30 December 2016

Thought for the day

28 December 2016

2017 -- looking ahead

Once again, I'll venture a few predictions.

1) The enemy's attempt to destroy (or to change in a way constituting de facto destruction) Social Security and Medicare will fail, for the same reason as in 2005 -- some Republicans will vote against doing so, knowing that the huge unpopularity of such a move would destroy their re-election hopes.  Remember, if all Senate Democrats stick together they need only three Republicans to block something, even without the filibuster.

2) Culturally the US will continue becoming more liberal and less religious despite Republican efforts to reverse progress -- recall how things like secularism and acceptance of gays and gay marriage kept advancing even during the Bush years.

3) The Paris climate agreement will be effective even if Trump repudiates it.  China, India, and other countries know global warming is real and are committed to action.  Trump cannot lead the world backward on this issue, he can only surrender American leadership entirely.

4) In fact, in general the US role as the world's leading country will decline drastically in most fields as the rest of the world, out of necessity, collaborates to get things done without the help of the erratic and incompetent US administration.

5) There will be a falling-out between Trump and Putin.

6) Despite initial turbulence, Brexit will be a net benefit for the UK, and pro-democracy, anti-EU forces will make gains in other EU countries (watch Italy and France in particular).

7) Dâ'ish (ISIL) will finally be defeated.

I won't call it a prediction, but I think there's a strong possibility that Trump will be impeached, for reasons explained in the first half of this post.

Finally, we on the left will be able to do more than we now think to block or mitigate the worst of the wingnuts' agenda, if we take an inclusive rather than exclusive approach.  By that, I mean we try to accommodate and include as many different groups and viewpoints as possible, provided they are willing to work together against the enemy where it counts -- as opposed to a witch-hunt approach of defining this or that element on our own side as too radical, too "establishment", insufficiently ideologically pure, responsible for the election loss, or whatever, and trying to "purge" them.  There are a very, very few cases where allies do do more harm than good, but in general, making the tent smaller and trying to get rid of everybody who only agrees with you on 80% of the issues instead of 100% is a recipe for permanent defeat.

[Image at top by TerribleNerd -- if you want to use it yourself, be sure to give credit]

26 December 2016

Videos of the day -- Christmas in the sinister world

The film The Odessa File is set in Germany 18 years after the end of World War II.  One of the things that most stuck in my mind from it was this opening-credit sequence, with the apparently cheerful and innocent song taking on a different feeling in a world where evil still lurks, waiting for its time to come round again:

Here, with no such subtlety, is a Christmas carol for a time when evils from the relatively recent past are once again threatening to rise and reassert themselves (found via Politics Plus):

25 December 2016

Link round-up for 25 December 2016

"Browser", the library cat of White Settlement, Texas, has now outlasted the city council member who tried to get rid of him.

Bailey's Buddy presents everything you need to know about penguins.  Plus, cute baby elephants.

Fed up with Easter?  Try Wester -- it has a squirrel!

If there's Christmas Eve, there must be Christmas Adam.

I guess this is the Republican Santa Claus? Here's the reality.

This looks like a pretty cool book for kids.

Do you want to build a snowman?

If you're bored with ordinary Christmas-tree ornaments, maybe this ancient Roman amulet will inspire.  Or you could just put Christmas lights on your palm tree.

Did you know these famous actresses were also scientists?  Read up on Hedy Lamarr -- you'll be surprised.

People need to keep this stuff straight.

This could be a metaphor for trying to reform the Republican party.

Check out the photography of Laura Zalenga (link from Shaw Kenawe).

Rogue One blows away the alt-right's pitiful boycott attempt, to the tune of $290 million.

Take this short test to find out how evil you are (found via Clarissa) -- I scored rather low, somewhat to my surprise. But with some people the evil is just right out there.

Here's an interesting post on religion, philosophy, and arrogance -- I particularly liked this comment which it cites.

A libertarian wrote this -- and they wonder why people recoil from their ideology (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Badtux reports eloquently from the wasteland of the American dream.

Through the Republican party, the US is now dominated by its most failed region.

Ignore the tornadoes, nothing to see here.

Remember, and do not forgive.

Screw the voters, a $5 minimum wage is too high, apparently.

Obama has extended religious-freedom protections to atheists (link from Marc McKenzie).

Republicans aren't racist, honestly.

"The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order....."

A couple of recent TV series are exposing Scientology.

With Trump as their leader, wingnuts are wingnuttier than ever.

