30 March 2018

End of a blog

Today marks one year since the last post on the blog Republic of Gilead.  I've seen many blogs disappear or go dormant over the years, but this one is particularly missed.  Its subtitle "Warily Watching the Religious Right" summed it up perfectly, and the watching was both diligent and insightful.  Author "Ahab" wrote very detailed, link-rich analyses of Christian Right events, speeches, movies, and other assertions and manifestations of their twisted goals for American society.  No other source I know of covered the subject so thoroughly.

Ahab is still on the net, on Twitter, and in his final blog comments he said that he had simply become too busy for blogging.  I suppose it's still possible he'll return -- perhaps if Pence becomes President?

29 March 2018

Random observations for March 2018

No matter how popular something is, there are people out there who haven't heard of it.

o o o o o

We recoil in horror from the mass insanities that gripped society in the past, and admire the brave few who stood against them. At the same time, we double down on the mass insanities which possess us right now, and rage with righteous fervor against those obstinate few who dare question our mania.

o o o o o

There are two kinds of people -- those who always have a reason why they couldn't do what they promised, and those who do what they promised.

o o o o o

How limited the existence of the ancients must have been! We feel deprived when forced to do without electricity for a day -- no computer, no proper lighting, in most cases no cooked food, while the stockpile in the refrigerator threatens to warm to blah-ness and ultimately spoil. Yet for thousands of years everyone had to do without electricity all their lives.  Think of the Romans after sunset, squinting over their parchments by the dull glow of oil lamps! How many conveniences we take for granted which they could never have imagined! All the more remarkable that they accomplished as much as they did.

o o o o o

The defeat of aging isn't going to take the form of some one discrete, miraculous breakthrough that can be banned without affecting "normal" medical technology. Instead, there will be incremental, but increasingly rapid, advances in many areas. It will be impossible for the deathists (those who oppose curing aging) to draw a clear line between the technology which ends up staving off aging permanently and that which simply continues to keep people healthier as they age.

o o o o o

It's hard enough to build a relationship that's satisfactory to just yourself and the other person in it, never mind also worrying about it being acceptable to all the prigs and bluenoses out there who object to one thing or another.

o o o o o

I don't regret the "bad" things I've done. I regret all the "bad" things I was too ignorant or timid to do, and for which it's too late now.

[For previous random observations, see here.]

26 March 2018

The worst that could happen

The recent elevation of John Bolton is a sobering reminder of what remains by far the biggest threat posed by Trump in the Presidency.

We can hardly keep up with the whirlwind of lies, insults, blunders, gaffes, adultery, resignations, lawsuits, emoluments, firings, golf, racism, Russian spies, FBI investigations, Putin-coddling, and what have you.  Our capacity for shock has been bludgeoned into numbness and this travesty of a government is coming to seem more tragically ridiculous than anything else.  But this is a deadly serious game.

Just before the election I wrote about the danger of giving control of the US nuclear arsenal to a man as belligerent, impulsive, and morally blind as Trump:

What if Trump lost his temper and acted on impulse during a future feud with Iran, for example?  The Tehran metropolitan area contains about sixteen million people.  A single act of rage could produce a death toll two and a half times that of the Nazi holocaust.  And the very name "American" would then be branded with that act for generations.....Electing Trump would mean creating an intolerable risk of an act of mass murder to which we as voters would all be accessories.

More recently Trump's belligerence has been more focused on Korea.  The situation there is more complex; even a non-nuclear act of US aggression could trigger a North Korean attack on South Korea or even Japan, and the conflict could quickly become nuclear.  Trump would be responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people (yes, North Koreans are innocent people -- they have no say at all in the actions of their ruling junta).  It would be mass murder on a Nazi-like scale, a horror a thousand times more terrible than the worst things we fear Trump might do within our own country.  And again, the stain of this crime would define the United States in the eyes of the world for generations to come.

Having Bolton as National Security Advisor hugely increases the danger that something like this could actually happen.  Trump is notorious for being easily swayed by whoever was the last person to talk to him, and the presence of military leaders such as Mattis and McMaster, who really understand war, in Trump's inner circle may well have prevented disaster(s) over the last year.  With the notoriously bellicose Bolton now replacing McMaster, one of the main voices outside Trump's head will now be egging on, not restraining, the worst of those inside it.  In the past Bolton has called for war with both Iran and North Korea, and Trump has repeatedly shown an inability to grasp that nuclear weapons exist for deterrence, not actual use.  And many think he's looking for a "distraction" from the ever-deepening tar pit of scandals and the coming showdown with Mueller.

There's some basis for hope that Bolton, like so many others in this administration, will be a short-timer.  But the fact that Trump chose him is a bad sign for the future.  Trump must be removed from the Presidency, whether by impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or pressure from saner people; and while he remains, he must be restrained by whatever means are available.  If the worst happens, everyone who had any power to prevent it and failed to do so -- Congress, the generals, the Electoral College, the voters -- will go down in history as accessories to atrocity.  And they will deserve it.

