30 November 2022

A monstrous betrayal (updated)

Congressional Democrats and president Biden are about to commit a monstrous betrayal, stabbing American working people in the back.

For months, unionized rail workers have been negotiating with the railway companies to get a new contract.  The deal currently on offer does provide for substantial raises, but doesn't address the workers' most important demand -- paid sick time (rail workers currently get no paid sick days).  For this reason, members of four of the twelve unions involved voted to reject the deal, raising the possibility of a strike in December.

Because such a strike would have severe effects on the economy, Biden and Democrats in Congress are now threatening to pass legislation which would force the unions to accept the deal.  It would be possible to amend the legislation to incorporate the workers' demands for paid sick time -- as senator Bernie Sanders is in fact demanding -- but for some reason most of the "leaders" who are plotting this betrayal don't want to do that.

With Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?  This is not what I thought I was voting for three weeks ago.

I'm frankly too angry to write a lengthy post about this, but Bruce Gerencser's blog has an excellent and detailed discussion of the whole situation.

The House is expected to vote on this today.  You can look up your representative here based on your zip code, then click on the name under the picture at left to go to the representative's website which has contact info.  Look up senators and their contact info here.  They need to hear that if preventing a strike is so important to the economy, they can damn well vote to impose a settlement that does include the paid sick time.

Update (8:25 AM):  After the main vote, Pelosi is going to hold a second House vote on adding seven days of paid sick time to the deal.  This seems likely to pass the House.  The problem will be getting it through the Senate, where sixty votes will be needed due to the filibuster.  There is some Republican support for adding the sick days.

According to Crooks and Liars, the Democratic party leadership did not want to do this.  They were pushed into it by Sanders and a few other progressives -- and, to give credit where due, a few Republicans who support the sick days.

Democrats need to fight like hell to get the sick-leave addition through the Senate.  In particular, Biden needs to get on board, which so far he has not been.  The party needs to deliver results, not just a symbolic action to make Republicans look bad.  There's never going to be a more defining issue than this.

Kudos to Sanders for speaking out and keeping this issue alive.

Update (10:50 AM):  The House has passed the paid leave addition.  Biden still hasn't weighed in.

29 November 2022

No complacency after the election

Democrats have every right to celebrate the results of this month's election.  The red wave fizzled out.  The Republicans took the House majority by only a tiny margin, which will be rendered unworkable by their own flaming-nutball fringe.  Democrats held the Senate and will probably get to 51-49 after the Georgia runoff.  Election denialists lost almost every race, and except in Arizona, there has been practically no "stolen election" nonsense.

Nevertheless, they should avoid complacency.  There are still reasons for concern going forward.

1.  Holding the Senate in 2024 will be very difficult.  Every Republican senator who will be up for re-election in 2024 is in a safely red state (with the possible exception of Florida), so there is no realistic chance of picking up any new Senate seats.  That means Democrats can't afford to lose more than one -- and that's assuming they win the presidency again so that a Democratic vice president remains as the tie-breaker.

2.  A number of unusual factors conspired to squelch the red wave.  The Dobbs decision and threats to Social Security and Medicare turned off a lot of voters.  Trump stuck the Republicans with some dud candidates who lost races a more conventional candidate might have won.  He also insisted on making himself and his stolen-election claims an issue.  But you can't count on Republicans to keep making huge stupid mistakes right before each election, and Trump won't always be a factor.

3.  As Electoral-Vote points out, voters were more rejecting Trumpists than rejecting Republicans in general; and Hispanics, Asians and even blacks continued shifting toward Republicans -- who did better with each of those groups than in 2018.

4.  Liberal blogs have been proclaiming that, at last, young voters turned out in high numbers.  It's not true.  And total turnout wasn't actually all that high -- it was lower than in 2018.  These figures are total votes for the House of Representatives in each year:

5.  Democrats have been telling themselves the polls were hopelessly wrong and can be ignored from now on.  In fact, the polls turned out to be pretty accurate if you exclude the wave of Republican-leaning junk polls that were dumped just before the election to skew the averages.  So no, we can't just ignore polls from now on, and the red wave was probably real before Dobbs and Trump's narcissism flattened it.

6.  Most importantly, there are many issues where Democrats are far out of step with the American mainstream -- it's not just a "messaging" problem:

.....the cultural left in and around the Democratic party has managed to associate the party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. These unpopular views are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by the cultural left..... Democrats continue to be weighed down by those whose tendency is to oppose firm action to control crime or the southern border as concessions to racism, interpret concerns about ideological school curricula and lowering educational standards as manifestations of white supremacy, and generally emphasize the identity politics angle of virtually every issue.....

