24 May 2018

Dream world (2)

Oh, the visions some people entertain.....

[Previous "Dream world" post here.]

22 May 2018


"...you don't have to look too hard to find voices on social media urging you to abandon the Democratic Party for various perceived heresies. Telling you to stay home, or to throw your vote away on a useless wad of cud like Jill Stein. These voices elected Trump once, and they're hellbent on doing it again. I know y'all know that already, I just don't want you to be shy in calling 'em out. There's too much at stake." -- Shower Cap's Blog

Look, I get it.  Especially at times like this, when several Senate Democrats just broke ranks to help confirm Gina "Ve haff vays of making you tock" Haspel.  Being up for re-election in a red state is no excuse; appeasing Trumpanzees doesn't work, and you can't out-Republican the real Republican in the race.

But as bad as some Democrats are, would you rather have Republicans in those seats?  Republicans would have voted to confirm Haspel too, and they would have gone against us on other critical votes such as ACA repeal, on which all the Senate Democrats, even those who went the wrong way here, stood united.  The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican.

This applies to all of us, across the ideological spectrum.  There is no excuse for what is apparently happening in NE-02, where the DCCC seems to be withholding support from progressive Kara Eastman after she won the primary against their preferred candidate.  There's too much at stake for anyone to be playing these kinds of games.  If the Republican wins the seat because the establishment -- or conservative Democratic voters -- get in a snit about their guy losing the primary, the disgrace will be theirs.

Refusing to vote for a Democrat who isn't "the right kind" just makes it more likely that the Republican will win.  It doesn't matter that you think you're "sending a message" or don't want to dirty yourself by voting for a bad candidate.  Nobody cares about the intentions of a non-voter or third-party voter, only about the result.  It doesn't matter what Nader voters in 2000 thought they were doing.  What matters is that Bush became President, with all that followed.  And if you refuse to vote for a Democrat you think isn't good enough, and the Republican wins, the fact that you can stand around oozing virtue and ideological purity doesn't mean shit to the vulnerable person who loses his health insurance, food stamps, or civil rights as a result of Republicans holding power.

Unity is strength, division is weakness.  One of the most hopeful things about this political dark age is that the enemy is so factionalized and so prone to petty rivalries.  They already face the risk of losing a winnable race in West Virginia because a right-wing third candidate may divide their voters.  Whenever that happens on their side, it's good.  Whenever it happens on ours, it's bad.

We're a big diverse party because this is a big diverse country.  But we're up against an opposing party which stands for theocracy and economic oligarchy, and has lately sold itself out to a narcissistic megalomaniac with dictatorial tendencies who is destroying our country's standing in the world and may yet do horrifyingly worse.  We can't vote him out this year, but we can vote for those who offer some hope of reining him in.  Any Democrat you have the opportunity to vote for deserves your vote, whether it's Kara Eastman or Joe Manchin.  Because the alternative is intolerable.  It's really as simple as that.

20 May 2018

Link round-up for 20 May 2018

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

o o o o o

A young man achieves basketball self-pwnage.

Watch a cat get frustrated (found via Miss Cellania).

Blogger Mike has a round-up of bad pants.  He also posts joke collections.

Scrat was here.

Here's some word-play similar in spirit to my "improving words" posts.

I can hardly wait to see the actual clothes.

The Aztec gods live again!

Duct tape can glow.

See the art of melon engineering.

Prehistoric phallic symbol?

Never mind the yellow brick road, follow the rainbow road.



American beef is safe to eat.

Pekka Pouta is the best TV weatherman.

Nice toy you got there, Mr. Solo.

Melania might like this joke.

Being in the Alt-Right can get confusing.

In China, the Avengers film characters have different names.

Magnetism is weird.

Here's a sculpture in Tokyo.

A few years back I posted about the awfulness of modern men's clothing.  Now this lady blogger has a similar complaint.  Oh, and I'm with Ms. Stewart here.

Check out this Japanese rice art.

She asked for suggestions for a name for her band.  She got them.

Netflix has some worthwhile SF.

If I tried this, I suspect I'd accidentally behead myself.

See rare photos from the last century.

What question would you ask, and of whom?

This is the longest distance you can travel in a straight line on dry land.

To my vast annoyance as a student of history, fundies are now comparing Trump to Cyrus the Great (I wrote about Cyrus here).

MDMA cheese parties are now a thing.

Forced-birth fetishists lament that they're losing young people's support.

On race, Missouri seems to be stuck in the 1950s.

To understand the Bible, read more than just the popular bits.

