29 November 2019

Sum ergo bloggum

I occasionally see claims that blogging is on the decline these days, displaced by "social media" and by impatience with any form of writing longer or more complex than a fortune-cookie fortune.  If this is the case, I have not noticed it.  Yes, I've seen a fair number of blogs go dark over the years, but there are also new people starting up.  And there are always new blogs to discover, even if they're only new to me.  So many times I've thought, "How come I only just discovered this person when they've been blogging for years?"

Social media are no substitute.  Twitter and Instagram aren't suited to posts of any length.  YouTube is so shitted up with ads these days that it's becoming unwatchable, with ads not only preceding videos but interrupting them randomly in the middle.  And I've never been able to figure out what Facebook does other than collect data on its users.

Much of the fascination of blogs is their individuality.  Each blog is so different because each one represents the style and interests of its owner.  I've seen blogs focusing on every subject from atheism to gardening to movies to art to humor to occultism to book reviews to photography to space travel to sex to poetry to feminism to cartoons to Halloween to travel to politics to education, and various unexpected combinations of subjects that happen to interest the author.  People have different styles of writing and different ways of using pictures, videos, links, etc. to help make their points.  No other medium makes it so easy for so many to express their individuality so exuberantly in front of the whole world.

That's what makes blogging what it is.  Don't write what you think the audience wants -- write what you want to write, and those who want to read it will find their way to you.

26 November 2019

Video of the day -- Challa

A cheerful piece.  Worth fullscreen for some London scenery.  The language of the song is, I think, either Hindi or Punjabi.

24 November 2019

Link round-up for 24 November 2019

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

o o o o o

Animals suck, apparently, and so do insurance salesmen.

Sometimes a cat is in exactly the right place.

I've heard of trolling people, but..... (found via Mendip).

"These aren't the druids you're looking for."

See the aliens (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Hysterical Raisins looks at the impeachment circus as TV drama.

"Have some quick jokes," said Tom swiftly.

Enter the corn maze.

Three rodents, two blades of grass.

It's a world of gadgetry obsession.

Well, at least he wanted the job.

Trump has a way to punish Republicans who are disloyal to him.

Florida man, meet Florida dog.

Lucille Ball made Star Trek happen.

Halloween is over, but we still have Creepmas.

This Renaissance Faire was a festival of cosplay.

View the election through a crystal ball.  Also, animals.

Wolfnoot was yesterday, but no one will mind if you observe it today.

Blogging will thrive as long as bloggers keep going.  "Social media" are no substitute.

We are moving, the sky is not.

When ads get intrusive enough, they backfire.

This is not what "shatterproof" means.

This software claims it disables the spyware elements of Windows 10.  I'd be interested in what the more computer-savvy readers think of it.

Do atheists "hate God"?

Beware of juice-jacking.

If you live here, you're closer to Texas than Texas is.

Flat-Earthism is a symptom of a broader problem.

If you don't decide, others will decide for you.

It's not just child molesting -- the Catholic hierarchy is also deeply financially corrupt.

An atheist blogger's Twitter account has been locked for challenging the mandatory lies of the day.

Screw this -- don't let Nazi assholes make us re-name things.

Religio-wingnuts rage against Chick-fil-A's retreat from anti-gay bigotry.  NRO calls it shameful -- I thought they supported capitalists' freedom to run their businesses however they choose?

Cities and states take up the fight for net neutrality.

Despite campaign promises, Trump has repeatedly acted to empower anti-gay religious bigotry.

There is a vast sea of dangerous nonsense out there.

Joel Ramírez Palma tried to sound the alarm about a building which later collapsed.  Now he's facing deportation.

A Chicago school district grants boys access to girls' locker roomsThis is madness.

Poor people have needs beyond bare survival.

"No quid pro quo" could become Trump's epitaph.

Here's how recent history looks from the enemy's viewpoint.

When right-wingers denounce "attacks on religious liberty", they mean things like this New York state law protecting employees from being fired for having abortions.

These people exist.

No, religionists, we are not going to shut up.

Darwinfish 2 reviews and debunks the various wingnut defenses of Trump.

Stephen Miller's hypocrisy on immigration is exposed -- by his uncle (found via Hysterical Raisins).

The right wing is becoming divided over just how explicitly racist it should be.

Smartphones could be used to create a "free internet" to circumvent censorship in countries like Iran and China (I can see this being needed in the US and Europe soon as well, if our own pearl-clutching control freaks get their way).

