31 August 2017

Texas round-up

Hurricane Harvey may be the worst storm in US history.  It's bringing out the best in people, and sometimes also the worst.

Photos show the scale of the flooding, and the human impact.

Texas has accepted Mexico's offer of aid for the devastated region, though the Trump administration is fiddle-faddling as usual.  Israel, too, has sent help.

Amid all the destruction and loss of life, religio-wingnuts crow that their God apparently intervened to protect -- a statue.

Best Buy claims its now-notorious water-price gouge was the result of a single employee's math error -- but how often do such errors make it all the way to a printed sign without being caught?  The internet piles on Joel Osteen for not opening up his megachurch as a shelter, but he too has excuses to offer -- you be the judge.  To be fair, other religious centers have behaved differently (found via Ahab).  And maybe God really does punish the wicked.

Inadequate regulation made the flooding worse by allowing too much ground to be covered by water-impervious material.

Fire ant colonies afloat create a further danger.  Fire ants originated in South America -- naturally they're adapted to surviving floods.

Emergency shutdowns of oil refineries are releasing massive amounts of toxic pollution (found via Ahab), and in at least one case there have been chemical explosions, a risk state officials had tried to minimize.

Texas blogger Ranch Chimp hopes the disaster will wake up some global-warming denialists to reality, and links to an expert opinion on the connection.  Yellow Dog is skeptical, and at least some wingnuts are doubling down on teh stoopid.

Texas Republicans in Congress who voted against aid after Hurricane Sandy are now being called out for hypocrisy.

If you want to help, you can do so quickly via the Red CrossUpdateMore options here.

29 August 2017

Some thoughts on impeachment

As the possibility of impeachment becomes more concrete, I'm sensing a certain amount of negativity toward the idea on the left.  Some seem to worry that (a) it can't really happen because the Republicans who control Congress will never go along with it, and (b) even if it did happen, it might actually be a bad thing because the Republican regime would become more effective with a less incompetent and divisive leader (Pence) in place, while the resistance would grow weaker without the baroquely obnoxious figure of Trump to energize it.  Both of these concerns are misguided.

First, as to the idea that impeachment will never happen because Congressional Republicans will not allow it -- as noted in the last link round-up, the number of Republicans needed to bring it about is surprisingly small.  The votes of the large Democratic minorities in Congress count too, and we only need enough Republicans added to that to get to a simple majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate.  Further, several have already shown enough defiance toward Trump that they could well be brought along in an impeachment vote too, especially as Trump continues to do outrageous and ridiculous things.

There's abundant anecdotal evidence that most Republicans in Congress are exasperated with Trump and would far prefer Pence as President.  No experienced Republican politician could relish the thought of such a man and his antics being the public face of the party for another three and a half years.  Many must be concerned at the risk of disaster if Trump's hand remains on the nuclear trigger for that period.  Finally, some are genuinely outraged at the spectacle of Russian meddling in the election (Republicans tend to be nationalists), equivocation about neo-Nazis, and the Arpaio pardon (which has driven another nail into the coffin of Republican hopes of winning over Latino voters).  Some dismiss all Republicans as uniformly evil, but if the party were homogenous, it wouldn't constantly be paralyzed by internal divisions as we've seen.  There's a vast gulf between the ideology-blinded fervor of the (grotesquely misnamed) "freedom caucus" and the genuine moderation of, for example, Collins and Murkowski, who voted down ACA repeal partly to protect Planned Parenthood.

Second, as to the fear that Trump's removal would make the Republican regime more effective and weaken the resistance, remember that Pence, too, is a polarizing figure.  As the embodiment of the God-hates-fags Christian Right, he would never have had any chance of winning a Presidential election on his own.  Before being picked by Trump for VP, he was best known for Indiana's anti-gay "religious freedom" law -- but he's also widely despised among his fellow religio-wingnuts as a weakling for later caving to pressure from big business to abandon the law.  His obsessions are more theocratic and anti-gay than Russophilic and anti-immigrant, but would likely prove just as divisive among Congressional Republicans.

As for the resistance, the issue that has actually been most effective at energizing it -- ACA repeal -- has little to do with Trump.  The tsunami of public opposition and pressure that helped force Congressional Republicans to back down on repeal would have happened regardless of who the Republican President was.  The same applies to future threats to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc.  The danger to the public, and thus the level of public pressure to defend those programs, will be the same regardless of whether it's Trump or Pence standing ready to sign the devastation into law.

Will Pence be a less effective tool than Trump to rally Democratic voter turnout in 2018 and 2020?  Probably so, but the difference will be less than many fear.  A theocrat who, just as much as Trump, owes his position to Russian election interference will be deeply unpopular in his own right.  For whatever reason, Pence has so far defended Trump even while other prominent Republicans have grown more critical -- the stench of Trump's rhetoric and actions will stick to him better than to most other Republicans.  He'll be unpopular enough to lose to a Democrat in 2020, even if by a smaller margin than Trump would have.  As for Congressional elections, again, most of what the Republicans there have done to make themselves toxic to the voters has little to do with Trump.