The regulations libertarians decry were implemented because of cases like this.

Bolton and Pompeo may clash over foreign policy, because the latter thinks further ahead.

Jesus loves you.

Here's a good tip on dealing with an introvert.

Michele Bachmann is no longer crazy enough for Rick Wiles.  But Tony Perkins is crazy enough for Trump.

This person is vile.

Fundie idiots link the Gaza violence with Biblical prophecy (found via Hackwhackers).

We can't solve the country's largest medical problem by shouting down people who talk about it.

The Trump EPA has suppressed a report on water contamination.

More gorillas and chimpanzees exist than we thought (found via Mike the Mad Biologist), but they're still endangered.

Saunas are good for you.

Container farms save water (must be expensive, though).

Europe takes a tough stand against Trump on the Iran deal and trade wars.

Japanese bus drivers show how to go on strike.

Deutsche Welle looks at Iran's military power.

Behold the brilliance of "the Trump doctrine" at work on North Korea.

After decades of sex-selective abortion in misogynistic cultures, India and China now suffer from a disastrous male-female imbalance.

Trump's pick to head the CDC is a true Christian and a bigoted quack.

Electoral-Vote.com looks at Tuesday's primary results.  Hackwhackers has more.  (Basically, Democrats went for electability while Republicans doubled down on Trumpism.)  It was a good day for women candidatesAppeasing Trumpanzees won't work -- just keep telling the truth.

This may be the ultimate Republican.

Calvin's has a Trump image round-up.  Shower Cap has the latest insanities.

"Big Shekels"?  Holy shit, can't they see what this looks like?

The Senate's net neutrality restoration won't get past the House or Trump, but Democrats have positioned themselves on the right side for November.

Happy anniversary -- cake and indictments all round!

The resistance is a marathon, not a sprint -- don't get worn down.

Leadership and courage can arise where some least expect them.

Keep an eye on Pence.  He's more dangerous than you think.

These are the useful lessons of Trump's election.

It's not just Russia -- there are hints of collusion with other foreign entities, notably in the Middle East.  Booman Tribune looks at factors affecting the chances of impeachment.  Even when Trump is out of office, he can still make trouble.

For more link round-ups, see Perfect Number, Mike the Mad Biologist, and Fair and Unbalanced.

[Image at top:  Ganymede, largest of the moons of Jupiter, discovered by Galileo in 1610]

17 May 2018

Trump and the end of an era

Trump is restructuring the democratic world, though in ways not congruent with his intentions, and the changes will go deeper the longer he remains in office.  He evidently believes that the power of the US enables it (well, him) to simply make demands on other countries and compel them to obey.  Combined with his ignorance about the world, this belief produces a pattern of erratic and alarming behavior which is eroding the leadership role the US has held since the end of World War II.

His early comments calling into question the US defense commitments to the democracies of Europe and East Asia must have set off alarm bells for the governments of those countries, and no doubt quite a few very sober high-level meetings took place in Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, etc. around that time.  The "axis of adults" in Washington eventually persuaded Trump to back down from some of his stupidest remarks, but his true attitude had been revealed, and other governments knew that they couldn't count on the "adults" to remain in place (indeed, all are now gone except Mattis).

Since then Trump has further damaged the US leadership role with such moves as withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, after which other countries (and even some US states and cities) simply went on following the accord without him.  His threats of trade war prompted Europe, not to submit, but to announce plans for retaliation.  No other major country has emulated his pointless and inflammatory gesture of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  His abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal reeked of arrogance, with his new ambassador to Germany imperiously ordering the world's fourth-largest economic power to slavishly fall into line.  The German people are already more fed up with Trump and the US than the diplomatic stance of Merkel's government would suggest.

The acid test of leadership, of course, is the ability and willingness to deter and contain the two giant mafia states, Russia and China, which pose an ongoing military threat to the democratic world.  US military power has traditionally filled that role -- but Trump has not only undermined the US commitment to its allies, but also has adopted a stance of appeasement toward Russia and recently, to some extent, China as well.  By now the other democracies realize that they can no longer rely on the US to protect them, or that at best that protection may come at a price in humiliating submission to bullying which they are not willing to pay.  The question is what to do about it -- and that question will soon become even more urgent, because Trump's foreign policy is about to become even worse.

Japan is already strengthening its military and becoming more assertive, building closer defense relations with other democracies such as Australia and nuclear-armed India.  North Korean belligerence has led to growing support in Japan for building its own nuclear deterrent, even though this would mean revising Japan's Constitution.  If Japan decides that it needs the ability to deter and contain China without US help -- and rationally, it may already have reached that conclusion -- expect to see more and stronger moves along these lines.

