31 May 2017

Random observations for May 2017

All the great atrocities of history would have been impossible without obedience.

o o o o o

The environment is not a subset of the economy.  The economy is a subset of the environment.

o o o o o

Evolution moves in mysterious ways.  The human propensity for manipulating objects, and our development of spoken language, have given us extremely fine-tuned control over our hands and mouths -- which has revolutionized sexuality.

o o o o o

Casual profanity has become a tired cliché, and boring.

o o o o o

One odd little quirk of US politics is the right's obsessive belief that the left follows the teachings of a person named "Saul Alinsky".  In all my years of following politics, I've never seen any left-wing person mention Alinsky unless they were quoting or replying to a right-winger who had brought him up.

o o o o o

The stupidest argument of the global-warming denialists is that since carbon dioxide is necessary for life, it "cannot be a pollutant".  By this logic, since water is necessary for life, floods and tidal waves can't do any harm.

o o o o o

If you claim to support free expression even for people you disagree with, but in every actual specific case that comes up you find some excuse for doing otherwise (calling it "incitement" or "hate speech" or whatever), then you are not a supporter of free expression.

o o o o o

There are hundreds of Christian sects with slightly (or sometimes sharply) different beliefs about marriage, divorce, homosexuality, women's place in society, whether Genesis should be taken literally or not, what you need to do to avoid Hell, whether Hell even exists, how to treat non-Christians, whether clergy can marry, what happens during the End Times, and on and on.  Many Christians claim they have an absolute truth about the universe that everyone should adopt, but in 2,000 years they've never even been able to agree among themselves on what that truth is.

o o o o o

There is a certain type on the left for whom everything is about racism.  They will never entertain any other explanation of any problem, so long as there is any even remotely plausible way to invoke racism.  In its own way it's as bad a form of tunnel vision as the Sandersite (or Marxist or libertarian) insistence on treating all problems as essentially economic.

o o o o o

Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?  If you're like most people, you have at least one family member or close friend you care about, who does not meet your religion's criteria for getting into Heaven.  If you did actually go to Heaven after your death, would you be able to be happy there knowing that someone you cared about was suffering eternal torment in Hell?

[For previous random observations, see here.]

30 May 2017

Video of the day -- an imbecile abroad

British humor show "Have I Got News for You" looks at Trump's travels.

28 May 2017

Link round-up for 28 May 2017

A cleaning lady quits with style.

Get fashionable accessories for your summer BBQ.

Hell really exists -- Jesus himself said so!  (The Klingons really exist -- Captain Kirk himself said so!)

Revealed -- Trump's briefing documents.

Have fun on the freeway with missile balloons (found via Bailey's Buddy).

Cosplay is getting startlingly sophisticated.

Behold the master race (found via Yellowdog Granny).

It's a message from God!

Photoshop trolls have been hard at work on that awkward photo of the Pope with the Trump family.  But the original pictures are bad enough. More Trump abroad adventures here.

Some interesting observations about school censorship.

Good riddance all round (found via Mendip).

Here's another great post on "cultural appropriation" -- don't miss the last two comments by Arrenkae.

Oklahoma Republicans are a huge embarrassment (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

This is what we could do with abandoned shopping malls.

Stupid conspiracy theory is stupid.

Don't let the Republicans whitewash their pre-Trump history.

This maniac killed two people just a few miles from where I am (and it could just as easily have been me -- I'm sure I would have spoken out if I'd been in the presence of his initial tirade).

Advertisers are fleeing Hannity.

Here are some experiences of Christian morality.

Wheelchair ramps need smart design.

California's so-called single-payer plan is a trap.

Helen Mirren pwns the Republicans.

Here are some tips on handling a human stampede.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gives a great speech on Confederate monuments.  A Mississippi Republican has a more Old-South-style view.

Don't blindly accept stereotypes about millennials.

The Alt-Right is having a meltdown over Trump's remarks about Islam.

Google has begun tracking your internet activity more personally (the last paragraph has opt-out instructions).  More here.

Never forget that this happened.

What does Jeff Sessions's war-on-crime rhetoric really mean, and how far can he go?

If you've been exposed to asbestos, these people may be able to help.

Atheism is probably much more common in the US than surveys show.

Texas Republicans are preparing a new war on gays.

A teabagger explains how to talk to teabaggers about clean energy.

We're getting a little better at forecasting earthquakes.

There's a lot less plastic garbage in the oceans than we thought, and the reason may lie in evolution.

We've just received a huge new trove of data about Jupiter.

Heather Hastie looks at gender differences in political and religious views.

Sex education is necessary (don't miss the teen pregnancy map).

Religious people leaving religion far outnumber non-religious people adopting it (this is about the UK, but the same is likely true elsewhere).

The Manchester attack's targeting of a mostly-female crowd may have been intentional.  A Christian activist speaks out about the victims (found via Mendip).  Also, these people exist.

