30 December 2021

2022 and victory over covid-19

I'm going to go out on a limb here with one prediction for 2022:  this will be the year we finally defeat the covid-19 pandemic and life returns to something like the pre-2020 norm.

This doesn't mean I think the disease will entirely vanish.  That's probably not achievable in the foreseeable future.  My criteria for success are that (a) covid-19 becomes no more deadly or burdensome than the ordinary flu as it was before 2020, and requires no more onerous precautions to deal with; and (b) it becomes safe to resume most in-person activities as before 2020 without masks.

Before 2020, the death toll from the ordinary flu was a few tens of thousands per year in the US, and people needed to get a new flu shot every year to deal with the constant emergence of new strains.  If we reach the point where the death toll from covid-19 is similar, and the only precaution people need to take is a vaccine booster shot every year or every six months, then we'll be in a situation we know we can live with, because we were living with it all along before covid-19 emerged.  And if people can go shopping, attend public events, and socialize with strangers without the need for masks, life will feel normal again.

I base this prediction partly on the likely trajectory of changes in the virus, and partly on technological progress.  Natural selection tends to make disease germs more infectious but less deadly over time, and the characteristics of the omicron variant suggest that this is already happening with covid-19.  Data from South Africa indicate that the omicron surge is already subsiding there, barely a month after it began, even though that country's vaccination rate is much lower than that of the US.  Also, growing numbers of treatments, some of them available in pill form, are showing promise for fighting covid-19 infection.  And vaccine research continues; the US Army claims it will soon have a vaccine which will be effective against all covid-19 variants, including possible future ones.  If so, this will be a game-changer, since the new vaccine will have been developed by the Army rather than a private company and thus will not carry any patents barring it from being widely produced and distributed in poorer countries.  Even if the Army vaccine doesn't pan out, research is continuing all over the world and we can expect new treatments and vaccines at an accelerating pace.

These developments are rooted in a more fundamental factor.  We can think; the virus cannot.  The virus changes, but those changes are driven by the blind forces of mutation and natural selection.  We can study and understand the virus, and devise new plans and treatments based on what we learn.  The virus cannot understand what we are doing, or plan anything.  This is an example of the observation in my profile:  "in the long run, human intelligence is the most powerful force in the universe."  Given enough time, the power to understand and think and plan can out-maneuver and defeat almost any mindless process.

It's true that the US will continue to be plagued by vaccine rejectionists (as are several other countries, for various reasons).  But their numbers will erode.  Most covid-19 deaths now are among unvaccinated people.  The number who are vaccinated keeps creeping up as less hard-core rejectionists come around for one reason or another.  Those who are infected and survive will gain some immunity, even if it's far inferior to vaccination.  Vaccine improvements and other treatments will reduce the danger to the vaccinated.  Far more importantly, the vast majority of unvaccinated people are outside the US, so that's where the main danger lies that a pool of unvaccinated is enabling the emergence of new variants -- delta and omicron originated outside the US.  The danger posed by unvaccinated people is the same regardless of where in the world those people are.  And most of them are unvaccinated because of unavailability of vaccines, not because of rejectionism.  Vaccinating as many people as possible globally is the key to reducing the risk posed to Americans by the unvaccinated.  Even if a certain element of the US population never accepts the vaccines, minimizing the global number of unvaccinated will still solve most of the problem.

Finally, it's important to keep perspective.  So far, the official world-wide death toll from the covid-19 pandemic is between five and six million.  Even if you believe the true number is two or three times that, due to under-reporting and inadequate testing in some countries, remember that the 1918-1920 flu pandemic killed between twenty-five and a hundred million people, out of a global population less than one-quarter of what we have today.  Our century's more advanced medical technology has already saved millions upon millions of lives, compared with what could have been.

In the battle between the virus and the living mind, I'm betting on the latter.

28 December 2021

Video of the day -- a song in church

Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff (what an awesome name!) performs music of a striking and original style which is best suited to the pipe organ; thus she often performs in churches, since it is there that that instrument is most commonly found.  Earlier this month I linked to a story about Catholic fanatics stopping one of her concerts at a cathedral in Nantes, France.  She has been accused of Satanism because of her musical style and because one of her songs has some lines about "making love with the Devil", although in context that phrase is clearly a metaphor for using drugs.  The video above is from a performance at a church in New York City; I hope you'll find the combination of the hypnotic music and the visuals of the dead alien religion as mesmerizing as I did.

26 December 2021

Link round-up for 26 December 2021

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

o o o o o

No one makes better snowmen than Calvin.

Out-of-the-ordinary nativity scenes here.

Get your incantations right.

Oh, so those alien reptile humanoids really exist after all?

Don't be surprised if this kid accidentally summons a demon.

Plunge into the depths of ignorance.

You have two hands.

Happy Holidays!  Have some amusing blasphemies; more here.

A mall Santa delivers the presents.

Some tactics don't work for everyone.

People stink at math these days.

This cat just doesn't care.  And this cat hasn't quite got the "tail" thing figured out.

Everything is Satanic.

Excuse me, but you left your door open.

This guy has a highly assocentric view of reality.

See a bad sweater, crow behavior, and more.

You'd look like this too if your wife told you God knocked her up.

Upside-down video transforms a cage of bats into a Hellish disco.

This person is not a good driver.

Yeah, the Black Death disappeared without a vaccine, but.....

