29 June 2018

Never give up

I have to admit it -- when I saw the news about Anthony Kennedy's retirement, my first thought was, "Oh crap, all the political blogs are going to be unreadable for a week because of all the we're DOOMED! DOOMED! DOOMED! stuff."  The left's tendency to treat every setback as the end of the world has long infuriated me (do read that, it's not half bad, if I do say so myself), even if I too once yielded to it (the only recent post I actually regret writing).  The world has ended at least a dozen times since I started this blog.

This time, though, I've been pleasantly surprised.  Yes, there has been some of the usual doom-and-gloom and a few profanity-laced rants demanding that Democratic leaders do things they do not, in fact, have the power to do.  But there have been some sober responses as well.

Electoral-Vote, a prolific political-analysis blog which deserves to be better known than it is, posts a lengthy discussion of why (a) replacing Kennedy with a wingnut won't make as much difference as people think, and (b) the Supreme Court may not, in fact, be "lost for a generation".  Mock Paper Scissors points out that if we fight hard and win big in the 2018 and 2020 elections, a lot can be done to correct the damage (so don't panic).  Crooks and Liars gives options for channeling energy into resistance right now.  Henry Rollins* admonishes us -- with regard to Trumpism generally, not just the Supreme Court -- not to do the enemy's work for them.  LGBTQ Nation reminds us that just a few decades ago people had to fight under far more dangerous and discouraging conditions, and still won -- and that we will inevitably win because we are the majority now.

That last point is important to remember.  The fundies, prudes, bigots, crackpots, xenophobes, and assorted knuckle-dragging Deliverance mutants who make up the enemy are a minority of the US population, and their percentage of it shrinks year by year.  Even if they "win" -- by gerrymandering the shit out of everything, passing ever-more-blatant vote-suppression laws, weaponizing the Supreme Court to gut the Bill of Rights, suspending elections, whatever your nightmare is -- all they'll have done is entrench an explicit system of minority rule over an infuriated and self-aware majority which will outnumber them more and more as time passes.  That didn't work out so well in South Africa.  Even a lot of them won't want that scenario, if they're made to realize that's where they're heading.  And our side has the brains.  Our side produces the technology and mass culture that are the sources of America's power, hard and soft.  They need us.  We don't need them.

Even in the short term, their victories are likely to be Pyrrhic.  Take the threat to Roe v. Wade, for example.  There are a lot of voters, especially younger ones, who support abortion rights but don't feel much pressure to vote on that basis or take an interest in state-level races, because deep down they don't really believe those rights could be taken away.  If Roe v. Wade is reversed, or even looks likely to be reversed, the threat will become very real, in the form of the decision-making power on the issue being returned to state governments.  And then the Republicans will face the mother of all electoral backlashes as voters mobilize to protect rights they suddenly realize can be taken away.

I'm not saying this is a good thing.  I abhor the Susan Sarandon "let everything become horrible so the backlash will make it better" stance.  This really would be horrible.  People would suffer terribly; people would die.  I'd rather see Roe preserved.  But if the Republicans finally get their wish on the issue, they'll be opening a Pandora's box which will blow up in their faces.

Don't despair.  Be energized to fight back.  And remember that the Sun will rise tomorrow.

[*Actually Will Stenberg, according to comments at the linked post.]

28 June 2018

Book review -- Christianity vs. the Bible

Things I Never Learned in Sunday School by Nan Yielding (2012)

Most atheists know that the dogmas of Christianity have little or no basis in objective reality.  But it turns out a lot of them don't even have much basis in the religion's own sacred text either.

Nan Yielding became "born again" in her early twenties, spent the next fifteen years in mental subjection to conservative Christianity, and eventually started questioning what she had been told to believe.  Finding that the church had no answers, she started looking for her own, by studying the Bible and other primary sources.  Startlingly, she found that the Bible is not what most Christians believe it is, and she ended up leaving Christianity altogether.  This book, however, is not a personal deconversion story -- it's a systematic explanation of what she discovered and, more importantly, the evidence backing up her conclusions.

To begin with, the religion of the ancient Hebrews evolved over time under the influence of the more powerful cultures by which the Hebrews were dominated in pre-Roman times -- Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic Greek.  Several concepts that modern Christians believe were always part of it were borrowed from Zoroastrianism, in forms quite different from what they have become.  For example, Satan and Hell (each of the two gets a full chapter) don't appear in the Old Testament in anything like their modern Christian versions.  When the passages modern Christians believe refer to them are examined in context and with reference to the words in the original language -- as the book does in detail -- it's clear that they did not mean, and could not mean, what moderns think they did.

The New Testament comes under similar scrutiny.  Passages which modern Christians interpret as prophecies of the distant future (perhaps even our own time), when considered in light of the cultural and political circumstances when they were written, are clearly references to events and persons contemporary with their authors.  The character of Jesus, the resurrection, the role of Paul, the Antichrist, and the nature of God are similarly examined, with similar results.  Modern Christianity, like the ancient Hebrew religion, has evolved over time -- and it has drifted far from its supposed source material.

