31 October 2013

Halloween!

The High Unholy Day is here again, and the usual religious nutters are denouncing it as demonic and a celebration of deviance -- sounds cool to me!  While they're busy being dourly serious, everyone else will be having fun with it in their own way.  For my own post on the real origins of Halloween, see here.




The ancients believed that on Halloween night, gateways to another world of evil beings of various kinds were opened, and those entities could thus get into our world and menace humans; people tried to scare such monsters away from their homes or offer gifts to propitiate them (jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating are surviving traces of these practices).  This raises the question of whether these gateways allow passage in both directions.  I have a vision of some spectral world where goblins, vampires, zombies, etc. are the normal inhabitants, and set out jack-o-lanterns to ward off terrifying creatures like puppies, girl scouts, accountants, etc. which wander there from our world.



(Come to think of it, I saw what looked like a couple of Mormon missionaries on my street a few days ago.)

Anyway, Ranch Chimp has some creepy haunted house videos, and here are some mini horror films. If you want something a little different for decorations, try these spectral moggies of fire, but be glad this candy isn't still being given out (both links via Mendip).  I'll be busy with Satanic rituals for the rest of the day, if only to annoy the killjoys.

30 October 2013

Video of the day -- song of the Congressional Republicans

The only consistent thread running through the actions of the Republicans in Congress since 2008 is to oppose whatever Obama wants to do -- even if it's an idea first put forward by their own party, as much of the ACA was.  They seem to be taking their cue from Groucho Marx.  Whatever it is.....

They're not funny, though.

Update:  And yet now we owe a "thank you" to Paul Ryan for taking this very stance.  Every story on the "grand bargain" concept has stated that Democrats will not consider cuts to Social Security and Medicare unless taxes are on the table -- which implies they would consider cuts to those programs if Republicans make that concession.  So Ryan's refusal to bend here saves our own party from making a ghastly mistake.

28 October 2013

Video of the day -- driving in Saudi Arabia

Lately Saudi Arabia has been in the news due to protests there against its law that bans women from driving cars.  They actually might want to consider a law banning men from driving cars.

The act of going into a sideways skid at high speed is called "drifting" and is apparently a locally popular thrill -- yes, they're doing that on purpose.  I'm not sure why the English word "smart" repeatedly appears on the screen.  It is not the first word that comes to mind to describe this behavior.

27 October 2013

A "grand bargain"? NO!

While teabaggerdom still dreams of killing the ACA, establishment Republicans have retreated from that lost battle back to one of their longer-standing goals: gutting Social Security and Medicare.  Speculation is rife that they might get their way as part of a "grand bargain" with Democrats, if they are willing to concede tax increases in return -- all in the name of deficit reduction.  Harry Reid says it's not happening, and he's probably right, not only because the Republicans are too frightened of Grover Norquist, but also because, as they repeatedly showed during the debt-limit hostage crisis, they can never agree among themselves about what their demands should be.

This is a good thing, not a bad thing.  While getting the Republicans to defy Norquist would be satisfying on some level, any cuts to Social Security or Medicare would be too high a price to pay.  Social Security keeps tens of millions out of poverty.  It's an "entitlement" to which recipients are truly entitled -- they paid into it throughout their working lives.  And it's one of the more effective economic stimulus programs we have.  As for Medicare, it's the nearest thing we have to (shudder) socialized medicine, keeping at least the elderly out of the tar pits from which the ACA is just beginning to extricate the rest of us.  If Democrats in office start going soft on defending these programs, we need to be ready to remind them to do the right thing (Bernie Sanders already has a petition going).

There are some bad signs.  A top Obama adviser has strongly hinted that the administration is ready to cave on entitlement cuts.  And a top House Republican has put revenues on the table, though the specifics aren't very impressive.  He may not be alone.  Republicans have much to gain from such a "grand bargain".

They've long dreamed of cutting Social Security and Medicare, but all of them except the dimmest teabaggers know that such a move would be grossly unpopular.  The only way they could get away with it is by maneuvering us into sharing the responsibility.  When America's elderly discover the knife in their collective back, Republicans want our fingerprints, not just theirs, to be on the handle.  Beyond that, such a gross betrayal by our party leadership would leave our base demoralized and infuriated going into the 2014 elections.  The enthusiasm generated by Obama's recent firmness would degenerate back into the old talk of "Democrats always cave" and "both parties are alike".  Only Republicans would benefit from this.

So what should we do about the deficit?  Well, most of the deficit was caused by decades of cutting taxes on upper income brackets (and by the huge cost of Bush's Middle Eastern military blundering, but there's nothing we can do about that now), so much so that today Warren Buffett, one of the richest people on Earth, says he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary does, and a tiny oligarchy has amassed obscene levels of wealth while incomes have stagnated for the bottom 90%.  The appropriate solution is to get those upper-income tax rates back to normal levels.  If we could get them back up as high as they were under Reagan, we'd be well on the way to solving the problem: If we could get them back where they were under Eisenhower, we'd probably be running a surplus in no time.

