30 May 2014

Putin backs down

The conflict in eastern Ukraine isn't over yet, but we already know who one of the victors is:  President Obama.

As Thomas Friedman observed this week in a widely-cited column, Putin has backed down.  He has withdrawn Russian forces from the Ukrainian border and back to their bases.  He declared last week that he would recognize the outcome of Ukraine's election on Sunday, though even then it was expected that the nationalist Poroshenko would win (and he did).  Even as the Ukrainian government brought the full weight of its military into action to smash the "pro-Russian separatists" (actually Russian agents), killing dozens of them in the battle to recapture Donetsk airport alone, and Poroshenko declared that there will be no negotiation with "bandits", Putin has done nothing.  He may manage to hold Crimea, but his effort to subvert and seize the rich industrial regions of eastern Ukraine seems to have been abandoned.

The only plausible explanation for this dramatic change in policy is the effectiveness of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies.  Powerful Russian oligarchs have felt serious threats to their personal wealth, while the Russian stock market and the value of the ruble have been battered. Beyond that, Europe has taken steps to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels, undermining not only Putin's main economic counter-weapon against the West, but also a formerly-reliable source of revenue.  Much publicity has attended Russia's recent gas deal with China, a substitute market -- but the prices agreed will mean a distinctly sub-par profit.  Putin was wise to conclude that pursuing the seizure of eastern Ukraine was not worth the economic costs the West had shown itself able to exact.

It can't be coincidence, either, that just this week Obama delivered a much-commented speech at West Point declaring that, while the US must continue to lead the world and defend human rights and Western values, military force will play a smaller role in that leadership than it has done in the past, with "soft power" coming to the fore.  The speech drew the expected attacks from Republicans who believe any American response to an international challenge is a failure unless it involves bombing the crap out of something -- but if American and European economic pressure can make a nation as mighty as Russia abandon military aggression, then the day of "soft power" has truly arrived.

29 May 2014

Bloody tantrums

Just before the recent Santa Barbara mass murder, the murderer* posted a video rant explaining himself.  Indeed, it reveals much more than he realized.  David Futrelle has the complete transcript along with commentary.  Here are some excerpts:

For the last 8 years of my life, ever since I’ve hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection, and sex, and love, to other men but never to me. I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex, and fun, and pleasure. But in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentleman.....

All those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure while I’ve had to rot in loneliness for all these years, they’ve all looked down upon me every time I try to go out and join them. They’ve all treated me like a mouse. Well now, I will be a God compared to you. You will all be animals. You are animals, and I will slaughter you like animals. I will be a God, exacting my retribution, on all those who deserve it. And you do deserve it, just for the crime of living a better life than me. All you popular kids. You’ve never accepted me, and now you’ll all pay for it. And girls, all I’ve ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration, but you think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven. If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you. You denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny all of you life. It’s only fair.

I think I have an idea why women didn't want anything to do with this guy, but let that pass.  The amazing thing about this rant is its whiny, entitled, self-pitying character.  He went out and killed a bunch of people because he couldn't get a girlfriend.  He took a setback most people experience now and then in life -- failure to attract a romantic partner -- as some great cosmic injustice, an epic crime against him that justified bloody revenge.  On the most basic level, he was silly.  He had physically become an adult while mentally remaining at the level of a child who pouts and screams if he isn't immediately given a lollipop.

Where did he get the idea that it's OK to be like that?  How on Earth does a person manage to reach the age of 22 without ever learning that facing a certain amount of adversity and disappointment with fortitude is part of being an adult?  Why did he think that women owed him sex, any more than he himself would have owed it to someone who approached him but whom he found unattractive?  Even if he was lacking in introspection, he was seeing therapists -- didn't any of them manage to get these things across to him?  Didn't anyone ever explain that if he couldn't get a girlfriend, he needed to work on his own character and social skills rather than wailing that reality is what it is?

When I first heard about this, I thought it bolstered the case for legal prostitution, but I'm not sure if even that would have helped.  He didn't just want sex, he wanted to be loved, without taking any trouble to be lovable.

There are others out there like him, too, or at least like him enough to take this infantile video whinefest as a serious manifesto (here are a few).  How many of them are there, and how dangerous are they?  How many pouty toddlers in men's bodies are out there ready to explode in lethal temper tantrums if they don't get the lollipop?

