29 July 2018

Link round-up for 29 July 2018

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

o o o o o

You will believe a man can fly.  But not very well.

Meet a big fan.

Medieval art is fun.

Don't spoil their mealsOn the other hand.....

Adopt a highway.

Explore the world of internet melons.

I'd cancel this appointment.

Here's what Trump really wanted to say.

Test your awareness.

This is faith.

Your sexual orientation is fine the way it is.

If the universe is evidence for God.....


No, Ghost in the Shell was not racist (I wrote about this issue here).

Trump might take an interest in this airplane passenger.

If they summon a dark god, they may not like the results.

Jill Dennison collects some odd little news items, and celebrates a victory over sexual harassment.

What if Lord of the Rings had been made today?

That's one hell of an underbite, but the chicks dig it.

Shoddy engineering and heavy rains are a bad combination.

Some interesting observations about George of the Jungle.

Check out these birds.

20% of Americans now say they have no religion, and among people under 29, it's 33%.  And to most Americans, personal relationships are far more important than religion.

Experience the stark horror of an Ocasio-Cortez rally.  More here.

Keep the libraries.

Do Americans overseas really do this?

Hysterical Raisins has a Presidential portrait and theme tune for the new banana-republic USA, and a look at the "witch hunt".

Bloggers beware, Russian trolls are attacking blogs (found via Jill Dennison).

I think this describes me pretty well.

Don't jump to conclusions -- it can have consequences.

Here are some warning signs that a church is Dominionist.

An upcoming movie will address gay "conversion therapy".

Some Trumpanzees are just unreachable (found via Scottie).

How could anyone ever have believed people could work under such crap conditions?

Fundamentalism correlates with susceptibility to fake news.

Hey kids, socialism is bad.

A Montana Catholic diocese is asking its lay members to contribute $1,000 per family to help pay off a sexual-abuse settlement.

"Dear Mr. Zuckerberg....."

At least some women have had enough of this church's bullshit.

People's lives are not a thought experiment, and oppression is not a competition.

Here's some interesting discussion on the family of Jesus.  In fact, the claimed historical evidence for his existence doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Create a taboo.

Religion is the last refuge of global-warming denialism.

How fair is it to compare Jeff Bezos and Al Capone?

Being an American worker isn't such a good deal.  In fact, it's getting worse.

This vicious thug needs to face some consequences.

"You people are so gullible it's insane."

Support for Roe v. Wade is at its highest level since the eighties.  Even 52% of Republicans don't want it reversed.

Facebook is in trouble.

This is how real men shoot animals.

Religion suffocates creative thinkers.

People who bitch about "cultural appropriation" aren't even consistent.

People who smoke around other people are assholes.

Who is brainwashed?

You're just buying overpriced sugar, idiots (found via Mike).

Useful, yes, but surely it's better to avoid self-disfigurement in the first place.

Stupidity undermines the achievements of science.

This is how capitalism becomes looting.

Jerry Coyne fisks some reactionary idiocy.

"We" are not killing the planet, they are.

Do you ever feel sorry for religionists?

You just knew this kind of shit would happen in those border child-detention facilities.

These people exist.

Congressional Republicans demand that tech companies promote the fringe right (found via Scottie).

Visualize planetary engineering.

Beware of biases that can distort thinking (click to enlarge).

Variations in crop patterns reveal traces of ancient structures.

A small lake has been discovered in a surprising place.

The US now has the worst maternal-mortality rate in the developed world.

These atheists stirred things up at London's gay pride parade last year.

In France, anti-Semitism is a growing threat.

Extreme heat and drought fuel forest fires in Latvia and Sweden.  Greece is even more devastated.  Even heat alone can kill when people aren't adapted to it.  Japan's heat wave has hospitalized 22,000 people.

In the case of Ceuta, maybe there should be a wall.

Israel persecutes a rabbi (no, really).

A US war with Iran would be a years-long grind and would reduce our ability to stop the nuclear program.

Stop holding events like chess championships in countries that discriminate.

This blogger posted a rant against giving even minimal rights to migrant workers, then seemed surprised by criticism.

Japan has finally executed the last members of Aum Shinrikyo.


Gay rights in India lag decades behind the West.

This is what happens when abortion is banned.

Trump wants to spend $12 billion to save farmers from the effects of his policiesOthers are suffering too (found via Hackwhackers).  The new EU-US deal is limited and vague.

Charlotte NC was the only city to bid on the 2020 Republican convention, and even that was a near thing.

A Supreme Court that ruled strictly on the basis of the Founders' "original intent" would threaten democracy.

Young people are registering in great numbers, but will they vote?

The Republicans pushing to impeach Rosenstein are a motley crew indeed.

White Americans are politically divided by educational level.