This, of course, would require Democrats to simultaneously hold the Presidency, the House, and a 60+ Senate majority.  We'll get there someday.  Until we do, the current deficit is tolerable -- and far better than cutting Social Security or Medicare.

Link round-up for 27 October 2013

Here's the Washington Mall if the teabaggers had won (click to enlarge).

There's still five days left to vote for the stupidest creationist tweet.

If only Obama could really do this!

Beware the communist lesbian Girl Scout cookies.

Idiots use science too.

Spice up your Halloween with these mini horror films.

There is no excuse for treating a person like this because of the opinions he expresses.  None.

Ranch Chimp looks at "battling boardom" in Texas.

Warren 2016?  The buzz is growing.

The latest figures debunk the myth that the ACA is destroying full-time jobs (found via P M Carpenter).

In Kansas, restaurant patrons rally against a display of bigotry.

If Republicans lose Virginia, they lose it all.

MRA and evangelical Christian Theodore Beale justifies the Taliban shooting of Malala Yousafzai.

Paul Krugman, who was right about everything from the euro to the housing bubble, warned us about teabaggerdom before it even started.  Here's an inside look at how Obama and Reid agreed on their get-tough policy against the most destructive force in politics.  Next obstructionism target: Janet Yellen.  But they're no longer funny.  Here's one Texas judge who couldn't take the bullshit any more.

The 400 richest persons in the US now own total wealth of $2 trillion (that's over $6,000 for every person in the country).

Fox News writer Sally Kohn tells her ACA success story.  Other Republicans may not be so lucky, especially after the party's outright sabotage.  Watch their delusional invocation of HIPAA melting down (found via Parsley's Pics).

The Pope is causing division within the US Christian Right -- but they're already divided over whether or not the culture war is lost.

The White House delivers a stern rebuke to secessionists.

Spending-cut mania and strict immigration rules are undermining US dominance in science.

The Republican civil war is on and the nutters are out for blood.  Mike Lee is already feeling the heat at home; Christie defies the fundies on gay marriage.  Here's one teabagger candidate.  And check out this Hot Air comment thread on McCain.

An oil-industry sonar mapping action killed 100 whales.

A murderous foreign terrorist in Britain faces justice.  Now something needs to be done about crazed vigilanteism.

The Netherlands tells immigrants to learn Dutch or leave (the report is negative in tone but still worth a look).

NSA spying is seriously damaging our relations with Europe.  Germany and Brazil are taking the issue to the UN.

Terrorists destroy a crowded bus in Volgograd, but this plot blew up in the perpetrators' faces.

Syrian refugees are a massive burden on Jordan.

American Shiite pilgrims are attacked by Sunnis in Mecca, and Saudi police destroy the evidence.

17th-century Japanese persecution of Christians was spurred by sectarian violence.

Here's the latest in clunky, heavy-handed Chinese propaganda posters.  Slashes in one poster are described as "a rare attack on propaganda", but I notice that several of the posters shown have similar damage.

Toxic jerky exported from China has killed 600 dogs in the US.

Brunei adds itself to the list of countries sensible people should stay away from.

When terrorists seized the Westgate Mall in Nairobi last month, one brave man rescued many shoppers -- including an American family.

Here's a look at current thinking on the nature and function of dreams.

Evaporative "salt flats" surround giant lakes near the north pole -- 800 million miles from here.

German researchers have succeeded in rejuvenating stem cells in mice.

25 October 2013

Judging angels?

The other day I was reading this post on Chatpilot's God Is a Myth blog, on the issue of sexual abuse within Christian churches and the tendency to handle such things internally rather than contacting the proper authorities.  The post included this quote (1 Corinthians 6:1-6):

1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

I was immediately startled by verse 3 -- "Do you not know that we will judge angels?"  Really?  Humans will sit in judgment over the winged flunkies of the Lord?  I had never heard of this before.  This text is from the Epistles of the Apostles, specifically St. Paul, who would presumably be expected to know what he was talking about.  What might angels be getting up to that would require judgment?  Molesting the cherubim?  Shoplifting halo batteries?  They can go bad -- remember Lucifer.  But why would God assign fallible humans to preside over the trials?  Maybe he's too busy appearing on pieces of toast to do it himself?  Also, which humans?  Obviously proper Christians, based on the context of the quote, but that covers a lot of ground.  Will Rick Perry qualify?  How do you execute an angel?

I checked to see if there was any online commentary that could clarify this odd mystery.  1 Corinthians 6:3 seems to have received little attention from Bible scholars, but I did find this summary of what various authorities have said.  Some claim it must refer to demons (fallen angels), but as the "Pulpit commentary" section points out, "The statement furnishes no data for further speculation. It can hardly mean 'evil spirits,' for where the word is entirely unqualified it always means good angels.....We must take the plain meaning of the apostle's words, whether we can throw any light on his conceptions or not."  If St. Paul had meant demons, he would have said demons.  So angels it is.  Angels will be judged by dead fundies in the afterlife.

You guys are in trouble.

22 October 2013

Video of the day -- if it looks unreal.....

.....then it probably isn't real.



