31 January 2016

Link round-up for 31 January 2016

Check out these unusual sculptures.

Ali Davis ranks the candidates by their usefulness in a bar fight (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Trump gets pwned on Twitter by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.  Here's a full listing of Trump's Twitter insults -- it's yuuuge!

Good time for a quick U-turn.

Here's a handy check-list for your next militia take-over.

Which half of the list has the best countries?

This map of abortion laws frankly holds few surprises.

Watch this SF short film on the use of virtual reality as an outlet for violent impulses, with a sinister twist.

A cat in motion is a wonder to see.

If that new planet beyond Pluto really exists, here's the perfect name for it (found via Mendip).

See the real-world inspirations behind the visuals in Avatar.

Winter brings snow, snow brings socialism.

Republicans not conservative enough for you?  Check this party out.

It's too late to undo the worst consequence of the faked Planned Parenthood videos.

Here's what National Review was really saying.

Italy grows more defiant toward the EU.

I notice they didn't shoot this one down.

Here's some more World-War-II-era giant-tank lunacy (link from Nick M).

Lesser Republicans learn to grovel before their new master.

Christian counselors tried to "cure" a gay man by.....isolating him from women (found via Republic of Gilead).

An anti-vaccine nutjob learns from bitter experience.

Libertarian schmibertarian -- Rand Paul takes a hard line against abortion.

Faye Kane explains the Republicans. Here's a summarized history.

The Oregon "occupation" flounders in grandiose self-delusion.

Porn is more popular than ever, and most young people see nothing wrong with it.

A few Texas Republicans are trying to bring the party around on marijuana.

Religion is now a pretext for stiffing waitresses.

Here's what's waiting at the end of the anti-gun road.

A Christian activist calls for a "warrior mentality" against the Satanic gay movement (found via Republic of Gilead).

Obama considers his possible successors.  Here are some thoughts to consider.  Hillary represents the audacity of realism.  The haters are getting desperate.

Palin meddled in her son's military service, apparently.

Here's a look ahead at the madness of the caucuses and primaries.

A Florida priest does the right thing and gets punished.

The victor in Thursday's debate was the man who wasn't there.  If Trump wins Iowa tomorrow, he may be unstoppable -- feckless party leaders will not have the guts to stop him.  His nomination may be good for us Democrats and for the country.  The very strategy that's kept him ahead in the primaries will sink him in the general, likely taking the Republican Senate majority down with him.  Rod Dreher, Rich Lowry, and Tucker Carlson assess Trump's appeal, and here's an Australian view (found via Crooks and Liars).  Booman looks at why even Nate Silver misjudged him.

A bizarre mailing from Cruz's campaign appears to be backfiring.

The 2016 "March for Life" promotes Orwellian distortions of feminism.

The wingnut media are as wingnutty as ever.

Regulation, what is it good for?  Then there's this (link from Ahab).

Ah, sweet dreams.

Oklahoma Republicans think they can abolish secular marriage (found via Progressive Eruptions).

Holocaust Memorial Day evokes disturbing echoes in the present.

A blogger is stabbed to death for criticizing religion.

These two skeletons are different, yet fascinatingly similar.

A wolf pack is better organized than you'd think.

Photos recall the Challenger explosion 30 years ago.

2015 was a year of environmental breakthroughs.

Bring back teh shrooms!

28 January 2016

Video of the day -- more fundie funnies

Richard Dawkins reads more e-mails sent to him by devout Christians (an earlier reading is here).  It's curious how fixated these people are on accusations of homosexuality -- Dawkins, for the record, is not gay.

26 January 2016

When wingnuttery meets reality

Reality has suddenly punctured the wingnut parallel world of delusion, and the results can't be very comfortable to those inside.

First, a grand jury in Houston, which was charged with investigating the local branch of Planned Parenthood in the wake of those doctored videos we've all been hearing about, not only refused to indict Planned Parenthood, but did indict two of the guys responsible for the smear videos.  Apparently our justice system does actually work, at least some of the time.  This is a Texas grand jury, unlikely to be packed with scheming liberals, but they fingered the bad guys instead of their victims.  Good job.