[Image at top:  Tehran]

25 March 2018

Link round-up for 25 March 2018

These are the commonest breeds of cat.

People in movies act weird (found via Miss Cellania).

Now this is Lego.

I see a shark.

Albino vampire trees exist.

Jellyfish meets ring bubble, wishes he hadn't (found via TYWKIWDBI).

They're watching you.

Check out these marionettes from Montreal.

The Earth is round, mammoths had shitty genes, feminism is evil -- all in one Tumblr post.

Visit the Seven Wonders!  Ah, Alexandria.....

Curious clouds.

Pamukkale is an exotic-looking spa.

There is now a Satanic tampon prison charity in Arizona.

English has evolved, and continues to do so.

Here comes another godawful fundie movie.

Lived once, buried twice.

Make your ancestors proud by abandoning religion (the point applies just as well to most Christians).

A Christian says Stephen Hawking was a tool of Satan (I like the comment by "Howitis").  Oh, and so are the Girl Scouts.

Change the future.

Planning to fly?  Here's where the germs are.

Let's hope the trade wars don't threaten this vital US export to Brazil (found indirectly via Green Eagle).

How long does a severed head remain conscious?

San Francisco's airport will honor one of the city's martyrs.

Sorry, this stuff is just random gibberish.

What have unions ever done for you?

A Christian extremist group is compiling an enemies list.

There's a difference between racism and cultural influence.

Stop pushing homosexuality in public.

Be honest about what you oppose (found via Perfect Number).

New legislation will endanger sex workers by taking away their safest option for connecting with clients.  As usual, the assholes supporting this law are ignoring the voices of those who will be hurt by it.

Green Eagle has the week in internet wingnuttery, and a painting of Trump that's just bizarre.  Update:  Here's the post on the painter he mentions in the comments.

It's not only gays who can be murdered for their sexuality.

The Tennessee legislature says it lacks the "expertise" to condemn Nazis.  Ohio Republicans have no such qualms about banning abortion.

The Great Mills school attack exemplifies how an armed guard with proper training (not armed teachers) can stop a would-be mass shooter in his tracks.

Court precedent is clear -- religion does not legitimize breaking the law.

The Toys R Us bankruptcy illustrates the nature of capitalism.

The case of Gerald L. K. Smith illustrates how religious intolerance has been part of American conservatism for generations.

Just when sanity was dawning in the War on Drugs, Trump opens a new front with opioids.

Religion isn't morality.

The fossil-fuel industry is about to abandon global-warming denialism, but the damage is already done.

Norwegian scientists claim there's a way to prevent hurricanes.

Stephen Hawking will be buried in Britain's highest place of honor, in Westminster Abbey next to Isaac Newton.

Understand what science is, and what it isn't.

Racism works differently in Europe.

Syria's Kurds put their trust in the US as they fought against Dâ'ish (ISIL).  Now Trump is betraying them.

What can we do about the threat posed by Russia?  International solidarity helps.  And mafia regimes like those of Russia and China are unstable in the long term.

Nobody -- not even the Chinese regime -- really knows what's going on in China.

Sexual initiation camps for girls are a centuries-old tradition in Malawi.

Shower Cap can hardly keep up with Trump's bullshit, but he's inspired by Bolton's second chance.  Bill Maher has some choice words too.

Some Democrats are already hitching their wagons to yesterday's huge gun marches.  However, these people exist.

Here's why Trump hasn't fired Mueller yet.  Here are several views on what the consequences could be.  One option, replacing Sessions with Pruitt, has its own difficulties.  Congressional Republicans' position is ambiguous.

NRO is unhappy with the spending bill passed this week.  So are the religio-nutters.  Some Trumpanzees are turning against their idol.  Democrats got a pretty good deal.  Here are some winners and losers.

Trump isn't funny any more, if he ever was.

The choice is clear, but we came so close to having a better option.

Hillary was right about the Trumpanzees.

Democrats had good reason to block the "right to try" law.

What if Trump's Evangelical supporters had lived at the time of the mythical King David?

A shorter round-up than usual, I know.  For more links, see Perfect Number, Miss Cellania, and Fair and Unbalanced.

[Image at top:  Westminster Abbey, London, built 1245-1517]

23 March 2018

Video of the day -- scary Mary

Music has a huge effect on how we perceive visual images.  Movies would literally not be the same without it.

20 March 2018

Conor Lamb, Marie Newman, and the big tent

The recent victory in PA-18 and today's primary in IL-03 illustrate well how ideological divisions within the Democratic party should be handled.  They represent opposite ends of the spectrum of possible electoral situations.

In IL-03, incumbent Congressman Dan Lipinski is facing a primary challenge.  Despite being a Democrat, Lipinski is not a liberal; he's outspokenly opposed to abortion and gay rights, and has voted against the ACA and Planned Parenthood funding.  (The only positive thing about him seems to be his support for science.)  His primary opponent, Marie Newman, is a solid liberal.  Whichever of them wins the primary is guaranteed to win the general election; IL-03 is a solidly Democratic district and the Republican candidate is an anti-Semitic crackpot who got the nomination by default because no other Republican bothered trying for it.  Every real liberal or progressive should hope that Newman wins today.