As for Europe, immediately after Trump abandoned the Iran deal, Germany, the UK, and France issued a joint statement committing themselves to upholding the agreement.  European nations recognize that it's now up to them to take the lead on the issue.  Note that the acrimony over the UK's decision to leave the European Union, deep as it is, has not at all damaged the Europeans' ability to cooperate closely in defying Trump.  Keep an eye on those three leading states in particular.  Germany, the UK, and France combined have over 200 million people; they're the world's fourth, fifth, and sixth largest economies; they are (like Japan and South Korea) technological and industrial powerhouses in various fields; and the UK and France have powerful military forces and nuclear arsenals of their own.  A close alliance of these three, within NATO, would be a very plausible claimant for the leading role in the Western world which Trump is abdicating.  It could even evolve into a power capable of deterring Russian threats against Europe, especially if a complete breach with the US puts the option of a nuclear Germany on the table.

But what about after Trump leaves office?  Won't things "get back to normal" then?  That depends on how long he remains in power.  If he were impeached and removed tomorrow, the global system would probably revert to something close to the pre-2017 status quo, though other nations will still be warier and less trusting of the US since they will fear the possibility of another Trump-like figure being elected in the future -- if it happened once, it could happen again.  But the longer he stays in place -- especially if he serves a full term -- the more damage he will do, and the more time the global system will have to reshape itself as the US becomes an obstacle to be worked around rather than a leader.  If Japan and Germany have built their own nuclear arsenals and alliance systems to contain the gangster states, and developed into independent and self-assertive world powers in their own right, they will not simply reverse all those developments when Trump leaves office.  Things will not "get back to normal".  There will be a new "normal".

In some ways, the free world might be better off with Japan and Germany in leading roles.  Despite their horrific crimes during World War II, those countries have now been stable democracies for generations, with populations more pacifist than most.  Being smaller than the US, they would be more dependent on allies, unable to assert the kind of overbearing go-it-alone stance that the US often did even before Trump.  And they lack any equivalent of the ignorant, deranged Christian Right demographic bloc which has played such a dangerous and reactionary role in US politics for decades and forms the core of Trump's support.

But Donald Trump, so far from "making America great again", will be remembered as the man who hastened the end of the era of American global dominance.

16 May 2018

Video of the day -- stupid aliens

The real problem here, of course, is stupid movie-writing.  If we ever actually suffer an alien invasion (unlikely, thank goodness), the invaders will be far from stupid, and our science fiction movies will have done a poor job of preparing us for the reality of dealing with them.  Next videos in this series here and here; the real stupidest movie aliens of all here; a surprise (but well-merited) entry here.

13 May 2018

Link round-up for 13 May 2018

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

o o o o o

Please read this story through to the end, and consider whether you would be helping or hindering the struggle against the dragon.

He keeps trying, but.....

Cats meet robot.

Learn how the thagomizer got its name.  More science names here.

There is a secret hero in our midst.

This sounds like kind of a mess.

Blogger Ming has a good reason for not visiting Kansas City.

Donna at Tell Me a Story looks at some uncommon words.

You can tell a lot about some people by the socks they wear.

This music video will keep you guessing.

Here's an interesting fan theory about The Flintstones (found via Calvin's).

Tough guy not so tough (found via Politics Plus).

A Republican discovers the world of furries, and perhaps moves a step toward redemption.

Do not date this person.

See optical glass sculptures by Jack Storms.

Check out the paint job on this house.

Never stop learning.

I'm with Dr. Wren here.

This guy makes a good point about stories with a message.

The Ozarks will be exempt from the Apocalypse, apparently.

Why are these two garments judged differently?

Actions matter more than words.

Never forget the true meaning of that immortal photo of the Rembrandt and the cell phones.

A fashion exhibit triggers the most ridiculous round of bitching about "cultural appropriation" yet.  Sorry, everything is fair game for parody.

Keep these points in mind when you see a missing-person report.  And keep this in mind when you read any shocking story.

On censorship, this sets a standard to which we should all aspire.

The Trump administration is now suffering leaks about leaks.

The oligarchy doesn't want its subjects exposed to real information about the outside world.

Stagnant society, stagnant religion.

We don't need immigrants who lack skills and won't learn English.

Nobody really believes abortion is murder (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

On sexual harassment, Republican women feel betrayed by their party (let's hope some of them reach the obvious conclusion).

Miscellanea Agnostica looks at Bryan Fischer's latest Christofascist bullshit.