Second, while early reports are sketchy as always, today the FBI and the Oregon State Police began operations against the "militiamen" (or whatever they're calling themselves) preposterously "occupying" a bird sanctuary visitor center in eastern Oregon (much to the annoyance of local townspeople and the local Paiute Indians).  The nutbars resisted, shots were fired, and now one of them is dead and five of them under arrest -- here's the FBI press release.  It turns out that seizing federal property and threatening the police when they try to stop you has consequences after all.

I expect the wingnut internet to erupt in fury at these events, both of which demonstrate, to their discomfiture, that the rule of law and reality itself have a way of persisting and asserting themselves no matter how much squid-ink gets sprayed around them.

24 January 2016

Link round-up for 24 January 2016

Palin's endorsement helps Trump with a key Republican constituency (found via Progressive Eruptions).  Comrade Misfit is unimpressed.

This wedding photographer knew exactly what he was doing.

Louisiana keeps its blowjob ban, but corpse-shagging is OK (found via Mendip).

As a non-fan of Star Wars, should I feel oppressed?

Colbert pwns Palin.

I guess we're a spectator society.

Cold shower or hot shower?

Going to see a right-wing movie carries certain risks.

Woody Guthrie once spent two years as a tenant of Fred Trump, and it opened his eyes (found via Mendip).

Kaveh Mousavi looks at three men full of life, now lost to us.

Heads start to roll in the Flint water crisis -- more here.  Flint residents are getting some help from an unexpected source.

These are the days of miracle and wonder.

Meet Julián Castro, a strong contender to be Hillary's running mate.

Syrian refugees feed the homeless.

A lawyer for the Catholic Church tries to claw back settlement money paid to an abuse victim.

Americans now support legal marijuana 52% to 34%.  Jobsanger has analysis.  The government now admits that marijuana has cancer-fighting properties.

A former Sea World employee details animal suffering there.

Republic of Gilead looks at the New Year's Eve sex attacks in Germany and how the right wing is exploiting them.  Then there's Trump's recent moronic speech about Christianity and the Middle East.

An Islamist professor explains when slavery and forced sex are OK.

Is fundamentalism a form of OCD?

The Iranian theocracy is banning moderate candidates in the upcoming elections.

To protect abortion rights, Hillary is the clear choice.  She intends to expand access, not just defend it.  Republicans offer only even less freedom.

Child sex workers suffer abuse and exploitation.

The New Republic is unimpressed with National Review's anti-Trump issue.

Vote for the candidate who can actually get things done.

Those militia nitwits still holed up in eastern Oregon have been rummaging through Indian artifacts kept there.

The most revealing thing about Republican legislators is what they aren't doing.

Bloomberg threatens to foul up the election.

Bigots from a backward region are held up as the saviors of Christian bigotry in the West.

During World War II, Japan ventured into stupid tank design (found via Mendip).

This is why some global-warming denialists can't be persuaded by facts.

2015 was the hottest year on record.

Here's an intriguing story involving bitter fruit, ants, and wolf poo.

Here's a zinnia with a difference.

From California comes news of a breakthrough in quantum superposition (found via Mendip).

22 January 2016

Video of the day -- Hee Haw Palin!

Palin's endorsement of Trump gets the music video treatment.  Found via Republic of Gilead.

Should we root for Trump?

Contrary to what most observers (including me) were expecting a few months ago, it now looks very likely that Trump is going to win the Republican nomination.  He remains the prohibitive front-runner among Republicans nationally.  In Iowa, the one early state where he's been lagging, his main rival Cruz is under attack, loathed by the party establishment, dogged by questions about unreported campaign loans, his Canadian birth, and his opposition to federal support for ethanol in a corn-growing state.  The latest poll gives Trump a startling 11-point lead in the state.  In the next two, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he has long led by huge margins.  If he comes out of Iowa with an unexpected win, he'll crush his rivals in those states and become unstoppable.

How should we react to this?  Some liberals are rooting for Trump on the grounds that he would be the easiest candidate for our own nominee to defeat.  It's the Akin scenario on a national scale -- we should want the Republican to be outrageously offensive because it guarantees that the Democrat will win.

