15 January 2018

The bloody twins

We find ourselves in the midst of a low-intensity but intermittently-deadly war which we can only fight effectively if we understand it properly.  It appears to be a war between the two "occupation zones" into which our civilization has been divided for more than a millennium, and the enemy, the real enemy, wants you to believe that that is indeed what's going on.

In fact, it's a war being waged by that enemy -- the "occupiers" in both regions -- against the mass of people in both regions.  But they also strike at each other's subjects, paradoxically, in an effort to inflame us all, and to drag us all down into the bloody morass of violence and slavery they seek to impose.

These "occupiers" are not physical armies but ideas, ideas possessing a terrifying power to take over and rule human brains, like parasites.  Today they are inflamed with hate and rage because more and more humans are breaking free of their toxic control.  They have names -- Christianity and Islam, the bloody twins.

Our half of the old world has been luckier.  Secularization began four hundred years ago in Christianity's zone, much earlier than in Islam's.  The barbarisms of the age of true belief -- the witch-burnings, the ghastly religious wars, the persecution of heretics -- are becoming dim memories.  Today much of the West is so secular that Christian extremism can no longer sway enough brains to form a major movement.  The exception, unhappily, is the West's leading country -- the United States.

The growth of violent Islamic extremism in the Middle East since the 1990s, like the growth of militant Christian fundamentalism in the US since the 1970s, is essentially a conservative reaction to increasing secularism in each society, especially among younger people. In both cases the religious hard-liners, alarmed at seeing "their" people turning away from age-old traditional religious taboos and prejudices, reacted with an all-out effort to re-assert control and re-impose the old ways.

The two reactionary religious extremist movements, in the US and in the Middle East, continue to lash out at each other, provoke each other, feed each other. Trump's recent Jerusalem move, the "Muslim ban", and various ill-considered military operations in Muslim countries (such as the Iraq invasion) help jihadists to demonize the US in the eyes of more mainstream Muslims. Jihadist terrorist attacks in the West and persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East help American fundamentalists to demonize Islam in the eyes of Americans and, they hope, of Westerners generally.

Don't let them trick you.  Most of the victims of jihadism have been Middle Eastern people who either were not Muslim or were not Muslim enough.  The fundamentalists in the US who rant about the menace of Sharî'ah law seek ultimately to impose something rather like it, dragging us back to the days when their taboos were enforced by the state, upon everyone.  Both jihadism and Christian fundamentalism would use the masses of people in their zones as cannon fodder for endless, pointless battles against each other, like the phony wars between the superstates in Orwell's 1984, the true purpose being to maintain the state of fear, siege, and hysteria in which fanaticism can flourish.

The ordinary people of the Middle East and North Africa are not the enemies of the ordinary people of the West.  The enemies of both are the bloody twins, hungry to restore their faltering rule over us all.

[Part of this post is adapted from a comment here.]

14 January 2018

Link round-up for 14 January 2018

A kitten goes for a wild ride.

Some animals are bigger than you think.

Turtles and tortoises, tiny and large.

Explore a fascinating tradition of northern Colombia.

Please support this man's business.

Crazy Eddie brings us the truth about lemmings.

Maybe Bannon can get a new job.

Beware of sealioning.

Don't look, don't touch, don't think.

There are some who would support Bachmann running for Senate (found via Hackwhackers).

Ah, conservative domestic bliss.

If this were true, it would devastate the Catholic Church.

Just a difference of opinion, or maybe not.

There are only two words for "tea" (and they're actually the same word).

Here's a case of natural selection in action.

Sexism plays a role in assessments of The Last Jedi.

Sometimes, being nice works (but in some cases it wouldn't).

Certain city workers in Oklahoma have issues.

Whom to exclude, whom to shun -- that's what Christianity is about (as I discussed here).  But this guy gets a standing ovation (another view here).

Green Eagle surveys the wingnut world of delusions.

The marijuana industry isn't all that scared of the crackdown.  Well, their opponents include people like this and this.

Jerry Coyne dissects a scurrilous attack on Stephen Pinker.

The witch hunts of the later Middle Ages may have been about competition for religious market share.

If you have done good in your life, Christianity disdains it, and you.

Wolff's claim that Trump didn't recognize Boehner's name is actually quite credible.

Contrary to religionists' hopes, most Americans under 30 don't support forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

Collecting on fake debt is the latest scam (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Religious belief enhances family life.