New technology increases the potential of solar power.

There may be a fifth basic force of nature, though it will take a lot more evidence to establish something of that magnitude.

What kind of person rides to the defense of Britain's suddenly-toxic Prince Andrew?

The UK Labour party is getting as idiotically nasty as our Republicans.

Three Dutch teenagers used sexuality to fight the Nazis (found via Mendip).

Australians don't make a public spectacle of religion like Americans do.

Watch Russian troops take possession of a US-built military base in Syria abandoned by Trump.

The world's biggest secondhand book market confronts the arrival of a giant mall (found via Mendip).

India's top diplomat discusses his country's growing role in the world, including in the fight against global warming.  (If you get a greyed-out screen and a box nagging you about your ad blocker, click on "weiter mit Adblocker".)

Texas takes another little step toward purpleness.

One impeachment inquiry, two narratives.

I don't understand why Tulsi Gabbard is considered a Democrat.

Once Trump is out of office, we'll need to limit the power of possible future Trumps.

It takes abject ignorance to believe that the two parties are at all alike.

The current hearings are turning public sentiment slightly more against impeachment, notably among independents.

More links here.

[1,039 days down, 423 to go until the inauguration of a real President.]

21 November 2019

Dream world (5)

Oh, the visions some people entertain.....

[Previous "Dream world" post is here.]

19 November 2019

Blogging notes

From time to time a few people have suggested making the links in the link round-up default to opening in a new tab.  Is there a widespread preference for this?  If there is, I'll try to figure out how to make it do that.  I've never been able to find a setting for it, but it must be possible, seeing how many blogs do have links work that way.

(I prefer to read links that way too, but I'm so used to right-clicking and choosing "open in new tab" that I just do it without thinking now.)

Also, has anybody tried this button which now appears at the bottom left of the dashboard:
I can't find any info about what it does, and since I'm using a very old and basic template (it was the simplest one available when I started on Blogger 13 years ago), I don't want to risk triggering some sort of upgrade that would mess up the sidebar.

Update (Wednesday, late afternoon):  Much thanks to everyone who commented.  In this how-to link given by commenter AZ Guy, I found the following:

At the time this is written, when you open a new page with target="_blank", the site you link to gains access to the window/tab containing your page and is able to change it (in the visitor's browser) to display a different web address.  This not only thwarts your attempt to keep visitors at your site (if that's your purpose), it's also a potential danger to them. For example, if you have a login page, the linked-to site may replace it with one on another site that looks like yours, but actually collects your visitor's login details.  This kind of attack is called "phishing".  Even if your site does not have facilities for visitors to log in, the linked-to site can replace it with a page that delivers malware. This vulnerability is not hypothetical.  The people from the Google Security Team have noted a "significant number of reports" of such "tabnabbing" being used to deliver malware.

Since I don't want to risk that kind of thing happening, and the majority of commenters seem to be OK with the links as they are, I'm just going to leave things that way.

17 November 2019

Link round-up for 17 November 2019

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

o o o o o

Wag softly and carry a big stick.  More dog humor here.

Bring back LOLcats.  And we have some LOLdogs too.  But how do they compare?  This cat pwned a bear.

Use dumbth to fight dumbth.

Blogger Justine creates a mini-cemetery.

Remember the golden age of SF puppetry (found via Mendip).  Also, "Novena Airport"?  Is that near the Vatican?

Evil and good can be hard to tell apart at a glance.

See the stunning tree of gold.

He came home to Jesus.

Read some handy tips for living.

RO looks at colonoscopies, James Bond, the swinger lifestyle, and a bunch of other stuff.

Twitter has difficulty with the concept of "German".

Here's how the Star Wars franchise went down the tubes.

Unacknowledged twins?

Have some Lovecraft illustrations.

Recognize the atheists in the foxholes.

Don't erase your past -- it's part of the truth.

Americans overwhelmingly support legal marijuana.

Steve Ruis discovers an almost transcendent example of bullshit.

Trumpanzees, here's why we don't like you.

When you ride Uber, you ride with Mohammad Bone Sawman.

Ohio contemplates an incredibly stupid law (but about Biden, see my comment).

Here are some ways to detect hidden cameras.

That sudden realization that the guy you're dating is just slightly nutty.

Don't fetishize getting over it.

Keep moving in until we overwhelm them with numbers, bwa ha ha.

Almost two-thirds of Americans want religion to stay out of politics.

