30 June 2019

Link round-up for 30 June 2019

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

o o o o o

Recharge your phone with a hamster.

I suspect the rats are being framed.

Have a few fish cartoons.

See some honest corporate logos.

Kittens discover disco.

This restroom probably stays very clean.

Important warning for the buyer here.

At the movies -- don't do it!

The Tobe Zoo conducted a lion escape drill, complete with a fake lion.

Coming to a store near you:  evil robots.

Dutch engineering helps animals migrate.

Consider a moss lawn.

Debra She Who Seeks looks at Pride milestones in 2019.

Professor Chaos explores the mentality of anti-gay religious crazies.

Darwinfish 2 reviews wingnuttery in images.

I Should Be Laughing observes the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.

Arab rule in Sicily ended in 1091, but their cultural influence is still ubiquitous on the island.

The goal of trolls is to waste your time -- you're not obligated to play their games.

Trump babbles incoherently about the popular vote.

NewTumbl is another new alternative to Tumblr.

Optimism is the radical choice.

Maybe conservatives are just amateurs.

Cryptocurrencies continue to fascinate gullible wingnuts.

This is what happens when people try to legitimize Trump.

Never try to shame chronically-ill people for doing fun things.

There is a cure for fundamentalism, but it's difficult to administer.

New Orleans musician James Crawford deserves to be better known.

Wingnuts are flooding the worthless online post-debate polls -- you can safely ignore their "results".

The American Psychoanalytic Association apologizes for its former position that homosexuality was a disorder.

Political humorists provide analysis of Trump's near-attack on Iran (aren't the, you know, actual media supposed to be doing this?).

Bruce Gerencser describes how personal experience with gay people helped him overcome his Christian prejudice against them.

Manipulative advertising loses its effectiveness over time.

A Congressional Republican wants to cut off PBS's funding over that cartoon gay rat wedding thing.

The Trumpified Independence Day celebration in Washington is going to be a mess.

The opioid Reefer Madness hysteria continues to wreak havoc on patients.

That Supreme Court gerrymandering decision may eventually blow up in the Republicans' faces.

A lawsuit has put one of the worst Christianist laws on hold.

A fundie freaks out over the rise of secular "cockroaches" (she means people like me).  Another calls down the wrath of God upon Taylor Swift for her recent gay-positive music video.  But they do recognize one man Godly enough to deserve their all-out support.

Capitalism deploys weapons of math destruction against us.

Don't be fooled by apparent patterns that don't really exist.

The politicians writing these draconian abortion laws are grossly ignorant about biology.

Here's a good summary of the Oberlin College / Gibson Bakery case.

Christianity gives people empathy and morality.

The RNC has used fake census documents to gather data (the post is a year old, but they may well still be doing similar things).

History is beginning to repeat itself.

An Alabama woman whose fetus died after she was shot has been charged with manslaughter.

Bank of America shows its moral standards, and John Cornyn shows his.

Public support for discrimination on religious pretexts is growing -- and not only discrimination against gays.  It's still far from a majority position, though, and is driven mostly by Republicans and Evangelicals.

In Indiana, a judge delivers a win for abortion rights.

Here is Trump's America in savage imagery.  He is now threatening the families of US troops (found via Notes to Ponder).

Wayfair employees and government asylum officers protest the migrant camps.  Here are some of the dead; no doubt there are more, and will be even more to come.

With one exception, female Republican Senators are desperately trying to evade talking about the Carroll rape accusation.  That's going to get harder as corroborating witnesses have come forward.  The "family values" religio-nutballs remain as hypocritical as ever, while the media have dropped the ball on this story.

See a gripping graphic-format tale of Nazi rockets and the early days of space travel.

The "mass defect" is a weird irregularity in particle physics.

There's a new line of glasses designed to defeat CCTV cameras and facial-recognition software.

Moline Skeptics looks at some anti-vaccine quackery.

The WHO proposes a strategy against the spread of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Even when Trump is gone, the world won't just go back to the way it was.

The creator of a powerful anti-Trump cartoon just got dumped by one of his publishers.

A British writer explains why Trump is disliked in Britain.

The UK Labour party is failing to deal with its anti-Semitism problem.

This was the Pride rally in Helsinki, Finland yesterday.

Germany's "society is doomed to collapse" nutters had big plans.

Kiev this month hosted the largest Pride parade ever in the former Soviet bloc.  Joe.My.God has a couple of videos.  North Macedonia held its first parade ever.  The parade in São Paolo, Brazil drew three million people, perhaps partly in defiance against the country's reactionary new President.

A Catholic bishop wants to drench a whole city with holy water from a helicopter to fight demons.

Trump started the G-20 summit by bashing other major democracies again. He tried to get other countries to leave the Paris climate agreement, but failed.

Yazidi women once enslaved by Dâ'ish (ISIL) return to the city of Sinjar, finding it in ruins.

Iranians aren't much impressed by Trump's new sanctions.

What really happened to Malaysian Airlines flight 370?

New York state offers lessons in how to move politics to the left.

Beware of those who sow division among us and promote violence -- they may not be what they seem.

