31 March 2019

Link round-up for 31 March 2019

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

o o o o o

Any noun can be verbed.

It will probably elope with the roomba.

There are many visions of The Last Supper.

Debra She Who Seeks has stylish tinfoil hats and a contest (for blog followers).

Baptist services may be more interesting than we think.

Architects shouldn't drink on the job.

German TV personality pwns aggressive fans.

The Mueller report came as a shock to one foreign leader (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

A man in California is waging a mannequin war.

Good doggie, please don't get sick.

It's rush hour in Minnesota.

Morons set sail for Antarctica, plus a surprise from Fox News.

Mike at Billions posts a round-up of Trump images.

Here's what The Avengers (the recent superhero-movie ones) are called in China.

The moray is the Alien of fish.

Buenos Aires boasts this magnificent bookstore.

Sixpence Notthewiser reviews Call Me by Your Name (slightly NSFW).

One Victorian-era paper celebrated tough women.

This is twilight.

You don't need to win assholes' approval or play by their rules.

Beware of religious propaganda in disguise.

Three cheers for the FTC in this case.

A contemporary song suggests how the suffragists were viewed by the culture of the time.

Texas Republicans fight to empower bigotry.

They are what they are, regardless of the "reasons" (found via Scottie).

Always fight against censorship -- and remember that avoiding content you don't like isn't censorship.

This is the government now.

Customer-service surveys often just fuel corporate shittiness toward employees.

32 Colorado counties have declared themselves "sanctuaries" against a flagrantly-unconstitutional seizure law (found via Scottie).

And speaking of flagrantly unconstitutional.....

Get rid of your lawn.

Cute guys get harassed too.

Despite propaganda, more Americans than ever before understand the reality of global warming.

This film on Islam sounds pretty honest.

Capitalism didn't build that.

Here's a protest informed by experience.

This is how a real patriot talks.

Robert Reich explains how giant tech companies stifle innovation in the US.  Our monopoly economy is bringing the same kind of stagnation and centralized power as the Soviet system did.

This Wyoming school's responses to bigotry are scandalous (found via Scottie).

The Reefer Madness hysteria over opioids continues to have disastrous results.

This man spent 36 years in prison for a crime it's now known he didn't commit.  These two spent even longerWe must never erode or compromise the presumption of innocence and other defendant protections, no matter how tempting it seems in some cases.

This British scientist is trying to develop a safe substitute for alcohol.

A new treasure trove of Cambrian fossils has been discovered in China.

I tend to be skeptical of national happiness rankings, but these seem plausible.

A French writer living in the UK schools the Brexit-bashers on democracy and decency -- and shares a few pics from a march in London.

Imagine what we could achieve with this kind of solidarity.

A youthful nation tires of its aging autocrat.

An activist against honor killings becomes a victim.

Brunei plans to become barbaric.  Saudi Arabia already is.

No one really knows what's in the Mueller report yet, so we need to reserve judgment about its significance.

Quit futzing around and deal with the Republicans as they truly are.

Trump's promises were always bullshit.

Shower Cap looks at the Barr summary -- and Michael Bolton.

[801 days down, 661 to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

29 March 2019

Self-assertion (2)

Explanation here.

Russian for "There's no God!"

27 March 2019

The Danish burger flipper

A while ago I linked to the graphic above in one of the link round-ups.  From time to time it appears in posts on Tumblr, often with some commentary of which this is fairly typical, attributing the difference to stronger unions and better government regulations in Scandinavia.

Since then I have wondered whether it's really true, though.  There's a lot of misinformation on Tumblr (as on the internet generally), and anyone can throw together a striking graphic.  As I discussed briefly here (item 2), the US economy since the Reagan administration has changed drastically from how it was before, with 30 years of wage stagnation and people in jobs which would formerly have supported a solid standard of living now struggling to get by.  But could the relative position of American workers really be as bad as the graphic suggests?