It's easy, some might object, to assert such interpretations.  But the meat of the book is the supporting evidence it provides.  The basis for each point is carefully explained, and there are 26 pages of endnotes, bibliography, and other resources.  At 170 pages total, it packs a huge amount of information into a relatively short read.  It's well-written and easy to understand, even when discussing concepts not familiar to most people today.  And it's not framed as a debunking of Christianity, but as an inquiry into where its ideas really came from.

There's a saying that the Bible is like those long terms-and-conditions pages you get when you buy software on the internet.  Nobody actually reads it; they just scroll to the end and click "I agree".  Nan did read it, and found that it doesn't say what moderns think it does.  It isn't even about what moderns think it is -- its stories and polemics are addressed to the long-vanished and alien times when they were written, and have hardly anything to say to us at all.

Brief excerpts from the book are here; ordering options are here.  The author's blog is here.

27 June 2018

A couple of political observations

The biggest news from yesterday's Democratic primaries was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's surprise victory over establishment heavyweight Joe Crowley in NY-14.  A socialist who refused corporate donations and whose platform is uncompromisingly progressive, Ocasio-Cortez won by a 15-point margin despite being out-fundraised more than ten-to-one.  This mostly reflects the fact that she was a much better fit for the district, which is urban and heavily Latino.  Its voters have spoken, and spoken clearly.

This creates a test for the party establishment.  They need to make it clear that they will support the candidate the primary voters chose.  That might seem like a forgone conclusion, but remember that the DCCC, at least initially, failed to extend support to Kara Eastman, another progressive candidate who defeated the establishment's choice in NE-02 last month.  We can't afford to have anyone playing those kinds of games when their preferred candidate doesn't get nominated.  There's too much at stake.  It's true that NY-14 is so solidly Democratic that Ocasio-Cortez will almost certainly win even without DCCC support, but that's not the point -- the leadership needs to demonstrate that it supports the "big tent" and recognizes that winning as many seats as possible is more important than getting exactly the candidates it wants.  She represents the wave of the future and the kind of candidate that enthuses the party's real base, which is critical to its success, especially in an off-year election.

Crowley himself has firmly endorsed Ocasio-Cortez, as is proper.

Trump noticed the result and made an idiot of himself, as was predictable.

The other significant news of the day was that Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana in a referendum, 56% to 43%.  Oklahoma is a very red state -- it's the only state in which Obama didn't win even a single county in either 2008 or 2012.  If marijuana can win there by 13 points (granted only medical, not recreational), it's clear which side of this issue has the momentum.  Marijuana is fully legal in nine states and DC, and is decriminalized or legal for medical purposes in the majority of the country:
Jeff Sessions is not going to drag us all back to the days of Reefer Madness, whatever he may think.  The Democratic party needs to get fully behind the fight for marijuana decriminalization nationally.  It, too, is the wave of the future, and this ludicrous outdated prohibition is a prime driver of unjust mass incarceration.  In referendum after referendum, the people have led; the leaders should, at least, follow.

25 June 2018

Free will

From time to time in atheist circles, the topic of the existence of free will comes up.  Here's how I see the issue.

Imagine that a thousand years ago some scientifically-minded people had set out to discover how the Sun shines.  Assuming they were able to gather accurate data, they would quickly have realized that no process known to them could explain it.  Fire or any other chemical process couldn't generate anything close to enough energy, nor last as long as the Sun was known to have been shining.  The correct answer -- thermonuclear fusion -- wasn't remotely knowable or even imaginable to them.  Many, many intermediate stages of scientific discovery and understanding were needed between 11th-century knowledge and the ability to hypothesize nuclear fusion.

So they would have soberly announced that no matter how self-evident the existence of the Sun seemed to be, it must be an illusion.  The Earth was really in darkness all the time, and if we were convinced there was light everywhere during the day, we must be mistaken, since the existence of sunlight was impossible according to the knowledge of physics available at the time.

Religionists would have jumped in and declared, aha, science can't explain the sunlight, so it must be a miracle!  Only a supernatural explanation -- God -- could account for it.  At this point the first group would become all the more determined to insist that sunlight didn't really exist, because they would feel that admitting it did would be conceding a point to the religionists.

They would both be wrong, because they would both be taking an unscientific attitude.  In science, "we don't know the explanation yet" is a perfectly valid stance to take -- more valid than the stance that our present inability to explain it means that something obviously real doesn't exist, or means that something supernatural must be going on.  In its own way, the first group's position would be just as "religious" as the second group's -- claiming dogmatic certainty about something no human at that time could actually know.

You see the analogy, I hope.  The existence of free will is at least as self-evident as the existence of sunlight at high noon -- even people who claim not to believe in free will never behave the way they would if they really didn't believe in it.  The brain generates self-awareness and free will, and we don't yet have any idea how it does that.  It is simply a phenomenon which can't be accounted for by our current knowledge of physics.  It's absurd to claim that that means it can't exist, or that a magic sky fairy giving us a "soul" is the reason for it.  Our free will is just something our science is not advanced enough to understand yet.  I'm confident that we will understand it eventually, and probably in a lot less than another thousand years.

24 June 2018

Link round-up for 24 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

It's a shitstorm!

Many are looking for love; some may not find it.

Three, two, one, we have liftoff.....

