30 November 2014

Link round-up for 30 November 2014

Need something to be thankful for? Think of home.

This is a spectacular sight I hope I never see coming toward me (found via GoodShit).

Pwned! -- by a fish!

Cats rule!

Maybe this is why we don't get visitors.

Here's some eldritch horror and madness for your Lego sets (found via Mendip).

Don't hire this architect or this one.

This is the kind of dumbass a right-wing "news" site sends to a science museum.

The Barbie doll has finally been dethroned as the most sought-after girls' toy.

STFU, Schumer.

Chatpilot remembers the arrogant nonsense he once believed.

We need more tell-it-like-it-is Democrats like Biden.

Here's a man who truly follows the Bible.

I can't think of a comment on this either.

Politics Plus has a detailed report on the Tamir Rice shooting.

After a series of bungled executions, Ohio Republicans push a law to.....keep details of executions secret.

This is what tyranny is and isn't.

Green Eagle reads the right-wing internet so you don't have to.

Black Friday just gets worse and worse.  But one item sold very well.

Republicans plot against the will of the people in DC.

Gay-friendly subtexts aside, Frozen had a few other progressive touches.  But teabaggers take heart, no doubt this new conservative film-making venture will soon bury the competition.

If only we'd listened to this guy.

Republicans are poised to throw away their last traces of Hispanic support.

Squatlo makes an important point about the Ferguson riots.  Here's another.  But here's a side to the protests the media haven't said much about.

Hay-on-Wye, Wales, is known as the town of books (found via GoodShit).

British and Americans have outdated stereotypes of each other.

Our translations of the New Testament get the tone wrong.

2,200-year-old mosaics from a flooded ancient Greek city look good as new (found via GoodShit).

Must-read post of the week: Kaveh Mousavi explains why the existence of good and decent religious people is all the more reason to oppose religion.

Sounds like ISIS is getting desperate (found via Green Eagle).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has emerged as something of a Middle Eastern teabagger with his recent remarks on women's equality and the discovery of America, but protest so far has been muted.  More gravely, Erdoğan needs to be held accountable for this.

In India, standards must be upheld!

Isn't this what Jesus would do?  Oh, wait.....

It's dropped off the US media's radar, but the Ebola epidemic is still raging.

A treasure trove of hominid fossils from South Africa reminds us again of how science differs from religion.

28 November 2014

Visions of the spiritual world (2)

Remember the mass human sacrifices of the Aztec religion?  Fervent believers slaughtered great numbers of people (mostly prisoners of war or victims given as tribute by subject peoples of the Aztec Empire), sometimes tens of thousands at a time, in bloody temple rituals to propitiate the Aztec gods who, they believed, would otherwise allow the mechanism of the cosmos to cease running.  That ghastly faith and its practices vanished centuries ago, thank goodness, but an almost equally horrific tradition of mass blood sacrifice continues on the other side of the world -- even if the victims are not human.

Every five years millions of Hindus gather at the temple of Gadhimai, a Hindu "goddess of power", at Bariyarpur, Nepal.  Many come from nearby India.  The occasion is a mass sacrifice of animals to the goddess, an action which the faithful believe will entice her to give them luck, health, and prosperity.  The scale of the slaughter is staggering -- in 2009, the last time the festival was held, these believers killed between 300,000 and 500,000 animals, mostly by clumsy beheading.  Not for food, not in self-defense, but purely to win the blessings of a fatuous entity with no existence outside their own deranged delusions.

Here's a video by blogger Lady Freethinker (who posts more on the Gadhimai festival here), which will show you exactly what this looks like.  Be warned -- beheadings are shown graphically.

The 2014 festival begins today.  I was not able to locate the petition mentioned at the end, but here is another, and there's also a campaign aimed at the Nepali embassy in the US.

This yet again illustrates, of course, the inability of the religious mind to test beliefs against empirical evidence.  If Hindus believe these mass slaughters bring health and prosperity, a glance at India and Nepal strongly suggests that it isn't working.