Jack Cluth has been on a roll this week, calling out the hypocrisy of fundie Trumpanzees, observing Muslims winning hearts and minds in Arizona, checking Republican math, and nailing Bill O'Reilly's all-too-revealing rhetoric.

Here's how the Republicans plan to attack gay marriage.

North Carolina is now a failed democracy.

PM Carpenter makes the case that the Democrats should not go populist on trade policy.

Facing terminal decline, Christianity in Britain demands new official privileges.

"Dark underside"?  WTF?  And what's up with Google?

This new reality show sounds a bit too real.

I visited Karak in 1979.  It was peaceful then.

Where are the most atheistic places in the world?

What Asad and Russia most fear isn't jihadism, it's the genuine struggle for freedom.

Betsy DeVos may not value American teachers, but the Chinese do.

Scientists must resist global-warming denialism. Bill Gates plans to direct $170 billion to green-energy development, and Las Vegas is the latest big city to run entirely on renewable energy.

Facing an inaugural devoid of stars, Trump turns to the Radio City Rockettes, who can be made to perform by their parent company -- but even they are protesting so vociferously that they too may escape him.

Blogger Max's Dad continues his look at Trump's cabinet, finishing up here.  Here's some more info on the same topic.  And here's one example of Obama's picks vs. Trump's.

How the hell can these people be so surprised?  Weren't they paying attention?

Trump's witch-hunt of climate scientists may have been thwarted, but he has another target.  No wonder so many federal employees are getting ready to leave.

Don't be fooled -- the Republicans are still in desperate straits (found via Mock Paper Scissors).  Here's why some of them will help us stop Trump.

No mere airing of grievances, Keith Olberman delivers a barn-burner of a call to resistance.  Young people are ready to resist, but there are things they need to watch out for.

22 December 2016

Random observations for December 2016

If you live your life the way someone else thinks you should want to live it, you won't get another life to live the way you actually did want to live it.

o o o o o

Having to abandon or change a long-held belief is always unpleasant, but it's hard to consider anyone intellectually mature who hasn't done so a few times.

o o o o o

Time spent on political sites shows me how the world is.  Time spent on art sites reminds me of how the world could have been, and how it may yet become.  To stay sane, I need both.

o o o o o

If capitalism truly rewarded people according to the value of their contribution, medical researchers would be billionaires and Wall Street executives would be on food stamps.

o o o o o

Liberals often have something worthwhile to say.  Conservatives sometimes do.  Cynics never do.

o o o o o

The fact that an idea offends someone is not evidence that it is false.

o o o o o

If you think beauty is trivial or unimportant, just try to imagine the world without it.

o o o o o

I feel almost honored when someone attacks me for refusing to respect ideas that simply don't merit respect.

o o o o o

For American democracy to thrive, it needs a healthy two-party system.  Unfortunately it cannot have that until the present Republican party is swept away.

o o o o o

The percentage of the population who would respond to "check your privilege" with anything other than "go fuck yourself" is tiny.  We can't win elections with just those people.

o o o o o

People who want to abandon regulation are like people who want to abandon vaccines. The solution has worked so well that we've forgotten the problems that made us need that solution in the first place.

o o o o o

Ironically, Marxism and libertarianism share the same fundamental flaw -- a tendency to view all of life through the prism of economics.

o o o o o

Not all cultures are equal.  I do not accept any man as my equal unless he accepts women as his equals.

o o o o o

Calvin Coolidge said:  "No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave."  But maybe I'm not all that concerned about being honored.

20 December 2016

Flunking out of the Electoral College

The chances that the Electoral College would reject Trump were always pretty remote, but in confirming his election yesterday, the institution has finally proven that it serves no purpose.  As Hamilton explained in the 68th Federalist paper, the Electoral College was meant to serve as a sort of last-ditch emergency brake in case the voters chose a candidate who was under foreign influence or otherwise grossly unfit for the Presidency.  It's hard to imagine a more clear-cut case of this scenario than Trump, yet the Electors did not act as Hamilton described.

So the Electoral College doesn't serve as a safeguard.  All it does, by way of the peculiarities of the way Electoral votes are allocated, is to introduce random variables into the process so that the loser of the popular vote sometimes claims the Presidency.  It institutionalizes intermittent minority rule.

The National Popular Vote initiative is a plan for reforming the Electoral College to guarantee victory to the winner of the popular vote in future elections without needing to amend the Constitution.  It is endorsed by the ACLU.  If you live in one of the 12 states which have partially enacted it or in one of the 27 states which have not yet acted on it at all, please consider contacting your state legislators and urging them to get it passed in your state.