The counter-argument is that no such guarantee is absolute.  Either major-party nominee always has some chance of winning.  Our candidate could suffer a sudden health crisis at the last minute (Hillary is now 68, Bernie 74).  A third candidate on the left could bleed off enough votes to flip a few close states to Trump.  A last-minute scandal, terrorist attack, or unexpected Trump line of attack could shift a close election.  None of these things is likely, but they are possible.  Nominee Trump does pose a risk of President Trump.  Moreover, the stakes are a lot higher.  If Akin had won, the damage done by one more wingnut Senator would have been limited.  But a man like Trump in the most powerful office on Earth?

Against this, one must consider the alternatives.  The Republicans have to nominate somebody.  Yes, Trump as President is a nightmare scenario, but would any of the other Republicans be less so?

Probably they would be -- but not enough to matter in practical terms.  Any Republican President would almost certainly mean the destruction of Obamacare, an attack on Iran, the end of church-state separation, the end of any hope of defeating global warming, dragging the country back to the nineteenth century in socio-economic relations, gay rights, racial division, and women's self-determination -- and Supreme Court picks who would set all this in stone for decades.  (There would be no more Souters -- they'd never risk that.  We'd get wall-to-wall Scalias.)  OK, Kasich and Paul are more moderate in certain areas, but those guys have as much real chance of winning the nomination as I do.  Yes, Trump would be worse than the others, but any Republican as President would be an intolerable disaster.  We must stay focused on preventing it.  Ebola is worse than smallpox, but the point is, you don't want to get either one.

For us, Trump presents the ultimate "high risk / high reward" scenario.  Yes, there is some risk of total disaster, but the possible rewards also extend beyond the near-guarantee of a Democratic President.  Some Republican pundits think candidate Trump could turn the expected Democratic recovery of the Senate into a landslide, giving Hillary's Supreme Court picks plain sailing and neutralizing the filibuster problem, and perhaps even endanger their House majority.  In the best-case scenario, Trump could fatally split the right wing.

I know people have been predicting the collapse of the Republican party for a long time and been wrong, but the divisions are real, and in all the time I've been following politics I've never seen them as deep and bitter as they are now.  Remember, Trump has never had majority poll support among Republicans as Hillary has with Democrats -- it's the absurd number of candidates dividing the non-Trump vote that keeps him ahead.  Many Republicans loathe him.  I'm even seeing some promising to actively work for Hillary's campaign if he's their nominee.  If the party bosses pull some maneuver to rob him of the nomination, the split would be even worse, with enraged Trump supporters bolting (already, much of their motivation is hatred of the "establishment"), whether or not Trump himself runs as a third candidate.

In the best-case scenario, the Republican coalition finally splinters and the various wingnut factions become so consumed with backstabbing and excommunicating each other that the US is without an effective right-wing presence in national politics for a decade or so.  Think how far we could move the country forward if that happened.  My gut feeling, looking at the acrimonious infighting engulfing the right-wing internet, is that it could happen.  Trump is dragging all their internal contradictions out into the open and making them unsustainable.

And the risk of Trump winning the Presidency really is low.  I'm not buying the polls showing a close race in November (and some of them don't show it that close).  There's been no head-to-head campaigning yet.  Republican OCD about Benghazi, e-mails, etc., etc., etc. has been so relentless that it's hard to imagine anything new being dredged up against Hillary -- any rock you might look under has already been looked under a hundred times.  Trump has never run for office and never been vetted that way -- and with his character and known record, there are probably a lot of rocks out there with a lot of very nasty stuff under them.  Just his rhetoric in the campaign so far could be turned into a hundred ads that would devastate him with the general electorate, however much his troglodyte fans lap it up in the Republican contest.

This is going to be the most bizarre and tense US election in living memory -- but the results just might be worth it.