Earlier posts of mine on Hinduism are here, here, and here.

27 November 2014

Turkey cremations

Be thankful that you don't live next door to these jive turkeys -- unless you do!

25 November 2014

Ferguson -- teabagger perspectives

F169 started this open thread for live-blogging events in Ferguson as the grand jury decision was announced, and it's already up to 1,022 posts.  Have a look, and remember -- these people live on the same planet with you.

23 November 2014

Link round-up for 23 November 2014

Things are getting serious now -- the world is running out of chocolate.

Check out these spectacular images of destruction (found via GoodShit).

Here's what Christian leaders through the centuries have said about women.

These people voted -- did you?

Europe and the US handle science differently.

Murr Brewster isn't fooled by the cloud.

Patricia Miller isn't fooled by the Pope (found via Republic of Gilead).

Shaw Kenawe has a really unappetizing Republican menu for us.

When the House voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Lakota Indians whose lands would be affected took it as an act of war.

Still depressed about the election?  Read this, and you'll feel better, especially the part in beige lower down.

Stonekettle Station's response to the Republican outrage over Obama's illegal-alien actions is, as usual, a must-read.

Which marriage should be forbidden?

More evidence supports the view that the internet is inexorably destroying religion.

Recognize the Tea Party for what it is -- the revival of an old and evil treason.

Kirk Cameron sinks to trying to skew the Rotten Tomatoes rating system (found via Republic of Gilead).

This posting appeared on a liberal news blog, but a lot of the comments read like they were written by Nazis (found via Green Eagle).

Yes, of course Republicans want to impeach Obama.

Here's a guide to stores to shop at, or avoid (found via Politics Plus).

The Republican base and the general public view 2016 Presidential candidates very differently.

Here's an example of what happens when you try to debate with right-wing crazies.  It all sounds very familiar to me.

What if the President took really radical action on illegal aliens?  Could Republicans support him?

We're not doing it right.  These people are.

Where marijuana is concerned, the Canadian government is as moronic as ours.

The Church of England is in such steep decline that one bishop says it will disappear from England in six years.

The Pope speaks out to reassure the troglodytes.

The Catholic Church is losing its grip on Latin America (found via Republic of Gilead).

Once subject to official harassment, Medya Kitabevi is now Europe's largest Kurdish bookstore.

A newly-translated Coptic book from the eighth century suggests that religion at that time incorporated some strange and now-forgotten heterodoxies (found via Mendip).

The Saudi regime uses vague and draconian laws to suppress every vestige of criticism.

Here's a good explanation of why landing on a comet was so difficult to accomplish (found via Progressive Eruptions), and here are 26 of the historic photos from the Rosetta/Philae mission in high resolution (found via GoodShit).

[Image at top:  European Rosetta spacecraft approaching destination comet]

21 November 2014

A little patch of denial

The above map (found via Green Eagle; click for bigger version) shows how temperatures so far this year have varied relative to previous years.  As you can see, most of the world was warmer or much warmer than average, and some areas had record-breaking high temperatures.

Given variations of climate, there were also a few small patches that were cooler than average.  Unfortunately, one of those patches covers the eastern (and more densely populated) half of the United States.  Remember this map when some denialist points to conditions within just the US as evidence that global warming is not happening.  They don't seem to realize that the US is only about 2% of total planetary surface area, or that it can't be kept insulated from the effects of what happens to the other 98%.

19 November 2014

Frozen warmth (2) -- pop culture and social progress

Reactionaries bring considerable ridicule down on their own heads by fuming that popular films, TV, etc. are insidiously promoting liberal values.  Most of the time this just reflects the fact that, to them, anything which doesn't explicitly express their own cramped world-view can only be taken as propaganda.  But the fact is, in some cases, pop culture can indeed both encourage and reflect social progress.