As usually happens in such cases, the anti-gun crowd is trying to exploit this to push their own cause, even though half the victims were stabbed, not shot.  The real issue is how these startling failures in the human maturation process are happening, and what we can do about them when they do.

[*I have my reasons for not referring to such people by name.]

26 May 2014

Nationalism resurgent, from Donetsk to Donegal

From Friday to Sunday the member countries of the European Union held elections for the EU Parliament, and the results have aptly been described as a political earthquake.  Almost everywhere, parties opposing the EU and favoring re-assertion of national sovereignty made spectacular gains.  Let's look at the EU's four big countries first.

In Britain, Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party (UKIP) easily took first place with about 28% of the vote, with the two mainstream parties (Labour and the Conservatives) getting about 25% each -- the first time in modern history that a nationwide British election was not won by one of the two.  (Imagine a third party getting more votes than either Democrats or Republicans in a nationwide US election.)  The UKIP even won one seat in Scotland, where it has not previously done well.  As its name suggests, the party's signature issue is withdrawal of Britain from the EU, but it is also the only large party committed to deep cuts in immigration -- a hot-button issue in Britain.

In France the results were similar, with Marine Le Pen's Front National winning about 25%, the UMP (mainstream right) about 20%, and the Socialists (currently in power in France) just 15%.  The FN has an awkward history; formerly, under the leadership of Le Pen's father Jean-Marie, it was a crank party pushing hard-line Catholicism and anti-Semitism.  Marine has refashioned it into a nationalist party with broad appeal, focused on opposing the EU and immigration, similar to the UKIP.

In Germany, the Euroskeptic party Alternative für Deutschland won 7% of the vote -- much less impressive than the UKIP or FN, but the AfD was founded only one year ago and has had far less time to develop itself.  It's also less radical, calling for more sovereignty but not separation from or dissolution of the EU, and thus offers less of an alternative than the UKIP or FN.

In Italy, the mainstream left won the biggest share of the vote, but three Euroskeptic groups won almost a third between them -- the Five Star Movement at 22%, the Northern League at 6%, and a leftist coalition at 4%.  As with the AfD, these groups are less radical, favoring lesser measures such as a referendum on the euro currency rather than withdrawal from the EU.

Several smaller countries saw similar nationalist surges, with the People's Party coming in first with 26% in Denmark and the far-left, anti-austerity Syriza winning in Greece.  Ireland had no true anti-EU party to vote for, but protest votes went to the anti-austerity Sinn Féin, which surged.  Only in the Netherlands were the nationalists disappointed.

Just about every MSM story you read about this will use terms like "extreme right" to describe these parties, a distortion I addressed in some detail here.  This is why I emphasize that some of the Euroskeptic parties such as Syriza are actually leftist, even radically so.  (Real right-wing extremists like the BNP didn't do well.)  One of the major drivers of Euroskepticism is mass rejection of the austerity policies which the EU has imposed -- policies which prioritize deficit reduction despite catastrophically-high unemployment in much of Europe, similar to the policies which the Republicans advocate for the US.  Rejecting such policies is not "right wing" in any meaningful sense.  The other major driver is opposition to immigration.  The main objection, though, is to Muslim immigration, which has introduced a religious-extremist element -- somewhat like our Christian Right, but more violence-prone -- into highly secular societies.  The fact that Europe is already densely populated is also an issue.  Hostility to migration between European countries is more troubling -- those in Britain who object to immigrants from other EU countries, for example, are often unaware that even greater numbers of Britons live and work elsewhere in Europe.

The UKIP is particular has been subject to a smear campaign to slur it as racist and anti-gay.  It's true that it formerly opposed gay marriage, but it recently reversed that stance and expelled a notorious homophobe, and has been vetting candidates more carefully.

The real issue, though, is national sovereignty, and the rejection of rule by an unaccountable supra-national regime.  Spain years ago and France more recently elected socialist governments, only to find that they could not govern as socialists because the EU kept imposing the same old austerity policies.  The British find that they can't reduce immigration no matter which party they vote for, because policy in that area -- even on expulsion of dangerous foreign criminals -- is imposed by the EU.  The nationalist wave is not really right-wing or left-wing, but rather populist.

