does not cause an increase in sex trafficking.

This mentality is evil (found via Scottie).

The fruits of the anti-vax movement spread across the US.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a religious cult and doesn't work.

No, the Navy does not have invisibility or time travel.

Chronicling even three days of Trumpian outrages is a pretty big task.

If moral issues won't stop you from eating pork, maybe this will (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

I haven't paid much attention to the college-admissions scandal, but this seems like a good overview of it.

Max's Dad visits Notre Dame, and finds a Presidential candidate he likes.

As long as they have the ability to do this, I will never use e-books.

The Trump era is shaping the voters of the future.

A reputation for bigotry is bad for business.

The world has been made ridiculous.

The horrifying Valerie Plame case reminds us that some Republicans don't believe in the concept of abuse of power.

This CEO believes capitalism is committing suicide.

Booman has some interesting discussion on why Trump is bad at strategy and negotiation.

New transitional fossils shed light on whale evolution (and creationist dumbth).

Britain's Labour party takes a step to crack down on anti-Semitism.

A New Zealand blogger posts on the Christchurch mass murder.

Book-burning is forever the hallmark of the barbarian.

There is such a thing as a major difference between cultures.

Turkey's religio-authoritarian ruling party has lost elections in the country's main cities -- and doesn't want to accept the result.

The modern mind is naturally revolted by defenses of scripture.

The world's largest democracy is about to hold a national election, with women voters taking a growing role.

Please keep this important reminder.

Maybe Congress needs more waitresses and fewer crooked lawyers and businessmen.

Here's yet another difference between the two parties.

Elections have consequences, as Democrats fight back.

I don't think Biden quite gets it.  When 23% think your behavior is disqualifying and 21% aren't sure, that's actually not so good.  He may just be the wrong man for the times.

This kind of carelessness is amateurish and inexcusable.

Shower Cap reviews the week, and writes his longest post ever.

More links here.

04 April 2019

Quote for the day -- sex gone sour

"Unlike Winston, she had grasped the inner meaning of the Party's sexual puritanism.  It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party's control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible.  What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship. The way she put it was:  'When you make love you're using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don't give a damn for anything.  They can't bear you to feel like that.  They want you to be bursting with energy all the time.  All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour.  If you're happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?'

"That was very true, he thought.  There was a direct intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy.  For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force?  The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it to account."

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

o o o o o

Think about it.  Authoritarian religions, and authoritarian political movements like fascism and communism, are almost always sexually puritanical, prudish, and repressive.  This is not a matter of chance.  It's because of something very fundamental that the enemy intuitively understands.

02 April 2019

Random observations for April 2019

If people are determined to be pessimists, there's really not much you can do for them.

o o o o o

I have smelled pig shit.  And yes, as people say, it does smell a lot worse than other kinds of shit.  And cigarette smoke is still far worse.

o o o o o

I accept no man as my equal who does not accept women as his equals.

o o o o o

From the viewpoint of living through it, the Trump administration looks like a disaster.  From the viewpoint of ten or fifteen years from now, it will look like a speed bump.

o o o o o

No compromise with prudery.  The re-sexualization of the public space is an integral part of the liberation of Western culture from the influence of Abrahamic religion.

o o o o o

I don't actually support this, but one could make a case that people who advocate censorship -- "hate speech" laws, or whatever kind of restrictions on free speech -- should simply be prohibited from saying or writing anything in defense of their position.  It's no different from what they want to do to others.

o o o o o

Sometimes individuals belonging to groups which are targets of bigotry are also bigots themselves. There exist black anti-Semites, gay racists, Jewish homophobes, and probably every other permutation imaginable. None of that makes any of the bigotries excusable.

o o o o o

One could argue that only atheists truly behave morally, since they do good because it is good and abstain from evil because it is evil, not merely because they anticipate reward or punishment in an afterlife.

o o o o o

Leaders come and go.  Political parties come and go.  Nations come and go.  The essential struggle continues.

[For previous random observations, see here.]

31 March 2019

Link round-up for 31 March 2019

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

o o o o o

Any noun can be verbed.

It will probably elope with the roomba.

There are many visions of The Last Supper.

Debra She Who Seeks has stylish tinfoil hats and a contest (for blog followers).

Baptist services may be more interesting than we think.

Architects shouldn't drink on the job.

German TV personality pwns aggressive fans.

The Mueller report came as a shock to one foreign leader (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

A man in California is waging a mannequin war.

Good doggie, please don't get sick.

It's rush hour in Minnesota.

Morons set sail for Antarctica, plus a surprise from Fox News.

Mike at Billions posts a round-up of Trump images.

Here's what The Avengers (the recent superhero-movie ones) are called in China.

The moray is the Alien of fish.

Buenos Aires boasts this magnificent bookstore.

Sixpence Notthewiser reviews Call Me by Your Name (slightly NSFW).

One Victorian-era paper celebrated tough women.

This is twilight.

You don't need to win assholes' approval or play by their rules.

Beware of religious propaganda in disguise.

Three cheers for the FTC in this case.

