31 August 2021

Effective free speech

To defend effective freedom of speech, it is necessary to address certain rhetorical gimmicks which are regularly used to attack and undermine it.  Here are a couple of examples.

(To fend off time-wasting digressions, remember that freedom of expression refers to expression of opinion or artistic expression.  Things like threats, libel, doxing, and harassment are not freedom of expression and have never been protected as such.  Obfuscating the distinction is just another tactic the enemy uses to confuse the issue and undermine real free speech.  "Blasphemy" and so-called "hate speech" absolutely are free speech -- they are expression of opinion, however extreme.)

In cases where a corporation or other non-state actor tries to shut down the expression of an opinion, the enemy likes to claim that "that isn't a free-speech issue -- the First Amendment only prevents the government from silencing people, and this isn't the government".  The immediate issue, of course, is that freedom of expression is a general principle, whereas the First Amendment is a law relevant to only one country.  The two are not at all the same.  Freedom of expression is a value worth defending no matter where in the world it is under attack; no one claims the First Amendment applies in Afghanistan or China, but I still feel just as concerned about censorship of ideas there.

Beyond that, the claim repeats the classic libertarian error of believing that the only attacks on freedom that matter are governmental ones.  Libertarians ignore the power of corporations, religions, criminal gangs, and other non-state actors which in many situations pose a greater de facto threat to individual freedom of action than government does.  The same applies to freedom of speech.  Imagine you've been invited to deliver a lecture, to an audience which signed up to hear it, on a topic of importance to you.  As soon as you start speaking, some guy with a bullhorn stands up and starts bellowing hateful nonsense so that the audience can't hear you.  Your First Amendment rights have not been violated -- that guy isn't from the government -- but your freedom of expression certainly has been.

This point does, of course, raise the issue of the conflicting right of owners of platforms to refuse to provide a forum for views they find abhorrent.  The line must be drawn at the point where limitation of content becomes de facto prevention of that content being effectively made available at all.  At one extreme, the fact that I don't allow (for example) pro-censorship or anti-Brexit comments on my blog is not censorship -- a blog is clearly an online soapbox for the views of one person, no one else has any claim to any "rights" on it, and I am not preventing such views from being expressed more generally, since it's very easy for the person who wants to express those views to do so on their own blog or in some other context over which I have no control.  At the other extreme, it would clearly be wrong to allow internet service providers to censor viewpoints, since that would effectively block those views from being expressed at all.  The case of major platforms like, say, Wordpress or Tumblr is very close to this -- whenever they try to ban certain types of content, it generally results in strong pushback from users, and rightly so.

Another popular anti-free-speech gimmick is to frame the issue in terms of "consequences".  The enemy says, "you have the right to free speech -- you just don't have the right to avoid consequences for it".  In practice, this is defending "cancel culture", the practice of hounding and harassing people for expressing ideas that somebody doesn't like, getting them fired from their jobs, etc.  Of course, this is just the guy with the bullhorn shifting to pre-emption.  Somebody threatening you with harm if you say things they don't like is clearly trying to frighten you out of saying those things, in whatever forum, so it is an attempt at suppression of free speech.

In any case, we all know whose language this is.  It's the language of the gang of over-muscled pea-brains with baseball bats lying in wait for you in a dimly-lit parking lot.  "Yeah, the law doesn't stop you from being a flaming faggot any more, but if you act like one in public, there are gonna be --" slaps baseball bat against opposite palm with a loud thwack "-- consequences."  Even when the baseball bat is replaced by doxing and nasty letters to your boss and neighbors, the functional effect and moral status of the action remain the same.

If you're a typical reader of this blog, you really don't want silencing people by intimidation to become an accepted tactic.  Remember, a lot of the people who'd like to shut you up have guns, and you probably don't.  The proper response to speech you don't like is contrary speech, not threats or bullying.

o o o o o

Eye update:  The visual disturbances have definitely subsided to some extent.  It's almost two weeks now since the original diagnosis, so I'm starting to feel less anxious about the risk of this proceeding to retinal detachment.  The disturbances remain annoying, though.  I can see OK, it's more a problem of constant aggravation and distraction.  I have a follow-up appointment with the ophthalmologist in a couple of weeks, so I should know then what the final outcome is.

30 August 2021

Video of the day -- Afghanistan as it was

Images of Afghanistan from the sixties and seventies.  This probably represents a mostly-urban modernized culture, with the rural areas remaining more primitive -- that's the pattern seen today in Turkey and, to a much lesser extent, the US.  Nevertheless, the contrast with what the country looks like after the resurgence of militant Islam (which began even before the first period of Taliban rule, with the revolt against the communist regime) is striking.  Outsiders have exerted influence at various times, but this tremendous regression would not have been remotely possible without religion.  This is not about the CIA or the Russians or the Democrats or the Republicans.  The beginning, middle, and end of the problem is Islam.

29 August 2021

Link round-up for 29 August 2021

Here are some places you can donate to help Afghan refugees.

o o o o o

No doubt this headline writer knew exactly what he was doing.

"Old" jokes here.

If "the Last Supper" happened now.....

Damn, that's an unbeatable deal.

