30 November 2016

The evil and the good

Last week I posted this round-up of hateful Trumpanzee behavior, and recently there's been much attention given to the asshole on the Delta plane and the asshole in the Michael's shop.  Now comes a case of Trumpanzee trolls celebrating the suicide of a trans woman and taunting her family.  Trump's "victory", even though it's an artifact of the Electoral College, has brought a lot of evil out of the woodwork, and we're going to see more of it over time.

But there is good as well, and we will need to rally its power to fight the evil, especially when Trumpanzees target the vulnerable, as they seem so inclined to do.  This hidden-camera test of human reactions to bigotry in Farmers Branch, Texas, was done five years ago, but it remains an example of what people can and will do when challenged.

There's more, of course.  Here's a current case of ordinary people rising to the occasion.  2,000 military veterans have signed up to act as "human shields" for Indian protesters at Standing Rock.  Delta has permabanned the above-cited asshole and refunded the ticket prices to at least some passengers who were afflicted by his diatribe.  And remember the private-sector boycotts in response to anti-gay laws in Indiana, North Carolina, and other places.

Our side has temporarily lost the Presidency.  We still won the popular vote, we still have humanity on our side, and we will still win the war.

28 November 2016

A political fantasy

Trump isn't Hitler, he's Gilderoy Lockhart.

It's long been clear that Trump has very little idea of what being President actually involves.  He likely didn't expect to win -- his complaints about election-rigging sounded like face-saving before an anticipated defeat.  Since the election, and particularly after his early meetings with Obama, he's been realizing what he's gotten himself into.  And he's sometimes seemed rather daunted by it, something especially striking in a man who usually projects such boundless self-confidence.

It's possible that, deep down, he wishes there were a way out.  He's already talking about living part of the time in New York instead of the White House, treating the Presidency as a part-time job and leaving as much of the real work as possible to others.  He'll soon learn, if he hasn't already, that that won't work.  Most of the President's power is non-transferable, and therefore, so is most of the responsibility.

But he still has an escape available, in the unlikely event that he has the imagination to use it.

Much has been made recently of the fact that the Electors who meet on December 19 to actually choose the President are technically free to "vote their consciences" rather than following the outcomes in their respective states.  Lawrence Lessig, David Halperin, and others have made the case that, given Trump's obvious unfitness for office and Hillary Clinton's large popular-vote margin of victory, they should exercise that power and elect her.  They are, of course, very unlikely to do so.  Most Electors are reliable party members, or they wouldn't be chosen for the position.  Unless the recounts currently under way in some states produce new results, 38 Trump Electors would need to abandon him for this to work.  That would be unprecedented.

But if Trump wants a way out of the daunting position he's put himself in, this is it.  If he himself were to inform the Electors that, upon reflection, he thinks the will of the people as shown in the popular vote should be respected after all and asks them to elect Hillary, they would have a green light to do what many of them, deep down, must know they ought to do anyway (aside from Trump's unfitness, Republicans must realize that a disastrous Trump Presidency could mean a backlash against the party in 2018 and 2020).  And Trump could tell himself he'd be acclaimed as a man of principle who gave up power for the sake of democracy, rather than being remembered as a (probably) failed President or as a quitter who chickened out and resigned in frustration at some point in his term.

Even that wouldn't mean Hillary would win then and there.  Some Republican Electors might prefer to vote for a more mainstream Republican such as Romney or Kasich.  If no one candidate got 270 votes, the decision would move to the Republican-dominated House, which would then face the excruciating choice of giving the Presidency to either (a) Hillary, whom Republicans loathe, or (b) Trump, whom many of them know is unqualified and who would already have signaled he was renouncing the job, or (c) a third candidate who didn't get any of the popular vote.  Remember, though that Democrats do control some state delegations in the House.  If the Republicans were divided, Hillary still could win.

As I say, this is a fantasy.  I don't expect it to happen.  But it would be a win-win-solution for pretty much everyone (except the Trumpanzees, who are soon going to realize anyway that they've been conned).  And it would be a fittingly bizarre end to a bizarre election.

27 November 2016

Link round-up for 27 November 2016

Let your dog help with the cooking.  But then, let sleeping dogs lie.