In PA-18, Conor Lamb won a district which has been Republican-held for 14 years and which went for Trump in 2016 by a 20-point margin.  The margin of victory was only about 600 votes.  Lamb is too conservative for some Democrats' taste, mostly due to being "personally opposed" to abortion.  He is, however, pro-choice since he doesn't support laws restricting access to abortion -- laws most Republicans do support.  In practical terms, what matters about a politician is what legislation he would vote for.

A candidate like Newman couldn't have won in PA-18; if such a candidate had been the Democratic nominee instead of Lamb, the seat would have remained Republican.  The same primary challenge that will (if successful) move the IL-03 seat to the left would have moved it to the right if done in PA-18.

There is no single formula for success that can be applied everywhere.  We need to support the most liberal candidate that can actually win in a given race.  That means supporting challengers like Newman in liberal districts, while opposing them in conservative ones.  In more mixed districts the balancing point between policy positions and electability will be somewhere in between.  Other factors that affect electability, such as incumbency, charisma, ability to appeal to voters on ethnic grounds, etc., also need to be taken into account.

Bizarrely, Pelosi and the Democratic establishment are backing Lipinski.  This may reflect an institutional bias in favor of incumbents.  Pelosi has also said that the party should not have a "litmus test" on abortion.  In fact, if there's one issue it should have a litmus test on, that's probably it.  The right to abortion is the most fundamental personal-freedom issue that's being seriously contested in the US in our time, and as the Republican party becomes steadily more theocratic, its attacks on that right will only increase.

Lamb and Newman are both the right candidates for their respective districts.  That's what we always need to find -- the right candidate.

The Infidel reprieved

I am starting a new job today.  It's a temp job, but almost every temp job I've ever had has resulted in an offer of a permanent one, so it wouldn't surprise me if the same happens here.  This is quite a relief, since in another month or two I'd have been in danger of losing my apartment and health insurance.

This does mean, however, that there will be delays in approving moderated comments since I won't be home much of the daytime (not that it's been all that fast anyway, I know).

18 March 2018

Link round-up for 18 March 2018

Worst pirate ever!  I wonder if anyone ever found all that dumped silver.....

This teacher may be a furry (found via Why Evolution Is True).

Cats confront snowDogs confront snow.  But the cold never bothered him anyway.

Not the switch!!!

Guess the answer.

There are no pictures of penises at this link.

Not everything should be defragged.

Rule 34 is apparently true (NSFW).

Mark Hamill went glam for German TV (here's the context).

Cool street art.

Here's the definition of the word "militant".

Be careful wearing this ring (found via Mendip).

Computer games must not contain unrealistic elements.

The enemy bitches and moans about The Shape of Water.  But Guillermo del Toro knows what a monster is.

Professor Chaos reviews NRO's review of A Wrinkle in Time.

Crazy Eddie observes St. Patrick's Day.

Rock = right-wingers, monster = Democratic party, castle = ideological purists.

Crime drops when a new violent video game is released, and the reason is obvious.  But one thing does correlate with increases in real-world violence.

You'll hardly believe this school mural is real.

I'm not quite forgotten on F169, apparently.

Come to Oregon -- it's almost like this.  Well, we do do freedom and democracy pretty well.

Legalize prostitution and to hell with the hypocrites.

The two books are not even comparable.

Don't apply for a job at this funeral home (found via Mendip).

Jeff Bezos makes as much money every 15 seconds as you do in a year.

If atheism is a religion.....

Stephen Hawking sings Monty Python (found via a comment by "Sirius Lunacy" on Mock Paper Scissors).  His last public statement was on robots and socialism (found via Miss Cellania).  Here's a little story showing something of his characterHere is another (from a comment by Shaw Kenawe).

Some Christians stick to their principles.

For the Ides of March, Crazy Eddie has songs inspired by Pompeii (the Roman city, not the new Secretary of State).

Opponents of the student gun protests cast themselves as cartoonish villains. And sometimes the crap runs in the family.  But maybe they should worry.

Perhaps the stupidest of all taboos is the one on masturbation.

This gay "conversion therapist" had a little secret.

West Virginia got it right (found via Yellowdog Granny).

I totally saw this coming:  Fundies gloat that Stephen Hawking is in Hell.  If you read only one link from this round-up, let it be this one, and spread it around.  Everyone needs to see the ugliness of these people and their beliefs.

Joy Behar's comment about Mike Pence's religion prompts a flood of hypocritical outrage.

Don't tell me not to laugh at them.

It's obscene to sympathize with the tormentor rather than the victim.

Some people hold self-contradicting opinions.

Least-surprising news ever:  blacks are leaving white Evangelical churches, especially since the rise of Trump.

Islam is like the 1950s (well, with more executions).