Germany's most respected magazine publishes a sobering editorial about the Trump problem (found via this Progressive Eruptions post).

Why aren't Germans patriotic?

Here's some background on the Macron-Trump handshake.

Germany and Italy are cracking down on anti-vaxxers.

Compare notes left at Yad Vashem by Trump, Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

Paola Paredes is out to expose Ecuador's ghastly gay-conversion "clinics".

Uruguay deserves praise for legalizing recreational marijuana, but actually this sounds a lot less liberal than what we have here in Oregon.

The Saudi regime has learned to manipulate Trump via flattery. Don't forget September 11.  And we need to stop leaving Trump's education to foreign leaders.

South Koreans, especially young people, are turning away from religion.

Taiwan's highest court rules in favor of gay marriage, meaning that country may become the first in Asia to allow it.  Mainland China looks a lot less hospitable (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird).

In northern India, a new Dalit ("untouchable") organization fights back against upper-caste thuggery -- and the religio-nationalist ruling party.

Here's some background on this week's Kushner-Russia-back-channel bombshell.  Booman looks at the implications.

Alternet compiles six things Trump doesn't understand about his job (found via Politics Plus).  Will the Trumpanzees ever admit that they were conned?

Republicans react to Gianforte's violence (found via Bjork Report); Tell Me a Story has some colorful observations; the internet reacts with sarcasm.  Another Republican indulges in violent fantasies about journalists.  Gianforte also has ties to pro-Confederate historical revisionists -- and some weird ideas about retirement.

We have plenty of Presidential options for 2020, but the enemy is already tiring of Trump.

Dozens of Congressional Republicans who voted for ACA repeal own stock in affected companies (found via Mendip). The repeal bill has gotten a horrible CBO score, putting pressure on the SenateDon't be fooled by Republican use of the new HHS report.

Hackwhackers has some Trump cartoons.

Democrats wish this issue would go away, but can it?  Don't get overconfident.

Ben Sasse is an unusual Republican, but still a Republican.

Pence will be an awful President, but we still must remove Trump, and without delay -- Democrats will keep up the fight.  However, the 25th Amendment isn't the right way (found via Fair and Unbalanced) to get rid of him.

Jared Kushner has an interesting business background.

Trump's use of language has deteriorated revealingly over the years.

[129 days down, 1,333 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

25 May 2017

Weakening our defenses

As the British police pursue their investigations of the Manchester terrorist attack and arrest the suicide bomber's unexploded co-conspirators, they have of course been passing along information to allied countries, including the US.  However, they have now taken the astonishing step of suspending such sharing of information with the US -- because US officials have been careless about keeping it from leaking in ways that undermine the police's work.  Information leaked in the US has included the bomber's name and photos of shrapnel from the bomb.  Even after high-level protests from the British government, leaks continued, leaving the police with no alternative to this drastic response.  The cut-off could conceivably undermine US anti-terrorism efforts, since supporting such efforts is the reason information-sharing is done in the first place.

To be clear, these leaks probably are not connected to the special ineptitude displayed by the Trump administration in so many areas.  There were similar leak problems after the 7/7 subway bombing in London in 2005.  But if Trump were competent, he would be actively engaged in trying to address this problem.  And it shows the kind of harm that can be done by the leaks of sensitive information that Trump has been responsible for, such as his passing of Israeli-sourced intelligence to Russian officials and his revealing to Philippine President Duterte that nuclear-armed US submarines have been stationed near Korea (the latter case is obviously not foreign-sourced information, but it's another confirmation of his general carelessness in such matters).  It won't be surprising if not only Israel but other allies, concerned about what might get leaked, cut back on intelligence-sharing with us.

In dealing with the multiplying scandals and investigations engulfing the administration, Trump and his henchmen have repeatedly tried to shift attention from the allegations to the fact that those allegations are being leaked to the media.  They'd do better to focus on leaks which are actually damaging international cooperation against terrorism.

24 May 2017

Image of the day

The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, illuminated as a gesture of solidarity with the Manchester victims.  UpdateMore tributes here.

23 May 2017

Religion strikes again

I've spent most of the morning reading the news about the terrorist attack in Manchester, UK.  A suicide bomber detonated his bomb at one of the exits from the Manchester Arena, the largest enclosed concert venue in Europe.  The explosion happened at the end of the event, among audience members (largely teenagers) leaving the arena and parents waiting to pick them up.  Confirmed casualties so far are 22 killed and 59 injured, numbers which will probably increase.  Countless ordinary people have rallied to help the victims.  More pictures and reactions here.

The attack could have been even worse.  Like most such venues in the UK, the Manchester Arena has excellent security, and the bomber did not attempt to enter, attacking instead outside an exit point.  If he had been able to get inside and set off the bomb in the midst of the audience, there would probably have been far more casualties.  This shows that security can mitigate the effects of terror attacks, but it's impossible to completely eliminate them.