Enough with the #@!^$% smartphones.

OK, here's a criminal-law reform I can support.

Light bulb time -- on Facebook.

Obviously New Zealand's covid minister had something on his mind.

Good advice is worth the potatoes.

Yes, fuck society.

Teh stoopid, it burns.

These critters are not what they appear to be.

Promises, promises.

Some birds are highly intelligent.  These birds are not those birds.

What if bad fiction writers wrote about men the way they write about women?

Rawknrobyn's version of school is educational in its own way (NSFW).

Halloween items are already selling out, but you can still find some.

"You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension."

Who wants some Major Dick Bong?

Even white supremacy is now racially integrated.

Stay away from the dark world of occultism.

The island of Corsica trembles before the cow menace.

These animals exist.

What is a soldier?

Murder hornets are back in Washington state, and eradication is a laborious process.  But check out Japanese bees' tactics against them.

Even ordinary yellow jackets can be a pain in the ass (and elsewhere) to deal with.

Watch the icebergs go groaning by.

Haunted places here.


Check out these whale skulls.

Time for some more weird trees.

Water polo champs have something in common.

Look up and see the Moon.

"What if the whole angel was the lure tho".....

Bohemian Valhalla goes for uplifting despite the pandemic, with a great abundance of Halloween items.

When writing fiction, avoid using numbers.

Remember Dorothy Parker, a smart person.

Paganism is spreading everywhere as the Abrahamic cults decline.

When people don't understand what "research" is, misinformation drives out real information.

You must accept his identity.

Girls-only trade classes lead to much higher participation.

Tax the churches!

Deal with anger in a constructive way.

You can have strong convictions without trying to enforce them on other people.

Discussion here on atheism and the burden of proof.

"And you can offend everyone of those groups with one comment" -- now there's a challenge worth taking up!

A libertarian world would be a disease-ridden nightmare.

Religion is just silly.

Shit yourself in public to own the libs.

Blogger Bluzdude went on vacation, but it wasn't a roaring success.

For a child in a traumatizing environment, fantasy -- even delusion -- can offer an escape.

Making a deal with the Devil brings dreadful consequences.

Bruce Gerencser is addressing Atheists of Florida at 5:00 EDT today.  The link includes info on how to tune in.

A couple more wingnuts go down because of their own dumbth.

The cult of fragility gets steadily more ridiculous.

Covidiots are idiots indeed.

Useful info here about the Texas religio-wingnut site for snitching about abortions.  More here.

The claim that mere speech can constitute violence is a gimmick to legitimize real violence.

Be careful what you wish for.

Postmodernism may be dead, but it left a noxious cloud of stupidity in its wake.

It's insane that the US still has so many people in prison for marijuana offenses.

Apple is introducing a new feature for generating false accusations of kiddie porn.  Bill Maher sees a broader underlying problem.

Here's a covid-19 report from the vaccine-skeptical Ozarks.

The Taliban do have some American fans.

California's prop 22 has been struck down in court, but all of these companies showed their true evil colors while they thought they had the chance.  Note their names and take your business elsewhere.

Pressure on lesbians to "date" males can extend even to a 13-year-old.

A writer's personal story illustrates the reality of abortion.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a superstar of far-right / covidiot Roman Catholicism, is recovering from a serious case of covid-19.

Wingnut bleatings about "freedom" are hypocritical.

Even after OnlyFans has "suspended" its ban on sexual content, some creators feel their trust has been betrayed and are decamping to Fansly, a competing similar site.  Though it's much smaller (2 million users vs 130 million for OnlyFans), Fansly is striving to keep up with the influx.  Worth a look if you are into that sort of thing.

Don't waste sympathy on covidiots.  Reckless selfishness is their tribal brand.  As they eat up all the medical resources in an area, others who need help die.

It doesn't take much to trigger a "woke" witch-hunt these days.

Booster shots of the J&J vaccine appear to bring substantial benefit.

Our economy has become shit (the comment by "JiEL" is also of interest).

Some people are forgetting the dangers of the lynch-mob mentality.

Covid-19 explodes in South Dakota after the Sturgis super-spreader event.  Can governor Noem catch up with Abbott and DeSanitize in the death race?  In Mississippi, too, nurses are quitting due to exhaustion.

Nabisco workers remain determined, and are getting support, as their strike enters its second week.  These working conditions are horrific and unworthy of a civilized country.

The claim that covid-19 came from a Wuhan lab, never very plausible, now looks even less likely as evidence accumulates.

In this year's special elections, Republicans have done far better than 2020 would suggest, and the trend is escalating.  Wake the fuck up.

Oppose the bad guys by not behaving like them.

Put the blame for rising prices where it belongs.

Covid has a sound (found via Hackwhackers).

It's always better economically to give to the poor than to the rich.

Here's why some young liberals keep voting Republican.

"I am the way I am as a direct result of listening to 'trans women'."

The Bible is full of exhortations against logic and expertise, which explains a lot about fundie reactions to the pandemic (and to the modern world generally).

Gifs put assholes with no respect for history in their place (note: Nazi death-camp imagery).

