30 June 2020


For what seems like several months, the Blogger dashboard has had a button announcing a new interface and urging users to try it.  Around a month ago, an announcement appeared that the new interface would soon become the standard and that the old one would be available as an option only until the end of July, implying it would be phased out after that.  Starting with this post on June 16, I switched over to the new interface, figuring I might as well start getting used to it.

Right from the beginning, there were problems.  The gaps between paragraphs were too wide.  I didn't even notice on that first post, but with the link-round-up a few days later, the problem was very obvious and distracting.  I eventually figured out how to stop this from happening, thanks to advice from a couple of fellow bloggers who know more about HTML than I do.  I later went back to that original post and changed the spacing by manually changing the HTML, but doing so on the link round-up would be a bigger job than it's worth.

After I posted that link round-up, the sidebar kept getting pushed down to the bottom of the blog instead of appearing at the side where it should; I eventually fixed this by reducing the size of the picture at the top, but I don't like needing to make pictures smaller.  With one post the following week, the same problem occurred, and shrinking the picture did not help -- I eventually fixed it by undoing a change I'd made to the HTML at the end of the post, something that seems wholly irrelevant to the location of the sidebar.

After posting the most recent link round-up two days ago, the sidebar suddenly appeared in some hideous centered format instead of left-justified, and pushed too far over to the right.  This happened a few minutes after posting the link round-up.  I hadn't touched the theme HTML.  I fiddled around with various things, but couldn't fix it.  About ten minutes later it went back to normal by itself.

Glitches aside, the new interface is more difficult to use.  In the old one, the buttons you click on to perform various operations are labeled with printed words, like this:
In the new interface, these are replaced with icons which have no words on them.  You can see what each icon does by hovering the cursor over it, but it's an irritating extra step.  I've never understood why icons you have to figure out are widely considered better than printed words you can simply read.  The preview button, which is supposed to show you what the post will look like before you actually publish it, doesn't work -- it just shows you the blog as it currently is, not including the unpublished post you're working on.  The HTML version of the editing screen appears not in paragraph format, but as an unbroken block of text which is much harder to edit.  There's a "format HTML" button, but it breaks out the block of text not by paragraphs, but by wherever there happens to be a space in an HTML tag, making it even more visually confusing.  Before publishing a post, I like to test links to make sure they open as the correct page, but in the new interface, right-clicking a link in an unpublished post and opening in a new tab just takes you to a generic Blogger page, not where the link will actually go.

The new interface is better in a couple of ways.  When you're editing an existing post, you can save changes without having to close out of the editor screen.  The stats display is more logical, though the "traffic sources" information seems to have disappeared.

But overall, the new interface still needs a lot of work before it's even as good as the old one.  I don't understand why they did this.  There was nothing wrong with the old interface.  It reminds me of New Coke.

Since the last link round-up I've gone back to using the old interface.  The last dashboard notification I saw no longer contains the note about it being phased out at the end of July.  I suspect they've gotten a lot of complaints about this.

I'll say one thing for Blogger -- they do have a history of being responsive when their user base tells them something is a mistake.  In 2015 they reversed a potentially-disastrous decision to ban sexually-oriented content -- something Tumblr (or rather Verizon, which owned it at the time) failed to do despite a massive user outcry.  I hope that here, too, they'll reverse the decision to phase out the old interface.  If it does remain available indefinitely as an alternate option, I'll just keep using it.

28 June 2020

Link round-up for 28 June 2020

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

o o o o o

Beware the Karmadillo.


Let me borrow your hat for a moment.

Debra She Who Seeks's virtual pride parade of readers is posted.

"You're fired!"

What about this statue (found via Yellowdog Granny).


Looks to me like it's working fine.

Leave the windmill alone.

Alien could have been a lot shorter.

Have some more feminized Star Trek characters, plus Luke Skywalker.

You are what you eat.

This is art in motion.

He's a master strategist.

Maybe there can be a compromise on statues.

"Devin Nunes remains winless in the World Cow-Suing Federation....."

Women prefer men without cats.

It's President Toilet.

Why no catch fish?

They move among us.

What godawful shoes.

That's a lot of water (found via Calvin).

Defunding the police could lead to rising crime (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Please vote for Trump (found via Progressive Eruptions).

Have some Texas scenery.

Pandemic-emptied roads raise the temptation of speed.

"A mask is not a political statement....."

Sometimes, doing the right thing pays off.

The reality doesn't match the fantasy (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Things are starting to go sour for Zuckerberg -- and Trump.

Being non-religious reduces your odds of catching covid-19 (probably because we don't go to church).  Hard-core religion is bad for your health.

My imaginary friend is gonna get you for this!

Here's the real reason behind the Trumpanzees' loyalty.

QAnon qrackpots are becoming fake warriors.

It's insane that this idiot is a teacher (found via Miss Cellanea).

Trump has his own view of the numbers (found via Hackwhackers).

Anger deserves more than clichés.

"Cancel culture" is mob rule suppressing free expression.

