31 December 2017

Link round-up for 31 December 2017

Vagabond Scholar's annual Jon Swift Roundup of blog posts is up.

Here are some questionable Christmas decorations, and a very tall Christmas tree.

Shitty weather.

Don't mess with the mysterious object.

Please tell me this exercise machine isn't real.

Somebody doesn't have much Christmas spirit.

Nosy prig freaks out on plane.

Crazy Eddie has some Broken Peach Christmas songs.

Graffiti preserved at Pompeii offers insights into ancient Roman life.

What if the world were the other way round?

Christmas used to be more fun (found via Yellowdog Granny).

I love this dance scene too.

Be careful interpreting art.

Is your refrigerator running?

This person can vote.

This 2017 Christmas song looks at both sides of the year.

No regrets.

Phone-screen size has evolved over time.

Don't attack yarn.

Hogs, hogs everywhere!

Tremble before the planet-conquering giant space monster.

One of my favorite online film reviewers, Grace Randolph, counts down the top ten movies of 2017.

Crazy Eddie has comprehensive posts on 2017's political documentaries and the likely effect of tax "reform" on the US economy.

Bark Bark Woof Woof reviews the year in Florida news.  It can be a wild place.

Nikki Haley gets pwned.

They knew how to build back then.

Mock Paper Scissors has more on the travails of Trumpanzees on the dating scene.

I assume this method of courtship is not usually successful.

The NFL has to draw the line somewhere.

If you live in Oregon, consider signing this petition to make the internet a public utility in our state.

Evangelical subculture suffocates half its population.  For some people, it never really had a place at all.

Republican voters need to stay alert (found via Hackwhackers).

The Catholic Church is still clueless about handling its child-molestation epidemic.

Any politician who does this is an asshole.

The story of Ruth Coker deserves to be better known.

Breitbart dissimulates to protect Trump.

The opposition to gay marriage is literally dying out.

Here's why Yiannopoulos lost his book deal.

This should be the last word on "cultural appropriation".

Conservative Christianity has mortally wounded itself by supporting Trump.

Hackwhackers collects some year-end retrospectives -- more here, too.

Bruce Gerencser recalls his mother's experiences with the true believers.

Let this scumbag speak and tell him to pay for the security.

World War I was once interrupted for a Christmas truce.

Christian education has a rather North-Korea-like feel to it.

These people exist.  And this person exists.

The US shows signs of being a decaying society (found via Mendip).

Here's the current status of the Republican war on Latinos.  Half of Puerto Rico is still without power three months after the hurricane (I can't imagine such sluggish recovery in a comparable area of Germany or Japan), and it's having consequences for the rest of the US.

Do hormonal cycles make a woman President a bad idea?

Texas researchers reveal what the T-Rex really sounded like (though I still like this).

Crazy Eddie looks at the top science stories of 2017.

Prosthetic limbs are improving.

This is how to make a civilization self-destruct.  US world leadership is doomed if anti-science bullshit prevails.

Trump's unilateralism weakens and isolates the US.  Foreign governments are taking note.  So are foreign peoples.

Today's New Year's Eve party in Berlin will have a "safe zone" for women -- the first time it's ever needed one.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany, of all places.

How many migrants have you settled in the Vatican, asshole?

Good move -- more like this, please.  There must be punishment.

Russia makes an embarrassing goof.

Trump's Jerusalem move has hurt the tourism industry there.

Jihadists are attacking the Christian minority in Egypt.

Anti-regime protests are spreading in Iran, though nothing like as huge as those of 2009.

Thank goodness Miyazaki stood up to Weinstein.

I can't imagine a commercial like this ever appearing on US TV.

Keep the babies warm.

HuffPost reviews the Rohingya crisis in pictures.  It's striking how little interest this ghastly campaign of persecution has aroused among Western activists and in the Islamic world (the Rohingya are Muslim).  Maybe it's because nobody can think of a way to blame the Jews for it.

Wonkette, Blue in the Bluegrass, and We Hunted the Mammoth enjoy a good gloat over Doug Jones's victory.  Black voters overcame formidable obstacles to achieve that victory.

An abundance of candidates raises hopes for a big win next year, which will raise the question of impeachment.

This guy has the true spirit of a modern right-winger.  Trumpanzees are driven by nihilistic rage.  Let's not waste time on cultists.

Merry #@%^$!* Christmas!

TPM looks at Trump and pardons.  The Russia scandal isn't just an issue for Democrats.

Let's hope this is the first of many such books.

The Carpentariat has political odds and ends.  Politico has 2017's worst predictions.

Trump and his cabinet have a classic abusive relationship. Cabinet?  I mean toadies.

This poll shows that Republican tax "reform" is unlikely to become more popular.  Even the "merely wealthy" aren't getting a big enough breakTake from the poor, give to the rich.

Nobody should care what Maya Kosoff thinks.