The debates have reshaped the Democratic race, with Biden down and Harris up (her support more than doubled).  This poll was released one day after the second debate, however, so don't take it as definitive.

No, do not take Marianne Williamson seriously.  One amateur President is (more than) enough.

Despite the recent rulings, we can still act to resist gerrymandering.

An internet-troll campaign to undermine Harris is already under way.  Good observation in this commentThe goal is the same as the earlier racial attacks on Obama.

Biden's record on busing, like that of America itself, is complicated.

Warren proposes a sweeping plan to guarantee voting rights nationwide -- an example of why we need the Senate as well as the Presidency, so such legislation can actually be passed.

Our candidates are taking climate change seriously.

Martin Longman believes Trump is doomed to lose next year unless a third candidate interferes -- or the Democrats really blow it.  A woman candidate might actually do better.

Let your outrage at the border migrant camps motivate you to vote the bastards out.

What happens if Trump loses but refuses to concede?

Shower Cap looks at normalization of atrocities and the latest in wingnut hypocrisy.

More links here.

[Image at top:  Cathedral of Palermo, Sicily]

28 June 2019

The second debate night

Pretty much everyone agrees that the big story of the night was the emergence of Kamala Harris.  Like Warren the day before, she greatly enhanced her perceived electability -- by being so devastatingly effective debating Biden, she reassured voters that she would be effective against Trump as well, at least in debates.  Again, we'll need to wait a few days for real polling data to become available (online snap polls are meaningless), but I'm guessing she'll get a boost in support.

I think Biden, by contrast, damaged his perceived electability.  His response was irritable, evasive, and completely lacking in empathy, and he stumbled into yet another error by saying he agreed with busing being decided at the local level but objected to it being imposed at the federal level -- a de facto endorsement of the segregationist "states' rights" stance of that time.  (His actual position on busing in the seventies was more negative than he implied in the debate.)  His campaign's post-debate comment on the exchange was just as tone-deaf and clueless.  If he couldn't handle Harris any better than this, it raises doubts about his ability to handle Trump.

(For analysis of the debate overall, see here.)

I feel vindicated in my assessment last week that Biden's choice of segregationists as examples of the virtue of being able to work with people one "disagrees with" was a serious blunder.  Given the length of his career, there were doubtless many other people he could have used as examples, but he chose a monstrous figure like Eastland who virtually personified a system of oppression that kept millions of Americans subjugated on the basis of skin color.  He still doesn't seem to realize why this choice was a mistake or to grasp that it potentially alienates millions of black voters (and other people aware of the history of racism in the US) whose votes he will need in both the primary and the general.  And he's continued to dig in deeper each time he's challenged on it.  At the very least, it raises a concern about what further self-damaging blunders he's likely to make in the sixteen months between now and the election.

In short, the debates demolished the electability argument for Biden.  Harris, Warren, and perhaps others now look more capable of defeating Trump.  Buttigieg also made a good impression.  As on Wednesday, none of the minor candidates really distinguished themselves.  Assuming these impressions are confirmed by polling, those among them who could plausibly do so need to start thinking about running for Senate instead (Marianne Williamson can perhaps try for ambassador to Pluto).  Sanders is still in the running with substantial support, and Biden remains a heavyweight and could recover if he gets a grip on his problems and changes course.  There could still be some future stand-out moment from one of the minor candidates, but their performances so far give no reason to expect one.  The nominee will almost certainly be either Harris, Warren, Buttigieg, Sanders, or Biden.

By the way, the audience for Wednesday's debate was 15.3 million, while that for Thursday's was 18.1 million (source).  These are impressively-large numbers for a primary debate, but still small compared to the total potential electorate -- 130 million people voted in 2016, and the number of Americans qualified to vote is over 200 million.  So, again, most voters will get their impressions via news coverage and videos of the highlights -- which means it may take some time for the effects of the candidates' performances to show up in polling data.

27 June 2019

A couple of observations on the debate

The first debate seems to have gone well, considering the limitations imposed by the excessive number of candidates.  Infighting and attacks on rival Democrats were kept to a minimum, and the focus was on substantive ideas, though the limited speaking time didn't allow for much depth.  Chuck Todd tried to maneuver candidates into producing sound bites that could be used against them, but they avoided the trap.  For detailed analysis, see Electoral-Vote.

The consensus seems to be that Warren performed the best -- more importantly, she showed the kind of political savvy that should inspire confidence in her effectiveness as a candidate in the general.  In short, she went a long way toward showing that she's electable.  Some recent polling has already shown her moving into (a still-distant) second place behind Biden, and this poll I cited on Sunday, in which Democrats were asked whom they would favor if electability weren't an issue, had her already in first place.  So yesterday's performance may help her substantially.

A couple of observations:

First, it will be a few days before we know the real impact of the debate (or of tonight's).  The "snap polls" run by some websites are self-selected samples and not indicative of anything about the general population.  It will take time for real pollsters to carry out scientifically-valid polls with proper samples and find out how the debates have moved the needle, if at all.

