28 February 2016

Video of the day -- modern sound

Pretty cool what this guy did with just computer sounds.

Link round-up for 28 February 2016

Congratulations Hillary for the big South Carolina win!

Star Trek at its best was about ideas. Would you see this on TV today?

Trump is King Joffrey.

Most pathetic ad ever?

This will be a historic election.

Grammar counts, although from what I've seen of wingnut websites, I wonder how they ever reproduce.

What if there really had been life on Mars?

Last week I linked to this David Ehrenstein post suggesting that the only Scalia replacement the wingnuts could be happy with would be Scalia himself, as a zombie.  It was a joke, of course -- or so I thought until I read this.

It's The Cruzsign out of Space!

Marijuana saves lives.

Yes, Republicans are waging a war on women.  And this guy is going Akin.

Americans can get a free college education.

Britain is cracking down on Islamist indoctrination by teachers.

Reformists win big in Iran's Parliamentary elections.

Iranian women are trying to assert themselves in politics, but it's tough going.

We need to recognize Russia's dominant position in Syria.

The Catholic Church continues to push its taboos on Latin America, despite the zika virus.

Trump doesn't just tell lies, he wants a monopoly on doing so.

Enemies -- and friends -- of freedom can be found in surprising places.

Vote Hillary to save America from the horror of a Trump Presidency.  In fact, he can't win the general election, but he still dominates the Republican race and will win the nomination despite the resistance of seasoned wingnuts -- party leaders' efforts to stop him look chaotic and doomed to fail.  Blogger Tengrain has some helpful suggestions.

Update:  Trump refuses to renounce the support of David Duke and the KKK.  Discussion among pro- and anti-Trump Republicans gets more heated than ever (comment 88 and following).

A Republican pollster finds young Americans "terrifyingly liberal".

Here's how Jeb! blew it.

It's not only Republicans who indulge in voodoo economics -- and voodoo politics.  Time to unite for sanity.

Who says women aren't good at math?

Once there was an ocean, far away.

26 February 2016

The fall of the House of Bush

It was a pitiful end to a would-be dynasty.  Jeb! was supposed to be this cycle's Romney -- the safe, sane option backed by the big money and the "right" people, who would glide to the Republican nomination more or less by default as the various nutballs imploded.  But this time the base demanded a nutball, and would settle for nothing less than The Donald.  Despite Jeb!'s Presidential demeanor.....

.....and the excitement evident at his campaign events.....

.....he just never got any traction in the polls.  Tens of millions in ad spending failed to win him any support or even to take down the upstart Rubio, something Chris Christie accomplished with a few sentences that instantly made "the Rubot" an unshakable meme.

In fairness, dynasties have never lasted long in the US.  Think how large the Kennedys once loomed in our politics -- but you don't hear much about them now.  And Jeb! chose to enter the Republican arena just as a full-blown pitchforks-and-torches peasant uprising was under way, complete with its ranting, glowering, oddly-orange Marat.  In the end he was just one more disconsolate and bewildered aristocrat hauled off by the tumbrels of dismal polling.

I picture his campaign as a hive of activity all going for naught because of failure to adapt to circumstances -- an army of workers and consultants frantically shoveling huge piles of money into toilets, while in back the leaders hunched around their plans, baffled at the Floridian upstart and especially the bloviating billionaire orangutan who had stolen the crown prince's rightful day in the sun, but gamely struggling on with more and more of the same old ads and clichés which, surely, would restore the divinely-appointed order.

But it's over now.  There's some talk of a further generation of Bushes being groomed from shrubhood for future Presidential runs, but it won't happen.  It's impossible to tell what the Republican party's future will look like in the wake of The Donald, or even whether it has one.  But nobody is going to believe that a Bush revival is the answer.  The dynasty is done.

Please clap.

24 February 2016

Video of the day -- Game of Trumps

Found via Republic of Gilead.  Wouldn't be surprised if we see more and more of these as the campaign grinds on, with The Donald standing in for various villains.  In a way, though, he was first inserted into a movie over 30 years ago, since the character of Biff Tannen in Back to the Future was actually based on Trump.  Just imagine a video like this with Trump inserted into BttF in Biff's place -- it wouldn't work as parody, because nobody could tell the difference.