Here's how to say happy holidays in several dozen languages (found via Silverapplequeen).

For Europeans, here's how big Texas is.

If I had a Christmas tree, it would be this kind.

Some people really go all out with Christmas decorations.

Merry Christmas from Broken Peach!

Virginia encourages creativity with license plates.

"In the navy ladies'....."đŸŽ¶đŸŽ¶

Interesting observation here from the Finnish language.

Micro-libraries are cute.

Pretty decent rampaging brontosaurus here from 1925.

This hospitalized man got only one regular visitor.

From Québec comes a gripping New Year's Eve tale in the spirit of A Christmas Carol.

Books create memories.

Some interesting-looking buildings here.  See if you can guess what country this is before you get to the end of the post where it tells you.

An online database of medieval illustrations is available.

Humans have been human for a very long time.

Spectacular views of Greek monasteries here.

Apparently this is the world's largest cave.

This egg was just ready to hatch, but never did.

Here's what brain cells in action look like.

France has opened Europe's first retirement home for elephants.

Did medium-size dinosaurs exist?  Yes, but.....

Yesterday saw the launch of NASA's James Webb telescope, the largest and most complex orbital observatory yet.

Security cam video shows the moment the December 10 tornado hit a bank in Kentucky.

Beware of this "address verification" scam.

Fixating on "representation" helps corporate art get away with poor quality.

Yes, it's hard.

Prigs who berate you for reading the "wrong" things are hardly better than the fundies.

I Love Lucy was groundbreaking for its time.

Darwinfish 2 examines some wingnut anti-electric-car talking points, plus a few genuinely legitimate issues.

While the QAnon qrackpots in Dallas wait for JFK, they're passing the time drinking chemical poisons (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

The Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebration excluded the woman who made it all possible.

Not everything that hurts is a valuable lesson.

Links here for donating to help feed the hungry in the US.

Workers' goals have changed in the last half-century.

This is horrible, and it's not only models -- shoes like these are sold to the general public.

Together forever!

Evolution theory continues to erode away irrational dogmas, much to the annoyance of the dogmatists.

If Hell existed, would Hitler deserve to go there?

This is what class tyranny looks like.

Universal basic income works.

There's a lot of good news on covid-19.

Amazon may be delaying orders of "politically incorrect" books, though it might just be a matter of very popular books constantly being out of stock.  Unfortunately it sounds like even Bookshop.org, which I've recommended before, is now removing books for ideological reasons.  Another place to try is Blackwells, which is in the UK but offers free shipping to the US.

The brainwashing starts early for a reason.

Atheist Revolution discusses political burnout.

Anti-Semitic stereotypes are based on traditional monsters, not the other way round.

Moan-groan-doom-gloom defeatism on global warming is a stupid self-indulgence we can't afford.  Don't let our culture's tired obsession with dreary dystopias distort your sense of what's possible for the future.  Major progress is being made, though much more needs to be done.

Some good pithy observations here (in the first one, she's not saying the Waukesha van was a self-driving car, she's referring to the media phrasing that makes the car the agent doing the deed instead of focusing on the driver who was the actual murderer).

A court ruling in Oregon condemns discrimination against sex workers.

Here's what the log4j vulnerability is about (found via Green Eagle).

Everything old is new again.

If you don't even know a language, don't tell the native speakers how to speak it.

The US Army says it is developing a vaccine effective against all covid-19 variants, including any new ones which will emerge in the future.

More here on the deaths of warehouse and factory workers in the Kentucky tornado disaster.

QAnon maniacs drive a doctor to end his career (this story is mind-boggling).

Wingnuts freak out as Trump again supports covid-19 vaccination.  As I've said before, the issue with this country isn't primarily Trump, it's primarily too many stupid people.

"Media and government celebrate assorted white felons burning down the black business district....." then one guy intervened.

Science is under attack in the West as it was in the old USSR.

US hospitals are still being overwhelmed with unvaccinated covid-19 patients.  Americans are getting tired of fighting the virus, but the virus never gets tired.

Here's why it's unlikely that Manchin will switch parties.

The "white feminism" accusation goes back a long way, and there are reasons why the enemy uses it.

The Kellogg's strike has ended, apparently in total victory.

Aside from strikes, unions do important work on day-to-day issues.

US life expectancy dropped almost two years in 2020, mostly due to covid-19.

Church Militant goes all in on the "stolen election" bullshit.  I guess that rule about not bearing false witness was rescinded or something.

Gender ideology is like a religion, mindlessly dogmatic and hostile to unbelievers (see the comments too).

Analysis of South African data seems to confirm that omicron is highly infectious but usually causes only mild illness.

Good overview here of multiple aspects of the trans issue.

When the police admit you're not breaking the law, but they tell you "I need to check your thinking", something is seriously wrong with the country.

2021 was the year the fight to regain sex-based rights in the UK turned a new corner.  Celebrate the one courageous person who did the most to make it possible.

Germany's new left-wing leadership portends a tougher line against anti-vaxers.

Anti-Semitism at European universities is reaching Nazi-like levels.

Life in Poland is becoming nightmarish under an Orwellian anti-abortion surveillance state.

India is considering switching to a four-day work-week, but there's a catch.

The world's largest democracy uses diplomacy to pwn the world's largest gangster state.

The US and Japan are turning the Nansei islands north of Taiwan into a forward base to defend Taiwan against China.