Grammar is scary.

Crazy Eddie looks at Westworld and Jurassic Park.

No stamps needed.

Boo Mike Pence!

Cool tables.

Trumpanzees R dumb.

Progressive Eruptions has some spectacular nature scenery.

So that's what the B is.

Do not use this picture.  Probably shouldn't use this one either.

I've noticed this (found via Squatlo).

Murr Brewster looks at dead Russians.

Check out Radisson Claire's fantasy sea-creature art.

Ranch Chimp looks at the most wonderful time of year, when people celebrate Jesus by fighting over consumer electronics in shopping malls.

Any day of the week is a good day for Small Business Saturday.

Don't worry about making nice.

It's still our America (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Here's video of the water-cannon attack on Standing Rock protesters (in sub-zero weather).  People are suffering serious injuries.

A wingnut struggles to defend the Electoral College.

Another Trumpanzee shows his true character.

So, how should people protest?

Christians are not exempt from the law, at least for now.

What does "alt-right" really mean?  Here's a high-profile example.

For women in countries where abortion is banned, the internet offers help.

Finland's Parikkala Sculpture Park may be the creepiest park in the world.

Enough with the adulation for a tyrant.

Why don't they just go back where they came from?

Palmyra is liberated, but the damage done by Dâ'ish (ISIL) is tragic.

I'm a bit skeptical of this report on electromagnetic space propulsion (found via Mendip).  The referenced paper is by NASA personnel, but doesn't seem to suggest a major breakthrough, and I can't find anything about it on NASA's own website.  Still, the subject may bear watching.

The Dawn probe has been sending back beautifully-detailed images of Ceres.

Another way to search for alien intelligence:  scanning the atmospheres of planets in other solar systems for evidence of industrial pollution.

Some of the world's poorest countries commit to strong action against global warming.

Some people are happy about Trump's win.  Here's a quick summary of what's going on.

Hillary's popular-vote victory margin just keeps growing -- she probably got more votes than any previous candidate except Obama.  Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig makes the case that the Electors should choose her, not Trump, on Dec. 19.

Green Eagle suspects Trump is just an ordinary Republican in a Nazi clown suit.

After years of ranting against Obamacare, Republicans are now the dog that caught the car.

Trump is softening his position on the Paris climate agreement, and other countries are not backing down.

The wingnutosphere is aghast at Trump's reversal on persecuting Hillary (found via Mock Paper Scissors).  I suspect there's a lot more "being aghast" in their future.

Trump verbally disavows the "alt-right", but I think the real test will be whether he sticks with the Bannon appointment.  Stop being afraid.

Only one thing makes the media do their job.

Trumpanzees voted to hurt themselves, but we all have to live with the results.  How soon will they understand what they've done and who he really is?

If you want to take action, these groups can use your money.

No longer a party, but a criminal enterprise.

Best news from the election:  North Carolina's McCrory lost, even if he doesn't know it yet.

We haven't heard the last of Obama.

Should Democrats cooperate with Trump on some issues?  Our leaders take a pragmatic view.

[Image at top:  the Lion of al-Lât, an ancient pagan statue in Palmyra destroyed by Dâ'ish]

23 November 2016

The nature of the Trumpanzee

A look at the opposition:

Found via Progressive Eruptions.

Found via SEB, who has more examples.

Found via Green Eagle.

A flyer distributed at Texas State University.  Found via Progressive Eruptions.

This happened just a few miles from where I live -- Beaverton is a suburb of liberal Portland ("Max" is the local commuter train system).  Found via the SPLC, which has more examples.

Yes, these people are celebrating the election of Trump.  Found via Hackwhackers, which has explanation and context.  More here, found via Progressive Eruptions, and more here.

Links:

Some Trumpanzees are starting a campaign to drive distraught liberals over the edge into suicide (found via Progressive Eruptions).

An Iowa Republican state rep is pushing a law to impose fines on colleges which offer counseling or therapy to students upset about Trump's election.

These idiots can't even draw swastikas correctly.  Nor can they identify a Muslim reliably.

Triumphant Trumpanzees are threatening and assaulting Hispanics, gays, and other minorities.

