27 February 2013

The rebellion of Italy

The exact legislative configuration that will emerge from the weekend's election in Italy is still murky, but the broad meaning is clear -- a massive repudiation of the Moloch of austerity to which the EU has been sacrificing its southern member states.

One-quarter of the vote went to the "Five Star Movement", a new party led by a comedian, Beppe Grillo.  Grillo not only rejects the EU's austerity policies, but calls for a referendum (a word always anathema to the Brussels oligarchy) on Italy abandoning the euro currency and reinstating the lira.  One-quarter of voters cast their ballots for this, despite the usual fear of "throwing away" one's vote on a third party.

Between the two establishment coalitions, Luigi Bersani's "leftist" coalition was the narrow winner.  I put "leftist" in quotes since Bersani supports continued submission to the EU's austerity regime, and thus has lost any valid claim to the title.  His coalition failed to get a majority in the upper house of the legislature, and it's unclear whether he can assemble a big enough alliance to form a government.

Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition got almost as many votes as Bersani's.  This marks the latest political rebirth for Berlusconi, a vulgar plutocrat who nevertheless sometimes has a knack for blurting out blunt truths that others would prefer to leave unsaid -- exactly what Europe needs these days.  He too has questioned whether Italy should stick with the euro, and his rejection of austerity makes him perhaps a better "leftist", at least economically and in the current context, than Bersani.

Mario Monti, the EU quisling who has ruled Italy for a little over a year, was utterly repudiated with only about 10% of the vote.

Between Grillo and Berlusconi, two-thirds of the vote went to anti-austerity candidates.  The future of the euro currency (which is the real cause of Italy's economic problems) and of the undemocratic and unworkable EU itself are once again in question.  "The markets", whose flighty and transient verdicts on elections are always reported with such sober reverence by the media, are jittery as they always get when the masses defy the elites.  All these things are hopeful signs.

As in centuries past, Italy has for years now been under siege by barbarians from the north.  But this time, Rome just may manage to hurl back the marauders from its gates.

24 February 2013

Link round-up for 24 February 2013

Internet trolling is like rolling around in.....

One way or the other, you have to pay.

Murr Brewster looks at the great Québec maple-syrup heist.

Maybe Texas needs an 11th Commandment -- Thou shalt not knock up thy neighbor's horse (found via Mendip).

Here's a shower curtain for the YouTube age, and the best-looking sink ever (it's Iranian).

Honkin' huge goldfish invade Lake Tahoe.

A regular snowman would have been too mainstream (NSFW).

Ladies, don't get your how-to-catch-a-man advice from the wingnuts.

The Atheist Pig looks at Popes gone wild.

Republicans push another clueless anti-science bill, this time in Oklahoma.

Don't be the sucker.

Joe Miller is back, joining the Nutty side in the Republican civil war.  Here are some even crazier Republicans.  To reform, the party needs to deal with its rage problem.  But the right wing seems to be running out of energy.

Here are ten celebrities you didn't know were atheists (found via Lady Atheist).

One sign of delusional thinking is dark predictions of some sort of impending collapse in which those whom the delusional person dislikes will get their comeuppance.  Here's an example from the MRA crowd.

This takes guts -- the murdered Dr. George Tiller's abortion practice in Wichta is re-opened by a former employee.

College atheists are growing in numbers -- and assertiveness.

On the gay-marriage fight, right-wingers are losing their own young people (read the comments for juicy wingnut cluelessness).  Illinois may be the next state to join the 21st century.

Here's a look at that Southern history that certain people want to commemorate.

Here's a ranking of US states by religiosity -- glad to see Oregon right at the least-religious end amid the New England states.

Rand Paul calls for "spiritual cleansing".

Alaska has its darker side.

The TSA assaults and traumatizes a wheelchair-bound three-year-old.

In the looming clash with Republicans, Obama has the public firmly on his side.  Republicans are out of favor on almost every issue.

If you aren't boycotting Facebook yet, read this.

Could Hillary Clinton smash the Republicans once and for all in 2016?  A poll shows her beating Republican Presidential hopefuls in Georgia.  Texas looks worth messing with too.

"Moderate" Catholics who condemn the abuse but stick with the Church are part of the problem.

The Arpaio recall is for real.

No, Dorner was no hero.

Global-warming denialism is clandestinely funded by a few billionaires with an agenda.

A damning new documentary focuses on power and abuse within the Catholic Church.

A top Republican exposed as a misogynist? Gosh, who'd have thought it?