Statues are not how we learn history (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Professor Taboo looks at non-monogamous love.

Darwinfish 2 has observations on Confederate statues, Tulsa, and police violence.

Green Eagle is back with another round-up of right-wing insanity, much of it anti-Semitic.

Pinku-Sensei assesses climate change in Michigan.

Bruce Gerencser debunks the slippery-slope fallacy.

Reminder:  The Postal Service is still under attack.

Trump is the very opposite of leadership.

Working in a nursing home, always a tough job, gets even tougher in the time of covid-19.

If you can't remove the statue, improve it.

Yes, they are really this stupid.

The vitriol and idiocy of the attacks on JK Rowling show that the goal is enforcing conformity via bullying.  It's about erasing the concept of femaleness.  Here's some good discussion among bloggers.

These trend lines portend disaster.

Pelosi removes the portraits of traitors; Republicans want them back.

It's not just churches -- the evangelical population as a whole is helping spread the pandemic.

Women being more educated than their husbands is scary to fundies.

From about 3:25 -- this is what we're up against.

Idiot vandals destroy a statue of an abolitionist who died fighting slavery.

Here's why the economic situation is such a mess.

Catch this monster.

If you want freedom for yourself, respect it for others.

Vandals attacked a statue of Gandhi in front of the Indian embassy to the US.

Nurses and former patients describe severe cases of covid-19It is not like the flu.  This thing is a horror.

The US is finally confronting the truth about the Confederacy.

CHAZ/CHOP/whatever is a violent enclave of armed thugs and bullies.  The mayor and governor need to go to prison for failing to protect the residents from this.

A pastor reminds us about the blessing of slavery.

Texas and Florida start to reverse their ill-considered re-openings.  But Florida is still trying to hide the problem.

The world is watching Trump's -- and America's -- failure.  The pandemic's worst-case scenarios are back on the table.

Remember the horrifying case of George Stinney Jr.

The Confederacy was a highly-centralized state with theocratic elements and, yes, explicitly based on preserving slavery forever.

This animated graph dramatizes the "race" between covid-19 and other causes of death.

Around the world, religion is the main driver of resistance to polio vaccination.

A town north of the Arctic Circle just hit over 100°F.

In general, Americans wash too much.

The results of the 1976 experiment seeking life on Mars deserve further investigation.

Our solar system is not normal.

Record numbers of people are resigning church membership in Germany.

Latvia, nation of introverts.

Resistance is on the rise in Belarus.

The majority of people in Jacksonville don't want the Republican convention.

A RedState diarist is despondent about the election.

The Trump gang is reeling from the Tulsa fiascoGreen Eagle and Hackwhackers assess the mess.  I'll give the last word to Stormy Daniels.

No, voting by mail is not easily hackable.

A Biden landslide looks possible -- but don't let the polls make you overconfident.

Never forget that the Republican party is a shabby and corrupt cult, and the NeverTrumpers, while useful at the moment, are not allies.

More links here.

[1,256 days down, 206 to go until the inauguration of a real president.  Yes, we've survived 1,256 days of this shit.  Hang in there!]

26 June 2020

Stupidity and failure

Despite a highly-developed health-care system and medical workers who have driven themselves to exhaustion at great personal risk, the response of the US as a nation to covid-19 has been a disaster.  We are now the global center of the pandemic, and the situation is rapidly getting even worse as state governments relax lockdown policies and infections take off again.  It's no wonder European countries are considering restrictions on visitors from the US.

This is not all Trump's fault, though he deserves a hefty share of the blame.

It is not "our" fault in the sense of Americans generally (and never forget that "we" did not elect Trump -- the majority voted for Hillary, and without vote suppression it would have been even more so).

No, the greater part of the blame goes to a large minority within the US population which is militantly stupid and, in many cases, consumed with hate and otherwise emotionally stunted.

You know the kind of people I'm talking about.

The macho-moron BFYTW snowflake subculture that refuses to wear masks or observe social distancing for the same reasons they drive drunk or use illegal fireworks or smoke around other people -- they can't tolerate rules which impose even the tiniest discomfort or compromise the immediate gratification of their childish desires, even when it's a matter of endangering other people, not just themselves.

The determinedly-oblivious idiots who disdain science and instead choose to believe wishful thinking and superstition and random nonsense, listening to pastors or gurus or celebrities or some nutcase with a podcast instead of to people who actually know things (and not all of these types are of the right wing, please note).

The solipsists who act as if their own feelings and wishes somehow shape reality -- "I'm just tired of all these rules and I'm tired of hearing about the virus and I want it to be over so I can move on to something else, therefore it is".  Objective reality doesn't give a shit about your toddler-like short attention span, and while we're on the subject, Santa Claus doesn't exist either, boo-hoo.

If Hillary were president as the majority of us wanted, the official response to the pandemic would have been far better and many lives would have been saved -- but there are enough of these arrested-development idiot types that things would still be far worse here than in other developed countries where such people are much fewer and the public has more respect for science and understanding of it.  There are enough of them to keep this pandemic raging more or less out of control even if better policies are put in place (which would help, but not get our curve on that graph anywhere near the others) until their betters, the scientists, develop a vaccine which will at least protect us of the non-stupid majority from the consequences of their behavior.

