29 November 2013

America the depressing

Yeah, I know, bemoaning Black Friday is something of a blogging cliché, but it really is dreadful and depressing, and it seems to get worse every year.  This time we didn't even have to wait for the actual Friday for the squalid spectacle of stampeding and fighting to start up, as businesses large and small forced employees to work on Thanksgiving (or even stay late Wednesday) to help scrabble even more millions in shabby profits into the already-bulging coffers of the one percent, though at least one person fired for refusing to cooperate was reinstated after a public outcry.  It's enough to give you a sneaking dark feeling that Lenin was right and we should take advantage of the terrific deals Mall-Wart is doubtless offering on ropes so we can..... Well, maybe it's not necessary to go that far.  Three states in the most civilized corner of the country took action to protect workers, and the idea may spread.

But while heartless greed comes naturally to the super-Scrooges of the modern world, I don't see what's in it for the hordes of shoppers who make it all possible.  Are a few bucks in discounts really worth all that stress?  Is it really worth lowering yourself to the level of a pack of starving dogs fighting over a bone so you can save a grubby few bucks on some mass-produced consumer product?  You do realize that the oligarchs who own these chain stores, who make more money (off you) in a day than you do in a year, are laughing at you?  Almost anything can be ordered over the internet these days.  Even if it costs a bit more, isn't your dignity worth something?

Finally, this time of year makes me more glad than ever that I'm not a Christian.  To anyone who takes Christmas seriously as a Christian holiday (which it actually isn't, of course), the commercialism, one-upmanship, mania for material possessions, and sheer vulgarity that have developed around it must make the most depressing time of year even more so.

I'll leave you with a new patriotic song for the age of quashed hopes and lowered expectations:

Not even all of this really bears close examination any more -- I don't know about the Italian cheese reference, but you might want to compare actual food-safety standards in Europe (or Japan) nowadays with those here, and I'm sure readers could think of many other examples.

But there are people working to change things.  Maybe someday the people squabbling over the latest i-whatever will look up, rise up, and join them.

28 November 2013

Teh stoopid, it burns.....

As the end of the year approaches, Time Magazine is getting ready to choose its "Person of the Year" -- the person who "for better or for worse, ...has done the most to influence the events of the year."

There are plenty of obvious possibilities.  The President of the United States is always a strong contender simply because of the power of his office, and this year President Obama led the way in bringing about the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and a historic rapprochement with Iran.  Vladimir Putin continued the transformation of the world's second-greatest military power from a wobbly democracy to a blood-and-soil caudillo state, with gays in the demonized-minority role usually allotted to the Jews; at the same time, he helped catalyze the Syrian deal by working with the West.  Hassan Rouhani, newly elected as President of Iran, brings a promise of change that could transform the Middle East, though it's too early to tell yet how far that promise will be realized.  Angela Merkel won a new mandate to continue the economic destruction of southern Europe via austerity policies.  Malala Yousafzai gave the world an inspirational example of refusing to bow to tyranny and backwardness.  Even Ted Cruz might be a dark-horse candidate, having brought the world economy to the verge of collapse with his debt-ceiling brinkmanship.

Time's editors make the final choice for Person of the Year, but they also conduct an online poll to gauge opinion among their readers.  So who's leading the readers' poll?

See for yourself.

And we're surprised that we have millions of people who don't understand evolution or Keynesian economics?

25 November 2013

The teabaggers' man on horseback

This is hilarious.  A goofball who has apparently seen the preposterous film 300 a few times too many, but can't seem to get his own camera in focus, proclaims himself to be King Leonidas and calls for Obama's impeachment while sort-of-riding a pitifully-overburdened horse as bad country music plays (on a cheap tape deck inside a cardboard box, from the sound of it).  I think this was meant to be inspirational, but if the actual 300 Spartans at Thermopylae had been this out-of-shape, they'd have died of exhaustion a few minutes into the battle and Xerxes would have laughed his beard off.  Still, teabaggers seem to love goofy costumes and the recent nuclear deal has brought Iran back into their crosshairs, so maybe this guy will catch on.

Found via The Immoral Minority (go there for amusing comments).