Conservative Democrats rally to defend the ACA -- we must not let them be replaced by Republicans.  "Anti-Trump" Republicans are mostly just talk.

Helsinki revealed Trump as a weakling (found via Scottie).  Some in Washington are thinking the unthinkableHis approval rating stinks among everyone but Republicans, and NRO has its doubts even about them.  It's especially bad in these key states.  Daily Kos argues that he's lost control of the narrative.  But Zandar insists that Evangelicals will never desert Trump.  Could an abortion he paid for do the trick?  And what if Putin turns against him?

Americans' views on climate change may have an impact in November.

Even this RedState writer has noticed that Republicans are trashing the Constitution (I found the Jefferson quote ironic, though).

Democratic primary voters are mainly choosing centrist candidates, but progressives are getting heard on the issues.

Shower Cap reviews the week in Trumpian madness (trigger warning: Jason Spencer's ass).  It's "like watching the Three Stooges' understudies trying to commit treason."

There's a new wrinkle in the saga of Russian election meddling.

Stopping this will be one more reason for me to vote in November.

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

[Image at top:  Stockholm Public Library, Sweden]

25 July 2018

Video of the day -- where is the filter?

(You can skip the last minute of the video -- it's basically an ad.)

It seems obvious that the scenarios in which the "great filter" is ahead of us are implausible, because they require some problem that destroys every technological civilization that encounters it (even a few exceptions would imply at least one or two civilizations millions of years old, which we could detect no matter how far away in the galaxy they were).  Ecological disaster, nuclear war or use of some other superweapon, AI that gets out of control and destroys its creators -- any of those things might well destroy some civilizations, but not every single one.  Intelligent species would likely be quite diverse, and it's not plausible that none of them figures out a way to avoid annihilation by such threats.

The scenarios in which the filter is behind us, on the other hand, are very plausible.  The origin of life required a self-replicating molecule to spontaneously be formed from ordinary chemicals.  That does seem like a very low-probability event -- perhaps so low-probability that it would happen only once among trillions of planets.  Once life exists, the transitions to eukaryotic cells and then to multi-cellular organisms also seem anything but inevitable.  It's not even obvious that natural selection everywhere would favor the rise of high intelligence -- its survival value before it reaches the human level doesn't seem to be very great.  Highly intelligent non-human animals such as the great apes have not been spectacularly more successful than less-intelligent mammals, to say the least.

A recent re-assessment of the Drake equation bolsters this view.  It has also been argued that most of the universe is much more hostile to life than we usually imagine it to be.   And as I've previously suggested, the first technological civilization to appear will probably be the only one, because its spread will pre-empt the appearance of others.  If we weren't the first (and only), we wouldn't even be here.

24 July 2018

Just met a girl named.....

With the emergence of Maria Butina as the newest of the already-vast throng of characters involved in the Russian buy-out of the Republican party, a controversy has erupted -- how should her first name be spelled?  Both "Maria" and "Mariia" have been appearing on the net, and both have their partisans.

What people forget is that this is the name of a Russian person, and Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, not the Roman alphabet we use -- any attempt to write a Russian word in the Roman alphabet is a transcription or transliteration.  (Writing such a word in the Roman alphabet is called "transcription"  when it's done based on the word's pronunciation in the original language, but "transliteration" when it's done based on the letters or other symbols of the original language's writing system -- its "spelling".)  The only "correct spelling" of the name is its spelling in the Cyrillic alphabet: Мария.  The last letter я is pronounced "ya", so if you write it out letter-by-letter in Roman, you get M-a-r-i-ya.  The letter я is sometimes transliterated "ia", which probably accounts for the spelling "Mariia" cropping up here and there.  I use "Maria" because that's the English form of what's basically the same name, but the only spelling that can be described as "correct", or really as a "spelling" at all, is the original Мария.

This kind of issue crops up with some frequency these days.  The name of al-Qâ'idah (the terrorist organization) is written in various different ways in the Roman alphabet.  In the Arabic alphabet, there is only one spelling, which looks like this:

There's a standardized Roman transliteration system for Arabic which is used in academia; I use it for most Arabic words on this blog, even though not all the symbols used in the system (dots under letters to indicate velarized consonants, for example) can be easily produced while typing in Blogger.  The wide range of Roman-alphabet "spellings" of al-Qâ'idah in the US reflects the difficulty of pronunciation -- the q and the apostrophe in the transliteration represent Arabic consonants that don't exist in any European language.

