21 January 2018

Link round-up for 21 January 2018

See what happens when a crow lands on a weather cam.

Every boy wants a Big Dick.

Jesus has returned, but he's encountered a slight problem.

Don't mess with this lizard.  And don't forget the conditioner.

Machine transcription creates inadvertent poetry.

"Girtherism" is the new Presidential conspiracy theory.  More here.

Why would he bring a used condom?

Someone actually went to the trouble of making this.

Art should go back to being non-political.

IDIOT n.:  moron, dunce, nitwit, dolt, imbecile, half-wit, simpleton, dumbass.  See also FOOL.

When is an island not an island?  When it annoys Alexander the Great.

The soundtrack of the film The Graduate was groundbreaking for its time (found via Bark Bark Woof Woof).

The great Ben Jonson said, "Language most shows a man; speak, that I may see thee."  Blogger O'Hollern learns this lesson in a humble big-box store.

Somewhere out there, a disk-shaped artificial object is hurtling through space at terrifying speed.

Hollywood did more than just wear black.

It's a Savage truth (found via Yellowdog Granny).

When did you know?

Read this interminable blathering to understand why hardly anyone still pays attention to these guys.

Bears are fast.

Ostriches are kinky.

Eat sushi, get something extra.

Here's why we'd be better off with an atheist President (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Bill Maher is back in action.

Thanks for reminding me why I got out of academia.

Whoever did this needs to get fired.

It's not easy being an atheist in rural Ohio.

Reburied properly.

Don't let #MeToo get hijacked by witch-hunters.

".....potentially damaging productivity."

Marijuana is a gateway drug (found via Hackwhackers).  But Americans overwhelmingly support legalizing it in one form or another.

Russian twitter bots push #ReleaseTheMemo, the latest Republican effort at distraction.

Trump will give the Christian Right what it wants -- a right for Christians to deny medical treatment to people they disapprove of.

Charges against five US Navy officers involved in a fatal collision may just be a cover-up of the real problems.

Know the past, see it in the present.

RedState says Mark Steyn has jumped the shark -- but read the comments to see what their readership thinks.

Pope Francis is just as big a pile of shit as any other Pope.  More here.

Shakesville posted the full text of King's immortal Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

A good Samaritan intervenes in a shocking case of patient dumping.

Jerry Coyne schools another twit trying to argue that religion is compatible with science.

Through these strange seas, no one has ever voyaged.

This is perhaps the most remote place on Earth.

See images from the Juno mission to Jupiter (from a comment by Marc McKenzie).

Zombie ant fungus is even worse than it sounds.

Trump is destroying foreigners' respect for the US.

Amazon delivery drivers in the UK describe their working conditions as so barbarous, it sounds like the US.

Here's why Trump loves Norway.

Not everyone shares American concerns (read this too).

Establishing a sea-based nuclear deterrent is technologically difficult -- not all countries can do it easily or quickly.

Long suppressed, paganism is making a comeback in Greece (found via Mendip).

The Kurdish fighters who defeated Dâ'ish (ISIL) are now being threatened by Turkey.

With Trump's US an unreliable partner, other democracies work to contain the Beijing gangster-state -- India has tested a nuclear missile capable of reaching eastern China, while Japan and Australia tighten their military relationship.

Prime Minister Abe commemorates a Japanese hero of World War II.

History still looms darkly over the Japan-China relationship.

Best political link of the week:  Democrats must broaden their appeal without compromising on core principles (this is a long post, but it's worth reading the whole thing).

There's strong evidence that Trump is a racist (found via Bark Bark Woof Woof), and his behavior is childish.  Just one demographic group still give him majority support.  But certain people liked his "shithole countries" remark.

By Trump-era standards, Arpaio is well qualified (found via Yellowdog Granny).

This is what Mueller probably wants to ask Bannon about.

Trump's health is, in fact, terrible.

Electoral-Vote.com looks at this year's state Governor races -- they look good for our side.  Democrats mustn't blow our 2018 chances with internecine infighting (I don't think most voters give a crap about these squabbles). Contrast failure and success.

The Christian Right's support for Trump is unmasking their long-standing hypocrisy.

This Pennsylvania gerrymandering case bears watching.