Missouri furnishes the latest example of Republican sexual hypocrisy (and perhaps blackmail).

The comment mentioned here never did get posted, so I can only conclude the moderators prefer to leave their readers confused about the facts.

There's no longer much public support for anti-gay discrimination.

Building Trump's wall would face substantial obstacles.

The role of Christianity in Nazi Germany has lessons for us today.

Solar power is helping Puerto Rico recover from the hurricanes.

Telephone harassers use technology in their long war against mankind.

Yes, global warming can cause colder winters (don't miss the two videos at the end, on hopeful new technology).  Some people can't quite understand the situation.

We need more science education -- and more scientists in Congress (found via TYWKIWDBI).

What if Earth had rings?

For the world as a whole, 2017 was a good year.

Republicans try to prevent abortion even in foreign countries, with disastrous results, and bizarrely claim that opposing this is "cultural imperialism".

Trump wants more immigrants from Norway, but they're not coming.

Remember Willem Arondeus, a hero of the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance.

Germany considers a law to deport anti-Semitic immigrants.

A single court ruling could bring gay marriage to most of Latin America.

The new wave of protests shows that Iranians are losing their fear of the regime.

China has built its first "solar road" and parts of it are already being stolen.

A "limited strike" on North Korea would likely bring disaster.

Radical Hindus resort to violence against the blasphemy of having to treat "untouchables" decently.

Mueller's obstruction-of-justice case against Trump looks solid, and Americans believe his investigation is fair, by 59% to 26%.  We must not normalize Trump's behavior.  He's gradually losing his base.  Cartoonists have their say.

Republicans could probably win in 2018 with this plan, but there's not a chance in Hell they'll use it.

Shitholegate continuesThe knuckle-draggers love itTwitter reactsLinks here.  And these people exist.

Democrats could lose some House seat pick-ups in California due to having too many candidates.

Humiliated by association with Trump, "responsible" Republicans try to shoot the messenger. But Mafia-like Republican politics dates back long before Trump.

Hey, Rubio did something good.

Oprah for President is an unwise idea and not what the public wantsExperience does matter.  Anyway, right now we need to focus on 2018.

Want more links?  TYWKIWDBI has its own round-up.

12 January 2018

When the truth is worse than a lie

Donald Trump has become known for making a great many statements which are, shall we say, other than congruent with the truth.  However, it would be wrong to say that he never tells the truth.  The problem is that he tends to tell the truth in cases where, in fact, lying would be the wiser course.

About a month ago, Trump announced that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there from its current location in Tel Aviv.  On a certain level this was simply acknowledging reality; Jerusalem is Israel's capital, and keeping the embassy in another city (albeit only 35 miles away) doubtless creates some practical inconveniences.  However, the real-world effect of Trump's statement was to inflame anti-American sentiment in much of the Middle East and to torpedo any US role as mediator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for the foreseeable future.

There is a genre of lying which forms an integral part of diplomacy, and is necessary for international relations to function as smoothly as they do. Trump doesn't seem to grasp that diplomacy sometimes requires fudging reality to sooth wounded pride. Everyone who functions in the real world knows that Jerusalem is Israel's capital and that there will never be any "Palestinian state" in the West Bank, just as everyone who functions in the real world knows that Taiwan and China are now two separate countries and probably always will be so. But when dealing with people who still wish that reality were other than it is, one is wise to avoid "rubbing it in".  Better to make a pretense of going along with their preferred fictions -- better, that is, to lie.

It's surprising that someone who claims to be a great negotiator doesn't realize this.

09 January 2018

Video of the day -- standing up for reality

This is a campaign ad for Jason Westin, a Texas Democratic candidate for Congress.  Westin is a doctor, not a lawyer or businessman as most who go into politics are.  His ad reflects that, focusing on the right wing's attacks on science, knowledge, and objective reality itself.

This is a long-standing problem in American culture generally, not just politics -- and it's not entirely confined to the right wing either, though it's much worse there.  In a world where technological progress is accelerating, and national power and wealth increasingly depend upon it, the US cannot afford to lobotomize itself by disdaining the science on which technology depends.  As the USSR fell behind the West technologically because of political interference in science, so the US could fall behind better-educated, scientifically-sophisticated competitors such as Japan, South Korea, and western Europe.  In some areas, it's already happening.