This is especially true since only a minority of potential voters are watching.  I've seen no reports of TV ratings for yesterday's broadcast yet, but party primary debates over the last decade have drawn audiences ranging from 3 million to 24 million, and this week's debates are unlikely to approach the upper end of that range.  An audience of, say, 15 million would be gargantuan compared with normal audiences for political TV, but still a small fraction of the 130 million who voted in 2016.  So most voters will get their impressions of the debates from media reports, snippets on YouTube, and so forth.  That will take time.

Second, the party needs to be focusing on the Senate as well as on the Presidency.  Even if a Democrat becomes President, failing to capture the Senate would leave the malignant Mitch McConnell in place to continue the shameless partisan obstruction he's notorious for.  Much, perhaps the majority, of the new President's agenda would be paralyzed; certainly major reforms to health care or taxation would be unreachable.  And our odds of re-taking the Senate would be a lot better if some of the no-hope candidates for President were to run for the Senate instead.

Waiting to try in 2022 isn't a viable option.  The Senate map that year will be much less favorable than in 2020, and in a non-Presidential year turnout is usually lower.  2020 is our best shot.  Once we do have real polling data about voter response to this week's debates, it will be time for the candidates who remain mired at the bottom to accept reality and switch to races they can actually win, where they'll be able to bring real benefit to the country.

Yes, the Presidency is the top prize in politics -- but helping to sweep McConnell aside so he can no longer undermine American democracy from within will be a great and honorable achievement in its own right.

24 June 2019

Quote for the day -- economic freedom

This quote articulates something I've been meaning to post about for some time.  In a feat of terminological ji-jutsu that not even Orwell could have imagined, libertarians have re-defined "economic freedom" as the removal of any laws or regulations that prevent the ultra-wealthy from shitting all over the rest of us as they see fit.  In reality, there is such a thing as economic freedom -- and like any other kind of freedom in reality, it's not some default situation that things revert to when laws are removed; it's a condition which can only exist when the state guarantees and defends it.

With no state and no laws, freedom of speech would not exist, for nothing would stop the thugs of the majority from beating the crap out of you for saying things they found offensive.  With no state and no laws, freedom of religion would not exist, for nothing would stop the majority from persecuting you for believing differently.  With no state and no laws, there would be nothing to prevent slavery, nothing to prevent pollution of common resources like the air and water, nothing to stop capital from stealing all the increase in wealth generated by the growth in productivity of labor.  And with no state and no laws, there would be nothing to re-distribute the wealth of society from the financial parasite class back to the masses who created that wealth, to guarantee true economic freedom as Bernie Sanders defines it above.

In the US today, the parasite class has hijacked the state to prevent it from carrying out many of these functions, to the detriment of our freedom.  The solution is to take it back.

23 June 2019

Link round-up for 23 June 2019

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

o o o o o

Procrastinating Donkey has some suspicious packages.

These business vehicles display a sense of humor.

Time for some hovercats.

It's an easy mistake to make (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Her Royal Highness presents gay animals.  Check out these lorikeets too.  Debra makes some space for the guys.

These kids had their reasons for staying home from school.

It's a masterpiece of barbecue engineering.

Here is, allegedly, what each state googles more than any other.  Gotta love Utah.

I suspect this guy isn't being entirely honest about his kitchen mishap.

Professor Chaos looks at stupid headlines and political humor.

Forgiving student loan debt?  Where will this madness end?

Here are some creepy games (found via Mendip).

Get the body you always wanted this summer!

How do you say it in Italian?

They're against littering, but.....

If you're getting negativity from assholes, just block 'em and forget 'em.

She's a hacker with a difference.

Here are all 213 Beatles songs, evaluated.

Here's one consequence of Trump's tariffs that the fundies may not like.

Conservative ideas can be implemented more smoothly when you get rid of everybody who actually knows anything.

Thousands of religious nutballs are petitioning Netflix to cancel a TV series which isn't on Netflix.

There is no freedom without economic freedom.

Why aren't millennials buying diamonds?

Watch out for this job scam.

The left and right have different visions.

Not all those who wave rainbow flags are really allies.

Traverse City MI is the latest to defy the monopolists and build a municipal internet service.

Some problems take more than brains alone to deal with.

Most Evangelicals didn't choose their religion.

Beware of the cult mentality, wherever it appears.

The bald eagle is back.

This person exists.

There's a question every doctor should ask.

Fireworks are a serious problem for some people.

The Supreme Court serves up another defeat for the First Amendment.

The law applies to foreigners too.  Also, remember to lock your doors when you go out.

The Catholic Church is clueless about why young people are leaving or how to get them back.

A sex worker describes the ten worst things about the work, some of which may surprise you.

Only the person concerned can make this kind of decision -- religious taboo should get no say.

The problem with toxic masculinity is the toxicity, not the masculinity.

How do you revolt when nobody even finds you worth oppressing?

This Catholic school is no longer allowed to call itself Catholic because it refused to fire a teacher for being gay.

Selina Soule is taking her case to the courts (background here).  I have not seen any mention of this story on any left-leaning site, except for Aunt Polly two months ago.  There are going to be more and more cases like this, and refusing to talk about it won't make the issue go away.

Here's a warning about racist "sundown towns".

