28 September 2016

Odds and ends

Video for the day -- harsh reality:

Some of our top contemporary thinkers take on religion.  After the current immediate fight is over, after the election is won and Trump is at last rinsed out of the space he now occupies in our thoughts, the real struggle -- against the world's oldest and biggest and most dangerous scam -- will continue.

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A few foreign views of the debate:

The Guardian (UK):  Don't count Trump out yet -- his bullshit has already taken him far.

The Irish TimesSeven commenters assess the candidates.

Al Jazeera:  If anything, we're underestimating the danger posed by the subculture Trump has stirred up.

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Personal:  Had to go back to the hospital this week to check severe swelling in one foot, to make sure it wasn't an infection or a blood clot (either would be highly dangerous in my current situation).  Luckily it was neither, and it's responding to conventional treatment.

Still feeling weak and apathetic, though there is gradual improvement.  Trying to minimize dependence on the prescription painkiller they sent me home with -- oxycodone.  It does work, but the side effects are nasty -- nothing tastes right, and strange hallucinatory ideas filled my mind, especially at night.  These seem to be fading as I use less of the stuff.

Thanks to everyone for all the encouraging comments -- I really appreciate them.

22 September 2016

Back home

Finally back from surgery, though dog-tired.  Thanks for all the supportive comments on the post below.  Will post more when I can.

19 September 2016

The Infidel is [OUT]

Going into the hospital today for surgery.  Surprisingly, I will probably be back home as soon as Wednesday (I'm told that very short hospital stays even for major operations are the norm these days), followed by three to six weeks recuperation at home.  During that time I'll be on narcotic painkillers and the Devil knows what else, so I don't know whether I'll be up to much coherent posting, at least early on.  But I'll be here.

18 September 2016

Link round-up for 18 September 2016

This corn is too beautiful to eat.

NASA celebrates Star Trek.

If Trump wins, the White House will undergo some remodeling.

You can't tell me this cat isn't communicating.

Don't fall for the myth of the white wedding dress.

One thing works, the other doesn't.

Welcome to the closet, fuckheads (found via this commentary from last year).

In the night, they are out there.

Next time you're in Minneapolis, check out Hell's Kitchen.

It's not aliens -- just listen to people.

Rent this apartment, and you'll always know what time it is.

Who's the painter?

Wow, scary neighbors.

To Hell with respect.

You just know this guy will vote for Trump.

Wingnuts should rethink their admiration for Putin.

We all know Barack is smart, but don't underestimate Michelle.

Here's another side to the Adblock Plus controversy.  I don't know who's right, I'm just passing the info along.

The NCAA and the ACC join the campaign against North Carolina's HB2.  The city of Charlotte must stand strong against this dirty dealNo compromises.  Crush them.  We are strong enough for that now.

I agree -- this guy is just a vandal and should be treated as such.

 For those who won't vote for Hillary, Nonnie9999 has a vision of the future.

Some in the sports world have weird priorities.  So does the University of Texas.

This is what Republicans do.  And here are more things that they do.

I've thought #6 many times -- someday we'll learn how he really felt.

Comrade Misfit has some sensible posts on September 11 from 2011, 2010, and especially 2008.

A London subway station goes full cat.

Spaniards protest the disgusting "sport" of bullfighting.

The Putin regime is running out of money.

Green Eagle raises an often-overlooked point about Israeli settlements (and here's the actual study being discussed).

Saudi Arabia's latest barbarity targets atheism.

India leads the world.

The Bonobo Project is trying to save one of our closest relatives.

This occurred to me some time ago -- Trump's behavior resembles the dominance displays of male chimpanzees.

The candidates respond to twenty questions on science.  The photo on question 2 is the Large Hadron Collider at Geneva, an example of large-scale government investment in basic science.  I shudder to think of Trump trying to assess particle physics, and can just see Gary Johnson saying "What's a Geneva?" (found via Ed Brayton).

The wingnuts have a lot riding on McCrory.

Trump's customer base doesn't seem to like his antics.

Hackwhackers and Samantha Bee put things in perspective.

Yes, they're deplorable.  Hillary knows exactly what she's doing and she spoke the truth.

Not just a crook, but a petty crook.

Hillary has reasons for being cautious around the media.

Trump's "birther moment" was a revival of old insanity -- even NRO thinks it was a blunder.  Here's how bad it was.  The media are not amused by his bullshit.

Don't fall for the lies about Hillary's paid-leave plan. Here's another candidate comparison.

The Trump rape lawsuit, ignored by most media and bloggers, continues to move forward.

The Governor of Kentucky goes full wingnut.