I've long thought we need more political leaders drawn from science and engineering backgrounds, fields which foster a grasp of reality as it actually is, regardless of how someone wants it to be, or how some ideology or sacred text says it should be.  The same is true of a doctor's training and experience.

Found via Crooks and Liars, which has a transcript.

07 January 2018

Link round-up for 7 January 2018

Bad design, indeed.

The train arrives and the passengers disembark.  Maybe they'll stay at this hotel.

It's the year of the dog!  So watch these dogs chasing a car.

This World War I footage is not authentic -- you can tell by the jeep.

Satan is on Twitter.

Serve this coffee with this cake, and decorate the table with cross-stitched candle flames.


Cats go everywhere -- just look at them.

Fox News viewers.....

Here's a vignette from the libertarian ideal world (see comments too).

Remember ancient technology.

They have a strange god.  But don't criticize!

The new Trump energy drink may not sell very well.

What kind of storms are they having out there?

Kids need time to let off steam.

1001 Reasons blog posts an open letter to Trump (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Green Eagle rounds up the latest from the wingnutosphere, including space aliens, right-wing "humor", and the worst jacket ever.

Here's an interesting look at nativity scenes.

Fly with the birds.

The crossing of two highways forms an impromptu work of art.

Vote them out!

Hackwhackers has more 2017 retrospectives.  Here's Dave Barry's, and here are some winners and losers.  There's plenty of good news, mostly economic.  And here's 2018 (yes, 2018) in review.

Ladies, beware of two-way mirrors (the post has ways to detect them).

Twitter sides with Nazis against a Jewish journalist (found via Politics Plus).

The virgin birth of Jesus is not really well-attested in the Bible.

Activists plan to force Congress to restore net neutrality.

The Christian Right is becoming divided over the issue of support for Trump.  Don't let "respectable" evangelical leaders deny reality.

The frequency of rape in the US decreased dramatically between 1979 and 2009 -- and there's an obvious reason for that.

Green Eagle looks at an early pioneer of conservative journalism.

Is this feminism?

These were medical students in 1885.

Chronic pain sufferers have it bad enough -- now they're being sacrificed on the altar of the "opioid epidemic".

Worst Trump hypocrisy yet (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Reality-denial can kill you.

This post on atheism prompted another discussion between me and Daniel Wilcox.

In the fight over Confederate monuments, the most honest voices on the right are.....white supremacists.

"Pink poison" may save the rhino.

An Australian journalist speaks bluntly about the decline of US leadership under Trump.

This is what socialism looks like.  This is what a regulated labor market looks like.

The German Catholic Church has tons of money, but not enough Catholics. The Church of England seems to be in a similar position.

Europe too has fake Noah's arks, and they're a dangerous nuisance.

I said this kind of thing was going to happen -- with Trump making the US unreliable as an ally, Japan considers upgrading two warships to aircraft carriers to make its own military more effective.

A North Korean failed missile test hit one of the country's own cities.  South Korea is brushing Trump off and opening talks with the North.

The current protests in Iran are very different from the 2009 uprising.

A new census in Lebanon finds far fewer Palestinian refugees than officially estimated (all these numbers are meaningless anyway, since they count descendants of refugees as being refugees -- only a small, now-elderly fraction of them actually came from Palestine).

Our government needs to get tough with the Middle East's most barbaric regime.

South Africa contemplates repeating Zimbabwe's mistake.

Sexism among Democrats could hurt us in 2020 (some of the comments on the post aren't encouraging).

Pundits assess Trump's first year.  He's at least made it clear that a "CEO President" is a terrible idea.  Per Paul Krugman, the Republican party is now fully his, and will fall with him.

The end of the phony "vote fraud commission" doesn't mean vote-suppression efforts have ended.  Here's the latest attack on voting rights.  It's not going to stop.

California can resist.

Taking the Senate this year is important, but Bannon's fall will make it harder.  The enemy is targeting some of our seats too, and expects to keep control.

Susan Collins was conned into voting for tax "reform".

Trump's legal threats against Bannon and Wolff are a very bad idea -- he couldn't win.  His tweetstorms aren't a strategic distraction -- he's just live-tweeting Fox News.  His mental instability has made the case for his removal.  His contempt for the law is explained by his background.

Support this legislation.  And support these organizations.

Fight Trump, not each other.

Not enough links?  TYWKIWDBI has its own round-up.

[353 days down, 1,109 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

05 January 2018

Republicans, going to pot

Jeff Sessions has just handed the Democrats a winning issue for this year's elections.  The question is, will our party and candidates be smart enough to embrace it?

