08 December 2019

Personal notice

I will be absent from the blogosphere for a while.  I have suffered a major personal event.  I posted the link round-up yesterday because it was all written and ready to go (they are put together over the course of the whole week), but I'm not going to be doing any more writing for some time.

I am closing comments on this and I ask that people respect that.  At some point later I may talk about what happened in detail, or I may not, but I don't feel up to it now.  I need some time to myself to deal with this.

07 December 2019

Link round-up for 8 December 2019

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.  Posting a day early due to some uncertainties about tomorrow.

o o o o o

Start your day with some jokes and signs.

Give these nuts a try.

A talking donkey.....

Debra She Who Seeks has an advent calendar with a difference.

This "debate" is worthy of an unmoderated blog comment thread (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Jesus gets around.

Is there still a place for nuanced characters?

Maybe it's best not to live near the palace.

Here's your December, all planned out.

The herd attacks!

Cats and Christmas trees do not mix, but you can take precautions.

"Until they came knocking at his door one night....."

Lady M decorates for Creepmas -- she's been posting daily on this, so check out the rest of the blog.

It's an old cartoon, but still relevant.

"You drop a small piece of food on the floor, and....."

Now this is architecture.

What the heck was frankincense anyway?

These are mountains near Las Vegas (click images for bigger versions).

I guess some religionists think this is a telling argument.

It's Nazis vs. orgasms (easiest choice of sides ever).

The purpose of proselytizing isn't what you think.

"Decisions are made by those who show up."

Monetizing what you love doing may not be such a good idea.

Some trolls go beyond being a nuisance (NSFW images).

"That was me."

The Propaganda Professor looks at James O'Keefe, the wingnuts' bumbling Don Quixote.

Small-town culture is a barrier to economic revival.

Don't look to the propaganda arm of the 1% for insights into student loan debt cancellation.

Fundies continue to fume over Chick-fil-A's change of direction.

Have yourself an alt-right Christmas (warning: nasty).

Trump uses his personal cell phone to deny using a personal cell phone.

Life expectancy in the US is falling further behind other advanced countries.  And there's something weird going on in the red states.

An Apple customer-service employee speaks out.

We need to rein in the Reefer Madness hysteria about opioids.

Darwinfish 2 debunks some anti-tax talking points.

Professor Taboo looks at the suffragettes.

Hard-core religion survives by cutting off its children from the real world.

Trump didn't change the Republican party, he just brought its underlying nature to the surface.

Fundamentalist religion's alliance with America's parasitic oligarchy is turning people against both.  No matter how powerful it looks now, fundamentalism is in a death spiral.

The Postal Service is shitting up rural letter carriers' jobs.

Religionists use the "sanctity of life" to attack individual freedom.

Office plans that make employees miserable are bad for productivity (found via Billions).

In most cases, North America's declining bird populations are nothing to worry about.

US health-care costs and practices horrify British citizens.

Here are some "highlights" from a recent damning report on anti-Semitism in the British Labour party.

Some leaders stand up to Putin.

Support the freedom of women wherever they are.

The Arab world is beginning to turn away from religion (if the image is cut off on your screen, here's the whole thing).

The spirit of #MeToo spreads to Tunisia.

People in India still have to protest against this kind of shit.

Religion is gross and disgusting.

On Trump's support for Hong Kong, read the fine print.

Green Eagle looks at the history of impeachment.

It's not "a difference in world views", it's reality vs. self-serving delusion.

No, Trump is not on track to win the Electoral College again.

More links here.

06 December 2019

Quote for the day -- when falsehoods are sacred

03 December 2019

Frozen 2

Note first off:  S P O I L E R S !  It's not possible to discuss the points that interest me without them.  So if you haven't seen the movie yet, be aware.  (To skip over this post without having to scroll through it, click here.)  Some of this won't make sense unless you've seen it, anyway.

This isn't really a comprehensive review; I want to focus on a few themes that especially interested me.  I do strongly recommend it, though.  If you liked the original for its visual beauty and spectacle, you'll love this.  The characters have all developed substantially since the first film, while remaining true to themselves.  There's plenty of humor, largely from Olaf, the naïve snowman turned storyteller and amateur philosopher.  As to the songs, there's no second "Let It Go", but several of them are excellent.