The stunningly-successful film Frozen is the best recent example of this.  While the movie makes no explicit reference to real-world social issues at all, sharp-eyed viewers have noticed that the isolation and anxiety suffered by Elsa because of her inborn ice powers, and the reactions of people around her when she is finally "outed" ("Monster!  Monster!") are a strong metaphor for what many young gay people experience.  Here's a good overview:

.....and here is a detailed example of how the opposition views it.  Back in April I wrote about the controversy myself, though I hadn't seen the movie yet; now that I've seen it several times, I stand by what I said then.  It's not only a metaphor about gay young people, but could apply much more broadly, to any "difference" that provokes fear and hostility from the surrounding society.  Elsa's experience would make an equally good metaphor for growing up atheist in a religious culture, for example.  But that's a matter of detail.  The point is that there is a very strong message here about intolerance and the misery it causes -- the very intolerance to which the social enemy clings as a core part of its "values".

It's critically important that the message and the metaphor are just incidental, and quite subtle, in a movie which is really escapist entertainment (if I had seen it without already having read about these undertones, I would not have noticed them at all).  A movie with a central and explicit anti-intolerance message wouldn't have reached such a huge audience -- except for the minority which is already ideologically committed, people don't watch movies that preach at them (I don't either) -- people want movies that are fun.

How much fun is being had here, exactly?  Frozen made $1,274,000,000 just in theaters, more than two-thirds of that in foreign countries where the ticket prices aren't so inflated as here (it was released in 41 other languages besides English) -- the fifth-highest-grossing movie ever.  Despite being released less than a year ago, it's already becoming a bigger global pop-culture phenomenon than Star Wars or Harry Potter.  Mountains of DVDs, video games, and so forth have been sold (yes, a lot of money is being made, and that's a good thing -- movies like this should be encouraged).  People are taking it as inspirational in their own lives.  As happens when a movie fires people's imaginations, there's already a vast internet universe of fanfic and fanart, people making it their own in ways the filmmakers could never have anticipated (and -- yes! -- Elsanna shippers are now a thing).  The stunning song of self-liberation "Let It Go" is a phenomenon in itself, with 367 million views on YouTube so far.  None of this would have happened with a film that seemed "preachy" and pushed a "message" too explicitly; more to the point, the people who most need to hear it wouldn't have -- fundies would have refused to let their kids see the movie, and conservative-ruled areas like the Middle East might have banned it entirely.

For comparison, look at the dismal results of the cultural enemy's efforts to get its own message out via movies, like Left Behind or Atlas Shrugged.  Such movies failed (despite being based, unlike Frozen, on novels which had already been successful within their own subcultures) precisely because they tried too hard and too blatantly to push their makers' world-view -- again, nobody except the already-converted wants to go to a theater and be preached at.  They were also apparently just godawfully bad and inept movies, because most of the artistic talent and creativity is on our side -- an interesting matter in itself.

One can see the pattern elsewhere in mass culture.  Consider the character of Remus Lupin in Harry Potter -- a beloved and highly-capable teacher who is forced out of his job by pressure from hostile parents after being "outed" as a werewolf.  Kids who read the novels will remember Lupin if they later see a teacher lose his job for being gay or atheist -- and they'll know which side is the bad guys in real life.  The wizard-supremacist ideology of Lord Voldemort and his followers, with its emphasis on "pure blood" and valuing ancestry over talent, obviously stands in for racism, racial supremacy, and the exclusion of the "other", and perhaps for aristocracy is well.  The clomping literal-minded fundies made fools of themselves by screeching that Harry Potter was promoting sorcery and occultism, while these real messages (despite being far less subtle than Frozen) flew right under their radar.

There are other interesting touches in these works.  Did you notice that the "church" where the coronation scene in Frozen is held displays no crosses or any other Christian symbols?  Or that Elsa's father has at least one book that appears to be printed in the runic alphabet?  The kingdom of Arendelle is based on Norway at some vague time in the past, but apparently it's a Norway where Christianity didn't displace paganism.  As far as I can remember, in all the Harry Potter books there isn't a single mention of God or Heaven, even though the subject of the afterlife repeatedly comes up.