This week I finally looked it up.  It is true.  According to Business Insider, fast-food workers in Denmark do make a minimum of $20 per hour, more than twice what Americans in the same job do.  The article points out that the cost of living in Denmark is 30% higher, but the effective difference is still enormous.

Is Denmark an outlier for some reason?  I was able to find a few other comparisons.  In New Zealand the minimum wage is equivalent to US$12.35, so fast-food workers make at least that much -- a lot less than in Denmark but a lot more than here.  The same is true of France (minimum wage about US$12.00) and Australia (US$14.50).  So Denmark is at one extreme of the scale, yes -- but the US is at the opposite extreme.  The push for a $15 minimum wage isn't radical at all.  Australia is already pretty close to that.

These higher wages don't make burgers unaffordable, by the way.  According to Business Insider, a Bic Mac in Denmark costs only 80¢ more than in the US.

It's not just fast-food workers, either.  For a semi-skilled (accounting) office job, I make somewhat less than that Danish burger flipper.  That's partly due to it being a temp job, but even a permanent job of that type would typically pay around $20 per hour, sometimes less (though medical insurance is included, a burden employers in other advanced countries don't need to bear).  If my current job goes permanent, and I finally make as much as the Danish burger flipper, I'll feel like I'm doing pretty well.

Then of course there are the differences we already know about, such as government-mandated minimum vacation and government-guaranteed health coverage, so workers in those countries aren't struggling to pay health premiums of hundreds of dollars a month out of those wages (though presumably their taxes are somewhat higher than ours).

Overall, I've long had the impression that ordinary non-rich Americans work harder and longer than their counterparts in other advanced countries, and get a lot less for it.  Well, all that wealth the upper 1% have accumulated during those 30 years of wage stagnation obviously had to come from somewhere.  One wonders how many Republican-voting wage-earners realize this.  More Americans seem to be becoming dimly aware that people in other advanced countries pay a lot less for health care (even when the tax burden is included), don't need to worry about being denied access to it for lack of insurance, and get overall better outcomes in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, and suchlike.  But by and large the nation's mentality seems to be stuck in the 1970s, convinced that the US system and way of life are still the envy of the world.  Many people actually take offense at any suggestion that some other country might be doing something better than we are or that we could learn from them.  This, in itself, is an alarming sign of a society in decline.

24 March 2019

Link round-up for 24 March 2019

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

o o o o o

All around me are familiar faces, worn-out places.....

Be your best at even the humblest activities (found via Calvin).

Cats, cats everywhere!

Keep these words distinct.

"You make mistakes when you're hungry."

Behold the mighty hunter.

Every boy wants a Big Dick (found via Calvin).

Real books, e-books, or audiobooks?  Old-school is still popular, apparently.

Children have a right to avoid regimentation.

Millennials inherit the economy (found via Scottie).

This looks like someone hired Giger to design Star Trek (found via Calvin).

Use common sense when reading scare stories.

Calvin comments on some headlines.

You're not gonna believe who keeps a pet frog.

Trees are awesome.  And this one never gave up.

Ghost whales in the sky.....

Religion wants to be tolerated, respected, and accepted (found via Jerry Coyne).

Stop telling us what not to say.

Tumblr management still doesn't understand the platform's thoroughly predictable implosion.

To keep your mind sharp, go nuts.

Internet streaming is at risk of becoming bullshitized.

Ignorant migrants from some shithole country bring disgusting disease.

Know your rights about discussing pay.

Chick-fil-A should still be avoided.

Calvin has another round-up of Trump images.

Jerry Coyne gets e-mails.

This was mankind's first impact on another world.

Purpleanais has a story of a horrifying choice to make.

Was Jesus a manly man?

Don't believe everything you read about "frivolous" lawsuits.

Hannity gets schooled for a dumb remark (found via Scottie).

West Virginia goes after a child-molesting cult.

This is how capitalism actually works.

Here's what's down in the basement under Chernobyl.

Stop the bigotry.

The US formerly led the world in aviation safety, but.....

No, they have not found the identity of Jack the Ripper.