And the wave extends beyond the EU.  In Ukraine, also on Sunday, voters elected Petro Poroshenko as President.  Poroshenko's platform emphasized national unity, downplaying the traditional split between pro-West and pro-Russia elements -- but he firmly rejects Putin's annexation of Crimea, and has promised to end the increasingly-violent conflict in the eastern Donetsk region fomented by Putinist thugs (update: he's delivering).  Reject Russian domination; unite Ukrainians of both factions; hold the nation together.

Nationalism has been written off many times -- supposedly superseded by Communism, by religious identity, by globalization, even by the hopelessly artificial EU.  It looks like a good bet to outlast all those pretenders.

[Pictured above:  Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Petro Poroshenko]

25 May 2014

Link round-up for 25 May 2014

If dogs could text.....(found via Mendip).

Ever wonder what a right-wing romance novel would be like?  Bill Maher gives a sample (found via Politics Plus).

Worst tattoos ever.

Bring back phone booths!

Histories of Things to Come remembers the great H.R. Giger.

I agree with Dan Savage's position on the proliferation of trigger warnings.  Real life doesn't have them.

Capitalism works!

Passenger planes are awash in bacteria.

Illustrating how fuzzy racial categories are becoming, more and more Hispanics are self-identifying as white.

The Santa Barbara killer was deep in the PUA/MRA subculture.

The FBI needs computer experts to fight cybercrime, but there's a problem.

Correlation often doesn't mean causation (found via Mendip).

Fracking supporters have something to hide.

Hillary Clinton takes up the cause of inequality.

Chatpilot reveals the one book he's burned.

Marco Rubio is just another ignorant dumbass.

A case of terrifying racism surfaces in Utah.

Don't believe what people claim about their own church attendance.

Sex education ignores the most important thing about sex.

Republican outreach to women looks doleful, but they still have a plan.

Four rabbis are charged in an abduction-and-torture scheme.

Teabagger nutbars are being beaten by establishment Republicans, but some of the latter aren't too sane.

With some people, it really is homophobia.

One graphic illustrates the hypocrisy of Republicans' Benghazi frenzy.

Support for gay marriage just keeps on rising.

The Tea Party loses support as it lurches into anarchism.

US basic education is poor by international standards, though a few states do well.

DRB has some photos of women soldiers of World War II (found via Mendip).

Here's a really cool house in Wales.

The European Union contemplates a huge lunge toward totalitarianism.

Former Wehrmacht and SS members created a secret army in the 1950s (found via Mendip, who raises an important point).

A small Spanish village symbolizes Europe's struggle with racism.

In the best sign yet that Putin is backing down on Ukraine, he says he will recognize the outcome of today's election there.

Think Akin was bad?  Check out the religious right Iranians are stuck with.

Boko Haram has roots in Nigeria's extreme corruption (found via Lady Atheist).

XKCD compares two engineering feats: Egypt's Great Pyramid and the Apollo Moon mission.

A new book thoroughly refutes intelligent design.

Glacier melt in Antarctica has probably reached the point of no return (found via Progressive Eruptions), but the US right wing still denies reality.  Here are eight lies debunked (found via Lady Atheist).

23 May 2014

The long wait for forever

This month saw what may be a big breakthrough in one of the central technological challenges of our time -- reversing the damage caused by aging.  At least two studies in mice showed that the protein GDF11 (which is more abundant in the blood of younger individuals than older ones) can, when infused into older individuals, stimulate stem-cell activity in ways which restore both muscular strength and memory formation.  The old mice also showed improvement in other areas, such as the sense of smell.  A technical abstract is at Science; more accessible discussions are at Ars Technica and the Harvard Gazette.

It might seem odd that a single protein could produce changes in several seemingly-unrelated areas, but in fact aging damage in all these areas is largely the product of a single factor -- the decline in production of new cells and, in the brain, the flexibility of the synaptic connections between them (critical to memory formation).  Basically, all over the body, things are wearing out and being repaired all the time -- but as we get older, the processes which perform the repairs become less effective.

The apparent forgetfulness often observed in elderly humans is actually a problem of memory formation -- it's not that they become more inclined to lose memories, it's that their brains become less adept at creating new memories.  This is why old people often can clearly remember things that happened decades ago but can't remember what you said to them a few minutes ago.  So if GDF11 has the same effect in humans as it does in mice, it would get to the core of that problem.

