31 October 2015


Scary costumes and decorations just aren't what they used to be.  With bubonic plague, Windows 10, another godawful Star Wars movie, and Donald Trump running for President, what terror can ghosts and witches hold?  Perhaps part of why Halloween is becoming so popular is that its traditional spookery is an escape from the drearier horrors of reality.  In that spirit, a few offerings:

Gothtober has Halloween-themed art for every day of October.

Crooks and Liars suggests 60 horror movies for Halloween -- some classics here!

Ranch Chimp collects some creepy art and videos.

Check out these photos from El Día de los Muertos, Mexico's Halloween.

Jezebel has two collections of spooky mini-stories.

From my own files, some scary pictures and the origin of the holiday.

And, of course, there are always the usual party-poopers.

30 October 2015

Feeling the Bern!

Bernie Sanders has come out in support of completely removing marijuana from the DEA schedule of controlled substances (found via Earth-Bound Misfit) -- putting it in the same category, from the standpoint of federal law, as alcohol and cigarettes.  This would be a huge step toward sanity since, by all available evidence, marijuana is far safer than either of those drugs.  Draconian marijuana laws are also a big part of the reason why our country incarcerates vast numbers of people who have done no harm to anyone, often for horrifyingly-long sentences.

No other Presidential candidate has been so bold.  One Republican, Chris Christie, has even promised a federal crackdown on marijuana in states such as my own Oregon which have legalized it -- something a majority of Americans and even a majority of Republicans oppose.  Hillary Clinton has said she wants more data from how legal marijuana is working out in such states before making federal changes.  The time for such caution may be passing, though -- 58% of Americans (including majorities in several swing states) now favor legalization for recreational, not just medical, use.  Let's hope that Bernie's step out ahead of the pack, coupled with the imminent victory of legalization in Canada, will inspire more of our leaders to actually lead on this issue.

29 October 2015

The debate -- a few initial observations

There seems to be a consensus that the Bush-Rubio exchange during the debate has essentially finished the former and catapulted the latter to the status of presumptive nominee.  I'm not so sure, though it's clear that Rubio won the exchange -- or, to be more accurate, Bush lost it (I'm now actually hoping Jeb! still somehow gets the nomination -- he'd be meat on the table for Hillary).  But Rubio's response, while competent and certainly effective at shutting Bush down, didn't strike me as spectacularly brilliant.  For those who haven't seen it, here is the exchange:

At least one major Florida paper, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, has also made a major issue of Rubio's neglect of his Senate job, and Rubio's own bluntly-stated disgust with the Senate opened him up to this line of attack (the best proof of Jeb!'s ineptitude as a politician as that he didn't mention this during his initial attack).  Bush seems to have a deep sense of entitlement and is the heir-apparent of a family which seems to think of itself as the royalty of the Republican party; he's not going to drop out of the race easily, and he still has considerable resources.

There are other lines of attack available against Rubio.  His youthful appearance and lack of experience are ongoing concerns (one Republican blogger observed that a debate between him and Hillary would look like a schoolboy arguing with the teacher).  His earlier support for illegal-alien amnesty still deeply rankles many Republicans.  His opposition to abortion rights is radical even by Republican standards, something Hillary has already targeted him for and which she could use in a general election to accurately paint him as a dangerous extremist.  These are not points that Jeb! himself could easily use against him -- but surrogates and PAC ads could, and the Bushes know how to fight dirty.  Even before this debate, Jeb! viewed Rubio as his most dangerous opponent -- hence the misfired attempt to torpedo him yesterday.  He'll be even more of a target now.

Some Republicans seem to feel that arch-wingnut Ted Cruz was a standout at the debate, though it's hard to see how a man loathed by his own party's establishment (and fellow Senators) can win, unless everyone else self-destructs.

And it's far too early to count The Donald out.  He and Carson are still far ahead of all the traditional-politician candidates, and I think Carson is largely a placeholder for those who are determined that an outsider should be the nominee but are unwilling to declare their support for a man the media and establishment relentlessly denounce as a clown (in the end, Republicans are not going to nominate a black man who belongs to a "weird" ultra-pacifist religious sect).  Trump has not been taking his slippage in the polls very well, but to the disappointment of many who were expecting it, he did not suffer a total meltdown at the debate and self-destruct.  He's still the real front-runner.  Rubio and Bush are fighting over dominance of the establishment bracket which the wingnut rank-and-file is systematically rejecting.