Obviously it's rare that anyone would go to the trouble of setting up something this elaborate, but there's an important point here.  Psychics, religious groups, and other promoters of pre-scientific world views have been known to use deliberate trickery to stage fake miracles, convince people they have knowledge they could not have acquired normally, or otherwise present the appearance of supernatural forces at work.  Intentional deception is out there, and it's more common than you probably think.  Some of the perpetrators have significant money and/or power at stake.

A religious believer once told me, "Nothing could convince you religion was true -- if you saw a dead body get up and walk around, you would just assume you were hallucinating."  His point was that unbelievers are just as "dogmatic" and impervious to evidence as believers.  My response was that, in such a case, I would indeed seriously consider the possibility that I was hallucinating -- and this would be the rational response.  There are no confirmed, properly-documented cases on record of an unambiguously dead corpse being re-animated, and our knowledge of biology shows that such a thing would be impossible (barring the use of hypothetical advanced technology which does not exist yet), but there are many documented cases of people having hallucinations.  So which explanation would be more likely to be true?

The same applies to deliberate deception -- there are a wealth of cases on record of humans using deception, but there are no cases of magic being shown to actually work under controlled conditions that would make a valid assessment possible.  Before accepting that the re-animation was real, I'd want further evidence -- corroboration by other observers, examination of the scene by experts skilled at detecting trickery, etc.  Remember, just because you personally can't think of a prosaic explanation, that doesn't mean there isn't one.

20 October 2013

Link round-up for 20 October 2013

Here's a behind-the-scenes history of Monty Python's immortal dead parrot sketch (found via Mendip).

There's still 12 days to vote for the stupidest creationist tweet.

A top teabagger wants to file a class-action suit against homosexuality (found via "George Cucumber" here).

Can we please swap Texas for England?

A TSA agent looks for terrorists in the oddest places.

Really?  Every six and a half minutes???

This Halloween, go as something really scary (found via Squatlo Rant).  But know when the party's over.

Rove is getting just ridiculous.

What if there were a Republican airline?

Burglars with a cutting torch become victims of natural selection (found via Mendip).

Fresh from their crushing defeat, Republicans prepare for the next battle.  But debt-ceiling extortion probably won't work again.  Anyway, where do we go from here?

The crab-bucket syndrome afflicts universities too.

Erin Nanasi looks at the teabagger alternate-reality bubble.

The shutdown exacerbated the damage done by the sequester to American scientific research.

Salon's Eric Stern looks into some of those Obamacare horror stories the right wing has been pushing, and finds about what you'd expect.  Some reality here, here, and here.

Grimes has pulled a little ahead of McConnell in Kentucky.  He's got trouble from the right too.

Good question -- why was this funny?

His 15 minutes are almost up, but Ted Cruz manages one last faux pas.  Perhaps this captures him best.

A real witch goes to Salem.

Bernie Sanders is on the Senate budget committee.

The Christian Right is having a bit of a civil war of its own.

PM Carpenter reads Erick Erickson so you don't have to.  Oh, and hit his donation button if you can.

Republic of Gilead looks at fundie home-schoolers' Soviet-like views on art and culture.

PJ Vogt pushes back against censorship at Amazon.  And we need to be careful how we deal with revenge porn.

Business groups are out to destroy radical Republican candidates, while teabaggerdom is out to destroy moderates -- let's hope they both succeed. Remember, the nuts couldn't have done their damage without the moderates' collaboration.

Texas Republicans have found a way to suppress women's votes.

After Exodus International's back-down, a remnant of anti-gay hard-liners struggles to carry on (found via Republic of Gilead).

Christine Vyrnon looks at fundamentalists' unhealthy fixation on Israel.

In the depths of teabaggerdom, truth is whatever they want it to be.

Hillary Clinton has had an impact.

The threat of default and global economic collapse meshes well with the Christian Right's apocalyptic visions.  More on fundies and destructive politics here (found via Republic of Gilead).

Santorum fumes at intolerance of Christian intolerance.

Even the IMF now says countries should tax the rich more.

Here's a splendid rant from one of the world's first anti-smoking activists, King James I of England, in 1604.

Australia's Anglican Church condemns gay marriage (found via Republic of Gilead).  Oddly enough, their membership's in a slump.

Here's a Belgian version of that famous skirt-length poster, adapted for Islam (from bottom to top the words are "Sharî'ah-conforming, moderate Islam, provocative, slut, whore, rape, stoning").

Massive anti-austerity protests rock Portugal and Italy.

Ten years in prison for a miscarriage -- and it could happen here if the right wing gets its way.

The first round of new nuclear talks with Iran look promising.

The production of religious baubles begins with mass killing.

Somalis use hyenas to treat mental illness (I suppose we could try this on the teabaggers).

The Muslim Hajj is a nightmare of infectious disease.

Get plenty of sleep -- your brain is taking out the garbage.

Reproduction in space presents problems, at least for jellyfish.

