17 January 2021

Link round-up for 17 January 2021

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

o o o o o

Beakers perform a classic.

Getting a bit of a mixed message here.

Let's re-define some words.

Dogs, dogs, dogs.....and a few reptiles.

What's that, up ahead of the train?

He showed us the way.

Amazon's delivery service is awful, apparently.

One works, the other does not.

Observe National Hot Tea Day.

Cas d'intérêt reviews a massive French cookbook.

What did he want all those shoes for?

Help find a missing person.

You can't trust e-books.

Lies are dangerous.

Republicans can live the good life.

Hallelujah!  Trump is going to win a second term!

No, there isn't a higher purpose behind things.

How do you deal with your inner critic?

Using threats to stop a book from being sold is thuggery crossing the line into fascism.

America's enemies enjoy the show (found via Hackwhackers).

Communists, communists everywhere!

"When President Tiffany activates the Doomsday Machine after misinterpreting a TikTok, all that'll survive is roaches and Rudy, stumbling through the charred remains of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, demanding 20 grand a day from the molten dildos."

This person exists.

Here's a preview of Trump's farewell address.

Yellowdog Granny gives us the (mostly political) week in images.

Gotta catch 'em all!

Name this band.

Actions have consequences even if you whine about it.

Women on dating sites help hunt down the Capitol terrorists.

I Should Be Laughing has a round-up of quotes on the attack.

There's an increase in Republicans leaving the party, though it's not clear how big the trend is nationally.

Green Eagle reviews the madness of the wingnutosphere, with a couple of examples of what passes for right-wing "humor".

"We were just playing, having fun."

They're resorting to animal abuse now.

Many mainstream, "normal" Republicans attended and supported the capitol attack (found via Silverapplequeen).

This is how the terrorists became so gullible.

It was a Christian insurrectionAll the signs were there.

When a Republican says "impeachment is divisive".....

Yes, you can legally be fired for participating in a lynch mob.

The authorities are not open to making deals with the terrorists.

Franklin Graham compares pro-impeachment Republicans to Judas.

The Republicans are now a dangerous cult, not a political party.

Blogger Helen Philpot has a message for Trump.

"It can't just be that you're a willfully ignorant bum with anger management issues. It's always someone else's fault."

The wingnuts are really struggling to avoid seeing how outrageous the Capitol attack was.

Sedition makes a poor investment.

The authorities are finally taking QAnon seriously.

Trump must be prosecuted, whatever the consequences.  Or maybe everything will be fine if he's pardoned.

The Republican civil war is on.  Let's hope both sides lose.

In the Capitol as elsewhere, conservatives are the dirty germ-spreading rats and fleas of the pandemic.

We're starting to understand what went wrong with polling in 2016 and 2020.

Here's why Trumpanzees didn't see many Biden supporters (must-read).

Biden will elevate the position of science adviser to cabinet level.

There's a new fund to protect women's freedom of speech.

Bernie Sanders will have real power in the new Senate.

Biden can increase revenue, even a lot, without raising taxes.

Businesses of every kind are rushing to cut ties with Trump.

Keira Bell speaks for those who regret being drawn into the trans cult.

Want to get the covid-19 vaccination in New York city?  Tough shit.

The consequences of all that holiday travel are starting to hit home.

Disagreeing with my opinion makes you a bigot.

They protected the vote.

Don't use "people of color" when talking about non-Western countries.

It's not only Christian fundies who lie to children.

Standards of consent must be high for use of puberty blockers.

Sorry, religion is a form of ideology.

The truth is coming out about the Catholic Church's atrocities in Ireland.

The Greek Orthodox Church defiantly helps spread the coronavirus.

Iran pushes ahead with military technology in the face of Trump's saber-rattling.

India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, will help ensure that poor countries have access to covid-19 vaccines.  Internally, the country has launched a massive vaccination drive.

Wealth can make people less compassionate.

Brown dwarfs are an odd class of object intermediate between stars and planets.

More links here.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted on technological and cultural power and on the limitations of the wingnut mind (among my better political pieces, if I do say so myself), as well as another Trumpling music video.

To whoever sent what I received on Monday morning -- thank you.  Please get in touch.

[1,459 days down, 3 to go until the inauguration of a real president.  Almost there!]

15 January 2021

The wingnut mind and its limitations

A striking feature of the wingnut mind is its lack of imagination.  As I've noted before, for weeks now far-right blogs and sites (especially their comment threads) have been awash in fantasies of violence and slaughter, of shooting and hanging liberals, showing us who's boss when we "come after" them and try to take their guns or round them up or whatever they think we're going to do.  The expected circumstances are vague -- it's the thought of using their guns to take us out that they relish, in sharp relief.