21 February 2016

Saturday's vote

Nothing sweeter than the looks on Republican faces as the awful reality starts to sink home.....

South Carolina had a clear winner -- a yuuuuge winner -- now the near-inevitable nominee.  Trump won the state, all seven of its Congressional districts, and all fifty of its delegates.  Cruz did not have a good night.  He's the Christian Right candidate for this cycle.  If he can't win in a state as Bible-belty as South Carolina, where can he win?  Rubio hasn't won a single state yet -- not even close.  How is he supposed to get the nomination at this rate?  And poor old Jeb! has finally packed away his exclamation point and given up.  Sorry, Repubs, it's Trump's party now.
On our side, I'm a little disappointed that Hillary didn't win Nevada by a bigger margin -- but only a little.  A win is a win.  She'll pull ahead as the contest proceeds.

Link round-up for 21 February 2016

OK, this is now my motto for dealing with the fundies.

Ever wonder why those old 45-RPM records had such big holes in the middle?  This is why (found via Mendip).

We're only safe if aliens are dumb.

Somebody went to a lot of trouble to troll this ant.

Capitalization matters.  So does spelling.

This kid has potential.

South Carolina wingnuts are wingnutty.

Fundies push early marriage with a weird apple metaphor (found via Republic of Gilead).

Support Hillary proudly.  She's got the right ideas.  And remember what's important.

Wingnut outrage at Beyoncé is a tad selective

Trump is wrong -- Apple is right.

The Christian God is disgusting.

Scalia is commemorated by Squatlo Rant, Green Eagle, Quiet Mike, Progressive Eruptions, and Horus the Light.  Squatlo has a suggestion for his replacement, David Ehrenstein has another, and Horizons looks at the options (love the cartoon).  The wingnuts will bring up Bork, but don't be fooled.

Yesteday's Latino turnout bodes well for November, but not everyone is enthused.

My favorite right-wing site really doesn't like Trump.

The Christian Right just gets crazier as it keeps losing.

It's not just Trump -- they're all nuts.

Iranian blogger Kaveh Mousavi explains why he supports Hillary.

The Vatican's new child-abuse policy maintains the code of silence (all the duped liberals who think Pope Francis is somehow a "good guy" need to read this).

Stun-gun sales are soaring in Germany.

French hotels now offer an innovative and useful service we won't be seeing in the US anytime soon.

A new graphic novel focuses on the horrors of being gay in today's Iran (part 2 here).

Girls rescued from Boko Haram aren't always welcomed home.

The Flint water disaster was a product of austerity in action.

The Republican philosophy is simply bullying on a national scale.

The Malheur occupiers literally crapped all over Paiute Indian history.

The Elwha river in Washington is thriving after the removal of its dams.

Conservationists use a new trick to save endangered rhinos.

I wonder what those civilizations fight about.  Maybe we don't want to know.

18 February 2016

Quotes for the day

14 February 2016

Video of the day -- Trump vs. the Scots

A look at what happened when Trump tried to destroy a small community on the coast of Scotland to build one of his golf courses.  Find out more at the website of the resistance.

Link round-up for 14 February 2016

I always think this design would be a good way to burn your own ass off.

If it's Trump vs. Sanders, here's their first debate.

Exit, pursued by a bear.

"Bernie-splaining" to black voters is now a thing, and people are noticing.

Handy tip here on secure locks.

Cartoonists just have too much material.

That poll showing Hillary and Bernie tied in Nevada is very suspect.

Don't be these people. And don't do this again.

Military atheists assert themselves in Texas.

Twitter could do better.

Know the law -- it helps.

How religious is your state?

Wingnuts hate love.

This post by Ted Nugent has to be seen to be believed.

Scalia's death will mean all-out political war, and the wingnuts' hand is already weakened.

Republicans bemoan the rise of Trump, and look to the future.  Mega-donors fear the implications.  But they need to face the facts.

Why do fundies find separation of church and state so hard to understand?

"And of course it didn't hurt that they were white."

Trump has finally done something unacceptable -- he's told the truth.