A few words from non-Roman-alphabet languages are common enough in English that they've acquired standard spellings, such as the Koran, the Islamic holy book (the Arabic name in transliteration is al-Qur'ân), or proper names like Moscow, whose actual Russian pronunciation (mask-VA) would not be recognizable to most Americans.  Even this can create confusion when standards change.  Many Americans think the capital of China "changed its name" from Peking to Beijing at some point, when what actually happened was that the English-speaking world adopted the Pinyin transliteration system (invented in China), which does a far better job of representing the sounds of Mandarin Chinese than the hodgepodge of old ways of writing Chinese words in the Roman alphabet which had existed up to then.  The city has always been called Beijing in Mandarin, and I doubt that many people who live there know or care how Americans write it.

So there's no need to make an issue of "Maria" vs. "Mariia".  They're both makeshifts, adaptations to an alphabet differing from the original one.  We have more important things to worry about.

22 July 2018

Link round-up for 22 July 2018

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

o o o o o

Never forget this.

Troll your local fundies with pentagram shoes.

It's a cat-meleon.

What do the controls on Darth Vader's chest panel do? (found via Calvin)

I'd watch this one.

This classic floppy disk held 2.2 megabytes.

You can terrorize people with bananas.

Have yourself a creepy teatime (found via Mendip).

Don't jump to conclusions based on a photo.

Earth is better than all the Star Wars planets combined.

Crazy person is crazyCrazier person is crazier.

A photo has leaked from the Trump-Putin private meeting.

Jill Dennison collects oddball news items, including a giant avocado and a giant squirrel.  More snippets here.

Things can get lost in translation.  In fact, this is why real translation is done by humans, not machines -- humans understand what they're reading (though as we know, Bible translators did get some details wrong).

"Is America even real at this point?"

Professor Chaos fisks Thomas Friedman.

Jesus has returned and launched a new war against sin in Hobart, Australia.

Eighth-graders can't see a movie that's about them.

The world needs more socialism and less propaganda.

Boycott these assholes.

There are, it seems, substantial differences of opinion within the Catholic Church about homosexuality.

Journalists, do your job.

Racism is racism.

It was never about the anthem.

Only one side is expected to uphold civility (found via Aunt Polly).  Here are some disgusting examples.

What would have happened if this man had not had a gun?

14 years of reports of sexual abuse didn't stop the Catholic Church from promoting this guy to Cardinal.

Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency protected only the environment of Scott Pruitt.

If you believe in horseshit, seek out the advice of those who believe in more complicated horseshit.

We were warned about Trump two hundred years ago -- and two thousand (both found via Calvin).

Here's a discussion on atheism and morality.

Who really wrote the Book of Mormon?

It's fair when we do it, but not when somebody else does.

Apparently the Jehovah's Witnesses have something to hide.

Fox News is no longer wingnutty enough for some of the enemy.

Some Protestants think Catholics aren't Christians because blah blah gobbledygook (found via Arkenaten).  Even if you're a Christian, you should oppose theocracy -- it might be run by a sect which is intolerant of yours.

Here's why personal experience unsupported by evidence isn't convincing in the case of extraordinary claims.  See the comments, too -- some people don't understand that a bald assertion of opinion counts for nothing against an assertion of opinion with supporting evidence.

Children aren't naturally prejudiced -- it's adults that teach it to them.

Give theocrats a win on discrimination, and they'll push for more.

Most actions we're told to take as individuals to fight global warming are worthless -- the problem must be addressed through politics (found via Ranch Chimp).

Secularism correlates with prosperity (link from commenter Nick M).

They threatened a three-year-old with a gun.

DNA testing can bring unwelcome surprises.

Here are some of the year's best astronomy photos (found via Miss Cellania).

Technology allows us to read ancient texts too fragile to open.

Why aren't whales even bigger? (found via Mike the Mad Biologist)

How the world has changed:  HuffPost sounds the alarm over a series of disease outbreaks that have killed a total of 190 people and "could kill thousands".  Until a century ago, epidemics that killed millions were common.

Some Americans don't understand Europe.

The UK has almost completely phased out coal.

Anti-Semitism surfaces in Poland and Germany.

If Estonia can do cybersecurity, so can we.

Japan and the EU, which combined make up one-third of the world economy, have just signed the largest bilateral free-trade deal in history -- another example of how other countries are working around Trump's America (found via Shaw Kenawe).

Kaveh Mousavi defends some unpopular views.

Korean "turtle ships" were the cutting edge of 16th-century war technology.

Summer heat in India is reaching lethal levels (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

A potentially dangerous trend takes hold in west Africa.

"Democrat" Joe Lieberman betrays the party by openly rejecting its nominee.  This is exactly the kind of mentality we need to get rid of.

If your vote didn't matter.....

It's not enough to get the Republicans out of power -- we need to keep them out.

What we already know about Trump and Russia is damning.  Mueller's report will put Republicans to the test.

Democrats probably can't stop Kavanaugh, but they can learn from the fight.