[Well, that's it for this year.  Tune in tonight to Times Square to watch America's ball descend.]

30 December 2017

Of Christianity, cakes, and comments

Yesterday afternoon I read this posting on Church Militant about the "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" case here in Oregon, in which Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding.  The lesbian couple sued, and the Kleins were ordered to pay $135,000 for emotional damage and mental distress.  That's as far as Church Militant's reporting went, and its devout readership was duly outraged, as the attached comment thread shows.  I happen to know, however, that there's a bit more to the story than that -- and perhaps unwisely, I wrote a comment there to inform the readers of what the main story had left out (and give them a different perspective on the issue).  Here's the comment I wrote:

The lesbian couple filed the lawsuit because the Kleins posted documents related to the initial discrimination complaint on Facebook, including the lesbian couple's home address, which led to them receiving death threats. This was the basis of the emotional damage and mental distress.


As for the initial discrimination complaint, a case like this is no different than the cases half a century ago when some lunch counter owners declined to serve black customers. Businesses open to the public cannot legally discriminate on the basis of things like race or sexual orientation. It doesn't matter that in some cases the desire to discriminate is motivated by a religious taboo. Some segregationists in the old South also claimed that their racism had a Biblical basis.

The comment went to moderation and as of now, about 24 hours later, still hasn't been posted.  Even I on this blog almost always get to comments in moderation quite a bit faster than that, and Church Militant is a fairly big news site, not just a one-man show.  So I can only conclude that they judge the comment inappropriate.

I don't dispute, of course, that the site owners have every right to reject any comment they wish, for any reason or for no reason.  It's their site.  Still, it's interesting that they apparently don't want their readers to see a piece of information on the case under discussion that their original posting omitted, and which would perhaps cool their outrage about a ruling they judged unjust without knowing the real reason for it.

28 December 2017

Improving words

In this post, Donna at Tell Me a Story commented in passing on the boring definition of the word "enjambment" and proposed letting it mean what it looks like it should mean.  She was right, of course.  Language would be much better if words simply meant what they appear to mean.  I thus hereby propose the following revisions:

Admired:  Mired in ads -- applicable to many websites these days

Biking:  A monarch who "swings both ways"

Carpet:  A dog or cat owned by a vehicle

Catholic:  Addicted to felines

Combatant:  To fight against an insect invading one's picnic

Detail:  To remove an animal's rear appendage

Emulate:  That big Australian bird is never on time

Enjambment:  The state of having one's snout stuck in a jar of jam

Impeachment:  The act of stuffing the President into a giant peach so he can't cause any more trouble

Ireland:  The land of anger

Leotard:  A really stupid lion

Peccadillo:  A cross between a woodpecker and an armadillo

Pensacola:  The thinking man's soft drink

Propane:  In favor of sheets of glass

Punish:  A word possibly describing this post

Ramparts:  The parts of a male sheep

Ratification:  The act of transforming something into a rat

Rectify:  Richard Gere was accused of rectifying a gerbil

Retail:  Where you take your pet after detailing (see above)

Shampoo:  Fake feces

Triassic:  The era of animals with three asses

Then there's this, which you may need to think about for a moment.

27 December 2017

The impeachment decision

If Democrats win House and Senate majorities in November, a large part of our base will want to see them begin impeachment of Trump immediately.  The grounds for doing so are certainly more than adequate already.  But the decision must be made based on the likelihood of success.  Specifically (if frustratingly), it must depend on how many Republicans in the Senate can be persuaded to go along.

The House can pass articles of impeachment by a simple majority, but conviction and removal would take 67 votes in the Senate.  It's mathematically impossible for Democrats to achieve 67 Senate seats next year -- there aren't enough Republican-held seats up for election.  So unless the necessary number of Republicans were at least fairly likely to join the Democrats in voting for conviction, impeachment would be an empty gesture, which everyone would know in advance would not remove Trump.

Even those among the public who fervently want to see Trump gone would probably see that refraining from such a doomed effort would be wise.  Pursuing impeachment with no chance of success would allow Trump to declare exoneration and would make it harder to remove him at a later time when enough Senate Republicans had come around (say, if he made some blunder even they couldn't tolerate, or if Mueller's final report condemned him) and would vote for conviction after all.  The effort would lose credibility if we’d already tried it and failed a couple of months earlier.  A premature impeachment could actually make it harder to eventually get rid of Trump.  It would leave him not only in power, but strengthened.

The key factor will likely be Mueller’s final report. If it's damning enough, it could sway some Republicans to support impeachment.  If it comes out before November, it might even be possible to impeach and remove Trump before the election.

It’s very important to me to get rid of Trump, because the biggest danger he presents is the risk of starting a war (even a nuclear one) that would kill huge numbers of people in someplace like Iran or Korea even if it doesn’t do much harm to the US -- and that risk, at least, would be much less if Pence were President. But that just means that any move to get rid of Trump must actually get rid of Trump, not just be some useless symbolic gesture.