As for this election, our best hope now is that enough Congressional Republicans will favor impeachment to get it done in combination with the Democrats.  Elizabeth Warren is working to force the issue (found via Politics Plus).

Yesterday I read about yet another example of the kind of element which has become emboldened by Trump's "win".  The Daily Stormer, an "alt-right" website, has begun publishing personal information about Jews in the town of Whitefish, Montana and encouraging readers to harass them.  (The reason for singling out that town has to do with the fact that the mother of Richard Spencer lives there.)  This action needs the broadest possible publicity and condemnation, and the same is true of the other attacks on various groups which have become more common since the election and will doubtless continue to happen.  The worst people among us are convinced that Trump's elevation means their warped beliefs are now more accepted and respectable and can be acted on more openly.  We need to show them they're wrong.

[Image at top found via Yikes]

18 December 2016

Link round-up for 18 December 2016

Annoy your fundie neighbors with this festive Flying Spaghetti Monster display.

Gingerbread house?  This is a gingerbread house.  For Star Trek fans, there's the gingerbread Enterprise.

Vegetables terrify cats, apparently.

Still looking for that perfect book for kids?

Beware of the dog. Well, maybe not these dogs.

Check out this amazing variety of skull-themed art (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

Libraries are outdated, right?

Read the amusing Trump Grill(e) review that got the President-elect in his latest snit.  I'd prefer this restaurant.

Turn around, bright eyes.

Even benches can be works of art.

This Lovecraftish-looking critter really exists.

Paulie's Penguin Playground entertains kids and raises money for cancer.

Please support the UnSlut Project.

Can we somehow put this guy in place of the real one?

Hackwhackers looks at Rogue One.

Yes, you can judge beliefs.

Paranormal "researchers" reveal the true cause of homosexuality (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Don't believe anything the fundies say unless you've fact-checked it.

Here are some sensible principles for atheists.

Sometimes people aren't what you expect.  But sometimes they're worse.

Michigan is the first state to allow self-driving cars to operate freely -- but are they really ready?

Teen drug use is at an all-time low.

Kentucky's Governor should have been careful what he wished for.

A church in Maryland is being fined $12,000 for giving homeless people a place to sleep.  Why don't those wingnut "religious freedom" laws defend churches in this kind of situation instead of just targeting gays and abortion?

Badtux has some politically-incorrect observations on labor.

USA is number one!

These people exist.

Daryl Davis fights the KKK in his own way.

An ancient bigotry flares anew.

Stonekettle Station looks at the wingnuts' world of delusion.

Trumpanzees respond to critics.

Remember Joseph Beyrle, who showed the original "alt-right" who was boss.

Yes, Wikileaks is a tool of Russian propaganda.

Nativity scenes can be fun.

This is winter in Finland.

Many people hugely overestimate the number of Muslims in their countries.

Here are some before-and-after pictures of Aleppo.

One of the year's top science stories was a potential Alzheimer's breakthrough.

Top stars don't want to perform at Trump's inauguration, so he's reportedly offered ambassadorships to promoters who can bag big names.  (He should have just made the offer directly to the stars -- I'm picturing Lady Gaga as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, say.)  Then again, what will the audience be like with these guys around?

Finally a real leader!

David Frum tells Trump off.

"Walls work"?

Help those who will be fighting Trump on the legal front.  Here's more on resistance.  Be ready to join the coming backlash.

"GOP" now stands for something new.

The warped spirit of Ayn Rand will saturate Trump's administration.  But civil servants can resist him.  He's already backing down on some things. And he's made a serious mistake in insulting the CIA.  He's not the first to disregard intel briefings.

Trump brutally humiliated Romney, but remember that Romney too was a champion liar in his day.

Person of the Year?  Here's a couple of better covers.  He's a clever boy.

Evan McMullin has some inspirational tips for life under Trump (found via Hometown USA).  Trumpanzees are starting to realize what they voted for.

What are the chances of an Electoral College surprise?  Here's what the Electors are up against.

Max's Dad looks at Trump's cabinet -- more in this post.  George Takei has his own take.  The newest member of Trump's team is a defender of animal cruelty.

Michigan's recount was aborted, but we still learned things.

Trump's attack on union leader Chuck Jones isn't going down well.

Better days are coming.

17 December 2016

A disappearance

Does anyone know what happened to Squatlo Rant?

15 December 2016

The massacre

Most Americans are barely aware of it, but as you read this, a major city is being devastated, with enormous loss of life.  And the situation may be about to get a lot worse.