In the recent New York Times/Sienna poll, voters by 15 points (49-34) say Democrats have gone too far in pushing a "woke" ideology on issues related to race and gender, rather than not far enough..... the poll asked voters whether they supported or opposed "allowing public school teachers to provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to children in elementary school (grades 1-5)" Note that this stipulation is actually stricter than the one in the Florida law that aroused such horror in Democratic circles. Voters responded by 43 points (70-27) that they opposed allowing such a practice..... If [Democrats] ever hope to overcome their structural obstacles to electoral and governance success, there really is no choice but to move to the center on cultural issues.....

Mainstream voters are never going to accept that violent criminals do not deserve harsh punishment, or that the US should not enforce its immigration laws, or that it's OK for men to use the girls' bathroom or compete on women's sports teams.  The fact that the left is so out-of-step on such issues should be a big concern to anyone who cares about Democrats actually winning elections, as opposed to merely being able to stand around basking in their own righteousness.  Calling voters names ending in -ist and -phobe for having such views, and running away whenever anybody brings up the problem, will just result in more voters moving toward the Republicans.

7.  Before the election, I argued that it would be best for the country if one side won in a landslide, because if one party loses massively, at least that one will be forced to purge its own lunatic-fringe ideas and move toward the sensible center.  Well, there was no landslide, but the results were enough of a disappointment for the Republicans that they seem motivated at last to purge at least some parts of their extensive inventory of lunatic-fringery -- Trump worship and election denialism.  More and more major Republican figures are openly saying that it's time to move on from Trump and his obsessions.  It's not enough -- I've seen no sign that they're ready to turn against other crank ideas like global-warming denialism or anti-vaxism -- but if they move toward sanity even this much and the Democrats refuse to budge on any of their own fringe views, then to that extent they will benefit.

8.  Knee-jerk hatred of gun culture -- and yes, guns are part of the culture in huge areas of the US -- remains a major problem.  So long as every mass shooting by an isolated psycho triggers a flood of disdain and loathing against a hundred million law-abiding gun owners, and outright threats to a clear Constitutional right, the Democrats will be electorally pretty much locked out of whole states and regions, without which it's only barely possible to win nationally.

o o o o o

It's unlikely that these issues will hurt the Democrats much in 2024 specifically.  The Republicans will probably fail to win the presidency because the conflict between pro- and anti-Trump factions will still be ongoing (if Trump is the nominee, he'll alienate centrist voters, and if someone else is the nominee, Trump will throw a tantrum and tell his supporters not to vote).  If they use their House majority to stage a bunch of posturing phony "investigations" instead of to work on solving the country's problems, they'll turn off mainstream voters and lose the majority again.  But in the long run the exhausted majority of voters will reward pragmatic centrism and punish those who cling to the polarizing fringes.  If you want the Democrats to win elections going forward, help them be the former and not the latter.

27 November 2022

Video of the day -- China erupts

This is too important to just leave in the round-up.  Starting yesterday, huge protests have erupted all across China, with masses of people defying and even attacking the authorities, and openly calling for Xi Jinping and the regime to step down.  Nothing remotely like this has been seen in China since the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 -- and this new uprising is happening all over the country, not just localized in one place as Tiananmen was.  As in Iran, it seems that mass anger and frustration have reached the point where people lose their fear of the regime and its thugs.  Watch the video, and you'll see how stunning and unprecedented this rebellion is.  Anything could happen.

[Note:  YouTube has age-restricted the video, so I replaced it with the embed from Odysee.  It's exactly the same video.]

Link round-up for 27 November 2022

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

o o o o o

Learn proper medical terminology.

When the Rapture happened, they were left behind.

If you're not a paying customer, get out!

Elon Musk could actually do some good.

This censorship idea has possibilities.

Yeah, right, rats, that's what happened to it.

Is this processed ham?

I never realized turkeys were so dangerous.

See a topical horror film trailer.

He can talk with animals.

Have some fun on Black Friday.

Gretel pwns witch.

Crystals can be big.

Very cool light bulbs here.

She built an awesome hobbit hole model.

The Moon sets over Seattle.

Maybe they're ghosts.....

Very convincing optical illusion here.

Wide variety of images here.

Atheist Revolution reviews three horror films.

Lots of free streaming movies and TV here.

Moby Dick is cosmic horror.

Live by faith, die by faith.