As the Chinese economy implodes, Xi Jinping lashes out at, well, pretty much everything.

Merry Christmas from Islam!

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

My own posts this week:  a light musical tribute to Lovecraft, and a disquieting blog disappearance.  Not much, I know, but I was stressed out.  This week has been absolute hell in multiple ways.

22 December 2021

Yellowdog Granny

Her blog has disappeared.  Anyone know what happened?

21 December 2021

Video of the day -- Fishmen

A short musical tribute to one of Lovecraft's greatest tales, appropriate to the season.

19 December 2021

Link round-up for 19 December 2021

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

o o o o o

Better cat owners, please.

Apparently this company exists.  I won't try to guess what they sell.

Here's your nativity scene, now I'll get beer.

Hey, he's violating the dress code.

Unapproachable?  Perhaps not enough so.

Maybe it's better not to wrap presents.

Book overdue, returned to library.

Upgrade your signs.

Get to the root of the problem.

Trae Crowder assesses the "war on Christmas".

Dynamite, shit, and stupidity make a bad combination.

Find the curved line.

Bloggers, do you put a lot of thought into post titles?

Wingnuts are wearing radioactive amulets to defeat the imaginary Bill Gates microchips in covid-19 vaccines.

This device would cause every business meeting to end as soon as it started (good idea).

Cas d'intĂ©rĂȘt has book recommendations for Francophiles.

Some people get their photos taken with Santa, but Lady M has a better idea.  And she has fond memories of the Creepmassy "Slovenian witch".

It's OK to block people who impose drama, conflict, or stress on you.

Morons will pay insane amounts of money to literally eat dirt (found via The Honest Courtesan).

She preserved the image of her son in a gold ring.

Now this is how you grow rice.

God loves you -- he's just a terrible bungler.

This beetle was not intelligently designed.

This crow is intelligent (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Not everyone who works for "Big Pharma" is a bad guy.

Religion is incoherent nonsense.

It's tough having a spouse or partner in a high-risk job.

Shopping malls make weather worse.

Meet the new homophobia, same as the old homophobia.

"A conspiracy theory is a form of faith."

When applying for a job, take precautions.

Don't let the assholes get to you.  And it's wise to not trust people.

Your hard work will pay off.

Time magazine chose well for its "Heroes of the Year".

There's plenty of good news, even if you're not hearing it.

Info and links here to help the victims of the US tornado disaster.  I'd add the usual warning about the anti-gay Salvation Army.

Immigrant history is being erased in New York.

Do you watch ads?  Because soon the ads will watch you.

Flight attendants have had it with anti-mask assholes on planes.

The rich are waging class warfare against the rest of us.  Wake up!

Links here to several essays on the persecution of sex workers.

Pete Seeger once pwned a fascist dictator (found via Octoberfarm).

We can do better on flu shots.

Watch out for these shill and saboteur tactics on internet forums.

Parents of UPenn women swimmers complain to the university about its unfair gender policy (and it brushes them off with platitudes).

The strike here in Oregon against Fred Meyer and QFC ended a day after it began, with the bosses apparently caving.  Unions get things done!

In the Kellogg's strike, management's latest offer doesn't look good -- and they're threatening to hire permanent replacements for striking workers.  Others are fighting back.

"If, at this point, you are still unvaccinated, you are not a victim.  You are a cause of the victimization of vulnerable others."

It's good news!  And we were warned.

Religion in the US continues to decline, with "nones" now at 29% of the population.

This cartoon exemplifies the willful distortion and misdirection used by the idiots who try to downplay the evil of cancel culture.  Cancel culture refers to the harassment and bullying of persons who express opinions the bullies don't like, often up to the point of hounding them out of their jobs, as has recently happened (for example) to Kathleen Stock and these New Zealand scientists.  It doesn't refer to generic criticism of ideas.

Much of the Great Resignation consists of early retirements among people over 55.

The Salvation Army is finding that racism has consequences.

Moline Skeptics dissects another anti-vax lie.  I've actually seen claims like this on a few wingnut sites.

"The central question in the abortion debate is not whether a fetus is a person, but whether a woman is."  To Hell with Madison "earthen vessels" Cawthorn and the rest of the toxic-masculine adult toddlers.

Dr Rebecca Gomperts will help you to get an abortion by any means necessary (found via Nan's Notebook).

Anti-vaxers are assholing the Cheesecake Factory.

A pizzeria employee in Tennessee shot a robber, and the reactions of neighbors and the comments below the video are revealing.  People are sick of crime, and politicians downplay this at their own peril.

Pennsylvania Republicans are striving to help covid-19 spread among schoolchildren.


Read a mother's thoughts to her daughter in dangerous times (found via Dead Wild Roses).

It's idiots like this that help keep the pandemic going.

This police department has a serious racism problem.

Here are some of the things gender ideology is destroying.

Workers who died at an Amazon warehouse and a candle factory in Kentucky were human sacrifices to modern corporate callousness and greed.  But no-o-o-o, you had to buy that item from Amazon because ordering it from someplace less evil would have cost you an extra three dollars and six minutes of internet searching.

Democrats are losing support among blacks and Hispanics and are in their worst position ever in the CNBC generic poll.  What we're doing isn't working.

Abdol-Hossein Sardari saved the lives of thousands of people.

Omicron suggests that God is an asshole.