On the whole I'd say it's as good as the original.  It seems on track to be at least equally popular ($739 million in 12 days).  The showing I went to was at 10:30 AM and there were well over 100 people there, mostly families with small kids, and there was widespread applause at the end.  As I've discussed before, pop culture is important because it reaches millions of people who ignore or actively avoid politics and political media; its messages influence those whom conventional discourse cannot.

The storyline concerns a mysterious threat to Arendelle.  To learn about this menace and defeat it, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven travel to a remote forest which has been cut off from the world for decades.  There they find the Northuldra -- the forest's indigenous people -- plus a group of Arendellian soldiers who have long been trapped there.  After much struggle, conflict, disturbing revelations about the past, and encounters with supernatural monsters, they come to understand the threat and what to do about it.  The points I find particularly interesting are:

The villain.  There isn't one.  This is unusual because drama requires conflict, and the easiest way of generating conflict is to have an active antagonist trying to thwart the heroes.  Even the first movie had Hans, whose slimy machinations drove a lot of the story.  Here, the main obstacle the heroes face is ignorance -- they don't know the underlying reason for the threat to their country, and need to discover the truth in order to save the day.

This doesn't fit the usual pattern of storytelling, but it does reflect how problems and solutions most often work in the real world.  Eliminating smallpox wasn't a matter of defeating an evil villain any more than getting rid of that suspicious noise from your car engine is.  Such problems are solved by understanding what's causing them so you can devise an appropriate countermeasure.

As in real life, the ultimate horror is death itself, an impersonal force.  And as in the first movie, even death wins only temporarily, with life being restored by the power of doing the right thing.

Human mastery of nature.  A recurring theme that appeals to me is how human intelligence and determination achieve dominance over "spirits" (and the natural forces they embody), however frightening and powerful the latter appear at first.

In the most obvious example, late in the movie, Elsa tries to reach Ahtohallan by running across a stormy ocean, which despite her powers does not go well.  She is attacked by the Nokk, a water spirit in the form of a horse.  She fights back and manages to mount the Nokk, staying on despite its efforts to throw her, until it is "broken" like a real horse.  For the rest of the film the Nokk is her obedient servant, which she rides wherever she wishes to go.

After entering the forest, Elsa's party is bedeviled by the mischievous wind spirit "Gale" which eventually sweeps them all up into a tornado.  After overcoming initial panic, Elsa freezes the tornado, ending the danger to herself and her friends.  By the end of movie, Gale has been tamed and is helpfully carrying written messages back and forth between the two sisters in their separate realms.

Soon after meeting the Northuldra, our heroes are attacked by a terrifying, sentient outbreak of fire which leaps from tree to tree, scatters all humans in the vicinity, and threatens to incinerate the Northuldra village.  Rather than flee in terror, Elsa fights back with blasts of ice, beating down the flames (especially when they threaten Anna), saving the village, and eventually reducing the fire to a tiny pocket of combustion which then reveals its true form as a small salamander-like creature which befriends her and never again threatens humans.

Finally, the immense rock giants appear terrifying, but in the end they are easily manipulated by Anna into using their vast strength to serve the purpose she sets for them.

The lesbianism thing.  In the first movie, the epic song "Let It Go" was widely interpreted as a coded paean to gay self-discovery and liberation, while Elsa's lack of any romantic interest in males (in marked contrast to Anna) left the door open to reading the character as lesbian, with the repression and fear directed at her ice powers paralleling society's reactions to homosexuality.  Much of the blogosphere hoped that the sequel would make this explicit, with a "hashtag" #GiveElsaAGirlfriend in support.  The movement attracted enough attention to trigger religious prigs to start a petition against it.  So Disney was certainly aware of the campaign and knew that at least some of the audience would be looking for clues along these lines.

First off, no, Frozen 2 does not explicitly or even implicitly make Elsa a lesbian.  But it does include certain details which the writers must have known would be read that way by those who were interested in doing so, while flying under the radar of viewers who weren't.