The US Christian Right spreads its toxic influence far beyond our own country.

Here's a magnificent map of London in 1746 (found via Mendip) -- use scroll wheel to zoom, left-click and hold to move around like on Google maps.

In World War II, even the Queen pitched in.

Britain's Conservative government will stick with its ruinous austerity policies, which have thrown the country back into recession and increased its deficit.

Another major Islamotard terrorist attack is thwarted in Birmingham.

Britain's Christian Medical Fellowship isn't as harmless as it sounds.

George Galloway stages a disgusting little display of bigotry.

Here are some Irish people getting into a bad habit for a good cause (found via Mendip).

The Catholic Church castrated boys in the Netherlands in the 1950s to "cure" them of homosexuality (or apparently, in at least one case, to punish them for reporting abuse by priests).

French Jews head for Britain to escape anti-Semitic attacks (found via Lady Atheist -- see my comment there).

A new report links Ratzinger's resignation to entrenched homosexuality and corruption in the Vatican.  But again, Ratzinger himself will be shielded from justice.

Some European Muslims are assimilating European values.

In Russia, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism unite against freedom.

Islamist Jew-hatred is running riot in Tunisia (found via Lady Atheist); in Libya, you can be arrested for non-Muslim proselytizing.

She wishes she had more time to read (so do I).

Why doesn't the smartest species in Earth's history show more foresight?

Check out the bizarre and diverse animal life that thrived on Earth during the Cambrian explosion.

The US government's new brain-mapping project should be of interest to atheists.

23 February 2013

Teabag -- the word that reveals a world

When commenting on right-wing sites, one must be a bit careful when referencing members of the "Tea Party" movement. They often don't like it when you refer to them as "teabaggers", even though everyone else has long grown used to doing so. They take it as insult, now that a lot of them know what "teabagging" actually means.

I maintain that it's OK for non-teabaggers to call teabaggers teabaggers because teabaggers called themselves teabaggers back before non-teabaggers told them what it means. So there. Remember this (from 2009)?

They chose the word and now they're stuck with it. It's not everyone else's fault that they didn't know what it means.  In fact, it's rather revealing. What a quaint little bubble world they must inhabit! Not one of those people who proclaimed "Teabag Obama", etc. even knew anybody who could take them aside and quietly point out that, uh.....

Is it any wonder that they periodically get caught circulating caricatures of Obama as a chimpanzee, or the White House lawn planted with watermelons, or this (found via Progressive Eruptions) apparently oblivious to how such innocent japes look to the broader society?  They don't know..... much of anything, really. It's cluelessness turned proud and militant.

Secluded in their Ozzie-and-Harriet time capsule, they also probably think slash is just what the bad guys in horror movies do, bareback is how you ride a horse when you forgot your saddle, a shipper is somebody who uses Fedex a lot, and a safeword is -- what? A word that doesn't offend anyone? (Which they'd doubtless denounce as political correctness.) And they'd be quite baffled to hear talk of Larry Craig or Rush Limbaugh having beards. Who knows what expressions they'll innocently glom onto in the future? I can hardly wait to see what the next right-wing splinter group calls itself.

20 February 2013

The Clash of the Wingnut Titans

Last link round-up, I needed a full paragraph for all the links of interest I'd found on the looming civil war within the right wing, which I'll reproduce here for those who want to follow them up:

"Some Republicans are trying to de-stupidize the party, but the base won't let them. Rove's plan to stop the teabaggers from nominating more sure losers seems to have energized the Nutty faction to fight back to overthrow the Sane faction. Even if the Sanes win, a Nutty third candidacy could split the party."

The latest spark on the tinder is of course Karl Rove's "Conservative Victory Project" which seeks to channel the power of big donors to neutralize the militant teabaggers' campaigns in support of flaming nutballs like Christine O'Donnell and Richard Mourdock, who take out viable moderate Republican candidates in the primaries (they felled Richard Lugar, fercryin'outloud) and then go down to defeat against Democrats in the general elections.

Teabaggerdom took Rove's initiative as a declaration of war, and the battle was joined.  This Monday, blogger Smartypants reported that the Koch brothers, the true founders of teabaggerdom, and Donald Trump, that orangutan-like buffoon of the feces-flinging right wing, have also taken the field against Rove.  Now Richard Viguerie is piling on too.  In the latest wrinkle, a teabagger group has sent out a fund-raising e-mail depicting Rove in a Nazi uniform.