[This post is adapted from comments I made here.]

24 December 2017

Link round-up for 24 December 2017

The machines' war against humanity begins (found via TYWKIWDBI).  And there are aliens among us; this shape-shifting abomination evokes The Thing.

Most difficult group photo ever.

Putin needs to change the battery in his remote control (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Go to Hell.

"Family video" indeed.

Will the kids want to sit on his lap?

Nice landing.

This cookbook should be loads of fun.

Keep your priorities straight (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Gotta dance!

Redneck nativity scene?

Here's a compendium of all the insults used by Pope Francis.

Witness an epic battle for supremacy.

This ad should sell a lot of cars.....to chickens.

Discover what unites people.

Anybody ship Rocket Raccoon and Nick Wilde?

Here's the reindeer game Rudolph couldn't join in.

The Sims universe is changing.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Medieval artists must have had some pretty good drugs.

Actually I think these Christmas decorations were made by Catholic priests.

The Shape of Water is really an old ship that created its own canon.

This girl knows how to use make-up.

Some people shouldn't have pets.

God is love.

See lightning in slow motion.

This robbery took some nerve.

Worst Chick tract ever.

Not content with expropriating Pepe the Frog, the alt-right is now going after Wendy (but note how many of these are obviously influenced by anime/manga style -- which comes from a non-white civilization).  Bad move, maybe -- Wendy doesn't pull punches.

Daniel Wilcox posts some nature photos (click for full-size).

Green Eagle looks at a rising star in the world of godawful right-wing art.

Cicero would have made a pretty good insult comic.

Everything we don't like is the work of Satan!

No one knows how a backward society managed to build this huge structure (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Crazy Eddie and Hackwhackers look at Disney's new robot Trump.

Somebody really didn't want to lose his dog.

I just bet this person votes Republican.

Who started the war on Christmas?

We assert nothing.

Mock Paper Scissors looks at conservative dating tips.

The radical-socialist critique of the NFL protests is delusional.

There's a storm comingTime to fight again.  And vote next time (all found via Yellowdog Granny).

This is totalitarian madness.  And this is heading that way.

Don't be the person who ruins Christmas.

Beware of the media twisting people's words.

Tennessee's legislature banned removal of slaver statues -- but Memphis found a loophole.  And the enemy is not happy.

Pope Francis will preside at this man's funeral.

The damage caused by net neutrality repeal will come slowly -- which gives us time to implement a solution.

Let's hope we see this magazine cover soon.

Test the rape kits, catch the criminals.

This is Navajo life.

These people exist.  And these people exist.

We can be truly moral.

"What if machines turned on us because we mistreated them?"

Bacteria are propaganda from outer space -- well, I don't think so, but there are a lot of interesting ideas here.  (But FFS the development of eyes and bird wings is not "hard to explain in terms of incremental natural selection" -- it's well understood.)

Life expectancy in the US has decreased for the second year in a row.

Only one actually gets the job done.

Alpine glaciers are melting.  But the clean-energy revolution is now unstoppable no matter what Trump does.

Great tits gain massive peckers.

NASA prepares to defend Earth against a very real menace from the skies.

"How do I....."

A European looks at American concepts of race.

Nikki Haley talks like a schoolyard bully.  Other governments are not impressed.  One finds a little humor in the situation.  A former CIA director has some tough words of his own.

Right-wing austerity ideology fundamentally misunderstands how economies work.

The UK has declared high-speed internet to be a right of all citizens.

Australia has finished investigating a global child-molestation ring.

Norway will decriminalize all drug use.

Wolfgang Lauinger was persecuted by both the Nazis and democratic Germany.

Catalonian separatists win a majority of seats in the regional parliament, though with only 48% of the popular vote.

VPNs are the natural enemies of control freaks.

Life in Uighurstan (Xinjiang) is a racist totalitarian nightmare (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar find further abuses in Bangladesh.

Sure -- because this worked so well in Zimbabwe.

Republicans are upset that everybody hates their brazen tax "reform" heist.  It even contains an incentive to move jobs overseas.  Potential victims already have a face.  John Judis cautions that the heist may not be as damaging to Republicans as we hope; Josh Marshall responds.  Jonah Goldberg at NRO is pessimistic.  Be warned, the Kochroaches are planning a propaganda blitz on this.  Oh, and those AT+T employee bonuses to "celebrate" reform?  There's more to the story.

For what it's worth, McConnell says the attack on entitlements is being postponed.

Republicans have plenty to worry about for next year's election.   Ranch Chimp looks at a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor.

Don't use these photos of Trump.

Bannon is still a major player in politics, or thinks he is.  He just might soon give us a Roy-Moore-style opportunity in Mississippi.  And he wants to be the modern.....Leni Riefenstahl???  But trouble may be looming.