In the forest, Elsa meets a young Northuldra woman named Honeymaren.  Their on-screen interactions are limited to two brief episodes.  In the first, Honeymaren explains the symbols on a shawl Elsa is wearing; it's a "getting to know each other" moment.  In the second, after the film's main action is over, Honeymaren tells Elsa "you belong here" -- in the forest, not back home in Arendelle where she is queen.  These scenes suggest friendship, while not ruling out something closer for those who want to see it.  There's no other apparent reason for this character to even exist in the story.

But Elsa does then stay in the forest, abdicating as queen of Arendelle in favor of Anna, leaving not only her home country but the sister to whom she's been so devoted for most of two movies.  The script offers no logical reason why Elsa would do this.  It's not that her powers make her too dangerous.  Unlike in the first movie, when she ended up staying in Arendelle after almost destroying it, she's now just saved the kingdom from destruction by flood.  It's not that she's tired of the hard work of being queen, or at least, the early part of the film gives no hint of such feelings.  Yet it would take something fairly weighty to get her to leave her home and her sister permanently.  The script never explicitly suggests that it's to be near Honeymaren, but there's no other obvious explanation.

Some might be disappointed that the film is not more upfront, but this misreads the way movies work and the environment in which they deliver their message.  An explicit lesbian theme might well have gotten the movie banned in major markets like China and Russia (as it is, there was a bit of editing in some places), and would have triggered a storm of controversy from religious crazies in the US, barring it from millions of potential viewers and overshadowing its main mission of light entertainment.  Movies that throw a blatant message in the audience's face are usually clunky and arouse resistance, as the godawful "Christian movie" industry shows.  The first Frozen's subtle approach with Elsa's powers and "Let It Go" flew under the censors' radar and reached hundreds of millions of people in ways that an explicitly "gay" film could never have done.

In any case, fans seem to be falling for Honeymaren's briefly-displayed charms, with fanfic and fanart already appearing, and even a riff on a classic joke.  As for the now-inevitable third movie, you can take this for whatever you think it's worth.

02 December 2019

Troll issues

Based on a recent upsurge in trolling and fight-picking comments (readers aren't seeing them because of the moderation), it's time to link once again to the "On pa-troll" post, which I hope will also be of some value to other bloggers who touch on politics.  I doubt I'm the only one with this problem.  See also my post on internet pig-fighting more generally.

Further, I'm acutely aware that there are elections coming up (in 11 months here, in 10 days in the UK), and disinformation has become a common tactic.  I don't have the time or energy to fact-check every dubiously-sourced claim about a politician or party that someone posts in a comment here, and I'm certainly not obligated to provide a forum for views I consider abhorrent.

And remember, trolls -- if you don't like the way I run my blog, you're free to start your own where you can say anything you like.

01 December 2019

Link round-up for 1 December 2019

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

o o o o o

See signs of the times; more signs here.  Then there's this one.

"Are they twins?"

Exercise may not work for everyone.

Have some bird cartoons.

Frustrate a squirrel.

Kids in sex-ed class have questions.

Debra She Who Seeks does Thanksgiving her own way.

Australian warning labels are a bit punchier than ours.

June Cleaver asked a question.

Why wasn't this done a long time ago?

Maybe not the best place to punch a hole.

A stained-glass window depicts the coming of Jesus.

Hysterical Raisins has a new theme song for Trump's latest toady.

This building is as bizarre as its creator's name.

The domestication of cats made a lot of sense.

The "stable genius" is gender-bending a dog.

Check out this Vile music.

Stay away from caves.

Back to the War on Christmas.

This is the Faroe Islands.

Read a black cat's tale.

As an atheist, you need to find your own comfort level in dealing with religious relatives.

Disney's new streaming service is all fouled up, apparently.

Fundies rage against Chick-fil-A for "abandoning Christian values" -- which tells you something about what those values are.  Speaking of which, opposing Trump is "demonic".  Hardly surprising, since Pelosi and Schiff are actual demons.

Read a few quotes relevant to the times.

These people exist.  They'll vote, too.  Will you?

Fiction is not reality.

Fundies interpret loss of dominance as being persecuted.

Trump is really costing us.  But he's found something to be thankful for.

Here's one church that isn't a tax scam.