The culture wars are not yet over (but the fun people are on our side).

Some things are unforgivable.

Check out this dichroic glass art (no, I don't know what "dichroic" means either).

Blogger Arkenaten has a good question about the resurrection of Jesus.

Crazy Eddie observes World Giraffe Day.

Calvin does photo captions.

Professor Chaos pulverizes one of those tiresome "we should reach out and be understanding of the Trumpanzees" articles.

Nan has an idea about Melania's jacket.

Scottie collects some cartoons about God and government.

Harry Hamid pwns the madness of Netflix.

Randy Rainbow struggles to keep up with all the WTF (found via Frances Langum).

Here's a good overview of the "Moon landings were faked" nonsense.

One news site has all the best headlines these days.

OK, this is a bad Democrat.

The slogan "America first" has been used before (more here).

How much of the red-letter text in the Bible is really the words of Jesus?

Nevertheless, he persisted.

Here are some thoughts on "cultural appropriation".

The Southern Baptist Convention is pulling away from Trumpism a little (though the headline is a huge exaggeration).

In a time of bullshit, there is plenty of bullshit.

Find this man a job.

The September 11 attack destroyed country music.

Is genocide bad?  For some, it's a gray area.

I like the way this blogger thinks.

Mourn a distant cousin who taught us much about intelligence and communication.

Revitalize your life by pruning away the deadwood.

Native American religion was benign and loving.

It's difficult for collaborators to find romance.  This is not just a difference of opinion.

"Christian patriarchy" brainwashes girls to be submissive, but some don't stay that way.

An ICE raid divided a Tennessee town.

Wingnuts have used porn as a scapegoat for generations.

A pastor ostracized for liberalism calls "MAGA Christians" to account.

The real moral issue in abortion is bodily autonomy.

The "space force" thing is just a distraction.

Jeff Bezos has more money than he knows what to do with.

Here are some myths on the family-separation policy, debunked.  A legion of horror-story monsters has arisen to defend the policy -- and in some cases, to profit from it.  Some people were not happy about Trump's executive order.  About 500 children have allegedly been reunited with their parents, but for many others it won't be easy (found via Scottie).  Even the normally right-leaning redboard world shows signs of unease.

I'm sure they joined because of "economic anxiety".

This is capitalism.

Mars needs women.

Here's everything you need to know about pterosaurs.

Are insect populations crashing?  The evidence is debatable.

An anti-Semitic attack provokes outrage in Germany.

A liberal mosque in Berlin shows the successes -- and failures -- of assimilation.

The Czech Republic will soon be the first ex-Soviet-bloc country to legalize gay marriage.

Trump's family-separation policy is a propaganda bonanza for the Iranian theocracy's anti-American hard-liners.

The Chinese regime is building mass re-education camps in Xinjiang.

If Trump pursues his trade war with China, bet on China.  The Trumplings have no idea what they're doing.

NFL players offered Trump some good advice he won't take.

The Trumplings tried to suppress a UN report on poverty in the US.

Shower Cap struggles with the horrors and takes a stand for civility.

Nebraska Republicans drift from being dull to being dull and evil.

Trump's approval has dropped in every state since the inauguration.  Trudeau is more popular in the US than he is.  Here's one businessman who regrets voting for him.  Booman thinks he's literally going crazy.

Republicans dread self-inflicted wounds this election season.  Maybe it's because they're greedy idiots, or because Trump and Miller believe themselves to be political geniuses.  Charles Pierce thinks the country is finally waking up (found via Progressive Eruptions) because the MSM are finally doing their job.

Remember this when it's time to vote (found via Calvin).  Moderate Republicans haven't stood up to Trump, but Democrats usually have.

For more links, see Perfect Number (lots of family-separation links), Mike the Mad Biologist, Miss Cellania, and Fair and Unbalanced.

[Image at top found via Dr. Theda's Crypt]

22 June 2018

Quote for the day -- they are gone

I don't think everyone who voted for Trump is unreachable, but the hard-core Trumpanzees (see post below) almost certainly are.  The family-separation issue enables us to distinguish the two groups from each other; with those who can support that, there's no point in trying to appeal to any shared humanity.  All we can do is defeat them.

[Quote found via Progressive Eruptions.]

19 June 2018

The nature of the enemy

The right-wing response to Trump's endless successive outrages since taking office has followed a pattern.  A few individuals raise objections, while the majority go along, ignoring or minimizing the vileness of whatever Trump did or said, or making excuses for it, or simply pretending nothing abnormal was happening.  That go-along response has been especially marked among the Christian Right base.  So long as Trump continues to demonstrate fidelity to the sacred causes of protecting discrimination against gay people and forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, he can attack labor and environmental protections, insult veterans, call Nazis "fine people", pick fights with allies, coddle dictators, and start trade wars with almost every other major country on Earth, and they stand by him.

But surely the latest atrocity -- incarceration of migrant children, even toddlers and babies, separate from their parents at the border -- ratchets up the horror to a whole new level.  We've heard the terrified children's cries.  We've heard officials acting in our name mocking them in their misery.  We know of an "information hotline" calculated to scare off relatives seeking information about missing children.  Disturbing, painful, and horrifying images have begun to appear.  Trump's underlings have cited the Bible to defend the policy.  Surely this should be a bridge too far, even for the "base"?