A co-conspirator in the (alleged) Trump-Russia plot comes under investigation.  The Trumplings are getting seriously worried about Mueller, but he has his defenders, and firing him could blow up in Trump's face.  Though Trump suffers from delusions of exoneration, there are already eight legitimate grounds for impeachment (found via Politics Plus).

Some Democrats lack fire in the belly.  But there's still no excuse for claiming both parties are the same.  2018 is a year for playing hardball, not bipartisanship.

These cartoons are perfect.

The civil service is finding ways to resist some of Trump's absurdities (found via Hackwhackers).  Even Senate Republicans are blocking some of his nominees.

Hysterical Raisins visualizes Republicans' sickening sycophancy. There may be a sinister reason for their subservience to Trump.

Sometimes satire reflects an underlying reality.

[Santa gif found via Politics Plus]

22 December 2017

Video of the day -- peachy!

I explained a ways back that "Christmas" has almost nothing to do with Christianity, but for those who insist on some Jesus, here's "Your Own Personal Jesus" in the inimitable style of Broken Peach (I originally heard about them via Ranch Chimp, who often posts about offbeat musical performers).

20 December 2017

Worst-case scenario

Well, they did it.  No longer can we say "the Republicans can't get anything done".  The bumbling and duplicity of the process that passed tax "reform" has been amply described on many sites, and I'm not going to rehash it.  The point is, they finally got a serious piece of legislation class warfare passed.

Why did they do it?  Why did they go all out for an unpopular bill that hands the Democrats multiple talking points to use against them next year?  For one thing, as we've all heard, some of their rich donors were threatening to cut them off if this didn't pass; for another, they may have thought it would unite their fragmented base (which is frustrated by the lack of progress on the wall, ACA repeal, etc.), even if the rest of the country doesn't like it.  It could even be merely that the ideological imperative here was much stronger than with other issues -- if there's one obsession that holds all Republicans in thrall, tax cuts for the rich is probably it.

I've also seen a more Machiavellian idea suggested:  Republicans can see the writing on the wall -- demographics, Trump's unpopularity, generic-ballot polls -- and they know they're doomed to massive losses in 2018 and 2020 no matter what they do.  So they're focused on pleasing the giant corporations and the ultra-wealthy to whom they might go for jobs as lobbyists or whatever after the voters have turfed them out, rather than pleasing their constituents.

My worst-case scenario is something a little different and more sinister -- that if they know their power will be mostly gone after a few more years, they're trying to "lock in" as much of their ideology as possible in forms that will persist even when Democrats dominate again.  Cram the courts with wingnut judges, deregulate everything, cut taxes for the wealthy, cut Medicare and Social Security.  If it leaves a huge mess in the form of recession, poverty, and an exploding national debt, why should they care?  They're not the ones who will have to clean it up.  That's their vision of America -- an obscenely wealthy kleptocracy lording it over the vast majority struggling to barely get by in a Dickensian, polluted wasteland while a Roy-Moore-ized judiciary enforces the religious taboos and racial stratification that keep their hate-crazed Deliverance-mutant base happy that they still, at least, have a few groups they can look down on.  If this is their last chance to achieve that vision, they're going to go all out.

If that's the case, then 2018 will be more dangerous than we've been expecting.  We've stopped things like ACA repeal by mass public pressure -- but if Congressional Republicans are becoming convinced they're doomed no matter what they do, and thus might as well go out in a blaze of sheer Republican-ness, then pressure based on a threat of voting against them in November may not work.

Nevertheless, that remains our best mass-action tactic.  Even Republicans are a diverse bunch and don't all think alike -- just look how factionalized they are.  Even if some or most are thinking as I described, not all are.  And not all are equally ideologically committed to each part of the agenda.  Once Jones is seated, only two defections will be needed to block legislation in the Senate.  Two should be doable, for some things.  (Collins, for one, is likely to be less loyal once it sinks in that the promises the leadership made to win her vote on tax "reform" will not be kept).

The outcome of their attack on Social Security and Medicare will tell the tale.  That will arouse more fury and opposition than anything they've tried yet.  If the resistance can stop them, we'll know that the normal rules of politics still operate and at least some Republicans are reachable by the threat of lost votes.  If not, then the worst-case scenario is in effect, and we'll have to wait for a future Democratic government to restore what the Republicans destroyed as best it can, probably constrained by economic slowdown and national decline.

And, of course, in that scenario a lot of people will lose their jobs, health insurance, or lives in the meantime.

Remember too that, as with ACA repeal, every single Democrat in Congress stood against this week's abomination.  Every single one, even those often considered "conservative".  Any Democrat is more worthy of your vote than any Republican (or any third candidate whose presence in the race helps the Republican win).

Always remember -- if we fight back, we might lose.  If we don't fight back, we will definitely lose.

[Image at top found via Hackwhackers]

17 December 2017

Link round-up for 17 December 2017

Americans can be proud of the Alabama result.

Vore away fascism!