We are going to end up with a million dead and an economy wrecked beyond anything we've seen yet, and stand revealed as a pitiful embarrassment to the rest of the Western world, because at least a third of our population is stupid, infantile, and utterly lacking in self-discipline.  It's as simple as that.

Biden will have one hell of a gargantuan mess to clean up.  Be ready to give him all the support you can, for the country's sake.  Because he's going to be hated and opposed at every step by the vast herd of morons he's trying to save.

24 June 2020

Video of the day -- what have you got to lose?

I've lived my whole life without religion and always been very glad of it.  I've had relationships that the Abrahamic religions would certainly disapprove of.  I've never worried about nonsense like going to Hell.  I've been free to develop my own ideas and values without concern for ancient beliefs and constraints on human thought.  One point that he doesn't mention -- I've been free to decide for myself the meaning and purpose of my life, without it being cluttered up with some "higher purpose" imposed from outside myself.

23 June 2020

No, it is not "erasing history"

History needs to be recorded and remembered, regardless of how we today judge the events and people of the past.  What happened is what happened, even when the truth is painful.  But historical memory does not require that we preserve monuments explicitly meant to honor criminals and insult black Americans.

Most of the Confederate monuments now scattered across the country were built not right after the Civil War but between 1895 and 1920, when the post-war progress on civil rights had been mostly reversed and the grinding down and terrorization of blacks reached an apex.  They were less commemoration of history than assertion and celebration of the resurgence of white supremacy.

This is perhaps fitting given that that was the cause for which the Confederates fought.  The Civil War was entirely about slavery -- the Confederacy was created solely to preserve slavery.  The declarations of secession passed by the Southern states at the time make this clear.  Any assertion to the contrary is simply a lie.  Yet it's the people who claim to be concerned about preserving history who keep repeating this fundamental lie about it.

In every other case, the difference between remembering history and honoring its villains does not seem to confuse anybody.  Germany preserves the history of the Third Reich with grim determination, lest forgetting the horrors of the past make it easier to repeat them someday, but it has no statues commemorating Hitler or Himmler.

Arguments about honoring "Southern heritage" don't hold water either.  The South as a distinct cultural region is at least two centuries old.  Why focus on the four-year period of shame?  The South has produced many great figures before and after that time, including military heroes who fought for the United States rather than against it.  Again, Germans can take pride in centuries of achievement in many fields without defending the twelve years of Nazi atrocities.

It is sometimes said that if Confederate statues are removed, we would need to get rid of commemorations of other past figures who owned slaves or did other things which would be considered immoral today.  It is a valid point that almost any powerful figure from more than a couple of generations ago probably did or believed things which we today would judge abhorrent -- and never forget that we do not know how people a few generations in the future will judge things considered normative in our own time.

But there are differences in degree.  Owning slaves in 1800, when slavery was almost universally accepted and had been for millennia, is not the same thing as fighting to preserve slavery in 1861 after it had emerged as the central morally-contentious issue of the day.  Columbus lived in a brutal age, but his atrocities as governor of the Indies were shocking even for that age, and led to his being removed from his position and briefly imprisoned.  Some degree of racism was normative in the 1940s, but Auschwitz was not.

And the Confederate case is unique because these men fought a war against the United States.  That makes it absurd that the country is dotted with statues honoring them, and even more absurd that American military bases are named after them.  I'm aware of the argument that they should not be considered traitors because in those days loyalty was felt more to individual states than to the whole country.  But even if you buy that (I don't), they were still enemies of the United States and fought a war to break it up.  Admiral Yamamoto was not a traitor to his own country, but we don't name American military bases after him.

It's not just that these statues are offensive and degrading to black Americans; it's that they were intended to be so.  If they deserve preservation at all, it should be in museums, as relics not of the Confederacy but of the age of resurgent racial oppression two generations later, which built them as assertions of its own triumph.  The bases should be renamed, honoring the country's heroes rather than its enemies.  And as for that stupid flag, the First Amendment protects individuals' right to display it, but we all know what it really stood for -- and it still does.

21 June 2020

Link round-up for 21 June 2020

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

o o o o o

He shouldn't have bothered to take the escalator.

Speaking of escalators, this ad would have worked better on the other side.

Sniffer the dog sniffs out a few things.

Here's the password for free wi-fi.

Imagine the original Star Trek cast as women.

Check out what Dolly Parton has been up to.

Bigfoot erotica is a thing.

See some inspired cartoons.

The Republican convention will be well guarded.

Moline Skeptics dissects a modern folk tale about haunted airplanes.

Not even Bugs Bunny is safe from modern lunacy.

Fox News mistook a Monty Python joke for the actual platform of CHAZ.