It hasn't yet been officially confirmed that this was a jihadist attack, but come on -- a suicide bombing at a pop music concert?  In any case, it should be confirmed soon enough.  The police already know the name of the bomber, though they haven't yet released it, and have arrested another person in connection with the attack.  Bombings take more skill and preparation than one might think, and are almost never the work of one person acting alone.  The police throughout Europe have a good track record of detecting and stopping planned attacks before they are carried out; those who can avoid discovery are not amateurs.  If this turns out to be the work of a major jihadist organization such as Dâ'ish (ISIL), they can expect massive retaliation, such as France delivered after the Paris attacks of 2015.

21 May 2017

Link round-up for 21 May 2017

It's cats in space!

What if you were watching Sailor Moon, but subtitles from South Park appeared on the screen?

Wow, it's almost as if praying and fasting have no magical power at all (from Shaw Kenawe).

.....from a line of great warriors (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Be careful where you put those stickers.

Will Texas ban wanking?

See photos of a vicious Japanese statue.

What a show-off.

Can we install Disney's Trump in place of the real one?

Well, it's definitely a unique look.

Superheroes are "in" right now, but there's one we could do without.

Trump needs his head examined.

Yeesh, does anyone really not understand this?

They aren't praying for you.

It's just geography (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Have some more fun with dogs. And here's a baby giraffe.

Over the years, humans have imagined God in many different ways.  Here's how he created animals.

The Alien movies are Satanic, apparently.  Here's another wingnut boycott (see last paragraph) which I predict will have no effect.

Repealing the ACA will save money! Here's what Republicans were celebrating (both found via Yellowdog Granny).  Trumpanzees are off in an alternate universe.  But now repeal faces a new obstacle.

This is what Christianity does to families (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird). Here's what it does to life.

Satan is my co-pilot.

Bruce Gerencser takes down a Jesus troll.

If you're on Tumblr, here's how to deal with some of the control-freakery.

There's not much sympathy for disappointed Trumpanzees.  Liberal Redneck explains why they remain in denial about the Trump-Russia scandal.

Scott Lively wants to unite Christians, Muslims, and Jews around their common Godhatesfagsian heritage.

Young people are fleeing the Republican party.

10% of all US marriages are now interracial, and the trend is escalating.

Milo Yiannopoulos can no longer claim to be a free-expression advocate (if he ever could).

26% of Americans now accept that the Bible is just a book of fables.

Black activists in New Orleans target the city's racist monuments.  Black Louisiana state legislators walk out on a reactionary bill.  Here's a disturbing report on prison labor in the state.

You are not your religion.

Yes, Chick-Fil-A on campus is a real issue.

Ignorance helps bigots to recruit (found via 無政府進藤主義).

This person exists.  So does this person.

A student reporter in Portland is fired for accurate reporting about religion.

Here are some good resources on Melissa Farley and the "Nordic model" of prostitution law.

Never forget the enemy's racism against Obama (found via Progressive Eruptions).

Go ahead, try to tell me these people aren't neo-Nazis.

Somebody's finally doing something about the Flint water disaster.

Yes, he has the First Amendment right to say this, but he shouldn't be a teacher.

Don't donate to the Salvation Army.

Minnesota is suffering a measles outbreak because some people are stupid.

You can now get roof solar panels that look like regular shingles and last forever.

A 2012 experiment suggests that "ocean fertilization" can help fight global warming (found via this Crazy Eddie post).

A specific form of brain damage correlates with religious fundamentalism (found via Mendip).  I was suspicious of this at first since the article doesn't link to the actual study, but it's real.

It's a near-collision on a colossal scale.

This was Toronto half a century ago (from Ranch Chimp).

Celebrate blasphemy and apostasy.

Once again religio-nutballs are in a snit about a Scandinavian cartoon.

Trump may find himself less than welcome in Israel.  At least he won't defile Masada.

Balloon Juice has a photo report on Donald of Arabia.

The marine ecosystem of Palawan in the Philippines is in danger -- from Nickelodeon.

Here's a busy intersection with no traffic lights (found via TYWKIWDBI) -- the film is speeded up a bit.

It's just another marriage in a religion-based society.

David Frum explains why a special prosecutor isn't the best approach to the Trump scandals.  Here's why Democrats aren't pushing impeachment yet.  But Trump will regret starting a war with the FBI.

Would you want to come work for this guy?

Driftglass assesses Andrew Sullivan's assessment of Joe Lieberman.

Paula Swearengin is launching a progressive primary challenge to Joe Manchin.

This Republican outed an activist to her employer.

Twitter responds to Trump's witch-hunt whine.

Republicans have turned politics into reality TV.  Here's some of what they're facing from constituents (though one Congressman got a much better reception).  If they think they've got problems now, just wait till after Trump is gone.

Trump is torpedoing himself.  NRO thinks he can no longer be coherently defended; RedState thinks he'll quit.  For now, he's energizing the Democrats.