With a normal peacetime population of 2,300,000, Aleppo is the largest city in Syria -- larger even than the capital, Damascus.  For much of the years-long Syrian civil war it has been in the hands of anti-government rebels, but ever since Russia began actively helping the Asad regime, government control has been reasserting itself at the expense of rebel groups all over Syria.  Russian and Syrian forces are now in the process of retaking Aleppo.  Large-scale fighting with modern military weapons in a city that size obviously involves terrible destruction and death, and by all accounts neither the regime nor the Russians are making any effort to minimize civilian casualties -- quite the contrary.

It's impossible to count the number of those killed or endangered (though there are at least a hundred thousand people in the area under fierce attack right now) or even get a clear picture of exactly what is being done and by whom, but we know what is happening to the victims.  This is 2016, and unlike in previous such slaughters, the victims are able to make themselves heard in real time, via Twitter.  We can read messages from people who expect to be dead within hoursThis teacher, trapped in the war zone with his small daughter, reports "dozens of thousands" killed by bombing.  There have been reports of atrocities.

The reasons for the brutality are not mysterious to anyone familiar with the region.  Asad's regime is a brutal dictatorship -- the most brutal in the Middle East, now that Saddam is gone -- and has never shown much concern for the human cost of enforcing its rule.  Russia, too, has a history of disregarding civilian death and suffering in the pursuit of military gains.  Asad and most of his cronies in power belong to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, whereas much of the population of Aleppo is Sunni, and many Alawites fear the possibility that Sunnis (who make up 70% of Syria's total population) might someday overthrow and oppress them -- all the more so given the rise of the militant Sunni group Dâ'ish (ISIL), which has slaughtered and enslaved Shiites and non-Muslims in the territory it controls.

Blogger Aidha has a list of organizations that are trying to help, and her blog has been covering the crisis intensively.  Today our Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke out forcefully about the massacre under way.  Yet even if the US had the will to intervene decisively, it's hard to know what would be the right overall course of action.  Any effort to stop the offensive in Aleppo by force would risk a direct clash with Russia.  The greatest imperative in Syria overall is to end the civil war there, which is the only way the violence and destruction will come to an end and allow life to return to some semblance of normality -- and wars end when somebody wins them.  Right now the Asad regime, brutal as it is, seems to be the only entity powerful enough to win the war and thus bring it to an end.  Stopping its reconsolidation of control would mean prolonging the agony.  Probably the best we can do is pressure Asad and Russia to to conduct the war more humanely, and I don't have much hope for their response to that.

The problem may eventually land on our plate anyway.  Beyond Aleppo and beyond the territory still held by Dâ'ish lies Rojava, the de facto independent Kurdish region in northeastern Syria.  The Syrian Kurds are allies of ours -- the US has been actively helping them in the fight against Dâ'ish.  If Asad and Russia eventually try to conquer Rojava too, the US will face a choice of either stopping them or abandoning close allies for all the Middle East to see, destroying whatever trust others may place in us.

I shudder to imagine that choice being made by an ignorant and incompetent Trump administration.  The future in Syria could be worse than the present.

14 December 2016

Star Wars, culture wars

Several times here I've discussed the role of pop-entertainment culture in mediating social change, something which I think the politics-centric sector of the blogosphere tends to overlook.  My favorite example is the film Frozen, which reached a vast audience globally and which perceptive viewers saw as an effective parable of LGBT alienation and ultimate acceptance, though I think its metaphor actually applies more broadlyThe enemy noticed too, and many a post in the wingnutosphere ranted against the film as subversive of Christian taboos.

Pop entertainment with positive messages is beneficial in two major ways:  (1) it can help shift attitudes in a more positive direction by presenting appealing images of traditionally-rejected groups or practices and repulsive images of taboos and bigotry, and (2) it can give encouragement and moral support to individuals who would otherwise feel isolated in the face of the onslaught of malignant traditional prejudice (I recently noted this example, which is far from unusual).  Again, the enemy is well aware of these things and rages against the "corrupting" effects of popular movies and TV, and occasionally a show from a more advanced culture is censored to avoid stirring up resistance in a more backward one.

The most recent wingnut eruption of this kind concerns the Star Wars franchise.  It seems to have begun with last year's movie, The Force Awakens, which offended certain elements by the presence of a woman and a black man in the leading heroic roles.  The freakout continues with the upcoming Rogue One, with the "alt-right" calling for a boycott, especially after the writers affirmed that the evil Galactic Empire is a metaphor for white supremacy.