Maryland takes a step toward freeing our life choices from the domination of religious taboo.  Also, a look at modern college life.

Government or social media -- which is the bigger threat to privacy?

This issue will not go away.

Is mandatory vaccination a violation of freedom?

Insecure bullies have found an ideology.

It's not only kids who are in danger from these guys.

Oversized, pretentious houses aren't selling.

Some anti-vaxers sink to Alex-Jones-level assholery.

"Trump has been a fantastic President for the faith community."

"Woke"/SJW dogma bears disturbing parallels to that of Evangelicals (found via Questionable Motives).

Supposedly this is the way to disable spyware which is being downloaded onto Windows 7 and 8 computers.  I'm no computer expert and haven't tried it myself yet, so be cautious.

Self-driving cars are the gateway to a shitty future full of ads and terrorism. But Europe is fighting back (part of this is behind a paywall, but you'll get the idea).

A new discovery vindicates a long-disputed passage from Herodotus.

Here's how the world changed in 2018 (found via Nova Saber).

Teaching monkeys to use "money" reveals similarities between primate species.

Moline Skeptics takes on Michael Behe.

Roger Daltrey gets it.

Religion strikes again!

Nikki Haley asked about health care in Finland -- and got answers.

This brutal crackdown on Palestinian demonstrators will be ignored by those who usually use such events to bash Israel.

There can be no excuse for this.

Twitterites react to Trump's latest McCain-bashing.  Shower Cap has his say too, and keeps up with the rest of the crazy.

Watch out for efforts to divide us.

I doubt this guy will ever be President, but I hope he influences the discussion.

This comment by 9thousandfeet highlights an error Democrats must avoid, however unhappy some may feel about it.

The truth about Trump isn't complicated.

If the Democratic leadership won't do anything about Ilhan Omar, maybe her constituents can.

We need a landslide -- how can we get one?

Booman makes the case for electability.

Obama already tried this.

I haven't said anything about the Mueller report because we don't know anything yet -- but even if it's a dud, Trump's legal problems aren't over.

22 March 2019


20 March 2019

Wingnuts, rage, and guns

The Trumpanzees are angry people.  Depending on the individual, they're angry about blacks and women who no longer "know their place"; at education and expertise, which they themselves do not have; at social changes like secularism and the growing acceptance of gay equality; at any manifestation of foreign culture or language or ideas, which remind them that the world out there is much bigger and more complicated than they can mentally process; at technological change which renders old ways of making a living irrelevant while the internet turns younger people away from old prejudices and certainties.  Despite the power held by Trump and other Republicans in their name, they feel put-upon and disrespected.  And because so many of them have guns, their anger often stirs fear.

Indeed, fantasies of some future explosion of violence in which they will emerge triumphant are very common on wingnut blogs and discussion sites.  From decades-old dreams of a "day of the rope" when enemies (such as Jews, government officials, and "race-mixers") would be hanged en masse, to present-day rumblings of a second civil war which their overwhelming superiority in guns would turn into an easy slaughter of "libtards" and other broad categories of people they loathe, they picture themselves as the massively stronger side of America's national divide, awaiting only one more provocation to burst their restraints and annihilate us in a hailstorm of cleansing ammo.  Such fantasies are actively encouraged by the worst of the Republican leadership, including you-know-who.

Don't be fooled.  And don't be scared.

First off, what is this second civil war supposed to look like exactly?  Are they going to send gangs of armed Deliverance mutants into major cities all over the country to attack all the vegan restaurants, gay bars, libraries, colleges, and the like?  Do they have any idea how big some cities are or how many such gangs it would take to make a real dent in the number of liberals in the country?  The actual Civil War involved entire states seceding, whose governments formed a ready-made organizational structure.  The last time these doofuses tried an "insurrection", they managed to seize a bird sanctuary visitor kiosk in the boondocks of Oregon for a few weeks, forgot to pack their socks, and ended up going on the internet to ask people to send them Cheetos.  And they're going to organize a paramilitary uprising involving millions of guerillas across a continent-spanning nation?  Without getting caught long before it was actually launched?  In fact, there's no sign of any such organizational feat even being contemplated.  All they have is quasi-masturbatory fantasies about the bloody aftermath.