[122 days down, 1,340 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

19 May 2017

An election of consequence

Today Iranian voters will deliver their verdict on the reformist administration of President Hassan Rouhani.  Those who vote for him will be defending progress won at great cost.

Iran's theocratic establishment (which acts as a separate branch of government, one which actually outranks the Presidency) has been accustomed to flagrantly rigging elections to get results acceptable to itself.  This happened in 2009, when the hard-line Islamist bigot Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was "re-elected" as President.  But then the Iranian people, who had been chafing under the theocracy's repression for thirty years, finally took to the streets -- producing the largest protest demonstrations in the history of the world, with literally millions of participants.  The regime cracked down brutally and appeared, at the time, to have won.  However, when the next election took place in 2013, fear of triggering another such round of protests made it hold back from interfering too blatantly -- and Rouhani was elected in a landslide.

Despite obstructionism from the powerful religious establishment, Rouhani has accomplished a great deal.  He has increased freedom by reducing censorship and controls over the internet.  The rights and status of women have made impressive (by Islamic Republic standards) progress.  Rouhani negotiated the 2015 deal with the US and other major powers under which Iran renounced its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions (Obama rightly gets a lot of credit for this, but the deal could not have been made without Rouhani's determination to open up to the outside world).  Partly due to the easing of sanctions, Iran's stagnant economy has begun growing and inflation has plummeted, but job growth has still been disappointing -- something which could dampen voter enthusiasm.

That would be unfortunate, since Rouhani's main opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, is a hard-line reactionary -- his party is called the "Combatant Clergy Association", which pretty much tells you what you need to know.  Raisi would reverse at least some of Rouhani's social reforms; he supports the barbaric punishments of Sharî'ah law and was involved in the executions of political prisoners in the early years of the Islamist regime.  And he would adopt a more hard-line, confrontational foreign policy.

This election matters to Americans too.  Rouhani is intelligent, cautious, and moderate.  At a time when the US "President" is none of those things, and our militarist-wingnut element is salivating at the prospect of a war with Iran which would be disastrous for both countries, the last thing we need is a belligerent fanatic replacing Rouhani.  Somebody has to play the "adult in the room" role in this relationship.

Update (Saturday morning):  Rouhani wins, with 58.6% of the vote in heavy turnout.

That isn't the Kremlin, you nitwits

The above Time cover, symbolically depicting the infiltration of Russian influence over the US government via the Trump administration, has been widely reproduced all over the internet -- and more often than not, described as the White House changing into "the Kremlin".  Good grief.  The Russian building shown is St. Basil's Cathedral, the most famous and iconic structure in Russia and thus often used (as Time does here) as a visual symbol of that country.  It doesn't bear even the slightest resemblance to the Kremlin, which is a vast walled compound containing many separate buildings.  This is like some foreign blogger showing a picture of the Statue of Liberty and calling it the Pentagon.  Get it right FFS.  You're just giving the rest of the world yet another chance to laugh at the dumbass Americans knowing nothing about anything outside our own country.

16 May 2017

An impeachment dilemma for Republicans

So far, talk of impeaching Trump has been just talk.  Republicans hold majorities in both the House and the Senate, so Democrats would need the cooperation of at least some Republicans to impeach and remove him.  And so far, few or no Republicans in Congress seem to be even considering cooperating with such a move, despite the rich abundance of grounds for doing so.  But there's another aspect of the issue that they ought to be thinking about.

The order of succession to the Presidency is the Vice President and then the Speaker of the House.  So if Trump were impeached and removed, Pence would become President.  If both Trump and Pence were removed (because Pence was found complicit in whatever Trump was charged with), then Paul Ryan would become President.  Either of those outcomes would presumably be acceptable to most Republicans -- probably preferable to keeping Trump in office, in fact.

However, given the unpopularity of moves like ACH repeal, tax "reform" (massive giveaways to the wealthy at everyone else's expense), and Trump's general blundering, it's now looking plausible that Democrats could win a majority in both House and Senate in next year's election.  If that happens and Trump is still in office, here's the likely scenario:

• Democratic House majority elects Democratic Speaker.

• Congress impeaches Trump and Pence.

• Democratic Speaker becomes President.

So far from "acceptable", this would be the Republicans' nightmare scenario -- Democratic control of Congress and the Presidency, just a little over two years after Trump won them the latter.

If the Republicans impeach Trump themselves while they still can, and install Pence or Ryan in his place, they'll probably be able to keep the Presidency for the rest of Trump's term even if they lose Congress in 2018 (since it would be far harder to make a case for impeaching Pence or Ryan and whatever Republican was Vice President by then).  But if they stand with Trump through 2018, they're gambling with losing everything.

Update 1 (4:30 AM Wednesday):  The latest revelation (the Comey memo's claim that Trump tried to squelch the Flynn investigation) seems to have stunned some Senate Republicans into backing off of their dogged support for Trump -- but TPM thinks they're still not ready to support impeachment (see end of first link).