An AI program writes a new Harry Potter chapter (here's the whole thing).

Wasn't this a kids' show?

Come to the dark side.

Here's some Christmas music, American style.

The French language is a bit dangerous.

Well, at least he knew where Japan is.

Perfection is achieved!

John Oliver characterizes Trump.

Explore the wacky world of wrong numbers.

Go behind the scenes at the MGM logo.

Sailor Moon tarot cards are a thing (beautiful work, too).

Yes, there is such a thing as a stuffed animal hospital.

Why do they keep using swords when guns are obviously more effective?

I don't want to believe.

Do something cool with leftover straw.

Where the hell did this person grow up?


Animals do cool stuff at night -- I had no idea raccoons were so cooperative.  Perhaps they're already on the attack.

After the Republicans deregulate housing construction.....


They're plotting something.

Pingu presents The Thing.

In those days, bread was serious business.

For once, the addition of the Christian cross creates truth.

"What's the big deal if you grab someone's butt?"

Pope Francis wants the Lord's prayer re-translated -- incorrectly.

To fundies, even Santa is dangerous.

Get the truth behind a much-cited hot coffee storyDon't believe everything you read.

Vaccines will turn you gay!

Teachers from one of the world's best-educated countries get an inside look at American schools.

Here's a message for fatalists -- and if you won't help, get out of the way (both found via Yellowdog Granny).

Even the biggest companies are not immortal.

Must-read link of the week:  save net neutrality by decentralization (I have no idea whether this is technologically feasible, but if it is, in the long run it's the only way).  Here's where things stand after the FCC vote. Even the dead have strong views on this issue.

Remember the difference between enemies and allies -- and don't pick fights with the latter over trivia.

Reality is not affected by belief (found via Crooks and Liars).

Bruce Gerencser has found a strong contender for looniest misogynist in the world.  I'm surprised the Republicans haven't recruited him to run for office.

Don't let the justified revolt against coddling sexual harassers degenerate into "we are all guilty" nonsense. And remember that accusations need to be believable.

Here's what it was like voting while black in the South in 1963.

Does mumbling to yourself really help?

Bitcoin is still around -- for now.

Not sure what this guy's exact beef is, but apparently some Christians don't like politicizing religion.

Why do Republicans coddle and shield their sexual abusers, while Democrats repudiate theirs? Maybe it's due to different concepts of morality.

Racism is racism.

The private-prison industry is branching out.

The harasser mentality starts early.

Don't contaminate our arbitrary nonsense with different arbitrary nonsense.

The US, too, has long wait times for specialized health care.

Do you eat this?

Americans throw away enough food every year to feed 200 million people.

Some abortion myths are dispelled.

How many passenger pigeons were there?

Imagine the horror of realizing your child is a monster (found via TYWKIWDBI).

In the UK, only 15% of people now want to stop Brexit and stay in the EU, and only 16% want another referendum (see page 3).

France is giving research grants to US climate scientists (found via BB-Idaho).

Germany confronts a rise in anti-Semitism -- and the problem of where it's coming from.  Germany's postwar relationship with Israel has always been haunted by history.

Murderous fanatics panic pathetically as their rightful doom closes in.

Hatred rears its head in Iraq.

Burma's persecution of the Rohingya minority includes a brutal campaign of mass rape.

The Trumplings bungle even the simplest things.

Wingnuts make a crude effort to frame Chuck Schumer for sexual harassment.

Merry Republican Christmas (found via Hackwhackers).

Alabama Democrats fought ruthlessly, thank goodness.  Here are some winners and losers.  Green Eagle has a round-up of wingnut reactions to Moore's defeat.  They probably won't learn anythingPundits give their views here.  Our chances of taking the Senate next year have been improved -- but don't take black women for grantedNext stop, Texas.

The Republican civil war between Bannonism and the establishment is getting hotter than ever.  Bannon remains a genuine threat to American values.

Republican tax "reform" may turn out to be political suicide.

Kirsten Gillibrand's leadership in the revolt against sexual harassment boosts her chances for the 2020 Presidential race.

Read with popcorn.

Don't upset the toddler.

53% of Americans believe Trump should resign due to the sexual harassment allegation against him. Roger Stone is betting on impeachment.

Paul Ryan may quitGood riddance.

Politics Plus has a Samantha Bee round-up.  Don't miss the Brigada Feminista video!

15 December 2017

Video of the day -- relics of a morbid past

Abortion is currently illegal in the Republic of Ireland, with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, forcing thousands of women every year to travel to the UK for the procedure.  As the Catholic Church's centuries-long stranglehold on Irish politics and society has weakened, momentum has been building for a challenge to this codification of religious taboo into civil law, by repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which mandates the prohibition of abortion.  This ad, from 2015, shows how far Ireland has come -- it's hard to imagine such an ad being made for national distribution in the US, even today.

In 2018 the Republic of Ireland will hold a national referendum on legalizing abortion.