19 January 2016

The music of the sneers

One of the guilty pleasures of the internet age is videos made by repurposing of found imagery set to music, for entertainment and/or mockery.  A good example is this little item I saw on P M Carpenter a few weeks ago.  The first few seconds are the original mishap, the rest is the musical version:

One of the classics of the genre is the Bill O'Reilly dance remix -- I've posted this before, but the number of readers has grown a lot in the last few months, so here it is again for those who haven't seen it.  First, O'Reilly's original meltdown:

And the dance remix version:

Another example is this speedboat crash on a lake in the Ozarks.  I've seen different stories about what happened -- that the boat was in a race or was simply speeding, for example.  In any event it turned out to be unwise:

This footage naturally was irresistible to the remixers:

Evan Muammar Qaddhafi got in on the action -- his speech rallying supporters against the Libyan revolution amounted to little more than standard fascist ranting, but gave rise to this timeless work of art:

Trump recently got the same treatment:

This one was made in response to one of the Republicans' more notorious efforts to twist Obama's words during the 2012 campaign:

Finally, this video imagines what the trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey would look like if it were being released today.  I see what they were doing, but this is still actually pretty cool:

I'm sure there are plenty of others out there that I haven't come across yet -- and I'm sure we can all think of raw video that needs to undergo this kind of creativity!

17 January 2016

Link round-up for 17 January 2016

The person who wrote this knew exactly what he was doing.  Not sure about this one.

The Bible should be republished in a more appropriate format.

Best grenade ever.

Nobody better mess with this gal.

The Catholic Church sets forth truths.  Don't be fooled by Satan.

Behold the ultimate wombat.

Try this science literacy quiz -- I got 45 out of 50 questions right (found via Faye Kane).

Meet the candidates (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Have you seen Trump's new theme song?  The tune is basically a Blondie ripoff.

What if Harry Potter characters were like real people?

Fifty Shades of Grey gets dissed again, but Lady Gaga gets a nod.

The Church of England hits a new milestone.

Iceland marches toward secularism (found via Mendip).

Saudi Arabia has a rival.

Tel Aviv acquires a surprising distinction.

The New Year's Eve sex attacks in Germany have boosted sales of a particular consumer product.

Here's some Christian love in action.

Ayn Rand's absurd writing sheds light on the psychology behind dislike of collective action.

This Constitutional law professor thinks Cruz is not eligible to be President.

Republicans planning for a brokered convention appear to be bumbling goofballs.  The right wing as a whole is as full of wingnuts as ever.

There's one endorsement that will matter a lot.

Progressive Eruptions looks at Republican Governors.

The Trump-Cruz ascendancy is disempowering the very people who are responsible for most of the country's problems -- and also showing the limits of the power of money.

Republicans confront the terrifying reality.

If Obama wants to improve voter turnout, here's a proven way to do it.

Here's a report from a Trump rally, and how economists assess his agenda.

Bush's campaign is autistic.

This would be an issue with any religious wingnut as President.

The Republican debate is assessed by Crooks and Liars, P M Carpenter, Hackwhackers, and Wil Wheaton.

Sacoglossans possess a unique ability.

Hmm, I never knew there were fungi that hatch from "eggs" (found via Mendip).

The biggest dinosaur of all may have never existed (found via Mark Evanier).

15 January 2016

Taking a stand on Trump

Two very different Republican pundits explain why they will oppose Trump if he wins the nomination.  Follow the link for excerpts, commentary, and links to the full essays.

It's an issue Republicans as a whole will have to face, especially since Trump's strong debate performance yesterday offers a chance that he might, against expectations, win in Iowa and wrap up the nomination early.  Some are already facing it.

(Sorry for lack of posts this week -- my old hand-joint inflammation problem has flared up again.)

10 January 2016

Link round-up for 10 January 2016

I know which group I belong in.

A British ad brings back Basil Fawlty, peevish as ever (found via Mendip).

Immigrants in the US get the worst jobs.

Bridge or tunnel?  It's both.

Facebook is now officially silly.

Read this brief lesson in gullibility.

A mass sex attack in Germany inflames tensions over migrants, though the problem isn't a new one.  Swiss artist Milo Moiré stages an eye-catching protest.

What are the real effects of tax rates on the wealthy?

Romance blossoms in Oklahoma (found via Mendip).

Yes, religious extremists really are this sick.

Respect the beliefs of othersIt's God's will.

The UK is considering banning Trump from its territory.  And he's not taking it well.

In Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant wingnuts join forces to oppose abortion rights.