I expect that the boycott will have no noticeable effect on the movie's success, even just in the US, especially since early reactions suggest it's the kind of thing the fans like.  Racism is much less mainstream and respectable in the US than homophobia still is.  However, the recent election of Trump has emboldened the alt-right and convinced them (and also a lot of us) that such bigotry is far more pervasive than we thought.  If the boycott flops, it will be evidence to the contrary, especially since this movie's use of racist and fascist ideas and imagery to represent evil is fairly explicit, not just metaphorical.

A more bizarre reaction to the movie is an effort to "rebrand" it by re-interpreting its story to make the villains into the good guys.  The concept has some precedent (an entire quasi-religion, Satanism, has arisen based on the premise that the "villain" of Christianity is actually the hero, properly considered), but in this case it's yet another example of the clumsy, tin-eared (in)sensibility that the right wing always seems to bring to the world of entertainment.  Satan is a complex and deep figure with endless philosophical implications, but a cartoonish villain like Emperor Palpatine will never be anything but a villain.  One can only hope that this "rebranding" of Star Wars becomes widely known; it will make the alt-right look silly and pathetic, which in some ways is even better than making them look evil.

Again, these kinds of things matter more than those among us who focus exclusively on politics realize.  As I argued here, pop entertainment reaches huge numbers of people who are uninterested in politics and turned off by political arguments; its influences are subtle and metaphorical, bypassing the resistance that explicit advocacy of a social or political cause would arouse.  Moreover, it's an arena in which we can operate almost unopposed, since the enemy's efforts (think of "Christian" films and the like) are almost always so preachy and heavy-handed that they have no appeal beyond those who are already true believers.  The enemy's only real weapon in this arena is censorship, which tends to backfire by stoking curiosity, and is increasingly easy to circumvent in the internet age.

It's all the more important in times when the enemy dominates the political scene and the institutional power of government is temporarily lost to us.  Note how much progress on gay marriage, not just in the courts but in the more important realm of popular opinion, took place during the Bush administration when our side held little or no political power.  The enemy constantly complained that movies, TV, and advertising were relentlessly subverting their taboos by "normalizing" homosexuality.  They weren't wrong.

Blogger Tengrain recently argued that the left needs to learn to tell stories, not just recite facts.  In mass culture, if not in the political realm, we do do that -- and it works.

[Image at top:  Rogue One villains and heroes, found via Crazy Eddie]

13 December 2016

The Republicans' game -- down the Constitutional rabbit hole

Some Congressional Republicans -- not many yet, but the list is growing -- are signing on to the view that Russian interference in the election merits investigation or is at least a serious scandal.  Trying to look at the Trump problem as they must see it, I'm beginning to get an idea of what their game is.

Even to guys like Ryan and McConnell, it must be obvious that a Trump Presidency would be intolerably dangerous.  He's not even in office yet and he's already created an international incident with China, he's blatantly kowtowing to Russia, he refuses to take intelligence briefings, and in general he's randomly blundering in ways which, continued over four years with the full power of the Presidency, would inevitably mean disaster.  He's also blithely tossed a number of right-wing sacred cows in the dump, such as free trade.  Even if he doesn't cause a nuclear war or a global economic crash, he's likely to mess up badly enough to provoke a huge anti-Republican backlash in 2018 and 2020.  Party leaders understand things like this.

That doesn't mean, of course, that they want to respect the popular vote and make Hillary President by a revolt in the Electoral College.  They want a Republican -- just not Trump.

What I think they're doing is allowing a case to be built for impeaching Trump as soon as possible after he takes office.  Collaboration with a foreign power to subvert the election would certainly qualify as grounds for doing so.  If Trump becomes President and is then removed, Mike "God hates fags" Pence becomes President.  And most Republicans would be totally fine with that.

By the way, about that Electoral College gambit -- yes, Trump's unprecedented unfitness for office makes it somewhat credible that as many as 37 Republican Electors might defect and deny him an absolute majority, but it's still very unlikely that 37 Republican Electors would defect to Hillary.  Defectors would be far more likely to choose some other Republican -- Romney and Kasich have been mentioned as possibilities.  If no one gets an absolute majority, the choice moves to the House, where a majority of state delegations are Republican-dominated (remember, if the House chooses the President, it's one vote per state delegation, not one vote per member).  Republicans would probably split, since many don't want Trump but also don't want the onus of installing the other Republican who got none of the popular vote because he wasn't even in the election.  Assuming the Democratic delegations voted for Hillary, no candidate would get a majority.