How bad is inequality in the US?  This bad.

The latest preacher to endorse Cruz is a monster.  And give this some thought.

Rubio's views on Muslims are as bad as Trump's -- but he's probably no longer a factor.

Who is really destroying American exceptionalism?

Beyond Flint -- Navajos suffer radioactive drinking water.

Did Republicans try to delay Iran's release of Americans for political reasons?

The floundering Church of England clutches at straws.

Glasgow responds pungently to legal-rape advocate Roosh V.

German revelers show their disdain for Trump.

A new app helps Iranians dodge the religious police.

That Syrian "cessation of hostilities" won't actually, you know, make the hostilities cease.

As Zika spreads birth defects across Latin America, US Republicans step up to oppose expanding abortion rights

Here's a collection of photos from the Vietnam war, by Vietnamese photographers.

The world's biggest Islamic country is also the epicenter of female genital mutilation.

Crazy Eddie observes Darwin Day with some evolution videos.

12 February 2016

Video of the day -- the devastation

This is what Homs, the third-largest city in Syria, looks like after almost five years of civil war:

Knowing the region as I do and having been to Syria, I found this gut-wrenching.  With cities in ruins and millions of people displaced, Syria is being destroyed.  This war needs to end.  And the harsh fact is, wars end when somebody wins them.  Right now and for the foreseeable future, the only force strong enough to establish control over the whole country and end the war is the government -- the Asad regime.  With Russia's recent intervention, the regime is recapturing territory and regaining control.  Yes, this reconquest is itself a brutal process, and Asad is a monster, and Putin is intervening solely for reasons of Russian geopolitical advantage -- but this, not farcical "peace talks", offers a real possibility of ending the war.

(The one other force that might be strong enough to control all of Syria is Dâ'ish (ISIL), but I shudder to imagine the fate of Syria's two-and-a-half million Christians and similar number of Alawites under Dâ'ish rule.  It would mean even worse horrors than the war itself.  The Asad regime has at least generally not persecuted religious minorities.  I wouldn't trust any of the Sunni factions, even the US-supported ones, on that score.)

It's daunting to realize Syria's situation is so dire that Asad is the least-bad option.  But that's the reality.

And to those narcissistic Americans who treat the Middle East as a mere stage prop to assign blame or praise to this or that American leader or policy:  Stop.  Just stop.  This isn't about us.

Video found via Green Eagle.

10 February 2016


For months now Republicans have been doing so much whistling past the graveyard that I'm surprised the dead haven't complained.  Trump was a flash in the pan who would fade with time, they said.  His support would migrate to "real" candidates as February approached and people got serious, they said.  The polls were wrong, they said (a mantra recycled from 2012).  Trump's supporters were unmotivated or stupid or historically non-voters and wouldn't actually turn out, they said.  At worst, enough failing candidates would drop out to let the non-Trump vote consolidate behind one alternative, they said.

Today they're finally facing the stark horror of reality.  The polls were right.  The Trumpolines are real people, and they vote.  The party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan is almost certainly about to nominate a fascist orangutan for the most powerful office on Earth.  And there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

It's that latter point that makes yesterday's Trumpstravaganza such a delicious spectacle.  There might have been light at the end of the wingnut tunnel if the results had at least crowned a single anti-Trump and pushed others to drop out.  But the disorderly clutter of candidates remains as dense as ever.

Great Wingnut Hope Marco Rubio could not, and will not, recover from being batted around like a piñata by Christie during the last debate.  He's doomed not only by the magnitude of his blunder but by the fact that its nature lends itself to mockery.  Epithets like "Rubot", and analogies to those dolls that play back a canned phrase when you pull their string, now abound on the net.  It's like the water-bottle thing but ten times worse.  He ended up in an embarrassing fifth place behind Jeb Bush, for crying out loud.  But he won't drop out.  He still has hope that this is just a setback and he'll recover.  He doesn't know he's a dead man walking.

As for Jeb!, his still-massive pile of funds, endorsements, and Bushian sense of entitlement are now bolstered by the hope of wresting the establishment-favorite spot back from Rubio.  He'll stay in, despite his toxic last name and cringe-inducing campaign style.