Roy Mo[lest]ore laments the "immorality" of our times.

No, anti-Nazi does not mean anti-white.

A Christian wedding photographer sues for the right to reject gay customers.  Because Christianity is all about shunning and excluding people.

Working for this company is a shitty experience.

Donald Trump Jr wants families to fight.

Most of what you hear about sex trafficking is bullshit.

The governor of Utah strongly supports a ban on conversion therapy for minors.

House Democrats are trying to get things done; Moscow Mitch is the obstacle.

Religious freedom doesn't come from religion.

Vindman's testimony is a bulwark against cynicism (found via Hackwhackers).

US military leaders are increasingly concerned about Trump's meddling in support of war criminals.

The church of child molestation considers lesbian relationships "toxic" because they're too supportive and caring.

Walmart is awful; see also this comment by Rautakyy.

The Big Sky Conference's "female athlete of the week" -- isn't.  People are talking about the implications even if the media won't.

Gun sales are surging in anticipation of possible restrictions.

The DHS created a fake university to entrap and deport foreign students.

Ruthless time standards at Amazon are causing a rising rate of permanent injury to employees.

An AI program is now unbeatable at Go (found via Mendip).

It's time for a rethink about what we eat.

Cannabidiol oil (not to be confused with marijuana) can help with a variety of medical problems.

Take a video tour of the Moon in high-res.  Version with narration here, though it didn't play properly for me.

Britain's Labour party comes under increasing fire for the anti-Semitism engulfing it.

Be grateful for the First Amendment.  Under "blasphemy" and "hate speech" laws, you get punished for telling the truth.

Russia cheats at everything.

Apple grovels to Tin-of-Pu's demands; DC Comics kowtows to the Beijing mafia.

India's economy is slowing, a challenge for the ruling religio-nationalist party.

This is what a real attack on religious liberty looks like.

The truth about China's concentration camps is coming out.

Chinese police beat and arrest protesters, but not in Hong Kong this time.

If you boldly confront bullies, they will often back down.

In case she can't get Medicare-for-all, Warren has a back-up plan.

The right wing is waging an all-out war on voting.

What do Democratic candidates have to be thankful for?

Economics can't explain why Trumpanzees support Trump, but bigotry can.

Don't let a major Republican donor pose as a Democratic candidate. Also, watch this (found via Mendip).

Yes, the right wing still wants to destroy Social Security.

New citizens could flip some states next year, but probably won't.

Russian/Republican election meddling next year may be quite difficult to recognize.

The South Bend city council's longest-serving black member endorses Biden over Buttigieg.

There's a reason why most Republican politicians don't turn against Trump when they retire.

More links here.

29 November 2019

Sum ergo bloggum

I occasionally see claims that blogging is on the decline these days, displaced by "social media" and by impatience with any form of writing longer or more complex than a fortune-cookie fortune.  If this is the case, I have not noticed it.  Yes, I've seen a fair number of blogs go dark over the years, but there are also new people starting up.  And there are always new blogs to discover, even if they're only new to me.  So many times I've thought, "How come I only just discovered this person when they've been blogging for years?"

Social media are no substitute.  Twitter and Instagram aren't suited to posts of any length.  YouTube is so shitted up with ads these days that it's becoming unwatchable, with ads not only preceding videos but interrupting them randomly in the middle.  And I've never been able to figure out what Facebook does other than collect data on its users.

Much of the fascination of blogs is their individuality.  Each blog is so different because each one represents the style and interests of its owner.  I've seen blogs focusing on every subject from atheism to gardening to movies to art to humor to occultism to book reviews to photography to space travel to sex to poetry to feminism to cartoons to Halloween to travel to politics to education, and various unexpected combinations of subjects that happen to interest the author.  People have different styles of writing and different ways of using pictures, videos, links, etc. to help make their points.  No other medium makes it so easy for so many to express their individuality so exuberantly in front of the whole world.

That's what makes blogging what it is.  Don't write what you think the audience wants -- write what you want to write, and those who want to read it will find their way to you.

26 November 2019

Video of the day -- Challa


A cheerful piece.  Worth fullscreen for some London scenery.  The language of the song is, I think, either Hindi or Punjabi.