Trump's big rally was a flop.  The use of music drew this response.  More on the fiasco at Mock Paper Scissors, Hackwhackers, Strangely Blogged, and Big Bad Bald Bastard.  Here's an honest poster for the rally.

Can wooden money save the economy of a small town?

God needs a tacky shirt to remind him of the United States.

Trump goes nutzoid about the Supreme Court, gets pwned.

Did Robert E Lee oppose slavery? (found via Yellowdog Granny).

See how acceptance of interracial marriage has risen in the US since 1958.

Hackwhackers has some telling quotes about Trump.

Nebraska's Republican governor threatens to cut off covid-19 aid money to counties that make masks mandatory.

There are misunderstandings about free expression.

The pandemic is making housing a little more affordable.

We're starting to find out who got most of the covid-19 aid money.

A California church defied pandemic safety rules -- and then refused to cooperate with contact tracing.

Most political violence in the US is caused by right-wing extremists, but the Trump gang doesn't want to hear it.

Rich Lowry opines that even conservatives shouldn't defend Confederate symbols.

A single Pentecostal church in eastern Oregon has infected over 230 people with covid-19.

This man was arrested for calling 911 on a group of menacing trespassers.

Read brief vignettes of horror from Alabama's lynching memorial.

Rural America is more vulnerable to covid-19 than the cities.

An evangelical senator denounces the Bostock ruling -- and accuses the Republican party of betrayal.  LifeSite author Stephen Kokx wants religio-wingnuts to form their own third party (lawd, yes! -- divide that right-wing vote so you can never win again!).

If they're "essential", treat them that way.

"Prophet" Mark Taylor believes black people are lynching themselves to make Trump look bad.

Trump could only dream of a rally like this.

Here's what it means to "recover" from covid-19.

This bridge should have been renamed a long time ago.

Trump threaded the needle on the pandemic.  Here's the real trajectory.

Bruce Gerencser looks at Christianity's martyrdom fetish.

US science education is improving little by little.

Building the great pyramid of Giza probably took a lot fewer people than you think.

One culture respects science much more than the other.  Fauci warns of the dangers of anti-science attitudes.

Foreign health experts watch aghast as the US rushes into a deadly re-opening.

A covid-19 outbreak at a meat-processing plant in Germany has infected over a thousand people.

The pandemic is hitting Latin America hard.  Brazil's cumulative cases have surpassed one million.

The case of Egyptian lesbian Sarah Hegazi shows the human harm done by a religion-dominated society.

An Islamic cleric in India's state of Uttar Pradesh has banned Muslims from using hand sanitizer because it contains alcohol (sounds like a load of uttar pradesh to me).

Militarily, India has the edge over China in the current Himalayan clash.

Hong Kong protesters now have a messaging system the regime can't censor.

Beijing enacts a massive response to its new covid-19 outbreak.

Trump grovels like a dog to China's rulers.

If Republicans lose the Senate this year, they won't get it back in 2022Details here.

Trump won't lose much evangelical support as long as he keeps hurting the right people.

More links here, plus a brief Sarah Cooper appearance.

[Not sure why the paragraph gaps are so wide.  This and the "Hard reality" post below are the first ones I wrote using the new Blogger interface.  Deleting the paragraph breaks makes the gaps too small.  If anyone who has been using the new interface knows how to fix the problem, please let me know.]

19 June 2020

Hard reality

I've long believed that everybody, as part of their education, should be required to take an introductory class in engineering or some similar subject which would drive home the fact that there is a "solid", objective, immutable reality out there which is totally unaffected by human feelings and beliefs about it.  Far too many people fail to grasp this point.  They judge scientific findings or medical advice not by the evidence supporting them, but by how they feel about them or by what ideological slant they associate with the people announcing them.

Reality doesn't work like that.  For example, evolution happened.  It doesn't matter if some people find this depressing or feel that it makes life seem pointless.  It doesn't matter what holy books or traditional beliefs say.  It doesn't matter if it has disturbing implications for morality or society.  Evolution happened.  The real-world evidence from anatomy and from the fossil record, and above all from molecular biology, says so.  That's the only thing that's relevant to establishing whether the theory of evolution is true.

Physics describes how the universe actually works.  Mysticism, religion, "spirituality", and the various other forms of vague gobbledygook do not.  Airplanes designed according to human knowledge of physics actually fly.  Space probes launched along trajectories based on human knowledge of physics actually reach the target planet at the time and velocity intended.  Huge, complex electrical power generation and transmission systems built according to human knowledge of physics actually deliver electricity exactly as they are meant to do.  None of the fake "other ways of knowing" gives us such clear, verifiable, measurable results in the real world.

This has become a serious practical problem for our country's response to the covid-19 pandemic because much of the right wing has decided that precautions such as masks, social distancing, and lockdowns are markers of political tribal identity.  To them, adhering to such practices is not a pragmatic effort to minimize danger, but evidence of one's membership in the secular left.  Such delusions come naturally to the religion-dominated mind.  After generations of being taught to disregard or deny evidence in order to reject the theory of evolution, and instead interpret the theory as an ideological assault on religion, it was easy to apply the same response pattern to anthropogenic global warming, and then to anything else that came along.  The end result is a mental state insulated from the real world, in which every new assertion is judged not by whether the evidence supports it, but by whether it is being asserted by "our side" or by the Godless libtards.