Explicit argumentation on social issues definitely has its role -- we wouldn't have gotten anywhere like as far as we have without it.  But pop culture can also help to subtly shift accepted norms and to change hearts and minds -- everywhere, not just in the West.

16 November 2014

Video of the day -- hate in a slightly-different world

One would hope that the "traditional values" bullies would watch this and realize how dark and horrible the world they've made truly is.  But of course they won't.

Link round-up for 16 November 2014

Imagine a world with starless nights -- there may be many such (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Sometimes it pays to be prickly.

Global warming?  Across the US we're seeing record lows.

Film imagery dramatizes two options for the future.

Hell now has its own website (found via Mendip).

This still exists.  Never forget that it still exists.  Read this discussion too.

Here's more on the horde of loons this month's election is bringing to Washington.  But Obama is defiantly back in action.

Do you feel lucky?  Well, do you, punks?

There are reasons why some nice guys finish last.

In Florida, some religions are more equal than others (found via Mendip).

The net neutrality debate once again reveals the disconnect between libertarian ideology and practical reality.

Faith healing kills children, but at least in Oregon, some justice has been done (found via Lady Atheist).

The belief in false "recovered memories" which swept the country in the eighties and nineties did damage that haunts many innocent people to this day (found via GoodShit).

There's now an average of two competitors per job opening, down from seven in 2009 -- suggesting that wages will soon start to rise.

But there's no difference between the parties.

Elizabeth Warren has a few words on what to do, and what not to do.

To some judges, it seems, women have no more rights or value than cattle.  And here's what's behind such attitudes.

Obama's decision to invest in green energy, much reviled by Republicans, is turning a profit.

What kinds of things are proper subject matter for postage stamps?

Iran needs reform, not a violent revolution, despite what some expats claim.

The UN reveals the horrific crimes of ISIS in the regions it controls, while Yezidis fear for the fate of thousands of enslaved women.  You can read ISIS's boasts of reinstating slavery in their own magazine here.

The Iraqi army's recent successes against ISIS may be due to its new general -- who is not an Iraqi (found via Kaveh Mousavi).

Boko Haram, the Islamist group that abducted hundreds of girls from the Nigerian town of Chibok in April, has now captured Chibok itself.

Infanticide, promiscuity, and big balls -- all are the work of natural selection.

What are near-death experiences?

The Philae probe has put comets in the news, highlighting yet more creationist stupidity.

14 November 2014

Quote for the day -- who survives best

11 November 2014

Trite supremacy

The history of social progress is largely the story of the struggle for acceptance and equality of groups previously stigmatized or deemed inferior.  Blacks, Indians, women, gays, atheists, and others have waged or are still waging that struggle in our own country, with others yet to follow, and one could point to similar cases involving other groups in other societies around the world which have different prejudices.

An awareness of common humanity has helped this progress along, but with some people this has begun to erode the ability to make important distinctions.  To illustrate what I mean, here's a graphic I found on Kaveh Mousavi's blog:

Pretty cute, right?  We're all human inside, all the same biologically (symbolized by the fact that we all have similar skeletons), so why make a big deal out of these surface differences?

To illustrate what's wrong with this, I whipped up my own version of the graphic:

See?  They're all human, all biologically the same, right?  But some differences actually do matter.

One reason this is important is that such warm-and-fuzzy thinking has given the bigots and their apologists an opening to, bizarrely, defend bigotry on the grounds of tolerance.  Christian fundamentalists now incessantly screech that laws which stop them from discriminating against homosexuals, and social attitudes that discourage anti-gay bigotry, are somehow persecution of them.  Apologists for Islam snivel that calling too much attention to Islam's propensity for abuse of women and gays, and for violence against unbelievers, constitutes "Islamophobia", as if criticizing an ideology were somehow analogous to racism.  If this mentality had existed in the 1960s, perhaps the Civil Rights movement would have been accused of "JimCrowphobia", bigotry and intolerance toward white-supremacist beliefs.