Even if it works on humans as on mice, GDF11 will not be a magic-bullet cure for aging.  Aging is too complex a phenomenon to be cured by any one therapy; in the end, it will be a whole group of therapies that address its various effects.  But even if all GDF11 ultimately does is to strengthen aging hearts and muscles and restore a youthful memory capacity to aging brains, it will become an important member of that group of therapies, and all by itself it will relieve an immense amount of suffering.

Which is why it's infuriating to read, at the Harvard Gazette link, that "they expect to have GDF11 enter initial human clinical trials within three to five years."

Three to five years?  And initial human clinical trials are only the beginning, not the end, of the process of making this available for general use in human patients.  I know why such testing is necessary -- we need to be sure that GDF11 (a) has the same beneficial effects in humans as in mice and (b) is safe for use in humans.  Rushing it into widespread use in humans without being sure of those things would be dangerous and might not even bring any benefits.  But carrying out these necessary steps as fast as possible also needs to be a consideration.

During early research on treatments for AIDS, some effort was made to speed up the normally glacially-slow process of drug testing and approval, in recognition of the fact that AIDS was killing people all the time and that the risks of accelerated testing had to be balanced against the certainty that every month's delay in the final approvals would cost lives that could have been saved.  But that point applies in this case, too -- on a far vaster scale.  If GDF11 does work as we hope, every year's delay in its final availability means a year of additional suffering for hundreds of millions of elderly people.  And tens of millions of people die of old age every year.  Every year's delay in the arrival of anti-aging treatments in general will mean additional loss of life equal to the population of a good-sized country.

This, perhaps, is where international competition in science is beneficial, especially as the number of countries capable of carrying out such advanced research increases.  If the testing and approval regimen in one country is too slow and rigid, another country may apply different rules.  The more different balances are being struck between safety and speed, the better the chance that some country will get it right.  And the country that does get it right will have a lot to gain economically -- therapy that can truly reverse even just some of the effects of aging will be well worth an intercontinental trip, for millions.

[Standard disclaimer:  Pro-death clichés and negativity are not welcome here.  Before posting comments of that kind, please get up to speed on the issues.]

21 May 2014

Video of the day -- Tehran happy, or maybe not

Pharrell Williams's song "Happy" has become a global favorite, with people in cities around the world making videos of themselves dancing to it (notably including, as I posted earlier, Tunisia).  When six young Iranians made the exuberant video above, however, they were arrested by police for transgressing the regime's socially-conservative standards of behavior, which forbid women dancing or appearing with uncovered hair in public.  (I have to wonder what forms of entertainment the regime does approve of -- mullahs engaging in scowling contests?)

According to comments on the video, the dancers have now been released, though the video director is still locked up -- and Iran's new moderate President Rouhani tweeted "Happiness is our people's right.  We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy."  But this little episode serves as a reminder that once a theocracy gets entrenched, hard-liners will do their damndest to stamp out happiness and joy.

"God did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam." -- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's theocracy

19 May 2014

Oregon's shame, effaced at last

Today's ruling on gay marriage in my home state has a special significance for me.

It might seem odd to many that a relatively liberal state like Oregon has a constitutional provision in place, enacted by referendum no less, banning gay marriage.  Actually it happened as an unfortunate consequence of some unusually forward thinking on the local level here.

In March of 2004 Multnomah county -- the county which includes the city of Portland -- began issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples after a ruling by the county attorney that it was legal to do so.  I was an employee of Multnomah county at the time, and I'll never forget the excitement and energy that accompanied the move -- gay marriage was a very radical idea in 2004.  People were lined up around the county government's main building to get their licenses.  Much was made of the potential economic stimulus as even people from outside Multnomah county came there to take advantage of the newly-recognized right.  But from the very beginning there was a lot of negativity.

Outside the northern Willamette valley, the state is pretty rural and conservative.  Demographically the Willamette valley dominates Oregon -- the Portland metro area alone has half the state's population -- but even there, of course, there were plenty for whom gay marriage was a leap too far.

In May something called the "Defense of Marriage Coalition", consisting of the usual religious pearl-clutchers, launched Ballot Measure 36, an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage.  In a state-wide referendum, the position was hopeless -- at that time, gay marriage probably could not have survived a referendum in any state in the country.  In November, the measure passed 57% to 43%, and that was the end of that.  For almost ten years the ban has been in place, a growing embarrassment to the state as the rest of the country moved forward.