On impeachment, Republicans frantically try to change the subject.  Plus, corruption and Bloomberg.

Don't fall for these myths about progressive taxation.

Is there a connection between religion and morality?

Samantha Bee exposes the truth about Paula White, Trump's "spiritual advisor".

Don Jr's book isn't a legitimate best-seller.

Christianity doesn't work on healthy minds.

You are being spied on (read the whole thing).

The full evil of Stephen Miller is out in the open.

What's a Catholic to do when he's convinced the Pope is a heretic?

There's another truth behind what you see.

Ralph Reed is all-in for Trump.

These people exist.  And they're really like this.

In the pre-civil-rights era, black veterans were feared by segregationists and specially targeted for violence.

The US has a shitload of dangerously under-maintained dams.  Do you live downstream from one?

Expose the cruel fraud of psychic powers.

Evangelical churches grow by cannibalism.

Here's what you need to do before throwing away a computer.

There were once dinosaurs in space, sort of.

A real patriot is one who puts the good of his country ahead of his own ambition.

Berliners troll Trump with the world's most famous failed wall.

Gangster regimes hate it when a small democracy stands up to them.

Ukraine got its aid, but..... (found via I Should Be Laughing).

The world's soon-to-be-biggest trade deal doesn't include the US.

The Hong Kong protests lose legitimacy if they resort to murderous violence.

No, we don't need another giant-ego billionaire pointlessly running for president.

Voting is like catching a bus.

No, holding the Senate impeachment-trial vote by secret ballot will not work to get rid of Trump.

More links here.

15 November 2019

Impeachment in the wingnutosphere, and a few observations

Public hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry have begun -- a process that some hope will shift public opinion against Trump.  Since I read right-wing blogs and sites regularly in order to keep up with what's going on among the opposition, I'm getting a pretty good sense of how they're reacting.

Among right-wing blogs, I'd say these posts at Adrienne's Corner, The Last Tradition, and Catholic Truth (read the comments too) are typical.  They believe the process is failing so abjectly, has backfired on the Democrats and blown up in their faces so spectacularly, that it does not even occur to them to imagine that anyone could have any other interpretation of what they're seeing.  Some blogs have barely bothered to mention impeachment at all, preferring to stay focused on the real crimes -- Pizzagate, Benghazi, Burisma, the "Russia collusion hoax", etc. -- which they are confident will soon take center stage with indictments of Obama, Hillary, Biden, etc.

I would recommend that any proposed strategy for future politics in this country not be dependent on hopes for having rational discussions with that element of the population.

As to right-wing news sites, Breitbart has been giving the testimony a pro-Trump spin and stressing the boost to his fund-raising.  RedState is focusing on peripheral stories to undermine and mock the process.  Fox has too many articles to single out just a couple as typical, but they seem to be emphasizing the general dullness of the proceedings.

At NRO, Kyle Smith also gloats that most of the public is uninterested in the hearings, and he has a point.  John McCormack notes that day one drew over 13 million viewers on TV, but this is impressive only in comparison to other TV events like the World Series.  It's five or six percent of the voting-eligible population, suggesting that interest in the process isn't reaching much beyond the tiny political-junkie minority.

Kevin Williamson also has a point, at a deeper level, asserting that the impeachment battle is simply a manifestation of the deep tribal division within American society.  I don't agree that that's true of the substance of the hearings -- Trump's violations of the law and the constitution are real, and many Democrats really do care about them.  But it is true that Americans are engaged in a bitter culture war about whether our society should be run on the basis of the Christian taboo system and an economic ideology contrived to preserve the position of the 1%, or on the basis of the kind of secular democratic-socialist consensus that prevails in most other advanced countries.  And clearly the sheer fervor of the strong left's opposition to Trump and support for impeachment draws its energy from this.  So does the hard-core Evangelical and other right-wing fanaticism in defense of Trump and loathing for all things liberal and secular.  To them it's a matter of fundamental values, and any opposition is intrinsically illegitimate regardless of the facts of the case.

I don't deny being a strong partisan on the secular side of that culture war myself, probably more so than most American liberals and atheists are, since the historical perspective I take makes me so aware of how malignant the right-wing mentality is -- especially now that it's become dominated by reactionary religion.  But this also gives me a deeper sense of how intense and immobile the enemy's stance is.  There's no way a parade of guys in suits testifying about details of a phone call we already basically know about is going to make a dent.