A commenter at right-wing forum Race 4 2016 claims that these "hateful things" are being done by liberals posing as Trump supporters -- and in a day-long open thread, not one other commenter calls him out on such nonsense.

This is the enemy.  I'm feeling more and more drawn to Badtux's view of these people.

21 November 2016

Video of the day -- the meaning of (after)life

20 November 2016

Link round-up for 20 November 2016

I'm very glad these giant animals are extinct (FFS, a one-ton rodent?).

If you use search-and-replace, proofread afterwards.

Use a car to display stupidity.

When designing a logo, get a second opinion.

We can dream, right?

OK, some art is bullshit.

Maybe alien abductions are something like this.

Pwned by a Girl Guide (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Trump starts recruiting his team.

Colorado just accidentally endorsed slavery (link from Mendip).

I'm glad to see Portland on the cutting edge of religious pluralism, even if the usual turkeys don't like it.

Choose a different airline, not this one.

A new TV show looks at ethical questions involving artificial intelligence that the real world may soon have to face (found via Crazy Eddie).

There should be no stigma on having fun alone.

What if we're wrong?

Some of these websites could be kind of useful.

Yes, this person knows all about "classy".

There's a spooky graveyard of well-preserved medieval ships at the bottom of the Black Sea.

Dan Dennett's upcoming book looks well worth reading.

Watch for suspicious characters on aircraft.

Social media are bringing back medieval shame punishments.

Electric cars are becoming more mainstream.

2015 saw a surge in hate crimes against Muslims, with gays and Jews being even more targeted.  The SPLC has logged over 400 harassment incidents since the election.  Here are more examples and another one (found via SEB).  There's already a lot of fear out there.

Politics Plus looks at some recent news items.

Here are some tips on electronic privacy protection.

Beware of sites pushing fake information -- there are a lot of them.

"Pro-lifers" don't do that.

Here are some better alternatives to turkey.

What is it about Christians being assholes to waitresses?

Phil Robertson is at least being honest about fundamentalist beliefs.

Some technology leaders in California now support "Calexit" from the US -- see also my own speculations here.

A top NSA official confirms that Russia interfered in the election.

Chemists finally understand London's deadly Great Smog of 1952 (it involved coal).

No cowboy is tougher than Hamburg's "swan father".

After fifteen years, Portugal's drug decriminalization is a clear success.

The Russians know how to build a cool statue.

Kaveh Mousavi has some words of encouragement for Americans -- and explains why Trump can't destroy the nuclear deal with Iran.

Good riddance -- the Iraqi army has killed over a thousand Dâ'ish (ISIL) fanatics in Mosul.

"Authoritarian democracies" like India and Turkey illustrate the kind of bullying tactics a President Trump might use here.  Such tactics thrive best in societies that have succumbed to identity politics and quasi-tribal divisions -- at the end of this post I warned about thinking of people as members of categories rather than as individuals.

This is Moscow in winter.

In India, young girls are bought and sold like beasts.

If Trump gives up US leadership on global warming, China is prepared to step up.  China is also well positioned in Latin America in case he destroys our relationships there.

Frozen ancient organisms are coming back to life.

There may be a huge ocean where we'd least expect it.

Young blood may actually have rejuvenating properties.  To break through the apparent upper limit on human lifespans, we'll have to strike at the fundamentals of the aging process.

A hydrothermal vent in Chile bolsters the case for life on Mars.

If intelligent aliens exist, they're probably machines.

How should Democrats approach the Trumpanzees?  Booman Tribune and Badtux the Snarky Penguin offer radically different perspectives.  Maybe we should allow for different cases.

Progressive Eruptions has a round-up on the vile Steve Bannon.  Bloomberg suggests how he might be stopped (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Mary Madigan finds a positive in the prospect of Giuliani as Secretary of State.

Trump's going wobbly on "the wall".

We dodged a terrible fate.  Or maybe not.

The Field Negro makes the case that vote suppression won the election for Trump. And he's already seen enough of the tone Trump is setting.

The Electoral College could elect Hillary, but it almost certainly won't.

We don't really know what Trump will do, since Trump himself doesn't seem to know.  In fact, he doesn't seem to know much of anything.

If you want to protest, don't tolerate crap like this.