And whenever somebody actually does something that looks like even a microcosm (very micro) of the nationwide paroxysm of violence they claim to want -- as the Christchurch terrorist did last week -- and the vast majority of people everywhere respond with revulsion, even most Trumpanzees find themselves chivvied along.  Whatever they may be feeling deep down, they viscerally recognize that they can't afford to be associated with such acts.  Right now the same parts of the right-wing internet that normally seethe with second-civil-war fantasies are alive with claims that the mass murder in New Zealand must have been some sort of "false flag" operation designed to make the alt-right look bad; no less of a wingnut luminary than Rush Limbaugh has endorsed the idea.  People who claim to be ready and eager to slaughter millions recoil from the slaughter of dozens.  When it's real instead of fantasy, the wave of disgust they know would greet anyone who expressed enthusiasm for such acts is more than they can face.

Yes, mass shootings are terrible for the victims and their families.  But they do nothing to advance the alt-right cause in society at large.  Just the opposite.

In the real world, so far from being "powerful", wingnuts who stick their necks out too far (as at Charlottesville), and even people who happen to get videotaped indulging in a racist rant in public, are being fired, ostracized, deplatformed, becoming unemployable pariahs, and sometimes sued and arrested.  Even some state governments which had passed or were considering anti-gay laws have been forced to back down by commercial pressure.  All those hundreds of millions of guns are utterly impotent to stop any of this.  Cultural change, which I argued here is what's really upsetting the knuckle-draggers the most, simply continues inexorably along its path in utter disregard even of their electoral victories, never mind their guns.  And there's not a damn thing they can do about any of it.  They're losing the war because they've chosen weapons which are irrelevant to the kind of war this is.  They are incapable of understanding how real power works, or who controls it, or how it is being used to change the world.

18 March 2019

Meditation #6 -- what should have been

More distant than the farthest stars
The stillborn world that should have been
The world in which I should have lived
That never was, so never seen.

Trapped in this dreary changeling-land
I dream the world I would have known
If mankind's rise had gone unchecked
If Alexandria's seed had grown.

Where Rome and Athens never fell
Where cross and crescent never rose
Where now those farthest stars are ours
Where truth and beauty man still knows.

But my true home I cannot reach
For things that never were lie far
Across the sea of yearning dreams
From grey and dismal things that are.

17 March 2019

Link round-up for 17 March 2019

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

o o o o o

How long are those unskippable ads getting these days?

It's time for Jesus!  And the opposition too.

Procrastinating Donkey presents one asshole and eleven funny animals.

Here's how a single washing can keep a mirror clean permanently.

Respected leader.....


Blogger Scottie really likes his new desk -- but so do these guys.  Hey, at least they catch mice.

The latest target of wingnut wrath is Girl Scout cookies.

Demons, demons everywhere!

Bad art indeed, unless this is in the White House.  And here's some absolutely godawful art that the current White House might even want.

You could always try praying.

Tumblr is still pulling this bullshit.  And the results are predictable.

The Catholic Church needs new thinking to deal with its priest shortage.

Here's the perfect bookmark for your Trump-signed Bible.

What does "the Ides of March" actually mean, anyway?

Maybe we can get rid of Daylight Savings Time at the state level.

Here's a job-quitting story to savor.

Fast-food restaurants go back a long way.

Don't let them steal our fun stuff.

Here's Trump's budget in one cartoon (found via Scottie).  Stephen Colbert goes into a bit more detail.

Blogger Shelldigger takes an in-depth look at internet trolls.

Maybe that person really does need a wheelchair.

Christianity these days is all about excluding and shunning people (some time ago, I posted about this point here).

This is what the anti-vaxxers' world looks like.

Know what freedom of religion means.