Sometimes it takes someone from outside the West to properly appreciate it.  Some say we have it too good here.

The latest IPCC report on climate change tells us there's still hope of avoiding the worst.

My city's downtown continues to be a battleground for rival gangs of thugs.  Just go away and die in agony, all of you.

Who are worse drivers, Americans or Europeans?

British medical students get creative about paying for education.

Dramatic photos illustrate the reality of Afghanistan as the Taliban take over.

Welcome to America (nice dresses) (found via Hackwhackers).

"Stop putting culture and religion above women’s safety and freedom."  The Taliban are not in any sense a liberation movement.  Incredible to me that this even needs to be said.

Gay people, far from free even under the prior US-backed government, now face persecution and murder.

The Taliban have issued a death sentence for the brother of a translator who worked for the US.  They're telling women to stay home because they can't trust their own soldiers to behave.  Be willing to admit the truth -- they are brutal and evil because they're a religious movement specifically.  The reason for the threat to women is Islam.

The Taliban haven't changed, but Afghan women have.

Here's an argument that Taliban rule actually won't last long.

The tinpot gangsters who rule China are throwing their usual tantrums over American and Japanese symbolic actions and armaments sales to support Taiwan.  Let's keep it up.

Despite the regime's campaign to boost the birth rate, tens of millions of young Chinese are rejecting marriage, and many citizens openly mock the campaign (don't miss the discussion of 1991's "hundred days without children" starting at 4:50 -- this stuff is monstrous).  Bizarrely, the regime is cracking down on North Korean refugee women married to Chinese men.

More links at Miss Cellania and Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted:  covid-19, science, and the religious mind; OnlyFans's retreat from banning sexual content; and a surreal creature-rich video from The Lone Animator.

28 August 2021

Video of the day -- the Ghooric zone

A classic nature documentary -- if nature documentaries were filmed at Alpha Centauri and everyone involved was on LSD.  Made by the same guy who did Scary UFO and Memory.

26 August 2021


In case you haven't been following the OnlyFans controversy (I have occasionally included links about it in the link round-ups), here's what it's about.  OnlyFans is a UK-based platform on which content creators can post pictures, videos, etc which are accessible to users who pay for access -- that is, it enables content creators to make money from their content, so long as they have a fan base willing to pay.  The platform has two million content creators and 130 million users (source).  In practice it's largely used by, and identified with, providers of sexually-oriented material; some sex workers, finding conventional prostitution too dangerous during the pandemic, have turned to OnlyFans as an alternate way of generating income.

On August 19 OnlyFans management announced that, as of October 1, most sexually-explicit material would be banned.  This extraordinary plan -- which would eliminate the platform's predominant and most lucrative form of content, effectively corporate suicide -- was originally widely attributed to pressure from "payment processors" (credit-card companies), which in turn were being harassed by fundies hoping to purge sexually-oriented material from the internet.  Whatever the reason, the decision provoked a huge backlash from users, content providers, and the internet generally.  It exemplified a pattern of platforms growing large and lucrative from the work of sexual-content creators, then turning against them in an effort to seem "respectable", sometimes in order to attract advertisers.

Just yesterday, OnlyFans reversed course and canceled the ban.  Its content providers remain wary (scroll down), especially since the company initially said the ban had only been "suspended".  However, it seems clear that they've backed down in the face of the backlash, as Google Blogger did in 2015 after a similar blunder and backlash, and as Tumblr notoriously failed to do in 2018, to its considerable detriment.

It's still not entirely clear who was ultimately to blame for the short-lived ban -- credit-card companies, banks, religious nuts, bluenoses in OnlyFans management itself, or whoever -- and restoring trust will take time.  Still, this serves as a reminder of the power that creators and a customer base can wield, when they choose to do so.  There will always be efforts at censorship of one kind or another, by companies or governments, pushed by right-wingers or left-wingers or fundies or Islamists or wokesters or whomever.  But we can fight back against them or work around them.  We can beat them.  We will beat them.

24 August 2021

Still vexed by the unvaxed

For several days now, covid-19 vaccinations in the US have been going at over a million shots per day.  If that were to continue, the remaining unvaxed population would all get at least one shot each within less than three months.  Of course, it will not continue long at that rate.  Some fraction of the vaccine-skeptical population has wised up due to various factors -- the FDA Pfizer approval, the explosion of disease in the South and deep-red counties across the country, Trump's endorsement of vaccination at the Cullman rally (even though he was booed by those present) -- and is acting on its spasm of common sense.  But as any perusal of the wingnut net makes clear, the hard core -- probably the large majority -- of the determinedly unvaxed remain thus determined, continuing to play Russian roulette with natural selection.

(As an aside, Congress needs to pass emergency legislation mandating that the use of the word "jab" for covid-19 vaccination be punishable by 24 hours of sniffing the farts of diseased orangutans.  The practice is so out of control that bipartisan agreement on this should be attainable.)

You may feel baffled by the covidiots' rejection of scientific advice on the grounds, as they complain, that the advice keeps changing.  The problem lies in the difficulty the religious mind has in understanding how science works.