Worst tweet ever.

Worst marriage ever?

I guess you'd call this libertarian fatigue.

They really are trying to turn the US into a Third World country (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Fundamentalism promotes child abuse as well as wife abuse.  It's a sick blood-fetish cult.

The driving force behind global-warming denialism is not ignorance.

An emphasis on young-Earth creationism can actually weaken Evangelicalism's hold over its adherents.

The passage of FOSTA/SESTA is already killing and terrorizing sex workers (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).

Louisiana's prison-labor system evokes a bygone era of evil.

"Understand" the Alt-Right?  We do understand them, and that's the problem.

Pi-hole is the latest innovation in ad-block technology.

If you make a really unnerving noise, you can intimidate anybody.

Exercise can make your kids smarter.

This week saw the anniversary of one of our greatest victories.

If sponges can do it, so can we.

Lifelike sculptures bring us face-to-face with early humans (found via Miss Cellania).

As Trump abandons the Iran nuclear deal, Europe must take the lead.  Germany, the UK, and France immediately issued this joint declaration (found via Hackwhackers).

Here's the residence of an 18th-century German bishop -- at that time most ordinary people lived in squalid hovels.

Trump's newest appointee thinks the world's fourth-largest economic power can just be ordered around.

Germany now has a nastier variant on the "sovereign citizen" movement, though so far in small numbers.

Here's why "Islamophobia" isn't like anti-Semitism. And here's another problem.

Atheism is spreading among Turkey's younger generation.

The caste system -- an integral part of the Hindu religion -- plays a role in India's rape epidemic.

"John McCain is a tricky figure for us Resisters. Saved Obamacare, passed the plutocracy-entrenching GOP tax bill, served his country, yet foisted Sarah Freakin' Palin upon it…it's complicated. I won't tell you how to feel about Senator McCain, but if the man doesn't want America's greatest domestic enemy stinking up his memorial service with treason and overcooked steak farts, well, I'd say he's earned the right to make that call."  More commentary here.

Richard Ojeda is the kind of Democrat who might have a shot in West Virginia.

Crabby Trumpanzees refuse to see who's hurting their business.  Let's hope the canning industry and Boeing employees understand better, as these businessmen do.

Few cities want to host the 2020 Republican convention.

Help Stormy Daniels in her battle to hold Trump accountable.

Here's an overview of Tuesday's primaries.  North Carolina's result gives us a shot at flipping a seat there.  The Republican winners are bigots and Blankenship is a sore loser.  We need to be unified to win in November.  But is the blue wave petering out?

The Trumplings are just disgusting.  They hate their own best people.  It doesn't help that Trump himself has no sense of humor.

Right-wing conference, the usual bullshit.

Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong to call these people "the enemy".

If Democrats are really audacious, they can use this plan to reverse Republicans' unfair advantage in the Senate and the Electoral College (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).  In the meantime, Connecticut is about to join the National Popular Vote compact.

For more link round-ups, see Fair and Unbalanced, Love Joy Feminism, Perfect Number, and Miss Cellania (special "calling the cops on black people" edition).

[Image at top found via Hackwhackers]

11 May 2018

Video of the day -- waking up

Three ordinary American young people describe their personal journeys out of the darkness.

09 May 2018

Book review -- the case for the future

Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker (2018)

If a person can be judged by his enemies, Steven Pinker should be very proud.  Few thinkers arouse such fierce and united opposition from religious reactionaries, anti-science nuts, authoritarians, collectivists, cynics, pessimists, "bio-ethicists", and in general the pushers of everything dreary and hostile to freedom and progress.  It's not hard to see why.  He not only refutes their nonsense, he's got mountains of hard data to back up his case.

Part of the book continues the theme of his earlier work The Better Angels of Our Nature, showing that in every measurable way, the world has been getting better for generations -- richer, less violent, more educated, better fed, safer, more accepting of equality for women and gays, and in many ways even more ecologically sustainable -- and that these trends are accelerating.  Knowing how pervasive popular beliefs to the contrary are, he backs up every point with evidence, anticipating and answering the obvious objections.  He doesn't deny that problems exist, of course, but puts them in perspective -- today's balance of problems and advantages is not only better, but vastly better, than any previous era's balance of problems and advantages.

