31 July 2016

Link round-up for 31 July 2016

30 August 2016 is Laugh at Gullible Idiots Day.  Mark your calendars.

Biggest snake ever.

A Trumpanzee gets pwned by the President of Estonia.

Down with suffocating regulation!

Lou Engle wants you to pay thousands to learn to mumble a lot, stop eating, and pretend that this is somehow like being in the Air Force.

Go sleep with the sharks.

Martin Molin invents the world's most complicated musical instrument.

Republicans have changedEven in just eight years.

Utah has a living organism which is 80,000 years old and weighs 6,500 tons.

Green Eagle reads the wingnutosphere so you don't have to.

A family throws a surprise party with a difference.

A kiss triggers a Bible-thumping freak in Florida.  Then there's this guy in Britain (both found via Republic of Gilead).

The US Navy will name a ship after gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk.

Republican ideology has driven Asian-Americans toward the Democrats.

These people will vote.  Will you?

Fundie gay-bashers can't nuance Orlando.

No elderly person should vote Republican.

Angry at Russian hackers trying to sabotage the Democrats?  Here's something else to worry about.

Genetic engineering is our best weapon against viruses.

This map shows all the surviving prehistoric stone relics in the British Isles (found via Mendip).

Escaping the EU will allow the UK to rebuild ties with a far more dynamic and modern international network.

The bigots win one in Romania, but I'm betting it's temporary.

Iranian men help protest their country's female dress code.

A top Sunni cleric fumes that atheists and their "seductive reasoning" are winning over young Muslims.

Dâ'ish (ISIL) burns women alive for refusing sex slavery.

Kuwait last week reached 129° Fahrenheit, an Asian record (found via Politics Plus).

Here are the margins by which people in other G20 countries prefer Hillary (note the one exception).

"Herstory" is made, and the next generation is watching.

Crazy Eddie explains why the Trump/Putin/e-mail hack scandal may have legs.  And just imagine if the sides had been reversed.

Assange gives the game away.

Even Erick Erickson respects the power of Khizr Khan's DNC speech, while other conservatives rebuke Ann Coulter for her ugly insult (found via Hackwhackers).  Khan implores Republican leaders to repudiate Trump.

Don't waste your vote -- don't betray Bernie.

Donald Trump, dealmaker.  And here's the perfect Trump campaign sign.

Romney may endorse the Libertarian ticket, which could impact the election (see comment 6).

This is just one of the countless regular guys Trump has ripped off.

Driftglass looks at the conventions.  Republicans bemoan the DNC's success on Twitter.  In a role reversal, Democrats become the security party, while it's Hillary and not Trump who passes the Commander-in-Chief test.

[Image at top found via PM Carpenter.]

28 July 2016

PUMA II -- Will the AfterBerners become Trumpanzees?

Short answer:  Some will, but probably not enough to matter.

The antics at the convention, especially on the first day, have gotten some Democrats worried.  Bernie himself is not at fault for this -- since the end of his campaign he's striven mightily to re-unify the party, even getting booed for it on Monday by some of his own supporters (which raises the question of whether they can still be called "Bernie supporters" at all).  Yet the eruptions in Philadelphia continue.  The Russian e-mail dump has fueled the anger, as Putin obviously intended it to do.

However, the crucial words in the paragraph above are "at the convention".  What we're seeing in and around the convention is not representative of the millions who voted for Bernie across the country.  It's only the most fervent and committed who invest the time and expense to go to the event.  Most people are not so ideological, and vote on a more pragmatic basis.  Polling is already showing that 90% of those who "consistently backed" Bernie during the primaries will vote for Hillary over Trump.  This makes it clear that the bitter-enders at the convention are not typical of Bernie voters more generally.  Most of the latter are normal Democrats who are unifying behind the nominee -- just as I and most Hillary supporters would have done if Bernie had won.