19 October 2013

Quote for the day -- reply to the teabaggers

"You're LOSERS: you lost the [Civil] war, you lost the fight to keep science out of science class in the 20's, you lost the last two elections, and you [lost] the court battle against Obamacare..... You also lost your job, after being tricked into voting for Bush. Ever since Nixon, the rich have herded you like the dumb animals you are.  They smoke $50 cee-gars and laugh about you. They manipulate you with colorful flags, scary propaganda, jingoistic speeches, nationalist music, shiny objects, and blatant, outrageous lies like 'death panels' and 'Obama reads the Koran.'  Most of all, they manipulate you with your ridiculous, stupid-people religion."

Faye Kane -- read the whole thing (note: NSFW blog art and disturbing photos)

17 October 2013

Video of the day -- the shutdown/debt crisis in a nutshell


In just a few minutes, Rachel Maddow explains one of the more ludicrous episodes in recent American history and what it means.

16 October 2013

Unconditional surrender

We broke 'em.

The Senate has a deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt limit -- a deal which gives the Republicans nothing for their hostage-taking efforts (it may include income verification for ACA subsidies, but this is the most pitiful sop imaginable since the ACA already includes that provision anyway).  Boehner will abandon the Hastert rule and let the full House vote on the deal, even though that means it will pass with mostly Democratic votes.  There was some concern that Cruz, who led his party into this fiasco, might delay a Senate vote past the default deadline -- but he won't, and the leadership is ready to squelch him if he tries anything.

After making fools of themselves in front of the whole world, after trashing their approval rating with the American people far below its historic floor, after disastrously exacerbating their party's internal divisions and alienating the business interests which traditionally support it -- after all that, the Republicans are cravenly backing down, tail between legs, and getting nothing.  Kudos to Obama and the Democrats for standing firm in the face of blackmail.

All that remains now is the recriminations among them.  Word is already spreading across the teabagger internet, fueling rage, cries of betrayal, and threats of primary challenges and third parties.  Soon the Republican civil war will be fully under way.

"To crush your enemies, and see them fall at your feet -- to take their seats and districts, and hear the lamentation of their bloggers.  That is best in life."

15 October 2013

"Breathtaking inanity"

Check out these awesomely-stupid tweets from creationists -- and vote for the worst one.

Why we may win big in 2014

With the Republicans' poll ratings plummeting from one record low to another, many of us are wishing that the midterm election was this November instead of next.  How lamentable that such a mammoth right-wing blunder might go to waste!  The more cautious pundits are already warning that the impact of this month's events on the 2014 election may not be as great as now seems likely, since memories lose force with time.

Daily Kos has a sober assessment of our chances next year, which deserves to be read in any case.  It gives some reasons for optimism -- the Republicans have completely failed to reach out to minorities, Obama is likely to be much more engaged this time than in 2010, etc.  But it basically assumes that the Republican party will continue to function as a coherent party, as it always has in the past.  I really wonder whether it can.

It's clear now that the shutdown / debt ceiling débâcle has finally awakened the party establishment and its big-business backers to how dangerous the teabaggers are -- and that they're preparing to take real action to curb the power of the crazies.  But those crazies, based on what I'm seeing all over the right-wing internet, are in mad-as-hell-not-gonna-take-it mode -- they're convinced they were winning this fight and had the American people behind them (all the polls showing the opposite are "skewed", of course).  The moves by McConnell and other establishment Republicans to bow to inevitable defeat are seen as a new Dolchstoß, an epic betrayal, a sign that the leadership and the moderates in Congress need to be swept away by that favorite teabagger weapon, the primary challenge.  I wasn't exaggerating when I called the looming internal conflict a civil war.

If the split can't be patched up, there are basically two ways it can play out.  One is that the teabaggers or a large chunk thereof abandon the party -- they leave and form a third party, or they waste their votes on third candidates, or they refuse to vote.  This would deprive the party of a crucial part of its voting base.  No doubt the establishment would reach out to the rank-and-file crazies even while trying to curb the power of crazies in Congress -- by affirming support for their less-deranged goals, for example -- but I doubt it would work.  These people are out for blood.

The other possibility is that the teabaggers will succeed -- that the wave of primary challenges they're threatening to unleash will sweep away many moderates and give us a whole new crop of Mourdocks and Angles and O'Donnells to run against.  Aside from the inherent weakness of such candidates, this outcome would further undermine Wall Street's support for the party.

Most likely some combination of the two will happen.  In the past, divided Republicans have pulled back from the brink of such self-destructive behavior because they, too, could see the danger to conservatism as a whole.  This time, however, they believe they have an ace that guarantees success next November no matter what they do -- they believe the ACA will be such a disaster that it will drive voters back into their arms.  This conviction is emboldening them to take risks they would otherwise not take.  In fact, the evidence so far suggests that the ACA will have just the opposite effect, despite the start-up glitches.

As always, we dare not be complacent or careless.  The shutdown / debt ceiling battle has a lesson for us too -- the Republicans are even more dangerous to the country than we thought.  We must fight every election as if we could lose, no matter how confident we feel.  But in truth, 2014 might just be the year when the insanity the rightists have been nurturing finally blows up in their faces.