If they want a war, let's give them one.

She survived.

Threats and bullying are the mark of a reactionary movement, not a "progressive" one.

Police in Scotland will start logging accused rapists as women when the rapist requests it.

The Pacific island of New Caledonia has just voted overwhelmingly to remain part of France.

US wingnuts regurgitate Putin's propaganda on Ukraine.

Moderna backs down on the patent fight, guardedly good news for the campaign to speed up vaccination planet-wide.

Even in one of Iran's most religious cities, a woman stands up to a religio-bully.

Biden has nearly ended drone warfare in the Middle East.

More links at  Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

My own posts this week:  the politicizing of everyday things, and a new set of improved word definitions.

17 December 2021

Improving words (23)

Some more revised word definitions, based on what the words visibly should mean based on spelling.....

Antelope:  To run away and marry a small insect

Bison:  Male offspring attracted to persons of both sexes

Button:  The ass is activated

Cameramen:  Ejaculated Asian noodles

Codependent:  A indentation made by a pen normally used for writing in cypher

Coverage:  Anger at a small bay

Crowding:  Minor damage caused by a large black bird

Divergent:  An honorable man who spends a lot of time underwater

Exact:  A past behavior

Hallowed:  Someone's in debt to a corridor

Idealist:  A listing of thoughts

Impregnation:  A country where small demons must be registered

Lagoon:  A thug from Los Angeles

Molesting:  An attack by a small burrowing mammal using a wasp's method

Moscow:  A bovine from a wretched hive of scum and villainy

Poetic:  A twitch caused by reading too much Edgar Allen

Pastorate:  To give a long speech about history

Proliferate:  The abortion opponent gobbled it up

Rehearse:  To put a coffin back in its transport car

Rumbling:  Jewelry used for making Caribbean-style alcohol

Totally:  A friend of small children

Wanking:  A pale monarch

[The previous "improving words" post is here.]

14 December 2021

The politicizing of everyday things

This is, probably, my final attempt at constructive criticism on the political front.  The agenda and mentality of a major part of the left is dooming the Democratic party to near-certain defeat in future national elections, or at least saddling it with a crippling, self-inflicted, and completely unnecessary disadvantage.  Because the Republicans have become so dangerous, this problem represents a grave threat to the country.  But to deal with the threat, the broader left must understand it clearly.  And remember that what matters is not how someone thinks the voters should act and feel, but how they actually do act and feel.

It's beginning to dawn on at least the more reality-dwelling elements of the activist left that "wokeness" is a serious problem for the Democrats when it comes to winning mainstream voters.  As I put it back in July while expressing my own sense of alienation and repulsion from the political left, what I mean by "wokeness" is:

.....bullshit like men in women's sports and men in women's prisons (and bathrooms) and defunding the police and "cancel culture doesn't exist" (while countless innocent people's lives are being ruined by it) and puberty blockers for kids and "silence is violence but vandalism isn't" and Israel-bashing and gun-grabbing and Karen-calling and "reparations" and 847 fake gender identities and negativity about "whiteness" and eroding support for free speech.....

I could have gone on and on, but you get the idea.  Superficially it seems baffling that such issues could actually sway the votes of large numbers of people.  Surely the dangerous stances of the Republicans -- Trump's lies about the election being stolen, the threat to abortion rights, the failure to condemn the January 6 insurrection, etc -- are obviously much bigger issues?  The stupidest element of the left will reflexively dismiss the issues I cite here as "Republican talking points" being pushed by the media to sway the dumb, easily-manipulated masses -- and that kind of attitude is itself a big part of the problem I'm talking about.  These issues resonate strongly with a lot of people.  That's why Republicans talk about them -- they're winning issues for their side.  So why do they strike such a chord?

I think a big part of the problem is that the issues the left is wrong about impinge on everyday life in ways that the issues the right is wrong about generally don't.  Most people are not very engaged with politics, seeing it as a distant, Byzantine, and rather dull game among elites, but they are sensitive to things that could directly affect their own lives in negative ways.

For example, I repeatedly see comments around the net along the lines of "the women I know say they'll never vote for the Democrats again" because Democrats are identified with policies which allow men to use women's public bathrooms, changing rooms, and other facilities (as in the Wi Spa incident).  I haven't seen any polling about this, but it seems clear that the phenomenon is real and non-trivial in extent.  At first, this seems astonishing.  Shouldn't these women be more turned off by the Republicans' threat to abortion rights than by relatively lesser issues like this?

But think again.  How often might the average woman expect to be in need of an abortion?  Once or twice in a lifetime, perhaps.  It's a vital freedom, but the issue arises only in rare emergencies.  Now, how often might the average woman expect to need to use a restroom or changing room in a public place like a department store or grocery store?  Once or twice a month, perhaps, maybe more.  It's part of everyday life.  Given that the presence of a man in a women's restroom normally registers as a potential danger (and in many cases is a real danger), the sudden spread of policies which allow this to happen constitutes a threatening intrusion of ideology into the world of everyday things.  It's an immediate, urgent problem in a way that the abortion issue is not.