24 November 2019

Link round-up for 24 November 2019

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

o o o o o

Animals suck, apparently, and so do insurance salesmen.

Sometimes a cat is in exactly the right place.

I've heard of trolling people, but..... (found via Mendip).

"These aren't the druids you're looking for."

See the aliens (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Hysterical Raisins looks at the impeachment circus as TV drama.

"Have some quick jokes," said Tom swiftly.

Enter the corn maze.

Three rodents, two blades of grass.

It's a world of gadgetry obsession.

Well, at least he wanted the job.

Trump has a way to punish Republicans who are disloyal to him.

Florida man, meet Florida dog.

Lucille Ball made Star Trek happen.

Halloween is over, but we still have Creepmas.

This Renaissance Faire was a festival of cosplay.

View the election through a crystal ball.  Also, animals.

Wolfnoot was yesterday, but no one will mind if you observe it today.

Blogging will thrive as long as bloggers keep going.  "Social media" are no substitute.

We are moving, the sky is not.

When ads get intrusive enough, they backfire.

This is not what "shatterproof" means.

This software claims it disables the spyware elements of Windows 10.  I'd be interested in what the more computer-savvy readers think of it.

Do atheists "hate God"?

Beware of juice-jacking.

If you live here, you're closer to Texas than Texas is.

Flat-Earthism is a symptom of a broader problem.

If you don't decide, others will decide for you.

It's not just child molesting -- the Catholic hierarchy is also deeply financially corrupt.

An atheist blogger's Twitter account has been locked for challenging the mandatory lies of the day.

Screw this -- don't let Nazi assholes make us re-name things.

Religio-wingnuts rage against Chick-fil-A's retreat from anti-gay bigotry.  NRO calls it shameful -- I thought they supported capitalists' freedom to run their businesses however they choose?

Cities and states take up the fight for net neutrality.

Despite campaign promises, Trump has repeatedly acted to empower anti-gay religious bigotry.

There is a vast sea of dangerous nonsense out there.

Joel Ramírez Palma tried to sound the alarm about a building which later collapsed.  Now he's facing deportation.

A Chicago school district grants boys access to girls' locker roomsThis is madness.

Poor people have needs beyond bare survival.

"No quid pro quo" could become Trump's epitaph.

Here's how recent history looks from the enemy's viewpoint.

When right-wingers denounce "attacks on religious liberty", they mean things like this New York state law protecting employees from being fired for having abortions.

These people exist.

No, religionists, we are not going to shut up.

Darwinfish 2 reviews and debunks the various wingnut defenses of Trump.

Stephen Miller's hypocrisy on immigration is exposed -- by his uncle (found via Hysterical Raisins).

The right wing is becoming divided over just how explicitly racist it should be.

Smartphones could be used to create a "free internet" to circumvent censorship in countries like Iran and China (I can see this being needed in the US and Europe soon as well, if our own pearl-clutching control freaks get their way).

New technology increases the potential of solar power.

There may be a fifth basic force of nature, though it will take a lot more evidence to establish something of that magnitude.

What kind of person rides to the defense of Britain's suddenly-toxic Prince Andrew?

The UK Labour party is getting as idiotically nasty as our Republicans.

Three Dutch teenagers used sexuality to fight the Nazis (found via Mendip).

Australians don't make a public spectacle of religion like Americans do.

Watch Russian troops take possession of a US-built military base in Syria abandoned by Trump.

The world's biggest secondhand book market confronts the arrival of a giant mall (found via Mendip).

India's top diplomat discusses his country's growing role in the world, including in the fight against global warming.  (If you get a greyed-out screen and a box nagging you about your ad blocker, click on "weiter mit Adblocker".)

Texas takes another little step toward purpleness.

One impeachment inquiry, two narratives.

I don't understand why Tulsi Gabbard is considered a Democrat.

Once Trump is out of office, we'll need to limit the power of possible future Trumps.

It takes abject ignorance to believe that the two parties are at all alike.

The current hearings are turning public sentiment slightly more against impeachment, notably among independents.

More links here.

[1,039 days down, 423 to go until the inauguration of a real President.]

21 November 2019

Dream world (5)

Oh, the visions some people entertain.....






