Observe, too, that the Republicans seem to be swinging back into O'Donnell/Akin mode, using primary challenges to dump electable relative moderates in favor of complete loonies.  It's looking very possible that Moore will beat Strange in the Alabama primary and that Ward will beat Flake in the Arizona one.  Alabama is so red that Moore might win the general anyway, but if this kind of thing happens in more purplish states, it could create real opportunities for us, Trump or no Trump.

More importantly, a Trump impeachment will leave the Republican rank-and-file bitterly divided.  As Trump's poll ratings sink, hard-core Trumpanzees remain a minority, but a large one, within the Republican base.  And Trump will not simply vanish after impeachment.  He'll keep right on tweeting and holding rallies, whipping up his people with a full-bore Dolchstoßlegende featuring Republicans who turned on him as arch-traitors.  The party will go into 2018 and perhaps even 2020 with a big chunk of its base enraged against its establishment.  (In fact, I think the fear of this scenario is the main reason why the Republicans haven't impeached Trump already.)

But the most important reason why we must support impeachment has to do with the President's personal control over nuclear weapons.  Pence, at least, is basically a "normal" Republican no more likely to use an H-bomb in a fit of anger, or start a war out of stupidity, than any other President, while Trump's belligerent and erratic nature make him unacceptably dangerous in that position.  This issue is more important than anything that happens or doesn't happen within the US.  The risk Trump presents to the lives of millions of people in Seoul or Tehran outweighs our domestic political concerns.

27 August 2017

Link round-up for 27 August 2017

Check out this clever New York street art.

Teh stoopid, it burns.....

Now this is a water pistol.

A spectral moggy haunted nineteenth-century Washington DC (found via Mendip).

These photos are indeed oddly satisfying.

There's a Barbie for everyone.

Tell Me a Story reviews Atomic Blonde.

Solar evaporation ponds show striking colors from the air.

An MRA takes a forceful stand for male supremacy and illiteracy.

Don't feed trolls, ignore them (found via Tell Me a Story).

Follow the evolution of douchebag style.  Speaking of douchebags, these people exist.

Women find Nazis irresistible -- don't they?  Well, apparently not this Nazi.

Don't be fooled -- the Alt-Right is running a scam campaign to smear leftists as supporting violence against women.

If your case doesn't fit the narrative, you'll be ignored.

Michael Snyder wants an InfoWars-style government.

Marriage works a lot better when it's not cluttered up with religious nonsense.

Louise Linton casts herself as the Marie Antoinette of our times.  What goes on in the head of such a person?

In some cases, you can get insane hospital bills reduced.

Boston blogger Donna has a report and photos from the counter-protest there.  BLM played a remarkable role in keeping the peace.

Good news for everybody -- Americans overwhelmingly support freedom of speech.

Wingnuts launch another doubtless-futile boycott.

Thousands rally against racism in New Orleans, while more racist statues come down in Texas.

This couple spent 21 years in prison after being falsely convicted due to religious hysteria.

The Alt-Right, now driven to the isolated fringes of the internet, are more losers than ever.

Another Christian cult is exposed as riddled with child abuse.

TYWKIWDBI has an all-Trump link round-up. And Trump x 4 = art.

Christians need to embrace being The Bad Guy (and sorry, but no, our "picture of the world" is way older than yours).

Here's what the 1924 dedication of that Robert E. Lee statue looked like (found via Yellowdog Granny).  Most Confederate "monuments" are cheap mass-produced crap.

A detailed first-hand report from Charlottesville debunks claims of "violence on both sides".  The man seen flying over the attack car in the most iconic photo of the riot had just saved his fiancée's life.  Local residents are not happy with the city's handling of the event.

Another neo-Nazi is exposed and fired.

Wingnuts accuse the left of being violent, but there are good reasons why we generally avoid violence.

The Trump administration is no friend to coal miners.

Who are the lazy ones, really?

Ignoring Trump, nine northeastern states commit to cap-and-trade to fight global warming.

A new book attacking Darwin is riddled with factual errors.

This is the Milky Way over Mt. Hood, Oregon.

Politics Plus has a round-up of eclipse pictures.

Tissue nanotransfection looks like a very promising new technology, but I'm a bit skeptical -- not seeing much analysis of it on hard-science sites.

Ancient Babylon was surprisingly advanced in trigonometry.

The English language is a little too fashionable in Berlin.

This house in Minsk, Belarus, has a unique style.

Russia joins the countries making shows of force around North Korea.

Turkey under Erdoğan retreats from modernity in education.

A new court decision in India way open the way to decriminalize homosexuality there.

23 die in religious rioting over a cult leader's rape conviction.

Ed Brayton analyzes Trump's Afghanistan speech.  David Roth looks at Trump's mind (found via Mock Paper Scissors).

Republicans are bad for business -- what should Democrats do about it?

Some Sanders supporters share the blame for Trump, but many weren't even Democrats.