The skeleton graphic isn't even right on its own terms since in fact the struggle against prejudice isn't dependent on an absence of biological difference.  There are significant biological differences between men and women, and yes, there are even differences between male and female skeletons.  An anthropologist who knows what to look for can distinguish skeletons of different human racial groups.  If, as some suspect, there's a genetic component to homosexuality, then there must be subtle biological differences between people who experience same-gender attraction and those who don't.  The point isn't that such differences are non-existent or trivial.  The point is that they aren't relevant to an individual's claim to equal legal, civil, and political rights.

I don't object to a Christian, a Muslim, or even a Nazi having the same rights as I do.  The problem arises when those people's prejudices and taboo systems impel them to act in ways that interfere with the rights and freedom of others.

The best example of trite supremacy, of course, is that annoying bumper sticker one now sees everywhere, which spells out the word "coexist" using various religious symbols.  Somebody already did this take-down of it:

.....but it was hardly needed.  Do a Google image search on "coexist sticker" and you'll find plenty of graphics like these:

The intolerant may complain about "intolerance" of their intolerance when it suits them, but that's a tactic designed to take advantage of the naïve -- it's not what they're really about.  Some ideologies have intolerance and bigotry built right into their core doctrines.  We can't kumbaya our way around that.  Sometimes you have to fight.

09 November 2014

Video of the day -- FFS it's just a game!

This guy takes football a tad too seriously.  Most likely he was drunk.  Found via Mendip, who commented simply, "maturity".

Link round-up for 9 November 2014

Check out these very cool scale models of cities.

Here's your horoscope -- guaranteed accurate!

Microscope photography shows us the alien world of the very small.

OK, movie-makers, you got me -- President Sarah Palin visiting the inside of the Hollow Earth and being greeted by Hitler riding a tyrannosaurus (actual trailer) is something we haven't seen before.

What does a homophobic pastor obsess over?  Gay sperm in his coffee, apparently.

No, marijuana doesn't reduce intelligence, though alcohol does.

A Christian father sets out to convert his atheist son, but ends up renouncing religion himself (found via Lady Atheist).

Here's how a biology instructor gives his students "The Talk".

Katha Pollitt is trying to de-stigmatize abortion (found via GoodShit).

"Please proceed, Senator McConnell."

One bit of good news from the election -- "personhood" initiatives continued their unbroken losing streak.

Sometimes the big money wins -- Oregon's GMO-labeling initiative narrowly fails.

Two-thirds of Texans didn't vote.  The one-third who did probably included this bunch.

A former salesperson has some concrete suggestions for connecting with voters.  Essential advice: "The stock market and the GDP do not reflect the real economy. It's not a selling point. Just stop it."

Written before the election, Stonekettle Station assesses the next two years under a Republican Congress.

Obama offers some encouraging words.

Black voters, one of the most solid Democratic constituencies, have some concerns about the party, notably that it isn't doing enough to fight the new Jim Crow laws.

Milt Shook's election post-mortem pulls no punches, but it's a must-read.

Bizarrely, some Republicans won by running on left-wing issues (found via Progressive Eruptions).  But that doesn't mean they're really open to compromise.

"Now there could well be as many as 10 or 20 Bachmanns coming to Washington."  Here's a look at some of the craziest new Republicans in Congress.  Oklahoma's new Senator plans to use the Bible to fight the national debt, and Colorado has elected a virulent homophobe who believes Obama is possessed by demons to its state legislature.  Ed Brayton singles out another wingnut to watchProgressive Eruptions has more.  Teabaggerdom is already warning newly-elected Republicans against any deviations toward sanity.

In Britain, the majority of people believe religion does more harm than good.  56% self-identify as Christian, 2.5% as Muslim, and 1% as Jewish, but 60% say they are "not religious at all" -- showing that religious self-definition doesn't tell the real story.

British police arrest four Islamists who were plotting to assassinate the Queen.