The problem is that reality is unaffected by such attitudes.  The pandemic does not care whether somebody believes it's a hoax or not.  The laws of physics that govern the trajectory of infectious micro-droplets when somebody coughs do not care why the person isn't wearing a mask.  Amidst a group of people, the virus does not care whether the gathering is a church service or a BLM rally or a Trump rally.  It simply spreads to new hosts more or less easily depending on whether certain objective conditions are met, as impersonally as a magnet jumps toward a bar of iron if you bring it close enough.

When human behavior is based on beliefs which conflict with objective reality, there are consequences:
Compared with Americans, Europeans tend to be somewhat better educated -- but far more importantly, most European societies lack a large sub-population of highly-religious people equivalent to our fundamentalists, and are more culturally predisposed to respect science and expertise.

The difference is not just one of conflicting values or opinions.  It's about accepting or rejecting reality.  And sooner or later, it becomes a matter of life and death.

17 June 2020

Video of the day -- what built the brain?

Certain popular ideas about the proto-human diet don't make sense, nor fit the evidence.

16 June 2020

The fury of wingnuts scorned

In politics, losing a battle tends to provoke internal division, infighting, and recriminations.  The Supreme Court ruling on gay employment protections is a case in point.

When asked how they can support Trump despite his many repulsive traits, conservatives often point to the courts.  Trump has delivered a legion of right-wing judges, including two on the Supreme Court itself, who in turn will deliver the kinds of rulings his base wants.  In this context, Gorsuch's concurrence with yesterday's ruling is being denounced across the wingnutosphere as an epic betrayal.  Here are a few examples.  Pundit Varad Mehta opines:

The whole point of the Federalist Society judicial project, the whole point of electing Trump to implement it, was to deliver Supreme Court victories to social conservatives.  If they can't deliver anything that basic, there's no point for either.  The damage is incalculable..... This is also the end of the Federalist Society judicial project.  Gorsuch was grown in the Federalist Society lab and did this.  The whole thing just imploded.  It's all finished.

And Erick Erickson:

All those evangelicals who sided with Trump in 2016 to protect them from the cultural currents, just found their excuse to stay home in 2020 thank to Trump’s Supreme Court picks.

One can hope.  On LifeSite News at least, Trump's statement that he would "live with" the decision is being reported primarily as a signal that he will fail to "challenge or mitigate" it, a further betrayal.  Further inflaming the situation, religio-wingnut sites are claiming that the decision will not merely protect people from being fired for being gay or transgender, but may force employers and other venues to give biological males access to women's restrooms and changing rooms and allow them to compete in women's sports (claims I haven't seen on any non-wingnut site), or would even force churches to recognize gay marriage (something the First Amendment would seem to rule out).  Many of their readers will likely believe such claims -- they're largely the same people who believe in Pizzagate, QAnon, and that the success of the gay-rights movement is the work of Satan.  To them this ruling is the Apocalypse -- the Apocalypse of the month, at least -- and Trump is getting much of the blame.

While I relish this kind of collective freak-out among the enemy as much as anyone, there's a warning here as well.  Even if everything these people are saying were true, their response would still be irrational and self-defeating.  The only effect of refusing to vote for Trump would be to make a Biden presidency more likely, and his judicial nominations would be far less favorable to a wide range of right-wing causes than Trump's.  Similarly, while some people on the left are unhappy with Biden for various reasons, the only practical effect of failing to support him would be to make Trump's re-election more likely -- something far worse for the causes they care about than anything Biden might do.  We've had ample evidence for this principle since 2016.  While Gorsuch may have deviated from wingnut orthodoxy in this one case -- and Kavanaugh didn't -- I'd still rather have two Hillary Clinton nominees on the Court in their place.

Will Trumpanzees actually stay home on election day because of this?  Probably not many.  In four and a half months other issues will eclipse the ruling in their minds, and most will realize Trump is still a better fit for their twisted agenda than Biden is.  But insofar as any do stay home, it will benefit Democrats.  Ideological purism is poison to whichever side it erupts on; it disempowers those possessed by it, laying them open to their own defeat.

14 June 2020

Link round-up for 14 June 2020

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

o o o o o

It is the love that dare not speak its name.

Horse (and zebra) time.

These kittens are thirsty.

Pride month is for gay cats too.

A woman confronts a persistent would-be watch thief.

When you visit the zoo, don't miss this exhibit.

Dance, dance (NSFW).

Lockdown or no, the facility is still in use.

Here are some Norwegian mobile homes.

Witness a daring rescue mission.

Learn how to perform a redneck vasectomy, along with other quips.

It's a real cathouse.

Trump's new "law and order" slogan provokes mockery.

The view from afar (found via Neko Random).