Professor Chaos is finding a lot of bullshit on Twitter.

The wingnut world-view is an Orwellian nightmare.

Maybe teenagers aren't future-oriented enough to vote.

You can't threaten me with something that doesn't exist.

This is not racism (found via Scottie).

He's never thought about the reasons (what an asshole).

Publishers need to learn to ignore mobs of idiots on Twitter.

Here's the kind of thing Planned Parenthood really does.

Someone else's taboos should not dictate the terms of your existence.

Kushner isn't remotely in the same league with this man.

The Catholic Church is morally blind and depraved.

There's no end to the wingnuts' lies and distortions.

Only religion could make a parent do this.

Steven Pinker is widely demonized by people who are wrong about things (I think it's because he brings so much data to prove they're wrong).

I'm for anything that could help abate the plague of noise that has made silence a rare treasure almost everywhere.

Here's one way we know that the megalodon shark is extinct.

See the three political-economic systems.

For Pi Day, Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses Einstein.

One country is an exception to the general economic sluggishness in Europe.

The issue of Catalonian independence isn't dead.

Russians find that stealing territory and becoming a pariah isn't the key to "national greatness" after all.

You may be surprised to learn which country has the world's highest proportion of female airline pilots.

After the murder of 49 Muslims in the recent terrorist attack in New Zealand, this jackass Australian Senator was rightly condemned by almost everyone for saying that the Muslims themselves are the problem.  Yet at a time when anti-Jewish violence is rising all over the world (religious fanatics are even firing missiles at Tel Aviv again), people who should know better are defending a jackass American legislator who spouts hoary old dog-whistles about insidious Jewish influence on our politics.

Katie Schwartz posts some forceful views on the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, prompting considerable discussion.

Don't let the Republicans separate themselves from Trump. They've been creeps and thugs for decades.

Both-siderism just gets dumber and dumber.

Must-read political post of the week:  Trump is the champion of those who are tired of needing dog-whistles.

Shower Cap looks terrorism and the usual morass of wingnut lunacy.

16 March 2019

On being conflict-averse

I don't write posts like this very often, and I suspect I may regret writing this one.  But like everybody, I feel a need to vent sometimes.  I would stress that the kind of issues I'm talking about here rarely arise; the great majority of my interactions with people in the blogosphere are quite pleasant.  But just occasionally.....

Unlike (apparently) many people on the net, I am extremely conflict-averse.  One reason for this, though not the only one, is that frankly I don't handle conflict well.  While there have been times when I stopped blogging for short periods due to physical pain or other stresses reaching levels I couldn't cope with, the fact is that I'm always in some degree of pain -- as I've mentioned a few times, I have serious arthritis -- and this tends to make me short-tempered.  I can control that, of course, but it takes effort, and I need to focus such effort on other situations such as my job.  There's also another issue I've never mentioned here, ongoing for over eight years now, which causes me severe emotional stress.  (And I would emphasize that even if all this were not the case, I would still have every right to avoid conflict and arguing as much as possible.  I simply don't like it.)  At any rate, generally I do avoid it -- if I feel like I'm being attacked or drawn into an argument, I disengage from it as quickly as possible, and I try to avoid interaction with people who seem conflict-prone.  This isn't difficult if it happens on another website, since I can just stop reading it if necessary.  The problems arise when it happens here.

I do give potential commenters looking for a fight every opportunity to be aware of this.  There's a link to the comment policy right above the comment form, and it does include a note against "pursuing interminable back-and-forth arguments. This is a blog, not a debating forum. There are plenty of sites out there which are debating forums, if that's what you're looking for."  So no one should be surprised at my attitude toward such squabbles.  It's right there.

(Tumblr blogging culture is a lot blunter.  I sometimes see disclaimers at the top of a blog like "If you're a homophobe, sexist, racist, TERF, ableist, weightist, MRA [list continues for a dozen more epithets], then fuck off and don't interact."  I'm not comfortable being quite that aggressive up front.  Maybe it's the age difference.)