Similarly, Trump's lies about the election being stolen are objectively a serious matter, but they likely don't seem as alarming or extraordinary to the average person as the politically-engaged element would expect.  The average person thinks of politics as a crooked and cynical game in which politicians lie and cheat all the time anyway, and the claims and counterclaims about the election have no apparent direct impact on their personal lives.  The cover-up and media lies and distortions about (as an example) the Loudoun county rape scandal are much more immediate and alarming, because many ordinary people have children (or have close friends who do), and the spectacle of a girl being raped at school, followed by school authorities covering it up and threatening her father for refusing to shut up about it, provokes a degree of outrage that no political lie or scandal can ever match.  In Virginia, where the Loudoun county scandal happened and was widely known, there's little doubt that it played a role in the Democratic rout last month.

Likewise, if people see their grade-school kids being indoctrinated at school with negativity about "whiteness", they will lash out via the ballot box at those they hold responsible.  Hairsplitting about whether what goes on in those schools technically constitutes "critical race theory" or not is beside the point.  Yes, I know the Republicans are using this as an excuse to go on a book-banning rampage.  That doesn't negate my point, or its likely electoral consequences.  People are just not going to get as upset about Toni Morrison being removed from the library as about their kids being taught negativity about their own race.  Not even close.

And I can't ignore the issue of guns, though the problem there is not confined to the "woke" fringe.  Like it or not, guns are an integral and deeply-valued part of the culture in vast (mostly rural) areas of the US, and the overwhelming majority of gun owners never do anything criminal or dangerous.  So long as the Democrats manifest visceral disdain and hostility toward gun culture, whole states and regions that would otherwise be winnable are off the table.

Finally, there is the oddity that the left has almost entirely taken over the role of the scowling, disapproving, uptight prig, never a popular character.  For example, around Thanksgiving this year, many left-leaning blogs marked the day with a post about the mistreatment of the Indians in American history.  Yes, that's all true and most people know about it (and the few who don't know about it aren't reading liberal blogs) -- but it exemplifies the fact that even for a national holiday amid the stresses of the pandemic, these types cannot put aside the "racism oppression privilege America is bad" stuff for a few hours and just let people be normal and enjoy something.  Everything has to be an occasion for lecturing and scolding.  Everything.  It doesn't matter whether those posts were intended that way.  They come across that way.

And speaking of the pandemic, the cases of high-ranking Democratic politicians appearing maskless at social events, when the rules they themselves have imposed require ordinary people to wear masks in comparable situations, need to come to a screeching halt, starting instantly.  I'm sure there are legitimate reasons in each case, but that doesn't matter.  It screams hypocrisy and an out-of-touch elite exempting itself from the rules it expects everybody else to follow.

I could go on endlessly, but you get the idea.  By now I'm sure much of the target audience for this post, if they've even read this far, is already working out how to brush it all off so they can get back to talking about their kind of stuff.  Sorry, but these issues do constitute a real problem, one which costs votes, probably a lot of votes.

As I mentioned in passing last month, an example of the direction I think the Democrats should be taking is provided by Lucas Kunce, the Missouri candidate for Senate, a genuine left-populist.  His issues page is all about infrastructure, economic development, healthcare, unions, education, Social Security, big-money domination of politics and the economy -- and nothing about reparations or defunding the police or the "right" of men to use the girls' bathroom or all the rest of the weird boutique nonsense that bewilders and infuriates normal people.  If the party as a whole presented itself this way (and actually was this way), we'd be unbeatable.  There's also some good advice here.

No matter how alienated I am from the left, I could never support the right in the US.  I can't accept the attacks on separation of church and state, the opposition to all concrete efforts to fight the pandemic, the denialism about global warming (and even evolution), the cowardly pandering to Trump, the Christian supremacism, the celebration of ignorance and the denigration of science and expertise, the vote suppression and broader attacks on democracy, the active support for the obscene concentration of more and more wealth in the hands of a tiny minority, and, yes, the racism, which does actually exist in some cases despite the left's ridiculous over-use of the accusation.  At this point my attitude toward the left is utilitarian and pragmatic; we need the Democrats to win elections because the only alternative is the Republicans and the Republicans are intolerable.  I've been writing about the issues dwelt on in this post because they create a substantial obstacle to the Democrats winning elections and thus objectively help the Republicans.  Right now polling looks catastrophic; what we're currently doing is not good enough.

So, via this post, I've done what little I can, using whatever limited reach this blog has, to sound the alarm and contribute something to remedying the situation (there was, of course, this and this as well).  Given that I've spent decades engaged with politics and am now exhausted and disgusted with the whole subject, to say nothing of the other issues I have to deal with in life, I believe I've done as much or more as could reasonably be expected of me.  At least I'll be able to take comfort in that, if the next few elections go as badly as I fear they will.

Comments closed.  For me this is the end of a discussion, not the beginning of one.

12 December 2021

Link round-up for 12 December 2021

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

o o o o o

Find out the difference between socialism and capitalism.

Renegade philosophers push their wares.

Eat these Christmas candle salads.

Extremely-abbreviated version of A Christmas Carol here.

Don't get on Santa's naughty list this year.

Obnoxious birds get their comuppance (found via SickoRicko).

Medieval monks were all too human.

Paint the rocks, bamboozle the crows.

This is not a happy cat.

Animals do Christmas.

Image #2 is essentially attempted arson.

Advent calendar?  Try an advent puzzle.

Beware of fake etymologies, entertaining as they are.

Hassle a chicken for science.

One chair meets all needs.

Fuck this goddam motherfucking post.

Lord Meat Coin is in the moron citadel.