Attitudes about feminine boys change over time.

Could you live in a building with an evil past?

Food thieves deserve what they get.

Verified charities here through which you can help Ukraine.

Pay attention to the mental health of people around you.  You might prevent a disaster.

Why does the French language sound the way it does?

Edwin Hubble preferred the expansion of knowledge over empty speculation.

The Ingenuity helicopter on Mars has flown again, showing that it survived the Martian winter.

New ebola vaccines will soon begin testing in Uganda.

A new mRNA flu vaccine could protect against all know flu virus subtypes.

Chile now gets 31% of its energy from clean sources.

Tropical countries come together to protect rain forests.

Carbon capture technology is on the rise.

The prevalence of dementia has fallen sharply over the last twenty years.

Some pics from the Orion Lunar flyby here.

Neanderthals created art.

This person exists.

Americans are not as polarized as the media would have us believe.  Cut out the lunatic fringes and there are broad areas of agreement across mainstream society.

A former SpaceX intern describes managing Elon Musk.  He's long been a "hardcore" asshole.  He also tells peculiar lies (found via Hackwhackers).

As social media decline, the solution is a revival of blogging (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  Blogs are more decentralized, more individual, more difficult to censor or control.

Christianity is being reduced to people babbling gibberish.

There's no free speech when you can be forced to say things you don't believe.

More Portland businesses are leaving the city because it's become too unsafe.

No, Twitter is not necessary for democracy.

Unionize Mall-Wart!  And do read the part about Germany.

You can't fix the environment by guilt-tripping people about trivia.

Maybe transphobia is the correct term.

Never forget that most people are normal.  Social media and rich assholes aren't the real world.

More than a quarter-million lives could have been saved if the whole US had the same covid vaccination rates as the ten most-vaccinated states.

Anti-free-speech asshole gets pwned.

"If you 'identify' with your beliefs, new information and the possibility of changing your mind becomes elevated into a full-blown existential threat.  It becomes an imperative to defend false beliefs to sustain your sense of self."

Bruce Gerencser reflects on fifteen years of blogging.

More and more insurance companies are refusing to cover fossil-fuel projects.

New York state governor Hochul takes action against energy-guzzling cryptocurrency "mining".

Homophobia is back; it's even fashionable.

In Arizona, another wingnut "stop the steal" rally flops with pathetic turnout.

Ticketmaster exemplifies how an economy clogged with monopolies no longer works for ordinary people.

Here's a blog following the ongoing mess at Twitter.

Only the West coddles gender nonsense.

In Alaska, moderates Peltola and Murkowski defeat their wingnut opponents.

Some facts here about the Hunter Biden laptop stuff.

She set out to document JK Rowling's transphobia -- and discovered it's a lie.

Elon Musk puts a face on the issue of toxic billionaires.

Oregon's outgoing governor Brown has pardoned 45,000 people with marijuana-possession convictions.  A very good move, but I don't know why she didn't do this a long time ago -- marijuana has been legal here for years.

Religion is simply wrong, and the Abrahamic religions have been a disaster for human progress.

Here's what the "independent state legislature" concept means, and doesn't mean.

Americans' support for unions is running high.  Voters of both parties have turned against corporations.

Give credit where due -- under Musk, Twitter has started cracking down on kiddie porn.

The "good work" option is often better than a strike, and more effective at winning public support.

The US far right is headed for a reckoning over religion.

What are Trump's options if he doesn't get the Republican nomination in 2024?

The Colorado Springs mass murderer has a long history of violence against women.  Gay clubgoers proved braver than the cops in Uvalde.  Religio-assholes react to the murders.

Modern Christianity has little in common with its origins.

"I believe it so YOU have to act accordingly."

There have always been appeasers.  And they never learn from history.

US allies can rest assured that our democracy is secure.

Free speech wins in a debate at Cambridge.

A city council faces consequences for trying to silence an author.

With 24 convictions for child abuse, why was this guy walking around free?  And why did Sarah Sands go to prison for engaging in pest control?

Scotland's Labour party faces a rebellion by women legislators.

Germany is working to end its dependence on trade with gangster states.

Many German sports bars are boycotting the Qatar World Cup.

French legislators are trying to incorporate abortion rights into the French constitution, a move supported by over 80% of the public.

Viktor Orbán manages to offend every one of his country's neighbors with one scarf.

Autocrats tend to make very bad decisions.

Experts think Russia is running out of ammunition and missiles.  I'm a bit skeptical -- for months we've been hearing that Russia is about to run out of things, and it never seems to happen.