Bannon's fall was mostly due to his own mistakes.

Trump's Arizona rally drew a meager crowd, despite altered images suggesting otherwise.

Rust-belt Trumpanzees love Trump because they've given up.  Evangelical Trumpanzees will never live down their hypocrisy.  Racist Trumpanzees are racist.

The Trump-McConnell feud is seriously damaging the latter in his home state, but NRO thinks Trump can't win.

Breitbart frets that the White House staff is trying to rein in teh nutty.

The failure of tax "reform" will speed Trump's fall.  It would take relatively few Congressional Republicans to remove him, and some of them are already on board.  Olbermann thinks the end will be different, and sudden.

[220 days down, 1,242 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

24 August 2017

The clash of the Asian titans

While the North Korean crisis undoubtedly remains the world's most dangerous potential military flashpoint, there's another which deserves more attention than it has previously received in the US.

For two months, tensions have been rising between China and India over a border dispute in the Himalayas (technically the dispute is between China and the small state of Bhutan, but India is supporting Bhutan).  So far no shots have been fired, but there have been a number of clashes between Chinese and Indian troops which involved throwing rocks at each other.

The risk of escalation is exacerbated by the fact that both countries' governments are belligerently nationalistic regimes determined to assert their power and prestige on the world stage.  China is essentially a fascist dictatorship, and while India is a democracy, the current BJP government's religio-nationalist ideology is aggressively challenging India's secular traditions and asserting Hindu supremacy at the expense of minority religions, dissenting views, and democratic values generally (more on the BJP here).

China-India tensions have implications beyond just those two countries -- especially in a world destabilized by the unreliability of the US under Trump and its general retreat from global leadership.  Japan, in particular, has long been concerned about China's growing power, and has been seeking closer ties with other countries -- notably India.  A close Japan-India alliance would have much to offer both parties.  Japan has no nuclear weapons, and while it could easily build them, doing so would trigger severe shock and anxiety in other East Asian countries.  India, however, does have them.  The two countries are on opposite sides of China, so a close alliance would deter China from attacking either one due to the risk of a two-front war.  India seeks to increase its military power, but is hindered by poverty and technological backwardness.  Japanese money and technology could hugely increase its capabilities.

India is already restructuring its strategic nuclear forces to focus more on China than on its traditional enemy Pakistan -- suggesting that it now considers China its most likely future adversary.

Could the current border dispute escalate into a major war?  It's unlikely, because the stakes in this specific dispute are not high enough to risk really large-scale casualties and destruction.  The only way it could happen is if one of the two governments gets so caught up in asserting national prestige as to take leave of its senses.  In the two months this dispute has been simmering, neither has done so.

However, in the long run the risk of something leading to a war is significant, for several reasons.  Ultra-nationalistic regimes have repeatedly shown a tendency to miscalculate how much provocation rivals will tolerate.  Such regimes have also been known to whip up international tensions, or even war, in order to intensify patriotic "unity" fervor at home.  Both countries suffer from a serious imbalance of the genders among young adults, due to the toxic combination of patriarchal traditional culture and sex-selective abortion; an unmarriageable excess of young men can contribute to social and even political instability, tempting an authoritarian state to prefer to burn off the excess as cannon fodder in wars of aggression.  Both countries have nuclear weapons, but their arsenals are much smaller than those of the superpowers (India is estimated to have somewhat over 100 warheads, China around 260), while the number actually deliverable to each other's major cities is even smaller; and these warheads are largely fission bombs much less powerful than modern fusion bombs.  The temptation to regard a nuclear exchange as survivable, especially if a first strike destroyed much of the enemy's arsenal, exists in a way it could not exist for the US and Russia.

The West long ago lost its monopoly on weapons of mass destruction.  On belligerence and dangerous ideology, it has never had a monopoly at all.

21 August 2017

Video of the day -- a message from Arnold Schwarzenegger

This speaks for itself.

20 August 2017

Link round-up for 20 August 2017

WARNING:  Dangerous fake eclipse glasses are being sold.

This cat is a connoisseur of containers.

Baby chameleons are tiny.

Here's what popping a falling balloon looks like.  Dogs play with an intact one.


Progressive Eruptions looks at the departure of Bannon.

This fish is just being an asshole.

A salad figures prominently in this ancient Egyptian myth.

The eclipse may bring sightings of men in crappy monster suits.

Trump is a uniter.

Muscles are mice, except when they're lizards.

Horses.....BIG horses.

"Now, you colored people listen to me."

Michele Bachmann has a new project -- pestering the UN.

Reminder: the country did not choose well.

What is faith?

State-level Republicans are plotting against Medicaid.

Here's more crappy Christian behavior.

The DoJ is trying to gather information on political opponents.

Even some clergy eventually realize religion is bunk.

Attending a Christian university builds moral character.

There was violence on both sides.  But this guy didn't encourage it (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Charlottesville police failed to protect a local synagogue during the Nazi riot, despite online threats to burn it down (found via Ahab on Twitter).