Robots and snow don't mix (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

"Micro-influencer" Daal has pro-choice links, punctuation funnies, and other miscellania.

Our own visions of the future are probably just as comically wrong.

Let's break the ice.

Does it really matter if you run over a zombie?

Establish healthy boundaries.

When designing an ad, consider how it will be displayed.

Reminder here about Christmas shopping on Amazon.  There are still a lot of problems.

Lady M's Creepmas dinner party is rich in ambience.  Decorations are available on the internet, or just make your own.

You will hear an echo.

Well, that's one option.

They reached the edge of the world.

St Nicholas is also the patron saint of sex workers.

Some good pithy advice here.

Commuting is still godawful.

Honor the weed.

You can opt out of Christmas.

Cas d'intĂ©rĂȘt has a round-up of French films to check out.

Pictures of San Francisco here from 1993 and 2000.

The Babylonians were surprisingly advanced in mathematics.

Prehistoric cave paintings were more sophisticated than you think.

Looks like Mehmet Oz's candidacy is off to a rather rocky start among the religio-wingnuts.

Let this company be forever known, first and foremost, as the company that fired 900 people in a Zoom call right before Christmas.

"Detained" for wearing trousers.

Assholes gonna asshole.

English is a weird language.

By the Bible's own "logic", Adam and Eve could not have known that eating the fruit was wrong.

Apparently my state's governor is the most unpopular in the country, despite some substantial accomplishments.

Creationism of whatever kind is still bullshit.

Understand your introvert.

Republican rhetoric on abortion is a morass of regressive absurdities.

He was "the person who has reached perfection".

There's no labor shortage, there's a shortage of non-shitty jobs.

Whose side is God on, ours or the snakes'?

Drone video shows massive tornado devastation in Mayfield KY.

An anti-vax televangelist is baffled that no "big Democrats" are dying of covid-19.

If Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus, why not to everybody?

Fox, MSNBC, and CNN combined reach fewer than 2% of US adults.  The politically-engaged are a sub-microscopic fringe element of society.

This week saw the anniversary of the defeat of a terrible enemy.

Good take-down here of the wingnut trope that science keeps "moving the goalposts" on covid-19; also, what the "new normal" may look like.

Who was God talking to?

Stay out of the damn water -- it's full of hideous abominations.

Some common lies about sex work debunked here.

So glad I got out of academia -- you have less freedom of expression there than elsewhere.  Alumni, fighting back, are starting to withhold donations from universities that don't stand up for robust free speech.

Even back in 1968, wingnuts feared the influence of popular culture.  They're still protesting films today (and shutting down vaccine clinics).

Discussion here about how to vote if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade.

Here's an example of why it's bad that companies can get so much data about you.

Mastercard's new rules endanger sex workers.

Homophobia still exists, just in different forms.

Republican officials in Missouri are going all-out to help covid-19 spread.

"That's why Hitler went to Heaven."

81% of black Americans want the same or increased police presence in their neighborhoods.

The woke neologism "Latinx" is massively rejected by actual Hispanic voters; Democrats need to stop using it.

We may finally be about to get rid of Louis DeJoy.

This Michigan hospital is seeing more covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths than ever before -- but not a single death among people fully vaccinated plus booster shot.

UPenn's women swimmers are starting to speak out about having to compete against a man, despite university pressure to keep quiet.

Georgia election officials are being threatened because of stolen-election lies.

The House, unified for once, passes a bill to punish China for its use of Uyghur slave labor.

There's a complex relationship between inflammation and mental illness, which seems to make sufferers more vulnerable to covid-19.

Full text here of Abigail Shrier's speech at Princeton, a call to arms against the totalitarian miasma settling over the intellectual world.

Pence is being weird.

Congress is considering a bill to federally decriminalize marijuana.

Here's an engaging account of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Parents are starting to organize against the dangers trans ideology poses to their children.  Some mistakes are hard to fix.

Old, deteriorating Navy fuel-storage tanks are contaminating the aquifer of Oahu.

A religion-dominated Supreme Court could condemn the US to be permanently wracked with preventable diseases.

"Crybaby culture" is impeding scientific progress.

Smuggler and bootlegger Algoth Niska put his skills to good use during World War II.

Jennifer Rubin, who knows a thing or two about appealing to right-wing voters, has some good advice for Democrats.

Oh no, this is about somebody else, I need to make it about meeeeeeDiscussion hereMore here.

"Did you honestly not understand what a university is for?"

"The important thing is to show your tribe that you have the right morals....."

When scientific research discovers something the government doesn't like, prosecute the researchers.

Germany's new left-leaning leadership is signaling a tougher stance against China than the conservative Merkel took.

Josephine Baker, recently honored at the Panthéon in Paris, worked for the French resistance during World War II.

Religious fanatics prevent a musical performance in Nantes.  Definitely give the video at the end of the post a listen.

Chile is the newest country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Russia is considering a law that would treat all gay-related material the same as pornography (found via The Honest Courtesan).

Putin is showing everyone why NATO is necessary.  His stance toward Ukraine evokes that of Hitler toward Austria or China toward Taiwan.

Ukraine is prepared to fight back hard if Russia invades.

A 14-year-old girl in southern Mexico was jailed for fleeing a forced marriage (found via Miss Cellania).  Here is what child marriage looks like.

"Heroic stabbing".