To start with, it's foolish to expect Christian "pro-family" groups to speak out.  As used by these people, the phrase "pro-family" is code for "God hates fags".  That's all it is.  It should no more be taken literally than words like "people's" and "democratic" in the official names of communist countries.

And to be fair, a few religious leaders normally supportive of Trump have spoken out against the policy.  But what about the rank and file?

One of my go-to sites for conservative religious views, Church Militant, did put up a post about the family-separation issue and one Catholic bishop's opposition to it.  As I write this, the post has 478 comments.  As best I can tell, only three people among the commenters object to the policy, with the rest fervently supporting it (and calling the dissidents names).  Some sample comments:

These kids are very contended right now in these detention centers -- big plasma tv screens, clean sheets on clean beds, three square meals a day.

Lots of these aren't even families. They're human trafficking in child sex slaves. That's the point of separation.

The children of the immigrants are being helped in an HHS facility, temporarily, where they are fed, clothed, given somewhere to sleep and have all kinds of games to play. They are probably being treated better there than in their own countries..... I think that all priests, Bishops and Cardinals who vote Demoncrap should be excommunicated! All those ignorant Catholic laity who vote for the party of death need to be taught what that party stands for. They do the work of Satan!

[In response to me:] Mr. Infidel: Child sex trafficking is a major problem internationally to include on our boarders. This is nothing but child slavery for the worst reasons. The child slavers cross our boarder illegally and if caught then claim that their slaves are actually their children. As the foreign nationals entered the USA illegally our government rightly exasperates children from adults until parentage can be confirmed. I am at a loos as to why you and the Bishops condemn U.S. citizens who oppose child sex trafficking by slavers?

I also found this one revealing:

That is why it was so offensive, impertinent and inappropriate for the Pope to question Trump's Christianity during the campaign when Trump promised to build "walls" instead of "bridges" as the pope suggested. Associating "bridges" with "true" Christianity.

This is a (presumably) devout Catholic insulting the Pope for daring to criticize Trump.  That's how deep this cultism goes.  Comment threads on other right-wing sites have been similar -- here's one at RedState with 56 comments, almost all defending Trump.  These Christian conservatives will believe whatever they need to in order to continue supporting their idol.  Some secular right-wingers have joined in.

There's some evidence that this issue is splitting the right more than earlier Trump actions have -- a poll shows 35% of Republicans opposing the policy.  But that still leaves 55% them supportive and the other 10% presumably unwilling to criticize.

We really shouldn't be surprised.  This is who they are.  These are the people in the "fuck your feelings" T-shirts, gloating about "making the libturds cry".  But now we know, better than we did before, that they're deadly serious about being evil.

18 June 2018

Video of the day -- an incompetent abroad

Bill Maher assesses the Trump-Kim summit, and a few other recent events.

How to comment on Blogger blogs if you don't have a Blogger account

This seems fairly straightforward to me, but perhaps it doesn't seem that way to people who aren't familiar with Blogger.  Over the years a number of people have told me they tried to comment here, but were not able to.  Perhaps they were confused because the interface looks different from those of other platforms such as WordPress, Disqus, or Tumblr, or perhaps they thought their accounts on those systems would work for commenting on Blogger (they don't).  So here's how to do it:

At the bottom of the post, click on the link that says "comments" or "post a comment" -- if you're looking at just one post rather than the blog home page, it will be at the very bottom, after all the comments which are already there.  It will take you to a screen which looks like this (click picture for larger version):

Choose the "Name/URL" option by clicking on the button to the left of it.  That will open up two boxes which look like this:

Type your internet name of choice in the top one.  If you want your name to link to your blog, type your blog URL in the bottom box -- you can still post a comment without entering an URL, however.  It will also work with the URL of any other kind of website you have, such as a DeviantArt page.  Then type the text of your comment in the large rectangular area above and click the orange "Publish your comment" button at the bottom.  If you're on a blog which uses moderation, as mine does, the comment won't actually appear until it's approved.

Note that this doesn't log you into anything.  It's just a way to comment for people who don't have Blogger accounts.

17 June 2018

Link round-up for 17 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Go into the port-a-potty, come out into the Twilight Zone.

The chili comes with the usual extra.

She easily beat three strong men in a tug-of-war (found via Hackwhackers).

Best church sign ever.

Here are some real musical chairs.

Artificial intelligence may know us better than we know ourselves.

How big is the frog going to be?

Old family recipes often have interesting origins.

Here kitty kitty.....

Bluebird of Bitterness finds some perfectionists at work.

She Who Seeks speculates on the sexuality of superheroes.

Professor Chaos fisks Megan McArdle's incoherent attack on the NFL kneeling protests.

Calvin rounds up some Trump images (don't miss the collection of epithets).

Crazy Eddie looks at the decline of shopping malls and department stores across the US.

Murrmurrs tries to reason with the Trumpanzees.

The enemy is bizarrely freaking out about The Shape of Water.

Some people really are this ignorant.

You can print a lion.

Non-native speakers enrich the language.

The younger generation leads the way.

This should be the poster for the future movie about Trump's regime.