By threatening a crackdown on legal marijuana, Sessions and the Trump minority-rule regime in general are once again "standing athwart history, yelling 'stop'".  The movement to decriminalize marijuana is clearly gathering steam -- recreational marijuana is now legal in eight states, and support among the American people has reached 64% -- even among Republicans it's 51%.  Tens of millions of ordinary Americans use marijuana routinely, including many who usually vote Republican; some Republicans also balk at the enormous wastage of money represented by enforcement of draconian laws against a drug far less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes.

Yet this is an issue where politicians and the Democratic party have never taken the lead.  They've treated it as something slightly tainted, to be kept at arm's length, or at least as being un-serious and a low priority (an error of which even Obama was guilty, at least early in his administration).  It's the people who have forced progress, dragging short-sighted "leaders" along in their wake -- the wave of legalization across the states has been driven by referendums, not legislation.

The Democratic party needs to fully embrace the defense of legal marijuana.  Timidity and fence-sitting won't do.  Sessions's move creates another threat to vulnerable House Republicans in districts with a lot of swing voters.  Younger people support legalization in even greater numbers than the general public, so this issue can help solve the problem of getting them to come out and vote.  Voters in the eight states which have legalized marijuana won't be happy that the central government wants to override their decision.  But to take full advantage of this, Democrats need to give those voters something to vote for.

Besides being a winning political issue, defending legalization is the right thing to do.  Just as with sexual issues, what an individual does at home in private is none of the government's goddamn business.  Marijuana prohibition not only wastes money, it puts huge numbers of people behind bars for something harmless that shouldn't be illegal at all.

At least one Republican Senator is already speaking out forcefully against the crackdown.  Our whole party needs to do the same.

02 January 2018

God's thugs go into action

As expected, the Iranian theocracy has begun cracking down on the protests that have raged in several of the nation's cities for days now.  In Tehran alone, 450 people have been arrested, and that number will certainly grow.  Though the protests have focused on economic issues and to some extent on nationalism and the repressive nature of the religious state, the regime has predictably blamed outside provocateurs, namely "the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia" (well, at least they didn't do the traditional thing and blame the Jews).  It remains to be seen whether the crackdown will intimidate the population back into quiescence or inflame further resistance.

One other thing is noteworthy about the crackdown:

Ghazanfarabadi said the detainees will be soon put on trial and the ringleaders would face serious charges including "moharebeh" -- an Islamic term meaning warring against God -- which carries the death penalty.

This is what happens in a theocratic state, the antithesis of a secular system where religion and government are kept strictly separated.  Where the state represents God, all resistance to the will of the state is blasphemy, sin, morally outrageous, and indeed "warring against God".  And since theocracies tend to be just as corrupt and incompetent and brutal as authoritarian regimes in general, run by the same kind of shabby, greedy, corrupt little men, they inevitably provoke the same kind of resistance, whether passive or active.  But theocrats claim to be more than ordinary bullies and criminals like the ones currently in power in Moscow and Beijing -- they claim to hold the exalted status of ventriloquist's dummies for the creator and overlord of the entire universe, the arbiter of good and evil.  As such, no penalty is too severe for the crime of opposing their miserable cruelties and depredations.

And likewise the thugs who carry out the regime's dirty work in the streets and prisons are holy thugs.  When they beat, rape, and murder the citizenry, they are doing God's work, and thus need not be troubled by any qualms of conscience.  Never was a truer sentence written than "Religions are not sources of objective morals, they are sources of excuses for behaving immorally".  Basing the state itself on this is a formula for ugliness indeed.

One other point about events in Iran is worth making.  Al-Jazeera has a good discussion of why these protests are happening, and how they differ from the vastly larger uprising of 2009 which intimidated the theocrats into allowing the election of Rouhani as President in 2013.  Notice, however, how little the United States is even mentioned.  Americans, ranging from bloggers and pundits to the ego-besotted orangutan currently occupying the White House, like to think of ourselves as the prime movers of everything that happens in the world, whether good or ill.  As another example, Trump's supporters have been suggesting that the recent near-total defeat of Dâ'ish (ISIL) is somehow attributable to him, in contrast with Obama's "failure" to achieve this result during his term in office.