Why would Cruz quit?  He won Iowa and came third in a state demographically hostile to him, and there are fundie-rich states coming up which are much friendlier terrain.  Never mind his general lack of appeal to non-fundies and the fact that his own party's leaders loathe him.

Kasich might have been on the brink of giving up, but after yesterday's second-place finish, nothing will pry him out of the race.  He can, and will, claim that he should supplant both Jeb! and Rubio as the non-crazy alternative to Trump -- even though his image is far too moderate to survive the coming primaries in the South.

Christie is hinting he might drop out (a man with a mission?), but his level of support is so low that this would do little to consolidate the non-Trump vote.

And serene above the strife, in wingnut Nirvana, floats the vindicated Trump -- insults and all.  He now faces a succession of states where he holds poll leads comparable to what he had in New Hampshire, with the forces opposing him in worse disarray than ever.  He'll win primary after primary while the midgets squabbling around his feet tear each other to pieces.

By your fruits we shall know ye, O Republicans.  For years you've cultivated a base mentality of prejudice, paranoia, and panic, and here is the result.  Trump knows far better than you how to operate the clown car you've made of your party, and he's jumped in the driver's seat and sped off on a joyride in the damn thing, horn blaring and gears grinding and on the wrong side of the road, and that's the last you're going to see of it until he totals it out sometime between now and November.

07 February 2016

Link round-up for 7 February 2016

Imagine if Jesus campaigned as a Republican.

What is a dashboard, really?

Obama hosts an out-of-this-world summit.

Maybe God really did speak to Palin.

Tumblr nails Trump.

This is dumb.

Peter Freuchen led a full life.

Defend traditional Biblical marriage.

A restaurant manager responds to those nasty fake tips fundies have been leaving waitresses.

The world's biggest solar power plant is about to go online (you may be surprised at where it is).

A Northern Ireland law criminalizing johns is making life more dangerous for sex workers.

Nobody's happy with the talks over Britain's position in the EU.

Why aren't we hearing about this ugly anti-Jewish violence in France?

This is what a civilized country is like.

The zika virus, which causes birth defects, re-opens the debate about abortion rights in Brazil.  The UN is calling for loosening bans.

A wave of sex assaults in Europe is being exploited to stigmatize refugees in general, though some women are pushing back.  Merkel now says the refugees must go back home once the war is over.

If you doubt that the TPP is a terrible deal, watch this devastating indictment by Elizabeth Warren (found via Ranch Chimp, who has more).

Republicans are now in such disarray that only Democrats could save them.  Let's not act like them, especially with ideological purism. What's important is being able to get things done.

Around Christians never relax!  But how Christian is Cruz, really?  He's slimy enough to make Trump look honest, and Iowa officials are still in a snit about this.  Oh, and don't be fooled by Rubio.

Trump's remark about dating Ivanka if she weren't his daughter is part of a larger pattern.  A British newswoman recalls her 1995 encounter with The Donald.  His thuggish vulgarity is taking its toll even with Republican voters.  Many federal employees would quit rather than work for him.  Ramona's Voices has an interesting take on what's driving him.

The wingnut madness just keeps on coming.

Let them eat cake!

The Republican candidate demolition derby is finally winnowing the field.  Crazy Eddie says sayônara.  Here's an example of the kind of filth that may soon be flung.

They called him a socialist too.

High-profile MRA, PUA, and rape-legalization advocate "Roosh V" is a slob living in his mommy's basement.

Curious to know whether women (or men) agree with this study.

We may finally see a crackdown on domestic terrorism.

Here's a lot of stuff you didn't know about Alexandre Dumas.

Younger Republicans are more open to reality on climate change.

This Christian post on gays sounds promising -- but read the comments.

A random Google Earth picture of a village inspires some philosophical thoughts.

Religious fanatics burn people alive in Nigeria.

She can walk on water.

05 February 2016

The Trump rebellion -- danger and opportunity

It's easy, but also lazy and self-defeating, to dismiss Trump supporters as purely stupid, crazy, and bigoted.  Yes, there's a good deal of delusion and prejudice at work there, and it's very dangerous.  But there are also more serious issues involved which we need to understand.