Another point:  while Trump is wildly unpopular, impeaching him would not let the Republicans settle into a more "normal" governing pattern free of the mass protest and public hostility they've been subject to -- and most Congressional Republicans probably realize this.  The biggest driver of the hate they've been getting at town halls and in constituent messages has actually been ACA repeal, not Trump's antics.

Update 2 (6:30 AM Wednesday):  There is another interesting wrinkle here based on Section 2 of the 25th Amendment.  If Trump were impeached and Pence became President, Pence would need to choose a new Vice President -- who would then need to be confirmed by both Houses of Congress.  So if the Republicans impeach Trump themselves before November 2018, they'll be able to rubber-stamp Pence's choice; but if they do not, and a Democratic-majority Congress impeaches Trump but not Pence, the Democrats will have a veto over Pence's choice for Vice President.  Assuming the Democrats are willing to play hardball by this point, they might even demand a Democrat as VP and threaten to leave the office vacant à la Garland if Pence didn't go along.  Whether they could get away with that Constitutionally, I don't know.  I don't think there's any precedent.

14 May 2017

Link round-up for 14 May 2017

The wall is stalled, but Trump inspires another construction project.

Proofreading is important.

It's just two alligators arguing over a pumpkin.

This book exists (found via Mock Paper Scissors).  So does this one.

This guy is damn lucky that that wasn't Rocket.

Dogs are cool. Well, not always.  Don't scare the kitty cat.  And keep this thing away from your critters.

Learn how to write a classics paper.

Stupid measurement system is stupid.

The AV Club apologizes for a false statement about Republicans (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Queen Elizabeth II is a Satanist lizard and the Clintons are cannibals.

It's Harry Potter with honest titles.

Nixon is vindicated!

What color is it?

Is Satan really such a bad guy?

If you've found something you think will have a dramatic impact on archaeology, read this (found via Mendip).

An amazing new technique enables you to create food instead of buying it.

Windows 8 may be better than we thought.

Here's a snack history of US Presidents.

The mightiest entity in existence needs the help of idiots.

Meet the real whale who inspired Moby Dick.

Comey should have read Lord of the Rings.  An English major "translates" his farewell letter to the FBI.

Some very cool modern sculpture here.  Then there's this.

ZOMG the Muslims are taking over.....or maybe not (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Friends of Boston blogger Donna are visiting Portland, enabling me to play tour guide via her comments thread.

Hysterical Raisins sends Betsy DeVos back to school.

Rest in peace, Pepe, you are blameless.

Brane Space looks at Aristotle and moral absolutism.

Do Republicans even want to live?

Bruce Gerencser reminds me yet again how utterly alien the Evangelical culture is.  Even reading the Bible is really weird.  The obsession with sin is even worse.  And some of them want to rule over all of us (found via Mendip).

US customs officers embrace the dignity of public service.

Could the technology of Ghost in the Shell ever become reality? (link from Marc McKenzie).

In these dark times, statue removal provides some moments to savor.

Community policing works.

Savor the rancid arrogance of this pastor (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird). Here's another pointlessly-fouled-up romance.

A fundie tries to explain why wingnuts don't like diversity.

Best post ever on "cultural appropriation".

The NY Times discovers the real free market.

The Family Research Council is just nasty.

Wise words on tradition, from the 14th century.

Meet one of America's most successful prosecutors of terrorists -- Zainab Ahmad.

Orrin Hatch blunders condescendingly on Indian tribal rights and national monuments (found via Mendip).

A columnist schools an infuriated theist.

How common is this kind of insane rubbish?  I honestly don't know.

If a site demands that you disable AdBlock in order to view it, here's what you can do (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Ancient Greek temples were colorful places.

More bullshit about autism and vaccines is debunked.

Women are turning to the IUD as a pre-emptive defense in case Republicans seriously reduce birth-control access.

PZ Myers looks at movie aliens and the realities of evolution.

Crazy Eddie has videos on climate change. The news isn't good.  For denialists, there's a bingo card.

Watch an eagle fly to its handler from atop the world's tallest building -- from the eagle's point of view.

When we are able to reach the stars, how soon should we try?

Silicon-based life is looking more plausible (found via Mary Madigan).

Behold the strange, newly-discovered giant shipworm (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Check out this Toronto architecture -- and teen rebellion, Canadian style.  Also in Canada, come face to face with a family from 4,000 years ago.  Fellow blogger Murr Brewster is up in Canada now.

Irish authorities, apparently realizing they were looking like medieval nitwits, have dropped the blasphemy investigation against Stephen Fry.

Scots make their mark on Twitter.

Finland and Sweden don't share Trump's fussiness about borders.

Marine Le Pen has not purged her inner circle of neo-Nazis as she claims (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

A Greek Orthodox bishop sends a bizarre warning to Turkey's president Erdoğan (read the comments too, to see the mentality of these people).