Trump says gay marriage is safe; abortion, maybe not.  New York state acts to guarantee abortion access, just in case (found via Zandar).

Here's that conversation between Carl Higbie and Megyn Kelly on a Muslim registry.  The head of the ADL has a forceful response.  Trump doesn't seem to have thought this through.

Trump's stance on renewable energy is confusing, but it's probably here to stay regardless.

[Several items found via Squatlo Rant]

18 November 2016

More little fellahs

Enough of this crap.  Have some cute puppies.








16 November 2016

A lurch toward theocracy

The Republicans have a nasty theocratic surprise waiting for us -- the grotesquely misnamed "First Amendment Defense Act", which is in fact a national version of the pro-discrimination "religious freedom" laws enacted in places like Indiana and North Carolina over the last few years.  So far from "defending" the First Amendment, it would make religious taboos and prejudices a blanket excuse for violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, preventing the federal government from enforcing any limit on discrimination when that discrimination is motivated by religion.  Any form of discrimination against gays would become legal under federal law.  Obstruction of access to birth control, or to pretty much anything else that some knuckle-dragger decides he doesn't like, would be similarly protected.

Check out the link above and see for yourself.  The author is not exaggerating when he says that "if it becomes law, FADA will be the worst thing to happen to women and LGBT people in a generation."  At some point after Trump takes office, the Republicans will doubtless introduce the thing in the House.  Assuming it makes it to Trump's desk, he's said he will sign it.

A few thoughts on this:

1)  Contrary to the author's view, we can't count on a Senate filibuster to stop this.  When we assumed Hillary would be the next President, we were prepared to eliminate the filibuster in order to prevent the Republicans from blocking her Supreme Court nominees.  I have no doubt that they will eliminate it if necessary in order to ram their own plans through, however radical.

2)  A better option would be trying to turn moderate Republicans against it.  At the moment it looks like their Senate majority will be reduced to 52 -- we would only need three of them to vote no.

3)  It's conceivable that even Trump could be persuaded to change his mind.  He's already reversed or moderated his position on Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal, among other things.  And he doesn't seem to be particularly prejudiced against gays or birth control.

4)  If the FADA does get enacted, state-level protections against discrimination will remain intact, so some states will have them and others will not.  The recent experience of Indiana and North Carolina suggests that states which fail to enact their own protections, or at least those which explicitly endorse discrimination, will face a substantial backlash from the private sector -- opposing religious bigotry is good for business.  Some, at least, will be brought into line that way.

5)  Finally, if the FADA ends up before the Supreme Court, it's likely to be found in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and thrown out.  Obviously this will no longer be the case if Trump packs the Court with wingnuts, but that would take time.  Even if he nominates a rabid rightist for the current vacancy, that will merely restore the situation which existed before the death of Scalia.  If the FADA is enacted, one can hope it will come before the Court before a second vacancy occurs.

However, the infuriating task of having to play defense against regression rather than fight for further progress is our lot only because (a) too much of our base failed to vote, and (b) the archaic Electoral College enabled the loser to "win".  Tell the legislators in your state to support the National Popular Vote initiative!

15 November 2016

What we can do about the Electoral College

By the time all the vote-counting is done, it will likely turn out that Hillary Clinton got about two million more votes than Trump (link found via Progressive Eruptions) -- a margin of about 2%, not too different from her lead in the RCP average shortly before the election.  This may be of some comfort to pollsters, and in some ways to the rest of us as well -- it simply isn't true that a majority of Americans voted for Trump and the collage of bigotries he put forth.  But it does not change the election outcome, which is determined by the Electoral College.

This is the second time in 16 years that the Electoral College gave the Presidency to a candidate who won fewer actual votes than his opponent.  This time it's worse, since the popular-vote lead was more substantial.  There are several problems with the Electoral College -- it over-weights votes in states with small populations, and makes no allowances for differences in turnout between states -- but the biggest problem is that the winner-take-all system in most states means that a razor-thin margin of victory in one state can offset a large margin in another, making millions of votes in the latter state worthless.  That's what happened this time.