In fact, the victory over Dâ'ish was the work primarily of the Kurdish and Arab forces which have been waging a slow, bloody, grinding war of liberation against it for years, with the US and the West in general playing a supporting role under both Presidents.  Always remember, it's not about us.  Events in Iran, and in the Middle East generally, are mostly driven by Middle Eastern people, ideas, and social and economic forces.  The rest of the world is not just a passive arena dominated by side effects of political conflicts within the US.  Every region has to be understood on its own terms.

01 January 2018

Best of the Infidel, 2017

The US has entered a dark age of attacks on science.

Carol is a moving tale of forbidden love in 1952.

I review V for Vendetta, the movie and the book.

You're not obligated to be civil with people who want to destroy you.

This is Iran, a likely target of wingnut warmongering.

Our rallies are better than theirs.

Categorizing and pigeonholing people is wrong, and unsustainable in the long run.

This was my favorite of all the videos I posted this year.

Ghost in the Shell is a beautiful and imaginative vision of the future.

The hostility to Brexit is ignorant and dishonest.

A war with North Korea could change the global distribution of power.

This was the most important election of 2017.

Wonder Woman deserved its success.

The common enemy is extremism itself.

For Independence Day, don't yield to defeatism.

Videos tell daunting truths about religion.

Wingnuts use fake word definitions as camouflage.

The India-China rivalry presents a risk of nuclear war.

The Alt-Right's fetish for weapons and violence reflects primitive primate instincts.

The internet's maddening ad infestation may be self-destructing.

Keep an eye on Bannon.

Fake alien-encounter stories are trite and boring.

When is secession justified?

Groupthink plays into the hands of the enemy.

I discuss morality with Daniel Wilcox.

Minor parties are pointless in the context of American democracy.

Darkness inspires a meditation.

The revolt against sexual harassment is a defining moment in US politics.

I assess the lessons of Alabama.

If the Republicans realize they're doomed, they may become more dangerous than ever.

31 December 2017

Link round-up for 31 December 2017

Vagabond Scholar's annual Jon Swift Roundup of blog posts is up.

Here are some questionable Christmas decorations, and a very tall Christmas tree.

Shitty weather.

Don't mess with the mysterious object.

Please tell me this exercise machine isn't real.

Somebody doesn't have much Christmas spirit.

Nosy prig freaks out on plane.

Crazy Eddie has some Broken Peach Christmas songs.

Graffiti preserved at Pompeii offers insights into ancient Roman life.

What if the world were the other way round?

Christmas used to be more fun (found via Yellowdog Granny).

I love this dance scene too.

Be careful interpreting art.

Is your refrigerator running?

This person can vote.

This 2017 Christmas song looks at both sides of the year.

No regrets.

Phone-screen size has evolved over time.

Don't attack yarn.

Hogs, hogs everywhere!

Tremble before the planet-conquering giant space monster.

One of my favorite online film reviewers, Grace Randolph, counts down the top ten movies of 2017.

Crazy Eddie has comprehensive posts on 2017's political documentaries and the likely effect of tax "reform" on the US economy.

Bark Bark Woof Woof reviews the year in Florida news.  It can be a wild place.

Nikki Haley gets pwned.

They knew how to build back then.

Mock Paper Scissors has more on the travails of Trumpanzees on the dating scene.

I assume this method of courtship is not usually successful.

The NFL has to draw the line somewhere.

If you live in Oregon, consider signing this petition to make the internet a public utility in our state.

Evangelical subculture suffocates half its population.  For some people, it never really had a place at all.

Republican voters need to stay alert (found via Hackwhackers).

The Catholic Church is still clueless about handling its child-molestation epidemic.

Any politician who does this is an asshole.

The story of Ruth Coker deserves to be better known.

Breitbart dissimulates to protect Trump.

The opposition to gay marriage is literally dying out.

Here's why Yiannopoulos lost his book deal.

This should be the last word on "cultural appropriation".

Conservative Christianity has mortally wounded itself by supporting Trump.

Hackwhackers collects some year-end retrospectives -- more here, too.

Bruce Gerencser recalls his mother's experiences with the true believers.

Let this scumbag speak and tell him to pay for the security.

World War I was once interrupted for a Christmas truce.

Christian education has a rather North-Korea-like feel to it.

These people exist.  And this person exists.

The US shows signs of being a decaying society (found via Mendip).

Here's the current status of the Republican war on Latinos.  Half of Puerto Rico is still without power three months after the hurricane (I can't imagine such sluggish recovery in a comparable area of Germany or Japan), and it's having consequences for the rest of the US.