The demolition derby isn't over yet.  There are still fifteen of these wheezy old clunkers rattling around a rather small arena, some of them still convinced they can win the prize if they can just total out whichever other of their number looks least decrepit.  Hopefully they'll all end up at the junkyard.

27 October 2015

Videos of the day -- extreme piloting

Dutch F-16 performing at an air show in the UK.  Found via Earth-Bound Misfit.

Russian helicopter air-dancing.

Speaking of Russia, with a bit of marketing this could become a hot export item to the US:

Does the NRA know about this?

25 October 2015

Link round-up for 25 October 2015

The Norwegian language has an intriguing new slang word (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Dance and music -- just watch it.

Obama has some fun mocking the wingnuts.

Australia is suffering a beetle-bottle sex crisis.

If I ever have to fly on a plane again, I hope it's this one.

Ranch Chimp has art and videos for Halloween.

The world's first kinetic steampunk café is now open (found via Mendip).

This boy is lucky boredom made him restless (found via TYWKIWDBI).

What's the ethnic origin of the modern witch costume?

Any billionaires reading this, give this some thought.

A Ukrainian artist repurposes a Lenin statue.

Britain has plenty of local stereotypes.

On climate change, Republicans and Democrats are miles apart.  And Canada's new Liberal government means dramatic change on the issue.  The Canadian election holds lessons for our Democrats.

Canada is now committed to legalize marijuana, but you won't believe which country may be next to do so.  Even in the US it's just a matter of time as public opinion has already turned decisively against prohibition.

Russia's anti-US propaganda needs work.

Chinese professor suggests reverse polygamy to address China's male surplus, hilarity ensues.

Petra Laszlo wants to sue her victim.

US, Kurdish, and Arab forces take the offensive against ISIS.

Here's what's behind the latest violence in the West Bank.

South Africa's Dutch Reformed Church, once an ultra-conservative bastion, now supports gay rights.  Here's another sign of change in that country.

Yo, Finland -- cool idea.

Rearm Germany and Japan?  Barney Frank makes the case.

ThinkProgress looks at the great 9/11 controversy (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

No, we don't want blessings and prayers.

Good response to "cultural appropriation" horseshit.

Explore the mystery of the medieval German rocket cats (NSFW blog).

Do boys and girls need separate stories?  Only when adults mess things up.

Republican insiders confront the ghastly reality that Trump may well be their nominee.  But.....they were hoping for this guy?  And they can't count on Rubio as a savior.  On our side, the front-runner is clearer than ever.

PM Carpenter live-blogged the Benghazi hearing. Even right-wing pundits can see that this was a failure for their side, while the real wingnuts are just floundering.  House Republicans were even caught tampering with evidence.  Their dogged conspiratardia has helped make this Hillary's best week yet -- maybe this could become a campaign strategy?

Benghazi aside, the winguts are maintaining their normal state of lunacy.

The sheer ugliness of pro-Christian arguments exposes how worthless the religion is (found via Republic of Gilead).

One man can truly give Bush credit for keeping him safe.

Congressional Republicans are in the toilet with voters.

Abortion opponents epitomize hypocrisy.

Sorry Jim Webb, there's no room for a Nader this time around.

Texas is suffering massive rainfall and floods, which even derailed a freight train.  Maybe God is punishing them for this?

Strange rock formations in the British Isles illustrate how order spontaneously emerges in nature.

Telescopes have come far, mostly due to computers (NSFW blog).
[Image at top found via Jobsanger; image at end found via Progressive Eruptions]

23 October 2015

Video of the day -- back to the present

This week's observance of Back to the Future Day reminded me of this video which, besides being a cool song tribute, serves as a kind of Cliff's Notes version of the original movie.  Sometimes life does imitate art, but the parallels between Biff Tannen and Donald Trump were not only prescient but intentional.

22 October 2015

Not fooled by Benghazi baloney

72% of Americans including 49% of Republicans believe that the Benghazi hearings are being held mostly for political gain, while just 23% think they are objective.  The wingnuts' supposed nuclear option against Hillary is a wet firecracker.  How much longer will they keep riddling their own feet with bullets over this contrived scandal?

Maybe they just like hearing themselves make noise, however little they have to back it up.

21 October 2015

Congratulations Canada!

The big news of the week comes from up north, where the Liberal party won a national landslide, ending nine years of Conservative party rule and taking 184 (up from just 36 before the election!) of the Canadian Parliament's 338 seats.