There is currently a petition drive urging certain of the electors (they are actual people, not just numbers on a map) to disregard the state-by-state results and elect Hillary in accordance with the total popular vote when they meet on December 19.  I have very mixed feelings about this.  Yes, it would reflect the actual will of the voters.  But it would trigger a Constitutional crisis, and possibly a civil one as well -- just imagine the fury of the Trumpanzees if such a thing happened.  It would also constitute changing the rules after the game is played.  More to the point, it's very unlikely to succeed.  Slates of electors are chosen by their respective parties and are presumably, with rare exceptions, reliable.  They're not going to persuade 38 Republican electors to switch sides and face the wrath of their party (and of millions of enraged, armed Trump voters).

But there's still something we can do about future elections.  Abolishing the Electoral College could only be done by amending the Constitution, a very slow and difficult process.  But there's an ingenious plan in the works which would solve the problem without an amendment.

The National Popular Vote bill is a law available for adoption by any state which chooses to do so.  It works in two steps.  (1) Any state which adopts the law will henceforth award its electoral votes to the candidate who won the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of the vote result in that particular state; and (2) in those states which have adopted the law, it takes actual effect only after it has been adopted by states whose total electoral votes come to more than the 270 needed to win the Electoral College.  So, a state which adopts the law does not lose any of the clout it has under the existing system, but once the critical mass is reached, all those states would be bound to give their electoral votes to the national popular-vote winner, who would therefore become President.

The law has already been adopted by eleven states with 165 electoral votes, including some states where it was Republican-led legislatures that voted to adopt it.  It only needs to be adopted in states with a further 105 electoral votes and it will take effect.

Supporting this initiative is actual action we can take, now and over the next four years.  No problem in history has ever been solved by sitting around complaining about how bad the situation is.  An hour of focused action in support of a solution is worth more than a year of bemoaning the problem.  Obama has spoken of lending his name and efforts to the fight against gerrymandering after he leaves office.  I hope he will consider supporting the National Popular Vote initiative as well, since it works in the same spirit.  Even Trump has reaffirmed that he considers it unfair for the popular-vote loser to win the election, even after being the beneficiary of that very phenomenon last week.  Especially if he doesn't plan to run for a second term due to his age, it's possible he too could support this.

Right now -- after an election where the injustice was compounded by the size of the "defeated" candidate's margin -- is the time to push this initiative hard.

14 November 2016

The con man -- a political speculation

I don't want to get anyone's hopes up only to have them dashed again later.  Consider this just a political speculation, for now.

After Trump's recent meeting with President Obama he said that he no longer supports scrapping Obamacare.  This is something of a shocker, since repealing Obamacare has been a priority -- obsession, really -- of Republicans ever since it was enacted, and Trump vocally supported repeal during the campaign.  He now says he would merely amend it, but even liberals support doing that -- Obamacare is an imperfect beginning limited by the political realities of the time it was passed, to be improved and expanded later. That's how these things normally develop.  Trump's call to ban Muslim immigration has also been quietly removed from his campaign website (both links found via Progressive Eruptions).

Earlier, Trump displayed another odd reversal of position.  On Thursday he denounced the protests against his election win as "very unfair" on Twitter, but the next morning he sent a different message: "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!"  Even in his victory speech, when he mentioned his opponent, "crooked Hillary" and "lock her up" were replaced by "we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country."  And now, he's said he's not going to "rip up" the Iran nuclear deal after all.

What's going on here?  One of the objections to Trump all along among NeverTrump Republicans was that he isn't really a Republican -- he's actually been a Democrat for much of his life, donated mostly to Democratic politicians, held liberal positions on abortion and other issues.  People do change, of course, and most Republicans (and Democrats) accepted his declarations of right-wing views during his recent campaign as being what he really believed.  But what if the reality is something quite different?

I've long thought that Trump, based on his history, is first and foremost a con man.  Trump University, his exaggerations of his wealth, his various schemes over the years that so often seemed to leave anyone else involved in them feeling exploited and ripped off -- it's what he does.  He's made abortive attempts to run for President before, most notably in 2000 with Perot's Reform party; but to have a real chance at winning, you have to be a major-party candidate.  And given his age, 2016 was his last shot.  He must have known he'd have no chance against Hillary for the Democratic nomination, but the absurdly splintered Republican field offered a real opportunity.