Do hormonal cycles make a woman President a bad idea?

Texas researchers reveal what the T-Rex really sounded like (though I still like this).

Crazy Eddie looks at the top science stories of 2017.

Prosthetic limbs are improving.

This is how to make a civilization self-destruct.  US world leadership is doomed if anti-science bullshit prevails.

Trump's unilateralism weakens and isolates the US.  Foreign governments are taking note.  So are foreign peoples.

Today's New Year's Eve party in Berlin will have a "safe zone" for women -- the first time it's ever needed one.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany, of all places.

How many migrants have you settled in the Vatican, asshole?

Good move -- more like this, please.  There must be punishment.

Russia makes an embarrassing goof.

Trump's Jerusalem move has hurt the tourism industry there.

Jihadists are attacking the Christian minority in Egypt.

Anti-regime protests are spreading in Iran, though nothing like as huge as those of 2009.

Thank goodness Miyazaki stood up to Weinstein.

I can't imagine a commercial like this ever appearing on US TV.

Keep the babies warm.

HuffPost reviews the Rohingya crisis in pictures.  It's striking how little interest this ghastly campaign of persecution has aroused among Western activists and in the Islamic world (the Rohingya are Muslim).  Maybe it's because nobody can think of a way to blame the Jews for it.

Wonkette, Blue in the Bluegrass, and We Hunted the Mammoth enjoy a good gloat over Doug Jones's victory.  Black voters overcame formidable obstacles to achieve that victory.

An abundance of candidates raises hopes for a big win next year, which will raise the question of impeachment.

This guy has the true spirit of a modern right-winger.  Trumpanzees are driven by nihilistic rage.  Let's not waste time on cultists.

Merry #@%^$!* Christmas!

TPM looks at Trump and pardons.  The Russia scandal isn't just an issue for Democrats.

Let's hope this is the first of many such books.

The Carpentariat has political odds and ends.  Politico has 2017's worst predictions.

Trump and his cabinet have a classic abusive relationship. Cabinet?  I mean toadies.

This poll shows that Republican tax "reform" is unlikely to become more popular.  Even the "merely wealthy" aren't getting a big enough breakTake from the poor, give to the rich.

Nobody should care what Maya Kosoff thinks.

[Well, that's it for this year.  Tune in tonight to Times Square to watch America's ball descend.]

30 December 2017

Of Christianity, cakes, and comments

Yesterday afternoon I read this posting on Church Militant about the "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" case here in Oregon, in which Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding.  The lesbian couple sued, and the Kleins were ordered to pay $135,000 for emotional damage and mental distress.  That's as far as Church Militant's reporting went, and its devout readership was duly outraged, as the attached comment thread shows.  I happen to know, however, that there's a bit more to the story than that -- and perhaps unwisely, I wrote a comment there to inform the readers of what the main story had left out (and give them a different perspective on the issue).  Here's the comment I wrote:

The lesbian couple filed the lawsuit because the Kleins posted documents related to the initial discrimination complaint on Facebook, including the lesbian couple's home address, which led to them receiving death threats. This was the basis of the emotional damage and mental distress.


As for the initial discrimination complaint, a case like this is no different than the cases half a century ago when some lunch counter owners declined to serve black customers. Businesses open to the public cannot legally discriminate on the basis of things like race or sexual orientation. It doesn't matter that in some cases the desire to discriminate is motivated by a religious taboo. Some segregationists in the old South also claimed that their racism had a Biblical basis.

The comment went to moderation and as of now, about 24 hours later, still hasn't been posted.  Even I on this blog almost always get to comments in moderation quite a bit faster than that, and Church Militant is a fairly big news site, not just a one-man show.  So I can only conclude that they judge the comment inappropriate.

I don't dispute, of course, that the site owners have every right to reject any comment they wish, for any reason or for no reason.  It's their site.  Still, it's interesting that they apparently don't want their readers to see a piece of information on the case under discussion that their original posting omitted, and which would perhaps cool their outrage about a ruling they judged unjust without knowing the real reason for it.