13 December 2017

Lessons from Alabama

On Tuesday, Alabama chose the man who avenged girls who had been murdered, over the man who (allegedly) molested girls. Let this be a reminder to the fatalists and defeatists that good can prevail when people are willing to work and fight for it.

And don't forget last month's elections in Virginia -- or Allison Ikley-Freeman, the avowed socialist and lesbian Democrat who won her race in an Oklahoma district that Trump carried by a two-to-one margin last year.

Meanwhile, the enemy is more divided than ever in the wake of the Alabama upset.  Establishment Republicans are really piling on Bannon now, while Breitbart's knuckle-dragging legions are doubling down on denouncing the establishment as traitors and promising to sweep away all the "RINOs" next November. With any luck they'll drown each other in their own bile.

The potential for a wave of victories next November is enormous, the potential consequences even more so.  With Jones's win having trimmed the Republicans' Senate majority to a bare 51-49, our chances of regaining control look better than ever.  The entire House will be up for election, with Republican members either weighed down by an unpopular President or facing a civil war among their voters in the aftermath of a Trump impeachment.

Control of the Senate would give us the power to block appointments, a power which must be used ruthlessly in the case of Supreme Court nominations.  By their stonewalling of Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans forfeited any right to be treated fairly or honorably.  If they could hold a seat vacant for ten months, we can hold one vacant for two years if need be, until a Democrat regains the White House.

State elections, too, will be important.  The state governments elected in 2018 will control Congressional redistricting after the 2020 census.  The more of these governments we win control of, the more we can finally get out from under the millstone of gerrymandering with which Republicans have so effectively weighted the system in their favor.

There are three lessons here.

First, let's be clear about what won Alabama for us.  The decisive factor was a massive turnout of black voters.  Set against the low turnout among divided and demoralized Republicans, this surge of black support (combined with the educated white urban vote, what Alabama has of that), carried Jones to victory.  And Jones got those votes by, very deliberately, working for them.  He made a systematic appeal to the black people of Alabama and gave them reasons to go out and vote for him.  It was just the opposite of what the Democratic party is sometimes accused of doing -- taking black voters for granted.  The party must continue to do this -- remember that one out of every eight Americans is black, and the proportion in most Southern states is even higher (Alabama is 27% black).  And the party must do more.  It must actually deliver on those voters' specific concerns, such as police violence and vote suppression.  A race-neutral message of economic justice such as Bernie Sanders offers does have its place, but the party must also work for the specific needs of its largest, most loyal, and most vital constituency.

Second, it's worth contesting races even in places which we're accustomed to considering hopeless.  It's not so long ago that some Democratic leaders wanted to write off Jones as a lost cause, because Alabama is so red.  The rise of Trump and the insurrection of Bannonite radicalism within the Republican party create tremendous opportunities for us because our opponents are so divided.  With a determined effort to boost our base turnout, and with Republicans so factionalized and, likely, demoralized in some cases by tainted or crackpot Bannon-supported candidates, we may find opportunities opening up across the South, Texas, Arizona, and other places normally considered long-shots or hopeless.

Third, just as divisions weaken the Republicans, unity strengthens us.  The reason the Republicans have failed to get initiatives like ACA repeal through Congress, despite their majorities, is that they are so factionalized in the House and keep suffering defections in the Senate.  But that wouldn't stop them if we couldn't count on our people sticking together.  Every Democrat in the Senate has been an unshakable "no" vote on ACA repeal, tax "reform", and whatever other nastiness the enemy comes up with.  Even conservative Democrats have been reliable.

As voters we need to show the same unity.  Remember, if you and others like you refuse to vote for a Democrat you don't think is good enough, and thus let a Republican win, the fact that you can stand around oozing virtue and ideological purity doesn't mean shit to the vulnerable person who loses his health insurance, food stamps, or whatever as a result of Republicans holding power.  If some people are irredeemably resistant to the unity message, write them off and focus on people who can be reached.  It's more important to get an extra 200 black voters to the polls than to win over 100 bloggers who insist on rehashing grudges from the 2016 primaries or demanding a laundry list of impossibilities (and who probably can't be won over, anyway).  Politics is about getting things done.

Finally, sexual harassment and the mass uprising of women against coddling of harassers is emerging as an issue whose time has come.  Democrats can win on that issue, simply by doing the right thing.

Last year's stolen election did not primarily rob Hillary; it robbed the country of what Hillary's Presidency could have been, and gave the party of kleptocrats, bigots, and lunatics full control.  Let us make the best of a bad situation, and give them a thrashing in November that they'll never forget.

12 December 2017

Question for male readers

I was recently part of a rather bizarre exchange in a comment thread at Tengrain's blog Mock Paper Scissors, on this post about the resignation of Al Franken.  Here are the comments in question:

o o o o o

AuroraS:  The reason that the Dems aren't calling for GOP heads to roll over sexual misconduct is because this isn't a Democrat or Republican problem, it's a man problem. I like Senator Franken, and the reason I'm not tossing his books in the trash right now is because what he's done is basically no different from anything every man has done to a woman at some point in their lives. He appears to be realizing that his behavior was inappropriate and taking steps to remedy that, which is a good start.