On the few occasions I've let myself get drawn into arguments, they have almost always turned out to be worthless.  The kind of person who does this generally does not read carefully and does not respond to the specific points I make, preferring to recite canned talking points in favor of their position and respond to the standard talking points in favor of mine rather than responding to the points I actually made.  My replies thus end up simply repeating what I already said in hopes that the pest will actually read or notice it this time.  That kind of thing is a waste of time and energy, and I can't imagine it's of much interest to anyone else who might read it.

The same goes for engaging with people who post off-topic comments.  My favorite example is this post, consisting of a set of videos of prominent atheists discussing religion.  The first comment attacked Sam Harris (who was in one of the videos), on the grounds of his supposedly not believing in free will, something which didn't come up in any of the videos and was irrelevant to the topic.  From then on, later comments harped on the same point (there aren't many there now -- I think I may have deleted some of them after originally letting them post.)  Eventually, realizing that post wasn't going to get any on-topic comments, I just closed comments on it.  Then one of the people who had been arguing about the free-will thing, missing that fairly-blunt signal, tried to continue the argument on the subsequent post I wrote explaining why the off-topic determinism issue was irrelevant.  You could not make this stuff up.

In a recent comment berating me on another blog, one person attacked my "particular way of handling conversations that [I do] not wish to have", as if the mere fact of writing a blog that sometimes gets onto controversial issues somehow obligates me to have any "conversation" (or endless back-and-forth squabble) that anyone on the planet with internet access "wishes" to come here and impose on me, for however long they feel like imposing it.  Sorry, that's not how it works.  Do whatever you want on your own blog, but on mine, well, if someone came to your house and insisted on arguing with you about something you'd made it clear you didn't want to argue with him about, you'd tell him to leave.  It's the same principle.

I honestly don't see why people harp on such things, though.  In my own 13 years in the blogosphere, of course I've had times when other bloggers reacted badly to comments I left or whatever.  As best I can remember, I haven't reacted by arguing or attacking them.  If I genuinely feel I've been treated unfairly, I just drop that blog from my regular reading and go elsewhere.  The internet is a big -- very big -- place.  And on those rare occasions where there's a real issue of debate involved and I have a serious point I need to make, I handle it like this -- not naming names, making it about the issue and not about personalities.

I've seen what happens when bloggers submit to pestering and engage with it.  Threads with dozens of comments, all repetitious bickering that never goes anywhere and never resolves anything, and always puts me in mind of that saying that you should never mud-wrestle a pig because you just get all muddy and the pig likes it.  Perhaps those bloggers have infinite energy and time and infinite capacity to absorb pointless aggravation.  I don't.

I put off publishing this post for several days, because I couldn't decide whether or not to close comments on it.  The reasons for not allowing comments are, I'll assume, obvious; but I was also curious what other kinds of reactions I'd get -- perhaps other bloggers have had similar experiences and problems?  In the end, though, I decided to close them after all.  I'm not really interested in having discussions about this with anyone -- it's more in the nature of clarifying, for anyone who wants to know, an aspect of who I am.  I suppose one or two people may write posts on their own blogs bashing me about it, which is fine, and I may even get a nasty e-mail or two (don't expect replies).  But I just had some stuff I needed to say after all these years.

13 March 2019

Cat, gatto, Katze, chat, ねこ, kissa.....

By whatever name, they're the lifeblood of the internet, so.....

This person tried to arrange all his kittens in a straight line for a group photo.  It didn't work out very well.

Blogging cat (pic #2) found via Mock Paper Scissors.  As for the rest, I honestly don't remember.  Previous catty post here.

11 March 2019

Cyrus the Great and Donald Trump

Since the Middle East was my area of specialization in academia, I'm sometimes frustrated at the mistaken or oversimplified ideas about the region which are common among Americans.  From time to time I've tried to provide some background information to readers of this blog, as with this post on the Syrian conflict -- or to give a sense of the achievements and character of a civilization I believe Americans tend to underestimate, as with this post and this one, even if only visually.