The key to the victory was the same as that for Democratic wins in our own country -- voter turnout, which reached 68.5%, much higher than in either of the two previous elections which the Conservatives had won.  The more people vote, the better the left does.  The Liberals came first in every province except Alberta and Saskatchewan.  In the four Atlantic provinces and the far north, the Conservatives were totally wiped out (note that, as in most of the world, red means the left and blue means the right):
In rejecting the Conservatives, Canadians were rejecting the toxic dogmas of austerity economics which have crippled Europe for years and which are advocated by the Republicans in the US.  Canada's Liberals stuck to their guns, refused to move to the center economically, and won.

The Liberals' platform also calls for immediate legalization of marijuana, which the Conservatives fiercely opposed.  Given the length and openness of the border, this will make the insane prohibitionism still prevailing in most US states even harder to enforce than it already is, and hopefully spur more states here to reform.  The outcome was also a vote to speed the shift to renewable energy and away from the destructive fossil-fuel development favored by the Conservatives.

With our Bible Belt, teabaggers, and other wearying forces of reaction, we cannot hope to do so well on a national scale -- but let's try to get as close as we can next year.

20 October 2015

Debate results

After a flurry of interest in quick but unscientific website surveys immediately after the Democratic debate, we now have three properly-conducted polls of Democrats to show us what the party actually thinks.  Jobsanger assembles and explains the results here, and produced the graphic above (it's of just one of the three polls, but all three gave very similar results).  Confirming the almost unanimous view of political analysts after the debate, Clinton won handily.

She also remains the frontrunner nationally by a large margin.  Notice, too, that the picture looks broadly the same whether or not Biden is included (though I concede that his impact might be greater if he actually joined the race, especially if the rumored possibility of Warren as his running mate materializes).  It's important to remember that the liberal blogosphere in many ways is not representative of the broad mass of Democratic voters, who are less ideological, more interested in practical results, and probably more focused on the all-important question of which candidate can really beat the Republicans than on which one is most pure of "incorrect" positions.

As most readers know, I'm supporting Clinton, but the crucial thing is for the party to remain unified regardless of who ultimately becomes its candidate.  If Sanders gets the nomination I'll support him and do my damnedest to get him elected -- and the same goes for Biden if he gets in and wins.  That the next President must be a Democrat is far more important than which Democrat it is.  Sanders fully understands this and, to his great credit, has promised not to run as a third candidate if he doesn't win the nomination (and any Democrat who does threaten to do this should be treated as a pariah).  Leave the ideological purism and circular firing squads to the Republicans.  Our side needs to stay united.

By the way, for those who aren't familiar with it, Jobsanger is a very good blog for keeping up with polls, showing the results in easily-understood format, and explaining their significance.  I strongly disagree with some of the views about Israel which have been expressed there in the past, but for US domestic politics, it's well worth following.

Update:  Just saw this and couldn't resist adding it -- Bernie pwns Martin Shkreli, who goes into meltdown mode.

WTF is this horseshit.....

.....doing on Crooks and Liars?  Astrology?  Way to blow your credibility with reality-based people.  At least I'm glad to see from the comments that most readers know rubbish when they see it.

18 October 2015

Link round-up for 18 October 2015

Arab graffiti artists pwn the Homeland TV show.

Ranch Chimp has some amusing videos on guns.

A theologian's blather about oral sex cracks up a TV presenter (video clip here, but without subtitles).

I Can Has Cheezburger does the Middle Ages (from Shaw Kenawe).

Cool decorating idea, if you've got lots of space.

When Bernie talks, here's what the wingnuts hear.

Some people shouldn't play with guns (or trees).

There is actually such a thing as a 12½-foot-wide inflatable TV.

Jono at Otto's Son reveals a fiendish threat to the US workforce.

Posters on a conservative discussion site contemplate the implications of quantum physics.

Tengrain analyzes Peggy Noonan.

As many as a million members may have abandoned Mormonism over its hostility to gay marriage (found via Republic of Gilead).

Being 75 didn't stop James Vernon from being a hero.

Technology is bringing us wondrous visions.

Alex Andreev creates bizarre, startling art (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

Shut it down, and.....

Wingnut morality is wingnutty.

The rage against Planned Parenthood is about sexuality, not abortion.

A sex-trafficking survivor explains how criminalization of sex work has made her situation far worse.

Here's an Iranian view of the Democratic debate.

The Atheist Camel has an open letter to put-upon Christians. Peter Mosley asks them to quit being vultures.

There's something odd near the star KIC 8462852 (found via Mendip).

If you have a Windows computer, be careful about updates.