The Rainbow Railroad helps gays escape oppressive societies (note: I haven't investigated this group myself).

Hindu nationalists in India want to use ancient mumbo-jumbo to breed superior babies.

Brane Space sees Comeygate as a Constitutional crisis.  Green Eagle sees it as confirmation of treason.  Jack Cluth invokes Nixon.  Booman thinks it will cripple the Republican agenda.  PM Carpenter believes the US has hit bottom and will come through this OK.  FBI agents offer Comey an unusual tribute (found via Mock Paper Scissors). McCain finds a positive way to protest the firing.

Hillary came incredibly close.  I don't endorse everything this person says, but it's well worth reading.

Fox News makes an interesting slip.

Booman looks at Republicans' prospects in 2018. Here's what they're getting from constituents.

Remember, with these monsters in power, ACH repeal is still a real threat with potential serious consequences.  Show some appreciation for our Democrats fighting back.  But repeal is proving so unpopular that Republicans can't decide how to lie about it.

What if Obama had done all this stuff?

An FBI raid in Annapolis last week may have implications for Trump's future.  The Trump-Russia investigation is proceeding, under threat (found via Mendip).

[115 days down, 1,347 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

12 May 2017

Videos of the day -- Comey-dy

Because the Trump saga has now descended to the point that only political satirists can do justice to it.

Liberal Redneck:

Found via Mock Paper Scissors.

Samantha Bee:

Found via Politics Plus.

11 May 2017

Comeygate -- reactions

It's less than two days since the administration's latest and (so far) messiest power-shart hit the fan, and thus a little early to assess its impact.  Nevertheless, positions are being staked out.

Almost everyone except the most blindly partisan wingnuts seems to agree that the stated reason for firing Comey -- that he had mishandled the investigation of Hillary -- is implausible.  Given reports that Trump had been in a state of rage and panic about the several investigations into his (alleged) ties with Russia, the obvious inference is that the firing was meant to derail the FBI investigation, perhaps by replacing Comey with a yes-man who would shut it down.

If that's the case, we're in dangerous waters indeed.  Bill Moyers says, "Trump’s presidency is deeply corrupted, our democracy is compromised, and the system of checks and balances is failing us. He’s attempting a coup. No joke."  Only a special prosecutor and/or a truly independent bipartisan commission, he declares, can quash this threat.  Brian Beutler takes a similar view, seeing a real threat of a "slide into authoritarianism".  Some Europeans worry that US democracy is not as invulnerable as Americans think.

With the stakes that high, what can be done?  Jeet Heer argues that Democrats must save democracy by weaponizing the outrage over the Comey firing against Republicans in general.  Greg Sargent suggests some specific actions that Democrats (and Republicans also claiming to be concerned) can take, one of which -- blocking normal Senate business until the matter is properly addressed -- they are already doing.

Out of curiosity I took a look around the right-wing internet to see how they're spinning this.  RedState, which opposed Trump during the primaries, is taking a cautious line.  NRO criticizes the firing (more on the grounds of optics than substance), but downplays its importance.  Breitbart complains about hostile media but mostly avoids the issue.  PowerLine has a barrage of posts but they, too, are mostly complaints about the media and the left making too much of a fuss.  I looked at a few right-wing blogs too; those that even mention Comeygate range from concerned to confusing to frankly paranoidRational Nation gets it, but I'm not sure whether he even still self-identifies as conservative at this point.

Most Republican politicians, of course, are still rallying around Trump.  But Josh Marshall at TPM thinks that unity is weakening; many are lukewarm, and a few, such as McCain and Chaffetz, are already breaking ranks.  That leads me to the question of what we, the general public, can best do about this.

With Republicans holding majorities in both House and Senate, little can be done against Trump without at least some Republicans going along.  But as I've observed before, the behavior of Republican politicians ever since Trump emerged as a serious contender for their nomination suggests that they are basically cowards, afraid to stand up to any force they see as powerful enough to endanger their position.  Since Trump took office, mass pressure -- in the form of huge protests, deluges of phone calls, angry protests at town halls, etc. -- has intimidated some Republicans in Congress into backing down on issue after issue.  What we have to do now is keep up that pressure.  They are trying to sweep Comeygate under the rug with bland business-as-usual rhetoric.  We have to make it clear that that won't fly, by showing that people in their districts (or states, in the case of Senators) are aware and angry.  They fear Trump and his hard-core supporters, but they fear losing re-election as well.

And as always, we must be vigilant against cynicism and defeatism, which always militate against action and turn actual defeat into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Yes, Comeygate is a frightening assault on our system of checks and balances and on democracy itself.  But as Dana Milbank points out, our country's institutions have proven resilient against Trump's attacks so far.  If public pressure adds to that resilience and beats back the threat, the fact that so many Republicans rallied around Trump on this will join the ACA repeal effort among our most devastating weapons against them in 2018 and 2020.