That's the problem with these people -- in every fight they immediately go nuclear.  It was weird enough when they were calling Obama a Commie Muslim Nazi Kenyan America-hater, but now they're even doing it to people who are basically on their own side.

As Smartypants says, "There isn't enough popcorn in the world!"  Let's hope the wingnuts have themselves a fine fratricidal feces-flingin' good time battling it out for the next few years, giving us the House and the magic 60 in the Senate in 2014 and a Paul or Palin third-candidate fustercluck in 2016.

18 February 2013

A potpourri of Popery

Quotes on the soon-to-be-ex-Pontiff:

"Should the pope resign? No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch. No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice - the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution - while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears."

Richard Dawkins, 2010

"Look: the man was the chief figure in the church hierarchy charged with dealing with the child-rape conspiracy that spread across the whole globe. Every single case came to his desk. These were crimes of monstrous evil. Yet he insisted that the church deal with them in complete secrecy, never sent a priest to jail, even gave the mass rapist Marcial Maciel a comfortable retirement, allowed the priest who raped over 200 deaf boys to enjoy a quiet retirement, and even now will invite Cardinal Mahoney to elect the new Pope. He put the prestige of the institution repeatedly before the dignity and inviolability of children. The only word for that is evil."

Andrew Sullivan

"The Vatican's new policy on gay priests has been leaked. Officially, it proposes the incorrigibility of deeply rooted gay tendencies. Unofficially, it exposes the deeply rooted, incorrigible antigay tendencies of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI. For decades, while moderate clerics defended celibate gay priests, Ratzinger pressed for a purge of homosexuality not merely as an act or a lifestyle but as an orientation. Now he's in charge, and he's got ambitions beyond the church. He wants to cleanse us all, inside and out."

William Saletan, 2005

"And now behold the harvest of this long campaign of obfuscation. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil — a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice — and speedily at that."

Christoper Hitchens (do read the whole thing!)

"Since then, the sex abuse scandals that shadowed John Paul’s last years have become the defining story of his successor’s papacy, and the unexpected abdication of Benedict XVI has only confirmed the narrative of a church in disarray. His predecessor was buried amid reverent coverage from secular outlets, but the current pope can expect a send-off marked by sourness and shrugs."

Ross Douthat

"Who cares if the pope retires?  Get rid of one, and they’re just going to appoint another one. It’s not as if the job description has changed: the primary criteria are the ability to profess brain-buggering bullshit and work your way through the arcane medieval hierarchy of church politics, so it’s not as if we’re going to be surprised. It’s going to be another old guy who has dedicated his entire life to superstitious nonsense."

PZ Myers

"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

Joseph Ratzinger

Mario Piperni

Video found via The Immoral Minority.

17 February 2013

Link round-up for 17 February 2013

Murr Brewster looks at cheese and its impact on Norwegian traffic.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains a lot about Republicans these days.

Radio isn't what it used to be (found via Mendip).

Here's the difference between insanity and religion.

FreedomWorks ventures into panda/Hillary porn.

This is what a trillion dollars looks like (found via Uzza).

Yep -- they taste better that way.

Welcome to the Bible Belt.

The TSA keeps the change.

Monsanto has a voice in the halls of power.

You go lady!  Elizabeth Warren gets to work.

Is Spanish challenging English for dominance in the US?  Not as much as another language did a century ago.

Another bunch of Republicans is pushing forced ultrasounds. In fact, it's their priority (found via Lady Atheist).

Nice picture, nice smackdown.

The youth vote is pushing yet another red state toward the left.  The right's sole remaining strategy is rigging the electoral system.

To get money to pay the latest child-molestation legal settlement, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles robs the dead.

The sad story of Julia Pastrana illustrates how racists lie.

The Republicans' 2012 defeat wasn't due just to demographics.

Rosa Rubicondior looks at some miracles. She also has a message for Christians.

Students in southern Indiana want a separate prom that excludes gays (found via Republic of Gilead), but they didn't count on getting world-wide publicity.

The right wing is jumping a lot of sharks these days.

The Vatican obstructed one Archbishop's efforts to remove molesting priests (found via Lady Atheist).

The Justice Department will hold S&P accountable.

Here's why it's nonsense to claim that gay marriage interferes with religious freedom.

Andrew Sullivan is massively unimpressed with Rubio -- he's no savior for the Republicans.

Who was more dangerous to the public -- Dorner or the police hunting him?

Could religion get any more trite?  27% of Americans believe God plays a role in the outcome of sporting events.