Trump dominates the battle space.

Stupid stupidity is stupid.

If you have a few dollars to spare, Mary at Dark Thoughts is still working on getting a car for her cancer-afflicted husband's appointments.

Here's a review of Mark Twain's "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", a story that couldn't be published until 41 years after it was written.

When will they use the safeword?

Hands tell a person's history.

Here are some organizations worthy of support.

They want you stupid and ignorant.

".....and if they ever figure that out....."

No, being religious is not good for your sex life.

Here's a useful warning for victims of tear gas.

Bob Felton is back online with some miscellaneous observations.

Don't come between the cops and their donuts.

A mixed-race family encounters bizarre harassment in Washington state (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

There's something odd about city spending patterns.

Fundies fight to ensure that the anti-lynching bill won't protect gays.

The rot goes deep in the NYPD.

It's full steam ahead with Trump's super-spreader rallies.

Christianity promotes evasion of responsibility.

Natural selection is still at work.

An incel self-pwns while plotting an act of femicide.

Moline Skeptics assesses the latest anti-vax conspiratardia.

A former cop describes how the system turns good cops bad.  Another discusses police culture, and what might work to change things.

The virus doesn't care if we're "fatigued".

It's not the first time.

Enough with the Naziistic talk of sacrificing the elderly to the pandemic.

Here's a massive database of hundreds of police-brutality incidents during the recent protests (found via Lo Imprescindible).

Should Trump have opened that Bible?  Maybe not.

JK Rowling won't back down from defending the need for women-only spaces.  Her full post on the issue is this week's must-read link. You won't find hate or prejudice here, but sober and legitimate concerns which her critics won't address -- because they can't.

The new surges of covid-19 are pushing some jurisdictions to consider a return to lockdown, notably Houston and North CarolinaThings are getting worse in my own state, though we're still much less hard-hit than some.  Mississippi looks like a disaster in the making.  There's bad news from Florida as well.

Wingnut rhetorical pushback against peaceful protest is looking pretty feeble.

Huge round-up of (mostly political) news items here.

The economy isn't going to recover quickly.

Barrage of false claims, weird limited vocabulary -- yep, we know who said this.

The wingnutosphere plumbs new depths of lunacy in response to the Floyd protests.

"Defund the police" is a dumb slogan which shows we need better messaging.

A Kentucky church that threatened to sue over lockdown rules now has a covid-19 outbreak.

"Fuck your First Amendment."

Trump positions himself as the leader of resistance to cultural change.  Good luck with that.

Police reform is now the consensus positionPolice unions will be a major obstacle, but the real debate is over.  Camden NJ has already enacted major reforms (found via Hackwhackers).

We should not honor traitors.

The US hasn't beaten covid-19 -- we've just given up.  We wasted the time the lockdowns bought at such cost.

Archbishop (and flaming nutball) Carlo Viganò writes a fan letter to Trump.  You can read full text of the thing here.

Science is fighting back against creationism in US schools, and slowly making progress.

For two-thirds of the world's population, renewable energy is now the cheapest option.

Dogs are a potential new weapon against the pandemic.

Mysterious green moss balls migrate across glaciers.

Don't be hasty to re-open the border with a disease-infested country.

Nazi beauty pageants are a thing, apparently.

Peter Norman paid a steep price for his anti-racist stance.

Australia stands up to bullying from the world's most powerful gangster regime.

Belgium is starting to address its many statues honoring one of the worst mass murderers in world history.

After political pressure and a court ruling, the Brazilian government has restored the covid-19 data it took down.

Think we have it bad?  Check out Russian politics.

Indian actors' support for US anti-racism protests highlights a curious feature of India's culture.

Pakistan's covid-19 surge has been so bad that the WHO says it needs to return to lockdown.  The government is hiring workers laid off due to the pandemic for a massive tree-planting project.

Remember that there's a serious and growing threat out there.

Beijing goes under partial lockdown after a new outbreak.

In China, Uighurs can be convicted in sham trials of ridiculous offenses like quitting smoking.

How much do black lives matter where the oppressor is also black?

My state's Republican Senate candidate is a QAnon qrackpot.

Mistress Borghese has a message for non-voters.

There's a better way to ask Republican senators about Trump.

Don't get complacent about Biden's huge poll lead (it's registered voters not likely voters, for one thing).

Trump's campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter about CNN's poll.  They're rattled.

Republicans are getting nervous about Texas.

Vote-by-mail works.

Here's more detail on the accusations against Lindsey Graham (NSFW images).

Recent events strongly suggest the military wouldn't support a Trump coup.  His behavior is undermining his support among veterans.

More links here.

11 June 2020

Money, money, money

It looks like we may be in for another round of stimulus checks.  Senate Republicans are recalcitrant, but Trump is leaning in favor of the idea, which means enough of them will eventually come around that the Democrats plus a few defectors will pass this thing.  Which is fine, but they're doing it wrong.  They need to start means-testing this stuff.