Steven Pinker states some obvious truths and everybody gets mad at him (I need to read this book).  Andrew Sullivan clings desperately to tired old bullshit.

Looks like God was giving them a sign.

The gun debate is a form of culture war.

What is Islamophobia?

It's OK to resist capitalism on an iPhone.

Bible fetishism is not good preparation for understanding US history.

"Ignorance is strength!"

Our leaders must not make nice with anti-Semites.

These people exist.  And these people exist.

Mock Paper Scissors looks at the new CIA director.

Stop pretending the wingnuts are arguing honestly.

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Are there more stars than grains of sand? (found via a comment by W Hackwhacker)

In Hildale, Utah, it's 2018.....BC.

Most of what's going around the internet about the long-distance effects of Fukushima is hugely exaggerated.

Yes we can, and no we shouldn't.

The US demand for commercial electricity is falling for the first time in a century.

Printed houses are getting better, bringing us closer to a solution for the insane cost of housing.

These people exist.

Despite differences over Brexit, the EU stands with the UK on the Skripal poisoning. The UK has already begun retaliating against Russia and protecting its infrastructure against possible Russian cyber-attacks (a striking contrast with US inaction on threats to our elections).

Australia, land of dinosaurs.

How many migrants have you resettled in the Vatican, you hypocritical shithead?

Support for Israel is increasing among Americans, both Democrats and Republicans.  The countries Americans like the most are Canada, the UK, and Japan.

Catholics cheer as the Polish government imposes one of their taboos on the whole country, including non-Catholics.

Schrödinger's human?  Constantin Reliu is biologically alive, but legally dead by court ruling.

This sour old asshole created a regime that arrests people for dancing.

Theocracy means prison if you don't dress the way the thugs demand.  And it's getting worse.

This hypocrisy needs to stop.  Religion promotes sexual abuse on a huge scale -- notably if you refuse to convert.

The US-backed Turkish military commits ethnic cleansing against our Kurdish allies in Syria.  What is Trump going to do about this?

Getting justice for rape is difficult in a conservative society.

A religious leader presents an intriguing new hypothesis on the roots of homosexuality.

Religio-nutters are lying about Stephen Hawking.

This really is a shithole country.

If true, this story of corporate crime sounds almost like an act of war (more details here).

The trend toward sclerotic autocracy will weaken China.

Countries worth living in don't do this kind of crap.

A new wave of racist violence is sweeping South Africa, and so far only Australia is taking any action.

In PA-18, Lamb showed how to win marginal Trumpanzees without sacrificing liberal values.  Republicans are suffering the effects of their disastrous mishandling of Trump.  They're also bad losersNRO is gloomy about the party's November prospects.  Apparently the "President" will spend campaign season publicly fighting with a porn star.

Here are three views on Democratic primary challenges (Kleeb's is the most realistic).  We need candidates who can not only win seats now but hold them in future elections.  Here's a case where a primary challenge makes sense, since there's no risk of losing the seat.  And Democrats may be less divided than some believe.

Trump (if he's still in office) probably won't face a primary challenger in 2020.

Different Presidents, different approaches (found via Yellowdog Granny).

At Shower Cap's Blog, it's just another week in Trump's America.

Republicans are just nasty.

Jasper Ward thinks he has an issue that can help Democrats win in red states.

Bob Felton thinks Trump is fatally dividing Evangelicals.

We're the real values voters.

Reminder:  Hillary would have gotten the nomination even without superdelegates.

House Republicans are realizing they blew it with their whitewash of Trump, and they're already backing down.

Worst political ad ever!

The enemy understands the importance of this year's election.  So must we.  Voting makes a difference.

Want more links?  Try Perfect Number, Miss Cellania, and Fair and Unbalanced.

[Image at top:  ruins of Pompeii]

15 March 2018


The death of Stephen Hawking yesterday left the world a less intelligent and less interesting place.  Few minds have achieved so much, even without considering the horrifying physical limitations against which he labored most of his life.

You can see an entertaining summary of that life here, in Hawking's own tweets (yes, he was born exactly 300 years to the day after the death of Galileo).  And there are many others better qualified than I am to assess his scientific achievements -- though not many truly well qualified, since his work was genuinely on the outer edge of human knowledge.  But he did emphasize making science, even the difficult and bizarre discoveries of modern physics, accessible to non-scientists; and he wrote one of the books which have had the most intellectual impact on me, The Grand Design.

In this book, Hawking explains how science has answered one of the fundamental mysteries which has long preoccupied human thought -- the origin of the universe, or the "why is there something rather than nothing" problem.  Right up front, on page 5, Hawking makes a blunt and startling assertion:

What is the nature of reality?  Where did all this come from?  Did the universe need a creator?.....Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead.  Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.

Tough words, but the book more than backs them up.  Modern physics has changed our knowledge -- not just beliefs or mental models, but knowledge -- of reality itself.  This has reduced most of philosophy's traditional approaches to mere irrelevant word-games played in ignorance.  Unfortunately, this means that the real answers are not intuitively satisfying the way, say, evolution is.  But they're the truth; they describe what actually happened.  My own grasp of advanced physics is rudimentary, but Hawking's exposition enabled me to connect the dots and understand "the grand design".