Trump is OCD about being called "short-fingered".  "Moderate" Kasich rants against secularism (found via Republic of Gilead).  And Huckabee is just hopeless.

Here's a disgusting creep with good connections.

Don't go to this church for "counseling".  You might not survive.

Religio-wingnuts gather in Salt Lake City, but opponents will be there too.

Alabama may be retreating on its latest vote-suppression scheme, but the Governor is admitting nothing.

Public opinion on illegals isn't on Trump's side.

History shows the economy does better under Democratic Presidents (found via Progressive Eruptions). The US middle class has a smaller share of national wealth than the middle class in most countries.  We've become a center-left nation now.

Sweden is trying out a 6-hour workday.  So should we.

Christianity comes up with a new way of being mean to waitresses, and produces an eruption of dumbth in Zambia.

Galaxies, galaxies, galaxies (found via Mendip).

Check out this cool globe studio (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

Here's a tool illustrating the scale of the universe, from smallest to largest.

We need more scientists in our public discourse.

Anti-vaccine idiots have brought the US to the brink of a new age of epidemics.

Oregon cracks down on deadly "faith healing" parents (found via Mendip).

A fossil from Spain reveals much about our tiny-mammal ancestors during the age of dinosaurs.

Don't be fooled by worthless online polls following the Democratic debate.

A conservative writer assesses Obama's subtle foreign policy (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

On the Republican debates, the mice are running the experiments.  Here's how Trump pwned CNBC.

20-year police veteran Chris Hernandez talks sense on guns and gun control (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).  If you can read this and still not get it, I give up.

How far out of touch with reality is the right wing?  This far.  Oh, and a lot of them think Trump is their best general-election hope.  He's in this race for the long haul.

Worried about that Ipsos claim that Democrats are doomed in 2016?  Click here.

Here's why Bernie's message isn't resonating with most black Americans.

David Brooks laments that House Republicans have gone nutzoid -- they're hardly bothering to hide it any more.  Yep, this is pretty much what it looks like.

Yes, there have been quite a few cases where armed civilians have stopped mass shootings (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Maajid Nawaz speaks out on the jihadist threat against atheists.

A mullah's rape of a ten-year-old highlights the vileness of Sharî'ah law, but justice did prevail in this case.

Columbus was a brutal monster who shouldn't be celebrated.

The Putin regime is slandering the Crimean Tatars.

Wow, this sounds like the beginning of a great marriage.

The ocean has lost about half its fish in the last 45 years.

There are good reasons for thinking intelligent aliens might be dangerous.

15 October 2015


Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is a citizen, however grotesque that term seems in this context, of Saudi Arabia.  During the "Arab Spring" movement, when he was 17, he took part in a demonstration supporting equal rights for that Sunni theocratic state's downtrodden Shiite minority, to which he and his family belong.  For this, he was arrested and charged with attending and encouraging a protest (he was also charged with possession of a gun, something his family denies).  While in custody he was subjected to torture and beatings severe enough that, when his mother first visited him in custody, she did not recognize him.

In the end he received a sentence consistent with the highest historic standards of religious justice:  beheading, followed by crucifixion of his corpse.  An appeal to the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court was rejected and, barring intervention by the king, the sentence could now be carried out at any time.

Perhaps stung by rising international criticism, the Saudi ambassador to the UN said, "We respectfully request the world to respect our systems and our judicial processes, and our laws and regulations, and not to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state."  Which, of course, is the kind of thing apartheid South Africa used to say when criticized for brutality against those it treated as second-class citizens on racial rather than religious grounds.  The ambassador also said, "The application of sharia law as far as human rights is concerned is the highest form of human rights.....We believe that we are holding ourselves to the highest standards."  I would like to comment on this statement as it applies to a sentence of beheading and crucifixion for participating in a protest, but I cannot.  My command of language is just not up to the task.

You can read about the whole thing here.  Al-Nimr's mother is calling upon President Obama to intervene with the king.  (If he does, we may never hear about it -- it might be more effective to raise the matter behind the scenes rather than in public, so that if the king saves al-Nimr he is not seen as bowing to foreign pressure.)  Right now Britain is also trying to persuade the regime to commute a sentence of 360 lashes imposed on an elderly British man in Saudi Arabia who was caught in possession of alcohol, and the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes plus 10 years in prison for vague charges which boil down to questioning the regime's authority, continues to draw attention.  Many other such cases pass with less notice.