At the Trump-Putin meeting, body language says it all.  Religionists rush to defend Trump's performanceRepublican politicians won't do anything unless the base turns on him. Is it treason?  Green Eagle makes the case.  George Will and James Comey have a late awakening.

Tariffs will hurt red America badly between now and November.

Republicans shouldn't assume that future Russian meddling will help them.

Calvin has a round-up of Trump images.  The last one here is priceless.

For more links, see Perfect Number and Fair and Unbalanced.

[549 days down, 913 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

20 July 2018

The Christian Right and the last bastion

As I anticipated here, Trump's kowtowing to Putin in Helsinki hasn't dented his base's support for him at all (it's blowback from the tariff wars that is starting to undermine that support).  Superficially this seems surprising.  Don't Republicans venerate Reagan largely because of his toughness against the USSR?  Aren't they supposed to be super-patriots, outraged at the thought of foreign meddling in the US or any hint of subservience by a US leader to a foreign one?

Part of the explanation is the standard Trumpanzee insistence on justifying absolutely anything Trump does, rather than face the humiliation and cognitive dissonance of accepting that they made a mistake in voting for him.  But in the case of Russia, there's a more specific issue.

Since long before Trump, the core of the Republican base has been the Christian Right.  Evangelicals are Trump's most loyal supporters.  They're willing to overlook the obviously non-Christian character of his personal life so long as he does all he can to attack gays, abortion, and separation of church and state.  In that sense, they're pragmatists.  They care about winning battles, not about who's delivering the victories.

But they're very aware that, over a longer time frame, they're losing.  They've been losing the culture wars for over fifty years (actually for about four hundred years, but I'm talking about what's most prominent in the minds of people alive today).  With every passing year, the conservative Christian percentage of the US population shrinks, the number of non-religious people grows, gay marriage becomes more widely accepted, Christian sexual taboos are more ignored, non-Christian religions become more a normal part of the American landscape.  They've been reduced to fighting to carve out a few special rights to discriminate within a larger culture they consider essentially hostile.  They're becoming just one of many minorities making up a pluralistic society, which is the same position all other groups have long held -- but the Christian Right doesn't believe in a pluralistic society.  They believe their religion's taboo system should rule over the lives of everybody, Christian or not.

Putin is probably not much of a believer personally any more than Trump is, but he's transforming Russia into a Christian authoritarian state and is enforcing the taboo system -- gays are viciously persecuted, and there have been moves to restrict abortion, despite overwhelming popular acceptance of abortion rights.  To many right-wing US Christians, Putin's Russia is the last bastion of Christian supremacy.  So their support for Trump and for his alliance/subservience to Putin makes a kind of sense.

To the extent that the US and Russia are in conflict, don't expect the American Christian Right to put country before religion -- at least, not reliably.  Ironically, their position is somewhat like that of American communists during the cold war.

UpdateHere's some more on the connections between the US Christian Right and the Russian regime.

17 July 2018

The Trump end-game

Two new factors in our politics are working together to weaken Trump more seriously than ever before in the year-and-a-half history of this misbegotten parody of an administration.  One is undermining him among Republican party leaders, the other among his base -- and together they may give our country its best chance yet to get this absurd and vicious man out of office at last.

The former, of course, is Trump's craven press conference in Helsinki on Monday, which is inspiring horrified condemnation from prominent figures across the political spectrum.  For a collection of such reactions, see here; for responses from Republicans only, see here and here.  Many of the latter are timidly phrased, in keeping with the abject cowardice which has distinguished most Republican leaders when dealing with Trump ever since the 2016 primaries.  But they're there, and the much tougher statements of McCain and Flake -- who can speak more freely because they will never again have to fear the votes of enraged Trumpanzees -- doubtless reflect what others are thinking.

The other factor is Trump's trade war, which is starting to inflict some serious pain on some of those same Trumpanzees.  I gave examples in the last link round-up, from Tennessee and South Dakota, as well as the fact of Trump being branded an "economic traitor" in the pages -- well, pixels -- of Forbes.  This trend will escalate.  The countries Trump has attacked with tariffs, which include Canada, Mexico, China, western Europe, and Japan, are being smart and targeting their retaliatory measures at the red states specifically, because they know that only the Republicans who represent those states can bring Trump to heel.  This trade war is between red America and the rest of the world -- blue America is neutral.  It will be easy for the rest of the world to continue to target the red states, because they are heavily agricultural, and today the world has a glut of food production capacity relative to global population.  The countries to which red America exports food products can easily find other suppliers; it will be much harder for red America to find replacement markets.

This offers a potential lifeline to our endangered red-state Democratic Senators this November; some are already making opposition to the trade wars an issue.  It may even shift a few House races our way in the red states.