Considerable space is spent addressing the threats which generate the most pervasive worry -- nuclear war, high-tech terrorism, runaway AI, ecological degradation, even overpopulation (I'm often amazed at how many people today still write about population growth as if it were the 1980s and still possible to pretend that people like Paul Ehrlich had some idea what they were talking about).  These problems are at least potentially real (well, not runaway AI), but there are things we can do, and have been doing, to mitigate them -- and none of them are grounds for thinking doom is inevitable or even likely.  Some types of apocalyptic-scale disaster, such as mega-epidemics, actually happened regularly in the past but are now very improbable.

The reason for this progressive trend is the rise of science, reason, and humanism -- the values of the Enlightenment.  Ever since they emerged, these values have been under sustained attack from advocates of the older, failed world-views they have been displacing, an attack which continues today and makes the robust defense of Enlightenment values a necessity -- hence the title of the book.

Pinker's critics like to accuse him of measuring good by dry facts and figures which don't necessarily reflect the true state of human happiness.  But those facts and figures represent real change which has had a massive effect on the human experience of life, like huge declines in infant mortality, or the eradication of smallpox.  Imagine the effect on overall human happiness of hundreds of millions of parents who don't suffer the death of a child, or hundreds of millions of people who don't suffer the death or disfigurement which smallpox inflicted on so many for generations before technology defeated it.  If you think that the great global advances in literacy, food security, access to clean water, contraception, etc. don't represent real gains in quality of life, try to imagine your own life without those things.

Pinker's optimism is decidedly not an argument for complacency.  Given that things have been improving so much, it's imperative that we accurately understand why, so we know how to keep things getting better and avoid regressing to humanity's earlier, more natural state of poverty, violence, and ignorance.  Since the trends are global, in order to understand why they are happening, we need to examine factors at work in a broad range of countries -- analysis based on events in just a single country or even a single cultural region is parochial and likely to give misleading answers.  Very often it turns out that the real reasons for the gains have nothing to do with the claims and prescriptions of any of our popular ideologies.

Toward the end, Pinker addresses the two main rivals of Enlightenment values.  One is the traditional religious world-view, exemplified by the American Christian Right and by the hard-line Islamism of the Saudi and Iranian regimes, Dâ'ish (ISIL), and similar groups.  The other is "romantic heroism: the idea that morality consists in the purity, authenticity, and greatness of an individual or a nation" (p. 419).  This includes, but is far broader than, movements such as Trumpism and the fascism of early 20th-century Europe.  Pinker shows that neither alternative can solve the world's problems or guarantee the continuation of progress the way science, reason, and humanism can -- and he's confident that in the long run neither of them can prevail, even if they manage to inflict setbacks for a few years in a few countries.

I disagree with Pinker on a couple of points.  He minimizes the problem of economic inequality, but doesn't address the biggest threat it poses, which is excessive concentration of power in the hands of the ultra-wealthy.  He favors nuclear energy over solar and wind energy to combat global warming, rightly showing that it is much safer than most people think, but doesn't address the issue of over-centralizing power generation in a few vulnerable reactors as opposed to a distributed network of smaller generators.  These are trivial compared to his overall case, though.

He finishes with a few much-needed admonitions.  "When we fail to acknowledge our hard-won progress, we may come to believe that perfect order and universal prosperity are the natural state of affairs, and that every problem is an outrage that calls for blaming evildoers, wrecking institutions, and empowering a leader who will restore the country to its rightful greatness..... Remember your history: the fact that something is bad today doesn't mean it was better in the past..... Not every problem is a Crisis, Plague, Epidemic, or Existential Threat, and not every change is the End of This, the Death of That, or the Dawn of a Post-Something Era.  Don't confuse pessimism with profundity: problems are inevitable, but problems are solvable, and diagnosing every setback as a symptom of a sick society is a cheap grab for gravitas" (p. 452).

I first heard about this book here and immediately knew I had to read it.  If you want to know the reality of the world which is too often masked by rhetoric and clichés, and don't mind having a few of your preconceived ideas challenged, I urge you to read it too.

08 May 2018

Random observations for May 2018

Libertarians claim it's all about freedom, but somehow it's never about our freedom, it's always about the "freedom" of powerful bullies to make our lives more miserable and constrained.

o o o o o

In a conflict, the blame almost never lies all on one side. But it also almost never lies equally on both sides.

o o o o o

When you're a kid, you think adults all have some kind of guidebook or rules for being an adult, something you don't know anything about.  In your twenties, you realize you still don't know the rules, so you start faking it.  By your forties at the latest, you should have figured out that everyone else is doing the same.

o o o o o

The best way to reduce inefficiency in the American office environment would be to make reorganization a felony.

o o o o o

For pretty much any shitty thing a person can imagine, there is a Republican somewhere who actually wants to do it.