24 November 2013

The Iran deal

It's not a perfect deal, but it wasn't meant to be.  The agreement reached in Geneva yesterday was a temporary one covering six months, to give Iran a chance to show good faith and get some relief from sanctions while the parties have time to continue working on the remaining issues.

An overview of the key points is here; basically, Iran will stop enriching uranium to near weapons grade, and its existing near-weapons-grade stockpile will be converted to oxide, making it unusable in bombs; Iran will also stop work at the Arak heavy-water reactor which could produce weapons-grade plutonium.  In return, the US will provide about $6 billion in sanctions relief, mostly in the form of releasing frozen oil revenues.

On the critical issue of verification, most reports say little, but according to the New York Times:

To guard against cheating, international monitors would be allowed to visit the Natanz enrichment facility and the underground nuclear enrichment plant at Fordo on a daily basis to check the film from cameras installed there.  But Iran did not agree to all of the intrusive inspection regime that the International Atomic Energy Agency had said was needed to ensure that the Iranian program is peaceful.

Of course, surveillance via espionage will presumably continue.  The key question is whether we could catch the regime violating the agreement if they did so -- and we probably could, or at least they won't feel confident that we couldn't.

Not everyone is happy.  Iran's main regional opponents, Israel and Saudi Arabia (how's that for strange bedfellows?) are signalling displeasure, and Republicans are displaying their usual stupidity.  And caution is necessary.  Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran's current regime would be intolerably dangerous; all options to prevent this, including military ones, must remain on the table if it looks like the regime is trying to cheat.

But I think that's unlikely.  Besides the US, parties to the deal include Russia, China, Germany, France, and Britain; no big power remains that could back the Iranian regime if it double-crosses us.  Only 34% of Iranians support developing nuclear weapons, and initial reports suggest that yesterday's deal is very popular with the Iranian people, even regime supporters.  Iran's new President Rouhani is described by people who have dealt with him as a patriot and a pragmatist; if so, he surely sees that relief from sanctions is much more in Iran's national interest than pressing on with a weapons program which would eventually provoke a devastating military attack.

Finally, we need to re-assess the Iranian popular uprising of 2009.  This rebellion was generally judged a failure, despite its huge size -- the theocracy did not fall, nor did it moderate its internal repression.  But the rising may have achieved a victory in the longer term.  It was provoked by blatant election-rigging that year, but in this year's election (which brought Rouhani to power) the regime did not attempt such a scam again.  Perhaps it didn't dare -- another massive uprising might have brought down the whole system.  The people got their say, and Rouhani got a genuine mandate empowering him to stand up to the ayatollahs.  And he had campaigned on a platform emphasizing reconciliation with the West.  The 2009 rebellion may have been the trigger for a process of gradual change from within the regime.  The real test, of course, will be whether the theocracy softens its brutal repression of the Iranian people.

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up of reactions to the nuclear deal.

Link round-up for 24 November 2013

Which makes you more creative, beer or coffee? (Correct answer above.)

God will judge us!

NSFW fiction piece of the day:  Charles Stross's thrilling tale of a fundamentalist tyrannosaurus molester.

Can't afford a yacht?  Consider a mini-yacht.

Life would make more sense backwards.

Who needs oil and coal when we've got this honkin' huge fusion reactor?

Here's some good advice for a bad parent.

Some companies are standing up to the pearl-clutchers.

Craig Cobb, the white supremacist recently revealed to have some black ancestry, just can't get a break.

San Rafael CA takes a stand against stench.  But air travel is about to become much more horrible.

Rush Limbaugh indulges in the emerging Republican tradition of making skin-crawly remarks about rape.

Politicians must be held accountable for protecting the cruel practice of horse soring.  More here.

Many straight people speak out against homophobia.  Ryan Langenegger took action.

Authorities across the country are paying more attention to "knockout".

Republic of Gilead has more on the high ambitions and dismal methods of fundamentalist home-schooling.

Bloomberg explains why private charity can't replace government programs.

TPM looks at the latest health-insurance scam.

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up of reactions to filibuster reform.  Here's why it had to be done, largely in Republicans' own words.

The internet is a great research tool, but you have to know good sources from bad.

But Republicans are outraged about Benghazi.

Bitcoins bring modern crowdfunding to the murder-for-hire business.