They expect us to come down to their level and engage them in some kind of physical confrontation in which their guns will give them the upper hand, because guns are what they have and what they know.  That's not how it works.  When humans set out to cull wolves from an area, they don't do it by coming down to the wolves' level and fighting them physically so that the wolves have a chance to rip them to pieces.  They do it with high-powered rifles from a distance, preferably from helicopters, or use poison.  We're not going to deal with our current wild-animal problem in ways that play to their strengths, either.  As I suggested here, we're already fighting them by focusing on the areas where we have the advantage -- propaganda, technology, culture, communications, economic power.

Especially given their inflamed rhetoric, I'm sure a few groups of wingnuts here and there will shoot a few individuals or attack a few pieces of infrastructure that support our cities (another vivid fantasy I've seen on their blogs).  But they won't do enough damage to "win" or affect the long-term trajectory of the country -- not even close.  I doubt they'll ever again accomplish anything as spectacular as their raid on the Capitol, which was scary enough but lasted only a few hours and achieved nothing except to turn a certain number of Republican politicians against them.  And as with the Capitol raid, the individual perpetrators of violence will be identified, tracked down, and arrested, while those who support it too heatedly with rhetoric will be fired, ostracized, and rendered unemployable.  Such people will be left physically unharmed but financially ruined -- crushed by forms of power against which guns are useless.

I keep calling them "the stupid one-third", and the stupidity matters.  It's not just a matter of two opposing but basically comparable world-views.  People whose thinking is so limited operate at several critical disadvantages.  For one thing, as I explained in the earlier post, our world-view is mostly consistent because it's based on reality, and reality is consistent and objectively knowable.  Theirs is prone to fragmentation because it's based on delusions, and delusions vary from person to person and can change randomly.  (The left is prone to factional splits too, but these are usually over real policy differences, not over whether Satanic lizard people from outer space exist.)  Also, they lack any nuanced sense of history (their constant invocations of the Founders are clichéd, trite, and ignorant), any deep sense of how the world actually works, or any ability to think multiple moves ahead or to accurately anticipate the actions of their opponents.

The storming of the Capitol is a case in point.  They had no soberly-considered set of objectives which they reasonably expected this action to achieve.  At best there was some idea that if they could stop the electoral-vote count and perhaps murder some number of Democratic and "RINO" politicians, this would somehow nullify the election result, intimidate the political establishment, and allow Trump to remain in power (this is a bit like believing that burning your credit-card bill will make the debt disappear).  They had no grasp of the resilience of institutions and procedures in a quarter-millennium-old democracy, or of the fact that when enormously-powerful people are temporarily scared out of their wits by a threat of personal violence, they tend to strike back, not back down.  They didn't seem to understand that threatening Republican leaders or beating and killing police officers would profoundly alienate people who have shown at least some sympathy for their cause.  They turned the colossal might of the federal government against their movement, while inflicting no substantial damage on their enemies at all.

And so it goes.  As I said, I expect occasional further violent incidents, followed each time by ostracisms, firings, and arrests and prosecution.  It's the furious lunges of a cornered animal against the practiced and skilled responses of an experienced hunter.  The animal may be big and noisy and scary, but you know who's going to win in the end.

The "soft power" arena, too, illustrates their mental limitations.  I've written a lot on the subtle role of popular movies, TV, and suchlike in driving and normalizing the kind of cultural changes that so upset the fundies and wingnuts.  The occasional efforts of the enemy to produce analogous counter-propaganda (the "Christian movie" industry comes to mind) are invariably clunky, preachy, and lacking in any appeal except to those who already believe.

But the same seems to apply even with much less demanding works.  For example, the Trump era has provoked a great abundance of liberal satirical music videos mocking the enemy's pomposity, blundering, and stupidity (see for example here, here, and here).  But despite the range of right-wing blogs and sites I read, I've never seen any analogous right-wing musical take-downs of left-wing figures or movements, and I really doubt they exist.  The humor, imagination, and skill to produce such things (however modest) just aren't there.

They are fanatically invested in keeping Trump in power because, in spite of experience, they believe that political power is the prime mover that determines everything else.  On our side, at least a significant number of people realize that politics is only one arena among several, and that political wins and losses are much more the effect than the cause of deeper cultural tendencies.

Crippled by its delusions, the wingnutosphere exists in a sustained state of tedious rage and pitifully-transparent efforts to sound frightening.  It's a self-created prison of cramped minds unable to escape, not because they're locked in, but because they're unable to conceive of the world beyond the cage of their own limitations.

14 January 2021

Video of the day -- trial by combat!

"Explosions of bullshit" indeed.  Found via Miss Cellania.

12 January 2021

Technological and cultural power

It's an ongoing source of frustration that, due to the Electoral College and the way states are represented in the Senate, the religious-fundamentalist and generally right-wing and reactionary element of the US population controls far more political power than its numbers warrant.  But political power is not the only kind of power within a society, as events are now illustrating.