In a religion, truth takes the form of immutable pronouncements from on high, which never change.  If new evidence later surfaces which is incompatible with those pronouncements, so much the worse for the evidence.  For example, the fundies' dogma of Biblical inerrancy keeps them stuck at the level of ignorance attained by those who wrote the Bible thousands of years ago.  Life was created as-is in six days, despite new evidence establishing evolution.  Noah's flood really happened, despite being proven impossible by geology and genetics.  The Egyptian captivity, the exodus, and the empire of David and Solomon were real, despite archaeological evidence that they are mere myths.  Truth, once proclaimed, is forever fixed and unalterable.

The problem is that they expect science to work the same way.  But it does not.  Science is not a set of doctrines, but rather a system for deducing conclusions from evidence.  Inevitably, those conclusions will change as further evidence comes to light.  Relativity and quantum mechanics have refined the physics inherited from Newton.  The theory of evolution has itself evolved considerably from when Darwin first proposed it, due to the discovery of DNA, increased study of zoology and anatomy, etc.  With a new virus, as humans started off knowing only the basics and learned more about it over time (and as the virus itself mutated), it was inevitable that science's assessments and advice would change as understanding advanced.  But to the religious mind which doesn't grasp what science really is, such change seems suspect.

o o o o o

Eye update:  The visual effects I've been suffering may be improving a little, though I'm not sure whether it's that or I'm just getting more used to them.  At least, so far, they are not getting worse, indicating that the condition is not proceeding to retinal detachment.  Still, the doctor said that if that happens, it could take several weeks, so I'm nowhere near out of the woods yet.  And the visual effects remain maddeningly distracting and irritating.

o o o o o

Please help:  Hackwhackers blog has put together a list of places you can donate to help Afghan refugees.

22 August 2021

Link round-up for 22 August 2021

Reminder to anyone who believes the Afghans are too "primitive" to be concerned about -- only 15% of Afghans support the Taliban, far fewer than the percentage of Americans who support Trump.

o o o o o

Bizarre cartoons here.

Leave no moose behind.

A blogger rants about owls.

See if you can bear these cartoons.

Parasitic brain fungus, QBorg.....

Hmm, a rather dubious interaction.

Evidently it's unwise to startle a horse.

Mysterious infertility crisis stumps researchers.

Everybody just relax.

Books tell a story.

Witness the great Lane county exploding whale of 1970, an immortal moment in Oregon history.

Maybe aliens exist but they're just completely incompetent.

Who will save us from these merciless marauders?

This museum exists (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Know your truck breeds.

Weighty humor here.

If you rub this lamp, what comes out won't be a genie.

Yeah, right, that's why he was doing it.

To find compatible people, pursue your own interests.

Did you know goldfish can get this big?

Spooky shrooms for Halloween here.

Even the USS Enterprise is going down the tubes (the last two designs are horrible -- what the hell were they thinking?).

This is a weird door.

Instead of diamonds, choose moissanite.

Some interesting thoughts on art here.

Nice shooting.

Well, dam.

Very cool photos here.  Apparently the first one is San Francisco; the building on the lake under a pink-tinged sky is the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.

People's driving now stinks worse than ever.

Yeah, right, moron jizz is going to become a hot commodity.

It's just a social construct.

Murr Brewster dissects a covidiot.

In a new novel, even Hell goes on strike.

Religion is ridiculous.

Here's why CAPTCHA pictures are so dreary (found via Miss Cellania).

The Catholic Church in Brazil is rocked by a wanking bishop scandal.  What, they were all out of altar boys to molest?

Harry Truman explains the truth about socialism.

Who the hell thought this "art" was a good idea for a public park?

There is only one dream job.

The sky in Las Vegas is at the mercy of smoke from California's fires (click pics for bigger).

We keep hearing that wind turbines kill lots of birds, but in fact they're barely putting a dent in the problem.  Cats are still the most effective abatement mechanism.

Trae Crowder laments rampant dumbth in his home state.

AutisticAF discusses the psychological dissociation that results from prolonged stress.

"Hate the sin, love the sinner", and..... (found via Mike).

Covidiots have found a new way to kill themselves.

Bruce Gerencser discusses the long-term fate of his blog.

Don't be this guy.  There are other options.

Like Tumblr and other platforms before it, OnlyFans is now turning against the NSFW content creators who built it up.

"It's too late to fix global warming" -- is exactly what the enemy wants you to believe.

Wingnuts find certain masks acceptable.

The Alabama coal-miners' strike has now lasted for five months (more links at that page).

Even within the US, evolution is clearly winning the argument against creationism, with the number accepting it rising from 40% to 54% between 2007 and 2019.

Oregon's governor has signed a bill to make the state's high-school diplomas meaningless and useless.

Where hospitals are swamped, give anti-vaxers appropriate treatment.

This poor man is suffering terribly due to Biden's policies.

Blue cities in red states are increasingly defiant of Republican bullying.

A truly "green" company won't enforce unnecessary driving.

These turdules need to go back and learn what a university is for.

Depriving people of pain medications is literal torture -- also some interesting history from Prohibition.

Hometown USA blog returns with a letter on the Jan 6 lynch-mob attack.