o o o o o

If you can call the country you're in "fascist" or a "police state" in public and not get arrested, it probably isn't one.

o o o o o

From a logical perspective, what purpose is supposed to be served by praying?  God is supposed to be omniscient, right?  That means he already knows what you want, and how badly you want it, and whether or not you deserve to get it.  What possible difference can it make to ask him for it?   Do you think you're going to make him aware of some aspect of your wish that he had previously overlooked?

o o o o o

If you want a vision of a stupefyingly-boring eternity, consider the Christian view of Heaven. Since Heaven is supposed to be perfect, it couldn't progress or change. Most enjoyable activities, being considered "sinful" to some degree or at least hardly godly, would presumably be unavailable there. The traditional vision of Heaven would have me impatiently checking my watch after half an hour, never mind all eternity. Worst of all, the place would presumably be swarming with the kind of insufferable Bible-besotted prigs whose smug holiness makes everyone avoid them in real life.

o o o o o

I wouldn’t be impressed by the concept of reincarnation even if I believed in it. Believers in the idea generally hold that a reincarnated person has no, or almost no, memory of his previous life. If I die, and later another entity is born which is supposed to be a continuation of me, but that entity has no memory of being me, then it isn’t me.

[For previous random observations, see here.]

06 May 2018

Link round-up for 6 May 2018

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

o o o o o

May 1 was Halfoween.

It's just "the end" in Swedish.

Las Vegas has a giant fire-shooting praying mantis with a British accent.

Roadway may be unsafe when wet.

Here are some good ideas.

This is the Alborz Mountains under the Moon (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

See what talking looks like, from the inside.

Brigadier Sir Nils Olaf III inspects his troops.

Should we read books that make us uncomfortable?

There are actually people who get worked up about this kind of nonsense.

Anastasia Bulgakova draws countries as fantasy warriors (found via Miss Cellania).

The description keeps saying Homo sapiens, but I don't think so.

The notorious education report "A Nation at Risk" wasn't quite what you probably think.

Religion makes people ridiculous.  Sometimes, dangerously so.

TPM looks at the godawful political art of Jon McNaughton (Green Eagle spotted this guy several years ago, and more recently his totally-deranged successor).

Professor Chaos fisks Ross Douthat's laborious misunderstanding of sexual liberation.

"The Right are the original snowflakes."

Economic inequality in the US is this bad.

18-year-old Keshia Thomas acted with genuine heroism in a perhaps unworthy cause.

"I'm too stupid to understand it, so it can't be true!"

Most pathetically desperate man ever.

The "spoon trick" can save women and girls from ghastly abuse.

An ex-fundamentalist describes the path to enlightenment.

No, Cambridge Analytica is not shutting down, it's just staging a thinly-disguised name change.

No, whites are not on the way to becoming a minority in the US.

2012's shocking Republican comments on rape were derived from traditional Biblical attitudes.

LifeSite News bills itself as a serious traditionalist-Catholic news site.  But this posting includes a reference and link implying it takes the claims of Democratic "spirit cooking" seriously -- claims as absurd and outrageous as the Pizzagate or blood libels.  (I wasn't able to point this out there, since LifeSite has long banned me from commenting.)

A standard libertarian caricature of liberals is roundly pwned by several commenters, including me.

A Chinese-style prom dress triggers the latest diarrheal burst of "cultural appropriation" nonsense.  Actual Chinese people are unoffended and a bit baffled.  Even the media are starting to wise up.

A new Republican-backed law threatens the safety of sex workers -- and the freedom of the internet for everyone (found via Politics Plus).

Ridiculous car prices are leading to dubious lending practices.

The reason people don't respect conservatism is that its ideas are bad.

There's a common thread among several recent outbursts of violence.

The US hasn't fought a war against a competent enemy in decades.  If we do have to, are we prepared?

Sorry, you can't "harmonize" sense and nonsense.

Footprints bear witness that hunters 10,000 years ago braved even the largest prey.

The warming of the Arctic affects the whole planet.

The US health-care system ranks worst -- and most expensive -- among 11 developed countries (found via Miss Cellania).

Canadian money is cool.

Thousands of people went to the coast of Britain to mumble to themselves and fiddle with trinkets, in an effort to get more people to believe in mumbling to themselves and fiddling with trinkets, and to promote the idea that women should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

A traveling blogger gets a taste of medieval Germany.

Dortmund's "Bordoll" is a brothel with a difference.

The European Union faces daunting budget problems now that it will soon no longer be able to sponge off of Britain.

A superhero comic annoys the bigots.