Until today.  Multnomah county's foresight ten years ago is vindicated at last.

18 May 2014

My absolutely positively last OAS post

Yes, I suppose it's a bit cruel to keep making fun of these pitiful dullards, but they are so asking for it, and everybody else in the world is doing it, so what the hell.  When you project a turnout of 10 to 30 million and claim you're going to overthrow the elected leaders of the most stable government on Earth, you're pretty much painting a bull's-eye on yourself and jumping up and down yelling "Lookit me, lookit me, I'm thtoopid."

There is actually a Facebook page (found via Progressive Eruptions) and Twitter hashtag set up specifically to mock the fiasco -- more Twitter activity here.  Not content with that, sane people (in apparently greater numbers than the turnout for OAS itself) invaded and occupied the comment threads at this right-wing site's post on the gathering, to post works of art like this:

My Dearest Tammy-Ann, I fear all is lost and I will never gaze upon your face, nor sup upon your jauntily arranged plates of Little Debbie snack cakes again. When we came to the cesspool that is Washington D.C. to cleanse the atheist sharia-loving muslin from the "White" House and restore America's greatness we sorely underestimated the guile and craftiness of the socialists. Not only is "Capitol Hill" an actual hill, but there are insurmountable staircases -- some three, even five steps in height. Our Hoverrounds sit motionless, our batteries depleted. Even Merle's prodigious Jazzy Plus was unable to tow our once-mighty steeds to victory, even with Merle's reduced tonnage having lost his nethers to the 'beetus. We all have orders in for new batteries from Medicare, but those batteries would be delivered by the Post Office, Obama's blue-clad Union Thug Army of Sloth. -- Ben Randolph

When pro-teabagger elements comment in defense of OAS, their efforts are almost always instantly recognizable by (a) their fumbling, stumbling, inept use of the English language, and (b) their tendency to spout clichés and vague generalities.  For example:

oh my I tell you that if they don't show up all of you that are against this deserves to live with what you have choose, you people care nothing for you kids or grandkids to just want them to live with what you have made, did you not see what happen in dearborn michigan, thats what O wants all over this country, do you not care about them letting four americans die so they can campain, every one wants to know where O was, I Bet he didn't lose a bit of sleep, you don't care about IRS because it didn't effect you, you don't give a dam that the guns that were traded at fast and furious has killed americans, does it not bother you that he let 36,000 illigals out of prison and let them go in your country, watch you kids because hundreds of them were murders and rapist, OH YEA!! forgot thats what you want for your kids! can't believe it doesnt bother you that theres less and less jobs and the american people are getting poorer and poorer and O and congress are millionairs and getting richer and keep wanting more and more, obamacare is a tax and its not going to do anything except get worse, and this is just a (smigen )what there doing, after all the lies after lies, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reading such impassioned screeds, it suddenly occurred to me that this must be why many teabaggers, when cornered into a debate, tend to react by cutting-and-pasting irrelevant chunks of text from the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence instead of addressing specific points in their own words.  They're so pathetically, horrifyingly inarticulate that they can't explain themselves coherently in their own words.  (Remember, we're talking about the same people who do this.)

Final observation:  The person who "wrote" the monstrosity above will almost certainly vote this November.  Will you?

For more commentary, see Green Eagle (contrasting OAS with real mass protests of past years), Frankly Curious (why OAS isn't "Constitutionalist"), Squatlo Rant (amusing video), The Immoral Minority (more tweets), Crooks and Liars, and TPM.  If you missed my own earlier posts, they're here and hereUpdate:  The die-hards are now resorting to threats of violence, and stolen and faked photos.

Link round-up for 18 May 2014

H.R. Giger goes to Hell (found via Mendip).

Ahab of Republic of Gilead is taking a well-earned break.  He'll be missed.

A rescued whale celebrates exuberantly.

Benghazi-mania descends to the utterly tacky.

The Virginia DMV has no sense of humor (found via Mendip).

That story about a woman shooting a man to test his bulletproof vest was a lie.

Violent video games correlate with a decrease in violent crime (more here).

Here's another Christian whining that there's now a price to be paid for tormenting and harassing people who don't conform to Biblical taboos.

Many anti-gay activists have something in common.

Benghazi and September 11 are similar, yet different.

The Catholic Church is getting back into the exorcism business.

A ten-year-old injustice in my home state may soon be overturned.