There's a certain view of how the Republican party works which goes as follows.  The party's core purpose is to serve the economic interests of the rich and big business.  However, the rich and big business by themselves are not numerous enough to win elections.  So the party makes a show of passion for certain cultural issues -- religion, homophobia, guns, (coded forms of) racism -- in order to seduce large numbers of culturally-conservative working people into voting Republican even though it's against their economic self-interest.

This view is an oversimplification -- many of those with actual power are genuinely committed on the cultural issues, as the strenuous efforts of Republican elected officials to fight gay marriage and restrict abortion show.  Nevertheless it's true that a huge chunk of the Republican voting base isn't enamored of the party's economic policies, and never has been.  The party's official zeal for the free market, free-trade agreements, and low taxes for the wealthy -- zeal which practically rises to the level of religious dogmatism -- leaves them cold.

What's changing now is that more and more of these voters are noticing that the party isn't actually serving their interests, and they're angry about it.  As to why this is happening now, I think part of it is rooted in the unhinged reaction to Obama's election in 2008.  Obama was so demonized by some elements on the right -- including many short-sighted members of the Republican establishment -- that much of the base came to perceive him as absolutely anathema, an embodiment of evil with whom no compromise was possible.  The problem with this was that Republican legislators did sometimes have to work with him to get anything done -- avoiding government shutdowns, raising the debt limit, and getting budgets passed, for example.  But much of the base was now primed to see such necessary compromise as treason.  Reading comments by Trump supporters on right-wing sites, I commonly see this theme -- "the Republican establishment betrayed us by making deals with Obama instead of fighting him at every turn".  As absurd as this stance may seem, the fact remains that it's led these voters to look on the Republican leadership as their enemy, making it easier for them to also recognize that that leadership's economic policies really have been harmful.

(For more on these themes, see this analysis at Bloomberg and this condescending establishment view.)

Aside from that, you can't fool people forever.  Decades of tax cuts, deregulation, free-market fetishism, and free-trade agreements have produced an increasingly Third-World-like economy with stagnant incomes, shrinking job prospects for the less-educated, staggering concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite, and disasters like the West TX explosion and the Flint MI water crisis, evoking a society in which a wealthy ruling elite views the masses as expendable serfs.  Eventually even the Fox-addled teabagger base started to notice all this.

It's the anger over this situation which is fueling the passion for outsider candidates, especially Trump.  Most Trump supporters are still confused about who is to blame -- decades of propaganda and crypto-tribal paranoia still cast their spell -- hence the fear of foreigners and anyone "different" that Trump is pandering to.  But they do understand that the Republican elite and its free-market fetishism are a core part of what's hurting them.  And this matters.  It matters a lot.

These people aren't potential Democratic voters, at least not yet.  They feel betrayed by both parties -- by Republicans too beholden to big business at the expense of ordinary people, and by Democrats they see as too infatuated with gays, minorities, and illegal aliens, and contemptuous of rural and working-class white culture (and also beholden to big business).  But they are potentially reachable.

There's evidence that divisive cultural issues are losing force.  Younger people of all classes and cultural groups are less religious, and more comfortable with gays and with a racially-mixed society.  The dramatic rise in public support for gay marriage in just the last decade has shown that prejudice can be vanquished with amazing speed when it is confronted properly.  As I've said before, the transformation of attitudes about gays is one of the most stunning cultural victories in US history, and it behooves us to study this success and work out how to apply its lessons to other struggles.

And Democrats too need to show that they are on the right side economically.  In reality, they already are in many areas, at least in contrast with the Republicans -- Obamacare, raising the minimum wage, defending Social Security and unemployment benefits, etc.  But it would be useful, for this election, to zero in on one of the current issues which Trump is exploiting to pull Republican voters away from their leaders.  What I have in mind is the TPP.  Both of our Presidential candidates oppose it; Hillary needs to do with the same force and fervor that Bernie is already showing.  If the Republican establishment manages to squelch Trump and foist a conventional nominee like Rubio or Jeb on the party, the spectacle of that nominee spouting the same tired old rationalizations for free-trade agreements, while the Democrat vows to kill the TPP, could well peel off a lot of Trump supporters.