The Iraqi and Afghan wars have passed an important milestone, but you won't be hearing much more about it (found via Uzza).

His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of the United Kingdom, is a complete nutcase.  One of the country's leading doctors offers correction.

Rosa Rubicondior looks at the fanatical puritans of 17th-century England, who played an important role in the origin of American Christianity.  A former Archbishop of Canterbury whinges about the imminent extinction of Christianity in Britain.

Germany's imploding Catholic Church is so short of priests that it now imports them from the Third World.  But check out these colorful (if controversial) Christmas markets.

The real test of Pope Francis's "moderation" will be how he deals with the extreme-right Society of St. Pius X (found via Republic of Gilead).

A ghastly miscarriage of justice has occured in India.

Protesters in Bahrain challenge the continuing repression and torture there.

North Korea has executed 80 people for watching foreign movies.

The Central African Republic is sinking into horrific violence, but the rest of the world is paying little attention.

20 November 2013

The masses arise!

Green Eagle reminds us -- I had honestly forgotten -- that yesterday was the date of President Obama's removal from office.  According to this post by arch-wingnut Larry Klayman back on Sept. 23 (I mentioned it in that week's link round-up), a "people's court" -- that is, a bunch of irrelevant cranks sitting around bitching about things, but in more phony-pompous language than usual -- had "convicted" the President of some of their usual crap involving his birth certificate.  On the off chance that Obama might somehow fail to resign in disgrace at this news, Klayman set Nov. 19 as the date for the American people to rise up, descend upon Washington DC in their millions, and sweep the Commander in Chief (whom Klayman imagines as "perhaps cowering under his desk for fear") from office.

As matters developed yesterday, fewer than 100 people showed up (report here, photos here).  President Obama was in a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time; it seems unlikely that anyone bothered to bring Klayman's ragtag little clump of goofballs to his attention.  Klayman put a brave face on things, declaring that "We are giving [Obama] one last chance to obey the will of the American people" and that he must yield to their demands by Nov. 29 or be forced from office.

You may now be telling yourself that this must have been a purely lunatic-fringe project with no connection to serious conservatism, but if so, you're sadly mistaken.  Heavyweight wingnuts like Alan Keyes, Pamela Gellar, former Congressman Bob Barr, and former Senator Gordon Humphrey signed on as speakers; so did a retired admiral and general.

In fact, the extremely low turn-out at events like this (here's another example) is rather surprising.  According to Gallup, 22% of Americans consider themselves Tea Party supporters; assuming an adult population of 200 million, that's 44 million people.  Yet events like Klayman's typically draw fewer than 100, even with a chance to see Pamela Gellar.  Apparently a lot of people will proclaim extremism when talking to pollsters, but are capable of embarrassment when it comes to appearing in public with a bunch of cranks.

Oh, and for future reference, here is what an actual popular uprising against tyranny looks like:
Just in case the teabaggers need a standard of comparison.

Update:  Green Eagle has a follow-up post -- this thing just gets more and more ridiculous.

17 November 2013

Video of the day -- the defilement of democracy

Bill Maher nails it again.

Link round-up for 17 November 2013

Murr Brewster looks at Old Testament law and the modern world.

What do you think of this film project?  (If the issues aren't obvious, see my first comment there.)

Time to take a stand.....

Program your robots carefully -- it will save loads of trouble later on.

This Illinois church has an eye-catching design (found via Mendip).

Don't buy Ken Ham's creationist junk bonds, backed by -- Noah's ark.  More here on Ham's garbled archaeology (found via Republic of Gilead).

Think Soylent Green was bad?  Check out this steak idea.

Good riddance to Blockbuster Video.

Fundie homeschooling discourages learning to earn a good living, preferring silly fantasies of an imminent civilizational collapse.

Michelle Cottle reviews Palin's ludicrous new book.

If you're not religious, this Kansas City charity doesn't want your help this Thanksgiving.

What does raising the minimum wage actually do?

The Moonies are imploding in a morass of nepotistic ridiculousness.

Ruby Bridges, subject of an immortal painting, views it in a moving new context.

Efforts to reconcile Christianity with evolution are just silly.