[Previous "Dream world" post is here.]

19 November 2019

Blogging notes

From time to time a few people have suggested making the links in the link round-up default to opening in a new tab.  Is there a widespread preference for this?  If there is, I'll try to figure out how to make it do that.  I've never been able to find a setting for it, but it must be possible, seeing how many blogs do have links work that way.

(I prefer to read links that way too, but I'm so used to right-clicking and choosing "open in new tab" that I just do it without thinking now.)

Also, has anybody tried this button which now appears at the bottom left of the dashboard:
I can't find any info about what it does, and since I'm using a very old and basic template (it was the simplest one available when I started on Blogger 13 years ago), I don't want to risk triggering some sort of upgrade that would mess up the sidebar.

Update (Wednesday, late afternoon):  Much thanks to everyone who commented.  In this how-to link given by commenter AZ Guy, I found the following:

At the time this is written, when you open a new page with target="_blank", the site you link to gains access to the window/tab containing your page and is able to change it (in the visitor's browser) to display a different web address.  This not only thwarts your attempt to keep visitors at your site (if that's your purpose), it's also a potential danger to them. For example, if you have a login page, the linked-to site may replace it with one on another site that looks like yours, but actually collects your visitor's login details.  This kind of attack is called "phishing".  Even if your site does not have facilities for visitors to log in, the linked-to site can replace it with a page that delivers malware. This vulnerability is not hypothetical.  The people from the Google Security Team have noted a "significant number of reports" of such "tabnabbing" being used to deliver malware.

Since I don't want to risk that kind of thing happening, and the majority of commenters seem to be OK with the links as they are, I'm just going to leave things that way.

17 November 2019

Link round-up for 17 November 2019

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

o o o o o

Wag softly and carry a big stick.  More dog humor here.

Bring back LOLcats.  And we have some LOLdogs too.  But how do they compare?  This cat pwned a bear.

Use dumbth to fight dumbth.

Blogger Justine creates a mini-cemetery.

Remember the golden age of SF puppetry (found via Mendip).  Also, "Novena Airport"?  Is that near the Vatican?

Evil and good can be hard to tell apart at a glance.

See the stunning tree of gold.

He came home to Jesus.

Read some handy tips for living.

RO looks at colonoscopies, James Bond, the swinger lifestyle, and a bunch of other stuff.

Twitter has difficulty with the concept of "German".

Here's how the Star Wars franchise went down the tubes.

Unacknowledged twins?

Have some Lovecraft illustrations.

Recognize the atheists in the foxholes.

Don't erase your past -- it's part of the truth.

Americans overwhelmingly support legal marijuana.

Steve Ruis discovers an almost transcendent example of bullshit.

Trumpanzees, here's why we don't like you.

When you ride Uber, you ride with Mohammad Bone Sawman.

Ohio contemplates an incredibly stupid law (but about Biden, see my comment).

Here are some ways to detect hidden cameras.

That sudden realization that the guy you're dating is just slightly nutty.

Don't fetishize getting over it.

Keep moving in until we overwhelm them with numbers, bwa ha ha.

Almost two-thirds of Americans want religion to stay out of politics.

On impeachment, Republicans frantically try to change the subject.  Plus, corruption and Bloomberg.

Don't fall for these myths about progressive taxation.

Is there a connection between religion and morality?

Samantha Bee exposes the truth about Paula White, Trump's "spiritual advisor".

Don Jr's book isn't a legitimate best-seller.

Christianity doesn't work on healthy minds.

You are being spied on (read the whole thing).

The full evil of Stephen Miller is out in the open.

What's a Catholic to do when he's convinced the Pope is a heretic?

There's another truth behind what you see.

Ralph Reed is all-in for Trump.

These people exist.  And they're really like this.

In the pre-civil-rights era, black veterans were feared by segregationists and specially targeted for violence.

The US has a shitload of dangerously under-maintained dams.  Do you live downstream from one?

Expose the cruel fraud of psychic powers.

Evangelical churches grow by cannibalism.

Here's what you need to do before throwing away a computer.

There were once dinosaurs in space, sort of.

A real patriot is one who puts the good of his country ahead of his own ambition.