Acceptance of homosexuality is increasing in every religious group, though atheists and agnostics are still the best and the more nutball Christian sects are the worst.  Even US Muslims are much more accepting than Evangelicals, an indicator of secularization progressing among the former.  Here's one surprising case of enlightenment -- but more is needed than just a change of heart.

Don't hurt the Trumpanzees' feelings (found via Hackwhackers).  Update: the account is suspended -- it was the last one here.

Yew goan BARN in HAIL, sinnuh!

No, the calendar does not prove Jesus existed.

Weirdo!  (found via Scottie)

What if Trump had brought up human rights with Kim?

"Homophobia simply does not exist."  Thanks for clearing that up.

Sorry, I don't give a shit.

A Dominionist pastor applauds Trump's "stealth theocracy".  Part of the reason for Christianity's decline in the US is its tightening links with disgusting politics.  And fundie doctrine is a profound problem.

No, California is not going to split into three states (anyway, those proposed borders are stupid).

Romance is healthy for teens -- some teens.

Woman who not know fake Chinese proverb from real one should not quote them.

Fundies gonna party like it's 1399.

A homophobic Uber driver gets a reminder of what century this is.  Hopefully, so will this taxi driver.

Religious schools in Florida get state money to spread garbage about science and history.

A few Democrats are finally starting to defend sex workers.  Suraj Patel especially has given the issue a high profile.

The SPLC backs down a little from its stupidest mistake ever.

Fascism rides the bus.

The ACLU now realizes that defending the First Amendment in the age of Trump requires a partisan stance.

Trump is considering putting abducted migrant children in a tent city in the Texas desert.  Here's what's currently going onThis cartoon was too perfect for the cartoonist's Trumpanzee boss (more on his work here).

I dissect how anti-Semites post with plausible deniability (see comments).

Olivia Broustra raises some issues with transsexualism -- worth reading even if you don't agree.  It's disquieting that the original of this post was apparently censored.  See also this disturbing art exhibit (all links found via Aunt Polly's Rants).

There's a reason why the environment is in so much better shape now than in 1960.

Biologists have discovered an octopus town (found via Calvin, who loathes octopuses for some reason).

Life expectancy in the US is falling.

You're way better off getting your protein from plants -- and you'll be helping to make agriculture more efficient.

Immunotherapy shows great promise against cancer (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

The rate of Antarctic ice loss has tripled since 2012.

Remember the first woman in space.

Even before the G7 summit, Canada was starting to push back against Trump's trade idiocy.  A trade war would be madness, and many Americans aren't signing up, though Trump and his toadies are sounding unhingedNewspapers respond to Trump's summit antics.  Canadian blogger Calvin has a message for Americans and some words on Kudlow's insults, while Canadian motorcycle guards offer a gesture.

Catholic clergy in Australia are bitching about a law that would force them to report child molesters to the cops.

France and Italy are far ahead of the US in high-speed train technology (I found the speeds cited here almost unbelievable, but I did some checking and they're accurate).

French police foil an anti-gay terrorist plot.

Dutch survivors of cult slave-labor camps demand compensation.

Japanese truck garden landscaping is now a thing.  Russian vehicle design is considerably less aesthetic.

Arvind Rao suggests five interesting places to visit in Europe which you may not be familiar with.

Argentina takes a step toward legal abortion.

Chilean authorities raid several compounds of a huge child-molestation ring.

The World Cup leads to a minor kerfluffle over "race-mixing" in Russia.  There are more serious issues as well -- as with big sport in general.

Homosexuality was widely accepted in the Middle East until a few centuries ago, but today brutal persecution is widespread.  There's only one country in the region where it's generally safe to be openly gay.

This takes toughness (found via Scottie).

The Iranian theocracy is one of the few regimes that executes minors.

Indian chess champion Soumya Swaminathan takes a stand against misogyny.

Trump imposes tariffs -- stupid ones -- on China.  But China has the upper hand in this kind of fight.

Kim Jong-un is not the sort of person Trump's base would normally approve of.  A Christian effort to downplay his evil is already apparent.  Electoral-Vote and Hackwhackers have reactions to the summit.  South Korea is not happy.

A British newsman comments on Trump's foreign-policy antics.

Burn their lifeboats!  Don't let Republicans escape guilt for their embrace of Trump -- they truly are his party nowThere is no making nice with these people.

Trump's position on Manafort betrays inconsistency.

Vote as if people's lives depended on it, because they do.  The enemy relishes every chance to take the vote away, but people are learning to fight back.  Here's how to register in every state and territory (found via Tell Me a Story).

Apparently the Trumplings thought family separation at the border (now with extra evil) would be a winning election issue.  But even some of the fundies can't swallow this one.  It's also energizing opposition, and Republicans know itThe victims will not forget.

You vill support the glorious leader!

Shower Cap blog reviews Trumpian assholery in Montréal, Singapore -- and Washington.  More infuriating madness here.

The DNC has banned donations from the fossil-fuel industry (both-siderists -- just imagine the RNC ever doing that).

Would Trumpanzees erupt in violence if Trump were removed from office?  (Green Eagle's comment makes a good point.)