There is also technological power.  Amazon is kicking Parler off its hosting service and Apple is dropping its app, which apparently will pretty much shut Parler down.  There are no right-wing high-tech companies on which any liberal sites are similarly dependent -- in fact, there are no major right-wing high-tech companies, period.  Twitter has even kicked Trump off now, and there's nothing he can do about it.  Despite all his money and (until January 20) power, he himself won't be able to set up a viable rival system because it would be dependent on technology which is controlled by people no longer willing to support what he's doing.  Even before November, YouTube was removing extremist videos, though somewhat sporadically.  They could do the same with evangelical and right-wing rabble-rousers more generally, if they chose to play hardball.  The fundie/wingnut subculture will never produce its own Amazon, Google, YouTube, etc.  The necessary skills, knowledge, and tech culture don't exist in a population which has made disdain for expertise and education part of its very identity.

(The wingnuts are, of course, complaining bitterly about these moves, but think of it this way.  Their blogs and sites since the election have been wallowing in a morass of violent fantasies about shooting and hanging liberals, assassinating leaders, and armed revolt against the government.  Essentially, they consider this a war.  OK, so it's a war -- and our side is destroying the enemy's communications infrastructure.  That's the kind of thing people do in wars.  They can't declare a war and talk about killing us and destroying our culture and then expect us to play nice and not use every weapon in our arsenal to defeat them.)

Many people, even on the left, are alarmed at the power of the tech giants to control modern communication, and perhaps eventually there will be government regulations to force them to operate in a more content-neutral way, which would give the wingnuts a reprieve.  But they'd still be dependent, then, on the very government they consider illegitimate and want to overthrow.

Then there's cultural power.  An ongoing theme on this blog has been the power of mass entertainment to guide and shape the culture and values of society (if you're not familiar with what I mean, read this, this, and this).  Liberals tend to downplay this effect, while right-wingers are actually more aware of its importance, since it works against their values.

But there's more to cultural power than that.  Notice that most employers these days have explicitly gay-friendly, anti-racist workplace policies.  Only a few companies like Chick-fil-A have explicitly right-wing policies, and even they won't endorse the more crazy Trumpist delusions or acts like the Capitol attack.  All over the country, people who participated in the attack are being fired from their jobs when they're identified.  45% of Republicans, which translates to 21% of Americans generally, approve of the storming of the Capitol -- but aside from perhaps a few tiny businesses in the remote red hinterlands, there's no corresponding sector of the economy in which having been part of the attack or supporting it is good for one's job security.

(This isn't because all the people who run big companies are liberals.  It's because they've crunched the numbers and figured out that failure to endorse the liberal world-view is bad for business, and that the fundie/racist/anti-gay element of the population isn't a market worth catering to.  Their goal is to make money, and that means adapting to the culture the way it actually is.)

We have an advantage because our world-view is based on reality, and reality is consistent and objectively knowable.  The wingnut world-view is crazy, and the practical problem with that is that there's no logical or objective way of agreeing exactly how crazy to go or in what directions.  I read right-wing sites and blogs regularly, and right now, in the comment sections of some of them, they are bitterly divided, quarreling with each other and denouncing each other.  They all believe that Trump actually won the election and Biden stole it through fraud, but some are still fervent QAnonists who expect Trump to somehow vanquish all his enemies and emerge triumphant before January 20, while others are starting to realize that nothing else QAnon predicted ever actually happened, and that the whole thing is a scam.  Some are saying the Capitol attack mob were patriots "taking back" the seat of government, others say they were antifa disguised as Trumpists to make Trumpists look bad.  Some want Trump to run again in 2024, some think voting is useless because of "vote fraud" and the only option now is violent revolution, some think all is lost and they're doomed to live under liberal rule forever, some are saying wait for Jesus to come back and straighten everything out, etc.  Having abandoned evidence-based and reality-based thinking, they have no objective way of deciding between these conflicting delusions.  They can't agree on a common fantasy world-view to put up against our reality-based world-view, and given how paranoid they tend to be, they easily start seeing those on their own side who have different views as enemies and traitors to the cause.

Our side dominates culture, which is "upstream" from politics -- that is, culture ultimately shapes politics, but there's very little politics can do to affect culture.  This is why the wingnuts have almost always felt angry and frustrated and besieged even when their side is in power in the government.  Political power can hurt people they hate, and Trump has been very good at that, but it can't stop the wingnuts from being culturally marginalized.  We're going to win out in the long run, and deep down they know it

10 January 2021

Link round-up for 10 January 2021

Everybody said 2021 should be less crazy than 2020.  So far, I'm not favorably impressed.

o o o o o

Every picture tells a story.

Always send thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.

Animals are silly.

"Hey Debbie?  It's me, the Lord."

Miniature birdhouses!

We're book addicts.

Bumbling burglars accidentally call the cops on themselves.

Well, she did ask.

Have some scary refined sugar.

This guy can tell you exactly how smelly you are.

Four days?

Satanists don't believe, but.....

Here's how to cosplay the "QAnon shaman" of the Capitol attack.

The truth comes out!  Yeah, Antifa did it.

Bruce Gerencser reveals his dark side.