Trump himself has expressed hope that many AfterBerners will gravitate to him, based on some similarities in positions, largely opposition to job-destroying trade deals (and frankly, Hillary and Kaine need to make their own new stances against the TPP a lot stronger and more convincing than they have so far).  But in the end I think Trump's negatives in other areas -- notably the explicit bigotry fueling his campaign -- will prove too repulsive.  It's already been noted that the Philadelphia tempest showcased the almost-all-white bitter-enders booing at a largely black and Latino series of speakers.  The optics of this aren't good, not for real Democrats.

Letting Trump win would mean throwing a lot of people under the bus.  Hard-core ideologists will be willing to do that for the sake of their own inner feelings of purity.  Most Democrats won't.

Even the Russian e-mail dump doesn't actually show efforts to "rig" the nomination process -- it merely shows that the party establishment favored Hillary, something everybody has known all along.  Those who are looking for reasons to be angry will find them, whether they exist or not.  Others will soon realize there is no "there" there -- and will choose not to fall for a blatant and clumsy effort at manipulation by a foreign fascist regime.

There's also the "Trumpanzee lite" option -- voting for a third candidate or not voting at all.  Over the next three months I expect to see some blog posts from bitter-enders chewing over such an option, or justifying it.  Again, though, this kind of thing is a self-indulgence of people who are highly ideological, which most voters are not.  Most voters realize that a non-vote or wasted vote is just half as effective at stopping Trump as a vote for Hillary is, and has no practical effect (or significance) beyond that.  During most campaigns, poll numbers for third candidates run high for months, only to collapse to around one percent or less in the actual voting as people focus on what the practical outcome will be.  I expect Stein's (and Johnson's) numbers to follow the same pattern this time.

The best analog for the current division is the PUMA movement in 2008 -- pro-Hillary bitter-enders who declared they would refuse to vote for Obama.  I understand how they felt, because I was one of them.  In the end, though, the number of PUMAs who voted for McCain or didn't vote was not large enough to throw the election or even change the margin much.  I expect the same will be the case this November, and even more so.  Trump is a vastly repulsive and frightening figure, as McCain never was.

A key role will be played by Bernie himself, who will continue to emphasize that letting Trump win would mean the total destruction of everything he's spent the last year fighting for.  In doing so, it's he -- not the bitter-enders -- who is carrying on the revolution.

27 July 2016

An oddity

For at least a week now, my stats counter has been showing around a thousand hits per day from Russia.  I really doubt I have so many actual readers there (if I do, none has ever left a comment or other indication of it), but after this week's Russian e-mail dump apparently trying to influence the US election, I'm getting paranoid enough to wonder if Russian hackers consider even minor blogs that post about politics to be worthy of their attentions.  Has anyone else out there noticed anything like this in their stats?  Any ideas what it signifies?

25 July 2016

The Siberian candidate? (updated)

This election just keeps getting weirder.  Trump's admiration for brutal foreign dictators in general and for Vladimir Putin in particular has long been a matter of concern.  But today's events suggest there may be more to it than just admiration.

Everyone who's looked into it seems to agree that the big public dump of hacked DNC e-mails was an act of the Russian regime -- and Trump himself appeared to endorse this view late today.  The Russian intent seems to have been to make it harder for Bernie Sanders's supporters to reconcile themselves to Hillary's candidacy, something that would weaken her against Trump.  That is, the Putin regime dared to interfere in the US election process in an effort to help Trump win.

Such blatant foreign intervention in a US election would be, as far as I know, unprecedented.  But the motive isn't hard to see.  Trump not only admires Putin but has advocated weakening the US commitment to its NATO allies in Europe and support for Ukraine's self-defense -- a course which would leave Europe far more vulnerable to the expansion of Russian influence.  And now some observers are reporting that Trump may even be financially beholden to Russia and thus himself under Russian influence.  This posting by anti-Trump conservative writer Max Twain sets forth the case succinctly (with some obligatory Hillary-bashing thrown in); for more detail, see this post at TPM (found via Progressive Eruptions).  Sarah Jones argues that Putin may fear Hillary as President, with good reason, creating an additional motive for interference.