Here's a group for ex-Muslims in North America.

RedState thinks simple acknowledgement of lesbian mothers is "bizarre filth".  And this nutcase doesn't grasp the First Amendment at all.

Maps of what's wrong with the US share a certain commonality.

Hospitals in states that reject the medicaid expansion are paying a high price.

A valuable observation: cynicism is a privilege.

Sandy Hook denialists exist and are utterly despicable.

Yes, right-wing pundits and politicians really are morons.

The Pope is a nut, at least where lesbians are concerned.

Whether or not to have children must always be an individual decision.

The Emily Letts abortion video highlights the delusional thinking of the anti-abortion crazies.

Censors ruined American comics in the 1950s (the reason Japanese manga are so lively is that over there, the publishers stood up to the bluenoses).

The anti-gay Christian Right is an international phenomenon (found via Republic of Gilead -- see my comment there).

Pregnancy and birth are getting safer worldwide, but the US is going the wrong way.

Don't let the beauty of religious art blind you to the evil behind it.

Here's a map of world-wide alcohol consumption -- the heaviest-drinking countries are no surprise to me.

Even conservative commentator Ambrose Evans-Pritchard anticipates the triumph of solar power.

Ukrainian steelworkers hit back at Putin's thugs in one eastern city, while others are training for prolonged guerrilla resistance in case Russia invades..  Ukrainians of all regions agree that they don't want to divide the country.

Iranian women go hijab-free in protest.  Iran is the least anti-Semitic country in the world's most anti-Semitic region.

The mine disaster in Turkey just gets worse for the Islamist government.

Pankaj Mishra at The Guardian has a detailed profile of India's new leader Narendra Modi and his party the BJP.  It's long, but well worth reading if you want to understand this dramatic shift in course in a country with one-sixth of the world's population.

Boko Haram has now attacked a Chinese encampment in Cameroon.

Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau models himself on bin Laden, but his mental stability is in question.

If a day lasted one second -- it wouldn't last.

This still-unnamed 77-ton Argentinian dinosaur may have been the biggest land animal ever to exist.

Morality is inborn, not taught.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now far outside the range of natural variation.  Here's an overview of why the denialist claims are bunk.

The Pacific garbage patch hosts an ugly coral killer.

Ganymede may have a multi-layered ocean 25 times as massive as Earth's.

Pigeons show signs of intelligence and even a form of superstition.

16 May 2014

Update -- the revolution begins

It's just gone noon in Washington DC, and here's the official live video feed from the teabagger revolution (edit -- it's already ended, but the listing to the right has recordings).  At a rough guess there might be 100 people there (here's another pic).  Maybe the other 9,999,900 are off scouring the local shops for Cheetos and beer.  To be fair, Shaw Kenawe did find some evidence of preparation for the big event.  The official Facebook page is still the fun-est place to follow along, as commenters sharpen their claws of sarcasm on the hapless camofattards.  No word yet on whether President Obama has noticed his impending overthrow.

Reminder to baggers:  Here's what a real mass uprising against tyranny looks like:

15 May 2014

Reminder -- US government to be overthrown tomorrow

The big day is almost here -- May 16, Operation American Spring, when ten million teabaggers, Dominionist Baaable-thumpers, militia camofattards, and other such self-styled ''patriots" will occupy Washington DC and force President Obama and other top officials from office, finally placing the world's most powerful nation and most complex economy under the control of right-thinking leaders like Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, and Sarah Palin.  A reassuring vision of the future indeed.  Today the Bundy ranch, tomorrow the world!

You can read more about the imminent revolution at Green Eagle (who makes a regular practice of covering events like this), Squatlo Rant, The Immoral Minority, and Mock Paper Scissors.  Oddly enough, none of the right-wing sites I normally read has anything posted about it -- even Larry Klayman, who is normally all over this kind of thing, offers only a few generic pro-sedition comments in his latest post.  The operation's website is strikingly lacking in news or instructions, while its Facebook page is dominated by commenters who seem less than enthused about the whole thing:

"It will be the usual handful of angry white southern geezers. Followed by days of angry claims that two zillion were there, but the liberal media covered it up." -- Josh Whelan