Mainstream Americans aren't fooled by Fox any more -- but Republicans still are.

Obamacare will secure access to birth control.

Arizona teabaggers plot intimidation against the Arpaio recall campaign.

The Christian Right's political roots are even uglier than we think.

Some Republicans are trying to de-stupidize the party, but the base won't let them. Rove's plan to stop the teabaggers from nominating more sure losers seems to have energized the Nutty faction to fight back to overthrow the Sane faction. Even if the Sanes win, a Nutty third candidacy could split the party.

Yet another falsely-convicted man goes free in Texas.

Here's how the death penalty stands around the world.

A stint in prison wised up this guy so he wouldn't cause any more trouble.

Ratzinger is a monstrously evil man, but he will escape justice.

Glasgow is ready to welcome tourists from far away (found via Mendip).

Europe's new anti-Semitism is a more complex issue than some Americans realize.  Neo-Nazis -- and Islamotards -- use soccer to promote it in Germany and beyond.

Hell hath no fury like an Englishman fighting for his fish and chips (found via Mendip).

As Christianity dies out in Germany, churches are being sold off en masse.

Here are some videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor.  The Russians are starting to clean up the mess.  The great number of videos of this event calls attention to the new Russian trend of dashboard cameras.

Chechnya's Islamotard leader threatens a crackdown on wizards while promoting exorcisms (found via Mendip).

Tim McGaha has more on that fake Iranian stealth fighter.

Turkish Airlines flight-attendant uniforms tell a disturbing story about the country's social trajectory.

Al-Jazeera's best journalists are leaving.

The Chinese regime is losing patience with its North Korean ally.

International pressure pushes the Pakistani government to move against "compensation marriage".

Here's more on how brave people in Timbuktu saved the city's medieval manuscripts from the Islamists.

Islamic business-as-usual:  Muslims in Pakistan slaughter other Muslims for being the wrong kind of Muslims.

Take a look at the world's largest cave (click on picture for full size).

Anti-depressants help victims of medical experiments overcome their trauma.

Arctic ice is vanishing faster than the climate-change models predicted.

What would happen if you tried to fly a Cessna on another planet or a moon?

Meet the world's biggest earthworm.

Bill Gates, put your money where your mouth is.

15 February 2013

Video of the day -- belief vs. truth

I posted this about three years ago, but here it is again for all those who haven't seen it.  It's rare to find so much wisdom and common sense compressed into three and a half minutes.

12 February 2013

Darwin Day 2013

Charles Darwin (born on this date in 1809) was the founder of the central theory of all of modern biology and arguably the second most important scientist who ever lived (after Isaac Newton).  His work and its significance illustrate a great deal about what science is, and what it is not.

The basic idea that simpler life forms have gradually developed into more complex ones over time dates back at least to the Romans.  Darwin's theoretical contribution was to propose the mechanism by which this process happens.  Any population of organisms contains some variation among its members, and some of these variations will be more conducive to survival and reproduction than others.  As a result, the individuals which carry those variations will usually produce more offspring, and if those favorable variants are inherited traits (an important qualification), they will become more common in the population, so that over time the nature of the population changes.

It seems like a tiny effect, but operating over long enough spans of time, it can change a population of simple self-replicating molecules into a population of highly complex organisms such as you and me.

(Note that while the mutations that produce the basic variations are random, natural selection is not random.  When you hear someone attack evolution as a "random" process, this is a sure sign that he lacks even rudimentary knowledge about it.)

Nor did Darwin stop at just proposing the idea.  By his exhaustive study of animals he was able to assemble a great mass of supporting evidence -- the real meat and muscle of science.  It's not enough to propose an idea that "rings true" or seems intuitively convincing.  The real test is always the evidence supporting the idea, and how well that evidence stands up to challenges.

Darwin did not set out to attack religion, but inevitably his theory was one of the mightiest blows against religion ever delivered.  However much of religion's specific dogma had been exposed as nonsense down through the centuries, the complexity, sophistication, and apparent purposeful design of living organisms had always been an unanswerable argument for the existence of some kind of guiding intelligence at work in the universe.  By providing a real explanation for those phenomena, Darwin swept away this last seeming rational basis for belief in a supernatural creator.