As always, we need to be cautious about early reports which may turn out to be wrong or exaggerated.  But if all this is substantiated, it looks like a game-changer.  Aren't Trump's most vocal supporters the exact kind of people who would be most repelled by the thought of a foreign government having too much influence over a US President?  Some of them, of course, will just refuse to believe anything negative about Trump regardless of the evidence.  But not all of them.

Update:  US intelligence now has "high confidence" that the Russian government was behind the DNC e-mail hack -- and Obama points out that "on a regular basis, they try to influence elections in Europe".  Green Eagle points out how high the stakes could be.

24 July 2016

Link round-up for 24 July 2016

Mark Evanier knows how to handle wrong-number phone calls.

How big is Texas?  This big (for Europeans).  And you can get anything shaped like Texas.

The art of Aurum Light makes a splash.

Here's everything you need to know about keeping snails.

The Romans had a "terror weapon" -- whistling sling bullets (found via Mendip).

Job application questions are just getting stupider.

These are some of the world's most bizarre landscapes.

Internet centralization threatens our culture.

Trump is known to love beauty pageants -- here's one that may inspire him (yes, it's real).

Different countries, same problem.

The Republican convention has been good for business in Cleveland.

Mormonism is still haunted by the ghost of polygamy, and is digging in against gay marriage (both found via Republic of Gilead).

Gun control in the US has an interesting history (found via Sleestak) which still resonates today

Here's some useful advice for women, from a surprising source.

There are different standards for different people.

TSA security theater sometimes gets too real.  Sometimes it's, well, this.

Don't pray for the Orlando victims.

With the Charles Kinsey case, only a lunatic could deny that we have a deadly-serious problem.

Britain has some interesting place names (found via Mendip).

Wartime taught the Western world that women can do anything men can.

Germany's strict gun laws didn't stop the Munich mass shooting.  Comrade Misfit has a point to make.

Christianists in Romania attack gay rights, with help from their American counterparts.

Trump is already kowtowing to Putin on Ukraine.

South Korea has the world's weirdest park (found via Clarissa) -- the article is in Russian, but the photos speak for themselves.

Why don't the Syrian refugees just go back home?

Yes, people are still being sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Meghalaya is the rainiest place on Earth.

Republicans' deranged hatred of Obama is being transferred to Hillary.  After a long absence, Ahab is back and has been posting up a storm about the Republican convention (keep scrolling).

The Kaine pick is assessed by Stonekettle Station, Booman Tribune, PM Carpenter, You Might Notice a Trend, and The Immoral Minority (watch this too).  Trump pitifully tries to get a rise out of Warren.

Wingnutty wingnuts are wingnutting wingnuttishly.

Trump's nomination leaves anti-Trump Republicans facing a stark choice.  I found this conservative essay (and the comments) interesting.

Fair and Unbalanced has an overview of the wingnuts' fake Hillary scandals.

Two new ads show who Trump is.

Don't waste your vote.

Bernie's been hammering Trump on Twitter.  Hackwhackers has a round-up of media reactions to Trump's acceptance speech.

Jordan Sargent elaborates on the hypothesis that Melania's speech was deliberately sabotaged (found via Republic of Gilead).

"Women Vote Trump", but apparently not many.

If you don't want to vote for Hillary, vote for this.

22 July 2016

This is what the Republicans just nominated

The next time somebody challenges you for saying that Donald Trump is a fascist, refer them to this huge collection of links put together by "Marisam7" on Reddit.  He or she has done an extraordinary service by assembling so much documentation on what this man really is.  We cannot let this monster become the leader of the most powerful country in the world.

20 July 2016

Brief update (2)

It now turns out that the surgery won't be until mid-September.  Yeesh.

Not much for me to do on the internet this week.  Tumblr is all full of Poke Mongo or whatever it's called, Turkey's lunge toward fascism is too depressing to write about, and everything that needs to be said about the Republican convention is already being said, in spades.