13 October 2013

On a minor point of Republican bullshit

One of the more cutesy talking points which the Republicans have been trotting out lately is that, while President Obama refuses to negotiate with them over the debt ceiling and the government shutdown, he's quite willing to negotiate with leaders of hostile foreign governments such as Putin and Rouhani.  Superficially this does seem telling, but if one examines the comparison more thoughtfully, it's revealing in quite a different way.

Neither Putin nor Rouhani is explicitly threatening to deliberately crash the US (and world) economy unless Obama submits to a set of demands.  If they were, Obama would no doubt tell them, too, that he refused to negotiate under such duress.

Obama has stated clearly that he is willing to negotiate with the Republicans about whatever issues they want to discuss, but they have to let a clean CR and debt-limit increase pass first -- they have to take the gun away from the hostage's head before real negotiation is possible.

In short, he can negotiate with Putin and Rouhani because they are not making de facto terrorist threats against our country.  Right now, the Republicans are.

Link round-up for 13 October 2013

Aaaargh!  Geography fail.

Check out these monster-enhanced thrift-store paintings (found via Mendip).

Cute gif of the day:  dogs imitate a crawling baby.

Even less likely to show than the Great Pumpkin.

Rule 34 lives! (found via Mendip)

Natural selection strikes again.

Bachmann is following a long tradition of end-times dumbth.

Compromise?  There was already a compromise (found via Squatlo Rant).

A 12-year-old girl pays the price of Republican budget cuts in Pennsylvania.

Mansplainer of the week:  Ben Carson.

Here's the perfect metaphor for what the Republicans are trying to do -- and the perfect cartoon (found via Squatlo Rant).

Meet the genius behind this weekend's DC trucker protest, which was a total fiasco (that link is NRO, but she nails it pretty well).

Hell hath no fury like.....

The rightists are making Obama-Hitler comparisons again, and Green Eagle gives the specifics on just how absurd they are.

The public is now blaming the Republicans for the shutdown by a bigger margin than they blamed them for the 1995-1996 shutdown.

Was this a practice run for a terrorist attack on an airliner?

Krugman assesses the Republicans as bunglers; Zakaria looks at the breakdown of party authority.  Teh Crayzee is now too much even for Jennifer Rubin and Ross Douthat.

Here are some real-life cases of the ACA in action.  And here's a detailed case of how it can sway the Republican-leaning white working class.

Whatever happens now, Boehner's done.

Don't fall prey to cynicism -- it's what the bad guys want (found via Squatlo Rant).

Texas Republicans are royally blowing it with Hispanic voters.

Ted Cruz has a long history with Wendy Davis's likely opponent.

Christianity's symbolism reflects how incoherent it is.

A New Jersey Republican breaks new ground in boosting the party's appeal to women. Booker responds.

Republic of Gilead is reviewing a fundamentalist webinar series on education -- scary stuff.

To win the House, we need better leadership.

Parsley's Pics has a round-up of Republican nonsense and some disgusting campaign buttons.

Big bankers weigh in on default.

Harry Enten explains the Virginia Governor's race, and the Republican implosion, to the British.

In the remote swamps of South America, Mauner Mahecha and his cocaine-smuggling ring built a submarine fleet that many full-size national navies would envy.

Russian ski-resort planners enjoy their work a little too much.

Meet them, greet them, eat them?

Here's more on how carbon dioxide is destroying the oceansMore here.

The "drunken forest" phenomenon shows the damage being wrought in the Arctic.

Meat production is a big contributor to global warming.

Orangutans make travel plans, and communicate them.

Here's an odd-looking critter.

Those cave artists from 20,000 BC were not quite how you pictured them.

Here are some things you didn't know about octopuses.

We used to think free oxygen on another planet would be a sign of life, but that may not be true.

Researchers in Britain make a breakthrough against Alzheimers.

[Infidel note:  Sorry this round-up is so politics-heavy, but the shutdown/default threat has been preying on my mind -- FFS a couple nights ago I had a dream about John Boehner -- think I need to get away for a while.....]

12 October 2013

The Republican civil war

So.  The Republican establishment and its big-business backers are finally starting to begin to commence to make some sort of effort to get the teabagger vandals and maniacs under control.  After these ignorant fools took the nation and the world to the edge of a default which Business Week said would be "a financial apocalypse" and "catastrophic", after their antics crashed the party's favorable rating to a record low and then even lower than that while Obama and the ACA actually saw gains, after every hope of winning has been dashed, after some Republican insiders have grown fearful that the party itself could be sliding toward oblivion -- now, it's finally time to do something.

Unfortunately the Republican establishment doesn't quite have standing to assert a narrative of itself and the teabaggers as distinct rival factions fighting for control of the party, even if that's emerging as the de facto situation.  Who led the bull into the china shop in the first place?  Who put doofuses like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Ted Yoho into positions of power?  Who enabled and facilitated their destructive behavior?  Without the imprimatur and support of the Republican party, they could not have been elected.  Without the collaboration of mainstream figures like John Boehner (who is still blocking a House vote on clean CR and debt-limit bills which could pass with a few sane Republicans voting with the Democrats), they could not have held the country hostage.