A British businessman carried out one of the most disgusting scams ever, contributing to hundreds of deaths.

The Irish Atheist remembers Belfast, a city poisoned by religious hatred and hypocrisy.

Sign a petition here against a coal-industry project that would wreck part of the Great Barrier Reef.

On this date 25 years ago, people power began the destruction of the Berlin wall, ultimately leading to the fall of the USSR.

New left-wing parties rise in several European countries, as old-line socialists discredit themselves by collaborating with austerity.

As Putin continues his aggression against Ukraine, the ruble is collapsing under the weight of Western sanctions and the regime's incompetence.

Kaveh Mousavi looks at what this week's Republican win could mean for US-Iran relations.

In Pakistan, a Christian couple is beaten and burned to death by a mob, while a Shiite accused of blasphemy is hacked to death by an axe-wielding police officer.

India tries religious art as a tool against public urination.

In West Africa, fear of Ebola inflames superstition and faith healing.

The genome of a European who lived 36,000 years ago gives us a wealth of clues to recent human evolution.  Our gut microbes testify to much earlier developments.

Not all mammals during the age of dinosaurs were tiny (found via GoodShit).

These researchers hypothesize that quantum effects might be the result of parallel universes interacting with our own on the subatomic level (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  I can sort of imagine how that might work, but I really want to hear what Stephen Hawking thinks of the idea.

08 November 2014

An observation on the election

Nationwide, voter turnout in this week's election is being estimated at 38% or even lower (similar to the 2010 figure), with the disastrous results we've seen.  But here in Oregon, it was 69.5%, comparable to the national figures from 2008 and 2012.  And here, Democrats and liberal issues won.

Forget all the spin and hype -- that, right there, is the essence of our problem.  When lots of people vote, we win.  When few people vote, Republicans win.  If our 69.5% figure had been replicated across the country, we'd be looking at a Democratic landslide now instead of this minority-rule freak show.

There is nothing more important for the party to be doing than figuring out how to increase voter participation, especially in non-Presidential years.  A good place to start might be to look at how we do things in Oregon.

07 November 2014

New on the blogroll

A few recent additions:

Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I, like my own blog, has no fixed focus but just covers anything of interest to the writer.  Most posts are short and pithy; Comrade Misfit, a self-described "armed lesbian pinko", isn't shy with her opinions, nor much concerned with being polite to the nitwits and pearl-clutchers.  For example, here's her assessment of the election and the young people who didn't vote.  Other regular topics include planes, trains, cats, guns, etc.

GoodShit is incredibly prolific and hits every subject imaginable, though the posts are mostly links and image collections rather than original writing.  Current topics on the front page include graffiti, Alcatraz, the Gombe chimpanzee war, efforts to kill ISIS commanders, photographers from past decades, and why butter comes in the shapes it does.  Some galleries of nudes, so if that bothers you for some reason, be aware.

No Cross No Crescent is written by an atheist from the Islamic world, a region which seems to produce some of the bravest and clearest-headed atheists these days.  The author is uncompromising about the threat to humanity and progress posed by both Islam and Christianity in the West, the Middle East, and wherever else their reach extends.  No catering to the Western hypocrites who defend theocratic fascism by screeching about "Islamophobia".

Harlots Parlour advocates acceptance and normalization of sex work.  I've long been interested in this struggle and I think its time may be coming.  On marijuana, the dam is bursting -- four states have now legalized it so it can be regulated, taxed, and made safer for everyone involved -- and the application of the same logic and solution to sex work is obvious and inevitable.  The "abolitionists" and puritans keep trying to shout advocates down (even in some areas of the left), but we beat them on homosexuality, we're beating them on marijuana, and we'll beat them on sex work too.