Now get out your Constitution and turn to the Twelfth Amendment, and also section 3 of the Twentieth Amendment, which supersedes part of the Twelfth.  If the deadlock in the House continues through January 20, the Vice-President-elect becomes acting President until the House gets its act together.  And the Vice-President-elect would probably be Pence, since in this scenario the Senate would have chosen the Vice-President, and the Senate has a Republican majority.  (If you want to speculate that three Senate Republicans could be persuaded to defect and choose Tim Kaine as Vice President, go right ahead, but then I suspect the House Republicans would unite behind the non-Trump Republican option the Electoral College had given them, popular vote be damned.)  Assuming the House never did settle on a majority for one candidate, Pence would simply continue in office.

One final oddity presented by this scenario is that if the Democrats somehow won a majority of House state delegations in 2018, they could elect Hillary as President on the grounds that Pence had merely been the acting President for the past two years, pending a House majority for a single candidate.  Whether they could actually make that stick, probably only a true Constitutional scholar could figure out.

So our best-case scenario here is to get one of the most theocratic and homophobic politicians in the US as President, even though Hillary won the actual vote by a margin approaching three million.  For the future, our country can avoid a recurrence of this bizarre mess by enacting the National Popular vote initiative.  If you live in one of the 12 states where it has been partially enacted or in one of the 27 where it has not been voted on yet, consider contacting your state legislators and urging them to support it.

Update:  If there is indeed a Republican plan to use the Russian connection to take Trump down, Fox News seems to be on board with it.

[Image at top:  The likely President for most of the 2017-2020 term, caption by Mock Paper Scissors]

11 December 2016

Link round-up for 11 December 2016

Check out this cat watching a horror movie.

".....so I don't like labels."

Dave Allen pwns religion.

Keep doing what you do.

Pop culture matters -- it really does.

Here's a Trump joke.

Don't force vegetarianism on carnivorous pets.

He wanted to be an artist.

Best crash survival ever.

Don't censor others -- you are responsible for yourself.

Alphabet fail!

My home city takes aim at the obscene wealth of the oligarchy.

Abandoning a deeply-held delusion is hard (read the comments too).

Twitter is contributing to extremism and polarization.

It's easier to get away with racist violence, but the media can still help bring justice.

We can win the fight to save Medicare -- if we really do fight.  Same with the Republican plan to wreck Social Security.

Stop celebrating sexism.

This list of the ten happiest countries holds few surprises.

Here's a book of notes from a small island.

Tuesday, Dec. 6 was Finland's itsenäisyyspäivä (independence day), a patriotic occasion.  As a sovereign state, Finland is 99 years old.

This town can't be real (actually, it's in Colombia).

The Russian regime has a nasty new tactic against its enemies -- framing them for child pornography.

He watches over us.

Who is the real burden?

The Cassini probe's final mission takes it to the north pole of Saturn.  Here's a glance in the other direction.

We may be able to search for life on Europa without having to drill through miles of ice (found via Mary Madigan).

It's time to recognize the worst killer disease of all.

Alzheimer's can be treated with light therapy, at least in mice.

The new regime looks like it may target scientists who reveal uncomfortable truths.

Putin stole our electionWhat will our two parties do about it -- and about possible collaborators among us?  (Maybe now Americans will start to get why Iranians were so angry about the overthrow of Mosaddegh and re-imposition of the Shah.)

Hackwhackers noticed something interesting about that Time Trump cover picture.

Republicans don't want to let the Indians win one.

Want to boycott all of Trump's businesses?  There's an app for that.  And what's he up to with Romney?

Trump won partly by exploiting the Dunning-Kruger effect.  And Stein was this year's Nader.

Pence's new neighborhood welcomes him with flags.

Regretful Trumpanzees practice selective indignation.  But save your sympathy as they reap what they voted for -- did anyone ever doubt that Republicans are hypocrites?

"You are not fooling anyone. You're scared, and overwhelmed, and you have absolutely no idea what you're doing. And it shows."

Trump is bringing people together.

Who's going to educate this dumbass about the outside world?

Badtux looks at minority rule and how a break-up of the US might play out.

Renegade Elector Christopher Suprun says there are more like him. Some of them are at Hamilton Electors.

08 December 2016


A week before the election, I wrote, "If things turn out as we hope, one week from now, no one will ever need to think or write about Donald Trump ever again.  In losing the election, he will give us back the most valuable thing we want back from him -- the space he now occupies in our thoughts."

Obviously things did not turn out as we hoped.  I still insist on reclaiming that space in my thoughts, however.