28 December 2017

Improving words

In this post, Donna at Tell Me a Story commented in passing on the boring definition of the word "enjambment" and proposed letting it mean what it looks like it should mean.  She was right, of course.  Language would be much better if words simply meant what they appear to mean.  I thus hereby propose the following revisions:

Admired:  Mired in ads -- applicable to many websites these days

Biking:  A monarch who "swings both ways"

Carpet:  A dog or cat owned by a vehicle

Catholic:  Addicted to felines

Combatant:  To fight against an insect invading one's picnic

Detail:  To remove an animal's rear appendage

Emulate:  That big Australian bird is never on time

Enjambment:  The state of having one's snout stuck in a jar of jam

Impeachment:  The act of stuffing the President into a giant peach so he can't cause any more trouble

Ireland:  The land of anger

Leotard:  A really stupid lion

Peccadillo:  A cross between a woodpecker and an armadillo

Pensacola:  The thinking man's soft drink

Propane:  In favor of sheets of glass

Punish:  A word possibly describing this post

Ramparts:  The parts of a male sheep

Ratification:  The act of transforming something into a rat

Rectify:  Richard Gere was accused of rectifying a gerbil

Retail:  Where you take your pet after detailing (see above)

Shampoo:  Fake feces

Triassic:  The era of animals with three asses

Then there's this, which you may need to think about for a moment.

27 December 2017

The impeachment decision

If Democrats win House and Senate majorities in November, a large part of our base will want to see them begin impeachment of Trump immediately.  The grounds for doing so are certainly more than adequate already.  But the decision must be made based on the likelihood of success.  Specifically (if frustratingly), it must depend on how many Republicans in the Senate can be persuaded to go along.

The House can pass articles of impeachment by a simple majority, but conviction and removal would take 67 votes in the Senate.  It's mathematically impossible for Democrats to achieve 67 Senate seats next year -- there aren't enough Republican-held seats up for election.  So unless the necessary number of Republicans were at least fairly likely to join the Democrats in voting for conviction, impeachment would be an empty gesture, which everyone would know in advance would not remove Trump.

Even those among the public who fervently want to see Trump gone would probably see that refraining from such a doomed effort would be wise.  Pursuing impeachment with no chance of success would allow Trump to declare exoneration and would make it harder to remove him at a later time when enough Senate Republicans had come around (say, if he made some blunder even they couldn't tolerate, or if Mueller's final report condemned him) and would vote for conviction after all.  The effort would lose credibility if we’d already tried it and failed a couple of months earlier.  A premature impeachment could actually make it harder to eventually get rid of Trump.  It would leave him not only in power, but strengthened.

The key factor will likely be Mueller’s final report. If it's damning enough, it could sway some Republicans to support impeachment.  If it comes out before November, it might even be possible to impeach and remove Trump before the election.

It’s very important to me to get rid of Trump, because the biggest danger he presents is the risk of starting a war (even a nuclear one) that would kill huge numbers of people in someplace like Iran or Korea even if it doesn’t do much harm to the US -- and that risk, at least, would be much less if Pence were President. But that just means that any move to get rid of Trump must actually get rid of Trump, not just be some useless symbolic gesture.

[This post is adapted from comments I made here.]

24 December 2017

Link round-up for 24 December 2017

The machines' war against humanity begins (found via TYWKIWDBI).  And there are aliens among us; this shape-shifting abomination evokes The Thing.

Most difficult group photo ever.

Putin needs to change the battery in his remote control (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Go to Hell.

"Family video" indeed.

Will the kids want to sit on his lap?

Nice landing.

This cookbook should be loads of fun.

Keep your priorities straight (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Gotta dance!

Redneck nativity scene?

Here's a compendium of all the insults used by Pope Francis.

Witness an epic battle for supremacy.

This ad should sell a lot of cars.....to chickens.

Discover what unites people.

Anybody ship Rocket Raccoon and Nick Wilde?

Here's the reindeer game Rudolph couldn't join in.

The Sims universe is changing.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Medieval artists must have had some pretty good drugs.

Actually I think these Christmas decorations were made by Catholic priests.

The Shape of Water is really an old ship that created its own canon.

This girl knows how to use make-up.

Some people shouldn't have pets.

God is love.

See lightning in slow motion.

This robbery took some nerve.

Worst Chick tract ever.

Not content with expropriating Pepe the Frog, the alt-right is now going after Wendy (but note how many of these are obviously influenced by anime/manga style -- which comes from a non-white civilization).  Bad move, maybe -- Wendy doesn't pull punches.

Daniel Wilcox posts some nature photos (click for full-size).

Green Eagle looks at a rising star in the world of godawful right-wing art.