Americans are touch-starved.

Evangelical churches focus on what really matters -- money.

Dealing with police corruption and abuses will take tough action from the top.

For once, some good news on the sex-work front -- New York state is considering full decriminalization.

A Michigan hotel manager takes a stand.

A court threatens a rape victim with jail to uphold the rapist's parental rights.  Not Afghanistan, Alabama.

Moline Skeptics looks at the abominable snowman.

We have close-up views of the structure of Saturn's rings.

Most Americans don't favor manned missions to the Moon or Mars; far more support space research and planetary defense.

Global-warming denialists like to claim that during the 1970s there was a scientific consensus that global cooling was a threat, but in fact there was no such consensus, and even back then there was more concern about global warming (found via this comment by Swarn Gill).

Compare these railway maps.

Here's a way Canada could play hardball with Trump on trade.

British royals handle even assassination attempts with aplomb.

A conservative (British this time) emits a creepy tweet aimed at the elderly.

In the Netherlands, even the anti-abortionists are pro-choice.

Timișoara, Romania just held its first Pride Festival despite the best efforts of the religious bigots.

The US is preparing to get tough with Russia in the field of cyber-warfare.

That Israeli settlement named after Trump doesn't actually exist.

Twitter is removing accounts of women fleeing abuse in Saudi Arabia.

India is becoming a global leader in solar power.

Female literacy is one key to a better world.

Pompeo is so pitifully ignorant about Iran that he thinks the Taliban might be acting as its surrogate.  The Gulf of Oman incident may have been too clumsily staged to serve as a pretext for war, and we have even less excuse for believing this bullshit today than in 2003, but apparently the Trump gang is funding trolls to attack anti-war journalists.  Even if Trump himself doesn't want war, at this point it could easily blow up anyway.  Here's how things look to ordinary Iranians.  If a war does start, the US cannot subdue Iran, no matter what the wingnuts are being told.

Just turn off all the bad news and everything will be fine.

Warren is gaining support among both centrists and progressives.  If she becomes President, she can thank Sanders for paving the way.

Republicans are losing hope of retaking the House.

Booker promises executive clemency, if elected, for non-violent drug offenders in prison.  I like his thinking (and hope it makes Jeff Sessions's head explode).

Warren promises to end a "cruel" and "terrible" industry -- and the MSM headline is the effect on stock prices.

Trump is wasting his time rallying loyalists instead of reaching out to the uncommitted (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  Kiko's House argues that he can't win re-election.  I'm inclined to agree, but we can't afford to become complacent.  And Republicans will lie.

Here's where all our Presidential candidates stand on abortion rights.

A new poll asked likely Democrats which candidate they'd prefer if electability wasn't an issueBiden moves to second behind Warren, with the rest in the same order as in other polls.

What if the nominee isn't good enough?

"Republicans are.....worried that calling the concentration camps 'concentration camps' will draw attention to the fact that they're the party of concentration camps, whereas Democrats want to shut down the concentration camps because they are fucking concentration camps."  More here.

21 June 2019

No more circular firing squads

Tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors made an important point today about Biden's recent gaffe:

I've been asked repeatedly what my thoughts are on Joe Biden's talking about working with segregationists as an example of being able to work with anyone.  All I can/will say is that I am not going to tear-down any of our candidates.  It is just playing into the Republicans hands to have our traditional Democratic circular firing squad.....

It's important to keep this in mind.  My point yesterday was that Biden's choice of Eastland and Talmadge as examples of worthwhile cooperation with opponents was a serious mistake which casts doubt on his perceived electability relative to our other candidates -- and to affirm the point that Eastland in particular was a genuine monster and should be considered beyond the pale, as opposed to a politician one merely has disagreements with, such as (say) McConnell or Grassley.  I don't believe that vetting a candidate's electability at the pre-primary stage constitutes an attack.  But if anyone interpreted what I wrote as an attack on Biden, please be aware that I did not intend it as such.

Tengrain:  The candidates that go after Biden with hammers and tongs are making a mistake.  They must sell their own goods and services and convince us to support them, not to go after each other.

I've made the same point a couple of times.  I think Biden's lead with Democratic voters stems partly from the fact that he's consistently directed his rhetorical fire at Trump, not at his Democratic rivals.  The candidates who snipe at each other generally seem small and petty by comparison, practicing politics-as-usual.  If they want to overtake Biden, then rather than attacking him, they should be making the case that they have a better chance of beating Trump.  That's what most of our voters care about.

That being said, the criticisms raised by Booker and Harris go deeper than politics-as-usual, affirming that there is a serious issue here; Trevor Noah provides some context.  To be blunt, it's not up to me to say how black people (politicians or otherwise) should or shouldn't react to Biden's words.

I don't attack Biden for what he said.  And I certainly won't attack Booker or Harris for what they said.  We need to be able to discuss things like this while remaining aware that we are all fundamentally on the same side.

Tengrain:  I’m still (as of right now) favoring Warren and Harris, but I will absolutely support our final nominee.

As will I, emphatically, whoever it is.  As must we all.