David Frum looks at how Trump correctly read the electorate, and led conservatism to a dead endMore here.

See reports from yesterday's Women's March at Crooks and Liars, Raw Story, and HuffPost.

Here's the text of Flake's speech attacking Trump.  Booman wants actions, not just words.

Want even more links?  Check out other round-ups at Miss Cellania and TYWKIWDBI.

20 January 2018

Good advice

Found via Yellowdog Granny.  Note:  Robert Reich is apparently not the author (link from Jeannie in PA in comment); still good advice, however.

19 January 2018

Nobody's perfect, and it doesn't matter

On Wednesday's videos of the day post, one comment objected to Sam Harris not on the basis of any actual content of the video posted, but because of his alleged belief in "determinism" (the idea that choice is an illusion and all events, including human thoughts and actions, are predestined and unchangeable).  Now, I don't believe anyone literally believes in determinism in that sense -- aside from the fact that quantum physics has rendered it untenable, no one actually behaves or thinks the way he would if he truly believed that he and all other humans were mere automata with no actual choice about their actions.  Morality itself would be meaningless if one accepted determinism.  Harris may have expressed a belief in some form of determinism for all I know (I'm not as familiar with his thinking as I am with that of Dawkins or Hitchens), but his expressed views on subjects like morality and religion presuppose a world in which humans can meaningfully make choices and judgments.

But -- and this is my point -- even if Harris does believe in determinism in whatever sense, it doesn't matter.

Some people are quick to dismiss the achievements of our thinkers and fighters on the basis of one or two peripheral errors.  The problem is, nobody's perfect.  Hitchens, for example, supported the Iraq invasion, and I was once upbraided by a commenter for posting a video of his because of this, as if being wrong on that single point somehow negated his immense contributions to the struggle against religion.  Bill Maher is known to flirt with anti-vaccine quackery.  Even geniuses are not immune.  Einstein rejected certain aspects of quantum theory which have since been experimentally confirmed.  Isaac Newton wasted his brilliant intellect trying to interpret Biblical prophecies.  But not many people would be so foolish as to bring that up in an effort to discredit calculus.

The case is even clearer when it comes to inadequacies in contemporary knowledge.  It would be absurd to fault Aristotle for accepting a geocentric model of the solar system, for example.  He lived at a time when humans had not yet developed the instruments and knowledge of physical laws necessary to prove the heliocentric model.  Similarly, despite recent advances in brain science, our own time's understanding of how consciousness, thought, and associated mental phenomena actually work is sketchy at best.  Jumping to the conclusion that free will must be an illusion, because our current knowledge cannot account for it, is an understandable error.

Some of our modern heroes such as Dawkins and Randi are, as far as I know, free of any taint of loopy ideas -- but even if I found out that they harbored a soft spot for something like reincarnation or bigfoot (unlikely, I hasten to add), it wouldn't diminish my respect for their contributions at all.  The magnitude of those contributions reduces minor human failings to irrelevance.

17 January 2018

Videos of the day -- prominent atheists on religion

Richard Dawkins on the Ten Commandments:

Sam Harris on some basic problems with Christianity:

Dawkins answers questions from Redditors:

The Sam Harris book sounds like a must-read for the moral-philosopher types.  And apparently Dawkins agrees with me about what is the greatest question science still needs to resolve -- what consciousness is and how it evolved.

15 January 2018

The bloody twins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 January 2018

Link round-up for 14 January 2018

A kitten goes for a wild ride.

Some animals are bigger than you think.

Turtles and tortoises, tiny and large.

Explore a fascinating tradition of northern Colombia.

Please support this man's business.

Crazy Eddie brings us the truth about lemmings.

Maybe Bannon can get a new job.

Beware of sealioning.

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

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

Ah, conservative domestic bliss.

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

Just a difference of opinion, or maybe not.

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

Here's a case of natural selection in action.

Sexism plays a role in assessments of The Last Jedi.

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

Certain city workers in Oklahoma have issues.

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

Green Eagle surveys the wingnut world of delusions.

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

Jerry Coyne dissects a scurrilous attack on Stephen Pinker.

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

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

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

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

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

Religious belief enhances family life.

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

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

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

Building Trump's wall would face substantial obstacles.