As for the Republican leaders, there's been plenty of anecdotal evidence that most of them dislike Trump -- he's insulted and humiliated them plenty, after all -- but stand with him in public for fear of losing the Trumpanzee votes they need to stay in office.  If trade-war losses erode that base support for Trump, just as leaders' alarm at his degraded performance in Helsinki stiffens their spines, then more of them may come around to accepting the need to get rid of him -- enough to make a real difference.  If Mueller's final report shows real evidence of collusion with Russia, and they get walloped with a massive blue wave in November, Trump's position will become even weaker.

If a large cohort of Congressional Republicans turns against Trump, will we see him impeached and removed?  It's possible, but I think a Nixonian scenario is more likely.  Yes, Trump is the kind of guy who would prefer to fight impeachment tooth and nail, doing further damage to the government in the process.  But if a delegation of Senators were to meet with him privately and point out the likely consequences for him if he were removed and prosecuted for whatever Mueller can prove he did both in office and before, and offer a full pardon from Pence if he steps down without a fight, he might take the deal.

A couple of potential wild cards should be mentioned.  First, we should be prepared for the possibility of some kind of incident manufactured either by a cornered Trump or by the Russians right before November, with the aim of shifting the election outcome -- a staged terrorist attack or cyber-attack, for example.  The intent would be to scare voters into rallying around Trump and by extension his party.  I doubt it would work, and for the Russians to do such a thing would be hugely reckless given the consequences if it were traced back to them.  But it may happen.

Second, there's the ultimate nightmare scenario.  If Trump feels threatened enough and angry enough, might he go for the whole enchilada -- suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, try to establish an outright dictatorship?  I can't judge how likely it is that he'd attempt that, but I don't believe he could succeed.  Most Republicans in positions of power would not support such a move -- they've all seen how quickly he turns against allies as soon as they displease him in some way, and not even the most Trump-loyal Republicans would feel truly safe in the long term if Trump held unconstrained power.  Also, it would require at least the passive acquiescence of the military, who are sworn to defend the Constitution -- and if you don't feel you can count on that, remember that much of the rank and file of the military is black or Hispanic.

Finally, some on our own side are actually leery of impeachment because they believe Pence would be worse than Trump.  I hope that the last couple of months have dispelled that notion.  Yes, Pence is a religious extremist and might be worse than Trump in certain areas of domestic policy, but he's also more of a conventional politician and would be unlikely to make gross blunders like starting an economy-wrecking trade war or giving the Kim regime everything it wanted in exchange for essentially nothing.  Even before Helsinki, Trump's subservience to Russian interests led some to conclude that Putin must be manipulating him via some kind of blackmail.  That wouldn't be the case with Pence.  Nor does Pence share Trump's impulsiveness and belligerence which pose the worst threat of all.  And he'd be presiding over a Republican party left bitterly divided by the fall of Trump.

This last year and a half have been nightmarish, and there's certainly further nastiness to come.  But we may soon get the chance to show that American democracy can confront and overcome the biggest challenge it has faced since the Civil War.

[Image at top found here; image at end found via Calvin]

15 July 2018

Link round-up for 15 July 2018

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

o o o o o

Litterbug pwned!

Frolic with the playful pony people (found via Mendip).

Make your own rainbow.

It's one turtle all the way down.

Burn, baby, burn!

Explore the mathematics of the Eucharist.

Next time a proselytizing pest knocks on your door, try this.

Incels entertain bizarre ideas about some women's affection for horses and dogs.

Take inspiration from an achiever.

Excuses for control-freakery persist over time.

Harassers need education.

You have animals on your face (found via Professor Taboo).

The designer of this label must have been indulging in the product.

Imprisoned in its crystal tomb, the ancient evil wyrm dreams of rising again to ravage the world.

Nantes, France has a theme park with stunning cyberpunk-style animals.

The Spartan Atheist is conducting an experiment in tolerance, at a safe distance from home.

I like it better as a skate park.

This kid is smart.

Here are some things you didn't know about animals.

A heroic dog saved six lives.

Don't be fooled by coincidences.

She would have had every right to punch him out.

Here's some background on a classic movie scene.

These idiots can concoct a conspiracy from just about anything.

Why won't millennials spend money?

A right-wing prosecutor squeezes out another huge steaming pile of civility (found via Scottie).

See Strzok pwn Gowdy.

If you are or were a Christian, how did you know you were "saved"?

There must be something on these videos they don't want you to see.

What a weird obsession with virginity.

At Amazon, getting sick is a firing offense.

Just use a normal taxi FFS.

Wingnuts in Oklahoma try to stifle the decision of the people.