Covidiocy was never about freedom of choice.

When the enemy tells you what they are, believe them.

At least one US politician is willing to do something concrete to help the Afghans.

Activism has no place in therapy.

Blogger Kay in Hawaii is getting wingnut idiocy via e-mail.

The insane drive to re-open schools in-person is already creating a wave of new covid-19 infections in Florida.  In Georgia, infuriated parents are pulling their kids out of school.

It's pointless to argue with true believers.

The "woke" left and the alt-right are more alike than either one realizes.

If you're confused about what "incels" are, here's a sample of the incel mentality.

This guy defines the word "asshole" (found via Hackwhackers).

"Long covid" (persistent symptoms after surviving covid-19) is serious business.

Shakespeare didn't send death threats.

Better pay for people in shitty jobs also benefits people in better jobs.

People who believe this.....walk among us.

The pope is a hypocrite (so what else is new.....).

"Defund the police" is massively unpopular, especially with minorities, and cost the Democrats House seats in 2020.

A nurse confronts senseless deaths.  Health-care workers are tiring of the selfish hypocrisy of anti-vaxers.  At least the explosion of disease is inducing more people to get vaccinated.

"Monkey haters" on YouTube are promoting animal torture (warning: seriously disturbing descriptions).

In the UK, the Conservatives are doing better on women's rights than the left-wing Labour party, which seems to be actively driving women away (and the left wonders why they're imploding at the ballot box).

The archbishop of Dublin whines that Catholicism is dying out in Ireland, which it formerly ruled with an iron fist.

Compare US and Spanish health-care systems.  Here's how we look (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Do not shout down the voice of the oppressed.

"This is not Saigon" -- yes it is.

Two determined American women, and the government of Qatar, rescued Afghanistan's girls robotics team from the disaster.

Women are already disappearing from the streets in Afghanistan.  Keep the focus on what matters.  This Iranian journalist doesn't trust the Taliban's reassurances -- well, we're talking about guys who will fight for the right to impregnate a 13-year-old.  For now, it's not clear how bad things will ultimately get.

The Taliban have begun torturing and killing members of the Hazara minority (who are mostly Shiite, while the Taliban and most Afghans are Sunni), and rounding up people who worked with the US or the previous government.  A resistance movement is already forming up, but the Taliban's biggest problem is a new generation far more savvy about technology and human rights.

The US defies the fascist Chinese regime by meeting with the Tibetan government-in-exile.

More links at Perfect Number and Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted on the fall of Afghanistan and some personal issues with eye health.

20 August 2021

The eyes have it

Over the last ten days or so I've been to the ophthalmologist twice to have certain disturbances in my vision checked out.  Long story short:

I have developed both cataracts and macular degeneration, neither of them yet serious enough to pose a serious threat to vision, although either of them could proceed to that point in the future.  The macular degeneration is the "dry" kind which doesn't generally do very much damage.  It could eventually change into the more dangerous "wet" kind, but that will likely be years in the future, if it ever happens at all.  Macular degeneration can be helped by special vitamins, which I've already started; the "wet" kind, if I ever develop that, can be kept at bay by means of injections (yes, into the eye) at intervals of a few months.  Cataracts, if they get really bad, can be fixed by surgery, which is much less traumatic than it sounds.  These kinds of problems run in families; my mother had both cataracts and macular degeneration.

Separately from the above, this week I learned that I've also developed another condition in one eye which, in about 90% of cases, will simply go away over the next few days or weeks; but in the other 10% of cases will lead to retinal detachment.  In the meantime, it is producing odd and alarming effects in my vision.  If it starts proceeding to retinal detachment, I'll know because those visual effects will suddenly start getting worse; if that happens I need to call them immediately so I can come in for laser treatment, which can fix the problem if it is caught in time.  If it isn't caught in time, full-blown surgery would be necessary.

Needless to say, the situation is quite stressful; and the visual effects produced by the second condition are irritating and distracting.  As best I can tell, they are not getting any worse, but are not subsiding either, or if so, only very slowly.  This is why I have not been in a frame of mind for posting since Tuesday.

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of this blog.  I think that's the first time I've let a blogiversary go by without noting it in some way, however briefly.

17 August 2021

A triumph for religion

The dramatic Taliban take-over of Afghanistan constitutes a triumph for religion.  Soon the Afghan people will be forced to live by religious taboos and standards, whether they as individuals like it or not.  It's already happening.  In the areas they control, the Taliban are already imposing restrictions on women reminiscent of the Saudi regime; according to some reports they have been requesting lists of girls as young as 12 for forced marriage.  When the Taliban first took over the country in 1996, they hurled it back to the dark ages, and there's every indication that this second take-over will be just as bad.

Contrary to what some vile and disgusting commentators are claiming, this is not what the Afghan people want.  85% of Afghans have no sympathy with the Taliban (source, see page 68), but ordinary civilians -- especially women, who have the most to lose -- have little ability to fight back.  If the US government and military were to disintegrate and leave a power vacuum in our own country, it's not hard to imagine what element would be likely to take over -- the gun-fetish subculture, even though the majority would not want that.  (Actually the two situations aren't quite comparable, since US gun fetishists have guns but not organization; the Taliban have both.)