The Dems are sacrificing Franken on the altar right now because the men in their party are probably all guilty of the same, and treating Franken like a “lone wolf” exception to the rule takes the heat off them. The entire government is basically a boys' club and they give a few passing fucks (if any) about women. Republican women will easily accept victim-blaming and excuse-making for sexual misconduct on the part of the party’s men because the GOP has already made it clear that they don't care about women and think they’re subhuman–they aren’t going to have to answer to their constituents for it. Their constituents agree. So they can continue with reckless abandon and no one of consequence will care.

The Democrat governor of Minnesota will appoint a Democrat senator to replace Franken. There are some women that are possible candidates. This would be a good thing, strategy-wise and actually giving a fuck-wise.

Infidel753what he's done is basically no different from anything every man has done to a woman at some point in their lives.

I've never done anything like that to a woman (or man). I really doubt most men have.

AuroraS:  You've never grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar? Not even as a joke? Not even in high school or college? That's not to say that you would necessarily condone it now, but society says this is "normal". I understand that not every man has harassed a woman, but every woman has been harassed by a man.

Tengrain:  I believe that 100% of women might be harassed in their lifetime, but I do not think 100% of men are harassers. –TG

Infidel753You've never grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar? Not even as a joke? Not even in high school or college?

No, never. I've never in my life considered any of those things remotely acceptable behavior. Very few men I've known have given me the impression that they would have thought it was acceptable either.

o o o o o

So, here's my question to male readers.  Have any of you ever "grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar.....even as a joke.....even in high school or college?"  To say nothing of more serious acts like forcibly French-kissing a woman, as Tweeden claimed that Franken did (note that my interlocutor specified that Franken's alleged actions were no different than what every man has done at least occasionally).  Even if you haven't, do you consider such behavior acceptable or trivial when other men do it?

As I said during the exchange, I have never done any such thing, ever.  Nor have I ever remotely thought that such behavior was acceptable, not even when I was in high school or college.  I can hardly imagine I'm all that unusual.  However, I'm curious what others have to say.

10 December 2017

Link round-up for 10 December 2017

Here's a list of wished-for Christmas gifts from Trump.

Kinda spoils the sexy effect.

He dances best with a bottle.

A meat sandwich, or.....

Even for a simple drawing of a bird, ancient Greek artists managed to include their favorite theme.

Donna at Tell Me a Story finds astronomy to be inspiration against despair.

The Romans had the best animal names.

Don't give pets as Christmas presents (not everyone is meant to have pets -- myself, I doubt I could even keep a cockroach alive).

People are having hot-and-heavy sex with ghosts (but I'm sure the Republicans will soon try to ban it).

Where fanart is concerned, what can lead to plagiarism issues?  (Japan is way more laid-back about this.)

Good point.

Now this is a photo.

TYWKIWDBI posts a gif round-up.  There's also this list of fun facts -- which provoked some corrections from commenters.

See the magnificence of Los Angeles from the air (from a comment by Ranch Chimp).

I wish Trump had met this person early in his career.

Explore the world of specialized libraries (found via Mendip).

Ancient Athens had a snarky safeguard against tyranny.

To any readers who are lesbians:  this student is doing research on lesbian fashions.

Blah blah blah modesty blah blah.

These people exist.

It's sort of intriguing when a Christian writes a post titled "Why Modern Christianity Makes People Vomit" (the post is almost two years old; the things he's talking about have, if anything, gotten worse).

Your taxes pay for hush money for victims of Congressional sexual harassment.

The comment thread on a Breitbart post mentioning Mormonism quickly devolves into ludicrous theological bickering.  Even when they all hate the same people, they can't get along.

This is the educational system of a third world country.

Why would people attend a church that tells them they're worthless and runs what are practically prison camps?

Some powerful people are crying foul on the drive to kill net neutrality.

The Supreme Court holds gay marriage not quite equal after all; on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, signs are mixed.

Awareness begins to dawn -- give it time.

Football is more important than rape, to some.

Sexually harassed at work?  Just take it and get on with life.

The attack on DACA is undermining US military intelligence capabilities.

Fundie preachers' beliefs make them feel endlessly at war.

Read this before using rat poison.

Well-intentioned misuse of antibiotics can do more harm than good (and no, antibiotics don't work on virus diseases like colds and flu).

We face a jellyfish apocalypse.

Which race has a higher IQ?

The eye of the scallop is a remarkable product of evolution, and very different from the human eye.

The passage of Australia's gay-marriage law led to singing in the gallery.  And that Christian couple who threatened to divorce if it passed has weaseled out.