And -- getting back to impeachment specifically -- this is a problem.  I've been reading a lot about the impeachment hearings on various liberal and mainstream blogs and news sites, and I just can't see how this is anything other than a complete snoozefest.  It's been known for weeks that Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into "investigating" Biden, or at least into saying they would do so.  Anyone who refuses to believe that has already shown they're impervious to any imaginable evidence.  What we've seen in the hearings so far is basically just repetitions of that same fact, sometimes with a few details added.  This is what we're counting on to lure the vast middle away from their video games and TV dramas and get them riveted on politics?  Granted, it's early in the process, but so far I see no sign that this is going to have any impact on public perception of Trump at all, much less sway enough Trumpanzee voters to enable the necessary 20 Republican senators to vote for removal during the trial phase.

As an aside, Democratic politicians need to stop saying things like "our job is to shape public opinion".  That bit of arrogance could easily go viral and poison mass perception of the whole process, de-legitimizing it to the point where it really would backfire.

But so far, on the whole, impeachment looks likely to come and go with barely a ripple of impact.  It's firing up the anti-left frenzy of the rabid wingnutosphere, but they're pretty much in a state of maximum frenzy all the time anyway.  When the Senate fails to reach a two-thirds majority for removal, it may lead to despair among those on the left who have long clung to impeachment as a deus ex machina to end the current nightmare.  But in the months between then and the election, Trump will generate plenty of further outrages to re-energize them.  It's what he does.  For most of the public, impeachment will be a non-event, barely noticed.

I hope that then we can finally put the undivided focus of our political efforts where it should have been all along -- on the election.

12 November 2019

Windows 7 and the blogger's dilemma

As we have been endlessly reminded, Microsoft will end support for Windows 7 on 14 January 2020.  My computer runs Windows 7, and I'm uncertain what's the best thing to do about this.  Microsoft's own posts and messages on the subject are pushing users to switch to Windows 10, which I don't want to do for several reasons:

1) Windows 10 is essentially spyware -- it reports a lot of information about what you do on the net or have on your computer back to Microsoft.  I've been thinking about getting a VPN for better internet security, but I don't know whether that would do any good if my own computer is spying on me -- a VPN, from what I understand, protects your connection with the sites you're reading, not the computer you're using to read them.  And no, I don't agree that "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about."  I'm not doing anything illegal on the net, but it's nobody's damn business what I do do.

2) It's an inferior system and not as intuitive to use.  I've used Windows 10 computers at jobs (most companies seem to be using it now), and it's more glitchy and often slower than Windows 7, and harder to figure out how to do things.

3) I can't even be sure whether Windows 10 would work on my computer.  It's a very old computer (I just keep getting it fixed every time something goes wrong, rather than buying a new one), and I've got a lot of programs on it, some of them old versions.  I don't know whether everything would work properly with a different operating system.  I suppose I could buy a new computer, but moving everything to a new computer would be a huge project, and I resent being put to all that effort and expense when my existing computer works just fine.

A blogger I sometimes read recommends switching to Linux, but it sounds like that would definitely not be compatible with my existing programs like Excel (yes, there are other programs that do similar things, but I doubt they could read my existing spreadsheets properly).  Most pro-Linux posts I've seen are full of incomprehensible technical gibberish, suggesting that it appeals mostly to techie types who don't care about being understood by average users -- the kind of people who are interested in fiddling with the engine, not just driving the car.  And again, I would hate dealing with the headache of learning a new system when there's nothing wrong with the old one.

Another factor is that I don't know how "bad" it is that support for Windows 7 is ending.  If I just ignore all the exhortations and threats and stick with Windows 7, what exactly will happen after the 14th?  How big of a danger does lack of support pose?  Given the huge number of computers still running on Windows 7, is it possible that some other entity would step in and start offering the support Microsoft no longer provides?  I'd gladly pay a reasonable monthly fee for that rather than deal with this whole mess.

Finally, I've heard that the spying features of Windows 10 can be turned off, but I don't know how easy it is to do that, or (critically) whether it really stops the spying -- and I doubt Microsoft is going to be very eager to show people how.

(As an aside, it's incredible that Microsoft would deliberately trash an excellent and hugely-popular product that hundreds of millions of people want to keep.  This is exactly the kind of corporate behavior that the "free market" is supposed to discourage.)

So it seems I basically have three choices:

1) Stick with Windows 7 and hope for the best.

2) Switch to Windows 10, disable the spy features (if that's possible), and hope it works properly on my existing computer -- or that my existing programs could be moved to a new computer and still work.