But nothing could have prepared me for the latest and most bizarre Middle-East-related idea to emerge from the sputtering synapses of the wingnut mind -- declaring Donald Trump a modern version of the ancient Persian ruler Cyrus the Great!

The reason for this is clear enough.  Evangelicals, stung by accusations of hypocrisy for their fervent support of a President whose personal life and morals are the polar opposite of what Christianity is supposed to stand for, reached for a Biblical analogy -- another case in which God used a ruler not of the True Faith for Godly purposes.  Cyrus is briefly mentioned in the Old Testament because, after he conquered the Babylonian Empire, he released the Hebrews from their captivity there and helped them re-establish themselves in Israel.  If God could use the non-Jewish Cyrus for this good end, he could use the not-very-Christian Trump in the same way, to deliver America from its current pagan nightmare of freedom and pluralism and refashion it into the Handmaid's Tale theocracy that good Evangelicals know it should be.

But to anyone who knows history, the analogy is ludicrous.

Cyrus the Great is one of the most fascinating figures in the long and complex history of the Middle East.  (If you're not familiar with him, see my introductory post.)  The founder of the first Persian Empire in the sixth century BC, he was in some ways a man ahead of his time.  In contrast to the earlier Assyrians and Babylonians who used brutality to terrorize their subject peoples into submission, Cyrus usually (though not always) treated conquered nations humanely and with respect for their traditional cultures and forms of government, hoping that this would reconcile them to Persian rule.  His empire was the first example of the type of giant multicultural universal state we associate with the later Romans.  His benevolent treatment of the Hebrews was just one example of this policy.  Also, Egypt was not incorporated into the Persian Empire in Cyrus's lifetime, so Israel was the Persian province bordering a powerful and potentially hostile foreign state.  It made good political sense to have a grateful pro-Persian population living there.

The contrast with Trump, who won and holds power by whipping up fear and hatred of cultural and ethnic groups different from the dominant American one, is rather stark.

The religion of the Persian culture into which Cyrus was born was a kind of proto-Zoroastrianism in which drauga (lying) was the epitome of wickedness.  Trump, of course, is not noted for his aversion to lying.

Cyrus founded an empire which covered most of the Middle East and lasted 230 years; like the later Roman Empire, it maintained relative peace and facilitated economic and cultural interchange among dozens of peoples who had previously been isolated in small squabbling kingdoms and tribes.  This allowed, for example, the spread of Babylonian science and mathematics to Greece, which helped stimulate the later explosion of Classical Greek science and philosophy.  Trump is leading the US toward de facto isolation and fomenting conflict with other democratic nations which have been our allies for decades.  He represents a political party which is trying to strangle and suppress science.

Today, twenty-six centuries later, Cyrus the Great is still revered by millions in Iran for his character and achievements.  It seems unlikely that Trump will command much respect 26 years from now, never mind 26 centuries.

Bill Maher has made an amusing video on the subject:

Mr. Trump, you're no Cyrus the Great.

10 March 2019

Link round-up for 10 March 2019

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

o o o o o

The sign still makes sense.

If one is flat, why not the rest?

Do not use these pictures.

Fear Canada.

The library is alluring.

I know the feeling.

Remember to put it forward.

I think the cats had a hand in designing this house.

What's the difference between possums and opossums?

Learn how to prepare this shipping box for use (note: the company name "Kuroneko" translates as "black cat").

Life imitates art.

I guess the managers did care.

Debra She Who Seeks observes International Women's Day with images and quotes.

Important reminder here.

Raccoons are annoying.

Check out these beautiful photos of Lake Superior iced over (click to enlarge).

Here are some little innovations from around the world.

I Should Be Laughing blog has some (mostly political) quotes -- Ivanka's is a doozy.

If you missed it when I linked earlier this week, check out Tell Me a Story's post on why bloggers blog.

Calvin calls bullshit on a "miracle".

Bruce Gerencser answers some questions.

What happened to the survivors of Pompeii and Herculaneum?