A car becomes a rolling art gallery for a trip through Mexico (link from Carol A Seidl).

You'd think Jesus would have known whether Noah's flood really happened or not.

Psychic fail!

We know what birds dream about.

At the start of the pandemic, a Portland strip club had to adapt to new conditions.  More business creativity here.

There are things we are, for now, powerless to change.

"His shadow spreads... America is diminished."

Art helped Catherine Meurisse go on with life after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Pundits make predictions for 2021.

We are lowly worms, worthless sinners.

My precioussss!

On the Nashville bombing, wingnuts have too many delusions to choose from.  Also, lots more random nonsense from around the right-wing internet.

"You cannot protect morons from their own stupidity, and you shouldn't try; it's a waste of energy and emotionally burdensome."

Turns out "Trump toady" doesn't look so good on a résumé.

Warren pwns DeVos.

We're lucky Trump is so stupid.

Shower Cap assesses the state of Trump gang lunacy the night before the Capitol mob attack.  Here's his report from afterwards.

In his regular Monday post, Darwinfish 2 focused on the Raffensperger call.  Extra post on the Capitol attack here.

Remember the victim.

"They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots" (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Cartoonists weigh in.  And here's how foreign newspapers reported it.

FFS these people aren't even toilet-trained.

"It's Orwell's boot stamping on a human face forever."

Evangelical delusions played a role in the madness.

One guy was specifically planning to shoot Pelosi.

All the Republican leaders who enabled and protected Trump for the last four years are complicit.

"Wednesday's mayhem is who the Evangelical Right really is. They are not part of the decent, educated world; they are who the decent, educated world has been fighting for uncountable millennia."

They were prepared to take prisoners (found via Hackwhackers).  Murderous violence was openly planned in advance.

There are signs that some Capitol police, and even higher-ups, were complicit.

Here are two eyewitness reports from the attack.

"Not this time, assholes. There is no unity with seditionists."

Identified rioters are getting fired (and arrested), to the surprise of someCitizen experts are helping to find them.

45% of Republicans approve of the attack.  The party is confronting the fact that its voters are crazy.  And they're just getting crazier since the attack.

"There is no reasoning with conspiracy theorists. There is no negotiating with extremists. The President's lies unleashed this mob. Responsible Republicans need to condemn it clearly -- or own it forever."

Annie Asks You:  What do we do now?  Time for Reconstruction 2.0.

A lot of the media still don't understand the problem.

Bob Felton reviews his predictions about the Trump years.

The future belongs to the left -- that's why Republicans are afraid of it.

RedState worries about divisions among wingnuts.

Murkowski considers leaving the party.

How did this country get to be such a mess?

Video of the Capitol clean-up evokes thoughts on racism.

Angry Bear considers the pros and cons of another impeachment.

Corporate leaders are abandoning Trump (way, way too late).

Here's a way Biden can unilaterally stimulate the economy.

Parler may be doomed.

Feminism isn't defined by menMore here.

A lot of companies still aren't prepared for the work-from-home future.

Georgia Republicans are plotting even more vote suppression.

Covid-19 is killing off Navajo elders, and much of the culture with them.

The Wisconsin pharmacist who sabotaged 57 vials of covid-19 vaccine was a believer in various crackpottery which has been spreading around the wingnutosphere.  Lies are not harmless.

It's the meat industry that's wrecking the planet, and human health.

India's ruling religio-nationalists try to distort history to fit ideology.

Religion sponsors a major super-spreader event in Manila.

I already linked to this post on CRISPR two weeks ago, but there are now a couple of exchanges in the comments between Annie and me which are also worth a look.

The alphabet was likely invented by people who were nearly illiterate (found via Miss Cellania).

Watch the worlds go by.

More links here.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- last week I posted my best posts of 2020 list, an observation on Republican self-destruction, and a video from The Liberal Redneck.

[Image at top found via Octoberfarm]

08 January 2021

Video of the day -- the attack of the morons

"It was the classic dog-catches-car moment."

06 January 2021

A brief observation concerning today's mob attack on Congress

Three weeks ago, regarding the depravity of the Republican party, I wrote the following:

Perhaps the worst thing the party has done is to aid, encourage, and pander to the wingnut media's brainwashing of tens of millions of low-information Americans into the paranoid and violent "fever dream" alternate reality we see today. This process began long before Trump entered politics. They created a dangerous monster they believed would be useful against us. Now the monster has found, in Trump, a master more to its liking, and is starting to turn on its creator, as such monsters tend to do. Now Republicans deemed insufficiently devoted to Trump are starting to get death threats and armed mobs outside their houses.