This piece of shit is what Israel is expected to negotiate with.

Molestation and embezzlement run rampant in the Catholic Church in Honduras.

This young man is worth a hundred of the sniveling Western cowards who would shy away from outspokenly supporting him.

Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet, not a simple or cheap matter.

This man speaks for me:  "What they need to be, is defeated" (found via Hackwhackers).

In Ohio, choose the real Democrat, not the wingnut.  And don't be fooled by both-siderist nonsense.

Erick Erickson shouldn't have to take this, but he shouldn't have dished it out either.

The firing of Patrick Conroy created an interesting split among Republicans.

"It’s been one bowling ball after another, propelled via howitzer, directly into our collective crotch."  If that's not painful enough, there's Giuliani.

Republicans may run against impeachment -- bad idea.

Republicans face another tough House special election in a red district.

Don't take millennials for granted.

For more links, see Fair and Unbalanced.

04 May 2018

The state of the union

So here's where we are right now.  The current occupant of the Presidency of the United States is disputing whether it was he, or merely his sleazy lawyer, who paid $130,000 to a porno movie actress (who is also suing him for defamation) to keep quiet about his (alleged) extramarital affair with her.  The said occupant of the Presidency, who notoriously boasts that he hires only "the best people", has somehow managed to choose as his new legal representative the only US public figure who is evidently an even worse bungler than himself.  He also sent some thugs to steal his own medical records because his quack doctor mentioned that he uses hair restorer.

Republican primary voters in the 3rd Congressional district of Illinois nominated an actual Nazi (no "neo" prefix required -- he's the former head of the American Nazi party) as their candidate for the district's House seat.  In California, the top-polling Republican Senate candidate has expressed anti-Jewish views so ugly that they would surely meet with the approval of Hitler himself.  The Republican front-runner for Paul Ryan's House seat, too, is a white supremacist and anti-Semitic rabble-rouser.

Meanwhile, Trump is threatening to trash Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, because despite all the assurances provided by inspections and US intelligence, he simply doesn't believe that Iran is adhering to its side of the deal.  It's true, of course, that one would be foolish to trust a rogue theocratic regime with crypto-fascistic tendencies which tries to enforce its religious taboos abroad while empowering religious bigots and thugs at home, and which pursues a recklessly aggressive foreign policy while openly disdaining international norms and agreements and threatening the world with nuclear weapons.  But during the Obama administration, Iran had no way of knowing that it would soon be confronting such a regime in Washington.

Is America great again yet?  Because I'm not sure how much more of this kind of greatness I can take.

[Image at top found via Hackwhackers]

01 May 2018

Video of the day -- scientists by nature

Fiddling with the universe to find out how it works -- that's essentially what science is.  Formal science adds some rules and procedures to filter out experimenter bias and other known sources of potential error, but in essence, that's what it is.

29 April 2018

Link round-up for 29 April 2018

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

o o o o o

Hey, you two, there's enough for both.

All these movie triple features have something in common.

Some simple things are hard to do when it's windy.

This sexual overture went slightly awry.

Spelling is important (more here).

Here's an unusual perspective on art.

It's big bird, for real.

Calvin's adores Tinkerbell and Wonder Woman (love the 4th pic).

I hope I never meet a.....whatever the hell this is.

Here's a round-up of cartoons for Earth Day.

It's cold at the beach.

Two commenters provide excellent pwnage of libertarian anti-public-school clichés.  Even in retirement, teachers are devalued.  And some Republicans want to lock them up if they go on strike.  Then there's this.

You can't always tell when somebody isn't lying.

Sometimes there's just no getting back to "normal".

Some Evangelicals are horrified by their movement's support for Trump.  No wonder, when it involves going soft on sexual abusers.

Right-wing attacks on the media are a threat to democracy.

No, Christians in the US are not being persecuted.  Here's a close look at the latest paranoid delusion.

Ajit Pai is mysteriously delaying the official end of net neutrality (found via Alle Tanzten).

God wants you to beat up your kids.

Trumpanzees seem baffled about why people don't like them.

How dreadful that a Christian charity helps even people who don't abide by Christian taboos.  At least this doctor has standards.

So the company you gave your personal data to promised to protect it?  What if they get bought out?

A simple new machine will begin removing plastic garbage from the ocean (found via Hackwhackers).

This video is only one second long, but when you consider where it was filmed, it's an amazing achievement.  More here.

Iranian women protest religious police violence.

Egyptian atheists face bigotry and persecution -- and dismissal by some Westerners.

The Putin regime has long been cozying up to the US Alt-Right, but they don't have much to show for it.