For more links, see Fair and Unbalanced.

[514 days down, 948 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

16 June 2018

Image of the day -- judging by appearances

A surprising number of people think like this.  I used to.  The fact is, in most cases you have no idea what's going on in the heads of all those people around you who outwardly appear to be mindless conformists.  Image by XKCD.

14 June 2018

Video of the day -- LHC rap

An oldie-but-goodie:  rapper Alpinekat (science writer Katherine McAlpine) sings of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most important particle-physics research facility, where she was working when she made this.  It's not just a catchy tune, it's educational!

12 June 2018

Sideshow in Singapore

The bad-hairstyle summit in Singapore has ended with news of a deal -- but there's less here than meets the eye.

The full text of the joint statement is here; an analysis is here.  Most of it is diplomatic fluff and vague promises about improving relations in the future; there is language about recovering POW/MIA remains which will be meaningful to those who have POW/MIA relatives.  The main issue is addressed in a single sentence:

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Note that even this is explicitly presented not as something new, but as a reaffirmation of something already declared at the April 27 summit between North and South Korea.  The phrase "work toward" is odd.  North Korea is a dictatorship.  If Kim intends to "denuclearize" his country, he doesn't need to "work toward" that goal, he just has to give some orders.  As for "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", which would include South Korea, this presumably means that the US should not keep nuclear weapons in South Korea and that that country should not develop its own.  This doesn't seem like a significant change to the status quo, since South Korea has no known plans for building its own nuclear weapons and the US could, if needed, deter the North using weapons based on ships or in Japan.

Then, too, there's the fact that this is a deal between two of the least trustworthy leaders in the world.  Kim and his predecessors have a history of making agreements and then flagrantly violating them, and Trump has just unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran -- which, unlike this brief "joint statement", was a full international agreement with an inspection regime for verification and the support of five other major countries, to which Iran had been adhering for three years.  Both Trump and Kim had a lot riding on the summit -- Trump wanted a foreign-policy success, Kim wanted the prestige of a one-on-one meeting with the world's most powerful leader -- so it was pre-ordained that they'd produce something, however vacuous.

The symbolism of this meeting right after the G7 fiasco is terrible.  Trump squabbled with and insulted the Prime Minister of Canada and leaders of other allied democracies, then ran off to shower respect and praise on one of the world's nastiest and most threatening dictators.

Trump will of course brag and claim credit for this scrap of paper and any good that follows, making the issue a new staple of his rallies and Twitter binges, and his loyal Trumpanzees (most of whom probably couldn't find Korea on a map) will eat it up.  And it is quite possible that Kim will indeed take meaningful steps toward peace -- because he now knows his pitiful failed state would be doomed anyway if a war broke out, not because of Trump or yesterday's meeting.  And at the April 27 summit he already agreed to denuclearization and a peace treaty ending the Korean war, something which also had nothing to do with Trump.

All Trump got was a single sentence reaffirming what was already agreed at the real summit, the inter-Korean one on April 27, which didn't involve the US at all.  I've previously noted the American narcissism which assumes all major actions by non-Western leaders or groups must somehow be reactions to some American or at least Western cause.  It wouldn't surprise me if South Korea and other parties involved allow Trump to claim all the credit he wants, if only in hopes of stopping him from messing things up.  But this fundamentally isn't about us.

[Image at top:  one nation, two systems -- slavery vs. freedom, failure vs. success]

10 June 2018

Link round-up for 10 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Who will win the noodle race?

This is a book about religion, apparently.

I can't imagine what problem could be solved by shoving a giant eggplant up one's ass (found via Mendip).

Is it possible to write a completely un-likeable tweet?

I really think he's dancing.

Have some Slavic catposting.

Calvin has found the ultimate sombrero.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the dumbest of us all?

Trumpanzees will not enjoy this comic book.

What if Star Wars had never been made?  Well, we wouldn't have the dedicated fandom.

This ad is appalling and offensive and sends a bad message.

Roosterville has a great image round-up.


Shocking photos prove Canada is a land of horrors (found via Miss Cellania).

Here's a very badly-written story.

A visit to a gay bar prompts some worthy insights about straight men.

Oh, for %^$#@!# sake.  And you just know there are people who will believe this.

Keep your audience in mind.

Miracles aren't what they used to be.

Harry Hamid has had it with the Green party.

I would have had a lot of questions for these three people.

Here's a simple memory trick to help Trump get through his meeting with Mueller.

A gym canceled a gay event for religious reasons, and members and employees started bailing.  Now the enemy is in a snit because the management of the chain came down hard on the miscreants.

Time magazine isn't pulling punches (found via Hackwhackers).

The long history of persecution of left-handed people shows how taboo can demonize the most innocuous differences.

"Keep children away from religion, and the gods will starve to death."

The "Melania mystery" has served to distract the media from the real news about Puerto Rico's massive suffering.

You can't reason with people like this.  But they believe they should rule us all.

Trump's family-separation policy is the biggest disgrace of his administration (so far).  It repeats a common thread running through the worst of US history.  And this is still going on with American Indians (found via Donna's post).

Don't talk about being sexually abused -- it makes the church look bad.  If the pastor didn't see it, it didn't happen.