Obama lays it on the line about what's at stake this November.  Don't let all this progress be lost.

Zandar sees a landslide coming.

Apparently this is Trump's concept of "charity" (link from Kevin Robbins).  As President he would have huge conflicts of interest.

[Image at top:  Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, showing the devastation caused by the civil war -- a major issue the next president will have to deal with.  Gary Johnson apparently had not heard of Aleppo.]

14 September 2016

A few words on being human

Human beings are members of one body;
At the time of creation they were of one essence.
If a member of the body is in pain one day,
The other members do not remain unmoved.
You who feel nothing at the suffering of others
Do not deserve to be called human.

Sa'di Shirazi
Persian poet, 13th century

11 September 2016

Link round-up for 11 September 2016

I'm not so sure these categories are wrong.

Hey, how was your day?

Trump resembles one of Star Trek's less-interesting villains.

A new life begins.

Romeo and Juliet could have had a happy ending.

Greek tragedy lives on among us.

Know your extremists.

Is Taylor Swift a Satanic clone?

Some San Francisco houses are almost an art form.

Glowing blue lava, because why the hell not.

Frogs on the Moon, because why the hell not.

Pachyderm painkillers poison peaceful potheads.

Conversion of atheists to Christianity is basically a fantasy.

I can't help but think this continent deserved better.

Facebook censorship plumbs depths of stupid.

In the wingnut war on public broadband, Americans lose.

Yes, he's a true Trump supporter.

Texas wastes money.

Here's something worth cheering for.

Let's see what the wingnutosphere has been up to lately.

Mother Teresa was no saint.

The best businessman in the world (found via Progressive Eruptions) once applied for a loan.

You are more than your economic productivity.

North Carolina is still trying to discourage black voters.

Batocchio looks at the spectrum of political debaters.

Britain's "most hated man" has finally gone too far.

After the Brexit vote, the UK thrives while the Eurozone struggles.  But the EU has fine leadership (found via Clarissa).

Remember Moehanga, discoverer of Britain.

The situation of women and Islam in Europe is being distorted by some reporting in the US.

Putin doesn't want you to think little of him.

Interested in Trump's plan for dealing with Dâ'ish/ISIL?  Here it is.

Mataiva is remote and cool-looking (but how did a town of 280 people afford that bridge?)

President Duterte's insults against Obama have cost his country a lot of money.

The North Korean regime has banned sarcasm (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Christianity brings civilization to Africa.

The internet is confusing people about the origin of the American Indians (found via Clarissa).

Crazy Eddie looks at the biggest bugs ever.

The first crude autonomous robot weapons made their debut in 1944 (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

Support biodegradable materials.

Solar power is making a huge difference, with several cities now powered entirely by renewable energy.

Immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer's seems to be working in human trials, while a more radical approach shows promise in mice.

The MSM witch-hunting of Hillary is getting absurdly one-sided as they shamefully normalize Trump.  After being called out, they're at least starting to nibble on him.  Kudos to the Dallas Morning News.

A lot of Gary Johnson supporters will dump him when they find out his real positions.  And many who reject Hillary need to know her real positions.

Yes, many Trumpanzees are a "basket of deplorables".

Trump is dividing marriages.  He insults the military while threatening war over trivia.  And he's empowering and legitimizing the worst of America (found via Republic of Gilead).  The only good thing he's doing is destroying the Republicans' future.  For the present, don't let this happen.

Pam Bondi isn't the only state AG with a suspicious Trump donation (found via Progressive Eruptions).

[Image at top found via Bruce Gerencser]

09 September 2016

Big fellahs

Enough politics.  Have some playful elephants.

I can wash fine by myself, thanks.....

Didn't you see the "no parking" sign?

OK, drugs starting to kick in.....

"Hello, Republican party?  We'd like to file a complaint about being used as a symbol....."

06 September 2016

A genuine scandal ignored

The media have plenty of time for phony "scamdals" manufactured by Republicans around Benghazi, e-mails, the Clinton Foundation, and what have you.  So why aren't they jumping on this actual Trump scandal which presents, at the very least, a strong appearance of outright bribery of a government official?  Trump has a long history of shady if not outright crooked business practices -- a feast for investigative reporting, if the media were actually interested in doing their job.

Maybe the Clinton campaign will have to do their job for them.  To that, I can only add, "This looks like a job for the internet".  The big centralized MSM no longer have the exclusive power to decide what is and is not newsworthy.  Any individual blog has only a small audience, but all together, and along with intermediate-size news sites like Crooks and Liars and TPM, the blogosphere has some weight to throw into the balance.  The wall of MSM silence is showing some cracks (the second link in the first paragraph is to The Washington Post).  It's a start, in shifting the focus where it belongs.