And I feel no sympathy. None. They knew the party was fomenting this madness, and by remaining members of the party, they endorsed it. Now they need to learn -- via gut fear of their own monster, not via pointless genteel debate from us -- that the party was wrong to do it and that they were wrong to stay

As anyone who reads wingnut sites and blogs knows, the kind of enraged delusionals who comprised today's mob hate and despise "RINOs" -- Republicans deemed not Trump-loyal enough -- at least as much as they hate Democrats.  There are any number of Republican senators and congressmen who, if the mob had gotten its hands on them, might well be dead now.  Let's hope that the leaders of that rotted-out party, from McConnell on down, learned a lesson today about what happens when you feed a whole sub-population on lies and rage in order to turn them into a weapon.

This is what you've raised up, Republicans.  And you'd damn well better hope that someone can figure out how to put it down.

05 January 2021

Best of the Infidel, 2020

To understand why colonizing Mars won't happen, look at Antarctica.

Britain's political left imploded because it turned against its base, and mainstream parties across Europe risk doing the same.

Here's what I mean when I speak of the essential struggle.

I make some predictions for the rest of the twenty-first century.

The US is now two rival nations sharing the same territory, but one is gradually colonizing the other.

It's religionists, not atheists, who need to prove their case.

Lifting precautions too early and re-energizing the pandemic was a mistake even from a political perspective.

Religion has actively encouraged and facilitated the spread of covid-19.

Genetics reveals the true story of Britain's ancient history.

America's two nations are at war.

China is the new Nazi Germany.

In the early BLM protests, I objected not to the violence but to the choice of targets.

Liberation is coming, poetically.  If you like that, read this too.

Hard reality doesn't care what people believe.

No, removing Confederate monuments is not "erasing history".

Even more than Trump, the "stupid one-third" of America's population is to blame for our failure to control the pandemic.

Don't be fooled by silly ideas just because they're familiar.

The "comfort" offered by religion can be dangerous.

The internet boosts small-scale delusions but undermines major ones.

My personal situation suggested a possible explanation for belief in gods.

What are aliens, really?

A bizarre episode in the Catholic Church highlights the absurdity of bureaucratized religion.

Cities face a decline even after the pandemic ends.

My assessment of the choice posed by the election proved popular.

What would aliens really be like?

I responded to my ongoing troll problem.

A murder in Paris showed the vital importance of a robust commitment to freedom of expression.

Here's how the Trumpanzees, or many of them, will eventually be deprogrammed.

Follow a poetic journey of enlightenment.

Worship is degradation of the self.

03 January 2021

Link round-up for 3 January 2021

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

o o o o o

Star Trek isn't the only place where wearing a red shirt is a bad idea.

Debra She Who Seeks says goodbye to 2020.  So does the universe.  By Hook or by Book welcomes 2021.

Rawknrobyn recalls a poetic welcome to a year that didn't deserve it (NSFW), and offers another to one which hopefully will.

Russians play soccer.  Americans get careless when they win.

Unpack your adjectives.

See the faces of winter.

Some nice photos here.

Most influential band ever.

Where did the hammer go?

They are lurking outside.

See the ten best lines from gay movies.

This restaurant has been closed for a while.

How do you choose what books to read?

God answers a prayer.

These rules should apply everywhere.

Three-time losers.

The New York Crank anticipates some headlines.

He should have respected her business.

Dumbest defense of religion ever.

Excellent rant here on Trump's imbecility (found via Voenix Rising).

Don't define yourself by your job.  (I've never done that.  A job to me is a source of money so I don't need to worry about money, period.)

Fleas challenge a colossus -- jargon-addled fake academics attack Shakespeare.

Do not drop the torch that illuminates the world.

Bilbo's blog readers choose the 2020 ass clown of the year.

Atheist Revolution has some tips on religious trolls.

Flying is not safe.

Just checking in.....yep, they're still stupid.

The Psy of Life reviews what we learned from the Trump years.

Republican voters don't want compromise.

"We are not having a political disagreement in this country right now, we are having deeply insane arguments (with absolute lunatics, by the way) about whether or not a human life matters."

Those who commit sedition must pay a price for it.

Here's a sample of what the wingnuts are reading and believing about the January 6 vote count.  The election has already been decided, you nitwits.

2020 saw a lot of good news on climate change (found via Miss Cellania).

Evangelical pastors have almost limitless power, but only over those who believe in them.

"Maybe it's all about you and your 'exploring'."

There may be another reason why Trump vetoed the defense budget.

Protesters block a super-spreader event in Los Angeles.

Never forget who saved us.

New year, same old right-wing bullshit.

Police culture has issues that go beyond racism.

There's grounds for hope in Georgia.

"Multi-gender" cultural norms don't mean what you think they mean.

Covidiot pastor loves Trump, denounces Biden.

This is what "canceling" looks like.

Health-care workers are being driven out of wingnut-majority parts of the US.

Trump is forcing Congressional Republicans to choose between democracy and loyalty.  Here are those who are choosing poorly.

This is not medicine.

From here in Oregon, an outrageous abuse of police power.

There is just no way to make factory farming safe.

Nazis pwned!

Argentina, a country formerly in thrall to the Catholic Church, has legalized abortion.  Enemy tears may be savored here.