Don't overlook the role of religion in teabagger delusional politics.

One thug gets some comeuppance for the "knockout game".

Chronicler of political madness Green Eagle has another wingnut wrapup, this one heavy on impeachment fantasies.

The Dallas Observer has a history of creationist efforts to sabotage education in Texas -- looks like they're definitively losing at last.

CBS's apology for the 60 Minutes Benghazi fiasco was grossly inadequate.

Conservative Christians were on the wrong side in these ten struggles, and they'll probably be wrong about the next ten (found via Republic of Gilead).

Here's how Republicans rig the game to avoid irrelevance.

Daily Kos's "Hunter" has the best take-down yet of Richard Cohen's vile "gag reflex" column.

One state Senator is promising Wisconsin Republicans a real fight over their anti-abortion mania (found via Politics Plus).

At last, a prosecutor goes to jail for a wrongful conviction, though the sentence is insultingly short.  Our laws on nonviolent offenses remain a disgrace.

It would be very bad if Christie became President, but he probably can't.

No, you morons, the Constitution is not obsolete.

Here's a case of deliberate sabotage of the ACA website.  Other right-wingers are using slut-shaming to fight the law (found via Republic of Gilead).

Beware the Chinese chicken.

Why doesn't the political center assert itself?  Because it doesn't really exist.

Non-US Christians are baffled by US fundies' political tribalism (found via Republic of Gilead).

A Catholic priest in Canada gets fired for speaking out about sexual abuse.

The night sky over the Isle of Wight is spectacular (when it's not cloudy).

Here are the ten weirdest theories about Jack the Ripper (Hitler?).

Prince Charles is single-handedly dragging British medicine back to the Dark Ages.

The Faroe Islands run red with blood.

Here's a collection of photos from the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, some not previously published (found via Mendip).

In World War II, New Zealand built perhaps the worst tank ever (found via Mendip).

Pointlessly killing an animal and smirking like an idiot over its corpse doesn't win much admiration any more.

Catholic bigots disrupt a Kristallnacht commemoration in Argentina (found via Republic of Gilead).

As Soviet propaganda goes, some of these are pretty impressive.

The Putin regime uses homophobia to expand its influence in Ukraine (found via Republic of Gilead).  Petition here against NYSE's encouragement of investment in Russia.

More and more Egyptian women throw off the veil.

If Ranjit Sinha loses his job as India's top police official, he might have a future in our Republican party.

Drawings show abuses in a North Korean prison camp (warning: gruesome).

How do dolphins really feel about humans?

A new study emphasizing anonymous responses suggests that both bisexuality and homophobia are more common than we think.

Here are some reports on research in Britain on nerve regeneration and growing new organs.

15 November 2013

Video of the day -- a short history of the English language

13 November 2013

The culture war is world-wide

During the almost half-century of the Cold War, the world was organized in a straightforward way.  There were two rival power blocs, each headed by one of the two superpowers.  Each bloc had a core membership (NATO, the Warsaw Pact), plus more loosely-affiliated allies around the world; from time to time this or that fairly-minor country changed sides, and some countries clung to neutrality between the two blocs as best they could.  It was simple -- there was "we" and "they", with the pronouns presumably reversed on the other side, in the appropriate languages.  Other rivalries were re-defined to fit into the global bi-polar system; Israel, for example, was aligned with the American bloc, its Arab enemies with the Soviet one.  This was a comprehensive model which described most global power politics quite well, and it seemed very stable; I remember people thinking it might last for centuries.

The break-up of the USSR in 1991 abruptly rendered this paradigm invalid and left us looking for a new model to describe international relations.  The concept of a one-superpower world reflected reality to an extent, but since the world had decidedly not become free of conflicts and rivalries, it was clearly absurd to view the whole planet as being subsumed into a single power bloc.