These people exist.  And these people exist.

The ugliness almost defies belief.

The Alt-Right is ostracized and rejected by PayPal, OKCupid, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, the Spotify music service, Johnny Cash's family, the Six Flags over Texas theme park, and this hardware store.  The enemy assesses the damage.

Too many pastors are silent.

Celebrate real European culture, not Nazi bullshit.

A photo showing an Antifa protester beating a police officer is fake.

Doxxing leads to terrorization of the innocent.

Crooks and Liars suggests tactics for resisting the Alt-Right.

Hackwhackers finds the best cartoons on the Charlottesville riotHere's another.

This video from 1943 seems suddenly relevant again (found via Ahab on Twitter).

The Alt-Right commemorates the attack that killed Heather Heyer.  Here's background on the Daily Stormer's disgusting post about her.

A radical Christian finds common ground with Islam.

Wingnuts show their true strength in Boston -- and so do counter-protesters.

Read an impassioned post about true Southern heritage (it fits well with my post earlier on the same issue).

This is the Eagle Nebula.

Media overhyping of exoplanets is partly due to misleading terminology.

This archbishop would rather face prison than help catch child molesters (found via Ahab on Twitter).

This place should be the ultimate Alt-Right shrine, but.....

Here's a summary of this week's terrorist attacks in Spain.

You'll never guess which country was first to use rockets as military weapons.

Authorities in Malaysia threaten local atheists.

The best outcome in North Korea is not war but revolution.

Trump's rant included a revealing pronoun.  Often the simplest explanation is best.

Arch-wingnut Roy Moore presents Republicans with a headache.

RedState (!) scorchingly calls the Trumpanzees to account, while Republican Matt Latimer challenges his party.  Romney too speaks out.  Perhaps most startling is a rebuke from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (found via Mendip).  But in some cases, actions don't match words.

Hysterical Raisins has designed Bannon's statue.  Green Eagle warns of media spin.  Don't expect the Alt-Right crap to subside.

David French may have been prescient -- he knows the Alt-Right well.

He's alive.

[Image at top:  City hall in Tel Aviv, Israel, illuminated with the colors of the Spanish flag in solidarity after this week's terrorist attacks]

19 August 2017

Video of the day -- Touch of Grey

Found via Hackwhackers.  Brought back some memories.

Note:  Today is the 11th anniversary of this blog.

18 August 2017


Defenders of the Confederate flag and Confederate statues often claim that these are actually symbols of Southern "heritage" and identity, not of racism or slavery, and that they should therefore be accepted and respected the same way as any country's flag and statues of its heroes are.

Aside from the fact that most of the statues were actually put up long after the Civil War as an expression of dominance over the still-subjugated black population, there's another reason why this is a very odd argument.

"The South" as a culturally-distinct region dates back to colonial times.  Out of this quarter-millennium-plus of history, Confederate symbols represent only the four-year period (1861-1865) when the South was in active rebellion against the rest of the United States, not only practicing slavery but explicitly fighting a war to preserve it (and yes, the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery).  Why single out the most evil and embarrassing four-year period in that long history to commemorate with symbols?

To really see how bizarre this is, imagine if some Germans insisted on displaying Nazis flags and statues of Nazi leaders, but claimed that this was out of pride in their German heritage and nothing to do with anti-Semitism or fascism.  Germany as a culturally-distinct region is more than a thousand years old and can boast world-class achievements in science, technology, music, literature, architecture, and on and on.  To ignore all that, and choose symbols representing solely Germany's twelve-year lurch into the darkest depths of evil, would strongly suggest that what they were really commemorating was not German heritage at all, but rather that very evil.

So it is with the Confederate flag and statues.  To treat these as if they were the epitome of the Southern heritage, the symbols best suited to express it, actually demeans that heritage by presenting only its worst face as if that represented the whole.

16 August 2017

Some further thoughts on the Charlottesville riot

I give up.  Every time I think the Trump horror show can't get any worse, it does.  I've wondered for some time what Reagan would have thought of a Republican Presidential campaign being helped to victory by Russian meddling in a US election.  But what would Eisenhower have thought if he had seen the Nazi riot in Charlottesville and the bizarre responses to it by the current Republican occupant of the White House?

What matters in practice is what the Republicans in Congress think of what Trump said. They are the ones who have the power to impeach, since they have the majority. Once enough Republicans support impeachment to form (along with the Democrats) a simple majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate, it will happen. Every incident like this pushes some number of them a little further along toward the decision that Trump is doing the party and the country more damage than they can afford, and that they'd rather have Pence. Every incident like this is one more step toward impeachment.  In this case, it may be a large step.  Quite a few Republican leaders are publicly appalled.

Pence, however, is still trying to triangulate. He's already thinking about 2020. He knows that either Trump will be so weakened that a primary challenge will be possible, or Trump will have been impeached and he (Pence) will be running as an incumbent. Either way, he’s got to avoid pissing off the hard-core Trumpanzees too much, so he has to avoid contradicting Trump too openly.  I don't think it will work.  You don't do nuance where Nazis are concerned.