One nation, two systems -- the differences between North and South Korea. Peace in Korea isn't Trump's achievement, or even America's.

Say no to marriage, get burned.

If liberals refuse to talk about this problem, others will shape the discussion.

House Republicans' whitewash of Russiagate won't stop Mueller from closing in on the Trump Tower meeting.

Trumpanzee voters were driven by cultural issues, not economics -- notably fear of a loss of dominance.

Steve King massively bungles an attempt to insult modern young people.

Special elections continue to bring good news for Democrats.  RedState sees little to celebrate in Lesko's Arizona win.  Some Republican voters appear to be wising up, and Devin Nunes himself may not be safe from the blue wave.  Even the firing of Patrick Conroy may shift a few votes.

Trump can count on the support of Christian TV.

Two Texas Republicans compete to out-religious-nut each other.

Why the hell does it take a whole year for election authorities to buy new equipment?

This pretty much sums up Trump.  Or maybe this does.  Calvin's has a collection of images.  Not only is the regime corrupt, it punishes good and rewards evil.  Bill Maher is getting weirded out by all the hand-holding (found via Politics Plus).  Shower Cap's blog struggles to keep up with all the Trumpian madness.

For more link collections, see Perfect Number, Miss Cellania, Love Joy Feminism, Fair and Unbalanced, Curmudgucation (on education), and Mike the Mad Biologist.

[465 days down, 997 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

25 April 2018

The look of the future

The election of Trump was, deep down, a last-ditch effort to prevent the future, motivated by a deep resistance to change and difference.  Trumpanzees are full of anxiety about the growing acceptance and visibility of gays, about the declining dominance of Christianity, about the millions who find that marriage and reproduction do not suit them, about the growing numbers and confidence of non-white and racially-mixed people, about technology that makes information and communication too hard to control, about the prospect of socialist (I use the honest word) reforms that will liberate the poor from the raw struggle for survival and ultimately undermine the dominance of wealth. To people who recoil from pluralism, people who want everything to be the same as themselves and the same as it always was, the future just viscerally looks wrong -- and must be stopped.

It's not always explicitly fear of the different, it's more often an endless stream of half-stated objections and pearl-clutching disapproval, and it isn't the wave of the future. Race-consciousness, religious fanaticism, befuddled anxiety about gay marriage, and suspicious hostility to science and expertise just don't go with the world of the internet and nanotechnology and stem cells.  They belong to two different universes, two mutually-exclusive realities.  There are reasons why the great technological innovations that drive national power and wealth happen in New York and Massachusetts and California rather than in states that keep trying to put creationism in the schools; on a broader scale, there are reasons why they happen in the US and Europe and Japan rather than in Pakistan or North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Airplanes are hijacked by those who fear pluralism, but designed and manufactured by those who embrace it.

Take the most insular and conservative major culture in the world today -- Islam. Wherever hard-line Islam has triumphed, it has driven away (or scared into silence) non-Muslim minorities, struggled against non-Muslim influences from the outside or from the past, and enforced conformity of behavior and expression.  Where Islam has taken root in new soil, as in Europe, it seeks to isolate its carriers from the ideas and ways of the secular pluralistic civilization around it, for those ideas and ways will seduce them away from it. And Islam will clearly have no role in shaping the future, unless it turns out that there is no real future and the world sinks back into the Dark Ages. Even in the lands where it first seized dominion, millions are abandoning it as new and liberating ideas spread via the internet.  Islam can only "stand athwart history, yelling Stop" -- in vain -- as more and more of the millions in whose brains it is rooted cast it off.

This, too, is why I can't see China dominating the future, not unless it gets rid of both its current form of government and its current attitude toward the outside world. A regime obsessed with controlling flows of information, and a "redneck" (in American terms) prickliness toward foreign influences, are crippling handicaps in today's world. There are good reasons why Japan, with its long history of receptivity to outside ideas, was the first non-Western country to modernize and remains the most advanced. The insularity of the samurai era was the exception that proves the rule -- if Japan had stayed like that, rejecting the Meiji transformation, it would be a Third World country today.

The future won't be a retreat into the small and slow and traditional. It won't be about limits and lowered expectations. It will be bigger and faster and smarter, and more and more and more.

The future does not belong to people who feel viscerally uncomfortable when they see a different skin color or a sign in an unfamiliar alphabet or two men holding hands or a radical new breakthrough in artificial intelligence. I'm sorry, it just doesn't. If we want the United States to remain a world leader, we need to make sure that those people aren't the ones setting the pace.