After Obama took office, when the Tea Party first arose in all its paranoid race-baiting spelling-challenged glory, the Republican establishment was happy to exploit its rabid energy and ride the tiger to victory in the low-turnout 2010 election.  Even when primary-spawned nutbars cost the party Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada, criticism was muted.  The tiger was dangerous, but it was useful to the agenda the establishment has successfully pursued for decades -- tax cuts, deregulation, and attacks on the welfare state, which have exploded the deficit, held the bottom 99% in economic stagnation, and concentrated wealth more and more in the hands of a tiny, obscenely-wealthy minority (not such a "moderate" agenda, in fact).

Nor is this the first time the Republican establishment has joined forces with a movement of dangerous fanatics in order to profit from their zeal.  In the late 1970s the party embraced the rising new Christian Right, unfazed by its anti-gay, anti-female equality, anti-science, anti-modernity fervor, or by the theocratic totalitarian implications of its ambitions.  The fundies helped get Reagan elected, and the alliance has been tightening ever since.  It was only after forced ultrasounds and gay-baiting and slut-shaming and "legitimate rape" started losing elections that the establishment started gingerly trying to dissociate itself from the crazies.

And now that the latest bunch of nuts has come within an inch of wrecking the global economy that the financial parasite class depends on almost as much as the rest of us do, the establishment wants to disown them and go back to being a sane party and accepted as such.

Sorry, but after a premeditated criminal fuck-up of this magnitude, you don't get to bounce back.  You can't just say "sorry," hit the reset button, and wipe the slate clean.  You enabled this.  You put the Christian Right and then the Tea Party into positions of power, knowing full well what they were and what they wanted to do.  You don't deserve the chance to redeem the Republican party.  It needs to be smashed and destroyed and flushed out of our country's political system forever.  The nuts are fighting back and I hope they and you obliterate each other.  You knowingly and willfully tried to sacrifice the prosperity and freedom and human rights of millions of Americans for the sake of your own political power and greed.  If this is the end, it's the end you wrote for yourselves.

To hell with you.

11 October 2013

Convoy!

Today's the start of convoy weekend!  A die-hard passel of teabag-addled megatrucktards has made plans to descend on Washington DC today and obstruct traffic on the beltway until -- well, it's not too clear what they're trying to accomplish, actually, but the removal from office of President Obama and several Democratic and moderate Republican members of Congress has been mentioned by people claiming to speak for the truckers, and they also seem to be riled by fuel prices and various regulations.  There's the usual blather about fake birth certificates and imaginary Muslims.  The option of "Second Amendment" violence and a "bloody battle", if targeted officials don't step down in response to the protest, has also been raised.

The group calls itself "Ride for the Constitution", though my own copy of the Constitution must have been tampered with, since I can't find the section which states that the results of elections can be nullified if a few nuts cause a traffic jam.  The fact that Mark Kessler -- you know, the Pennsylvania police chief known for posting videos of himself ranting about "libtards" while apparently machine-gunning trees -- is associated with the event pretty much tells you what you need to know.

As I write this, it's almost 9:40 AM in Washington DC and it's unclear how many truckers are participating or how much impact they're having.  The event's Facebook page excitedly reports "UPDATE!! TRAFFIC BEHIND THE TRUCKERS BACKED UP FOR MILES!!!", and a photo shows what looks like about five trucks deployed across four lanes of traffic with a jam of backed-up cars behind them, so they may have succeeded in annoying a certain number of people, none of whom are high government officials.  There are three or four more trucks back among the cars, but whether they're participants or just more regular people being annoyed is anyone's guess.  I've checked a few general news sites, but haven't been able to find any reports on the protest, or any other evidence that it's been noticed by anyone other than the annoyed drivers immediately behind it, never mind any reports of Obama resigning.

Remember back before everything got so ugly, and the word "convoy" evoked this?



Sigh.  The cranks can't leave anything unsullied these days.....

09 October 2013

The true religion

Antonin Scalia believes in the literal existence of the Devil.

It is not my intent here to dwell on the absurdity of an educated adult man in a position of considerable authority holding a view essentially equivalent to believing in Santa Claus.  Other bloggers have already addressed that.  And as Scalia points out in the same interview, his conviction is widely shared -- a majority of Americans at least claim to believe that Satan is "a real person".  Rather, here, I'm interested in what follows from this.  Assuming for the sake of argument that the Devil really exists, what are the implications?

As Scalia himself affirms, the Devil is "smart" and, in our own era as compared with Biblical times, has become "wilier".  No longer wasting his energies on spectacular but unproductive stunts like "making pigs run off cliffs.....possessing people and whatnot", the Dark Lord "now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way."

He certainly is.  As survey after survey has revealed, Americans, especially the young, are rejecting religion in droves -- the proportion claiming no religion has doubled in the last decade.  Aggressive champions of atheism like Dawkins, Hitchens, Hirsi Ali, Condell, and many others have swept away the timid diffidence of the twentieth century.  And in most other developed countries -- recently even Ireland -- religious belief is even more in open retreat.  Score a big success for Lucifer.