One point that Trump made does need to be addressed.  He insisted that not all the participants in the pro-statue rally were neo-Nazis or white supremacists. Even granting for the sake of argument that that’s true, all of them were OK with participating in an event with people carrying Confederate and Nazi flags. If I went to a rally and saw that, I’d turn around and leave immediately. Participation implies, at the least, a degree of approval. You just don’t do that when there are Nazis involved.  Others have long observed that while not all Trump voters were racists, they all must have felt that racism was not a deal breaker.  It's the same principle.

All over the country, extremists are feeling emboldened.  This week it was revealed that the FBI has foiled an attempt to detonate a half-ton bomb in Oklahoma City.  The would-be bomber appears to be a "survivalist" crackpot motivated by some incoherent anti-government hatred.  Along with the car attack in Charlottesville and the recent mosque bombing in Minnesota, it's a reminder that wingnut violence and terrorism are a constant threat, paralleling jihadist terrorism in Europe.

Mainstream society is pushing back, though.  After the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer posted a disgusting attack on Heather Heyer, who was killed by the Charlottesville car terrorist (you can read some of the post here, along with plenty more right-wing insanity), the site was kicked off its host GoDaddy and then from Google Domains when it tried to take refuge there.  Reactions to Trump's press conference have been almost unanimous in their revulsion and incredulity.  Rally participants are being identified and, in at least one case, fired.  Nobody wants to have any association with these people.

And as Green Eagle points out, they are operating from a position of weakness.  Dâ'ish (ISIL) runs people down with cars because that's all they have left -- the large pseudo-state they once ruled in Iraq and Syria has been mostly destroyed.  America's white supremacists had an even bigger pseudo-state from 1861 to 1865, which was destroyed; they dominated a lot of state and local governments for a century thereafter, and built the deadliest terrorist organization in US history (the KKK), which is now barely a shadow of what it once was; today, they count it a great success when they can get a few hundred people to go to a rally and drive a car into a crowd.

In a way, it's odd that the Charlottesville riot has been such a wake-up call to so many.  The Daily Stormer was neo-Nazi before it slimed Heather Heyer.  The Alt-Right was the Alt-Right before the riot.  Trump's rhetoric and his bringing people like Bannon and Gorka into his administration told us enough that no one should have been surprised at his latest flatulations.  But if this is finally waking people up -- especially those Congressional Republicans, who have the power to make impeachment a reality -- hell, I'll take it.

[Image at top found via Progressive Eruptions.]

14 August 2017

Some thoughts on the Charlottesville riot

Sometimes it's hard to know where to start.  Neo-Nazis instigating murderous violence is not, in itself, terribly surprising.  It comes with the territory of the ideology with which they've chosen to associate themselves.  People who aren't violent probably don't become neo-Nazis in the first place.

What immediately struck me about the attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured many others was that ramming a car into a crowd of people is an established jihadist tactic -- they've used it several times in Britain and France, and nobody had any hesitation in labeling those incidents as terrorism.  The driver in this case may even have gotten the idea from reading about those attacks in the news.

The circumstances fueling our neo-Nazi, Confederate-revivalist, and militant Christian Right movements also resemble those fueling jihadism.  In both cases a culturally-conservative society (the USA outside its urban cores, the Middle East) has for decades seen a massive influx of liberal ideas eroding the dominance of a traditional monoculture, challenging that monoculture's deepest taboos, and shifting the entire society towards cultural pluralism.  In both cases, reactionaries angry and frightened at that loss of dominance are trying to re-assert it by embracing extremist ideology and militance against cultural change.  The demand is, put everything back the way it was before -- before blacks and women and gays started getting uppity, before anti-Semitism became unacceptable in polite society.  Back when our belief system was dominant and no one dared question it.

Next, Trump and his "many, many sides" blithering.  Many, including quite a few Republican leaders, have called him out for his failure to condemn white-supremacist ideology and violence specifically, so it's fair to say there's a broad consensus on this point.  Nevertheless, anyone who is surprised at this is being disingenuous.  Trump's campaign gave plenty of dog-whistles to the racist, Alt-Right element, and stood by them even when controversy erupted.  His inner circle includes people like Bannon and Gorka.  Anyone who has been claiming it wasn't obvious what this means was being willfully obtuse.

But self-blinkering has its limits.  With hours of the riot, everyone had seen those pictures from Charlottesville -- the swastika flags, the KKK outfits, the fascist salutes.  There is no ambiguity about who these people are and what their message is -- hateful rejection of the very humanity of Jewish, black, and gay Americans, identifying with people who exulted in mass murder and other atrocities.  This needs to be condemned as an ideology, independently of whether or not it instigates violence in any specific incident.  Yet Trump wouldn't even do that.