Hawking was not afraid to dissent from popular mushy thinking even among scientists.  He strongly opposed efforts to actively send signals which would reveal humanity's existence to advanced alien civilizations (if they exist), arguing that if such aliens were hostile, they could threaten our very survival.  The efforts I have seen to refute this point never rise above the level of stringing clichés together.  Yes, it may be unlikely that advanced aliens would attempt to attack us, but as long as there's any possibility, we can't take the risk.

Humanity was lucky to have had Stephen Hawking for as long as we did.  We will always remember him as we continue the struggle for knowledge and understanding which he did so much to advance.

13 March 2018

Video of the day -- the unbelievable

It's just obvious common sense.  And here's what he meant about the banana thing.

11 March 2018

Link round-up for 11 March 2018

She's got plenty of space to pack stuff.

Not-very-good hacker gets pwned.

Fetch! (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

I can well believe this guy voted for Trump.

Anime stimulates philosophy.

Demons have horns.

Here's a guide to deciphering job ads.

Perhaps not the best option.

Choose a hotel that offers extra excitement.

You may need better friends.

The Shape of Water's Oscar triumph boosts sales of movie-related merchandise.

Imagine movies about ghosts of dinosaurs.

Mock Paper Scissors has the best Billy Graham obituary.  But should Graham get a national holiday?

Insanity is relative.

Some roosters are assholes.

OK, it's a larger-than average bug.

This is sand.

Make the world work however you want it to (I can't wait for virtual reality!).

Some very small cars have nice paint jobs.

See a beautiful dance with a deliberately-confusing weapon.

Here's a new Christian scheme of salvation for the Trump era.

Fiction can help keep the bad stuff out of reality.

All the clocks just moved forward an hour.  Why are we still doing this?  And what exactly did this person do?

The founder of "ex-gay therapy" gets pwned in death.

Bruce Willis is smarter than I realized.

Donna M has her say on trolls.  Here are some tips on spotting twitter bots (found via G'da's comment on Donna's post).

This absolutely is animal abuse.

An old propaganda ad gets an update.

God doesn't seem to do much, or understand much.

Prices are determined by whatever's convenient.

Books can help break down the sexism inculcated in kids.

Some Democrats are assholes too.

If you're anti-gay, turn off your computer.

Thuggish Trumpanzees menace a bookstore (do watch the video -- it's scary).

See the latest from around the wingnutosphere -- Green's response to Kurt Schlichter nails it.  There's a gross photo, though.

Here's a detailed guide to Teh Shrooms (found via Tell Me a Story).

"Dare to be stupid!"

Marriage alone isn't enough (found via 両刀使い).  The enemy will fight like hell for their "right" to discriminate.  They continue to insist that they're the ones being "persecuted" -- and don't miss that post's explanation of the Scarlet Beast of the Book of Revelations!

Are you being monitored by KeyWiki?

Liberal Christian Chris Kratzer has some questions for Trump-besotted Evangelicals.  Note especially this comment by Manny G.

The only acceptable answer is "yes in all cases".  Trends are in the right direction.

Sorry, a con man doesn't give refunds.

Billy James Hargis was a pioneer of wingnuttery as we know it today.

Milo Yiannopoulos cancels a speech in Arizona amid dubious claims of death threats -- so his fans plot revenge against liberals and even the police.

Here's why liberals won't win the gun-control debate -- or at least the sub-debate on broad public access to gun ownership.

Religions do pretty much the same things, just at different times.

If conservatism is fear-based, making people feel more secure may make them more open to liberal views.

If this is true, I may be the most creative person on Earth.

Trump's trade war serves only Putin's interests.  His threatened tax on European cars would have consequences he doesn't expect.

There are gays in the Olympics, and even in the family.

Be consistent.

The Trump Organization gets kicked out of Panama.

Turkey's authoritarian-religious ruling party has started attacking music.  If you think the arts don't matter, consider that the bad guys always want to censor them.

Saudi Arabia holds its first women's marathon, but the event just highlights how pitifully backward the regime still is.  Women's rights are making more progress around the region (found via Ahab), but there's a long way to go.

The thugs who rule China will never willingly give up power, even if they have to ruin the economy to keep it.  They're not keen on women fighting back against sexual harassment either.

Hackwhackers has photos from a colorful Indian festival (click for full-size).

The planned Trump-Kim meeting has a downside.  North Korea is becoming more conciliatory, but don't forget what the regime is really like -- and what life is like for women (found via Ahab).  Credit for progress belongs to South Korea and its President, not to Trump.

Another little piece of civilization dies.

David Atkins believes Trump will resign after the 2018 elections.  Well, we can hope.

Ted Cruz sees low turnout as a danger for Republicans.  We, too, must be wary of overconfidence.

It seems fitting that this person got her start in a film called Clueless.