29 states are now fighting back to preserve net neutrality.

The next godawful Christian movie looks like a doozy.

I participate in discussions of libertarian fallacies on discrimination and inequality (see comments).  These are the assholes libertarians view as benefactors.

It took an "inter-denominational" Christian group five years to agree on a rather bland list of rules for pestering people.

Anti-Semites are trying to twist the Trump-Russia scandal for their own purposes.

Ireland's abortion referendum could be a harbinger for the US, but only if we can boost voting turnout among young people.

Bill Maher has some wise words about taking offense and hollow victories (but sorry, Franken had to go).

Yes, the enemy is this deranged.

Whose agenda benefits from the nuclear family?

NRO's Andrew McCarthy isn't celebrating the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling.  Even so, bigots are being emboldened.

Let's make it a month to offend this guy.

"Yes, Donald Trump finally has the Evangelical crowd hissing and spitting at actual Christians in the act of prayer. Surprised?"

Time for Pruitt to put up or shut up.

Are appeals to tribal identity the best way to promote science?  The evidence says no.  Here's why the so-called "other ways of knowing" don't actually work (found via Nan's Notebook).

High heels carry risks.

The reason why you have a big brain is basically a copying error.

Mexico and Canada will fight back against Trump on trade (both found via Shower Cap).  The trade war is already doing damage.  Other countries need to play hardball.

Yes!  Canada is legalizing recreational marijuana.

The drive to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland may fall victim to coalition politics.

Christianists freak out over a Satanic festival in New Zealand.

At the G7, Trump continued to embarrass the US and isolate it from other democracies.  Here are his "best" lines from his press conference there (found via Nan's Notebook).  Can you caption the iconic photo?  But Trudeau respects the business heritage of Trump's family.

Denmark has banned the burqa, joining France, Germany, Belgium, and Austria in doing so.

Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II (ruled 1888-1918) will seem strangely familiar to Americans today.

The Indian subcontinent needs #MeToo too.

"While Government Cheese Goebbels wields the power of the Presidency with all the skill of a heroin-addicted gerbil, he's been more successful at reshaping segments of American culture in his own scowling, racist-as-fuck image."

The Republican party now functions as a cult and is strengthening racist, anti-democracy attitudes among its supporters.  Hackwhackers has a round-up of responses to Trump's claim of lawless power; here's a solid rebuttal (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  Calvin has a collection of images.

Reminder:  teabaggers never took the high road with Obama.

If Trump isn't a Russian agent, he's doing a splendid imitation of one.

Republicans are trying to destroy city-level democracy in Texas.

Trump's pardon power is less of a factor than it appears to be.

Republican leaders believe wishful thinking over real data.  They're getting more confident about holding the Senate -- we'll need high turnout in November to prove them wrong.  Generic-ballot polling still looks good (found via Shower Cap), we've got tested issues to run on, and the enemy has just handed us another.  And that's not only an election issue, it's an attack on the rule of law.

Don't believe Jeff Flake's posturing as the Republican anti-Trump for 2020.

Romney gets it wrong, again.

The Alt-Right is using the Republican party as a vehicle to attain power.

Hackwhackers posts some inspirational essays on Trump.

Added (couldn't resist):  These people are stupid!

For more link round-ups, see Perfect Number, Fair and Unbalanced, and Mike the Mad Biologist.

[Image at top found via Scottie's Toy Box]

08 June 2018


A couple of years ago, in the course of my explorations of the nastier reaches of the internet, I started to notice that Alt-Right types sometimes wrote certain names enclosed by triple-parentheses, like this:  (((George Soros))).  It didn't take long to figure out the meaning.  The triple-parentheses (called an "echo") is used by anti-Semites to mark the names of people who are, or whom they believe to be, Jewish.  Lately I've sometimes seen it used with other kinds of names like (((the FBI))) or (((Hollywood))), to insinuate that these institutions are Jewish-controlled.

One sometimes sees the "echo" on sites which are not Alt-Right as such.  For example, when reading comments on a post at Church Militant (a conservative Catholic news site) in February, I was surprised to see it used by one commenter, and challenged him on it.  His response was somewhat evasive -- not all non-anti-Semites would recognize "the tribe" or "globalists" or even "Zio" as references to Jews.  I kept a screencap (click to enlarge):

People with generally-unpopular views or identity, when operating outside their safe zone, often use coded language or symbols which the uninitiated do not understand, in order to attract the attention of any like-minded readers who happen by, who will understand them.  They may even do it for the thrill of showing off their "unacceptable" side in public in a way which will fly over the heads of the "mundanes".  It doesn't immediately put people's guard up the way explicitly (in this case) anti-Semitic language would do.

It's occurred to me that some liberal bloggers may not know the meaning of the "echo", given the pervasive (and unwise, in my opinion) practice of refusing to read or link to right-wing sites.  Hence this post.  If you see someone use it in a comment on your blog, be aware -- the person is almost certainly an anti-Semite who is trolling you in a way he thinks is too subtle for you to notice, and possibly also signaling just in case other anti-Semites also read your blog.  Call him on it.

06 June 2018

Improving words (5)

Some more revised word definitions, based on what the words visibly should mean.....