Berliners troll Trump with the world's most famous failed wall.

Gangster regimes hate it when a small democracy stands up to them.

Ukraine got its aid, but..... (found via I Should Be Laughing).

The world's soon-to-be-biggest trade deal doesn't include the US.

The Hong Kong protests lose legitimacy if they resort to murderous violence.

No, we don't need another giant-ego billionaire pointlessly running for president.

Voting is like catching a bus.

No, holding the Senate impeachment-trial vote by secret ballot will not work to get rid of Trump.

More links here.

15 November 2019

Impeachment in the wingnutosphere, and a few observations

Public hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry have begun -- a process that some hope will shift public opinion against Trump.  Since I read right-wing blogs and sites regularly in order to keep up with what's going on among the opposition, I'm getting a pretty good sense of how they're reacting.

Among right-wing blogs, I'd say these posts at Adrienne's Corner, The Last Tradition, and Catholic Truth (read the comments too) are typical.  They believe the process is failing so abjectly, has backfired on the Democrats and blown up in their faces so spectacularly, that it does not even occur to them to imagine that anyone could have any other interpretation of what they're seeing.  Some blogs have barely bothered to mention impeachment at all, preferring to stay focused on the real crimes -- Pizzagate, Benghazi, Burisma, the "Russia collusion hoax", etc. -- which they are confident will soon take center stage with indictments of Obama, Hillary, Biden, etc.

I would recommend that any proposed strategy for future politics in this country not be dependent on hopes for having rational discussions with that element of the population.

As to right-wing news sites, Breitbart has been giving the testimony a pro-Trump spin and stressing the boost to his fund-raising.  RedState is focusing on peripheral stories to undermine and mock the process.  Fox has too many articles to single out just a couple as typical, but they seem to be emphasizing the general dullness of the proceedings.

At NRO, Kyle Smith also gloats that most of the public is uninterested in the hearings, and he has a point.  John McCormack notes that day one drew over 13 million viewers on TV, but this is impressive only in comparison to other TV events like the World Series.  It's five or six percent of the voting-eligible population, suggesting that interest in the process isn't reaching much beyond the tiny political-junkie minority.

Kevin Williamson also has a point, at a deeper level, asserting that the impeachment battle is simply a manifestation of the deep tribal division within American society.  I don't agree that that's true of the substance of the hearings -- Trump's violations of the law and the constitution are real, and many Democrats really do care about them.  But it is true that Americans are engaged in a bitter culture war about whether our society should be run on the basis of the Christian taboo system and an economic ideology contrived to preserve the position of the 1%, or on the basis of the kind of secular democratic-socialist consensus that prevails in most other advanced countries.  And clearly the sheer fervor of the strong left's opposition to Trump and support for impeachment draws its energy from this.  So does the hard-core Evangelical and other right-wing fanaticism in defense of Trump and loathing for all things liberal and secular.  To them it's a matter of fundamental values, and any opposition is intrinsically illegitimate regardless of the facts of the case.

I don't deny being a strong partisan on the secular side of that culture war myself, probably more so than most American liberals and atheists are, since the historical perspective I take makes me so aware of how malignant the right-wing mentality is -- especially now that it's become dominated by reactionary religion.  But this also gives me a deeper sense of how intense and immobile the enemy's stance is.  There's no way a parade of guys in suits testifying about details of a phone call we already basically know about is going to make a dent.

And -- getting back to impeachment specifically -- this is a problem.  I've been reading a lot about the impeachment hearings on various liberal and mainstream blogs and news sites, and I just can't see how this is anything other than a complete snoozefest.  It's been known for weeks that Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into "investigating" Biden, or at least into saying they would do so.  Anyone who refuses to believe that has already shown they're impervious to any imaginable evidence.  What we've seen in the hearings so far is basically just repetitions of that same fact, sometimes with a few details added.  This is what we're counting on to lure the vast middle away from their video games and TV dramas and get them riveted on politics?  Granted, it's early in the process, but so far I see no sign that this is going to have any impact on public perception of Trump at all, much less sway enough Trumpanzee voters to enable the necessary 20 Republican senators to vote for removal during the trial phase.