09 May 2017

Video of the day -- Make Earth great again

A Bill Maher video for Earth Day this year.  Personally I'm all in favor of space exploration, but treating it as a back-up plan if we "lose" Earth is madness.

08 May 2017

The French election (2)

Not much to add to what I said in my first post on this two weeks ago.  Macron's win over Le Pen by a substantial margin was expected, and given the reactionary positions the latter has lately adopted, France dodged a bullet here.

Supporters of the European Union and opponents of democracy (but I repeat myself) may think the prospect of France reclaiming its independence from the EU has now been quashed.  If so, they're wrong.  In the first round of voting on 23 April, the combined vote for the two main anti-EU candidates (Le Pen and the far-left Mélenchon) reached 43.6% of the total.  Le Pen's 33.9% in yesterday's second round was much lower, but obviously many people who oppose the EU are unable to stomach her for other reasons.  In a country that used to be one of the EU's bastions (and is still its third-largest economy and second-biggest member by population), rejection of the EU has reached a critical mass among the people -- as is true in several other member countries.

There are signs that voters are turning away from politics as usual.  Yesterday's turnout was 74.6%, low by French standards despite what was at stake.  Neither of the second-round candidates came from France's established major parties (imagine a US Presidential race in which the top two vote-getters were neither Democrat nor Republican).  This is part of the pattern of emergence of pro-independence or anti-austerity parties in other member countries such as Syriza in Greece, the Five Star movement in Italy, and genuinely extreme-right groups in Austria and Hungary.  The exception that proves the rule is the UK, where the mainstream Conservative party, which has embraced Brexit, crushed all rivals in last week's local elections and is likely to repeat that performance in the national election next month.

The greatest risk in Europe is that if mainstream politicians continue to ignore voters' concerns about issues like the EU and immigration (while calling them names for being concerned about those things), the voters will eventually get exasperated enough to actually elect genuinely dangerous people like Le Pen and Farage as national leaders.  That's the greater bullet which the UK dodged when Conservative leader David Cameron agreed to hold last year's Brexit referendum.  Macron is a middle-of-the-road, pro-EU politician -- but so was Cameron.  The question is whether he, or someone like him, finally gives the French a say on getting out of this sclerotic and anti-democratic quasi-empire -- before Le Pen, or someone like her, actually wins an election.

07 May 2017

Link round-up for 7 May 2017

Russian sewage trucks aren't very sturdily built, apparently.

Kevin Swanson fears Beauty and the Beast promotes bison-shagging (found via Mendip).

Life imitates art.

Dogs just wanna have fun.

The Mi-go are going low-tech.

Take a good look at the picture, then read the comments below.

This church sign should bring in a few people.

There's a new health-care provider on the scene.

Twitter responds to Trump's mangling of history.

The March for Science riffs on Monty Python.

This was a tough man.

From an earlier Valentine's Day post, Crazy Eddie has the perfect zombie date movie.

Turn that nasty summer glare into art (found via TYWKIWDBI).

The BBC is making a faithful adaption of War of the Worlds (found via Mendip).

What happens when a branch falls on power lines?

What do you read for escapism?

What kind of fictional characters do women like?

We are not fallen angels.....

John Edmark uses geometry to create startling art (found via Mendip).

This stupid tweet has been all over Tumblr -- don't believe everything you read.

Crazy Eddie looks at the unicorn frappuccino.

An interesting point here about the Deadpool movie (which I admit I haven't seen).

The Christian God manifests himself in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.


Religio-wingnuts support doxxing.

The internet is the key to liberation from faith -- which in turn can lead to further self-liberation.

Quit bitching about Colbert when there are real problems to deal with.

The National Day of Prayer is un-Christian.

This is the South, the land of the Trumpanzee.

Fundie attitudes about sex are nastyVery nasty.

Can they be trusted?

Here's another view of that Heineken ad.

Creative people live in a different world.

Yeesh, some libertarians are still counting on St. Ayn Rand's holy writings to save them (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

This stinks, all right.

Politics Plus has more signs from the March for Science.

Wow, NASA is really thinking ahead.

Rejection of science is a sign of a nation in decline.

Trump's "religious freedom" executive order is a bitter disappointment to NRO, RedState, and religio-wingnuts.

Makes you wonder what anti-abortionists' real goal is.  Their reactions to Jimmy Kimmel raise further suspicions.

Bad teacherHorror for children.

The Alt-Right is a declining force, but still a real threat.  Don't miss the discussion at the end of what a "white utopia" would really be like.

"Gay conversion" stories are dishonest and harmful (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird).

Religion is remorseless in how it entraps people.

Wingnuts lament their defeat on the budget bill.  They can't be happy about this either.

By hiring a global-warming denialist, the NY Times betrayed its mission and deserves the blowback.

Anti-Semitism surges in the US even as it declines globally.

The man who shot bin Laden describes the moment.

No matter what Trump does here, clean energy is surging world-wide.