Faye Kane is the most difficult-to-characterize blogger I've ever encountered.  Some of her views on race and sexuality are beyond reactionary, like something from VDare and de Sade respectively, and quite at odds with anthropology.  However, she's one of the most intelligent bloggers on the net, and when she gets going on something like Star Trek or capitalism or the dismal side of growing up or the sixties or the false dichotomy of reason vs. feeling (probably her best subject), the results are wonderful.  Be warned, though:  frequent sexual/violent imagery.  I'm not kidding with that NSFW tag.

05 November 2014

Oregon wins, America loses -- for now

Even in an election as lousy as this one, my state of Oregon remains an oasis of sanity.  We re-elected our Democratic Senator, Jeff Merkley, by a massive margin, and our Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber as well.  Democrats even made slight gains in both houses of the state legislature.

Measure 92, requiring labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, remains too close to call; it may yet squeak by, despite the big money spent to defeat it.

Best of all, we passed Measure 91; we will join Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana to be taxed and regulated, like any other commercial product.

I don't have much to say about the national election results.  Others will be providing mountains of analysis (and throwing blame around, which I'm especially uninterested in doing).  I do want to call your attention to the big picture:

1) Like 2010, this was just another case of Republicans winning because turnout was low.  When not enough people vote, this is what happens.

2) The polls were right.  They generally are.  People who sit around thinking up reasons why the polls are wrong are just setting themselves up for disappointment.

3) This is a setback, not a disaster.  Obama still has the veto pen.  Nothing good will happen in the next two years, but probably not much bad will happen either.

4) In 2016 the fundamentals will favor us as much as they favored the enemy this year.  We will keep the Presidency, take back the Senate, and probably win much more besides.

5) Above all, the inexorable demographic changes in our country make long-term victory inevitable.  Democratic-leaning groups -- Hispanics, single women, and above all the non-religious -- grow year by year, while Republican-leaning groups shrink.  Yes, things feel terrible right now, but in a few years we'll all look back on this as little more than a speed bump.

Let the bad guys gloat for now.  Our time will come.

04 November 2014

Today's the day

Millions had to fight like hell for this.

Millions more are still fighting for it.

You have it.  Don't waste it.

Here's a perspective on our elections, from outside.  And remember, even if you don't vote, this person will and these people will.

03 November 2014

Vote tomorrow

There's probably never been an election for which the saying "every vote counts" was so true.  In theory, the Republicans should have an unbeatable advantage -- every factor favors them.  It's a midterm, which usually means low turnout, which helps them.  The midterm of a President's sixth year in office historically tends to go against his party.  And most of the Senate seats up for election are held by Democrats, many of them in red states.  Our position should be hopeless.

But in fact, the polling has been all over the place, and several critical races are within a percentage point or two -- exactly the situation where a determined GOTV effort could tip the balance.  Two of the most unspeakable Governors in the country, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker, are struggling.  Our Senate candidates have a chance -- not a really good one, but still a chance -- in some surprising places like Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alaska, and even Kansas (where independent Orman would at least be an improvement over incumbent Republican Roberts).  If the Republicans have a fight on their hands in those states, in a year when the fundamentals say they should be steamrolling us everywhere, then this is a battle worth waging.  What if your vote helped take down McConnell or Brownback, or helped keep some crazed extremist like Joni Ernst from a Senate seat?

That's not to say voting is any less important in "our" states.  The Senate race in New Hampshire, for example, is closer than it should be.  There, too, turnout will be decisive.

I live in Oregon, whose Senator Jeff Merkley is as safe as any Democrat can be this year, but I still voted (we have vote-by-mail here, in advance of election day).  The margin of victory matters psychologically, and we have ballot initiatives on legal marijuana and GMO food labeling whose fate is less certain.

Remember -- if voting didn't matter or had no impact, as some people claim, the Republicans wouldn't be putting so much effort into discouraging people from doing it.

If you're still in need of motivation, please acquaint yourself with one of my favorite political blogs, PCTC (it stands for "Please Cut the Crap"), which makes a point of addressing the attitudes which sometimes lead liberals to neglect voting or to waste their votes on a third candidate.  Recent posts explain why midterms are not less important, the dangerous nihilism of the Republicans, the vast differences between the parties, and why pragmatism is better than ideological purity.  PCTC is a refreshing blast of common sense against the self-destructive muddled thinking to which some on our side fall prey.