Good quotes.

Mississippi Republicans observe International Women's Day by passing the country's worst abortion law.  Crazy Eddie looks at the surge in women running for political office, which may offer the best hope for rolling back this kind of shit.

Is Sam Nunberg crazy or just pretending?  And does it matter?

The Stormy Daniels fight is unwinnable for Trump (and this attempt to defend him misfired badly).  She may even have dick pics.  And here's a round-up of cartoons on White House madness.  Shower Cap blog (now added to my links list) continues to chronicle the administration.

We did OK, not great, in the Texas primaries.

What is this spectacle teaching Evangelical boys about maleness?  Their elders embody hypocrisy and hucksterism.  But this dog-whistling is an even bigger concern.

Republicans are canceling ads touting tax "reform" because they aren't working, even in a very red district.

Want more links?  Try Perfect Number, Miss Cellania, and Fair and Unbalanced.

[Image at top:  Seoul, capital of South Korea, metro population 25,600,000, at risk of massive devastation in the event of war]

08 March 2018

Are men necessary? (a semi-unserious thought exercise)

Within decades, humans will be using technology on a large scale to guide the development of our species according to our own will and desires, as opposed to being at the mercy of nature and biological evolution as we always were before.  I've already written about mind-machine integration (the integration of computer technology into the human brain to enhance human intelligence, memory, etc.), curing aging to radically extend the healthy life span, and so on.  But I sometimes wonder if other modifications to the species might be considered and adopted by people in the future.  Specifically, might they decide that the male gender creates more problems than it's worth and that the species would be better off without it?

This wouldn't be as difficult to do as one might think.  Sex-selective abortion has already led to a shortage of females in places like China and India.  Choosing the gender of children before conception is already technologically possible.  Once the decision was made (by a future world government, or by women collectively, or whatever), the eradication of the Y chromosome from the species would be a straightforward process.

Viewed dispassionately, it's not hard to see how the arguments would go.  The overwhelming preponderance of violent and aggressive behavior is committed by males, and this is not just a matter of enculturation -- it's true in virtually all human cultures, the hormonal and genetic basis for it is well understood, and gender differences in violent behavior run closely parallel in most primate species.  Most men are not violent, but most violent people are men.  It's intuitively obvious that an all-female environment would be much safer than a mixed-gender environment, and some countries have begun to experiment with small-scale things like women-only cars in commuter trains to reduce the incidence of harassment.  For most of human history the male propensity for violence did serve a purpose -- defending communities against outside aggression.  But that outside aggression mostly originated with males of rival communities (technology long ago reduced non-human animal predators to a negligible threat), and today defense and deterrence are achieved with high-tech weaponry which women are just as capable of operating.  In the modern world, it's difficult to see that male violent tendencies have any value at all to offset their enormous cost.

It could be argued that males in the mass are a drag on progress in other ways.  Males are far more likely to vote for reactionary political forces, for example, to the extent that those forces would hardly even be viable if only the female vote were considered -- our own 2016 election being an example.  Most militant religious extremists are men, as are social totalitarians generally -- among the fundamentalist Christians in the US who obsess about limiting women's access to birth control and abortion, the most aggressively determined of them are mostly male, and the pattern is similar in other religiously-conservative areas like Latin America and the Middle East.  Almost no women seem to have any interest in restricting men's reproductive choices in an analogous way.  It's true that some women are hostile to abortion and birth control, but in most cases they're acting under the indoctrination of patriarchal religions, without which it's unlikely that they'd hold such attitudes.

Again, it could be argued that some of this tendency is socially inculcated and not innate -- but when we see a pattern replicated across a wide range of cultures, and almost no cultures in which the pattern is absent, we're justified in at least a strong presumption that its roots are genetic.  Most primate social groups are characterized by a male dominance hierarchy in which males compete to rise in status and power, with females mating mainly with those who achieve the highest dominance level (thus unwittingly selective-breeding males for dominant behavior).  It's not hard to find examples of the same pattern in human societies.  Despite our higher intelligence, biologically we're just another primate species.

Humans will soon be using genetic engineering to eliminate genetic disorders from the species.  One could imagine a future society viewing masculinity as just one more such defect, best eradicated.

Aside from occasional tongue-in-cheek suggestions, the concept of an all-female society has sometimes arisen in science fiction, most often in the form of a trite variant on the harem fantasy (male astronauts or whatever, ecstatic at finding a whole planet of "available" women), or sometimes depicting such societies as being like regimented ant colonies, although there's no reason to think women have a particular preference for such systems -- if anything, historically it's been highly militaristic societies (which are usually heavily male-dominated) that show the most insect-like regimentation.  A more serious effort is the fictional planet Whileaway created by author Joanna Russ for her 1972 short story "When It Changed".  After humans initially settle the planet, a native plague wipes out the male colonists; the female survivors go on and build a viable society, and after several centuries the situation comes to seem quite normal to them.