The first round of checks sent $1,200 each to about 200 million adults, which works out to two hundred and forty billion dollars (actually more since smaller amounts were sent for dependents).  That's a lot.  The deficit is quite properly not our main concern right now, but it's still a concern.

I myself got a $1,200 stimulus check last month, as most American readers presumably did.  I didn't turn it down, but I didn't need it.  I still have a job.  If the payments had been targeted specifically to the unemployed -- only 40 million or so people rather than 200 million -- each individual's payment could have been made much larger, at a smaller total cost to the government, and the help would have gone to those who really need it.

It should be possible to come up with a reasonably comprehensive list of jobless people based on the unemployment insurance databases of the states -- yes, I know some people haven't been able to apply yet due to the systems being overwhelmed, but there must be some way of correcting for that without just sending checks to everybody in the country, most of whom don't need them.  We can't afford to just scatter a quarter-trillion dollars in all directions every month or two from now until the end of the pandemic.

(It goes without saying that the last round of stimulus included even worse wastages, such as the notorious $500 billion slush fund and the "small business" assistance which was largely hoovered up by giant conglomerates.  Those things need to be stopped too.)

This pandemic is very far from being over, and we're going to need to spend a lot more money on dealing with it in the months to come.  And at some point in the future that steadily-growing national debt will need to be addressed -- hopefully by tax increases on the wealthy under a Democratic administration, but it will need to be addressed.  If the government wants to shower me with money I don't need, I'll be happy to take it, but it's not good public policy.

10 June 2020

Some essential books

With states re-opening and a new wave of the pandemic gathering steam, staying home as much as possible is becoming more essential than ever.  These books can not only help pass the time but, each in its own way, improve the mind.


The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins.  The most important book of the "New Atheist" revolution of the last twenty years.  It sets out in detail the various arguments for God, where religion came from, why there almost certainly is no God, and why an aggressively anti-religion stance is necessary today.  Dawkins is also a heavyweight evolutionary biologist, and his many books on that subject provide a good grounding in it.

The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) and Enlightenment Now (2018) by Steven Pinker.  Why the world has been getting less violent and more humane for thousands of years, and how we can make sure that it continues to do so.  These books are a mortal blow to fashionable cynicism and defeatism.  They're big books, because Pinker well knows that many readers will be predisposed to reject his conclusions, so he assembles mountains of supporting evidence to prove his case.  I reviewed the second book here.

The Darkening Age (2017) by Catherine Nixey.  Yes, it really was Christianity that destroyed the great Greco-Roman civilization, deliberately and systematically, plunging the Western world into what truly was a dark age by comparison.   Nixey spares us no details of the sad, brutal story.  If you're a Western person, this will help you understand how your true heritage was stolen from you long before you were born.  I reviewed it here.

No Man Knows My History (1945) by Fawn M Brodie.  A biography of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.  Smith was a fascinating and energetic personality, and the story of how he created a new religion offers some insights into how older religions, too, may have gotten started.  The episodes of persecution of Mormons by Christians will likely shock you.

Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997) by Jared Diamond.  Why did some peoples progress more rapidly than others and eventually come to dominate them?  Diamond concludes that geography, and the distribution of domesticatable plants and animals, gave the inhabitants of some regions advantages in the development of technology and also in resistance to disease.  He makes a compelling case.

Infidel (2007) by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  An autobiographical account of growing up in Somalia and Kenya, followed by the extreme culture shock of coming to the Netherlands as a refugee.  Her efforts to understand the differences between cultures eventually led her to leave Islam and embrace atheism.  I reviewed it here.

The Singularity Is Near (2005) by Ray Kurzweil.  A mind-blowing compendium of the prospects for new technology from now to mid-century, from curing aging to molecular manufacturing to brain-computer integration.  The central theme is overcoming the limitations of conventional biology.  I've discussed these themes often on the blog over the years.  Regardless of how much of this you believe will actually happen, it's a fascinating "bank of ideas" about the future.

Natural Law (1987) by Robert Anton Wilson.  An antinomian classic.  You won't agree with all of it (I certainly didn't) but it will make you think and question assumptions.  It's quite hard to find now -- I got it from Loompanics back when Loompanics was a thing.  But it's a very short book and the whole text, in decidedly rough form, is here.


Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad.  A journey into the interior of the Belgian Congo becomes an exploration of some dark aspects of humanity.  It's a haunting and evocative story, and surprisingly short for such an enduring classic.

I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson.  In a world entirely taken over by vampires, the last normal man struggles to stay alive, to fight back as best he can, and to come to terms with his utter isolation.  I haven't seen any of the movies, which sound godawful -- forget them and read the real thing.  It will stay with you.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson.  A respectable man's unorthodox effort to deal with his own dark side goes horribly awry.  Another classic story which is shorter than you'd expect but full of insights into human nature.

The War of the Worlds (1897) by HG Wells.  A classic that helped shape science fiction as we know it, confronting nineteenth-century readers with the unnerving prospect of humanity at the mercy of a ruthless and far more advanced species.  None of the movie versions really do it justice.  Wells's The Invisible Man is also worth reading, making some profound points with surprising humor.