This brings me to the issue of the First Amendment.  A few weeks ago I posted about the principle that free expression must apply even to the most hateful and evil groups.  Yes, demonstrations by actual neo-Nazis test this principle to the limit, and yes, I still stand by it.  It must apply to everyone or it means nothing.  There must, of course, be a hard line between expression on the one hand and violence or harassment on the other, and anyone who crosses that line needs to be smacked down with the full force of the law -- and yes, that also must be applied regardless of who is doing it.

More to the point, harsh condemnation of an ideology does not violate the free-expression rights of its exponents.  On the contrary, it exemplifies how free expression is supposed to work.  Everyone is free to state their beliefs, and everyone else is equally free to express their reactions to those beliefs.  Free societies don't silence people (that's what Nazis do).  As for Trump, if he had followed up his statement about violence with a clear and forceful rejection of neo-Nazi and racist ideology -- as any other President in living memory would surely have done in this situation -- he would not have been infringing the neo-Nazis' First Amendment rights, but rather making it clear where his government stands.  Purging his staff of Alt-Right figures would have done so even more effectively

In a way, of course, his actual statement did make it clear where his government stands.  This is useful information.  In fact, the lack of ambiguity inherent in this whole event further vindicates the value of extending free expression to even the worst people.  It's good that those photos of their flags and Nazi salutes are out there.  We need to know that these people exist and what they believe.  That too is useful information.

A few other blogger reactions:

Hackwhackers has some questions for Charlottesville officials, and for the Trump administration.

Politics Plus looks at our newest domestic terrorist.

Progressive Eruptions reminds us that the national fish is rotting from the head down.

Hysterical Raisins has some strong words for that rotting head.

P M Carpenter, too, calls out the "stinking abomination".

Green Eagle looks at the numbers, and sees both-siderism oozing into view yet again.

From the other side, RedState manages to say what Trump should have said.

From the other other side, there's this.

[Update (10:05 AM):  Trump has issued a new statementUpdate (2:40 PM):  Shaw Kenawe is unimpressed, noting the delay and the fact that the statement was clearly made under pressure.]

[Image at top by Manu Saadia, found via What Would Jack Do]

13 August 2017

Link round-up for 13 August 2017

You never know, the next rock along might be worse.

Very true.

Don't go fishing with him.

This shop has been closed for a while, but it must have sold some intriguing stuff.  Sorry for the corny jokes.

This Tuesday, a large number of people will start mumbling to themselves and fiddling with beads in an effort to make you give up porn.

Someone used Google Translate to convert Chinese subtitles on Rogue One back to English.

Millions of people believe this.

Best current headline.

A wingnut "scientist" claims homosexuality wiped out the dinosaurs (found via Mendip).

English-language lessons in Japan are pretty comprehensive.

Auto mechanics recreate Renaissance paintings.

A table provokes spooky thoughts.

Now the Alt-Right wants to boycott Google.

I'm not sure what these people are doing, but it's probably illegal in Alabama.

Read the history of Sweden's giant burning goat.

Wingnuts freak out over an innocuous magazine cover.

How do dogs really feel?

Don't eat fruit pits.

University of Memphis students do history cosplay.

Fat Nazis want to be sexy.

Those fake pronouns we're being pestered with would be even less workable in other languages.  (German?  Just try this stuff in Arabic!)

The government keeps on functioning by ignoring Trump.

The enemy is in a huge snit about a kids' TV cartoon.

Remember an unusual act of heroism.

Evangelical Christianity ruthlessly attacks any deviation from intolerance (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird). They demand strong moral character.

Consumer groups fight Trump to preserve rights of nursing-home residents.

Someone should hand out these to women who work at Fox News.

Now they want to get rid of the EPA.

Which religion is the bigger threat?

Dinesh D'Souza goes bonkers à la Jonah Goldberg.

Fundamentalist Mormons face genetic disaster.

These people exist.

The SPLC explains why the ADF is a hate group (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird).

We need a fundamental reassessment of how US nuclear weapons are controlled.

Modern conservatism is based on fake economics and all-too-real religion.

Fuck the "opioid epidemic", this is the real problem.

The fossil-fuel industry -- and Trump -- are trying to hinder the rise of solar power.

If you get stuck with Windows 10, this might help.

Health is not found at the extremes.

Moon landing denialists are dumb and don't do basic research.

Trump wants to fire NASA's planetary protection officer.

A robot probe finds weird critters a miles below the sea.

Cassini has only a month left, but even its end will bring us new data.

A new survey shows which of Trump's policies is most unpopular in various countries.

"Our leadership in the world is slipping away."  Other countries are learning to get by without the US.

It's now fifty years since England decriminalized homosexuality, and the enemy still objects to even that level of tolerance.

Euro-wingnuts find themselves adrift.

A religious nutjob shows his superb grasp of public relations.

Don't confuse communism with socialism.

If war breaks out in Korea, the threat to Seoul may be less than we think (yeah, it's RedState, but it's worth reading).

This is the best thing we could do to punish Russia for election interference.