This week I ran across a claim that there must have been trade between Egypt and South America thousands of years ago because some ancient Egyptian mummies contain traces of nicotine and cocaine, and was intrigued enough to dig a little further.  On the whole the evidence for the claim is not convincing.

Priorities, priorities.

Don't trust Apple News for news about Apple.  And don't trust Amazon for sex toys.

What do you do when an artist whose work you admire turns out to be a bad person?

Religion again stands as the main opponent of freedom and equality, this time in Utah.

President pussygrabber autographs Bibles for his followers.  He's also incredibly petty.

Moline Skeptics looks at the latest hoax "moral panic".

Manafort's absurdly-short sentence has a noteworthy precedent.

Babbling-idiot God smites and saves.

US cities run on hopelessly-antiquated computer technology.

These Republican politicians are absolutely disgusting.

The mark of a true idiot is refusal to learn from experience.

The future according to Facebook will be intrusive, commercialized, and generally crappy.  Warren is right.

Lucky Otter wonders why some people pick fights in the comment threads of blogs they don't even like (I'm baffled by this too).

Amazon workers in New York want to unionize.  This will be a hell of a battle.

The Trump EPA quashes NASA's efforts to monitor toxic pollution in Texas.

The Republican campaign against abortion is a bottomless cesspit of hypocrisy.

Scientifically-illiterate wingnuts think modern protection against epidemics is "communist".

Trumpism is effectively a religious cult (found via a comment by Maryplumbago at The Spartan Atheist).

Here's more on the success (so far) of the Hayabusa 2 mission.

Progress is being made against AIDS -- but not here.

Trump has a new idea which will massively reduce US global military power.

Canada is spending money to export dangerous bullshit to Honduras.

Germany stands up to Facebook.

Putin's web of fascism tightens around Russian society (despite the headline, the resistance efforts cited don't sound likely to be effective).

Google is no friend of women's freedom.

Jamal Khashoggi's body was probably incinerated in a special barbecue at the Saudi consul's residence in Istanbul.

Trump once again threatens our relationship with the world's biggest democracy, while trying to sell nuclear technology to the Middle East's nastiest regime.  He trusts any gangster-regime boss who flatters him.

Must-read political link of the week:  Democrats can afford to abandon the "political center", because it doesn't actually exist.  See also this post on "work across the aisle" candidates (where I found that link).  No one tried harder than Obama to work with the Republicans, and we saw what happened.  Booman argues (despite the post title) that centrism isn't practical nowadays and that Democrats will need to govern without Republican cooperation.

Here's what the "power grab" HR1 actually says.

The enemy seriously underestimates Ocasio-Cortez.

We can't "unite the country" and so-called radical-left positions actually have majority support, so we might as well just try to win.

What if Biden really is the front-runner?  Booman believes he is.

The Republicans have become the party of stupid, but we still have to be more than just the party of smart.

No, Trump will not be able to cling to power if he loses the 2020 election.

Shower Cap looks at Roger Stone, how Trump is surpassing Obama, and the rest of the craziness.

Ilhan Omar has emerged as a de facto Republican Trojan horse, creating divisions and distractions among Democrats.  What was supposed to be a resolution specifically condemning anti-Semitism got watered down "all lives matter" style, grotesquely allowing some Republicans to claim the moral high ground.  The anti-Semitic tropes she's been invoking have disturbing precedents.  And she knows exactly what she's doing.  Worse, she's not alone.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote (item 4) about "a clear line" between the Republicans, who endlessly hair-split and minimize and make excuses in order to tolerate bigotry in their own ranks, and the Democrats, who don't do such things -- only to see, in the last few days, much of the liberal internet roaring back "Oh yes we do -- just watch us!"  Especially at a time when anti-Jewish bigotry and even violence are on the rise, both here and in Europe, seeing this stuff rear its head within our own party should be setting off nuclear-attack-siren-level alarm bells.

[780 days down, 682 to go until the inauguration of a real President!]