20 June 2019

The real problem with Biden

Biden's recent remarks about "civility" and his working relationships with racist Senators in the 1970s represent a real problem.

In hindsight, this was foreshadowed by the flap earlier this month over his support for the Hyde Amendment.  He defused that controversy by immediately reversing his position as soon as it became an issue.  This obviously led to accusations of flip-flopping, but he really had no other tenable option, and his new stance at least came across as sincere.  The problem was that his initial position came across as bizarrely out-of-touch.  He seems to have believed that supporting the Hyde Amendment was still acceptable within the Democratic party of today.  Still, the speed with which he reversed himself seemed to show that he hadn't supported it very strongly, and the issue didn't seem to hurt him much at the time.

But his comments this week take that tone-deafness to a whole new level.  Eastland and Talmadge were relics of a monstrous past, active supporters of enforced segregation (not just "opponents of desegregation" as they're being characterized).  They advocated continuing denial of civil and political rights to one-eighth of the American people on the basis of skin color.  Biden's point was that it is necessary and possible to maintain civility and work with people one disagrees with, and he's not even wrong about that -- it's the choice of Eastland and Talmadge as examples that constitutes a gaffe of epic proportions.  Because the stance on race they represent is no longer seen as a mere matter of disagreement, certainly within the modern Democratic party.  It represents something fundamentally evil.

This problem is, I think, partly a matter of age.  Biden was born in 1942 and spent his early life in an America where views like those of Eastland and Talmadge were acceptable within the mainstream -- in modern terms, the Overton window was in a different place than it is today.  I don't believe Biden is racist, not in any way that would do harm if he were President.  But his gut instincts about how to express certain ideas are "off".  He still doesn't seem to realize what was wrong with what he said, and has refused to apologize.

(I see a more diffuse but somewhat similar problem with Bernie Sanders, who fell flat with black primary voters in 2016 not because of gaffes but because of his tendency to see everything in economic terms and slowness to recognize that racism presents a separate set of issues that no rising economic tide, by itself, would address.)

Whether age-related or not, it's a genuine problem.  After two tone-deaf moments in a single month (the Hyde Amendment and now this), what else might he say in the sixteen-plus months between now and the election?  For that matter, what will voters deduce from his remarks this week?  As I mentioned here, Biden can't possibly be so naïve as to actually believe what he's been saying about bipartisanship with the Republicans of today -- he's basically pandering to the large slice of voters who don't realize that such bipartisanship is no longer possible and want to see it return.  As such, it's a smart position politically.  But touting collaboration with a monster like Eastland and what he represented is a very different matter.  If voters start to think there's no evil Biden wouldn't seek common ground with, that will be fatal.

And it is the voters -- the rank-and-file of the Democratic party -- who will rightly have the final say on this.  So long as criticism of Biden comes only from the same far-left sites that have been trashing him all along, it doesn't matter.  What matters is what the voters think.  Biden has held a huge lead in the polls because he's perceived as most able to defeat Trump in November, because of his association with Obama, and because he's focused his rhetorical attacks on Trump instead of engaging in the same old wearisome politics-as-usual sniping at rival Democrats.  It's up to the voters to decide whether a gaffe, even one of this magnitude, outweighs all that.

Governor Northam in Virginia survived the yearbook scandal in February because Democratic voters -- most importantly, black voters, despite the racial nature of the scandal -- stuck with him.  If they stick with Biden, he'll survive this.  But in Virginia, scandals attached to other Democrats in the line of succession meant a high risk of a Republican becoming Governor if Northam fell, and obviously a Democrat with a possibly-racist past but a clean current record was far better than anyone from the poisonous horror the modern Republican party has become.  Biden has no such insurance.  Voters have plenty of other Democrats to choose from, to put it mildly.

Biden's biggest asset is electability -- the perception that he has a better chance than other Democrats of defeating Trump.  His two blunders this month, evoking the danger of more such blunders in the future, call that perception into serious question.

18 June 2019

Quote for the day -- liberal yes, PC no

"The majority of America is with the Democrats on the issues.  They just find the 'woke' people irritating as hell.  In a new poll, 80% of Americans find political correctness to be a problem, including 75% of African-Americans, 74% of Americans under thirty, 82% of Asians, 87% of Hispanics, 88% of Native Americans.  If you're not a statistician, let me break those numbers down for you.  NOBODY LIKES YOU.  Including the so-called marginalized groups whose feelings you've decided need protecting..... When did liberals become the fun police?  Does anyone remember when conservatives were the ones with the sticks up their asses?"

Bill Maher (see also here)

16 June 2019

Link round-up for 16 June 2019

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

o o o o o

A con man meets his (more than) match.

Step up and take your pun-ishment.

Fonts matter.

".....until she succumbed."

Time for some bookish cartoons.

Use the Oxford comma.

Take the grand tour of Britain.

Have some baby owls.

This is not the future of men's fashion (I hope) (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

He really did meet the prince (found via Kiko's House).

Orangey the cat was one of the most prolific actors of the mid-twentieth century.

Debra She Who Seeks presents rainbow houses and first gay books.

Life at this school sounds more exciting than most.

Obama comments on a turban.