On covid-19 vaccines, India doesn't so much need our help as need us to just get out of the way.

Chinese censorship aims to silence victims, protect powerful abusers, and destroy society itself.  It's also gradually erasing gays from the country's internet.

More and more democracies are committing to a "diplomatic boycott" of Beijing's "genocide Olympics".  The gangster regime is pissed off, which seems to be its usual condition these days.  But France is opting for appeasement, as in the 1930s.

Further links at Miss Cellania, The Honest Courtesan, and Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

My own posts this week:  how natural selection will change covid-19, and a video on diet and gout.

10 December 2021

Video of the day -- making the pain stop

I used to suffer from fairly frequent, extremely painful flare-ups of inflammation in the joints, which were sometimes so bad that I had to miss work time (long-time readers may recall a few times I took a break from posting because it was too painful to type, or I had to type one-handed).  In some cases, doctors did use the word gout to describe it.  This continued even through the years when I had given up eating meat.  Early in 2020 I cut out all remaining animal products (such as cheese and eggs), and since then, these flare-ups have almost entirely stopped.  If you suffer from this, it may work for you as well.

07 December 2021

Omicron evolution

It's too early to say for certain, and the assessment could still change as new data become available, but first indications suggest that the new omicron variant, though extremely transmissible, may cause less severe illness than earlier variants of covid-19 (more here).  That's not to say it's harmless.  Some omicron cases in South Africa have required hospitalization.  But in fully-vaccinated people the symptoms are usually mild, and I have still not seen any reports of death resulting from omicron infection, even in the unvaccinated.

If this turns out to be the case, we should not be surprised.  Higher infectiousness but less-severe disease are exactly what one would expect natural selection to produce.

In a disease microorganism, it's easy to see why natural selection would favor greater infectiousness.  A variant form which spreads more easily will, in fact, spread more, and will out-compete less-infectious variants to become predominant in the population.  But selection will also favor milder disease.

Imagine a virus producing such severe disease that it kills a person within just five minutes of being infected.  Such a virus would be an evolutionary failure.  In five minutes, it's unlikely that the infected person would get a chance to pass it on to other people, and so it would die with its first victim.

Now imagine a mutated form of this virus, a variant producing milder disease, taking five days to kill instead of five minutes.  That variant would have far more opportunities to be transmitted before the first host dies, and so would easily out-compete and replace the original form.  A further mutated variant producing even less severe disease, which doesn't kill the victim at all, would be even more successful, since it could be transmitted for however long it remained in the victim's body until the immune system cleared it out.

In fact, from the viewpoint of a virus's evolutionary success in a human population, the optimum level of disease for it to produce is zero -- that is, to not make people sick at all.  Humans understand how infectious diseases work and can take steps to minimize contact with individuals who are clearly ill.  So all other things being equal, a virus variant which produces no illness at all will spread more easily than more damaging variants, and out-compete them for survival.

So the evolution of viruses and bacteria naturally tends to mitigate the severity of the diseases they cause.  There are several diseases, such as syphilis, for which historical records show that their symptoms a few centuries ago were substantially more severe than they are today.

The delta variant partly deviated from this pattern in being more infectious than the original covid-19 but causing more severe illness.  Even so, it is so much more infectious that it out-competed and largely replaced the original version despite its greater propensity to kill its victims.  But the latter really was a liability from the viewpoint of virus survival, even if a surmountable one.

It's logical that if a new variant appears which is even more infectious and causes less-severe disease, it will out-compete and eventually replace delta, a further new stage in covid-19's evolution.  Omicron may turn out to be that variant.  If not, eventually some such variant will appear and become dominant.  Given enough time, we can expect successive mutations to steadily reduce the danger covid-19 poses.

This doesn't mean we just have to wait for omicron to displace delta and our troubles are over.  A highly-infectious disease that puts some fraction of its victims in the hospital is still a serious problem, even if it rarely kills people.  But it's worth remembering that in the long run natural selection will work in our favor.

05 December 2021

Link round-up for 5 December 2021

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

o o o o o

A fearsome beast is captured in verse.

No, pets and Christmas trees do not mix.

The reviewers found unrealistic little details in this romance novel.

A new musical genius emerges from his shell.

Rather weird German cat commercial here.

Clever use here for leftover Halloween skeletons.

Turn the handle, get it going.

If you're gonna do it, do it right.

Camels explode.

American version of fish-n-chips here.

This person exists.  But so do birds, sorry.

This person exists.  But nobody asked for his worthless opinion.

Library signs here.

Snake problem plus stupidity problem equals, well, this.

Here's why cats don't make good snipers.

Finally, a use for those disgusting bits of metal some people stick through their noses.

Start using plain English again.

Murrmurrs has moved -- here's the new site.

Does anyone know what the last picture here is?  Update:  Solved!  See first comment by Mike below.

Apparently this was the 1945 equivalent of a USB.

Follow the saga of the vampire horse.

So that's what that thing is for.

Trees, trees, trees!

Winter in northern China can be a fun time.  Also at the Oregon Zoo (this is from 2017 -- we haven't had snow yet this year).

The kraken has been released!

Here's the original version of Carol of the Bells.

To see a world in a grain jar of sand.....

Lady M continues to observe Creepmas with festive clothes and a (petrified) "gingerdead house".

Check out the casually freaky art of Boris Groh.