It's not only Christianity.

Wednesday the 6th, Finland's independence day, marked a full century since independence from the Russian Empire, and was observed all around the world.  Finland contributes more than its share on the internet.  It was the first country in the world to give women the vote.  It also has a nicer President than we do.

Here's another bad case of coddling a criminal.

Poland's Catholic-dominated government has taken sex education out of the schools, but pop-culture figures are fighting back.

Despite the Jerusalem decision, evangelicals are far from being true friends of Israel.

I have no words for this.

Roy Moore liked the American family values of the time of slavery; as for today, he prefers Putin.  But evangelical voters will tolerate anything in a candidate, so long as he advocates forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

Mueller has the White House Trumplings feeling a bit jumpy.  Trump's lawyer tries to downplay the Flynn plea bargain.

Michigan's Republican Governor will leave Conyers's constituents disenfranchised for almost a year.

Even NRO's Andrew Stuttaford has a lot of reservations about the tax "reform" bill -- and let's hope he's right about this!  It will even make "dark money" campaign contributions tax-deductible.  The plan may be in trouble, thanks to sloppy writing and promises that weren't promises.

Knowing they don't have long in power, Republicans are looting the country while they still can (found via Mendip).

Trump is still losing support, even among fundies.

[325 days down, 1,137 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

08 December 2017

Eleventh-hour activism

There's not much time left to fight for net neutrality or against tax "reform".  Here are a few posts with good information.

On net neutrality, use tactics that actually have a chance of working.

Tax "reform" is now undergoing reconciliation between the House and Senate versions.  There are still important differences which could block it if Republicans whose votes are needed stick to their guns, and if you have a Republican Representative or Senator, you can still call or visit their office (not e-mail) to drive home how unpopular the whole thing is -- that's how we stopped ACA repeal, and a few who voted yes on this earlier might switch to no under enough pressure.  A further point to bring up:  corporate leaders themselves are saying they will not use the tax cut to create jobs.

Remember, if we keep fighting back on these issues, yes, we might lose.  If we don't fight back, we will definitely lose.

07 December 2017

Franken, Moore, and doing the right thing

This is a defining moment in US politics.

On the Republican side, Trump and the RNC have fully endorsed Roy Moore, and Breitbart is crowing that even McConnell has dropped his opposition.  The rabble-rousing pastors and preachers from whom so many Evangelical voters take their guidance have mostly dismissed the allegations against Moore as either false or, if true, no big deal.  The Republican-theocrat complex has closed ranks behind one of its own, credible accusations of sexual assault on teenagers be damned.

On our side, a growing list of Senators have called on Al Franken to resign, including the minority leader, Chuck Schumer.  With the number of accusers now at seven, it's getting difficult to cling to any hope that there's no fire behind the smoke.  Earlier this week, Rep. John Conyers resigned after accusations of sexual harassment, again from multiple accusers.

The message is very clear.  When credible accusations of harassment and abuse surface, one party will deny them, smear and mock the accusers, dismiss the alleged acts as trivial, and use whatever other excuse or dodge it can to close ranks behind the accused.  The other party will hold its own members accountable.

(Two points must be acknowledged here.  First, yes, the acts Moore is accused of are much more serious than those Franken and Conyers are accused of.  Nevertheless, the principle at stake is the same.  Second, appeals to the presumption of innocence don't apply here.  If we were jurors at an actual trial, with prison time at stake, then yes, Moore, Franken, and Conyers would each be entitled to our full presumption of innocence and to a not-guilty verdict if the case against them could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.  But that's not the situation here.  In judging a politician unfit to hold office, the question is whether the accusations are probably true, not whether they are proven.)

The Democrats are doing the right thing.  Abusers should be held accountable, not shielded for reasons of political expediency.  We must not brush aside victims as expendable peons whose abuse doesn't matter if it would sully the Important Man whose vote we need, even if Republicans do do that -- for Trump too, please note, as well as Moore.

Taking this stand will mean concrete progress at discouraging sexual harassment across the broader culture.  Millions of men who are accustomed to thinking of such behavior as light entertainment, carrying no consequences for them, are now seeing men far more powerful than themselves (in Hollywood as well as politics) suffering consequences indeed -- which will make them much less likely to indulge in what they now know could lead to a career-ending disaster.

Beyond that, political perceptions matter.  While Republicans play politics as usual, we're showing the voters that we're on the right side of an issue which has recently exploded into political salience, as Time just acknowledged.  Electoral-Vote.com analyzes possible political consequences of a Franken resignation, saying finally that it "would put another Democratic Senate seat in play in 2018, something that will make it harder for the Democrats to win back the Senate in 2018".  I'm not so sure.  If by November the Republicans have defined themselves as the party that coddles and shields harassers, while we are the party that repudiates them, it will benefit us at the ballot box in Minnesota and all over the country.  Who's "soft on crime" now?

UpdateFranken has resigned.