3) Get off the internet, completely and permanently.  No more blog, no more reading on the net, nothing.

("Switch to Windows 10 and put up with the spyware" isn't an option.  I'm serious.  I am not going to do that, even if it means giving up the internet.)

At the moment, I don't have sufficient knowledge to make an informed choice.  I'm curious what others who are facing the same problem are planning to do, especially if you know more about computers and have a better grasp of what various options would involve.

10 November 2019

Link round-up for 10 November 2019

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

o o o o o

It's poultry in motion!

Have some fish cartoons.

Got any good jokes?  Post them here.

See a truly appropriate exhibit.

This shirt exists.

Nature is ugly, but it can be funny too.

Religionists spent more than a year praying to a toilet.

Last hurrah for Halloween -- a spectacular yard display (from Haunted Eve), a witch house, a variegated bunch of jack-o-lanterns, and the best skeletons in Manitou Springs.

Kids these days are pretty knowledgeable.

"Blacks for Trump" hold a rally in Atlanta.

Debra She Who Seeks and Susan Swiderski look at writers.

A dedicated fan has some observations about Peter Pan.

Many people can be fooled, easily.

MAGA, indeed (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

The Colour out of Space is getting a (rather amped-up, apparently) movie version.

Cast your mind back to the scents of the ancient world.

Yes, they still have exorcists.

"He won't get booed there, that's why."

Robots come out to play.

What is "degenerate"?

A Tumblr blogger rubs it in about the platform's implosion (but concerning the blog background, do not do that).

Grocery-store self-checkout leads to shoplifting on a massive scale.

America has changed, but our myths about ourselves haven't kept up.

"Meanwhile, Japan....."

Trump Jr's book makes an eye-popping analogy about Arlington National Cemetery.

Colorado is well-positioned for the shift to non-carbon energy.

Most atheists understand the religious mind-set well.

Right-wing delusion and hypocrisy escalate to hysterical levels in the face of impeachment.

Get off Facebook, if you can.

The Post Office could provide banking services in remote areas (they do this in Britain, or used to).

The "men of God" demand to be treated like gods themselves.

Rather than urban vs rural, look at the country's voting patterns based on how cosmopolitan different areas are.

Honest diplomats have no place in the Trump gang (found via Hometown USA).

A majority of white Democrats are now non-Christian (the article is whiny about this, but the statistics are valid).  The party must accept its role in an increasingly secular society.

Congress has unanimously passed a tough law against animal cruelty.

The system must make amends to those whom it falsely imprisoned.  Plus, Trump is still an asshole.

You cannot make an issue go away by silencing and threatening people.

Capitalism will devour your whole existence if you let it.

To the hard-core Christianists, impeaching Trump is "evil", and so is any gesture of acceptance of gays.

What would you accept as evidence that your beliefs are wrong?

The FBI has thwarted a terrorist plot in Colorado.

Can the WHO tell the truth about non-science-based fake "medicine"?

Edwardian England was fascinated by radium, with horrifying consequences (note that $#*!^% YouTube interrupts this short video twice for ads).

A rapist was sentenced to a women's prison, with predictable resultsThis is madness.

It's now thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A simple graph shows the numbers of people attending religious services in Germany since the 1960s (this is in a nation of 83 million).

Delhi is in the grip of an opaque mass of toxic smog.

The loss of MH370 spawned some weird conspiracy theories.

It's not just the most educated -- Trump is losing support among white working-class women.

The Virginia Republican party committed suicide by embracing crazed fundamentalism.

No, Bloomberg joining the race isn't a big deal.

What if Trump wins?

Samantha Bee looks at last week's election.  Electoral-Vote has more analysis.

To Trump or not to Trump, that is the only question (skip the comments, they're mostly depressing as hell).

More links here.

[1,025 days down, 437 to go until the inauguration of a real President.]

08 November 2019

Quote for the day -- that which produces results

"Show me a cultural relativist at thirty thousand feet and I'll show you a hypocrite.  Airplanes built according to scientific principles work.  They stay aloft, and they get you to a chosen destination.  Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications, such as the dummy planes of the cargo cults in jungle clearings or the beeswaxed wings of Icarus, don't.  If you are flying to an international congress of anthropologists or literary critics, the reason you will probably get there -- the reason you don't plummet into a ploughed field -- is that a lot of Western scientifically trained engineers have got their sums right.  Western science, acting on good evidence that the moon orbits the Earth a quarter of a million miles away, using Western-designed computers and rockets, has succeeded in placing people on its surface.  Tribal science, believing that the moon is just above the treetops, will never touch it outside of dreams."

-- Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden (1995).  Of course science and the associated technology, while of Western origin, can be used equally well by people of non-Western background who have mastered those areas of knowledge, because science and mathematics (and only those things) are genuinely universal truth.  The contrast here is with non-scientific "ways of knowing", which have no concrete achievements to their credit and never will.

07 November 2019

This week, 2020, and beyond

This week's election results look very good.  Republicans swept from power in Virginia, a Democratic governor in Kentucky, substantial shifts in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and even in Mississippi our candidate for governor lost by less than six points.

These outcomes are very encouraging for next year.  They also offer some useful lessons.  Three points in particular stand out.

1)  Narrow wins aren't good enough.  The Republicans will try to steal any election where the margin is small enough to give them a chance at doing so, and I don't just mean before-the-fact by tactics like suppressing the minority vote.  Because Beshear's margin of victory in Kentucky was only 5,000 votes, they're already exploring possible tactics for overturning the result.

They will do the same next year if our presidential candidate's win is narrow, not just nationally but in any individual state.  Even if the margin nationally is large, if the Electoral College result comes down to narrow Democratic wins in a few swing states (where our current polling margins are small), Republicans are likely to try to reverse or sabotage those outcomes.  And their efforts might win support at the Supreme Court, if the fight goes there, since the stakes are very high for the Court's conservatives -- a Democratic president and Congress might expand the Court, weakening those conservatives' power.  We need big enough wins in the swing states to avoid this scenario.

The same applies to Senate races.  If we don't win the Senate, the Republicans can still obstruct most efforts to undo the damage Trump did and move forward.  The future of the country could come down to one or two close Senate races in states like Arizona or Iowa.  Again, the wider the margin of victory in those states, the less the chance of Republicans challenging the outcome.

2)  It's not just about the presidency.  In Kentucky, Beshear won due in part to Bevin's personal unpopularity, but Republicans won every other state-wide race.  Trump too is personally unpopular, but if we defeat him solely on that basis, Republicans might still perform strongly elsewhere.  We'll need a Democratic Senate, and control of as many state legislatures as possible to thwart gerrymandering after the 2020 census.

In fact, we'll need more than a slight majority in the Senate.  If the filibuster isn't abolished, not much will get done, and several Democratic senators have already come out against abolishing the filibuster.  This is not an argument for abandoning conservative Democrats -- it's always better for a seat to be held by a conservative Democrat, who will vote the wrong way on some things, than by a Republican, who will vote the wrong way on everything.  And we'll have a better chance of persuading these Democrats to change their minds on the filibuster than of persuading Republicans to do so.  But the bigger the majority in the Senate, the better the odds.

This is relevant to the old debate about whether it's better to win by appealing to voters in the center or by boosting turnout in our own base.  Centrists and moderate Republicans who want to repudiate Trump are more likely to ticket-split, voting for a Democratic president but also for Republicans at lower levels as a check on that president's policies (since they're voting for the Democrat not because they like those policies, but just to get rid of Trump).  Democratic base voters turned out by GOTV efforts are more likely to vote Democratic at all levels.

3)  Future elections matter too.  The fight doesn't end when Trump leaves office. A new president's party usually loses seats in Congress in the following midterm.  A loss of either the House or Senate in 2022 would enable the Republicans to resume obstructing and sabotaging everything, and their efforts would be even more nihilistic and destructive since they wouldn't need to worry about undermining a Republican president.  The party will need to deliver on popular promises, such as a public option, during 2021 and 2022.  Pushing unpopular policies like abolishing private insurance is likely to result in massive repudiation in 2022 (yes, in the long run it would benefit the country, but it's unpopular now and there won't be time before 2022 for the benefits to become apparent to the average voter).

Next year's running-mate choice will matter.  Given that our most likely nominees (Biden, Warren, and Sanders) are all in their seventies, there's a non-trivial chance that the person chosen as vice-president will be the incumbent running for re-election in 2024.

Running on "Trump is a terrible person" may be enough in 2020 (though it wasn't in 2016), but in 2022 and 2024 Trump won't be on the ballot.  A massive Republican defeat next year will most likely set them at each other's throats for a while, but it's possible that they'll get their act together, adopt a moderate façade, and pose a real threat again.  Getting rid of Trump really is the top priority next year, but the more we give people something to vote for as well, the more lasting the win will be.