Why did the Afghan government forces collapse so quickly?  Bribery and corruption played a role.  The Taliban have received considerable support from neighboring Pakistan, whose own government and military are infested with Islamists.  The US had disbanded the ethnic militias, which had had some success against the Taliban before 2001, in favor of a "national" army -- ignoring the reality of how identity and loyalty actually work in such societies.  The Kurdish ethnic militias in Syria and Iraq fought tenaciously for years against Dâ'ish (ISIL) because they were defending their own ethnic people and territory, not the Syrian and Iraqi states, which meant nothing to them.  The Taliban themselves are a quasi-ethnic militia, being drawn almost entirely from the Pashtun ethnic group in the east and south.

Whatever the reason, a new dark age of religious absolutism is now descending across the country.  Women are already retreating from public life and hiding evidence of being educated; their future is de facto slavery.  Girls' education will end; boys' education will degenerate into religious indoctrination.  Gay people, far from liberated even under US rule, will face sadistic execution whenever discovered.  The largely-Shi'ite Hazara ethnic group can expect a resumption of the persecution and massacres they suffered during the previous period of Taliban control.  Whatever freedom and democracy managed to exist under US rule will disappear.  Afghans who worked with the US and trusted us to help them when the time came will likely be slaughtered.

The failure to help that latter group is the most shameful part of our national failure.  We should have completed their evacuation from Afghanistan before beginning the troop withdrawal.  As it is, their status is bogged down in ridiculous bureaucracy and there's talk about getting people out over a period of weeks, when the situation on the ground is such that we clearly don't have anything like that much time left to do anything.

The Afghan people's terror at the prospect of fundamentalist rule is evident from their desperation to get out, even trying to cling to the outside of planes taking off.  Malala Yousafzai has called for other countries to open their doors and to help refugees however they can.

(Meanwhile, half the US internet is focused on bickering about which American politicians are or are not to blame for the disaster, and on how it will impact American domestic politics, because the US is a nation of goddamn narcissists and EVERY GODDAMN FUCKING THING IN THE WORLD needs to be about us.  FUCK THAT.)

It's hard to see any rays of hope in the situation.  Some who live near the borders of Iran or Pakistan may be able to escape to those countries (which are, however, not likely to welcome refugees in substantial numbers).  Local ethnic minorities, especially the Turkish-speaking ones in the north, may eventually be able to re-constitute their ethnic militias and carve out areas of, not really freedom or democracy, but at least less-brutal repression.  If so, the situation will closely resemble what it was before the US invasion in 2001.

There is an old saying in the region that "the poor man has no friends except his own people and his rifle".  How sadly true that is turning out to be, in Afghanistan.

15 August 2021

Link round-up for 15 August 2021

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

o o o o o

Nature will take its course.

Oceanic zombie worms are among the horrors of the deep.

These aliens really shouldn't be in the abduction business.

Here's what the animals have been up to.

Ask politicians -- why did the chicken cross the road?

No one does place names like the British.

Keep airborne assholes under control with duct tape.

Yes, summer stinks.

Observe National Book Lovers Day.  Sometimes you just can't put a good book down.

Use the magic word (found via Yellowdog Granny).

James Randi explains religion.

People in Missouri are entering Uranus.

Cat muffin!

Modern gadgetry is getting too complex for normal people.

"There are no fish down there."

Tomorrow is a brand new day.

The prophet Ezekiel was a weirdo.

This is a street in Spain.

It's politics.

Buy books from people who want to sell books.

See a future champion swimmer take his first dive, and a brazen thief carry out a daring robbery in broad daylight.

This builder is a cool guy.

Outstanding Halloween-ready candles here.

Movie monsters are getting bland and generic.

It's the best life.

Religion is stupid.

Cool Twitter stuff here.

The bridge is washed out, unless.....

There's one job where a moron with no qualifications can make it big.

Speaking of morons, this person exists and works as a news anchor.

This person existed and it's damn hard to feel any sympathy.

You're probably using the wrong browser.

Embrace the awesome power of quitting.

If schools can enforce bullshit, they can enforce masking.

Many US burglary techniques wouldn't work in Finland.

This blogger has a plan for Afghanistan -- a very goofy one.

OK, so maybe cancel culture isn't real.

Lego demolishes corporate excuses for not using eco-friendly materials.

Memories live on -- on Google maps.

If only covid-19 was the type of thing Republicans do want to control.

When it's just one person, it's just one person.

Activists interview Aberdeen WA shopkeeper Don Sucher (context here, in case you missed it last week).

This is how to give yourself diabetes.

Mike Finnegan, a star musician and founder of the Mike's Blog Round-Up feature at Crooks and Liars, has died.

Teach real American history (found via Yellowdog Granny).

"I did my own research."

Hackwhackers observes Trump Reinstatement Day.

AO3 posts an assessment of Tumblr's Post+ feature.

Give the unvaxed appropriate treatment.

"May I have a crumb of validation?"

Spurning vaccination is bad for sex.

Blogger Darrell Michaels recalls a visit to the Arecibo telescope, with pictures.