At the moment, it's incredibly murky how things have turned out.  The omens are all over the place. Trump has weakened or reversed most of his worst campaign promises, from Obamacare to the Paris climate agreement to nuclearizing Japan to the wall to "locking up" Hillary to the Iran nuclear deal.  The possible membership of his administration team ranges from the horrifying (Bannon) to the baffling (Nikki Haley for UN ambassador) to the pitifully stupid (Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education), while some are almost reassuring -- as Republicans go, we could do a lot worse for Secretary of State than Giuliani or Romney.  Al Gore felt encouraged by his meeting with Trump on climate change, but the proposed new EPA head is just another denialist wingnut.  Every few days Trump says or does something which contradicts something else.  Under these conditions, trying to read every tea-leaf for signs of what the future holds* is not only futile but a recipe for madness.

It could be that hardly anything will change under Trump.  It could be that we'll end up with the full nightmare adumbrated by the worst of his campaign, complete with internment camps and a Gestapo.  Neither outcome, nor anything in between, would really surprise me at this point.  For now, I refuse to fret about it.  There's very little I can do to influence events, and what I can do -- such as supporting the Democratic party and concrete plans of action such as the National Popular Vote initiative -- will be the same regardless of Trump's trajectory.  If and when specific atrocities materialize, such as actual legislation attacking Social Security or targeting particular minorities, I and millions of others will do everything we can to stop it.  But for now, I am not going to obsess about a future whose details are so uncertain, and I'd advise others not to either.  A person has only so much mental energy.  Don't burn yourself out before the real battles even start.

[*For those who can't let go of the obsessive tea-leaf-reading, I recommend Booman Tribune blog, which is at least rational and detailed in its analysis rather than histrionic, and offers plenty of focus on what the left can actually do in response.  If you enjoy anticipatory Schadenfreude, check out Trumpgrets, a new blog showcasing Trumpanzees starting to realize they've been conned.]

07 December 2016

Video of the day -- Putin's announcement (NSFW)

I hope whoever made this doesn't get taken out by the FSB.  Putin's meddling in our election partly took the form of spreading fake news, and a bit of turnabout is fair.

06 December 2016

End of a blog

During the time I was recovering from surgery, and fixated on the coming election, one of the most interesting blogs on my reading list came to an end -- Faye Kane's Mating Instinct.  Her last entry there, a final comment, was posted September 25.  Her reason for giving up blogging was deteriorating eyesight, which made typing ever more difficult.  She had actually announced the end some time earlier, but had kept coming back to address reader comments.

Faye Kane is probably the most unusual and difficult-to-assess personality I've encountered in the blogosphere.  By her own account she is autistic and cannot feel, or empathize with, some conventional emotions -- making the experience of dealing with "normal" people generally unpleasant.  She is highly intelligent, and knowledgeable about several technical subjects, notably astrophysics.  Some of her views on sexuality and race are not only shocking and disturbing, but at odds with scientific reality.  But she often had unusual insights and expressed uncomfortable truths with savage honesty.  Sometimes she came up with ideas I wouldn't find elsewhere and couldn't have thought of on my own, and that's one of the things I most value in a writer.

She developed a sort of metaphorical quasi-religion using the black monolith from the film 2001 to represent the evolutionary process which has made the modern human a tangle of thrilling but dangerous instincts ridden by an inadequate and flickering intelligence.  A few examples of her posts:

On how things fail, using the Titanic as an example.

On rules for life.

On aging and evolution, and what the end might look like.

On the evil of unregulated capitalism.

The further back into the past you go, the worse things get.

To her state's Republican Governor who rejected the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

"Life never ends.  It just doesn't stay in one person very long."

On what went wrong with the left, originally posted at Daily Kos, which got her banned there.

Pwning a prude's book review on Amazon.

On the Cuban missile crisis.

On the Republican party and its strategy since the 1990s.

Pwning a religious nut.

The blog is now locked but still exists with years' worth of material, sometimes disquieting, never uninteresting.

I hope she eventually finds treatment for her eyesight, even if none is available right now.

05 December 2016

Victory at Standing Rock

The Army Corps of Engineers has decided not to grant an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri river by the planned route.  The decision explicitly cited the risk to the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation's water supply.  Mock Paper Scissors has the story, with links.

If the decision stands, it's a much-deserved victory for the activists who have endured so much hardship and violence to stop this thing.  Photos here.

04 December 2016

Link round-up for 4 December 2016

It's time for ducks on ice.

Cheer yourself up with some baby elephant videos.

Medieval warrior pwns drone.

They're escaping!

I defy you not to chuckle at dog vs. wall.

There are no penises in any of these pictures.

This comparison probably offended the pelican.

Check out a Star Wars blooper reel.