The Saudi regime is not unique, of course.  ISIS also oppresses and murders Shiites and imposes barbaric Sharî'ah punishments; the Iranian theocracy hangs homosexuals and arrests and brutalizes political opponents.  But neither of those regimes is treated as a member in good standing of the international community.  True, Saudi Arabia has more oil than ISIS or Iran, but the influence its rulers wield because of that is the influence of a meth pusher, feeding our addiction to the fossil fuels that are poisoning and overheating the planet.  If averting global warming isn't enough motivation to spur on our conversion to solar and other non-destructive energy, freeing ourselves from ignoble dependence on these barbaric thugs ought to help.

The Saudi regime is traditionally an ally of the US in a region where many elements are hostile to us.  But giving the regime a pass on its atrocities because of this is simply repeating a mistake we've made before.  The Shah of Iran was once an ally of ours too, and look how that turned out in the long run.  Does anyone really think that Arabia will be ruled by the Saudi regime for ever and ever?

When the regime is gone, we will be judged by what we did about it while it was in power.  Apartheid South Africa was once an ally of the US as well, but as progress in the rest of the world made its official racism impossible to stomach, our role shifted to increasing pressure on the country to change.  It is that, not all our earlier excuses and rationalizations for the regime, that is remembered with respect now.  We need to follow the same course with Arabia.

12 October 2015

Which side is winning -- the long view

While we naturally get very invested in whatever election or issue is most salient at the given moment, it's also of value to take the long view and remember the overall direction of history.  The other day I ran across this overview of the last 154 years in the struggle between conservatism and progressivism:

• Conservatives tried to retain slavery, but they lost.
• They tried to block voting by women, but they lost.
• They tried to prevent couples from using birth control, but they lost.
• They tried to obstruct Social Security pensions for oldsters, but they lost.
• They tried to outlaw labor unions, but they lost.
• They tried to prevent unemployment compensation for the jobless, but they lost.
• They tried to keep stores closed on the Sabbath, but they lost.
• They banned alcohol during Prohibition, but they eventually lost.
• They tried to sustain racial segregation, but they lost.
• They supported government-mandated prayer in school, but they lost.
• They tried to continue throwing gays in prison, but they lost.
• They tried to defeat Medicare and Medicaid, but they lost.
• They tried to halt the sexual revolution, but they lost.
• They opposed food stamps for the poor, but they lost.
• They fought against equal human rights laws, but they lost.
• They tried to censor sexy magazines, books and movies, but they lost.
• They sought to jail girls and doctors who end pregnancies, but they lost.
• They tried to block liquor clubs and lotteries, but they lost.
• They tried to prevent expansion of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but they lost.
• They tried to halt same-sex marriage, but they lost.

(Found via this posting at The Freethinker, an excellent atheist news site which I've added under "News" in the sidebar.)

As long-term readers know, I take a very long view of things -- I would add the conservative campaign against lightning rods, the forced recantation of Galileo, and the centuries of torture and burning of religious dissidents, heretics, and "witches".  They scored some successes each time, but in the end, they always lost.  And in the end, they always will.

11 October 2015

Link round-up for 11 October 2015

Nothing is quite what it seems in the drawings of Shanghai Tango.

Here are some words and what they should mean.

Touchy people are hilarious.

This conservative writer has perhaps the best metaphor for the Trump phenomenon.  Or perhaps he'd fit better in horror films (found via Mendip).

Maybe there's another reason why dinosaurs disappeared.

Sometimes racists get so confused it's just funny.

A crooked phony running for President with the help of a demon?  Are we sure this is fictional?

Wow, some fundies are really spooked by Halloween.

Here's a collection of paintings from Rod Serling's Night Gallery (found via Mendip).

This guy isn't such a hot catch as he seems to think.

Newly-legal marijuana is a huge hit here in Oregon.

Martin Vargic created this great world map of stereotypes (found via Mendip).

Heard that horrifying story about "the Russian sleep experiment"?  It's bullshit.

Sometimes it helps to stink.

Kaveh Mousavi makes some important points about taking religion into account when you vote.

Here's what this weekend's Planned Parenthood protests are really about.

What's the Presidency worth?  So far the 1% have bid $176 million for it.

With Christians like these, it's no wonder Christianity is declining (found via Republic of Gilead).

A group that helped bring democracy to Tunisia wins the Nobel peace prize.  A blogger victimized by a far more barbarous regime has also been honored.

I'm baffled by this alleged problem.  Do people forming relationships really worry about such things?

Hard-core fundies demonize pretty much the whole of modern culture.