How would this person's story have turned out if abortion were illegal?  Republican leadership doesn't reflect the membership's views on RoeSome wingnuts are in denial about public support.  States that ban abortion would face a backlash.

Segregation was more recent than people think (found via Perfect Number).  Remember that Trump and many of his gang are in their seventies -- they grew up when this was normal.

The Senate undermines democracy, and it's going to get worse.

Migrants suffer gross abuses in US custody, including children (found via Scottie).

Micha the anthropologist wonders how to celebrate Independence Day in the time of Trump.

Fascism starts regimentation early (watch for signs of that here).  Be on guard against category-think.

Overturning Roe won't be enough for the enemy.

Tim Berners-Lee has a plan to save the internet by decentralization (link from Marc McKenzie).

🎵🎵Planets in the sky, with diamonds🎵🎵.

Early July saw record heat all over the northern hemisphere.

The British turned out in droves to welcome Trump to their country.  Here's how he's viewed in "the original Washington".  Scotland's head of government had something better to do than meet with him.

Civility be damned, people have every right to protest this scumbag.

German TV has fun with the baby Trump balloon.

Trump's tariff war is already driving closer trade ties between Germany and China (found via Jill Dennison).

Estonia is prepared for a Russian invasion.

El Al's response to religious harassment of female passengers hasn't been what they claimed.

These soccer players found a way to circumvent Russia's ban on the rainbow flag.  Of course, fascists have no sense of humor.

%$#@% theocracy arrests people for dancing.

Twenty years in prison for not wearing a scarf.

Tunis has its first woman mayor, but reactionary religious attitudes persist.

Trump's "deal" with Kim has precedent.

While Trump rants in Belgium, the House and Senate declare near-unanimous support for NATO.

Check your voter registration and keep checking.  Here's a site you can use (note:  see comment by Aurora Silvermane below).

The Republican party attracts world-class bigots and ignoramuses.  It's also becoming more anti-science as Trump drives sane people out.  The MSM should stop being distracted by rallies.

Hard-core Trumpanzees are spite voters.  Read the comments on this post (click "show comments" at the bottom) and imagine trying to have a rational conversation with these people.  See also the comments here.  And this is hypocrisyWhat happened to civility anyway?

Here's a round-up of reactions to Kavanaugh.  The fundies are lukewarm.  His biggest vulnerability is on health care, something Senate Democrats can use against him.  Ed Brayton makes the case that he won't endanger Obergefell.

Trump's tariffs begin to bear fruit domestically (several good comments on this one).  Patience is wearing thin in South Dakota.  Here's another example.  This Forbes piece calls him an economic traitor (found via Juanita Jean).  This import item is being hit hard (found via Hackwhackers).

Shower Cap reviews the week in Trumpworld.  Calvin has a round-up of images.  Green Eagle has a new wingnut wrapup (that Ginsburg cartoon, WTF?).

She warned us.

Vox gives two views on what kinds of Democrats can win in the Midwest.

The liberal backlash is coming (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).  It's appropriate to look down on hypocrites.  Strzok set an example for our candidates.  Choice of words will matter.

For more link round-ups, see Fair and Unbalanced, Mike the Mad Biologist, and Perfect Number (who finds Chinese internet censorship less than effective).

This was an actual float at a carnival in Düsseldorf in February 2018.

14 July 2018

Quote for Bastille Day -- the Reign of Terror

"Why, it was like reading about France and the French, before the ever-memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal-wave of blood -- one:  a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell.  There were two 'Reigns of Terror,' if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the 'horrors' of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with life-long death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak?  What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake?  A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror -- that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves."

Mark Twain

12 July 2018

Islam, Muslims, and discrimination

It's occurred to me that, because I've always strongly opposed Islam, some readers may have been a bit surprised by my hostility toward Trump's discriminatory policies and rhetoric towards Muslims.  Nobody's actually challenged me on this, but still, I think it's worth clarifying.

My stance toward Islam is exactly the same as my stance toward Christianity.  And my view of Muslims is exactly the same as my view of Christians.

Just as Christianity is a kind of mental parasite or infection that inflicts itself on human minds, the role of Islam in the Middle East is the same.  Europe and the Middle East are not separate and rival civilizations, but rather parts of the same civilizational region (rooted in the Classical Greco-Roman-Persian world), which has been artificially divided by the two religions -- "the Bloody Twins" -- into, effectively, two occupation zones.  Muslims suffering persecution in the Christian zone are as worthy of sympathy as Christians suffering persecution in the Islamic zone, and the dominant religions driving the persecutions in both cases are equally despicable.  (Yes, I know Trump isn't particularly Christian and has pushed anti-Muslim measures to pander to his base -- but if it weren't for the bigoted fundie subculture in the US, there would be nothing to pander to.)  And always remember that there are people everywhere whose natural human empathy drives them to resist religious fanaticism.