The Persian Boy (1972) by Mary Renault.  One of Renault's series of historical novels, this one covers the later career of Alexander the Great through the eyes of a former slave of the Persian king who later became Alexander's companion.  The book is open about the omnipresence of homosexuality in ancient Greek and Persian culture, and about the cruelties of war.

Household Gods (1999) by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove.  A harried twentieth-century woman who longs for life in an earlier and simpler era gets her wish and is transported back in time to spend a year and a half in the Roman Empire (not in Rome itself but in a border town on the Danube), only to find that the pre-modern world has a few unexpected drawbacks.  It does include some scenes of brutality, if you're sensitive to such things.

The Mote in God's Eye (1974) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  Probably the best science-fiction novel I've read.  Humanity establishes contact with an alien species more intelligent than ourselves, yet bafflingly less advanced -- and that's only the beginning of the mysteries which emerge.

[Image at top:  part of my own book collection]

07 June 2020

Link round-up for 7 June 2020

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

o o o o o

Start the day with a few jokesAnd cats.

Give your dog unlimited exercise.

Some architect was a bit too imaginative.

Looks like it's her first visit to the neighborhood.

People recreate famous paintings.

Who is allowed to park here?

Memory foam never forgets.

Giant bugs that eat sharks' faces can go for years without taking a shit (found via Mendip).

Never shame people for being interested in frivolous things.

Dogs always entertain.

Check out Trump's favorite Bible stories (found via Nan's Notebook).

Debra She Who Seeks is hosting a virtual Pride parade -- and you're invited!  In the meantime, who owns the rainbow?

Here kitty kitty.....

Tengrain improves upon the Trumps' visit to church.

View a compendium of annoying birds.

From Boston, word of another case of police violence.

Check out these fountains from around the world.

Support for gay marriage is at an all-time high.

This farmer's calendar was made to last.

A librarian speaks out on censorship.

Posters celebrate Hypatia.

The Republicans were right!  A blatant case of vote fraud has been detected.

Here's how to wash your face masks.

There's plywood everywhere in my city's downtown -- I recognize some of the places in the video.

Bruce Gerencser concludes that rational discussion with religio-Trumpanzees is impossible.

Due to Republican machinations, the Postal Service is in real trouble.

Big government is not the answer.

What data can the police extract from your phone?

Don't fall for these common misconceptions about atheists (but as to the last section, I am definitely Group C).

Once your information is out there on the internet, it's a huge task getting back any control over it.

There is such a thing as questions too stupid to be worth answering.

Based on this, I am highly intelligent.

Religion ruined her life.

The sister of Ahmaud Arbery's murderer is quite a jackass in her own right.

Gay rumors swirl around Lindsey Graham.

This is the subculture to which Trump's Bible stunt appealed.  At least it inspired cartoonists.  And he's planning another crass ego trip for Independence Day.

According to Fox, killing black people is good for the stock market.

Rand Paul worries about being too tough on lynch mobs.

When do they close the stores?

Green Eagle, Hackwhackers, Mock Paper Scissors, and various Twitterers assess May's drop in unemployment figures.

Robert E Lee was a terrible person.

This is the Republican chairwoman of a major Texas county.

The protests will likely fuel the pandemicMore here.

What did we have to lose?

White nationalists pose as Antifa to foment violence.

Trump visits a covid-19 test production line and fucks it up.

Trump gets his way on the Republican convention and fucks it up.

He's fucking up environmental regulation as well, but this time it's intentional.

There will not be a coupRead this too.

What does it really mean to be a good cop?

Some reflections from a pastor who lives 20 blocks from where George Floyd was murdered.

Obama, Biden, and others speak out on the protests and riots.

This is the president of the Minneapolis police union (found via Hackwhackers).  It's more than just a matter of a few bad apples.

Here are five things we need to do to limit deaths during the oncoming covid-19 second wave.

David Dorn deserves to be remembered.

It's an artistic statement.

Protesters block looters from attacking a Target store in Brooklyn.

This mining company blew up a valuable 46,000-year-old archaeological site.

See Pride parade pics from around the world.

Globally, the pandemic is now growing by over 100,000 cases per day.

German neo-Nazis are getting paramilitary training in Russia (WTF?).

The Brazilian government responds to its covid-19 disaster by hiding the data.

A recall election in Taiwan's third-largest city deals a blow to the pro-China-appeasement KMT party.

It takes guts to speak the truth.

There's a lot about China that no one knows, not even its rulers.

Photographs recall Tiananmen Square.  Hong Kongers defy the regime to commemorate the massacre.

As if there weren't already enough problems, the Congo is having a new outbreak of Ebola.

Will you let this man choose the president?

One party reflects the country, the other does not.

Annie Asks You looks at potential vice president Val Demings.

This time, Bernie Sanders is fully on board with the anti-Trump forces.

More links here.

[1,235 days down, 227 to go until the inauguration of a real president.]