Where was this person shopping?

Miniaturopolis is an offbeat photo blog of "little people in the big world" (see a few posts and you'll get the idea).

Read a love story from the 1940s.

Trump already has a Presidential library, sort of.

The deli where the iconic scene from When Harry Met Sally was filmed will soon hold a commemorative fake orgasm contest (I wonder if having a real orgasm will be considered cheating).

This is the al-Kâzimiyyah Mosque in Baghdad.

Tell Me a Story has some good words for a bad man.

"There needs to be a gay ram sanctuary."

This product needs a different name.

What if you found yourself in an alternate world where the Beatles never existed?

He's the oldest gay in the village.

Dallas just had a hell of a storm.

Moline Skeptics looks at Tarot cards.

The creator of Pepe the Frog finally gets some justice.

This is the future conservatives want.

There's much to celebrate for Pride month, even in the time of Trump.  So celebrate by pwning some fundies.

This law needs to be stopped.

Whenever she so much as mentions politics, it moves the needle a bit.

Christian schools rely heavily on bullshitting.

The New York Times makes a bad decision.

Here's why conspiracy nuts have no credibility.

This Trumpanzee should have listened to his wife.

The Bible's incompetent storytelling gives it away as fake history.

Arrogant college administrators tried to bully a small business after three students were arrested for shoplifting.  It backfired, big time.

Most of the Pacific garbage patch isn't what you think.

Amid a major measles outbreak, New York has finally eliminated religious exemptions from vaccination.

Amazon's drive for shipping dominance is grinding its workers down more than ever.

"Community is not a spectator sport."

Atheism comes in many varieties.

Stop climbing Mount Everest (and shitting on it).

The Catholic Church once had two rival Popes -- maybe that could work today.

Here's the ugly reason why some people vote Republican.

Stagnant incomes and rising costs have made half of Americans effectively poor, while the richest 1% have accumulated staggering wealth.  In most countries this would be a formula for revolution.

Squirm and dodge as they may, Christians can't escape the plain meaning of Matthew 5:17-20.

Trump is pissed that the media are exposing his spin lies about Mexico and tariffs.  The reality is, he backed down.

Half of all US Catholics under 30 have left the Church, and for every person who joins it, more than six leave.

Yes, it makes sense to judge people by how they vote.

Alabama's new abortion law might best be called the Rapists' Reproductive Rights Act.

Some of the US right wing is openly proposing to abandon pluralism and democracy in favor of theocracy (read the links too).

Guys like this are, at least, sincere and open enemies.

"Atheism is not a philosophy.....it is simply an admission of the obvious."

They are listening -- to your children.

As the Trump administration fails us on climate change, state governments are taking action.

Do not tell me I shouldn't call these people "the enemy".

Printers will always be bad, because that's how the free market works.

Modern life is changing the human skeleton.

A potential vaccine against Alzheimer's shows promise, though testing and approval in the US will be glacially slow.

US embassies abroad defy Trump's ban on gay pride flags.

Here's what refugees from Honduras are running from.

Ecuador just legalized gay marriage.

Balloon Juice and Stonekettle Station examine the highly-suspicious Gulf of Tonkin Oman incident.

Never forget Tiananmen.

After massive protests, Hong Kong's government has "suspended" a bill to allow extradition of prisoners into the clutches of the murderous mainland-China gangster state.

Botswana takes a step forward.  Mali is a bit of a mess, largely due to religion.  And the Congo's Ebola outbreak has jumped the border into Uganda.

Buttigieg sets out his foreign policy plans.

Biden continues to focus on TrumpHe knows better than to seriously embrace bipartisanship.

Warren explains how she'd get it all done.  Her plans are economic patriotism.  And her campaign is gaining strength.  She reminds some people of Hillary, but there are important differences.

Here's an analysis of how socially and economically liberal the various candidates are.

This flagrantly-corrupt Jim Crow law could determine Mississippi's next Governor.

We need fewer Presidential candidates and more Senate candidates.

By large margins, voters in Texas support Roe v Wade and oppose anti-gay discrimination.

If Warren is the nominee, will Schultz sabotage her, or will Amash sabotage Trump?

It's nice to see some fragmentation on the right instead of just among ourselves.

Shower Cap tries to keep up with the Trump atrocity carnival.

More links here.

[878 days down, 584 to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

13 June 2019

The lies of war

The Trump administration today announced that it blamed Iran for attacks on two tanker ships in the Gulf of Oman.  The Iranian regime has categorically denied being involved.  This follows a case last month in which four ships were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, which the US government also blamed on Iran.  This follows a long-standing pattern of escalating saber-rattling by the Trump administration against Iran, beginning with Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement negotiated by Presidents Obama and Rouhani, despite the fact that international observers agreed that Iran was adhering to its side of the deal.

It may be of some value here to recall the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to substantial escalation of US involvement in the Vietnam conflict.  Official reports at the time claimed that several North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked the American destroyer USS Maddox "on the high seas", followed a few days later by a second attack on the Maddox and another US ship.  As we now know, the Maddox had in fact opened fire first, and the clash happened within the 12-mile limit which North Vietnam claimed as its territorial waters, while the second attack never happened at all (false radar images were mistaken for enemy craft which were not actually present).  Nevertheless, President Johnson and pro-war elements in his administration presented the incident to the US public as a pretext for escalating US involvement, leading to the protracted bloody mess which dragged on wearily until 1975, at staggering cost.