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

Solar power is helping Puerto Rico recover from the hurricanes.

Telephone harassers use technology in their long war against mankind.

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

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

What if Earth had rings?

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

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

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

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

Germany considers a law to deport anti-Semitic immigrants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, Rubio did something good.

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

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

12 January 2018

When the truth is worse than a lie

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

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

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

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

09 January 2018

Video of the day -- standing up for reality

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

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

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

Found via Crooks and Liars, which has a transcript.

07 January 2018

Link round-up for 7 January 2018

Bad design, indeed.

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

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

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

Satan is on Twitter.

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


Cats go everywhere -- just look at them.

Fox News viewers.....

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

Remember ancient technology.

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

The new Trump energy drink may not sell very well.

What kind of storms are they having out there?

Kids need time to let off steam.

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

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

Here's an interesting look at nativity scenes.

Fly with the birds.

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

Vote them out!

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

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

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

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

Activists plan to force Congress to restore net neutrality.

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

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

Green Eagle looks at an early pioneer of conservative journalism.

Is this feminism?

These were medical students in 1885.

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

Worst Trump hypocrisy yet (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Reality-denial can kill you.

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

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

"Pink poison" may save the rhino.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Africa contemplates repeating Zimbabwe's mistake.

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

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

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

California can resist.

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

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

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

Support this legislation.  And support these organizations.

Fight Trump, not each other.

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

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

05 January 2018

Republicans, going to pot

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 January 2018

God's thugs go into action

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

One other thing is noteworthy about the crackdown:

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

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

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

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

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

01 January 2018

Best of the Infidel, 2017

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

Carol is a moving tale of forbidden love in 1952.

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

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

This is Iran, a likely target of wingnut warmongering.

Our rallies are better than theirs.

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

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

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

The hostility to Brexit is ignorant and dishonest.

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

This was the most important election of 2017.

Wonder Woman deserved its success.

The common enemy is extremism itself.

For Independence Day, don't yield to defeatism.

Videos tell daunting truths about religion.

Wingnuts use fake word definitions as camouflage.

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

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

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

Keep an eye on Bannon.

Fake alien-encounter stories are trite and boring.

When is secession justified?

Groupthink plays into the hands of the enemy.

I discuss morality with Daniel Wilcox.

Minor parties are pointless in the context of American democracy.

Darkness inspires a meditation.

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

I assess the lessons of Alabama.

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

31 December 2017

Link round-up for 31 December 2017

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

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

Shitty weather.

Don't mess with the mysterious object.

Please tell me this exercise machine isn't real.

Somebody doesn't have much Christmas spirit.

Nosy prig freaks out on plane.

Crazy Eddie has some Broken Peach Christmas songs.

Graffiti preserved at Pompeii offers insights into ancient Roman life.

What if the world were the other way round?

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

I love this dance scene too.

Be careful interpreting art.

Is your refrigerator running?

This person can vote.

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

No regrets.

Phone-screen size has evolved over time.

Don't attack yarn.

Hogs, hogs everywhere!

Tremble before the planet-conquering giant space monster.

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

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

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

Nikki Haley gets pwned.

They knew how to build back then.

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

I assume this method of courtship is not usually successful.

The NFL has to draw the line somewhere.

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

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

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

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

Any politician who does this is an asshole.

The story of Ruth Coker deserves to be better known.

Breitbart dissimulates to protect Trump.

The opposition to gay marriage is literally dying out.

Here's why Yiannopoulos lost his book deal.

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

Conservative Christianity has mortally wounded itself by supporting Trump.

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

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

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

World War I was once interrupted for a Christmas truce.

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

These people exist.  And this person exists.

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

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

Do hormonal cycles make a woman President a bad idea?

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

Crazy Eddie looks at the top science stories of 2017.

Prosthetic limbs are improving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia makes an embarrassing goof.

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

Jihadists are attacking the Christian minority in Egypt.

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

Thank goodness Miyazaki stood up to Weinstein.

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

Keep the babies warm.

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

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

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

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

Merry #@%^$!* Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody should care what Maya Kosoff thinks.

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

30 December 2017

Of Christianity, cakes, and comments

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

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


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

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

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