ISIS barbarians blow up yet another priceless relic at Palmyra.  Hundreds of Yazidis enslaved by ISIS are being driven to suicide.

"Mommy, am I gonna die?"

It matters where you shop.

Vadim Rustam heard barking coming seemingly from nowhere.  Luckily, he didn't ignore it.

I can hardly imagine the shock of this kind of cruelty from a counselor who's supposed to help you (found via Republic of Gilead).

Alabama's "black belt" is dying, killed by Republicans.

Back in 2008 Andrew Sullivan's anti-Clinton tirades almost made me stop reading him.  He hasn't changed.

Moderates are being marginalized in the Republican party, but they haven't fought back much.

Coal is a dirty industry in more ways than one.

The wingnut mind interprets reality through narratives of betrayal.

The First Amendment is back in force in Oklahoma City.

This fundie wants to kill me, and probably you too.

Yeesh, I didn't know Jindal was this nasty.

A woman reports a rape threat and suffers vicious retaliation.

Public opinion has been shifting decisively in favor of gun rights since 2012, and gun sales have been at record highs for five months.  Earth-Bound Misfit assesses gun-control proposals from Hillary and Democrats generally (though I disagree with the post titles) and explains why negotiation won't work, though she's willing to try it in this area.  Roseburg supports denying notoriety to murderers.  Here's Bernie Sanders on gun policy.

The House of Representatives has been dysfunctional for years (it's a long post, but well worth it for its excellent explanation of the problems). The wingnuts want more than just a fellow wingnut as Speaker.

Europe does a better job of protecting privacy than the US does.

Republicans are still trying to trash net neutrality.  And Roe v. Wade will effectively be on the ballot next year.

Putin is changing the subject to Syria because he's losing in Ukraine.

[Image at top:  Classical-era structures in Palmyra being blown up by ISIS]

09 October 2015

Wingnut fight!

Republican factionalism and compromise-phobia have boiled to the surface in the House of Representatives, producing instant chaos and paralysis.  This was inevitable once Boehner, the adult in the room and a holdover from the days before the Republicans went completely bonkers, announced he was stepping down at the end of October.  Choosing a new Speaker has normally been a routine business, but with the wingnut Freedumb Caucus having decided that playing nice is for wimps and RINOs, even this simple task is proving impossible.

Why did Kevin McCarthy drop out on the very eve of the vote?  Rumors have cited a threat to expose an extramarital affair, his gaffe quasi-admitting that the endless Benghazi wankfest was just a ritual meant to jinx Hillary (like there was anybody who didn't already know that), or the simple realization that the wingnuttier-than-thou faction(s) would never let such a Boehneresque "moderate" reach the needed 218 votes.

They're now completely at sea.  Who else have they got?  Chaffetz?  Boehner is said to be trying to persuade Paul Ryan to jump in.  But Ryan has made it clear that he doesn't want the miserable, thankless job of herding all these distempered cats around, and who knows whether the foaming-at-the-mouth element would vote for the former running mate of the despised arch-RINO Romney any more than they would for McCarthy?  And most of the other options are worse than a joke.

It would be vastly amusing except that there are critical votes on the debt ceiling and government funding coming up, tasks which in the past have proven almost impossible to get done even when the wingnuts aren't screeching and flinging feces at each other.  They're fighting over the steering wheel of a bus that's heading for a cliff, and we're all passengers.  Remember, too, that whoever ultimately wins is third in line to the Presidency.

Speaking of which, this doesn't bode well for the party's eventual Presidential nominee.  A race with fifteen (at last count) candidates is absurd enough, but if the Congressional factions can't even unite to choose a Speaker, how are all the variegated wingnut tribes -- the Jebbushites, Trumpolines, Randroids, Marco-Rubes, Hucksters, etc. -- going to unite behind a single standard-bearer after a year of denouncing each others' candidates and threatening not to vote for the "wrong" nominee?  Trump's likely independent run may be only the beginning of their problems next year.

So long as the Republicans fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little party, a silly party -- greedy, barbarous, and cruel.

Boehner has, at least, promised to stay on as Speaker until a replacement is chosen.  Maybe this was his plan all along:  he offered the wingnuts what they wanted -- his resignation -- knowing that the inevitable subsequent fiasco would serve as a humiliating reminder of why they need him.

Or maybe there's no grand plan here and the feces-flinging will just continue until it drives the "moderates" to the wingnuts' ultimate nightmare -- a deal with the evil Democrats to get somebody, anybody, elected Speaker so they can get back to work.  If that happens, the screeching and cries of betrayal across the right-wing internet will be truly deafening, and peace in the House will have been bought at the price of even deeper Dolchstoßlegende-fueled infighting later on -- hopefully right in the middle of the 2016 election.