Doctors now have to deal with belligerent covidiots as well as disease.

Darwinfish 2 debunks some (rather pitiful) wingnut slogans.

The US health-care system is not family-friendly.

What are Mississippians really like?

Benjamin Franklin himself once addressed vaccine hesitancy.

You are not under any obligation to forgive abusive family members (must-listen/read if you have anything like that in your background).

Maybe they can carve that slogan on his gravestone.

Some tips here on leaving Mormonism.

Two rape survivors explain the psychological impact of men being in women's spaces.

Win wars by setting animals on fire.

The anti-vax mentality has precedents.

Here's what happens to your brain as dementia sets in.  Remember, though, that dementia is largely preventable.

This is not progress.

People will have more children when they can afford it.

Here's how one anti-vaxer got sucked in -- then wised up.

The trans cult turns vicious when someone tries to leave.

A "study" claiming ivermectin can treat covid-19 was full of apparently-faked data.

Pastors of the IFB movement need to accept responsibility for atrocities committed in IFB brainwashing camps ("homes") for rebellious teens.  Here is one victim's story.

Florida and Texas take the lead in covid-19 child hospitalizations.  Mississippi is asking for federal help (with a word from the husband of an indirect victim of covidiocy).  Red states' covid-19-friendly policies are Trump's legacy.  But the real problem is that they're full of morons who do things like cheering for low vaccination rates.  Updates from around the South here, as the region keeps the US among the countries doing worst in the pandemic.  It's like a new civil war with biological weapons (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

More info and links here on the evil "Mother Teresa".

Any time an adult tells a child "don't tell your parents about this", that should be a giant red flag.

Much modern economic activity is useless and parasitic.

Part of why young people are abandoning church is that they're made so unwelcome there (found via Bruce Gerencser).

Overwhelmed health-care workers in low-vaccination states are now quitting in droves.  Florida is asking people to minimize use of 911.

In some quarters, threats of violence are now considered scholarship.

Our downtown is still a shithole with rival gangs of thugs fighting in the streets (found via Hackwhackers).  Police claim that they were too busy elsewhere to show up -- which says something about the degree of local lawlessness, if true.

Conspiratardia is not harmless -- this guy killed his own kids.

Covidiots are now using irrelevant and dangerous animal medications -- anything but the vaccine.

A new satirical novel takes aim at the madness of our time.

The US is different from all other countries (found via Hackwhackers).

There's no obligation to endorse every delusion somebody comes up with.

The UK's experience shows that the delta variant can be contained, with substantially higher vaccination rates than the US has achieved.

The gunman in the Plymouth mass shooting was an arrogant and entitled exponent of the oldest bigotry.

A British bookstore chain is trying to discourage sales of Helen Joyce's best-seller Trans.  Somebody's running scared.

A new generation won't let it happen again.

It's not just Europe -- Turkey, now host to millions of refugees, is seeing rising anti-migrant violence.

The Taliban's rampage through Afghanistan has outside support.  Where they gain control, they are imposing "horrifying" human-rights violations on women and journalists.

"Religion is like an instruction manual for bullies."

The Chinese regime is trying to de-emphasize the study of English.  This won't end well.

Local armed militias in Myanmar are proving surprisingly effective against the regime's enforcers.

The Indonesian army is ending the degrading practice of virginity tests for female recruits.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted about religion-free thinking and censorship of ugly viewpoints (yeah, it was a slow week -- we had another heat wave).

14 August 2021

A canary in the censorship coal mine

One of the right-wing blogs I've been reading to keep up with wingnut "thinking" is Vox Popoli (sic), which until recently was, as my own blog is, on the Google Blogger platform.  It's certainly one of the more "out there" blogs I've seen, a veritable encyclopedia of talking points against the covid-19 vaccines, and also regularly promoting militant Christian nationalism, stolen-election stuff, an obsessive hostility to "boomers", and anti-Jewish conspiratardia, though the latter was more pervasive in the comment threads than in the posts.  Still, it is necessary to know what the enemy is saying, unfiltered and in their own words, and the sample must include some of the more radical.  The blog does have a substantial following, judging by the comment threads, which routinely exceeded 100 comments in length.

A couple of days ago, though, Vox Popoli's URL started re-directing to this (click to enlarge):
More recently the warning message has changed to "under review for possible Blogger Terms of Service violations", so it's possible it may be restored -- but that may not matter.  In less than a day, a replacement blog was up, also called "Vox Popoli" (still misspelled) but not hosted on Google Blogger.  The original blog's posts -- almost 18 years' worth of them -- carried over, though their comment threads didn't.

On the one hand, a lot of the content over there was pretty repulsive.  On the other hand, the existence and appeal of such content is part of the reality we need to be aware of, and I was very annoyed when the blog was initially rendered unviewable.  I'm grown up and I don't need anybody telling me what I can and can't read.  More fundamentally, the Chomsky quote above expresses a core value of mine.  Support for free expression of opinion must be content-neutral, or it's meaningless.