There is a lesson from the Gulf of Tonkin incident and from all the other lies and deceptions fed to the public during that war.  It's the same lesson offered by the official hysterics and falsified evidence which were used to whip up support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  That lesson is:  when it comes to leading this country into war, the establishment lies.

They lie.  They simply lie.  It's what they do.  When I was younger, as the truth about Vietnam began to emerge, I came to realize that the establishment must never, ever again be given the benefit of the doubt on such a matter.  Because the establishment lies.  In any future such case, I decided, anything the establishment says must be considered a lie -- not until proven otherwise, but even if proven otherwise.  Because they are not above lying even about the evidence.  The establishment lies.  Period.

By 2003, after the shock of the September 11 attack, my conviction had weakened.  It is a shameful admission, but they fooled me.  I supported the Iraq invasion at the time, because the thought of Saddam Hussein (whose regime genuinely was among the most horrific of the modern age) with nuclear weapons was unacceptable.  As we now know, that too was all lies.

Never again.

The Iranian theocracy is evil, but it is not stupid.  It defies sanity to believe that Iran (which has not attacked another country in almost 200 years) would carry out shipping attacks calculated to provoke a war with the mighty United States right at the very moment when the Trump administration could direly use a pyrotechnic overseas distraction from its domestic woes with investigations, failed trade wars, flaccid poll numbers, and a wall which even the Trumpanzees are starting to realize will never get built.

Don't fall for it the way I did in 2003.  There must be no war with Iran.

Update:  Stonekettle Station discusses some suspicious details of this incident.

[Image at top:  looking northwestward from above the Gulf of Oman toward the Persian Gulf -- Arabia is to the left, Iran to the right.]

12 June 2019

To an ancient enemy

In honor of a recent scientific achievement:

Mosquito, buzzing, whining, out for blood,
A tiny vampire flitting round the bed,
The bearer of malaria and more,
You've cost mankind at least a billion dead.

With netting, sprays, and now and then a slap,
We've stopped you here and there, yet you remain,
Abroad and free, the warm lands to infest,
To menace us with more disease and pain.

But science is the new ace in our hand;
We've put a spider's venom in a spore.
It's time to make a better, cleaner world;
A world where you won't be there any more.

09 June 2019

Link round-up for 9 June 2019

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

o o o o o

Two hamsters, one wheel.

Safety first!

Have some cat pictures.  And these guys are just getting warmed up.

Debra She Who Seeks begins to celebrate Pride Month, leading off with lesbomania.

Best tweet yet on Trump's UK trip (found via I Should Be Laughing).

Misogynistic semen cultists are divided over the issue of sex demons.

"All people will become exceedingly polite and courteous....."

This movie looks kind of cool.

Be pro-life!

Fans have restored Star Wars to its original form.

I wonder if the females say "size doesn't matter"?

Good staircase for a library.

This is the birthplace of humanity's most important invention.

This is the wasteland.

Ecologists plan a huge, complex rodent extermination project in order to re-infest a small island with giant bugs.

Evangelicals have a dreary either-or, black-and-white view of human beings (this reminded me of Chick tracts).

Some companies are giving older workers a second look.

A Biblical creator God involves an irreconcilable contradiction.

This priest has serious issues with, well, practically everything.  Maybe such weird obsessing arises from the celibacy rule?

Only the woman can make this kind of decision.

If you use Google, Facebook or Windows 10, here's what you're opening yourself up to.

A Republican legislator apologizes -- for not being respectful enough of the Biblical kill-all-gays position.

The rise of non-belief in the US is happening faster than you think.

At the ATM, be wary of these tricks to steal your data.

A Catholic group claims gay pride is Satanic -- and a Satanist responds.

Kiko's House reviews Trump's misadventures in Europe.

Evangelicals are arrogant and hateful.

Kwame Ajamu spent 39 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit after being convicted on flimsy evidence.  The original sentence was death.

YouTube allows targeted harassment of an individual, as long as it's done by somebody with a large number of viewers.  Social media display flagrant hypocrisy.

Josh Marshall patiently explains to the thugs why assaulting people you don't agree with is a bad idea.

Darwinfish 2 looks at the problem of teenage mob violence.  I don't entirely agree with his analysis (see my comment on the post), but he's always worth reading.

The Christian forgiveness fetish marginalizes and further harms abuse victims.

Here's what the news looks like these days.

This elderly woman was treated in a truly horrifying manner by a nursing home run by a Catholic religious order.

Via Facebook one can follow the process whereby people get lured down the alt-right rabbit hole.

Professor Taboo looks at D-Day.

Are antioxidants good for you?  The answer isn't simple.

Science may have found the key to successful weight loss.

A genetically-modified fungus offers hope for the eventual extermination of the malaria mosquito.