Those who claim to see no real difference between the parties must be able to look at the Bush years and believe things would have been basically the same with Gore as President; must believe a Republican would have appointed Supreme Court justices like Sotomayor and Kagan instead of more Scalias; must believe the Republicans who fought like mad dogs against the ACA would have passed something as good or better.  I simply can't fathom that depth of stupidity.

Finally, even if tomorrow brings disaster as some pundits expect, you'll know you at least did what you could.  Those who can't be bothered to do something as basic as voting can never say that.  They chose the role of passive victims, and facilitated the victimization of others.

02 November 2014

Link round-up for 2 November 2014

Blog post of the week:  Hiba, an atheist from Lebanon, celebrates her exuberant self-liberation from the fetters of Islam and embraces "Let It Go" as a personal anthem (found via Kaveh Mousavi) -- much in line with my own interpretation of the song.

Here's a look at the physics of R'lyeh (found via Mendip).

This dog's bark drowns everything else out.

The TSA apparently doesn't realize that ray guns aren't real.

Don't even think of trying to stop the rise of AI.

Somebody from F169 found my recent post about that board and copy-pasted it on F169 without my knowledge -- and somehow the resulting thread turned into yet another sewer of anti-Semitism.

Bloggers posting for Halloween, each in their own way, include Histories of Things to Come, Ranch Chimp, The Immoral Minority, and Politics Plus.

The number of non-religious people in the US might be as high as 38% -- and the decline of religion among the young heralds the doom of the Christian Right.

Gosh, why would anyone think this Halloween display was racist?

Murr Brewster looks at Oregon's Measure 92, which would require labeling of foods with genetically-modified ingredients.  As I suspected, there's some very big money fighting to defeat this.

It's not just gays and abortion -- the enemy hates porn too.

Do all deeply-held beliefs deserve respect?

American Christianity has changed.

Here's another sensible take-down of Ebola hysteria.

One of those sleazy online-dating sites finally gets nailed by the FTC.

By hook or by crook, Republicans keep the advantage in Texas.

Ed Brayton is fed up with the intrusive proliferation of ads across the blogosphere.

Right-wing obstruction of voting has a long history, but it's getting more outrageous.

That "10 hours" catcalling video is now being accused of racism.

Shaw Kenawe remembers Boston's longest-serving mayor.

Most Republican politicians are quietly backing down from the threat to repeal Obamacare.

Even cigarette companies are now banning workplace smoking (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Green Eagle has a photo report on the vast groundswell of national support for impeaching Obama.

Take an in-depth look at the mentality and aspirations of the enemy.

My alma mater is overrun with idiots, apparently.

Sometimes the police are useless when you really need them.

In a few years, the marijuana industry could be bigger than the NFL (found via GoodShit).

Tim McGaha looks at the largest naval battle in history.

England has some strange and ancient Halloween traditions.

A sex worker in Northern Ireland talks about her life, but can she make herself heard?

Don't be fooled -- Pope Francis is just another ignorant and muddled religious crank.

See the otherworldly Blue Grotto of Capri, Italy (found via GoodShit).

Switzerland used abducted children as forced labor on farms well into the 20th century.

Kaveh Mousavi contemplates teaching his future children about religion -- more here and here.

There's something the Kurds need even more than airstrikes.

This is the reality of ISIS.  This is what the anti-interventionists would let engulf millions of people.

Atheism is on the rise in Egypt.

Here's an expressive moment from Turkish history.

It's not just Africa -- modern witch-hunts happen in India too.

Our genetic history suggests that the boundaries between human and non-human were once very fuzzy.

A substance found in chocolate (and tea) can fight age-related memory loss.

If you want to avoid acid reflux, here's some straightforward advice.

Scientists in Massachusetts develop stem cells that can destroy brain tumors.