04 November 2019

Battle lines drawn in the Catholic Church

A bitter internal conflict is escalating within one of the most powerful global organizations in existence.

It's now just over a week since the end of the Catholic Church's Amazon synod, and while the "final document" is long on evocative rhetoric and short on simple declarative statements, it does include at least some of the recommendations which traditionalist Catholics had feared, such as consideration of female deacons (a step toward women priests), ordination of married men as priests, and an "Amazonian rite" adapting Catholic ritual to Amazonian culture.  The synod has advisory powers only, and the Pope will make the final decision on these innovations; and they are suggested for the Amazon region only.  But traditionalists fear that, if adopted, they will rapidly spread throughout the global Catholic Church -- an embrace of heresy, as they see it.

So far their opposition to this has taken the form mostly of praying and of hoping that Jesus or some other supernatural figure will step in and straighten it all out.  But if the Pope and the hierarchy go ahead and implement such changes, and they do indeed spread to the Church in the US and Europe, what will they do, seeing the one true Church accept what they consider heretical practices?  I can hardly wait to find out.  Talk of schism has been floating around for months now, along with occasional lurid fantasies about seizing control of the Vatican and casting out the evil "heretic Pope".  At the very least, it's clear that if the Church does ordain married priests and/or women priests, many traditionalists will not accept them or the rituals they perform as being legitimate.  It's going to be a mess.

For now, however, the strongest traditionalist ire seems to be reserved for the "Pachamama" statuettes which were displayed at various Vatican sites during the synod, and the apparent pagan ritual performed around them during the opening ceremony.  If there's one thing they loathe even more than heresy, it's any whiff of paganism infiltrating the Church.  After two men removed several of the statuettes a couple of weeks ago and threw them into the Tiber river, many traditionalists and even a few high-ranking clerics praised the perpetrators to the skies, some comparing them to Jesus driving the money-changers from the temple.  If you doubt the intensity of the emotion involved, check out this breathless performance:

Remember, those "high-ranking churchmen" who the bishop says "defiled the Christian name" with their "cowardly and treacherous acts" include the Pope, and everybody knows it.  In an authoritarian, hierarchical institution like the Catholic Church, this is explosive talk.

A few days after the theft, Pope Francis announced that the statues had been retrieved from the river (so Pachamama was resurrected on the third day?), and the Vatican reportedly wants to press charges against the thieves -- one of whom identified himself this morning -- so the difference of views on this point seems insurmountable.

The conflict which the synod has brought to a head has been simmering at least since the reforms of the "Vatican II" council of 1962-1965.  It's emotively expressed by this short video:

It took me two or three viewings to decipher this jumble of bizarre imagery, but I gather that, for the first 2½ minutes, the color pictures represent the evil modernist practices while the black-and-white pictures represent the traditional ones.  The aggressive rhetoric, and the ending evocation of the bloodthirsty Crusaders of the Dark Ages, are not a good sign for where this kind of thinking is headed.

One other point has struck me.  Traditionalists defending the men who threw out the Pachamama statuettes have invoked such ancient acts as St. Boniface marching into the midst of a pagan Germanic tribe and chopping down their sacred oak tree, or the large-scale Christian destruction of pagan statues and temples in late Roman times -- aside from those temples they defiled by converting them to their own use.  In the twenty-first century, they still regard these acts of desecration against the sacred things of other religions as noble and praiseworthy.  As Christianity continues to decline across the Western world, the day will come when their sacred things are at our mercy.  When that day does arrive, do not forget, and do not forgive.

03 November 2019

Link round-up for 3 November 2019

Sincere thanks to everyone who donated during the past week!  You've helped me a great deal.

o o o o o

Shoot back!

Please un-invent this.

Trump once again gives cartoonists ample material to work with.

We're trying too hard to make the world safe for idiots.

See some Halloween cartoons -- love the witch duel!

The First Toddler has escaped the control of his babysitters.

Check out these vintage Halloween cards.

This candidate doesn't seem like a good fit for New York City.

Time to crack down on lazy bums on government handouts.

Dr. Theda has some more Halloween images.

Here's how it feels to get up close with someone you idolize.

Incel anti-masturbation cultists fear that sex-crazed women are out to get their semen (honestly, I don't think these guys have anything to worry about).

Here's a gallery of photos from the Cedar Springs Halloween block party in Dallas -- yes, this is Texas (link from Ranch Chimp).