Samuel Huntingdon's 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations was the first serious new proposed paradigm for the post-Cold-War world, and remains among the most popular.  Huntingdon divided the world into nine regions ("civilizations") based on cultural and historical relationships:  the West, Islam, the "Sinic" world, Latin America, etc.  Some of these do reflect objective reality -- there is clearly a distinct Western civilization, for example, and a distinct Islamic culture.  Others seem more artificial -- it's not obvious that black Africa represents the same kind of cultural unit as Islam or the West, and his "Buddhist" civilization, consisting of the Theravada countries plus Tibet and Mongolia but excluding the "Sinic" countries of China, Vietnam, and Korea, seems odd.  Some countries are hard to classify -- isn't South Africa both Western and black-African?  Nor does the model explicitly recognize that two of the non-Western regions, Latin America and the "Orthodox" world (Russia, the Balkans, etc.), are close relatives of the West, sharing in the Roman heritage which gives the West its character.  For that matter, the "Orthodox" world is defined as separate from the West based on different branches of Christianity, even though most people in both cultures are no longer meaningfully religious, while Islam is lumped into one homogenous mass despite the still-bloody Sunni-Shiite division.

Nevertheless, Huntingdon's paradigm got a powerful boost from September 11 and the War on Terror.  A broad West-vs-Islam conflict seemed to fit the "clash of civilizations" model well, and jihadists create similar conflicts with pretty much every non-Islamic society they come into contact with, including non-Western ones (see India, Thailand, Nigeria, southern Russia, Mindanao, etc., etc., etc.).  However, the model doesn't seem particularly useful in describing or explaining the world's conflicts, tensions, and alliances other than the intermittent violence between radical Islamists and everyone else.

In fact, I would argue that many of the most important conflicts today are within countries, not between them, and are not based on culture.  The outcome of the conflict between theocracy and secularism in Egypt and Iran will affect the world much more than the sporadic outrages still occasionally ventured by the remnants of al-Qâ'idah.  Putin's effort to replace Russia's democratic promise with a Mussolini-style blood-and-soil gangster state is a far greater source of tension than the fact that that now-irreligious country was traditionally Eastern Orthodox.  North Korea is so dangerous because it's ruled by people of questionable sanity, not because of the "Sinic" culture it shares with South Korea and Taiwan.

So what is the right paradigm for the struggles of the world of today?  In the past, I've pointed out that the Islamists in Europe are closely analogous to the Christian Right in the US -- each in its own society is the main force opposing gay rights, female equality, reproductive freedom, freedom of expression, separation of church and state, and modernity in general.  I would argue now that these are just two examples of a much more general principle.

The fight for gay marriage and abortion rights in the US, the fight to beat back the influence of Islam in Europe, the defiance and occasional active resistance of the Iranian people against their theocracy, the efforts of the Egyptian military to squelch the murderous Muslim Brotherhood, the plight of Russian gays targeted for persecution, the Saudi women driving their cars, the battle against the evil of "honor killings" from Amsterdam to Kurdistan, the Pashtun girls going to school day by day despite Taliban threats, the push for female dignity and education in Africa and India and so many other places, and a thousand other struggles around the planet -- these fundamentally are all local manifestations of a single titanic global struggle between two irreconcilable opposing forces.

There still is a "we" and a "they", but this time neither side is a geographically-definable clump of countries somewhere -- both sides exist in every country.  "We" are the forces of secularism, modernity, freedom, and a more humane social order; "they" are, broadly speaking, the forces of malignant tradition, largely (but not only) in the form of intolerant religion.

It is, importantly, a more optimistic vision than Huntingdon's.  Our "side" is not a huddled island of a couple dozen nation-states doomed to live forever besieged by a vast sea of irrevocably alien civilizational regions.  Our side is alive and fighting for freedom everywhere in the world, however firmly the enemy may hold the reins of power in many countries.  And however long it takes, someday that enemy will be vanquished in every land, and all the world will be ours.

10 November 2013

Video of the day -- beware of the "game"

At least one victim of this "game" has died.  Older people are often targeted -- anyone who looks unable to fight back.

Link round-up for 10 November 2013

There's still one day to vote in the tie-breaker for stupidest creationist tweet.

It's not only Americans who have trouble with geography.

If you take care of things, they last.

Some churches are so desperate for new members that they're offering free beer (sent by Mendip).  Maybe they should go for cosplayers too.

Somebody's going to a lot of trouble to troll Shaw KenaweUpdateCaught!

Check out these colorized history photos.