Cas d'intĂ©rĂȘt has a round-up of items from France, including Josephine Baker in the PanthĂ©on, a chocolate festival, and a subtle change in the flag.  Of particular interest is Lireka, an online source for books in French which is cheaper and faster than Amazon.

This street is at least 937 years old and probably much older.

Two golden records hurtling out into the cosmos bear a sampling of images, sounds, and data about our world.  Here's what's on them.

From the point of view of a cat.....

This restaurant is in Tehran.  Presumably the local religio-cops don't have a deep grasp of English-language slang.

Assholes can't make up their minds about flipping burgers.

Ghosts are easy to detect, whether they're there or not.

Some good advice here for young gay people (and young people generally).

Learn ten unpleasant scenarios involving aliens.

Can elephants paint pictures?  The truth is different, and sad.

If your cat catches a mouse, don't let him eat it.

Voting is like public transport.

He is gone, but his ducks live on.

This boss got a lesson in the realities of the marketplace.

American Christmas is a dreary, oppressive morass of consumerism.  Push back against it with Creepmas.

Evolution makes Christianity untenable.

Here in Oregon, a sex workers' advocacy group has launched a petition to get an initiative on next year's state ballot to decriminalize sex work.  It can't be signed online, unfortunately.

What would a world with no gay people be like?

Fight the pandemic.

Trust in science is on the rise globally.

The French know how to get things done.

Westerners generally have a shallow understanding of meditation, which can be dangerous under some conditions.

Get off Facebook.

Online trolls are mostly just the same people who are assholes in real life too.

Dull, shallow visions of the future crowd out radical possibilities.

And now a word from our leader about the Declaration on Women's Sex-Based Rights.  I've signed it.  Standard bitching here, response here.

Green Eagle has a new tar pit of wingnut lunacy for us to wallow in.  This one is so weird I couldn't resist looking up the original; it's posted on several sites, just as he says.  Here's one.

Best-ever short description of libertarians.

A mysterious 2014 robbery at Joel Osteen's church may have been solved.

Autistic play styles aren't wrong, just different.

You can dress and live completely at odds with the gender stereotypes for your sex and still be fully a member of that sex.

Nuclear power is not our best option against climate change.  (This piece doesn't even address my own main objection to it, which is over-centralization.  100 small power plants are more resilient than one big one against terrorism and other threats, and solar and wind are better suited to small-scale, distributed power generation.)

Many people who survive severe covid-19 die within a year (found via Miss Cellania).

Our era is plagued with infantile thinking (good thoughtful article).

Interesting stuff here about the demographics of anti-police feeling.

If you eat meat, be aware of what the meat animals are eating.

They are self-made men, and you could do the same if you weren't lazy.

This is an example of the mentality that has brought me close to utterly loathing the political-activism scene:  "With the overruling of Roe v. Wade close to a certainty this coming June, the immediate practical question is how to best take advantage of this development from an electoral standpoint."  No, the immediate practical question is how to safeguard the rights of women who want abortions and avoid as many forced births as possible when prohibition descends on the red states.  Yes, work on winning elections too, but freedoms exist for their own sake and not as chips in a political game.

Social media culture has similar effects to toxic parenting.

This is self-defense.  It's not even debatable.

Pregnancy makes covid-19 vaccination more necessary, not less.

Some nutballs believe that the Astroworld concert deaths were a Satanic human sacrifice.

"We never asked you for anything."

Empower women by forcing them to do things they don't want to do.

The judgments of ankle-biting modern nonentities are irrelevant to the giants of the past.

The stuff neo-Nazis complain about is mostly the fault of the original Nazis.

Assisted dying is an essential right.  What a hideous fate, to be suffering yet forced to stay alive because of the taboos of someone else's religion.

Since Portland's city "government" can't or won't provide businesses in our riot-infested downtown with the protection that they pay taxes for, many are turning to private security.

Anti-vaxers kill other patients, and not just by spreading covid-19.

Here's why the distinction between sex and "gender" is important.

A Texas gun store celebrated the Rittenhouse verdict with a "not guilty sale".

Lara Logan is vile (found via Hackwhackers).

He was just five.

From Canada, a shocking case of transphobia.

Not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

At least in Europe, trans people suffer murder at a lower rate than the general population.

This man is a monster and a thug.

Over a hundred omicron cases have been identified in England alone.  Clearly this thing is already entrenched all over the world.  But so far, globally, there have been no reported deaths from omicron.  This seems to support tentative reports from South Africa that the disease it causes is milder than earlier variants.

Doubtless this museum also has a "lack of mention" of flat-Earthism or unicorns.

It's not just the US -- in New Zealand too, the government is pushing to teach religious myths in the schools as if they were science.

Nobody expects the trannish inquisition.

France has passed a wide-ranging new law limiting animal abuse.

The French have no interest in emulating the Anglosphere's pronoun nonsense.

This is not freedom.

In certain circles it's still acceptable to openly declare intent to commit genocide.

Japan is ramping up public support for Taiwan and warning China to back off.

Taiwan is building advanced submarines to help deter a Chinese invasion.

The Beijing regime hates WION's reporting.  I guess the truth hurts.

Desperate North Koreans are selling their homes to get money to buy food.

More links at Mock Paper Scissors (on the omicron variant) and Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

My own posts this week:  The Lone Animator does Krampus; abortion is an essential freedom; a new list of improved word definitions.