Don't be too bound by tradition.

Rich kids get more screen-free, real-world time.  That kind of time has benefits.

If there's an afterlife, what about animals?  Would Heaven be Heaven without dogs?

Scariest Halloween decoration of all.

Find out what makes you smell good -- to a mosquito.

Feel some sympathy for the Devil.

Plan on giving the Mulan remake a miss.

Where did the cyclops come from?

Meet Dr. Randall Williams, a Republican health official and utter weirdo.

See the dramatic (and funny) differences between how Trump and Obama speak.

A Senator sends a Halloween fund-raising message.

WeWork is awful, a 1,421-pound pumpkin, and more.

Americans do have a culture -- we just don't notice it.

When the hell is Congress going to put a stop to this bullshit?

Given that Windows 7 support ends in January and Windows 10 is basically spyware, is Linux a viable alternative?

Many years ago, a president inspired silence in football stadiums.

Maybe Giuliani should just not have a phone.

Here's one difference between capitalism and socialism.

Ann Coulter is a doofus.

Not everyone deserves to be saved.

Trump is considering making a fool of himself on TV.

Journalists (well, some of them) moan and whine about the decline of Christianity.

Why did Trump change his residence to Florida?

A former churchgoer explains why he's not going back.

We're already paying the costs of universal health coverage -- we're just not getting it.

If you think the way I write about the Catholic Church is too harsh, listen to fervent Catholic activist Michael Voris on the abysmal corruption of the Church hierarchy.

Trump's wall, what little there is of it, doesn't even work.

Southwest Airlines tried to intimidate and silence flight attendants who blew the whistle on "peeping Tom" pilots.

Quitters sometimes win (this is important).

The world the "preppers" are prepping for wouldn't be worth living in.

This is emotional abuse.

The Catholic hierarchy is infested with child molesters and run by people who protect them, but it's not a criminal organization because -- well, see if you can make any sense of this gobbledygook.

Christian thinkers discuss what to do about people who leave Christianity.  Based on this, I don't think they have the foggiest understanding of the real reasons why people leave.

Green Eagle surveys the wingnutosphere so you don't have to.

There's a reason why Los Angeles county doesn't have rolling blackouts.

Trump's regime is totally scandal-free, and more wingnut dumbth.

Traditionalist Catholics heap praise on a priest who denied "communion" to Biden.  Because Christianity is all about shunning and excluding people.

There are options for funding Medicare-for-all.

Katie Hill should not have had to resign.

The US is now more expensive, less efficient, and more infested with monopolies than Europe.

Even without repulsive evangelicals, Christianity is doomed by its own absurdity.

Trump is letting a giant foreign corporation steal our water.

There are good reasons to protect the environment, but tales of past environmental apocalypse in places like Easter Island don't stand up to scrutiny.

Rising sea levels are going to be a bigger problem than we had thought.

Pope Francis and his Vatican have stonewalled a British investigation into clerical child abuse.

Germans support tough action against Turkey.

Russia's sole remaining aircraft carrier is a creaky old piece of junk.

Syria's Kurds aren't too happy to be aligned with the Asad regime, but after Trump's betrayal, it's the least bad option.

Turkey takes time out from murdering Kurds to whitewash its murders of a century ago.

The Japanese are getting fed up with rude tourists.

India is sharply slowing its CO2 emission growth.

Democracies condemn China's behavior in Uighurstan, while thug-regimes defend it.  A witness describes the horrors of the camps.

Here's some internet art that the Chinese regime doesn't want anyone to see.

At least in Indonesia, there's a price to be paid for hypocrisy.

Changes in land use are turning some of the Sahel green.

Democrats' fundraising dwarfs that of the Republicans.

Twitter users relish Trump's pwnage at the World Series.

Georgia plans to cancel 315,000 voter registrations.

Here's what's at stake in this week's election in Virginia.

Wall Street hates and fears Warren, but may be making her inevitable.

By embracing lies, Facebook is siding with the Republicans.

Amazon is spending $1,500,000 to buy a local election in Seattle.  Imagine what they'll spend to buy the federal election next year.

How does being gay affect Buttigieg's candidacy?  It's complicated.

Here's why Senate Republicans won't vote to remove Trump (yeah, it's Rich Lowry, but his logic is sound).

Impeachment is less popular in the swing states than in the country as a whole.

O'Rourke's departure from the race was classy.

More links here.

[Only 363 days to go until Halloween!]