Amid all the convention mess, one genuinely important thing has happened.  What has been de facto inevitable for months is now de jure irrevocable; the Republicans have formally nominated a cross between Benito Mussolini and the Three Stooges as their candidate for President.  What was once the party of Lincoln is now the party of Trump.  And it will be branded as such for all the miserable and hopefully-short remainder of its existence.

Oh, and as for the fracas over Melania Trump's speech:  I don't believe she herself plagiarized Michelle Obama's words.  No plagiarist would choose such an easily-detected source.  What must have happened is something more intriguing -- sabotage from within the campaign.  Whoever wrote the speech did that.  The "Rick Roll" flourish was the saboteur's victory whoop, showing off his assurance that what he had done wouldn't be caught until the speech was delivered, because the Trumps are too out-of-touch to recognize even a universally-known fragment of pop culture.

There have been a lot of stories about conflict and turmoil within the Trump campaign.  At least one insider was hostile enough to the cause to torpedo Trump's wife on her big night, despite the likelihood of severe consequences once the Trumps figure out who was responsible.  Over the next three and a half months we may see more sabotage from within.

17 July 2016

Link round-up for 17 July 2016

For this week's cuteness overload, it's cats and kittens and baby foxes.

Scottish epithets aimed at Trump are far wittier than his own pedestrian insults.

Don't annoy the frog.

Most terrifying luxury suites ever.

What if dogs had their own 911 emergency number?


Many American hit movies have been copied by foreign filmmakers, especially Turkish (found via Mendip).  Some of these actually look interesting and the reviews are intelligently done.

Squatlo has some striking lightning-storm photos.

Baby, we made it, we're twenty-one percent.

This is why cats are the way they are.

Here's a staggeringly detailed visual analysis of the greatest SF movie ever (found via Mendip).

One picture sums up religion vs. atheism.

Malgorzata Chodakowska creates unique water sculptures.

If you use a hider app, read this.

Check out this unearthly ice cave (click pictures to enlarge) and these Antarctic ice formations.

Spelling is important.

Here's the real story of the Tombstone flying monster of 1890 (found via Mendip).

What was God thinking when he created animals?

Pray for Orlando.

It would be pretty cool to have one of these.  Just imagine visitors freaking out.

There's something more dangerous than texting while driving.

This gay man is actually happy to be in Idaho.

Check out these photos of women in history.

An Orlando survivor has an open letter to the murderer.

A Republican explains how Obamacare affected him.  But here's a Republican who is just disgusting.

Troglodytes get pwned by the Constitution, again.

Here's what the wingnuts have been up to.

Ironically, the Dallas police department is one of the better ones in the country.

Is it 1968 again?

Scott Lively wants to be the acceptable face of bigotry -- nobody's buying.  Then there's this church (found via Republic of Gilead).

Squatlo wishes for an end to the world's worst and longest-lasting plague.

Don't shop at Macy's -- or go anywhere near it.

Since when are hate and mass murder considered Christian values?  (Actually, you might want to ask the victims of the Crusades about that one.)

Americans don't get the reality of socialized medicine.

This is modern Britain.

Dogs barking, caravan moving on:  Now that Britain will soon be free to make its own trade deals outside the EU, countries like South Korea, Australia, and India are rushing to get in on the opportunity.  Here's some advice for the US -- and keep calm and carry on.  Al-Jazeera looks at Brexit and the Arab world.

No, it isn't true that great numbers of Brits were Googling "what is the EU" and suchlike right after the vote.  (Will the people who were claiming this have the grace to retract?)  Brexit-bashers gloated at the fall in the UK stock market, but it more than recovered in less than a week, and is now even higher.  Here's a profile of the new Prime Minister.

The British vote for independence has invigorated calls for similar referenda throughout the EU.  France's most popular candidate for President is calling for a Frexit vote, while more than a quarter-million Austrians have signed a petition for their own referendum.  Will the EU understand that the real issue is lack of democracy?

"My Stealthy Freedom" is a (relatively) safe way for Iranian women to defy the mullahs' dress code.