Some of America's biggest banks "lack respect for the law".  In other news, Fred Phelps is said to vaguely disapprove of gays, Osama bin Laden felt a little unfriendly toward the US, and Joseph Stalin wasn't very enthusiastic about human rights.

Facebook's weird standards for acceptable imagery reflect those of our still-prudish society.

Revenge porn with a twist: here's a site for jilted wives to post and denounce "the other woman".

This guy will not win "father of the year".

The Catholic Church is taking a survey of its members, and conservatives are pre-emptively freaking out.

Even in San Francisco, transsexuals aren't safe from ghastly hate crimes.

Uzza has some links documenting how anti-abortion mania is leading to frightening persecution of women.

CNN looks behind the distortions circulating about the ACA.  More untruths debunked here, here, and here.

The Christian Right uses weird and clueless rhetoric to try to shut up women bloggers (found via Republic of Gilead).

53-year-old Kash Delano Register is now free after 34 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Texas frackers sue Steven Lipsky for complaining about the pollution they cause, which now enables him to set fire to his own well water.

Can you face the horror of how the meat industry operates?

Green Eagle's latest wingnut wrapup shows the rightists are deranged as ever.

"Religious liberty" is the latest buzzword in the Christian Right's struggle to preserve discrimination, which they are losing.

Was the now-debunked 60 Minutes report on Benghazi an effort to pander to the right?  Media Matters has an abundance of coverage of the report's collapse.

A blatant Republican shenanigan appears in Virginia's still-undecided AG race.

A civilized society is one where the police can't get away with this kind of thing.

Hey Republicans, how's that outreach-to-minorities thing going?

Pit bulls kill yet another victim in Washington state.

The Republican civil war is getting ugly behind the scenes.

Britain's Guy Fawkes Day celebrates the thwarting of a religious terrorist attack in 1605.

Rare photos illustrate street life in Victorian London.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explains how France's credit downgrade was caused by President Hollande's kowtowing to EU austerity-mania.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe (probably not unrelated to near-hysterical hatred of Israel in much of the media over there).

Malala Yousafzai's book has been banned in Pakistan.

Elephant poachers in Zimbabwe are using cyanide, with disastrous effects.

Anti-socialist propaganda posters are more lurid than most horror films.

Republican politicians, many of whom believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, want NSF-funded scientific research to justify its value to their satisfaction.

Elephants who survive mass killings can be traumatized for decades.

A mystery disease is turning starfish into goo.

There is now an all-metal printable handgun, much more durable than earlier printed guns.

Here's more on the benefits of sleeping a bit longer.

No, there is no such thing as healthy aging.

A new "bio patch" enables damaged bones to regenerate within the body.

08 November 2013

Video of the day -- how old is Nazareth?

I've long known that the Old Testament is basically a forgery, and that there is no real evidence for the existence of Jesus (the Gospels were written much later, and contain glaring inconsistencies with actual historical records from the time).  What James Randi presents here, though, was new to me -- the town of Nazareth itself probably didn't exist in the supposed time of Jesus.

If you're not familiar with Randi, I urge you to check out his books and videos -- he's one of our most dauntless warriors against entrenched nonsense on many fronts.  His website is here.

06 November 2013

Virginia -- a warning against complacency

Why a warning, you ask?  McAuliffe won, didn't he?

Yes, he did, and that's undeniably good news.  But he won by just 2.5%, a far smaller margin than the polls predicted.  And that was against an opponent who is extremist even by current Republican standards (to say nothing of the nuttier-than-a-squirrel's-larder Lt. Gov. candidate) and was underfunded and the Libertarian Sarvis took 6.6% of the vote and Virginia is practically the epicenter of the War on Women and it was just three weeks since the shutdown / default hostage drama poisoned the Republican brand.  Had the Republicans chosen a better nominee, or had Sarvis not been in the race, the outcome might well have been different.

In one way, the close margin helps us.  The fact that Cuccinelli did better than the polls predicted enables the teabaggers to avoid the lessons they need to learn.  They feel vindicated in denouncing polls as "skewed" (yes, a year after Romney's defeat they're back to that again) and in rejecting establishment Republican warnings that extremists are losers.  They'll press on with the infighting, radicalism, and general craziness which are trashing the party as a whole.  (As an aside, a primary in Alabama saw the first post-shutdown test of strength between teabaggerdom and the establishment; the establishment guy won, but only 52.5%-47.5%.)