Americans easily differentiate Christianity from American people and culture because we're in America and easily see the complexity of the interactions and conflicts among those things.  The Middle East, distant and unfamiliar, looks like more of a homogenous mass defined entirely by Islam.  It isn't.

Christianity is evil.  Islam is evil.  Most Muslims are not evil, just as most Christians are not evil -- in both cases, they are really victims of indoctrination.  The goal must be to roll back the indoctrination.  Demonizing entire populations is playing the twin oppressors' game.

10 July 2018

Trumpanzees and fellow-travelers

I think that I shall never see
Aught viler than the Trumpanzee.....

There's an ongoing discussion about whether Trump's voters chose him out of "economic insecurity" or out of xenophobia and a desire to preserve the dominance of white Christians over the rest of the population.  It seems obvious that different motives were uppermost in the minds of different individuals; however, it's even more obvious that it ultimately doesn't matter.

The Republican party has consistently campaigned on, and tried to implement, policies such as taking away women's right to abortion, denying gay people the right to marry and laws protecting them from discrimination, and making the US a "Christian nation" in ways that would de facto make non-Christians second-class citizens in our own country.  To all this, Trump in 2016 added a venomous demonization of Hispanics.  It's just not possible for an even slightly informed person to be unaware of these things.  If somebody simply ignores all that and votes Republican based on economic policy or whatever, they still demonstrate that they are OK with those other policies -- that they're willing to sacrifice the freedom and rights of gay people, atheists, Hispanics, and others as acceptable collateral damage.

We do not owe such people respect, the benefit of the doubt, or an atom of "civility".  We have no obligation to remain passive or genteel in the face of a political movement which is viciously attacking us, as the conservative movement is.  There are good reasons why this conflict is called the culture war, not the culture debate.  As Malcolm X said, "I'm not going to turn the other cheek when some cracker is busting me in the jaw."  There is no moral equivalence between the persecutors and the persecuted.

The only thing to do with such people is to defeat them -- at elections, and by blunting and blocking the destructive policies of this regime by protest, resistance at the state level, or whatever other legal tactics are likely to be effective.  If some less-committed Republicans can be won over to our side, so much the better -- but we have to recognize that with most of them it will be impossible.  People who can defend the border family separation policy on top of everything else Trump stands for are lost to any appeal to human decency.  We're going to have to do this by stimulating the highest possible voter turnout on our own side.

Which brings me to what most will probably consider the big news of the week -- Trump's pick for the Supreme Court.  I have little to add to what I said about this a couple of weeks ago -- we always knew what kind of nominee Trump would choose, and knowing the individual's name makes little difference.  Again, the results will likely be far less apocalyptic and far less lasting than the doomsayers assume.  I'd like to see Kavanaugh rejected by the Senate and the seat held vacant until 2021 so a Democrat can fill it (after McConnell's treatment of Garland, this would be fully justified), or at least until after this year's election so that a hopefully Democratic Senate majority can force Trump to nominate a more centrist candidate; but the odds of this being possible seem remote.  It would require Collins and/or Murkowski to defect and all the red-state Democrats who are up for re-election to stand fast.  It's worth a try, but we mustn't let the near-certain failure of such an effort plunge us into another tiresome round of recriminations, "we're fucked", and cynicism right before the election.

And that brings me to the real threat this nomination poses.  On some sites I'm already seeing a good deal of pre-emptive venom aimed at the red-state Democratic Senators who might vote to confirm, suggesting that the party should abandon them -- or even that progressives should abandon the party -- if they do.  In other words, Democrats who vote the wrong way some of the time should be replaced by Republicans who will vote the wrong way all of the time.  If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the proper response is to saddle the country with a continuing or even enlarged Republican Senate majority.

This is madness.  If those who still support Trump are lost to any appeal to human decency, then progressives like this are lost to any appeal to sanity.  They are de facto fellow travelers -- the practical effect of their stance and actions, which is all that matters, is the same as the practical effect of being a Republican.  They represent an additional hurdle, hopefully a small one, which our turnout efforts will have to overcome.  That's the real danger which the Kavanaugh nomination presents -- the danger of another eruption of purist rejectionism and attacks on our own side at the worst possible time.  We're already facing an utterly disgraceful lack of support by the party establishment for some progressive primary winners.  Progressive rejection of more centrist Democratic candidates is not a response to that problem but a compounding of it.  Our turnout-boosting efforts will need to overcome both obstacles.

Fortunately, the results of special elections over the past year suggests that most ordinary voters are tuning out the negativity and focusing on the task at hand -- getting as many Republicans as possible out of office.  Some our bloggers, commentators, and party leaders could learn a thing or two from them.