The theory of evolution as we have it today is far more elaborate and sophisticated than what Darwin originally proposed, because we have learned far more in the meantime (genes and DNA were not discovered until long after Darwin's death, for example).  This is how science works. It's only worthless belief systems such as religions that operate on the model of a one-time Revelation from the Master, immutably set in stone, to be "interpreted" but never improved or changed by the lesser men of later generations.  Science is always seeking new data and testing its theories against those data to arrive at a more accurate understanding of reality.  But the present-day theory of evolution is still rooted in the concept of gradual population change via natural selection which Darwin originated.  And so massive is the amount of supporting evidence discovered since Darwin's time, that evolution now ranks among the most solidly-established facts in all of human knowledge -- for more on this, I recommend Richard Dawkins's numerous books on the subject.

Darwin's native Britain commemorates him on its ten-pound note (above), an unusual example of a scientist rather than a ruler being represented on currency.  But it would be impossible to overstate his importance to modern science.  Modern biology, anthropology, paleontology, medicine, and countless other sciences are rooted in the theory of evolution, without which they could not even exist as we know them today.  Kings and Presidents and even nations come and go, but Darwin will likely be remembered and honored at a time when few people other than archaeologists even remember where the planet Earth was located.

Darwin's Wikipedia article

Darwin Day Foundation

Reminder for modern conservatives

11 February 2013

Emperor Palpatine quits

He Who Zings Rats will step down from his strenuous duties of being infallible at the end of this month.  Candidates interested in the position should send résumés to Cardinal P.D. Fiahl, 666 Pervertissimus Molestor Altarboyorum Street, The Vatican.  Prior experience in objecting to gays and contraception and in cover-ups of sex crimes against minors strongly preferred.  No Irish need apply.

10 February 2013

Video of the day -- Trump sounds again

It's too long since I've had a Bill Maher video here.  If anyone should be suing him, it's the orangutans, for implying that Trump might be one of theirs.

Link round-up for 10 February 2013

Dream world.....

If you're going to whine about gay marriage, choose your illustrations carefully.

Technology is killing culture!

Maybe women in the military won't be such a distraction.

Hey Jude.....

Which Amazon is bigger?

This may be the most disgusting zombie movie ever.

Save Medicade!

Here are some rare color photos of the early Beatles.

A former hater joins the 21st century.

What would Jesus think?

Real books have their pluses.

This may be the most unusual murder weapon ever (found via Mendip).

Histories of Things to Come and Progressive Eruptions have photos from snowstorm Nemo (more here).

To be a "science buff", you should at least have some understanding of science.

Why can't we have stupidity-control pills?

Republicans are still threatening to wreck the economy with European-style austerity.

One thing follows logically from the other (found via Rosa Rubicondior).

The US can't afford to be complacent.

The more things change, the more they stay the same (found via The Immoral Minority).

The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles wants your money (found via Republic of Gilead).

Conservatives discuss the possibility of a Santorum 2016 Presidential run.

Yes, even today there are people this superstitious.

Here's a disquieting assessment of the "sovereign citizen" wingnuts (sent by Ahab); see also the video below this post.

After firing the waitress in the stingy-pastor incident (see last week's link round-up), Applebee's faces the wrath of the internet.

Wingnut hysteria is linked to the final great defeat of the white South.  Note the regional character of the Christian Right.

Atheists, speak out!  Religion is fair game.

Who had the real intelligence failure?

A lawsuit highlights the corruption of college sports.

Time to get back to real economics (found via What Would Jack Do).

A Connecticut pastor apologizes for participating in a Sandy Hook vigil -- because other religions were also represented. Bryan Fischer weighs in.

If Hillary were running for President today, she could even carry Texas.

Ed Brayton has a new favorite website.

Net migration from Mexico to the US has been zero since 2005.

What if there were an honest Pope?

The EU is organizing an internet troll campaign against the rising tide of wised-up Europeans (is it really so implausible that our Republicans would also do this?).

Just a week after France, Britain too opts for gay marriage.  The country's thankfully-tiny Christian Right whines.

German folk singer "Heino" (I was a fan back in the 80s when I was learning the language) releases a record-breaking come-back album -- at the age of 74.

Russia's rising official homophobia is part of the Putin regime's tightening alliance with the Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian activists stage an eye-catching protest against female genital mutilation in Berlin.

No, Germany is not sunnier than the United States.  At all.

Poland's government wants to adopt the euro currency, but the people reject the idea.

Iran unveils a fake stealth fighter.

An assassination has re-ignited political protest in Tunisia -- and some Egyptians are running out of patience too.

Malala Yousafzai has been discharged from the hospital.

South Korea warns it will attack rather than let the northern regime have the bomb.