They realize the Republicans aren't in their corner.  We have to show that we are.  We can't compromise on racism, gay rights, or separation of church and state, but on economics we can appeal to them just by doing the kinds of things we damn well should have been doing all along.

And if Trump is the nominee, as he likely will be?  Well, there are plenty of ways to attack him and he has a tremendous potential to self-destruct, but there is still value in the economic-populist appeal.  The Democratic base, too, harbors many who are rightly exasperated at how cozy the Democratic establishment is with Wall Street.  Much of Bernie's appeal comes from tapping into this.  If Hillary is running against Trump and she remains too aloof from economic populism, there's a risk that Trump could peel off some number of Democratic voters.  Only by showing that we are listening, and will act on what we hear, can we neutralize that danger.

At the same time, we need to remember that elections are won in the center.  The forces which both Trump and Bernie are appealing to are fervent, but they're in the minority; each man is supported by about a third of his party's base.  Neither would be likely to win a general election against a more mainstream candidate of the other party.  The moderate majority will reject anything that sounds revolutionary, because it sounds revolutionary.  The trick is to address the just grievances driving economic populism without sounding like you want to blow everything up and start over.  The people who want the latter make a lot of noise, but they aren't as numerous as they think.

If we can exploit the divisions Trump has brought to the surface, and show enough discontented Republicans where their real economic interests lie, the reward could be the permanent crippling of conservatism in the US.  It will be well worth it.

02 February 2016

A muddle that doesn't matter

What Iowa caucuses gave us yesterday was a textbook case of an indecisive result.  The Democratic race was effectively a tie, and the top three Republicans were within five points of each other.  Yes, Cruz won -- by 3.3%, in a state where the Republican party is heavily dominated by the Evangelical voters he most appeals to, and where the polls had had him ahead until the last-minute Trump surge.  The nearest thing to a surprise was Rubio's close third place.  TPM has the results as Cruz 27.6%, Trump 24.3%, Rubio 23.0%, with no other Republican even reaching 10%.

But it doesn't matter.  Iowa historically has not had much impact on later primaries, and the eventual nominee started by losing Iowa more often than not.  Trump still has massive leads in the upcoming states, including New Hampshire, now just a week away.  Rubio's showing was strong enough to keep anti-Trump Republicans from coalescing around Cruz, whom the establishment loathes more than it loathes Trump.  Trump is still the most likely Republican nominee.

None of the rest matter any more, but spare a thought for hapless Jeb!, with his endorsements and résumé and money-bloated PAC, dead in the water in sixth place with 2.8%.  He was supposed to be the Romney of this cycle, the safe sane establishment guy cruising to the nomination after the clown candidates demolition-derbied themselves.  But now the clowns have taken over the circus, and safe and sane is the last thing they want.  In the last few weeks Jeb! seems to have switched his focus to taking down Rubio, and he couldn't even do that.  People are just tired of Bushes, it seems.

As for our side, Hillary is now at 49.89% and Bernie at 49.54%, effectively a tie.  Eventually a "winner" will be declared, but aside from a small psychological boost, it won't matter, even with delegates (which are awarded proportionally in Iowa).  Bernie will likely win New Hampshire, which borders his home state and where the polls have him ahead.  That won't matter either.  Hillary's lead in later-voting states is too large to overcome.  She's still the most likely Democratic nominee.

Huckabee and O'Malley have dropped out, but the news websites are hardly bothering to report it.

I expect infighting among the top three Republicans to intensify, with Trump further stirring up doubts about Cruz's natural-born citizen status, which could get ugly.  It will continue on our side as well, though hopefully everyone (aside from the usual frothing-fringe types) will keep their eye on the eventual need to unify the party and beat Trump, whoever our candidate is.

The race may yet, of course, see some game-changing event.  It didn't see one yesterday.

Update (Wednesday):  Here's another reason why Trump is still likely to be the nominee.  All the establishment guys are fighting to be the "last establishment guy left standing", so they spend their resources trying to destroy whichever one among themselves is in the best position -- which, right now, is Rubio.  And Trump sits above it all.....