"'The activists say they expect 10 million to 30 million like-minded Americans to join them Friday in the nation’s capital for a rally patterned after Occupy Wall Street and 'Arab Spring' protests.' ROTFLMAO!! On a weekday? Remember the 'Truckers Ride for the Constitution,' last October? 10,000 truckers were expected to show up to clog DC traffic, & only about 30 trucks bearing the official Twitter hashtag of the ride -- #T2SDA -- which stands for 'Truckers to Shut Down America' were spotted. 4 truckers tried slowing down traffic by going 15mph side by side, were pulled over by the cops & warned, & they ran with their tail between their legs. Any bets that they won't crack 100 protesters?" -- Gene Schuldt

"I am going to go down there with a camera, and try to find the 20 who show up. It will be fun to fuck with them." -- David Cannon

I found the image at the top of this post in a comment there by Joanne Renshaw Tipton.

Sorry, but I think a lot of people will be laughing.

[Hand update -- improving thanks to indomethacin.  I still have to type left-handed, but it's surprising how fast you get used to that.]

13 May 2014

Death of an artist

Swiss artist H.R. Giger has died.  He was only 74.

Giger was best known for his work on the 1979 film Alien, which his creature and set design helped elevate far beyond the regular run of SF and horror films.  But his output of painting and sculpture was vast and diverse, and took surrealism to a whole new level.

If there was a common theme, it was the mixing of organic and mechanical imagery ("biomechanoid"), and his work often included bizarre sexual and reproductive references.

His vision was unsettling, but it was truly his own.  Few artists can claim a body of work so unique and distinctive.  Never timid or constrained by convention, never sinking to the bland allegory preferred by politicized art nor the empty randomness of the purely abstract, he was shining steel rising above a sea of mush.

11 May 2014

Link round-up for 11 May 2014

Best ad for a band ever! (found via Mendip).

It would be crazy if the world were like this.

Meet Logansryche, bitcoin fan and spectacularly-failed entrepreneur.

The TSA has a track record.

Experience shows how to prevent financial disasters.

There's no arguing with some people.

No sign yet of the overthrow of the US government scheduled for this Friday.

Maybe the police shouldn't watch so much football.

Think American kids' TV is bad?  Check this out.

Satanism is on the march with a demand for prayer in Florida (found via Mendip), a Black Mass in Massachusetts, and a display of its tenets in Oklahoma.

Skunkpong can be neutralized by baking soda.

No, it is not true that children raised without religion often become religious later.

Almost half of all US Hispanics have abandoned Catholicism, some becoming Protestant and some unaffiliated.

Fojap has some intelligent observations on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis.

Booman looks at how Republicans have irreversibly sabotaged themselves on race.

Some people are getting a raise.

In the Republican civil war, so far the establishment is winning, but baggers still dominate in some states.  And even the establishment guys can be pretty out-there.

Candy Crowley caught Romney in a falsehood, but George Will helped create one.

I've walked along part of this wall.

England is a land of eccentric local traditions.

Julia Gasper knows what's wrong with Britain's Parliament:  too many fags.

Meet some relatives of World War II leaders, including Hitler's lazy nephew (found via Mendip).

Putin's regime accidentally releases real data from the scam Crimea referendum.

To combat public defecation, India is installing public toilets, but it isn't working.  Vigilantes are tackling a related problem.

North Koreans sound like Republicans.

China's infiltration of Africa is hitting some snags.

An abducted Nigerian girl who escaped tells her story.  The US is helping the search.  Michelle Obama speaks out, while Nigeria's First Lady isn't helping.

Maybe the Neanderthals didn't die out (found via Mendip).

The stepping stones of Pompeii illustrate the power of deduction from evidence.

[Hand update: slowly improving.  After two hospital visits, two clinic visits (with another tomorrow) and various tests, there's still no diagnosis of the underlying problem, so I'm using painkillers and waiting for it to go away on its own.]

08 May 2014

Video of the day -- net vs religion

I know "Thunderf00t" is out of favor in some circles these days, but this remains one of my all-time favorite videos -- re-posting for newer readers who may not have seen it before.

[Sorry for the lack of posts.  I've got a new flare-up of that inflammation problem in my hand -- have to type left-handed only, making longer essays impractical.]

04 May 2014

Link round-up for 4 May 2014

Fundies address female masturbation, with bewildering results.

Book scanners can make unfortunate errors. So can Google Translate.

Which animals kill the most humans?

Even a humble shower can tell you much about the owner of a house.