Israel has vaccinated more than 10% of its population in less than two weeks.

If Dharavi can do it, so can we.

China is the kind of country Trump dreams of, where journalists who tell unwelcome truths get locked up.

Tanzania is the kind of country fundies dream of, where those who leave religion get locked up.

Here are several choices for the top science stories of 2020.

Research suggests ways to use sleep to enhance problem-solving.  I'm a bit skeptical but it's worth a read.

More links here, plus an apparent effort at self-cooking.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted a political look ahead, a personal win, and some dancing robots.

02 January 2021

Video of the day -- and now they can dance

A few years ago, I did a couple of posts on how close robotics was getting to equaling the agility and balance of the human body.  Based on this video, I'd say we're there.  Found via Fair and Unbalanced.

31 December 2020

A personal goal, (somewhat) achieved

Early this year, it slowly dawned on me that I had a serious problem.  For quite some time I'd been suffering occasional flare-ups of what felt like inflammation -- long-term readers may recall a few times when I quit blogging for a while due to pain in the hands.  I weighed 225 pounds, which for my height (5'11") put me well across the line into obesity.  And that, especially on the verge of turning 60, meant I was in the express lane to a heart attack or a stroke.  To say nothing of feeling disgusted every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror without clothes on.

The joint pain wasn't the only sign that things were going wrong.  I had back pain almost constantly.  One of the warning signs of a heart attack is supposed to be pain in the upper chest and down the left arm, but I'd been having pain like that several times a day for as long as I could remember.  And I'd had a few episodes of high blood pressure, though those were rare.

I'd long been aware of the impact of food on health, but it hadn't really registered as a major issue.  I stopped eating meat about a decade ago, but that was always more due to the issue of animal cruelty (and simple revulsion at the thought of eating corpses) than for health reasons.  I was still eating things like cheese, eggs, and huge amounts of junk food.

My current interest in food and nutrition was sparked by the role of the ghastly Wuhan "wet market" in starting the covid-19 pandemic, and of animal farming in general in facilitating the spread of new infectious diseases from animals to humans.  As I looked more into the issue, I realized how broad the problem was.  One milestone was discovering Mic the Vegan, who stood out from the YouTube pack in always having a barrage of proper scientific studies to back up everything he said.  Eventually the reality was inescapable.  Humans show every sign, anatomically and physiologically, of being a herbivorous species (as our fellow great apes mostly are), not an omnivorous one.  Eggs, dairy, and the like are at least as toxic as meat itself.  Most of the chronic health problems that plague Americans are probably linked to what we eat.  Within the developed world, the healthiest populations historically have been those with mainly plant-based diets -- and as prosperity enabled them to eat more meat, processed food, and suchlike, they too developed higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and clogged arteries.

I'd already lost some weight since the start of the year, just by watching calories.  But in the early months of the pandemic, I realized I needed to do more.  Weight wasn't the only issue.  I cut out everything that comes from animals -- no more eggs, cheese, or even milk chocolate.  I cut out chips and, eventually, almost all refined sugar.  I started paying attention to things like fiber and cholesterol.  And I actively sought out a wider range of things like vegetables, legumes, nuts, and rice, lest a sense of monotony undermine my efforts.

It proved easier to stick to than I expected.  I soon stopped missing the things I had quit.  On impulse a couple of weeks ago I picked up a bag of chips.  They seemed greasy and dry, strangely tasteless and over-salted at the same time.  I don't feel tempted to ever go back to eating the way I used to.  This isn't "a diet" adopted as a temporary problem-solving measure.  I've merely reverted, at least a lot closer, to what our species evolved to eat.

My weight now is consistently a little under 195, so I've lost about 30 pounds this year.  That's not as much as I'd hoped for -- my goal was to get to 180, which is the maximum healthy weight for a person of my height.  But the chest-and-arm pains are gone.  The back pain is much improved.  The inflammation episodes are far less frequent and less severe.  I even get fewer headaches.  I'm not constantly taking aspirin and ibuprofen the way I used to.

I haven't won yet.  I want those pains gone, not just diminished.  And 195 is still overweight, seriously so.  But I know I'll get there.

29 December 2020

Looking ahead, politically

Soon the time of Trump will give way to a Democratic presidency and House and hopefully a 50-50-plus-Harris control of the Senate.  Some things to keep in mind:

1. When 2022 and 2024 arrive, most of the Democratic voting base will judge Biden and the Democrats in Congress mainly by results.  Has the pandemic been vanquished?  Have jobs and wages (not "the economy", which takes in all kinds of things, but jobs and wages specifically) recovered?  Has federal legislation to protect voting rights from state-level gerrymandering and vote suppression been enacted?  Has Medicare access been expanded or some other kind of public option been provided?  Have DC and Puerto Rico become states?  If the Democrats achieve results, our voters will care only that it was done, not how it was done.  Conversely, if little or nothing is accomplished, nobody will much care about whatever reasons or excuses are offered.