Oh, hell, I'm just going to relax and be vastly amused.  Yes, the situation is dangerous, but it's dangerous having these crazies anywhere near the levers of power at all, and we're getting inured to that.  If we couldn't let ourselves laugh at them, we'd go mad.

06 October 2015

Quote for the day -- she knows too much

"There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.

"It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.

"One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

"And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.

"Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.

"When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.

"While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.

"Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership."

Carly Fiorina, 26 September 2001

While it's a pleasant surprise to find a Republican who has some awareness of history, I can just imagine the reaction of the rank-and-file wingnut base when one of her opponents in the battle for the Presidential nomination runs across this and drags it out to use against her.  They'll have her being born in Kenya before they're done.

04 October 2015

Link round-up for 4 October 2015

Beware the lustful giant parrot and the dinosaur's frill.

Travel broadens the mind.

John Cleese sums up Fox News.

This was a popular song in Britain during World War II -- mockery is always a fun weapon against the pompous.

Jeb Bush is a dunce for the ages.

I must have the strongest muscles in the world.

Yep, sounds like a plausible story idea (found via What Would Jack Do).

Here's a whole blog dedicated to Halloween art (found via -- who else? -- Mendip).

Apparently natural selection still works.

Murr Brewster looks at money, early retirement, and happiness.

I found a mysterious and chilling piece of writing.

Something is missing from the Black Republican Committee.

See dramatic overhead views of one of the modern world's greatest cities.

This was the last thylacine.  They're all gone now.

Far away, a vast canyon reaches halfway round a world.

Many ancient Romans had better teeth than we do -- here's why.

A new brain implant could help fight memory loss due to aging (found via Mendip).

Dreher's "Benedict option" has been tried and doesn't work (found via Republic of Gilead).  But the fundies don't have much else to do.

Republicans' global-warming denialism puts them out of step with conservatives overseas.

Jerry Coyne presents two great pieces on the need for free expression.

The Bible isn't at all clearly anti-abortion.

Some British club initiations are worse than pigfucking (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

I'm not personally "terrified" of this, but the commenter invoking teen suicide is right on the money.

It's not just evolution -- here's a round-up of Ben Carson idiocies (found via Politics Plus).

British police, US police.

Hillary promises to expand protections for gays, and reminds us what a Republican President would do.

The wingnuts are trying to destroy the Postal Service again.

Sometimes a bit of cheating is just what you need.

Once again Christianity is the religion of exclusion.

The problem with the Republicans isn't the leaders, it's the rank-and-file, who are determined to enforce their wingnuttery (found via Republic of Gilead).  Boehner was the adult in the room; his likely successor is a fountain of gibberish.

Freedom has to include economic security.

Pope Francis's words on molestation vary depending on the audience (found via Republic of Gilead).  Don't be shocked by his meeting with Kim Davis (on which the Church is now doing frantic damage control) -- his position doesn't allow him to be a real liberal.

Here's Cecile Richards's testimony before Congress (link from Ahab).  Yet another inquiry has cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing (found via Fair and Unbalanced), but that isn't stopping the terrorists.

From the 2000 primaries, a reminder of just how slimy the Bushes can be.

Alabama is hardly even bothering to hide what it's doing.

Michele Bachmann lies about dead Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi.

Here are 25 reasons to be glad you're not a Republican (found via Rational Nation).

No, there was not a huge rally in Peru to support Kim Davis.  Even her "lawyer" now admits it.

Green Eagle collects the latest wingnut insanities.

Tax cuts don't create jobs.

Here's a sensible-sounding guide to self-defense for women (sent by Natasha Colvin).

Blogger Max's Dad assesses the Republican front-runners (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  Rubio's relative sanity could cost him the nomination, Cruz is going for coded birtherism, Jeb is just floundering like some primordial beast sinking into a tar pit, and as for Trump.....

It's not just that Christians insult and threaten atheists, Christianity itself does so.

One thing that's bothered me about Bernie was a lack of emphasis on foreign policy.  His site now has statements on the Iran nuclear deal and on foreign policy in general.

Young Iranians live in the shadow of a war and massacre they never saw.

Saudi Arabia is declining toward collapse (found via Green Eagle).

A top British official sounds the alarm on global warming.