Air pollution in China has gotten so bad (killing over a million people per year) that bottled air for sale is now a thing.

As if there weren't enough tensions already, China is considering attacking India.

Here's an interactive timeline on the Trump-Russia scandal (found via Hackwhackers).

Yet another poll shows growing support for the ACA.

Don't worry about cyber-warfare -- Trump will handle it.

The ACA fight was full of partisan theatrics.  The debt ceiling fight will be even scarier.

There's no justification at all for "both parties do it".

How long can wingnut anti-environmentalism last?  Our best hope for swaying Trump is the military.

Never forget what these idiots said.  And don't allow them to sabotage our efforts for 2020.  Ideological purism will poison everything.  Are they really parroting wingnut fantasies?

RedState has a hard-hitting piece on Trump's authoritarian incompetence.  Congress is trying to Trump-proof the government.

A lawsuit on vote suppression in Indiana will test just how right-wing the Supreme Court is.

Jeff Sessions threatens legal-marijuana states.  And Republicans are serious about punishing sanctuary cities.

If Trump is impeached, he'll whip up the Trumpanzees -- but so what?

[206 days down, 1,256 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

11 August 2017

Random observations for August 2017

"Heaven" as most religions envisage it would be boring because it is supposedly "perfect" and therefore eternally unchanging (any change from perfection is for the worse, by definition).  Immortality here on Earth, with its endless cultural, social, and technological development, would be anything but boring.

o o o o o

Sometimes the greatest form of bravery is that which is the least respected.  To defend yourself or a weaker person from the mob takes courage, but to do so when that "mob" is most of the society you live in, enforcing its taboo system, and when you receive only contempt or ridicule for what you are doing -- how much more courage that takes!

o o o o o

If love potions actually worked, they'd be classified as date-rape drugs.

o o o o o

The most naïve and gullible people of all are the cynics and conspiracy-theory believers.

o o o o o

Taking any holy book as eternal and absolute truth traps you at whatever stage of scientific and moral development had been reached by its authors.  Fundamentalist Christians are stuck with creationism, homophobia, archaic gender roles, etc. because that is what the Bible's authors knew.  Even if a new religion were founded today, accepting all of 2017's scientific knowledge and moral values as part of its dogma, within a century or two it would seem hopelessly outdated because that dogma could not assimilate the further progress made since its foundation.

o o o o o

The "fascism is leftist, not rightist" scam (promoted by Jonah Goldberg, but now a common wingnut talking point) exemplifies the essentially dishonest and pre-modern outlook of the modern right wing. One of the biggest differences between the pre-scientific medieval way of looking at the world and the scientific outlook was that the former concerned itself with essences, what things "are", whereas science looks at how things behave and interact. The important question is not what fascism "is" (what category it goes in), but rather, which present-day party is behaving in the classic fascist manner — demagoguery, anti-intellectualism, whipping up ultra-nationalism, scapegoating minorities, encouraging violence, etc.

o o o o o

The Paris accord was signed by every country in the world except Syria and Nicaragua (and the latter rejected it because it didn't go far enough).  Does Trump think they're all participating in a "Chinese hoax"?

[For previous random observations, see here.]

08 August 2017

Video of the day -- guns and physics

Using a tool you haven't learned to handle properly can have dangerous and/or ridiculous results.  Also, a lot of these people don't seem to grasp the concept of action and reaction.  In terms of the physics involved, firing a gun is rather like firing a rocket.

06 August 2017

Link round-up for 6 August 2017

I recently started posting at WriterBeat, a sort of group blog and discussion site for writers.  It has its share of right-wingers and outright crackpots, but quite a few worthwhile posters as well.  If you decide to post there, definitely read the policies.

Cats are liquid.

What's in the box?  OK, never mind.

You need to know a little math to get this one.

The flying trampoline departs the wasteland.

Would you dare hike this dangerous trail?

Read the terrifying tale of The Catte of Amontillado.

Mega-kitty pounce!

If I walked through this, I'd expect to find someplace way better than Narnia.

The Jesus fandom has serious problems.

Somebody did this on purpose.

Immigrants should speak English goodly.

Not everybody has one of these.

They were wrong then and they're wrong now.

Yes, a lot of Tumblr really is this bad.

What if Obama had said it?  (Update: That video has become unavailable, so here's another link -- the part I'm talking about starts at the 1:55 mark.)

If you're one of those people who wishes for a flying car, check these out.

Outback Steakhouse is of Satan, apparently (found via Mendip).

Some people are just evil.

WTF?  What makes these people think they can get away with acting like this?

Popcorn time!  The Vatican bashes US Catholic extremists, who quickly bash back.

National Review says New Atheism is dead.  Dream on.

Report internet bullies to the FBI.

If hard work made you rich.....

Stock repurchasing may seem like an obscure abstraction, but it's contributed to the rise of inequality and oligarchy in the US.

How many defenders of Christianity notice this inconsistency?  How many can grasp this simple point?

Racists have weird ideas.