Kaveh Mousavi looks at the Saudi-Iranian feud.

Squatlo concludes that the wingnuts are sociopaths.

Some British sex tourists choose a surprising destination.

Moron labe!  Even Y'all Qaeda is divided over the Malheur bird sanctuary yee-hawd.  Does the Bundyswehr really want to take on the governmentMahablog mocks their poor planning, No More Mr. Nice Blog looks at their squalid squabbles, and Murrmurrs envisages a counter-offensive, but police could move in if provocation gets severe enough.  Maybe this will be the hashtag.

How have Republicans used their power?

Comrade Misfit assesses Obama's gun measures.

Gin and Tacos reviews 2015 in black people getting killed by police, and chooses the asshole of the year.

Planned Parenthood will be going on the offensive in 2016.

Police in Florida engage in horrifying practices with their dogs (found via Politics Plus).

Christians in India convert children by force and brutality.  Hindus have also victimized Christians.

Islamic tradition says a master copy of the Koran was finalized in the 7th century.  So where is it now?

Even more than race, this is the most important demographic change in the US.

How does Obama compare with other Presidents in use of executive orders?  But he's changed the country for the good more than we realize.

"While warring party factions usually reconcile after brutal nomination fights, this race feels different....." Here's a handy diagram of the Republican candidates' attacks on each other.  Charles Koch bemoans the situation.  Green Eagle ventures a startling prediction on the outcome.

Mark Steyn's report on a Trump rally helps explain his appeal.

Just about every religion is wrong.

The Democratic party is rebuilding in the South.

Here are the 100 most popular movies of 2015.

Wow, Faye Kane really doesn't like Republicans.  On a lighter note, she's got some intriguing porn statistics.

A solid majority of Americans rejects global-warming denialism.

Intriguingly, smarter people live longer.

Scientists in the Netherlands discover how a critical step in the emergence of life may have happened.

Australian researchers claim to be developing an ultrasound treatment for Alzheimer's (found via Mendip).  I'm somewhat skeptical but it's worth keeping an eye on.

07 January 2016

Clash of the theocratic titans

The recent diplomatic uproar between Saudi Arabia and Iran was triggered by Saudi Arabia's execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Bâqir al-Nimr on January 2, but tensions between the two countries have been building for a long time.

Each country has positioned itself as the Middle East's main embodiment and defender of one of the two major divisions of Islam, Sunnism (Saudi Arabia) and Shiism (Iran).  Iran is, in fact, the largest and most powerful predominantly-Shiite country.  There are several Sunni states in the region larger in population than Saudi Arabia (notably Egypt and Turkey), but Saudi Arabia defines its very identity based on a radical form of Sunni Islam, which other majority-Sunni states do not.

Arabia is a vast, extremely arid, barely-habitable region about one-third the size of the continental US, traditionally the wild frontier beyond the southern edges of the ancient birthplace of civilization in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Syria.  For most of its history it was poor and fragmented, inhabited by numerous tribes with no common identity beyond the Arabic language and culture, which never produced any sense of common nationhood.  Aside from its brief unification in the time of Muhammad (which led to the conquest of most of the Middle East), the first unification of most of Arabia came with the foundation of the Saudi kingdom in 1932.

Oil was discovered in 1938, and in the 1960s and 1970s the monarchy gradually wrested control of this lucrative resource away from Western interests.  Since then, oil wealth has allowed the regime to exercise influence far beyond what a country of its modest population size (28 million today) could normally do.  This has mostly taken the form of spreading its extremist and puritanical brand of Sunni Islam as far afield as Pakistan and even Muslim communities in Europe.  The rise of al-Qâ'idah, the Taliban, and militant Islamist groups in Europe owes much to Saudi influence and money.

The country's internal religious repression -- executions by beheading, prohibition of alcohol, women forbidden to drive and subject to strict rules on their clothing and social activity -- is sometimes thought by Westerners to be typical of the whole Middle East, but this is not true.  Saudi Arabia is a radical exception.  Most of the Middle East is far more modern and secular, despite the continuing presence of some hard-line Islamist groups in most countries.