[Image at top:  Charon]

03 October 2015

The Roseburg murders

First off, in case anybody was wondering -- no, I was not personally affected by the attack.  Roseburg is 260 miles from here, and nobody I know lives there.  There was a period several years ago when I visited that general area of Oregon regularly, but it's very different from Portland -- rural, conservative, and steeped in gun culture.  Roseburg has only 22,000 people and it's the biggest town in the area.

As is often the case with mass murders, it will take some time to pin down the killer's motive.  (I have my reasons for not using the names of mass murderers.  See also Earth-Bound Misfit.)  He was a student in the class where he committed the murders, and the teacher was among those killed, so there may have been some personal issue there.  But it has also been reported that he specifically targeted Christians and described himself online as "not religious, but spiritual" and opposed to organized religion.

Knowing how the wingnutosphere has been blowing up a few cases of Christian business people being made to obey anti-discrimination laws into full-blown hysteria about "persecution", I can just imagine what they'll make of this once they get hold of it.  So it's necessary to call attention to some basic points.

First, it seems unlikely that the killer had much in the way of a coherent ideology of any kind.  He may well have been an atheist, but "not religious, but spiritual" is the kind of mealy-mouthed mush one commonly gets from people who have indeed abandoned religion (far from rare these days) but haven't given any serious thought to what that means or what words like "religious" or "spiritual" mean.  He seems to have been one of those alienated, socially-isolated, angry loners who feel frustrated at how little impression they make on the people around them, and glom on to some charismatic and frightening ideology (it hardly matters which one, though this guy's choice -- Naziism -- is an obvious option) in the hopes that its glamour and intimidating qualities will rub off on them.  Under different circumstances the same person might have become a KKK member, a Muslim extremist, even a militant Christian fundamentalist.

Second, we who have thought seriously about religion and fervently oppose it must take every opportunity to make it clear what that means.  Christianity and Islam are the enemy -- but most individual Christians and Muslims are not.  Yes, the violent extremists and those who seek to impose religious taboos on society by legislation are the enemy, but the great majority of people who call themselves Christian or Muslim are much more victims than villains.  The explanatory metaphor of disease is a useful one here -- the fact that one opposes AIDS and wishes to see it eradicated does not mean that one has hatred or violent intentions towards people infected with AIDS.  Quite the opposite.  I do regard religions as mental parasites, harmful "memes" in the original Richard Dawkins sense, which have developed to infect human brains and alter behavior to help themselves spread from brain to brain.  Yes, I hate Christianity and Islam, but I want to see their adherents cured, not killed.  A murderous sociopath who acts in the name of hatred of religion is no different from, and no better than, any other murderous sociopath who acts in the name of anything else.

This guy is not evidence of a general atheist problem any more than the Charleston church murderer was evidence of a general white-people problem.  They're both evidence of a general violent-sociopath problem.

Finally, I'm not oblivious to the fact that, as always seems to happen after mass murders like this, most of the blogosphere is once again making it about guns and gun control.  I'm frankly too weary and nauseated with that whole argument to get into it again, but I'll reiterate a few painfully-obvious points.

While I have nothing against basic controls like background checks, it's absurd to think they could prevent attacks like this.  They probably would prevent some impulsive murders and suicides, but in the case of premeditated mass killings, a determined person will always be able to get hold of a gun, no matter what the law is.  If the government tried to ban most private gun ownership and disarm the general population, it would just do to guns what similar bans have done to drugs and prostitution -- drive them underground, out of reach of any regulation or supervision.  Besides, in that scenario we would likely no longer be worrying about isolated mass shootings, because we'd be preoccupied with the all-out civil war which would engulf the country.

Countries like Israel which are serious about stopping mass killings at vulnerable places like schools require armed guards at such sites.  The primary concern is terrorism, but armed guards would be equally effective at stopping a lone crank like the one in Roseburg.  It's hard to see what else would be.

There are other countries where private ownership of guns is common but mass shootings are rare or nonexistent.  Guns are not the problem and laws restricting them would have little impact on the problem.  The problem lies in the sheer number and degree of aberration of those angry, hate-filled loners we're generating -- that is, it's basically a problem with American culture.  See the higher rates of violence in red states and in conservative areas generally, relative to more liberal areas, despite the fact that (different local laws notwithstanding) anyone determined to get hold of guns can easily do so regardless of where in the country they are.  See the high rates of violent crime in the 1980s vs. much lower rates today, though accessibility of guns hasn't changed.  These variations represent cultural differences.  That's where the roots of horrors like the one in Roseburg -- and the clues to what we can really do about them -- are to be found.