Update:  Another story that needs more attention:  Trump lavishly spending campaign funds at resorts and other properties which he himself owns, turning campaign donations into a business windfall for himself.

And beyond Trump's own scandals, maybe it's time to start insisting on the broader truth about the Republican party.  It's going to be a big job.

04 September 2016

Link round-up for 4 September 2016

A new discovery about ancient Babylonian mathematics illustrates a key difference between science and religion.

Some of the toughest and most clear-headed resistance to Islamism comes from Middle Eastern people -- a fact which "identity politics" cannot cope with.

I've found this to be very true.

Cats just kinda know.

Robots, robots everywhere!

This Poke Mongo thing is getting completely out of hand.

Beware the onslaught of the militant lesbian farmers.

Mention was made last week of giant metal chickens.  But how about death metal chickens?

If you use Airbnb, click here.

Nine lives, one story.

Movie audiences are turning away from sequels and remakes (found via Zandar).

There's a simple reason why so many powerful women are blonde.

Not the end of the world, even if it looks that way.

If you ever have your wrists bound with zip ties, try this (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Green Eagle has more wingnut wackiness and wingnut lies.

Paul Wartenberg looks back on ten years of bloggery.

This isn't justice.

At the end of the road of delusion, the mad chicken farmer awaits.

They're not even trying to hide the purpose of voter ID laws any more.

After years of preaching sexual abstinence, Joshua Harris reconsiders (found via Republic of Gilead).

A protest in North Dakota deserves more attention. Things are turning nasty.

Franklin Graham says you and I are the problem.

Media normalization of Trump is bizarre and dangerous.

Conservatism depends on the Two Minutes Hate to survive, but they can no longer control who's the target.

Fundies flounder in response to the collapse of Christianity in the US (found via Republic of Gilead), but they're reaffirming their rejection of gays, to the point of this guy having a complete meltdown.

Wealthy Nick Hanauer has an important message for his fellow one-percenters.

The Bible says kill your relatives if they don't share your delusions.

If you want to punch a feminist, here are some opportunities.

Veterans speak out on Colin Kaepernick's protest; more on that here.  And this is the anthem he spurned.

Indiana's "religious freedom law" is still giving cover for nastiness.

First he ran a red light and hit her, then he shot her.

Here's another huge problem with the TPP.

The Anglican Church is splintering apart over how much to compromise with modernity.

Even by the normal standards of "miracles", this is really suspicious.

Fireworks?  Thailand shows us how it's done.

Here's a report on anti-gay agitation around the world.

A long time ago, a girl fell out of a tree.

This is a pretty far-out dress.

A transitional pterodactyl fossil offers fascinating insights into the evolution of ancient flying reptiles.

Progress is our job.

We're learning how plants transitioned to dry land, and made it habitable.

The Clinton Foundation does stuff like this.

The fundies have made their choice.  Now let them live with their hypocrisy.

Hillary should talk more about the world's biggest problem.

Those who could accept a Trump win are selfishly sacrificing others.

Huma Abedin remains a favorite target of wingnut conspiratardia.

Hackwhackers has reactions to Trump's Mexico trip.  The Field Negro is unimpressed with his "outreach" to black voters.  Much of his racism has libertarian roots.

Assange is getting hysterical about the possibility of Hillary winning.

If the Republicans are losers, they'll be sore losers.

Both-siderism is a lie; there is no equivalence between the parties or between the candidates.  The Republican party must be not just defeated, but destroyed.

[Image at top:  Hellenistic-era Babylonian tablet on calculating the position of Jupiter (see first link), found via Rosa Rubicondior]

03 September 2016

Quotes / video for the day -- a voice of reason

Note:  Tyson's description of al-Ghazâlî's role in the collapse is somewhat oversimplified, but overall he's right on target here.

01 September 2016

Wingnut sanctuaries?

For some time now there has been a growing feeling on the right wing that, since they are inexorably losing the culture wars, they need to carve out some sort of refuge for themselves in which their culture can survive -- a place "transformed into an oasis of unfreedom and injustice", in which traditional myths and bigotry can continue unchallenged.  Two and a half years ago, Ross Douthat demanded such sanctuary in the form of exceptions to anti-discrimination laws.  By now it is fairly clear that that is not going to fly.  Now this post at LifeSite News, a hard-line Catholic forum, calls for actual, physical sanctuary cities for true-believing Christians, citing the precedent of sanctuary cities for illegal aliens in which local authorities refuse to cooperate with certain federal laws.