More recently Saudi influence has been declining.  Population growth has diluted the impact of oil income, while economic modernization and secularization have made other Middle Eastern countries less amenable to Saudi influence.  But the biggest threat to the kingdom's position has been the rise of Iran.

Iran has been an international pariah since its 1979 Islamic revolution, but has nevertheless managed to win some influence.  The Asad regime in Syria (dominated by Alawite Muslims, a sect derived from Shiism) has long been an Iranian (and Russian) client, and since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iran has taken on a protective role over the Shiite majority in Iraq, especially since the rise of Dâ'ish, a mortal enemy of Shiites.

This influence has a massive weight of history behind it.  If Saudi Arabia is one of the region's newest countries, Iran is one of the oldest; Iranian national identity extends back at least as far as the coronation of Cyrus the Great in 559 BC.  Since then, a succession of Persian states and empires have often dominated much or most of the Middle East.

Last year's US-Iran nuclear deal set off loud alarm bells in Saudi Arabia.  US support is the cornerstone of Saudi security; a US warming to Iran could threaten the kingdom's position as the premier US client state in the region.  It's true that Iran is also theocratic and harshly repressive, and also supports extremists and terrorists beyond its borders; but the election of reformist President Rouhani in 2013 brought the promise of genuine change.

It's not clear why the Saudi regime decided to trigger a confrontation right now by executing al-Nimr, but I think this analysis has much truth in it.  If the Saudi move was a panicky blunder by a declining power, it would hardly be unprecedented.  But it cannot have been welcomed by the US, since it complicates both US-Iran relations and the fatuous "peace process" in Syria.  Still, the Saudi regime may believe that its best option is to inflame tensions and hope that the US-Iran rapprochement is destroyed.

It might seem odd to view Saudi Arabia as a declining power.  It still has oil wealth and, on paper, a strong military.  But that military has shown itself to be far less impressive in fact.  When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Saudis immediately called in US forces to expel it, rather than dealing with the problem themselves.  The recent Saudi intervention in Yemen seems to be turning into an expensive fiasco.  Iran's military has suffered from years of sanctions, though that situation has forced the country to develop the ability to manufacture its own equipment, even tanks and submarines.  How well either country's military would perform in a real war is hard to predict.

Both countries have potential internal sources of instability.  Between 5 and 10 million of Saudi Arabia's 28 million people are foreign guest workers.  Its oil is mostly near the Persian Gulf coast, an area near Iran and inhabited by a restless and repressed Shiite minority.  Iran's population is much larger at 78 million, but up to 40% of those are members of various non-Persian ethnic minorities who have been integrated into the Iranian state for centuries but whose attitude toward it is difficult to assess.  Both countries' populations, especially the young, chafe under the puritanical restrictions of their theocratic regimes.  The Iranians, however, have been able to force some change by the mass protests of 2009 and by electing Rouhani; the Saudi state, an absolute monarchy, offers no such institutional path to change.

It seems clear, though, that Saudi Arabia is declining and Iran is inching back toward its historic dominant position.  The US could, if it chose, hinder this evolution, but cannot stop it short of an all-out war, even if we decided it was in our interest to do so.  Our best course is to prepare to adapt to it -- and accept that events will be driven mostly by internal developments in both countries, not by what we do.

05 January 2016

The Derp Revolution

Squatlo has a big collection of internet snark inspired by the pitiful wingnut antics at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.  Funny stuff!  More commentary at You Might Notice a Trend and Progressive Eruptions.  At the rate these ding-dongs are going, their mighty insurrection will probably end when one of them blows his own nuts off while fiddling with his gun.

04 January 2016

Best of the Infidel, 2015

Architecture hints at the greatness of Middle Eastern civilization, despite the religious barbarians infesting part of the region.

Now that the battle for gay marriage in the US is won, I turn my attention to these other battles.

The internet is giving rise to a new, "hyper-modern" dialect of English (and it's exposing us to the dialect of the enemy).

Never forget the truth about the Civil War.

Ad-clog is ruining the internet.

Here's why Hillary Clinton is my candidate.

Know the enemy.  It's important.

Gay marriage is a decisive battle in a very long war.

The Middle East is part of the same civilization as ourselves, fighting the same internal fight (if you read only one of my posts for 2015, let it be this one).