2. Achieving such results will partially depend on two intermediate steps -- abolishing the filibuster, and enlarging the Supreme Court or otherwise neutering the ability of its current McConnell-Trump-imposed hard-right majority to block progress.  The obstacle that a few Democrats oppose abolishing the filibuster should be surmountable -- Feinstein needs to hear, vociferously, from a few million of her constituents, and Manchin can perhaps be brought around with the offer of some major benefit for his state, etc.  One or two Republicans might even be brought to support the move.  But if Democrats control the Senate and don't abolish the filibuster, the reasons for not doing it won't matter -- it will just mean they've handed the Republicans the rope to hang them with.

3. Don't assume we can coast through the first two years without getting things done and then enact the full agenda after 2022 when we'll pick up a bigger Senate majority.  Yes, the 2022 Senate map is very favorable to Democrats, but we could lose the House that year, especially if not much has been accomplished and our voting base is de-motivated.

4. We're going to be flying blind for the next few elections because nobody, including pollsters, can accurately predict turnout.  The surges in Republican votes that elected Trump in 2016 and saved so many downballot Republicans in 2020 were real and largely unexpected.  The blue wave of 2018 was also real.  Nobody knows yet what this means in the long term.  Are we now in an era when Republicans do better in presidential years than in off-years?  Is it some effect unique to Trump which will fade when he's out of politics?  Something else?  The point is, we can't count on polls to tell us what's going to happen, and even less on intuition and gut feeling.

5. We did very well in 2018 and fairly well this year despite state-level gerrymandering and vote suppression.  Federal legislation to stamp out those things is the surest way to boost our advantage further.

6. Stop pointing to demographics as a reason to be complacent.  I've been guilty of this myself, but if the Republicans were in inexorable decline already, we wouldn't keep seeing knife-edge-close results in state after state that "should" be getting bluer, nor seeing some states actually getting redder.  There's more to the demographic issue than the common liberal view of it allows for -- I'll have a post about this sometime in the next few weeks.

7. Stop trying to make everything about race and racism.  Yes, racism is an important issue, but there are other important issues which have nothing to do with it.

8. Stop saying stupid shit that drives voters in the sensible center (yes, they exist) toward the enemy.  There's no way of knowing how many votes we lost because of talk of abolishing private medical insurance and "defund the police", but it was probably quite a few.  Yes, yes, I know "defund the police really means blah blah" -- shut the fuck up.  If you say "defund the police", normal people are going to think you mean "defund the police".  If you mean something else, then you need to use different words that accurately express what you mean.  Similarly, we must firmly squelch any perception that we are, as Bill Maher put it, the party of "silence is violence but vandalism is not".  Disagreeing with somebody is not violence.  Smashing windows is violence.  It doesn't matter what excuses or explanations anybody offers.  This is dangerous bullshit and costs votes we can't afford.

9. It's very possible that Republicans will be cripplingly divided for the next few years.  A lot will depend on what Trump does after leaving office, and how long the cult-like fervor toward him lasts.  But we can't count on such divisions to smooth the way for us.  One way or another, they'll involve a split between the Trump cultists and those on the right who seek a return to reality and sanity -- and the latter group may not be large enough among Republican rank-and-file voters to have much impact.

10. One factor that may help break the wingnut "fever dream" alternate reality is the future course of the pandemic.  Red states are still being hit hard, and this will continue to be the case as they reject masks and social distancing and, perhaps, largely reject the vaccine as well.  It will soon reach the point where a large fraction of the population knows somebody who has died of covid-19 or has survived but suffered permanent, serious harm from it.  At the same time, they'll see life slowly returning to normal in the blue cities where the vaccine is in wide use.  A realization that they were wrong about the pandemic might open some right-wingers' minds to the possibility that they've been wrong about other things as well.  Again, though, we'd be foolish to count on this.

11.  There will be some violence from the right wing, perhaps even an assassination or two. But there won't be an insurrection or violence on a large enough scale to have a real political effect.

12.  At some point, somewhere, something big and completely unexpected will happen.  It always does.

27 December 2020

Link round-up for 27 December 2020

Please consider donating or otherwise helping the Georgia runoff effort at these links -- Fair Fight, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock.  At this point Fair Fight, with its emphasis on voter registration and turnout, may be your best bet.

o o o o o

Obey the sign, if you can.

Debra She Who Seeks looks at Santa's job.

Happy Boxing Day.

Watch video of a daring prison escape.

Three wise men see a star in the east.

Any true cat would just take this as a challenge.

Arguably, Trump already has airports named after him.

Rawknrobyn has a poem for Santa (NSFW).

Some cats just get cardboard boxes.  Others get castles.

Esme's Cloud has a tale of a routine police investigation that goes bizarrely awry.

Canadians recall accidental visits to the US.

Big Bad Bald Bastard embraces the spirit of Trumpy Christmas.

You can still find a use for an advent calendar.

The domino effect goes vertical.

These are not alien spaceships.