In response to the predictable "the First Amendment only applies to the government, blah blah blah," notice that I'm not talking about the First Amendment here, but about freedom of expression of opinion as a general principle, above and beyond any one law in just one country which defends it (imperfectly, as is the case with all laws).  Yes, Google Blogger is a private entity which has the legal right to refuse to host content it objects to, but if you're going to run a platform for bloggers at all, you really need to bend over backwards to be as tolerant as you possibly can.  The nature of blogging demands it.

(Note that I do not know the specific trigger which caused Blogger to suddenly crack down after 18 years.  I suppose it's possible that Vox Popoli posted something not qualifying as free expression of opinion, such as clear-cut threats against a specific individual -- but I've seen no sign of that.)

I'm also very conscious of the fact that there are people out there who would very much like to see me silenced, and I suppose it's possible they may succeed someday, one way or another.  And if you have a blog, then believe me, the same is almost certainly true of you.  Unless your posted content is totally innocuous and never discusses anything remotely controversial or potentially offensive to anyone (and perhaps even then), there's somebody out there who considers it an outrageous injustice that you're allowed to say what you think.

So we should all actually be glad that Vox Popoli was able to create a work-around relatively quickly.  I gather some substantial preparation was involved.  Be aware that you may someday need to do the same.

[Reminder -- I don't allow comments which try to support or justify censorship (explanation here).  It's the principle of the thing.]

11 August 2021

Born free

There are plenty of atheists on the internet, but at least among US atheists, I'm somewhat unusual in never having "de-converted" from a religion -- I just grew up without religion and never had any religious beliefs or identity to break free from.  It makes a difference.

In my experience, many atheists who were formerly religious still carry around a lot of religious clutter and contamination within their minds, which remained even after they cast off all their supernatural beliefs.  They struggle to find secular rationalizations for these leftover religious attitudes, which they persuade themselves are somehow "universal" values not tied to religion at all.

I harbor no such cobwebs, because I never had them in the first place.  I do not love my enemies.  I do not pray for those who persecute me.  I do not turn the other cheek.  And I disdain their "golden rule" -- I treat others, not as I wish them to treat me, but as is appropriate based on how they actually do treat me.  I am not burdened by Christianity's whole edifice of sniveling nonsense.  I never was.

This is why, for example, I don't feel any concern or sympathy for the legions of wingnut covidiots who are likely to suffer and die because they spurned the vaccines and other precautions.  I read their blogs and sites, remember, and I know how much they hate and disdain people like me.  Thus I have no reason not to hate and disdain them.  They represent a threat, thus it does not bother me if they reduce that threat by destroying themselves, as they are still determined to do, doubling down on all the same misinformation and conspiratardia.

Yes, I do feel concern for the innocent -- the people who for whatever reason can't receive the vaccine or who do not benefit from it, people in poorer countries who want the vaccine but can't get it because local supplies are inadequate.  Compassion is for those who deserve it.  Not for people who never felt any toward me and people like me, and are now suffering (or soon will be) due to their own willful stupidity.

Beliefs have consequences.  I've explained before how religion, in my view, is the root explanation for the staggering level of reality-denial and delusional thinking which now pervades the American right wing.  Since most religious beliefs are contrary to the evidence, holding them fervently and sincerely requires developing the ability to disregard evidence and rationalize clinging to favored ideas in spite of evidence.  Once that ability is established in the mind -- and inevitably becomes a major element of that mind's way of thinking, since religious ideas loom so large in the world-view of the hard-core believer -- it is easily extended to other areas, given enough time.  This is especially true since it inevitably includes a disdain for science, as science is the main discoverer of the evidence which the believer must hand-wave away.

This is how we get a whole major sub-population which is in denial about things like evolution, anthropogenic global warming, and now covid-19 and the tested means of fighting it -- as well as embracing lesser and more specific delusions like "stolen election" or QAnon.  It's because they started off with a religious world-view which they could only sustain in the first place by training themselves to cling to beliefs in the face of contrary evidence.  Those who claim that the wingnuts just naturally have some kind of ex nihilo propensity for reality-denial and that religion is merely one more example of it are failing to see the real picture.  Religion isn't just one example, it's the basis and origin of the whole problem.

Non-belief has consequences too.  Since I was never brainwashed into treating anything as "sacred" in the strict religious sense, it's easier for me to disregard sacred cows more generally.  I don't care where the Overton window currently is.  I'm not going to contort my word usage and capitalization to fit in with whatever the latest Orwellian fads are.  I don't care whether what I write is or is not within the parameters of some cobbled-together set of positions that happens to be embraced by the left-wing mainstream at the current transient moment.  I'm not even slightly impressed when somebody denounces something I've said (or a source I linked to) by brandishing some word ending in "ism" or "ist" as if it were a cross waved in the face of Dracula.  Labeling things is not an argument.  Being offended is not an argument.  Getting upset because I deviated from Mandatory Correct Thought about some issue and said something that "you are simply not supposed to say" is not an argument.  The fact that an idea makes somebody unhappy tells us nothing about whether it's true or not.

I am what I am, and I know what I know.  If it doesn't fit the narrative in some places, so much the worse for the narrative.  I'm not interested in being a spokesman for an existing ideology.  Only the subjugated mind treats anything as sacred.