Events in Syria and Ireland make this the worst of times and the best of times (related post here).

The Conservative party victory in Britain's election probably dooms the country to break up.

People who want to compromise freedom of expression are the best illustration of why it must not be compromised.

The Christian Right indulges in absurd persecution fantasies.

On Independence Day, we had much progress to celebrate

This year, Pluto changed from a dot to a world.

Donald Trump is Mr. Hyde to the mainstream Republicans' Dr. Jekyll.

But it's not just Trump -- the Republicans in general are extremists (more here).

Decriminalization of sex work is a vital cause to fight for, but one must make allowances for allies who are not yet on board.

If Trump became President, he would plunge the US into a disastrous feud with a rising power.

Movie review:  The Wicker Man.

The flow of Syrian refugees into Europe is only a small part of the real problem.

There's another regime in the Middle East almost as barbarous as Dá'ish.

A murder sixteen centuries ago marked the fall of Classical civilization.

There are good reasons why the Christian Right focuses so much on popular culture (and why their efforts are doomed to fail).

Call it Dá'ish as the Arabs do, not ISIS or ISIL.

We must marginalize extremists regardless of religion, not succumb to the lie of a "clash of civilizations".

Dâ'ish is being defeated.

I review events of 2015.

03 January 2016

Link round-up for 3 January 2016

This is how the world looks when you watch Fox News.

Exposed at last -- the history of the Illuminati.

While driving, watch out for dangerous ice.

Here's a huge collection of fan-made Lovecraft-based videos (found via Mendip).

Rosa Rubicondior has a new book out.

You cannot make this stuff up -- some wingnuts now suspect Paul Ryan of being a Muslim.

See which languages Europeans consider most useful.

Ranch Chimp tangles with a Texas tornado.

Americans' choices for most admired man and woman are good news for Democrats.

Preachy Christians rip off -- and turn off -- waitresses (from Ahab).

Patriotism comes in conservative and liberal forms.

There are things money can't buy.

Iran holds elections next month, and Kaveh Mousavi explains why they matter to Iran and to the world at large.

Nancy LeTourneau looks at identity in politics and how Republicans don't get it.  She also reviews the year in Obama photos.

Politics Plus has New Year fireworks from around the world.

Zandar offers predictions for 2016 and looks back at how well he did on 2015.

Fundie predictions for the year were a total bust.

Here are 2015's five worst anti-science moments.

Republic of Gilead looks back at the year in religious extremism and gay rights.

2015 was a year of exciting discoveries in evolutionary biology, but not so great for creationism.

Politico has insider predictions.

In Saudi Arabia, 2015 was a banner year for beheadings, and 2016 has started off big as well.

Green Eagle's latest Wingnut Wrapup starts with WND's inevitable "man of the year" and goes downhill from there.

Will you vote?  These people will.  And it's worth it.

Don't forget the contrast in Bush's and Obama's record on jobs.

The elevation to sainthood of Mother Teresa illustrates the fakery and fraudulence of the Catholic Church -- and of Pope Francis. And a film on the Church's child-molestation cover-up is making waves.

Jeb is still playing Ahab to Rubio's white whale.

Internet commerce in India takes off, thanks to a popular product.

The exclusion of a novel from Israeli high schools provokes an uproar.

A murdered atheist blogger gets some justice.

Stop using bigoted language to dismiss Middle Eastern opponents of tyranny.

Congress has removed your legal right to know where your meat comes from (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Scared-shitless Republicans are gabbling nonsense.

Finally!  A Catholic hospital in California is being sued for refusing a tubal ligation.

In education, we're not number one -- not even close.

A doctor stands up to the idiots.

Wingnut rhetoric is getting scarier.  And they have a comprehensive plan to strangle democracy and drag the US back to the 19th century.

The Christian Right "remnant" doubles down on its delusional world-view.

You'll find substantial wisdom in Faye Kane's rules for life -- I especially liked the Second Law of Stupid and the Principle of Guiltless Sex.

Star Wars is really a dysfunctional-family drama.  Here's a collection of art based on the first film.

[Image at top:  New Year fireworks, London]