You don't notice the craziness when it's familiar.

This Australian has sensible priorities and a flair for showmanship (found via Hackwhackers).

Vagabond Scholar's Jon Swift blog round-up for 2020 is posted -- "the best posts of the year, chosen by the bloggers themselves".

"Because it worked."

Photos here from Salamanca, Mexico.

Cas d'intérêt looks at how French became a world language, and where the "purest" French is found today (it isn't France).

Civil Commotion observes the winter solstice.

Miss Cellania has a big list of best-book lists.

Darwinfish 2 presses on with the quixotic but necessary struggle to debunk wingnut bullshit.

Donate here to help the hungry.

Non-religious voters are becoming an important force in US politics.

Learn to understand and deal with people who suffer from chronic pain.

Reminder -- blue America is productive America.

Pat Robertson's loopy religious "university" hires a worthy dean for its school of government.

Dumbest Trump election lawsuit of all, at least according to several lawyers.

YouTube allegedly hosts thousands of disgusting animal-cruelty videos.

If you think wearing a mask is tyranny.....

The US Capitol starts taking out the garbage.

Facebook group here on autism and the police.

Punctuation matters.

XKCD's election map shows the real distribution of voters.  No, it isn't possible to split the US into two countries for the two sides.

JK Rowling gets some recognition for her courage.

Green Eagle makes the case that behavior can qualify as treason even without a state of war.

You know a Democratic administration is coming when Republicans suddenly start talking about the debt again.

Objective reality exists, and trying to deny it is madness.

When Trump's term ends, three women with lawsuits will be waiting for him.  There will also be a wave of subpoenas.  But what if he refuses to leave the White House?

The stock market is high, but probably not overvalued.

Free expression gets a win in Texas.

No, Democrats' resistance to the outcome of the 2016 election wasn't similar to what Republicans are doing now.

A bully plays the victim, not very plausibly.

Insiders say a California megachurch is pressuring its congregation and staff to keep quiet about a covid-19 outbreak.

36% of Americans believe the election was stolen.  That's bad, but it's not "almost half" as some outlets are lamenting.

One person went to work sick, seven people died.  A Mississippi atheist seethes at the denialists' stupidity.  Don't be fooled -- the pandemic is real.

Hey Georgians, if you want a $2,000 stimulus check, here's what to do.

Biden needs to show he can fight, even if he doesn't always win.

Who needs a mask when you've got an imaginary friend?

The stimulus bill includes an upgrade of US internet access, but far more needs to be done.

The Psy of Life looks at why Trumpanzees stand by their man.

This is what it's like working in healthcare now.

George Mason anticipated Trump's pardon frenzy -- in 1788.  The killers of Ali Kinani are among those pardoned.  More here.

Insuring the Catholic Church is a losing proposition.

"A modern, industrialized nation..... cannot survive being driven by its dumbest and cruelest elements. It just can't. People like that are always going to be part of the scenery, but if we don't find a way to push them back to the margins, and stop being responsive to every dumb thing they do and say and react to, it's going to be a long, ugly road down."

The New York Post's slimy effort to slut-shame a paramedic backfires as she fights back and wins support.

Trump is losing his mind.  His antics have triggered infighting among Republicans.

In a medical emergency, gender confusion can be dangerous.

There can be no "common ground" with a party of open sedition and fascism.

Fox backs down from some of its bullshit -- under threat of a lawsuit.  Then there's this guy.

There are important differences between categories that exist in objective reality and those created by human assertion.

The world is in much better shape than you think.

Meet the Latvians, an introverted and creative people.

Consider supporting the heroic rats who help clear mines in poor countries.

The Saudi regime is asking Trump to make its caudillo immune from US lawsuits relating to its various murders.  Meanwhile, women's-rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing twenty years in prison.

It's people in Muslim countries, not Westerners, who lead the fight against Islamic terrorism.

An exiled Pakistani human-rights activist has been found dead in Toronto, the second such mysterious death this year.

The covid-19 outbreak illustrates how China's fascist regime uses trolls and thuggery to control what its subjects see on the internet.  The US has taken a subtle but effective step against the regime's technological power.

Here's some more detail on that possible radio signal from Proxima Centauri.

Annie Asks You looks at the potential of CRISPR, the new gene-editing technology.

More links here.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- last week I posted on the coming covid-19 explosion, some parody songs for the Trump gang, and the madness of religio-wingnuts as their prophecies of Trump's re-election fail.

[1,438 days down, 24 to go until the inauguration of a real president.]

26 December 2020

Video of the day -- madness rising to the surface

A month ago I posted this video by "Holy Koolaid" showing various prominent wingnuts freaking out as their prophecies (yes, prophecies) and promises from God were confounded by Trump's election defeat.  This follow-up video shows how, since then, they've doubled down on their delusions, utterly impervious to the reality all around them.  Millions of Americans listen to these people and take them seriously -- and they vote.  This is the hard core of the "stupid one-third".