He's winning on other fronts too.  No less of an authority than the Catholic Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul recently declared that "sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography," and gay marriage are "machinations" whose source is "none other than the Father of Lies.....Satan".  So one of Satan's creations (gay marriage) is sweeping the Western world, in both legislation and public opinion, while two of his other contributions (birth control and porn) are already among the most popular things globally. And Christians are so spooked by Satan that they'll shred $20,000 worth of printing over a symbol carrying the barest suggestion of his presence.

Perhaps they're wise to be nervous.  How has the Devil's adversary been doing lately?  God, so we're told by his fan club, created the entire universe about 6,000 years ago, taking less than a week to fully accomplish this gargantuan project.  Some time later, he flooded the whole Earth -- an impressive act, but far smaller in scale than creating the universe.  Two thousand years ago, he sent his son to Earth to be tortured and human-sacrificed in order to give himself permission to forgive us for behavior he disapproves of*, though an omnipotent being (or even an ordinary person) surely ought to be able to forgive transgressors without such an elaborate, bloody, and illogical ritual.  Today, as best we can tell, God's manifestations of power are limited to appearing on the occasional piece of toast.  As Satan has become more "smart" and "wilier", coming out with one smash-hit popular-culture phenomenon after another, God seems to be in steep decline.

God's partisans, of course, claim that these Satanic triumphs merely herald the End Times, in which the side of the angels will rise from the ashes of apparent oblivion and emerge victorious at last (latest exponent of this view:  Michele Bachmann).  But surely such protestations have more than a whiff of Baghdad Bob about them.  We can all see which way the wind is blowing.  I'm putting my money on The Big Man Downstairs (who was probably the good guy all along, anyway).  Hail Satan!



[*Yes, I'm aware of all the convoluted gobbledygook they use to make this sound less ridiculous, so please don't bother.]

08 October 2013

Would you still be yourself?

Deity Shmeity blog has posted an interesting question on teleportation and identity.  Check it out and see what you think.

06 October 2013

Video of the day -- Obamacare or the ACA?


Found via Lady Freethinker, who observes, ".....the ignorance hardly comes as a surprise. People are more likely to hear propaganda slamming Obamacare than they are to actually research it."  And while I'm sure Kimmel could have found plenty of people who know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing, he could also doubtless have found plenty who are even more clueless than those featured here.  Remember, actual flesh-and-blood humans vote for characters like Louie Gohmert and Paul Broun.  I have a mental image of some slope-head with his baseball cap the wrong way round, who vaguely remembers hearing about the "Affordable Car Act" and wonders why the prices at the local Chevy dealership haven't come down.

Link round-up for 6 October 2013

This handy religion/afterlife chart (click to enlarge) shows the absurdity of Pascal's wager (found via Deity Shmeity).

The law as yet offers no protection from anti-brony discrimination.

Is religious faith so feeble that it needs to be backed up by lying about a movie?

Here's an entertaining blog of bad real-estate photos.

The Westboro Baptist Church gets wankingly pwned.

Republicans have backslid into the same self-delusion as before the 2012 election.  Paul Waldman thinks the madness will never end, not even after their inevitable defeat.

A famous but long-debunked fake quote from James Madison is still being used by the Christian Right.

A Republican Congressman acts like a complete asshole to a park ranger over the shutdown his own party caused.

The memory of a real immigrant experience gives the lie to Dana Perino's sneer at foreign languages.

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station pulls no punches on Republican hypocrisy and cowardice.  He also reviews the latest eruptions of crazy.

Self-censorship to avoid offending moderate religionists is a very bad idea.

Another reason for the shutdown:  hostility to birth control.

This could be huge -- business is losing faith in Republican management of the economy.

Bayou Corne, Louisiana, is being slowly eaten by an underground toxic waste dump.

Here is the Republican Wendy Davis will need to beat -- and here's some hopeful background info about the race.

Pat Robertson is an evil man (like we didn't know that already).

Ted Yoho exemplifies the new Tea Party breed of Congressman -- serenely arrogant and utterly ignorant of how anything actually works.

Now that some Republicans find they're liking the ACA, maybe they'll reconsider some of their other attitudes.  Krugman explains why the anti-ACA campaign is doomed.

A whooping-cough outbreak in California resulted from anti-vaccine idiocy.

Green Eagle's latest Wingnut Wrapup finds the right wing falling off the cliff of crazy.  A few moderates are making a last stand in Kansas.

Wal-Mart moves 35,000 part-time workers back to full-time status -- its efforts to screw them out of ACA benefits were hurting business.

As Hispanics assimilate American values, becoming more socially liberal and less religious, they're turning more and more against the Republicans.

Faye Kane has a must-read post on the insanity of trying to live exclusively by reason and suppressing feelings (NSFW).

The Canadian media seem to understand very well what's going on in Washington.

The separatist movement in Catalonia is getting serious, presenting new challenges to the EU.

The Catholic Church was a major backer of Portuguese fascism and imperialism.