I guess I'm a history fan.

Obamacare's popularity is gradually improving as even conservatives benefit and the House Republicans' rigged "survey" is exposed; some Republican politicians are changing their tune.

Here's what Christian family values do.

PCTC has another view on the new FCC internet proposal.

Green Eagle spots a well-placed ad.

Rosa Rubicondior looks at how she and others overcame religion.

What's behind the weird "Webdriver" videos (found via Mendip)?

Why do Christians want atheists to lie and hide?

Righties desperately keep flogging the long-decomposed horse of Benghazi, with Fox News gamely helping out.

Even if Evangelical Christianity became gay-friendly, that wouldn't solve the problems it presents.

In an example of dehumanizing language, RedState uses the word "whelp" to refer to a lesbian having a baby -- see the comments too.

An outburst of racism among Boston sports fans gets comprehensively repudiated.

The Kentucky Derby is stained with animal cruelty.

Mississippi fundies claim that merchants' refusal to discriminate against gays is bullying them.

The militia antics in Nevada descend into full-blown terrorism; more on clashes between the groups from Ed Brayton and Crooks and Liars.  Immonal Minority has a round-up.

A shockingly-large number of people sentenced to death are actually innocent.

To the bewilderment of supporters, Maggie Gallagher admits the gays have pretty much won (warning -- bizarre syntax).  Looks like her proofreader quit too.

"Most obviously, people whose real goal is dismantling the social safety net have found promoting deficit panic an effective way to push their agenda."

Palin's "baptism" joke is alienating the last groups that still support her.

A Mormon survey on sexual orientation reveals arrogance (found via Republic of Gilead).

April was the best month for job growth in two years.

Christian anti-gay crusader Don Boys (ahem) thinks some Christians' tolerance of gays is a tragedy (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Kansas's economy declines as the Brownback regime applies conservative economic "ideas".

When you call out racists on their racism, they tend to respond with one specific accusation.

If Santorum runs, here's what he'll run on (found via Republic of Gilead).

At last -- two major banks will soon face criminal charges.

Conservative bishops threaten to split the Church of England over gay issues (found via Republic of Gilead).

Neo-pagans may have played a role in Ukrainian resistance to the Soviets after World War II (found via Mendip).

That Poo2loo video I posted here is now up on Pharyngula, drawing some interesting comments.

No, China's economy is not almost as big as ours -- not even close.  See also China's bizarre demographics.

Islamists of Boko Haram in Nigeria are selling hundreds of kidnapped girls into slavery and forced marriage.

Wind turbines actually kill relatively few birds.

Satellite pictures reveal traces of thousands of ancient settlements.

Dreams seem to be linked to sexuality, as Freud believed.

Our planet-hunting skills are improving dramatically.

01 May 2014

Power cults on the attack

I yield to no one in the fervor of my support for the right to private gun ownership.  However, alongside tens of millions of responsible gun owners, we have some small but dangerous groups of cultists whose interest in guns is wrapped up in fantasies of power and domination.  When they act on those fantasies, the results border on terrorism.

In Nevada, some of the militia members in the vicinity of the Bundy ranch have set up checkpoints (link via Green Eagle) "where residents must prove they live in the area before they are allowed to pass".  Who the hell do these people think they are, an amateur military occupation?  This is way beyond a mere land dispute.  If the authorities don't put a stop to this immediately, they're failing in their duty to protect the public.

In Texas, a gun cult is threatening to publicize the personal information of anyone who calls 911 on them for waving their dong substitutes around in public, and has already done this with one person, in an open attempt to intimidate anyone who would report their behavior.  This, too is outrageous.  If the authorities determine that a 911 call was made inappropriately, they have procedures for dealing with it -- and in this case the police have explicitly encouraged the public to continue to report the group's activities.

These are not the acts of isolated individuals (like this) who might simply be mentally disturbed.  These are organized groups of power-crazed thugs openly terrorizing the public.  If the government is not going to stop such flagrant violations of people's rights, why is it the government?

UpdateSquatlo reports that, in the absence of anything else to confront, the militias around the Bundy ranch are increasingly turning on each other.  Given that these are among the stupidest, most paranoid, and most heavily-armed people in the country, anything could happen.  Let's hope they sort themselves out with no further danger to locals or BLM employees.  See Rachel Maddow's report found via Squatlo.