Bailey's Buddy has a humor round-up (I liked the water buffalo).

Tillie Walden has a happy, spacey view of life.

I think whoever drew this comic-book cover knew exactly what he was doing.

Here's how religion works in one cartoon.

Most movie aliens are not well thought out.

Satanists are the good guys.

Choose the right Bible quote.

The savage Vikings were far more fabulous than you think.

A cat could make life more interesting.

Gays and spelling come under attack in Topeka.

Here's how to deal with critical people.

Legal marijuana is good for America.  What's evil is this kind of travesty of justice.

Bill de Blasio is a leader for these times.

40% of employees are seeking to leave their jobs, and management is the problem.

Texas is considering a truly horrific anti-gay law.

Here's some advice for Trumpanzees that they should find familiar.

Facebook's "community standards" are a disgrace.

Religious nutters are freaking out over another innocuous commercial.  No wonder they tend to ruin the holidays.

If people hate atheists, it's because we remind them of the truth.

This is an example of the kind of smug nonsense that provokes people to vote for someone like Trump.  The world can't re-train millions of truck drivers and assembly-line workers to become software coders and "brand influencers".  The real solution is basic income.

Here's a suggestion for preventing identity theft.

We need to tell stories, not just recite facts.

Bad people are bad -- very bad.  They should remember we can see them.

A journalist responds to Trumpanzee hate mail.

Wingnuts seek to destroy history.

How pervasive was medieval anti-Semitism?  This pervasive.

The Catholic Church scams the Norwegian government for millions.

Icelanders believe smart.

A top European Union bureaucrat begs member states not to hold referendums on leaving -- since he knows damn well how people would vote.

Poland is testing solar-powered bike lanes.

Good riddance to bad rubbish (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Sunny North Africa is becoming a colossus of solar power.  But on domestic violence, attitudes remain backward.

We've entered The Twilight Zone.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (found via Squatlo).  Was it worth it?

Trump is already making his mark on international relations.  Meet his new foreign-policy adviser.

If things turn nasty, don't make excuses.  But it may not be that nasty.

Some Republicans may not want to abolish the filibuster.

Don't give up the fight on global warming.

It's stupid to protest Trump.

The Electors' right to vote their conscience is part of the intended design of the Electoral College.

Florida, too, may hold a recount. And no, the push in Pennsylvania isn't over.

Some wingnuts suspect Ivanka Trump of being a closet liberal.  And maybe they have a point.

Trumpanzees are starting to realize they were conned (found via Progressive Eruptions).

Mattis as Defense Secretary could have an upside.

Conflicts are arising in Trump's inner circle, and he's not taking it well.

Government should get out of health care, except.....

The Spanish civil war offers some insights into our situation (read the comments too).

P M Carpenter is in the crosshairs of the Republican threats to Medicaid.

We've been here before, and Pelosi handled it.

The recount controversy has again provoked Trump to reveal his true self.  Maybe we need a nationwide audit.  Here's how voter disenfranchisement works.

Trump is already at war.

02 December 2016

There's a phrase missing.....

.....from our discussions of the Electoral College.  The phrase is "minority rule".

As the EC comes under scrutiny for delivering the Presidency to Trump despite his large margin of loss (now approaching 2,500,000) in the actual vote, the wingnuts have been trotting out defenses of it, of which this example is fairly typical.  It usually boils down to saying that without the EC, the vast rural interior of the country could never get its choice for President and the coasts/cities/liberals would dominate just because they have a larger population.

This is an argument for minority rule, and we should call it that.  It's not different in essence from defending apartheid on the grounds that it protected South Africa from being dominated by blacks "just because" there were more of them.  30% of the US population is black or Latino; if our system were somehow rigged to give their votes more weight than those of the other 70%, such a system could be defended on the grounds that it protected blacks and Latinos from being dominated by the more numerous whites.  Any plan to allow a minority to outvote a majority could be defended on the same grounds, and they're all fundamentally alike.

Protection for minority rights is necessary, and the US actually has better such protections than most democracies.  The Bill of Rights and the autonomy of states and local governments have in fact protected much of what the rural culture values, such as gun ownership and freedom of religion (though not freedom to discriminate on grounds of religious taboo, which is a different thing).  But in a real democracy, the majority wins elections even if it cannot thereby completely override the rights of the minority.

The defense of the EC is really a defense of the idea that the votes of people in cities (and of blacks and Latinos, who mostly vote Democratic whether urban or not) should count for less than those of people in the numerous thinly-populated states of the interior.  It's an argument for special political privileges for a minority, and we should say so at every opportunity.