08 July 2018

Link round-up for 8 July 2018

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

o o o o o

Australians write e-mails to trees.

Do you know how to behave in an elevator?

This is confusing.

You show 'em, little fella!

There were giants in the Earth in those days.

See tweets from the "second civil war" at Hackwhackers and Mock Paper Scissors.

Churches resort to rock-concert-style gimmickry to draw crowds.

I'm guessing this guy won't get hired for many more funerals.

Dr. Theda does Independence Day his way.

Here's a spectacular time-lapse sky video.

There are some good people out there.  And here are some very good people (found via Frances Langum).

Sixth-graders see through an effort to manipulate them.

Three little facts tell you all you need to know about Amazon.

Trumpanzees rage at a subversive document (found via Hackwhackers).

Join a herd, and feel superior without having to accomplish anything.

It's amazing what incels worry about.

Fundies push public piety on us all.

There's plenty of other content out there to read.

A Christian writer frets that we've noticed there's no good reason for religious taboos.

Respect the pig.

I think this is a call for theocracy, but with all the gobbledygook it's hard to be sure.

Here are some sources of toxic masculinity.

Sometimes, acknowledging who you are is just too dangerous.

If you have a Tumblr blog, read this.

Baptists appear to be targeting detained migrant kids for proselytization.

HuffPost gets a whole lot of right-wing civility.

A former pastor explains why the King James Bible can't be inerrant.

In certain ways, American independence was a mistake.

See what really goes on in those phony "crisis pregnancy centers".

Holy $#!^, is Windows 10 really this bad?

Donald Trump Jr. is having trouble finding a publisher.

If we make people eat their crackers properly, maybe more people will want one.

Evangelical Christianity is full of hypocrisy.

President Carter made the best use of his pardon power.

There is no "war on coal".

Some patriotic movies don't age well (found via Miss Cellania).

Here is one source of the flaming-batshit conspiratardia circulating on some wingnut blogs.  Yes, there are people who believe this stuff.

Christians who oppose Trump are blinded by "demonic deception" (but he also says it's God who is sending the deception???).

You retweet it, you own it.

This foreigner was deemed undesirable and deported.

Check out a few items of religious news (found via Arkenaten).

Hobby Lobby's Independence Day ad merits a little research.

67% of Americans don't want Roe to be reversed (scroll down a bit).  Brett Kavanaugh isn't wingnutty enough for the enemy's tastes.

Sometimes activism is being manipulated (found via Miss Cellania).  I think this essay overstates its case, but it does make some interesting points.

On healthcare, we spend too much and get too little -- but there's a solution.  Here's how our system looks to foreigners.

Workers in the US get a crappy deal compared to other developed countries.

Parrots have brain structures similar to those which enable high intelligence in primates.

The axolotl genome is slowly giving us the secrets of severed-limb regeneration.

Beware the electric flying spiders.

Limitations of artificial intelligence are emerging in facial recognition and self-driving cars.

Trump is escalating his belligerence toward Canada.

The enemy doesn't like Mexico's new President very much.

Here's what actually happens where abortion is banned.

Turkey's increasingly-religious government uses force to suppress Istanbul's once-thriving gay pride parade.

Hong Kong takes a small step toward recognizing gay relationships.

Mother Teresa's "charity" is accused of child trafficking.

The Chinese regime goes all out to censor the internet.  You can bet the fundies, Trumplings, porn haters, campus "speech code" supporters, and other crypto-fascist trash in the West are watching carefully and drawing inspiration.  In Pakistan, WordPress does the control-freaks' work for them.

A church had a message for Manila's gay pride parade.

It's the language of the world's fourth-most-populous country, but hardly anyone speaks it.

On immigration, Trump doesn't practice what he preaches.

No, the Democratic radical left is not like the Tea Party.  But we need different kinds of Democrats to win in different parts of the country.  TPM assesses the debate.  Don't repeat the mistakes of the past (found via Scottie).  Immigration is the top issue with voters, and also the most divisive.

Will the Trumpanzees rebel when trade wars destroy their jobs?  If the business world suffers, it's reaping what it sowed.

No matter how much civility we show, the enemy will always find things to be outraged about -- we must not be tricked into normalizing atrocities (both found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Here's a full list of all the Trumplings who've quit or been fired so far (found via Shaw Kenawe, who commemorates the departure of Scott Pruitt).  The new EPA head makes a small concession to reality.

Jennifer Lewis is taking a big gamble, and the outcome will tell us a lot.

Trump babbles incoherently in Montana.

There's an exodus of prominent Republicans from the party.

Shower Cap blog reviews the latest week of Trumpian madness.

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

[535 days down, 927 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]