Would anything essential be lost by eliminating males from the species?  To address the most obvious point, gender differences will soon cease to be necessary for reproduction.  Work is already being done on enabling individuals of the same gender to combine genes to produce offspring.  Admittedly this would make reproduction dependent on advanced technology, thus risking extinction if civilization ever collapsed to a primitive level in the future -- but such a collapse seems vanishingly unlikely, and with radical extension of human lifespans, reproduction will become less critical to survival anyway.

There's no reason to think that men have any special abilities that women inherently lack, aside from physical strength (perhaps an all-female world would suffer greater wastage of food due to all the jars that nobody could get the lids off of).  Women have shown the ability to achieve as much as men in intellectual fields, once the barriers to participation are removed -- indeed, in many advanced countries more women than men are pursuing higher education.  Even in science and mathematics, areas still widely believed to be a basically male preserve, women are making inroads.

There's some evidence that males show a greater deviation from the average, a wider and flatter bell-shaped curve -- so that most of the great geniuses of history have been male, as are most of the severely mentally retarded.  But science today is increasingly advanced by large-scale cooperative projects rather than by individual geniuses, though the latter still do make their contributions.

In trying to come up with reasons why a future society might not decide to eliminate males from the species, I'm really left with only one objection that might carry the day.  If the opposite proposition were being considered -- eliminating women from the species -- everyone would immediately point out that men would not want to do so because most men are heterosexual and would feel sexually and emotionally deprived in an all-male world.  In an all-female world, heterosexual women's sexual and romantic drives would similarly be left without an object.  Not being a woman, frankly I'm completely unable to judge how important a consideration this would be.  Would it outweigh all the problems the existence of males creates?  Would sufficiently-realistic virtual reality provide a satisfactory replacement for actual sexual experiences?  Would women in different cultures come to different conclusions?  Remember that the majority of the population lives in non-Western countries where male dominance still takes harsher and even murderous forms, which would still be a recent memory when the question was being considered.

I have no idea whether this will ever actually happen, or even ever be seriously debated as an option for the world.  It's a concept which has intrigued me on and off for years, though.

06 March 2018

Improving words (2)

Back in December, I suggested (inspired by this) that our language would be much better if words simply meant what they appear to mean, and modestly proposed a few re-definitions to improve things.  Since then, a few more have occurred to me:

Bipolar:  Attracted to polar bears of both genders

Bishop:  A store for bisexuals

Cistern:  A non-transsexual bird

Console:  To swindle a specific type of fish

Contest:  The final exam at scammer school

Contraband:  A Nicaraguan rebel music group from the eighties

Contract:  A scam religious booklet

Current:  Lease payments on a nasty dog

Debunk:  To throw someone out of bed

Delay:  To stuff an egg back into the chicken

Design:  To remove an indication (SK)

Dim Sum:  Calculator batteries running low

Drag race:  An entire race of men who wear women's clothing

Exuberant:  A small insect which formerly provided transport

Fasten:  To speed something up

Grimace:  A bleak playing card (SK)

Hosting:  A police operation to entrap prostitutes

Increment:  The opposite of excrement

Madagascar:  A rage-fueled automobile

Pillage:  The medication era (SK)

Polygon:  You can't find your parrot

Protestant:  A small insect who objects to things

Relay:  What a chicken will do after you delay its egg

Spartan:  A sunburn suitable for a boxing match

Template:  That short-term employee is never on time

Thorax:  I thought he carried a hammer

Vanish:  Resembling a box-like vehicle (SK)

Oh, and is it any wonder that Thailand gets so many sex tourists when the country's name looks like it should be pronounced "Thigh-land", the capital is Bangkok, the main tourist island is called Phuket, and so many women's names end in "-porn"?

(Items marked SK were suggested by Shaw Kenawe in a comment on the original post.)

04 March 2018

Link round-up for 4 March 2018

Crazy Eddie has an overview of all the speculative-fiction films nominated for Oscars; Vox looks at the case for and against each best-picture nominee.  2017 had two real masterpieces, The Shape of Water and Get Out -- I'm glad it's not up to me to choose between them!  But the Academy truly blundered by shutting out Wonder Woman.

Fear the power of the elf jihad donut.

Tortoise pwns wall.

This dude doesn't play by the rules.

A neighbor helps tidy up the trash.

This tree makes の sense.

A Shrek fan looks at Trump.

"I'm not a robot."

Gold smugglers resort to an unusual tactic.

Must be a scary movie.

Nice try.

You guys are eating your crackers wrong!

South Texas Republicans get big-bucks donations.

Learn the dark origin of Cookie Monster.

There must be a contest going on to design the most ridiculous clothes.  I mean, good grief.

Ballistic gel can be repurposed, apparently.

What's the point of going through life with this big of a chip on your shoulder?

We might be useful rodents.  If so, we should stop wearing polyester.

They're watching you.

Gross behavior leads to serious self-pwnage.

Put the needle on the record (if you're under 30, ask an old person to explain what that means).

A Texas church inadvertently makes the case for Satan.