Address:  A female garment bearing sales pitches

Artichoke:  A painting so bad I want to strangle it

Attire:  The wrath of the phone company

August:  Golden wind

Average:  Hail anger!

Behemoth:  Be he man, be he insect, be he whatever.....

Bigamy:  Amy doesn't like being called fat

Deliver:  To remove a major abdominal organ

Dementia:  The part of Iowa inhabited by liberal-voting giant tree-like creatures from Lord of the Rings

Exorbitant:  A small insect which used to circle the Earth

Farming:  Distant but merciless

Fragrant:  A tirade about shooting one's own comrades

Glove:  Affection suitable for viewing by children of all ages

Hospice:  A zesty flavor offered by prostitutes

Implode:  A large vein of ore rich in small demonic creatures

Inhabitant:  A small insect dressed as a nun

Pentecost:  Five times as expensive

Precursor:  A person who uses profanity in advance

Produce:  Supportive of Mussolini

Trifling:  A casual romantic affair among three people

Warbling:  Jewelry worn for battle

[The previous "Improving words" post is here.]

03 June 2018

Link round-up for 3 June 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Don't fear the eel robot.

Dr. Theda has some doughnuts for you.  And don't neglect your cats.

Brains!  (found via Calvin's).

Blogger Mike reports a new breakthrough in physics.  I can hardly wait for his explanation of the Sun.

The Russian word under the picture means "stability".

Professor Chaos has some random thoughts.

In ancient times, primitive people used crude tools to preserve entertaining stories.

Yes, there is such a thing as a water-bottle cannon.

Sorry, this bat didn't have the foggiest idea what the hell was happening.

The Christian Right is planning a legislative blitzkrieg against separation of church and state (found via Scottie's Toy Box).

The SBC's official statements on women's equality are full of hypocrisy.

Why the hell do some men do this?  I'm a man and I don't get it at all.  Maybe they're as smart as this guy.

The Michigan legislature has essentially legitimized medical fraud.

The American Bible Society now expects its employees to actually live in accordance with the Bible; several have already quit.

Never be too quick to call someone a Nazi.

Kooky schemes for changing how voting works are often just a both-siderist distraction.

Police stopped paramedics from helping the Parkland students, even after the murderer was caught.

Bruce Gerencser describes how his political views evolved as he left religion.

They did not "give their lives" -- their lives were taken from them.

Here's a truly humane Christian.

What religion you have almost always depends on an accident of birth.

This is what the Catholic Church calls an "expert" on homosexuality.  No matter what the Pope says, Catholic doctrine is inconsistent with tolerance.

Beware of this computer virus -- though if you do get it, I'd recommend going to a computer repair shop rather than trying to deal with it yourself.

Here are eleven forms of harm that religion does (found via Nan's Notebook).

The NFL kneeling movement is the epitome of legitimate non-violent protest -- and the establishment still won't tolerate it.

Calvinism is morally depraved.

Franklin Graham's California crusade illustrates the angry and defensive stance of today's Christian Right.

Think and Thrive blog has some questions about animal abuse.

"I can still thank whatever gods are listening that I don’t live in....."

The authors of the Bible had no idea what the universe is actually like.

We need to differentiate news from propaganda, but this is not the way to do it. Maybe this is related.

Rick Santorum shows his true fundie nature talking about misplaced immigrant kids.  In fact, the government may have handed over some of them to human traffickers (found via Shower Cap).

Nowadays military action usually doesn't achieve its goals, but it still has its enthusiasts.

We know what color this dinosaur was.

Why is there so much hype about "epigenetic changes" in DNA?

A year after Trump's betrayal, the Paris climate deal is still going strong.  And despite him, solar and wind power are booming and creating jobs -- even in the US.

Ireland told its bossy clergy to bugger off.  So should we.

One man in Australia has helped save over two million babies.

Even in Germany's most Catholic area, many are unhappy with a plan to place crosses in public buildings.

Practicing Christians are down to 18% of western Europe's population.

You may have seen claims that the EU is planning changes in copyright law which threaten the internet (both found via 両刀使い).  Apparently it's an Alt-Right scam.

Here's yet another case of religious brutality toward children.

Hamas jihadists bombard Israeli civilian targets with mortars.  OK, now back to blaming Israel for everything.

The new ebola vaccine is being put to work in an actual outbreak.

There are people who compare Trump to Jesus.  He actually resembles a different New Testament figure.

If you've always said you would take a stand against evil if given the chance -- now's your chance.

Republicans serve up another steaming pile of racist candidates.

We're winning despite, not because of, weak leadership.

People who vote and fight for what's right sometimes get things done, cynics and pessimists and ideological purists never do.

Shower Cap blog has another round-up of craziness.

Trump is a terrible negotiator.

Heitkamp risks alienating a key voting bloc.

Congress continues its attacks on the safety and income of sex workers by threatening their bank accounts.  Because Elizabeth Warren is one of the key people pushing these attacks, I can no longer support her for the 2020 Presidential nomination.  (I'll still vote for her if she does get nominated, but I'll oppose her in the primaries.)  Another threat has arisen in Nevada.  Some sex workers are standing up for themselves.

[500 days down, 962 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]