A contemporary song suggests how the suffragists were viewed by the culture of the time.

Texas Republicans fight to empower bigotry.

They are what they are, regardless of the "reasons" (found via Scottie).

Always fight against censorship -- and remember that avoiding content you don't like isn't censorship.

This is the government now.

Customer-service surveys often just fuel corporate shittiness toward employees.

32 Colorado counties have declared themselves "sanctuaries" against a flagrantly-unconstitutional seizure law (found via Scottie).

And speaking of flagrantly unconstitutional.....

Get rid of your lawn.

Cute guys get harassed too.

Despite propaganda, more Americans than ever before understand the reality of global warming.

This film on Islam sounds pretty honest.

Capitalism didn't build that.

Here's a protest informed by experience.

This is how a real patriot talks.

Robert Reich explains how giant tech companies stifle innovation in the US.  Our monopoly economy is bringing the same kind of stagnation and centralized power as the Soviet system did.

This Wyoming school's responses to bigotry are scandalous (found via Scottie).

The Reefer Madness hysteria over opioids continues to have disastrous results.

This man spent 36 years in prison for a crime it's now known he didn't commit.  These two spent even longerWe must never erode or compromise the presumption of innocence and other defendant protections, no matter how tempting it seems in some cases.

This British scientist is trying to develop a safe substitute for alcohol.

A new treasure trove of Cambrian fossils has been discovered in China.

I tend to be skeptical of national happiness rankings, but these seem plausible.

A French writer living in the UK schools the Brexit-bashers on democracy and decency -- and shares a few pics from a march in London.

Imagine what we could achieve with this kind of solidarity.

A youthful nation tires of its aging autocrat.

An activist against honor killings becomes a victim.

Brunei plans to become barbaric.  Saudi Arabia already is.

No one really knows what's in the Mueller report yet, so we need to reserve judgment about its significance.

Quit futzing around and deal with the Republicans as they truly are.

Trump's promises were always bullshit.

Shower Cap looks at the Barr summary -- and Michael Bolton.

[801 days down, 661 to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

29 March 2019

Self-assertion (2)




Explanation here.




Russian for "There's no God!"





27 March 2019

The Danish burger flipper

A while ago I linked to the graphic above in one of the link round-ups.  From time to time it appears in posts on Tumblr, often with some commentary of which this is fairly typical, attributing the difference to stronger unions and better government regulations in Scandinavia.

Since then I have wondered whether it's really true, though.  There's a lot of misinformation on Tumblr (as on the internet generally), and anyone can throw together a striking graphic.  As I discussed briefly here (item 2), the US economy since the Reagan administration has changed drastically from how it was before, with 30 years of wage stagnation and people in jobs which would formerly have supported a solid standard of living now struggling to get by.  But could the relative position of American workers really be as bad as the graphic suggests?

This week I finally looked it up.  It is true.  According to Business Insider, fast-food workers in Denmark do make a minimum of $20 per hour, more than twice what Americans in the same job do.  The article points out that the cost of living in Denmark is 30% higher, but the effective difference is still enormous.

Is Denmark an outlier for some reason?  I was able to find a few other comparisons.  In New Zealand the minimum wage is equivalent to US$12.35, so fast-food workers make at least that much -- a lot less than in Denmark but a lot more than here.  The same is true of France (minimum wage about US$12.00) and Australia (US$14.50).  So Denmark is at one extreme of the scale, yes -- but the US is at the opposite extreme.  The push for a $15 minimum wage isn't radical at all.  Australia is already pretty close to that.

These higher wages don't make burgers unaffordable, by the way.  According to Business Insider, a Bic Mac in Denmark costs only 80¢ more than in the US.

It's not just fast-food workers, either.  For a semi-skilled (accounting) office job, I make somewhat less than that Danish burger flipper.  That's partly due to it being a temp job, but even a permanent job of that type would typically pay around $20 per hour, sometimes less (though medical insurance is included, a burden employers in other advanced countries don't need to bear).  If my current job goes permanent, and I finally make as much as the Danish burger flipper, I'll feel like I'm doing pretty well.

Then of course there are the differences we already know about, such as government-mandated minimum vacation and government-guaranteed health coverage, so workers in those countries aren't struggling to pay health premiums of hundreds of dollars a month out of those wages (though presumably their taxes are somewhat higher than ours).

Overall, I've long had the impression that ordinary non-rich Americans work harder and longer than their counterparts in other advanced countries, and get a lot less for it.  Well, all that wealth the upper 1% have accumulated during those 30 years of wage stagnation obviously had to come from somewhere.  One wonders how many Republican-voting wage-earners realize this.  More Americans seem to be becoming dimly aware that people in other advanced countries pay a lot less for health care (even when the tax burden is included), don't need to worry about being denied access to it for lack of insurance, and get overall better outcomes in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, and suchlike.  But by and large the nation's mentality seems to be stuck in the 1970s, convinced that the US system and way of life are still the envy of the world.  Many people actually take offense at any suggestion that some other country might be doing something better than we are or that we could learn from them.  This, in itself, is an alarming sign of a society in decline.