Republican debt-ceiling brinkmanship is damaging American credibility in East Asia.

A Saudi cleric plumbs new depths of dumbth about women drivers -- time to spray.

Aviation authorities in Swaziland have decreed that witches on broomsticks are not allowed to fly higher than 150 meters altitude.  No, this isn't a joke.

A bizarre lake in Tanzania petrifies animals (photos may be disturbing to some).

South Korea has built a jellyfish-shredding robot to fight that jellyfish overpopulation problem I linked to a few weeks ago.  I think they'd need huge numbers of the things to make a dent, though.

Brain research is zeroing in on the causes and nature of near-death experiences.

05 October 2013

Video of the day -- Rio!


A look at the most famous city one of the world's rising nations.  Do use fullscreen!

03 October 2013

The ACA and the shutdown -- a personal note

The government shutdown is dominating the blogosphere and the political news-aggregation sites to the point that I'm already sick of the subject; it's hard to imagine coming up with anything to say about the situation that hasn't already been said.  But I do have a personal reaction.

I will never, ever forgive the Republican party for this.  Faced with a program that, imperfect as it is, will do more to improve life in this country than any previous government initiative since Social Security and Medicare, they've tried every possible maneuver to destroy it -- now even refusing to fund the government unless they get their way, and threatening to do the same with the debt-ceiling vote in a couple of weeks (which could force the government into default, with disastrous consequences).  It's not quite as outrageous as if a gang of teabaggers had hijacked a passenger plane and were threatening to shoot the passengers unless the ACA is repealed, but it's not much of a step up from there.

Based on preliminary research, I myself* could probably get decent insurance through the exchange that would cost $150 a month less than my current COBRA payment, perhaps as much as $400 a month less.  Multiply that savings by millions of people in a similar position, and you can see the benefit to individuals and the stimulative effect on the economy as a whole.  And there are tens of millions more who, unlike me, are in desperate straits -- they have no health insurance at all or can only barely pay for it (here's an example).  Now they finally have a chance to get it affordably.  And the Republicans are fighting like hell to take that chance away.  Every other developed country on Earth has some kind of health coverage for its entire population.  Why can't we do that?  Why are we the only advanced nation that can't do that???  Because of the Republicans.

I used to root for moderate and sane Republicans who I hoped, if they got the upper hand, could reform the party.  I don't feel that way any more.  I'm done with that.  I don't think the party can be reformed, and it wouldn't deserve the chance even if it could be.  It's become a cancer that needs to be cut out of the political system.  More immediately, as I said last week, it's imperative that the Democrats make no concessions.  Yielding to hostage-takers just means more hostage-taking later.  We can't let these people manufacture a crisis every few months whenever some vital vote needs to be taken.  Right-wing pundit Jennifer Rubin, here seen begging us to throw a sop to Boehner so he can back down, is wrong.  We can't let the Republicans save face.  We must not only crush them but publicly humiliate them.  The consequences for what they're doing must be made as severe as possible to ensure that they never dare try it again.

[*I should stress that I'm not personally in a dire financial position.  I'm just using myself as an example since I've looked at the numbers.]

01 October 2013

Clean coal is a dirty lie

[Guest post by Lady Freethinker]

Big coal companies come with big money -- and they’ve spent plenty of it trying to convince Americans that they're on our side. From a 1921 ad in The New York Times hawking "clean," washed coal to a slick 2012 campaign by the deceptively named "American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity" (funded, of course, by industry bigwigs), our nation has been fed billions of dollars worth of propaganda while the smokestacks keep on spewing.

Unfortunately, nobody's spending that kind of dough on the truth: Coal is not clean.

Coal is the single biggest contributor to climate change, and the Sierra Club reports that pollution from coal plants causes 13,000 early deaths per year and costs more than $100 billion in medical fees.

And although theoretic technology exists to capture carbon emissions from coal, no commercially viable technique has been successfully tested. Emissions aside, coal-mining companies devastate the landscape, blowing the tops off of entire mountains and dumping waste into water supplies.

On September 30, the EPA announced a grand scheme to reduce carbon emissions from new coal plants. But the problem is, it probably can’t be done with current technology.

In fact, Greenpeace calls all of the proposed solutions “dubious,” and notes that the myth of clean coal amounts to little more than industry propaganda that even the government has been sold on.

And even if new coal plants somehow find a way to comply with the latest regulations, what about the existing plants? Right now, coal accounts for 40 percent of the country’s electricity, according to ABC News, and is responsible for what Obama calls "limitless dumping of carbon pollution."

Unfortunately, the president still seems to believe that coal can be OK if we just clean it up -- Obama, I love ya' but please don’t buy into that trap.

If not coal, then what is the answer to our energy needs? Greenpeace would rather see us move toward truly clean sources like wind, solar and other renewable technologies, and notes that conservation is also part of the solution.

While we can’t count on the government or energy companies to fix the pollution problem in the foreseeable future, we at least have the power to minimize damage by using less electricity at home -- and by using our voices to demand the clean energy that we and the planet deserve.

[Image at top by Nick Humphries]