Without shelter or heat, Russian soldiers in Ukraine are freezing to death as winter comes.

Here's what a collapse of the Putin regime might look like (found via Reaganite Independent).

More advanced missiles are headed for Ukraine.  France is sending generators to help with the loss of electricity.

See two Russian cruise missiles shot down near Kyiv.

The Iranian theocracy is treating the unrest as a full-blown insurgency, and may have lost control of some parts of the country.

Iranian basketball and soccer players protest oppression.

How sad that you can't get a beer in QatarMore on Qatar here.

The Taliban have banned women from parks and gyms in Afghanistan because people weren't obeying their shitty religious rules.

Protests have erupted across China, calling for democracy and the end of the regime.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced, Miss Cellania, and WAHF.

My own posts this week:  A video on India's potential, the bad and good of the world we live in, and the depravity of sexual abuse in Ukraine and Iran.

o o o o o

Alcohol prohibition didn't work.

Sex-work prohibition and drug prohibition aren't working.

Abortion prohibition and gun prohibition won't work.

25 November 2022


Almost since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we've seen a steady flow of reports of widespread rapes committed by the invaders.  Now comes evidence that these abuses were systematically encouraged* by the military leadership:

There is evidence that Russian commanders in several instances were aware of sexual violence by military personnel in Ukraine "and in some cases, encouraging it or even ordering it,"..... some of the sexual violence involved a level of organisation by Russian armed forces that "speaks to planning on a more systematic level."

These assessments are based on testimony from across the country, which included "allegations of family members being forced to watch or multiple soldiers participating or acts being conducted at gunpoint."  It seems that this is not just a matter of individual soldiers committing rape on impulse -- something which happens in almost all wars and occupations -- but of Russian authorities deliberately using rape as a weapon to demoralize the Ukrainian civilian population and break their will to resist.

Similarly, in Iran, there have been many cases of women and girls who were arrested during the rebellion being raped while in custody.  CNN has a detailed report here, including testimony from victims, witnesses, and doctors who examined one victim.  The similarities among these accounts, and the fact that the assaults take place in custody where it's impossible for persons in authority to be unaware of them, strongly imply that the regime as a whole is tolerating, encouraging, or flat-out ordering such abuses -- again, as a means to demoralize and intimidate the opposition.

As I noted in the last link round-up, minor girls in Iran who have been sentenced to death are forced to "marry" prison guards and then raped before being executed.  This is not a sporadic abuse, it's a systematic practice which dates back to the 1980s.

Of course abuse and torture of various kinds are a common feature of authoritarian regimes.  In these cases specifically, the Putin regime makes much of its Christian character, using its civil laws to enforce Christian taboos (on homosexuality, for example) that the secular West has mostly abandoned, and the regime is enthusiastically supported by the Russian Orthodox Church; and the Iranian regime, of course, is an outright theocracy.  Given the Abrahamic religions' subjugation and denigration of women, and their general view of sex as dirty and contaminating, it would be surprising if religious authoritarians didn't resort to sexual abuse as a major weapon to degrade and humiliate their opponents.

(In Iran there have also been some reports of rape of male detainees, doubtless meant to represent an ultimate humiliation in view of the Islamic taboo on homosexuality and the attitude that such an assault "lowers" the victim to the level of a woman.)

And of course we've long known about the very widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests of the Catholic Church, going back decades and likely centuries, while the Church's cover-ups of the abuse and practice of moving priests from place to place to protect them from prosecution are so consistent and systematic across the world that they must represent actual Church policy approved at the highest level.  More recently, numerous cases of sexual abuse by powerful leaders within conservative, authoritarian Protestant churches have also come to light, with the crimes being covered up and the victims shamed and silenced.

Both Christianity and Islam have a twisted view of women as sources of evil sexual temptation who are expected to go to ridiculous lengths to avoid "leading men astray", even inadvertently, rather than men being expected to exercise self-control -- hence the hysterical obsession with how women dress, and the impulse to blame the victim when a sexual assault occurs, which are so pervasive among fanatics of both religions.  Such attitudes no doubt help rapists in the Russian army and in Iran's prisons to feel guiltless, even virtuous, for their crimes.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Expose these vile men, and let all the world see their depravity for what it is.

[*Link found via Reaganite Independent blog, which is following the Ukraine war closely.]

23 November 2022

The world we live in

The bad is real.  The good is real.

World War I

Downtown Portland


Burn baby burn.....

Our enemies are not omnipotent -- they're barely even competent