But we can't count on races to go our way because Republicans will implode (though they will, here and there).  Polls today are no guarantee of winning the House in 2014.  We're fools if we think Wendy Davis isn't an underdog in Texas.  We dare not even assume the Presidency is in the bag for 2016, though we clearly have the advantage there.  Every election has to be fought as if we could lose, because we could.  And FFS get those ACA website glitches fixed, yesterday.  Pointing out that Medicare Part D had an equally rocky start is not going to cut it.  The Bush administration is not an adequate standard of competence -- just as not every Republican we run against is going to be as out-there as Cuccinelli.

03 November 2013

Video of the day -- the man who measured the world

Eratosthenes also attempted to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun.  The figure he derived, 804,000,000 stadia, is equal to 149,000,000 kilometers -- which is within 1% of the correct figure for the average distance.

Link round-up for 3 November 2013

We've been worrying about the wrong apocalypse (found via Squatlo Rant).

Law professors complain of Satanic pay raises.

The Returned is a zombie show with a difference -- don't be put off because it's foreign.

Mendip laments the decline of Halloween traditions.

Art genre of the week: zombie impressionism.

Yes, they really are this crazy (found via Squatlo Rant).

Here's a clever Halloween costume.

Mario Piperni unveils the Republican agenda.

Check out this furniture for book lovers (found via Mendip). And here's a cool-looking house you could put it in, or try this one if you're on a budget.

All bloggers should support Roger Shuler of Alabama, jailed for blogging about a prominent political family.

Bernie Sanders gives us straight talk about Social Security.

Fundamentalist homeschoolers' isolation from the world creates feeble convictions (found via Republic of Gilead).  And their grotesque ignorance about science is even worse.

Let's quit fiddling with our clocks, and simplify our time zones.

Wisconsin atheists crafted this awesome "god graveyard" for Halloween.

Being a celebrity doesn't mean you know anything about science.

Take a stand against gay "conversion" therapy.

The right wing has a new approach to climate change -- rather than deny it's happening, say it's God's judgment for abortion or gay rights (found via Republic of Gilead).

Big Republican donors shun Cuccinelli and Georgia teabaggers, but to really quell the nutcases and bigots and extremists, the party must mobilize the working class, who are turning against it.

Why does the internet cost so much in the US?

Democrats have a chance in the South, notably Kentucky, but must avoid repeating the mistakes of 2010.

Hollywood appeasement:  Hitler then, China now.

Ted Cruz's father is a crazed theocrat.

Forbes debunks the lie that the ACA is driving people into part-time jobs.  Republicans are guilty not only of sabotage (flowchart here) but of hypocrisy (found via Progressive Eruptions, which looks at more lies and distortions, which Obama needs to help refute).

Fundie Christians have the highest divorce rates and atheists the lowest, according to research by Christians.

Racism is a great evil -- and so is falsely accusing someone of it.

The Mormon Church is back on the warpath against gay marriage (found via Republic of Gilead).

CBS's shoddy 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi "scamdal" is a blow to the network's credibility.

Atheism is winning.

Yorkshire, where one side of my family comes from, has been rated one of the world's best places to visit.  But maybe not if you're a ferret.

A British judge forcefully affirms the secular character of Western law.

A Christian group blames Australia's catastrophic brush fires on gays (found via Republic of Gilead).

Germany gets its first professional association for sex workers.

Ciudad Juárez, once the most violent city in Mexico, has cut crime to a small fraction of its former level.

Saudi Arabian blogger Hamza Kashgari has been released from prison for blasphemy, but Saudi law remains as barbarous as ever.

Marijuana may help fight cancer, but US scientists won't be allowed to help research the question.

The extreme genetic homogeneity of humans may have helped our cultural development.

Rosa Rubicondior looks at evolutionary relics in the human body.

The brute-force approach to artificial intelligence is missing the point.

Asteroid 2013TV135 won't hit Earth -- but here's what would happen if it did.

Here's Saturn as we haven't seen it before (click picture for enlargeable version).

Toroidal black holes may be gateways to the unknown.