This kind of thing is why I couldn't live in Canada (found via Mendip).

Stephen Fry is under police investigation for telling the truth.

Here's a soccer field in Norway.

Austria's President is wrong about the hijab.

The people who did this should spend their prison time wrapped in plastic.

The persecution of gays in Chechnya just gets worse.

South Korea's likely next President warns Trump to back off.

Here's a very old-fashioned restaurant.

Imagine a whole country full of Mike Pence types.

The place at greatest risk for nuclear war isn't Korea or the Middle East.

New Zealand blogger Heather Hastie looks at Trump's first 100 days.

The Democratic leadership must listen to voices like this.

We are ruled by monsters.

Here is Trump's real enemy (found via Progressive Eruptions).  The government is reaching the apotheosis of stoopid.

Democrats have seen a massive surge in fund-raising since the House vote (found via Rational Nation), while Republicans can expect massive blowback.  The Senate is in no hurry to tackle repeal.

Both-siderism has reached the point of derangement and must end.

04 May 2017

The House vote

So -- ZEGS and the gang managed to make ACA repeal even worse than before, horrible enough to get the Freedom Wingnut Caucus on board -- and the moderates caved and went along.  I stand by my comment here in response to Marc McKenzie: "it will die in the Senate -- and most House Republicans will be on record as voting to take away the insurance of millions of their constituents."  They've handed us a weapon to belabor them with from now until November 2018.  "Hey hey, goodbye" indeed.

And they've done that without actually repealing the ACA, since the Senate must pass something as well, and at the moment things are looking unpromising there.  It's not clear that the Senate can pass anything.  Assuming they nuke the filibuster if it gets in the way, and only 50 votes are needed, still a mere three defections would defeat the effort.  Fewer Senators can afford to appear extremist (state borders can't be gerrymandered).  If they do cobble together something they can pass, it needs to be reconciled with the House bill.  Can they forge something that 50 Senators and the House Freedumb crowd will support?  I'm betting no.  And even if they succeed, they'll have kicked millions of their own voters off health insurance.  Those voters won't be pleased.

Should we wish for that outcome?  Of course not.  The best outcome, for us, is for repeal to fail and for those voters to realize the Republicans would have taken away their insurance, but Democrats prevented it.

But whatever happens, I'd hate to be in the Republicans' shoes right now.

02 May 2017

They're losing -- keep fighting

The wingnuts are restless, and worse.  And that's a good thing.

The rank-and-file of the enemy are beginning to notice that, despite now controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency, their Republican champions aren't getting very much done.  For many, the recent spending bill seems to have been the last straw.  Religio-wingnuts are furious that it preserves funding for Planned Parenthood (check out the comments thread at that posting too), as are their somewhat more secular comrades at RedState.  Cuts to science, the EPA, sanctuary cities, etc. are gone or negligible, and there's no money in there for the wall -- even Trump is starting to realize Republicans got pwnedLimbaugh and RedState are disgusted.

Beyond the spending bill, the ACA hasn't been repealed, and increasingly looks like it can't be.  Prospects for "tax reform" in Congress don't seem any better.  The Muslim travel ban is DOA.  Real wins since Trump took office amount to, well, Gorsuch and not much else.  Trashing Michelle Obama's education initiatives is pretty thin gruel to the knuckle-dragging hordes who idolized Trump as the avatar of an all-out revolution against liberalism.

It matters, because a frustrated wingnut is a demotivated wingnut, at least when the frustration focuses on his own party.  Yes, I've seen the polls showing that most Trumpanzees would vote for Trump again -- but this reflects the natural human resistance to admit having been conned (which will erode as the evidence of incompetence and inaction mounts up), and besides, Trump will not be on the ballot in 2018.  Our task for that year is to win a majority in one or both houses of Congress, and as many state legislatures as possible (especially with the 2020 redistricting coming up, and the need to roll back state laws that discourage minority voting for the next Presidential election).  The rank-and-file right wing has for years been prone to seethe that their men in Congress can't get anything done, with Obamacare repeal heading the list.  With a Republican President, they were sure, that would change.

But more than three months in, it hasn't.

This is another reason to keep pressing our Democrats in Congress to fight back against every atrocity the Republicans come up with -- and to keep up the pressure on any Republicans who can be swayed too, via town halls, phone calls, and the like.  We must ensure that the next eighteen months resemble the last three.  Let the enemy's divisions, cowardice, and ineptitude continue to take their toll, racking up failure upon failure, and ever more wingnut voters will ask themselves Limbaugh's question -- why bother to vote Republican if the agenda nevertheless gets stymied at every turn?  It will also be beneficial to the more perceptive minority among them to see our side saving their health care, Social Security, and so forth from their own side's efforts to take those things away.

If we do this, then at best, perhaps five or ten percent of Republican voters will be discouraged enough to sit 2018 out.  With so many states so close, five or ten percent will be enough.