As an aside, Democratic politicians need to stop saying things like "our job is to shape public opinion".  That bit of arrogance could easily go viral and poison mass perception of the whole process, de-legitimizing it to the point where it really would backfire.

But so far, on the whole, impeachment looks likely to come and go with barely a ripple of impact.  It's firing up the anti-left frenzy of the rabid wingnutosphere, but they're pretty much in a state of maximum frenzy all the time anyway.  When the Senate fails to reach a two-thirds majority for removal, it may lead to despair among those on the left who have long clung to impeachment as a deus ex machina to end the current nightmare.  But in the months between then and the election, Trump will generate plenty of further outrages to re-energize them.  It's what he does.  For most of the public, impeachment will be a non-event, barely noticed.

I hope that then we can finally put the undivided focus of our political efforts where it should have been all along -- on the election.

12 November 2019

Windows 7 and the blogger's dilemma

As we have been endlessly reminded, Microsoft will end support for Windows 7 on 14 January 2020.  My computer runs Windows 7, and I'm uncertain what's the best thing to do about this.  Microsoft's own posts and messages on the subject are pushing users to switch to Windows 10, which I don't want to do for several reasons:

1) Windows 10 is essentially spyware -- it reports a lot of information about what you do on the net or have on your computer back to Microsoft.  I've been thinking about getting a VPN for better internet security, but I don't know whether that would do any good if my own computer is spying on me -- a VPN, from what I understand, protects your connection with the sites you're reading, not the computer you're using to read them.  And no, I don't agree that "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about."  I'm not doing anything illegal on the net, but it's nobody's damn business what I do do.

2) It's an inferior system and not as intuitive to use.  I've used Windows 10 computers at jobs (most companies seem to be using it now), and it's more glitchy and often slower than Windows 7, and harder to figure out how to do things.

3) I can't even be sure whether Windows 10 would work on my computer.  It's a very old computer (I just keep getting it fixed every time something goes wrong, rather than buying a new one), and I've got a lot of programs on it, some of them old versions.  I don't know whether everything would work properly with a different operating system.  I suppose I could buy a new computer, but moving everything to a new computer would be a huge project, and I resent being put to all that effort and expense when my existing computer works just fine.

A blogger I sometimes read recommends switching to Linux, but it sounds like that would definitely not be compatible with my existing programs like Excel (yes, there are other programs that do similar things, but I doubt they could read my existing spreadsheets properly).  Most pro-Linux posts I've seen are full of incomprehensible technical gibberish, suggesting that it appeals mostly to techie types who don't care about being understood by average users -- the kind of people who are interested in fiddling with the engine, not just driving the car.  And again, I would hate dealing with the headache of learning a new system when there's nothing wrong with the old one.

Another factor is that I don't know how "bad" it is that support for Windows 7 is ending.  If I just ignore all the exhortations and threats and stick with Windows 7, what exactly will happen after the 14th?  How big of a danger does lack of support pose?  Given the huge number of computers still running on Windows 7, is it possible that some other entity would step in and start offering the support Microsoft no longer provides?  I'd gladly pay a reasonable monthly fee for that rather than deal with this whole mess.

Finally, I've heard that the spying features of Windows 10 can be turned off, but I don't know how easy it is to do that, or (critically) whether it really stops the spying -- and I doubt Microsoft is going to be very eager to show people how.

(As an aside, it's incredible that Microsoft would deliberately trash an excellent and hugely-popular product that hundreds of millions of people want to keep.  This is exactly the kind of corporate behavior that the "free market" is supposed to discourage.)

So it seems I basically have three choices:

1) Stick with Windows 7 and hope for the best.

2) Switch to Windows 10, disable the spy features (if that's possible), and hope it works properly on my existing computer -- or that my existing programs could be moved to a new computer and still work.

3) Get off the internet, completely and permanently.  No more blog, no more reading on the net, nothing.

("Switch to Windows 10 and put up with the spyware" isn't an option.  I'm serious.  I am not going to do that, even if it means giving up the internet.)

At the moment, I don't have sufficient knowledge to make an informed choice.  I'm curious what others who are facing the same problem are planning to do, especially if you know more about computers and have a better grasp of what various options would involve.