Whenever gays win a court battle, wingnuts start ranting about "tyranny".

Apparently God granted a special right to Americans (found via Hackwhackers).

"To hell with the pearl, give me the healthy oyster."

Neil Carter looks at the latest godawful fundie movie.  A Christian discusses why Christian movies are so bad (and some of them are really bad).  Speaking of Christians and movies, they're freaking out over one of ours that hasn't even been made yet.  But Black Panther may have been precedent-setting.

Art collectors are a bit like vultures.

An Alabama Republican calls for decisive action to stop school shootings.

Substitute Jews, blacks, atheists, etc. for Geminis, Leos, Cancers, etc., and you'll see why I consider astrology disgusting.

Stupid people are stupid.  At least this one's honest.

Coal baron sues comedian, gets pwned by squirrel.

See Green Eagle's comment on farming in the 1920s -- some interesting history.

There's a double standard in police responses.

"The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave."

Trump has benefited one disfavored group -- sharks.

School massacres are God's way of saying he doesn't like gay marriage.

They didn't know any better.

Sorry, Wakanda isn't really plausible.

The NRA gets on board with Ajit Pai's divide-and-conquer tactics.  If we can't save net neutrality, we can document the abuses.  My city is considering municipal broadband.

Ex-fundies face a huge battle just to be normal.

It's the only way to fly -- not.

Texas anti-abortion nutbars are busy squabbling with each other (found via Susan of Texas).

This is what the effects of a bomb cyclone look like.

Guns have always been part of the black political struggle.

It must be cool, being able to commit a crime and have the victim face charges.

I'll never understand this stuff -- why do these people think making themselves miserable will please God?

These businesses are attacking your right to repair your own property.

Here's what it looks like when people think bigotry is acceptable because it's rooted in religious taboos.

Sometimes the good guy wins.

Bruce Gerencser looks at the misery wrought by the war on opioids.

Hecate Demeter has a few words for the people who are trying to push Dianne Feinstein out.

Members of the Country Music Association don't want a bigot on the board of directors.

The Republican tax "reform" is full of weird glitches.  But as intended, most of the benefits are going to rich investors (found via Hackwhackers).

This editor thinks you're so dumb you should embrace bullshit if it makes you feel good.

A work requirement for Medicaid is much worse than it sounds.

"Thank God for slavery....." (found via Mendip).

Knuckle-draggers are sending death threats to Parkland survivors.  Breitbart settles for insults.  Then there's Erick Erickson.

Don't let the enemy divide us by generations.

Choose gobbledygook over science, pay the price.

A tragic "experiment" sheds light on the development of gender roles.

The AR-15 inflicts devastating injuries (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

A theocratic bigot and reactionary gets an undeserved honor once denied to a worthier man.

These people exist (scroll down a bit).  And these people exist.

Santorum is a complete and utter asshole.

Trump may soon start cutting government spending -- especially on science.

Yes, there is a consensus.

This isn't a technology problem, it's a shitty-employer problem.

Ideology must never limit scientific inquiry.  Universities are plagued by enraged science deniers.

We're not dumb, but a lot of us are ignorant.

Different cultures are different.

We need to listen to these people's experiences.

The Icelandic language is under pressure from the internet (found via Earthbound Misfit) -- in fact this is happening with small languages all over the world.

Finland isn't really called Finland (found via Miss Cellania).

Putin's tinpot fascist regime is a menace to democracy and freedom everywhere, and the US needs to act -- of course Trump is doing nothing.  As for Putin's recent speech on nuclear weapons, there's less there than meets the eye.  (And what planet is that from 0:24 to 0:31?)

There's a quiet but growing minority in the Arab world (found via Snowflake Collections).

An American girl faces, then escapes, the nightmare of forced marriage.

If you think I'm too hard on the religious nuts, here's how some of them talk about people like me.

The US supports Saudi aggression in Yemen, but some Senators are trying to end that.

De-nuclearizing North Korea is not worth a war.  The Kim regime's new conciliatory stance may be based on realizing it's doomed if a war starts (found via Earthbound Misfit) -- which greatly improves the odds of a peaceful resolution if Trump will just STFU and let South Korea handle things.

Chinese censors go nutzoid, even temporarily banning the letter N.

South Africa's parliament votes to copy the policy that caused agricultural collapse in Zimbabwe.

Trump's wall has become Schrödinger's wall.

Shower Cap blog amusingly surveys the wacky world of Republicans (found via Roosterville).  Corporations are Marxist, etc., etc., etc.  Seriously, CPAC showed what they've become.  Millennials are turning away in droves.

Almost everybody hates Trump's tariff plan.  Europe plans targeted retaliation.

Democrats will put up a fight for Texas this year.

A law professor argues that Trump can, in fact, be indicted while in office (found via Green Eagle).

Even when Republicans win, they lose.

Here's a story illustrating the depth of Trump's narcissism (found via Progressive Eruptions).

I can hardly remember not being sick of it.

Want more links?  Try here and here.

[409 days down, 1,053 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]