To please the religious nuts, Trump acts to discourage medical research using fetal tissue -- a move which will drive important scientific work out of the US to other countries.

This kind of shit still happens even in London.  Keep fighting until these bastards are beaten.

Ireland's Prime Minister and Britain's likely future one both turned down formal meetings with Trump.

Boris Johnson is ready to play hardball with the EU.

The Queen of Denmark has long been an ally of gay liberation.

This is socialized medicine.

The mainstream media are telling lies about the tragic death of a Dutch rape victim.

Germany is trying to save the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump got nothing new from Mexico in return for suspending his threatened tariffs.

Remember those who dare not celebrate.

Japanese women are rebelling against a workplace culture that demands high heels -- unfortunately attitudes at the top are stuck in a bygone era.

The early twentieth century holds valuable lessons for the modern progressive movement.

There are grounds for thinking Trump will lose massively next year, though we dare not assume that.

One RedState writer is worried about Texas.

Steve M dismantles a post which represents everything wrong with today's ideological fringe.

Here's what will probably happen if Trump is impeached.  Burr Deming (and perhaps Nancy Pelosi) thinks televised hearings on the Mueller report could shift public opinion.

Go hard left or play to the middle?  A thoughtful post by Martin Longman.

Shower Cap blog tries to keep up with all the Trumpy madness.

More (mostly political) links here.

[Image at top:  A banner displayed in London during Trump's visit -- found via Shaw Kenawe]

06 June 2019

The likely -- not inevitable -- nominee

I don't have a preferred candidate for the Democratic nomination yet (it's way too early), but if I had to make a prediction today, I'd say that Biden will probably get it.  This isn't just based on his huge current lead in polls of Democrats.  One can point to many earlier instances where the clear front-runner so long before the actual primaries didn't get the nomination.  However, Electoral-Vote today made this point:

The Democrats' problem is that collectively they appeal to far more than half the voters, but individually they don't.  While Sanders is strong with blue-collar men, he is extremely weak with blacks.  Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) does great with blacks, but very poorly with blue-collar men.  Elizabeth Warren does well with college-educated suburban women, but is nowhere with blue-collar men or blacks.  Pete Buttigieg is the choice of many millennials, but is not so hot with Latinos.  The only candidate who seems to do reasonably well with all Democratic constituencies (and who is hated by none) is Biden.  In the end, this may make him the most acceptable compromise candidate.

This could help explain why, while polls show several Democrats beating Trump in key states, they almost always show Biden doing so by the largest margin (Quinnipiac even has him four points ahead of Trump in Texas).  Polls of the general election ask voters to envisage a candidate as already being the nominee and potentially becoming President.  Black voters' lack of enthusiasm for Sanders, or blue-collar voters' suspicion of Warren, etc., may well dampen support in such a scenario.  But every major group in our coalition would turn out for Biden.

This may also account for his higher perceived "electability", a word which it has recently become fashionable to disdain.  Some bloggers like to claim that this is just code for his being an old white guy as most Presidents have been.  But that hardly explains his broad appeal, especially after Obama won two elections with the highest popular-vote totals in US history.  More likely, "electability" means just what it sounds like it means -- that he's perceived as most likely to win against Trump because he would be more capable than any other candidate of unifying and rallying the variegated Democratic coalition after the primaries.

(Yes, there would be some ideological purists who would find Biden unacceptable for whatever reason.  But that would happen for any candidate who won the nomination -- the perception is just that there would be fewer of them for Biden than for the others.)

Electoral-Vote also observes that Biden is focusing his rhetorical attacks on Trump, not on his Democratic rivals, whereas many of those Democratic rivals have started sniping at each other.  Electoral-Vote interprets this is Biden thinking he already has the nomination "in the bag", but it strikes me as smart strategy for the primary fight.  Most mainstream, not-very-ideological Democratic voters are focused on getting rid of Trump and a candidate who seems focused on the same goal will naturally appeal to them.  By contrast, rivals for the nomination jabbing at each other over this or that seem small, petty, and ordinary -- politics-as-usual.  I noted a while back that Warren too was aiming her rhetorical fire mostly at Trump, and was rising in the polls at that time while most other candidates stagnated.  If she joins the circular firing squad, I think she'll lose that advantage.  The way for another candidate to win the nomination instead of Biden is to convince those mainstream Democrats that he or she would have the best chance of winning against Trump.

I have some concerns about Biden.  His preference for middle-of-the-road stances suggests that as President he might try for less than could be achieved; his announced climate-change policy in particular is inadequate.  His age is a concern, especially since Trump seems to be in the grip of advancing dementia which will make age more of an issue in November 2020 than it is now.  I'm not worried about his talk of appealing to Republicans for unity, which I think is just talk aimed at Democrats who don't realize such unity is impossible.  He could be felled by some scandal or gaffe, but that's true of any candidate.

But ultimately the most important question is who can beat Trump.  After 2016, no one should be so foolish as to assume that winning this election is inevitable, no matter what the polls say now.  The best nominee in the world can accomplish nothing if he or she fails to actually become President.  If the great mass of Democratic voters perceive Biden as most capable of defeating Trump, they'll probably hand him the nomination.