Cicero would have made a pretty good insult comic.

Everything we don't like is the work of Satan!

No one knows how a backward society managed to build this huge structure (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Crazy Eddie and Hackwhackers look at Disney's new robot Trump.

Somebody really didn't want to lose his dog.

I just bet this person votes Republican.

Who started the war on Christmas?

We assert nothing.

Mock Paper Scissors looks at conservative dating tips.

The radical-socialist critique of the NFL protests is delusional.

There's a storm comingTime to fight again.  And vote next time (all found via Yellowdog Granny).

This is totalitarian madness.  And this is heading that way.

Don't be the person who ruins Christmas.

Beware of the media twisting people's words.

Tennessee's legislature banned removal of slaver statues -- but Memphis found a loophole.  And the enemy is not happy.

Pope Francis will preside at this man's funeral.

The damage caused by net neutrality repeal will come slowly -- which gives us time to implement a solution.

Let's hope we see this magazine cover soon.

Test the rape kits, catch the criminals.

This is Navajo life.

These people exist.  And these people exist.

We can be truly moral.

"What if machines turned on us because we mistreated them?"

Bacteria are propaganda from outer space -- well, I don't think so, but there are a lot of interesting ideas here.  (But FFS the development of eyes and bird wings is not "hard to explain in terms of incremental natural selection" -- it's well understood.)

Life expectancy in the US has decreased for the second year in a row.

Only one actually gets the job done.

Alpine glaciers are melting.  But the clean-energy revolution is now unstoppable no matter what Trump does.

Great tits gain massive peckers.

NASA prepares to defend Earth against a very real menace from the skies.

"How do I....."

A European looks at American concepts of race.

Nikki Haley talks like a schoolyard bully.  Other governments are not impressed.  One finds a little humor in the situation.  A former CIA director has some tough words of his own.

Right-wing austerity ideology fundamentally misunderstands how economies work.

The UK has declared high-speed internet to be a right of all citizens.

Australia has finished investigating a global child-molestation ring.

Norway will decriminalize all drug use.

Wolfgang Lauinger was persecuted by both the Nazis and democratic Germany.

Catalonian separatists win a majority of seats in the regional parliament, though with only 48% of the popular vote.

VPNs are the natural enemies of control freaks.

Life in Uighurstan (Xinjiang) is a racist totalitarian nightmare (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar find further abuses in Bangladesh.

Sure -- because this worked so well in Zimbabwe.

Republicans are upset that everybody hates their brazen tax "reform" heist.  It even contains an incentive to move jobs overseas.  Potential victims already have a face.  John Judis cautions that the heist may not be as damaging to Republicans as we hope; Josh Marshall responds.  Jonah Goldberg at NRO is pessimistic.  Be warned, the Kochroaches are planning a propaganda blitz on this.  Oh, and those AT+T employee bonuses to "celebrate" reform?  There's more to the story.

For what it's worth, McConnell says the attack on entitlements is being postponed.

Republicans have plenty to worry about for next year's election.   Ranch Chimp looks at a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor.

Don't use these photos of Trump.

Bannon is still a major player in politics, or thinks he is.  He just might soon give us a Roy-Moore-style opportunity in Mississippi.  And he wants to be the modern.....Leni Riefenstahl???  But trouble may be looming.

A co-conspirator in the (alleged) Trump-Russia plot comes under investigation.  The Trumplings are getting seriously worried about Mueller, but he has his defenders, and firing him could blow up in Trump's face.  Though Trump suffers from delusions of exoneration, there are already eight legitimate grounds for impeachment (found via Politics Plus).

Some Democrats lack fire in the belly.  But there's still no excuse for claiming both parties are the same.  2018 is a year for playing hardball, not bipartisanship.

These cartoons are perfect.

The civil service is finding ways to resist some of Trump's absurdities (found via Hackwhackers).  Even Senate Republicans are blocking some of his nominees.

Hysterical Raisins visualizes Republicans' sickening sycophancy. There may be a sinister reason for their subservience to Trump.

Sometimes satire reflects an underlying reality.

[Santa gif found via Politics Plus]

22 December 2017

Video of the day -- peachy!

I explained a ways back that "Christmas" has almost nothing to do with Christianity, but for those who insist on some Jesus, here's "Your Own Personal Jesus" in the inimitable style of Broken Peach (I originally heard about them via Ranch Chimp, who often posts about offbeat musical performers).