Exactly what the author wants refuge from has to be read between the lines, given the way such writers twist their language into a hard-to-follow snarl in order to justify the underlying stance that they are the ones suffering from oppression when they can't discriminate and harass any more.  Still, given recent battles in the culture wars, it's not too hard to figure out what this means:

Business owners and workers must be allowed to do their work and flourish without having to celebrate moral corruption and keep their mouths shut. Florists, bakers, photographers, and all small business owners have the right to refuse to participate in celebrations of things they find immoral, just as any sane baker would justly refuse to provide a cake for a Nazi event.

So, basically, a sanctuary city would be one in which anti-gay discrimination would remain permissible because the local authorities would not cooperate with federal laws and court rulings against it.  Entire states have already tried this by refusing to accept last year's Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, and the federal government made it clear that it would not tolerate this.  Suppose a few cities here and there announced that they were becoming "sanctuaries" in which lunch counters and bus companies were free to discriminate against black customers again?  How long do you think that would be allowed to stand?  Where discrimination is concerned, the federal government is rightly uncompromising, because it has a duty to protect all its citizens even if they live in places where bigots form a local majority.  Aside from the government, entities ranging from corporations to sports leagues have boycotted states which legalize anti-gay discrimination under the guise of "religious liberty", creating massive economic pressure.  Such "sanctuaries" suffer heavy and sustained penalties.

The post also includes a lot of complaining about people having to home-school their kids to protect them from being exposed to messages of tolerance for those who are different.  So presumably a sanctuary city would be one where public schools were officially tolerant of bullying of gay kids and perhaps even included some Christian doctrine as part of the curriculum.  This might be easier to get away with given the power of local school boards to control local schools (the decentralization of control over education is one of this country's core problems, but that's a matter for another post), and easier still if it were done at private schools instead of public ones.  But all that stuff basically happens already in many small towns where intolerant and ignorant religious people are in the majority.  Aside from offering some local quasi-official legitimacy, it's hard to see what a "sanctuary city" would add.  If they want open preaching of religious dogma as part of the curriculum in public schools with the support of local authorities, this has already been tried with creationism, and legal cases such as Kitzmiller v. Dover have shown that local authorities have no such power to ignore the Constitution.  They are getting away with it in a few states where state authorities are complicit, but the Kitzmiller precedent suggests that determined lawsuits could end this.

The "sanctuary" concept is morally incoherent because the "oppression" these people claim to be fleeing from isn't really oppression.   What they're trying to protect isn't their own equality and freedom, it's their ability to deny the equality and freedom of others (equality in the case of gays, freedom in the case of women who want contraception or abortion).  The government may tacitly leave you alone to do your own thing, but not when "your own thing" is beating up on somebody else.

Something like what the post suggests did actually succeed for several generations in one case.  When the Mormon Church finally yielded to government pressure and abandoned polygamy in 1890, a few small groups of hard-line dissenters left the Church and set up their own communities where they could continue polygamy.  Known as "Mormon Fundamentalists" or FLDS, these groups built tiny, isolated settlements in remote areas, in some cases even across the borders in Mexico or Canada.  These enclaves survived unbothered because they largely escaped notice.  Only in the last few years, as a pattern of abuse of underage girls there entered public awareness, has the government begun to crack down on them.  Again, the problem is that the "freedom" they were defending was the freedom to abuse children and keep women in subjugation.

Anyway, I don't think a tiny isolated compound in the middle of a desert is what Douthat or the readers of LifeSite News have in mind.  They want modern conveniences and urbanity without modern challenges to the supremacy of religious dogmas, taboos, and prejudices.  But that's fundamentally impossible, because of the exuberant free marketplace of ideas which modern popular culture creates.  Consider the Middle East, a vast region of hundreds of millions of people where religion has been brutally dominant since the 12th century and where most governments actually support religious taboos and strictures.  Its societies are in upheaval as millions question religious dogma or flatly (if quietly) abandon it, as women demand more freedom and education, as young people assert self-determination in sexuality and marriage.  This is happening now, after centuries of stagnation under religion, because Western movies, TV, music, books, and the internet are flooding the region with new ideas and imagery.  The Islamic backlash of political fundamentalism and even terrorism can kill people, but it can't stop these changes.  What chance would Sanctuaryburg, Alabama have of keeping out the influences that would turn much of its own next generation against the culture it's trying to protect?  FLDS enclaves ban TV and the internet.  In a normal city, this would be impossible.

Muddled attempts at creating wingnut sanctuaries on the city or state level will doubtless persist for some time, but in the long run they will fizzle out and fade away.