Facebook is no friend to Arab atheists.

Happy birthday to the Armenian alphabet.

Geneva may soon have a coffee shop with a difference.

If you want to be a citizen, you have to adapt.

Arrogant Christians destroy an ancient pagan temple in Mexico.

How about a bus that drives above traffic jams?

When Tim the elephant was injured by a spear, he knew exactly where to go for help.

We've lost our first mammal species to climate change.

Republicans squirm away from the meaning of Orlando.

Hillary's election will start to undo the corrupting of the Supreme Court.

Jared Yates Sexton, whose twitter report on a Trump rally startled the blogosphere, has been deluged with threats.  But there's a reason why Trump is trying to tone it down.

Here's Bernie's post-endorsement message.

How nutty is the Republican platform?  This nutty.

Most media have ignored the child-rape lawsuit filed against Trump in June.  Here's why they're wrong.

Good point.

Read the manifesto of Historians Against Trump.

Don't be this guy. It didn't work last time.

16 July 2016

A little background on Turkey and coups

Turkey is one of the Middle East's two long-standing democracies (the other is Israel), but this week's failed coup there is a reminder of how differently things can work in different societies.

After World War I led to the collapse of the decrepit Ottoman Empire, the modern Turkish state was established by Kemal Atatürk, perhaps history's best example of a charismatic leader who changed the course of a whole country's development.  Atatürk, an atheist, was determined to make the new Turkish state as modern and Western as possible in every respect, including both democracy and secularism.  By and large the republic he founded has remained true to his vision; by the 1950s it had evolved a genuinely democratic system, and the state has remained secular.

Yet there remains a tension between the two goals.  In a nation whose population is mostly Muslim and many people still believe that Islam should influence government, there is always the risk of secularism being eroded by Islamic-leaning elected governments.  The Turkish military, one of the country's most solidly secular institutions (this is a common pattern in the Middle East -- an effective military has to understand technology and other realities not very compatible with a superstitious world-view), has long viewed itself as the guardian of Atatürk's legacy.  Several times from the 1960s to the 1990s, the military either threatened the government with a coup or actually carried one out, at least in part because elected leaders were introducing religion into government (in most cases there was also significant economic turmoil or street violence which the state seemed unable to cope with).  In each case, however, the military left power and restored democracy as soon as the crisis had passed.  Bizarre as it may seem, the Turkish military could be viewed as having a role similar to that of the US Supreme Court -- exercising a final veto in cases where elected leaders transgress against the essential principles of the state.

The current Erdoğan government is aggressively Islamist and has also openly attacked essential elements of freedom, such as freedom of the press.  In light of precedent, it is almost surprising that the military did not act earlier.  Part of the explanation is the fact that Turkey has for years supposedly been under consideration to be admitted to the European Union as a member.  While it's unlikely that Turkey will ever actually be accepted by the EU, the EU has made it clear to Turkey that, to qualify, the military must stay out of politics.  Not only is this ironic in view of the flagrant lack of democracy in the EU's own institutions, but it has weakened the chief bulwark of Turkey's secularism, allowing Erdoğan to push an Islamist agenda and erode free institutions, threatening the survival of Turkish democracy itself.

The collapse of this week's coup reflects the fact that only a portion of the military was involved, with other units opposing it.  Evidently the generals failed to reach consensus.  But from every viewpoint, the implications of this event are discouraging.  It shows that almost eighty years after Atatürk's death, Turkey still seems to need the military as the chief safeguard of its secular republic -- and that now even that safeguard is failing.

14 July 2016

Brief update

I got some more information today about my upcoming surgery.  I don't have an exact date yet, but it will probably be sometime around the middle of August.  It's a great relief that I'll be able to have it so soon and get it over with.  The recuperation period is several weeks, but will mostly be at home -- so it shouldn't take me offline very long, unless I'm completely zoned out on painkillers.

There will be a link round-up this Sunday -- I haven't been off the internet, just staying away from most of the political stuff (see post below).