Some of the worst police misconduct doesn't involve shooting people.

Another poll shows a slim majority of Americans supporting single-payer.

Richard Dawkins responds to a contemptible attack.

Anti-abortion zealots are a pervasive threat to individual freedom in the US.

Mourners for the Orlando victims had the support of "angels" (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

The Texas business community doesn't like the state's "bathroom bill".

"Fat acceptance" helps people die.

Now this is a bullet hole.

Lies about abortion are circulating.

Bisexuality is pervasive among animals.

Trump's election makes the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth all the more important.

Bee populations are recovering, but their troubles aren't over.

It's morning over the desert -- actual photos.

Biggest merger ever.

Titan might be a good place to find life not as we know it.

After almost forty years in space, the Voyager probes are still working.

Genetic editing of human embryos to cure hereditary disease has now been achieved.

Young Protestants in Northern Ireland are turned off by the anti-gay, anti-abortion stances of parties they would otherwise support.

Britain's re-opening to the world with Brexit is already bringing benefits, including a possible new trade deal with the US.

Air New Zealand has the best safety video ever.

Norwegian wingnuts freak out over a photo of some empty bus seats.

In Sweden, back when homosexuality was classified as an illness, people got creative.

The German Catholic Church has plenty of money -- members, not so much (note: wingnut site).

Freedom of the press has had its martyrs.

Here's an exchange on Cuba.

As Dâ'ish (ISIL) collapses, European Muslims who fought for it aren't wanted back in their home countries.

From Pakistan to El Salvador, patriarchal religion inflicts misery.

The Chinese regime goes all out to humiliate Muslims.

Global warming could make much of the Indian subcontinent uninhabitable.

Trump's attacks on Sessions are confusing the Trumpanzees.  He's acting more like a media mogul than like a President.

Paul Ryan has a rocky road ahead.

There are four tribes of Republicans that show some resistance to Trump.

67% of Americans favor allowing trans people in the military.  Democrats are working on it.

This cannabis crusader just might become Governor of Florida.

Charles Krauthammer (!) is relieved that institutional government is standing up to Trump.

Michele Bachmann goes nutzoid over a hate-crime hotline.

The much-cited voters who voted for Obama and then Trump were Republicans who liked Obama, not Democrats who hated Hillary.

Republicans have a long history of lying, even to themselves.

Murkowski gets in another whack at Trump, blocking recess appointments.

Democrats have actually done pretty well in special elections.  A hard-hitting ad foreshadows the message for 2018.

Don't believe the bullshit about Kamala Harris.

J.K. Rowling pwns a Trumpanzee.  McCain sets Trump himself straight.

The collapse of ACA repeal leads to a wingnut pundit meltdown.  But don't forget what repeal supporters were really voting for.

Trump gif found via Mock Paper Scissors.

03 August 2017

Word-games à la wingnut

If you are in confrontation with a right-winger on the internet and the subject of racism or homophobia comes up, your interlocutor may cite a "definition" of the word "bigot" attributed to Google, which reads as follows: "a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions".

This odd definition has been a wingnut talking point for some time, because it conveniently excludes most forms of real bigotry. The KKK's hatred of blacks has nothing to do with what opinions blacks hold, any more than the fundie hatred of gays does. So if bigotry is re-defined as intolerance toward opinions, the KKK and the homophobes are not bigots, but people who object to the hateful views (opinions) of those groups are bigots. Very convenient.

I don't know where that "definition" originates. Yes, it does come up in Google when you search on the word "bigot", but real dictionaries, including online ones, show definitions which fit the word's actual meaning.  My trusty Webster's, for example, defines it as "1. a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc." and "2. a narrow-minded, intolerant person".

This isn't the only case where ideology has given a common word some Orwellian re-definition.  We all know how "freedom" has been twisted by the enemy to mean low taxes and the "freedom" of the wealthy to use their property rights to run roughshod over everyone else (and, in the case of some libertarian types, the freedom to use drugs), but almost never sexual or reproductive freedom or any other kind of core personal freedom.  In fact, the central error of libertarian ideology is that it can only conceive of freedom being infringed by government -- use of economic power by, say, landlords or employers to restrict the freedom of non-wealthy individuals, no matter how egregious, does not count.  Similarly, whenever a prude or censorious type says "it's not a matter of freedom of expression", you can be pretty certain that whatever they're talking about is a matter of freedom of expression.  The word "freedom" has been twisted in so many ways by various people with agendas that I tend to use a more explicit phrase, such as "individual self-determination", in its place when I feel it's necessary for clarity.

But we shouldn't have to surrender the word "freedom", and I'm not going to surrender "bigot" either.  If someone hates black people or thinks homosexuality is immoral, that person is a bigot.  And I am not a bigot for denouncing his views.

01 August 2017

Video of the day -- culture shock

An American pastor visits ultra-secular Scandinavia.  To be fair, Pastor McLain is more respectful and open-minded than some of our real fundies would have been in his position, but still appears startled by what he finds.