During their occupation of Timbuktu, the pious and moral Islamists gang-raped several women as punishment for "crimes" (found via Lady Atheist).

Sorry Islamotards, mountains are not tent pegs.

No, it's not OK to gain weight just because you're old.

The decline of the brain in old age can be fought by turning off a single signaling molecule.

08 February 2013

Video of the day -- the tazing of a wingnut

This individual is probably a member of a particular subculture of wingnuts who call themselves "sovereign citizens", who have developed a whole weird elaborate theory of jurisdictions and "rights" and special meanings of various words, all of which they basically made up out of thin air but which they claim has objective reality. What it boils down to is, they have the "right" to hassle and abuse people and basically do anything they want, and nobody else has any right to stop them. They've become known for clogging up the court system with meaningless paperwork full of their gibberish.  But spouting jargon does not immunize you from the consequences of your own behavior, as this individual discovered.  More here, here, and here.

05 February 2013

Machine people

Because the problem of curing biological aging is so complex, an intermediate step toward life extension which has been proposed is the development of artificial bodies into which the brains of elderly people (and later perhaps just minds, once computer brain emulation becomes sophisticated enough) could be transplanted.  For this to be a satisfactory option, robotics would need to be able to replicate the capabilities and even the appearance of the human body very accurately, but technology is already more advanced in this area than many realize, although no one has yet made such a good imitation that an observer would actually be unable to distinguish it from a real person.  These videos are from Japan, which is, as far as I know, still the most advanced country in robotics:

One of the more challenging problems has been walking and balance, which require surprisingly sophisticated systems in actual humans, given our upright stance, so unusual in the animal kingdom.  We've made some progress there as well, however.

One necessary area where robotics lags behind is the replication of human senses.  Robots can see and hear well enough, but generally cannot feel, taste, or smell, since these abilities are not necessary for most tasks for which we currently use robots.  It's the makers of prosthetic limbs for amputees who have the most reason to be working on a sense of touch.

Obviously this technology still has far to go -- but with the pace of progress today, I suspect we'll see startling results within the present decade.

03 February 2013

Link round-up for 3 February 2013

Murr Brewster pursues the elusive kea.

The Vikings wouldn't be impressed by us moderns.

We need to be more accepting of religion.

Kittens bring back a fox from the brink of death.

The Bible has a different view of what we're made of.

Sometimes a swastika isn't what you think.

God hates figs!

What are the sand spikes of southern California?

Boycott Applebee's.  And this pastor.

Yes, there is class warfare going on.  And here are some of the aggressors.

Republicans attack science in Missouri and across the country.  But they're backing down on their threat to gerrymander the Electoral College.

Don't forget those who played by the rules.

Equifax is not on your side.

Green Eagle has a short history of the Tea Party.

Prejudice rears its head right here in the Portland area.

Don't be too confident yet that the Republicans are finished.  But opponents of gay marriage are on the brink of defeat.  And Fox News has seen its worst ratings since 2001.

Yes, there exist people to whom this is humor.

On the economy, it's time to focus on the real problem.

Many Muslim men in Britain bring wives from their home country, but the story often ends in misery.

The British town of Grantham takes little pride in its most famous citizen.

France joins the growing list of countries with gay marriage.

Screw the EU and the Republicans, Iceland shows the whole world how it's done (found via Uzza).  They're not letting the FBI push them around either.

Egypt's Islamist regime follows in Mubarak's footsteps.

Iraqi girls find a way to avoid forced cousin marriages -- suicide.

Maryam Namazie has a few words about World Hijab Day.

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the day the tide turned in World War II.

India starts to take action on its horrific epidemic of violence against women (found via Lady Atheist).

Blade Runner?  No, Beijing.

Here's how the Islamists ruled in northern Mali before the French liberated it.

Science doesn't say what the anti-abortion nutters think it does.

Go vegetarian -- it's better for your heart.

Cell re-programming is being tested as a cure for a wide range of forms of blindness.

Here's a discussion of some ideas for fighting aging.

Europe will invest €500 million in computer simulation of the human brain -- a potential step toward the Singularity.

01 February 2013

Video of the day -- Land of Confusion

From 1986 and it still resonates today.  The video is full of intriguing symbolism, as at 1:54 "The men of steel, the men of power, they're losing control by the hour" as hands hold up TV remote controls, adumbrating how the internet would destroy the centralized control of information; or at 3:13 when the dinosaur imagery is interrupted by a small mammal eating a dinosaur egg -- the small and unnoticed subverting and destroying the giants.