Is it possible that what this con man has just done is to pull off the most colossal and spectacular con job in history? Again, I don't want to fall prey to wishful thinking, but what if Trump still holds basically the same views he's held most of his life, and he just spent the last year-and-a-half bullshitting the stupid wingnuts into thinking he's the Second Coming of Hitler so they'd nominate him and then turn out in droves to elect him President?

If it is something like that, he's got no reason to keep up the pretense much longer. He's won.  He's in.  He may not plan to seek a second term (he'll be 74 in 2020), in which case he'd have no reason to worry about losing re-election.  He'll just do whatever the hell he wants.  If he still has the same liberal views he previously held in some areas, he's now free to act on them.  In areas where he has no strong convictions, he may be open to persuasion -- that would explain his shift on Obamacare (let's hope Obama gives him a lecture on global warming soon!), although in fact he's expressed support for socialized health care in the past.  My point is, his actual actions as President may prove to be nothing like his campaign rhetoric.

I am not minimizing the fact that Trump is a terrible human being.  He's repeatedly shown himself to be vindictive and given to petty personal feuds.  In 1973 he was sued for racial discrimination in housing at his properties.  The "grab 'em by the pussy" tape was the real Trump -- he said those things in private at a time when running for President was not on his mind.  I believe the women who have come forward saying he molested them -- their claims are consistent with what he himself has said about his attitudes and behavior.  The woman who sued claiming he raped her when she was 13 did withdraw her suit, but had apparently been receiving threats.  We may never know the facts of that case.  This is not the person we want in the most powerful office on Earth.  I would far, far rather have had Hillary.  But his actions as President may prove to be nothing like what we fear and what the Republicans hope.  We should watch him very carefully and, as Hillary said during her concession speech, with an open mind.

What will truly tell the tale will be his first Supreme Court pick.

And if my speculations here turn out to be true, then when the Republicans figure out what happened..... Jesus, just think how mad they're going to be.  Trump only defeated us, but he conned them.  NeverTrumps will claim vindication, Trumpanzees won't know what the hell to make of it, and the leadership that fell into line behind Trump in the end will be totally discredited.  The wingnuts could be in for a civil war after all.

13 November 2016

Link round-up for 13 November 2016

Protect your valuable books the old-fashioned way -- with curses (found via Mendip).

Fonts matter.

Meth?  Not even once.

Read this short SF story in which aliens make a terrible mistake because of watching TV (found via Sleestak).

If you have to be outside at all, this is the way to do it.

Check out the world's ten weirdest museums.

Fundies hate fun.

Mendip remembers Jack Chick.

Facebook has a serious sexism problem.

"Cultural appropriation" is a toxic concept.

Clarissa has observations on Houston, Texas.

Some black Americans comment on police violence.

The Iraqi army has recaptured the ancient city of Nimrud from Dâ'ish, but the fanatics had already destroyed most of it.

Experimental stem-cell therapy gives a paralyzed man back the use of his arms and hands.

Repealing Obamacare may not be so easy.

Here are some things we won.

TPM's Josh Marshall has some observations on the election.  Politics Plus has a round-up of world headlines and cartoons.

Obama will be much more outspoken out of office.

Here's an open letter to America.  If the election result has you feeling suicidal, read this.  And beware of these assholes (found via Progressive Eruptions).  Some on our side are ready to fight on.  And some have a little local comfort to offer.

Don't confuse protest with vandalism.

Muslim women (more identifiable than the men due to distinctive clothing) are being attacked by emboldened freaks. Guys like this are being emboldened too.  In fact, it's springtime for violent bigots.

This distraction costs Democrats votes.

Here are blogger reactions to the election from Booman Tribune, Crazy Eddie, Bruce Gerencser, Field Negro, Hackwhackers, Comrade Misfit, Squatlo, Mark Evanier, Zandar, and Driftglass.

[Image at top:  an exhibit at the Sex Museum in Amsterdam]

12 November 2016

Dancing to the Republicans' tune

Recriminations are natural in the wake of a defeat, but the urge to cast blame and purge this or that element out of the Democratic coalition must be resisted.  Dividing ourselves just makes future defeats more likely.  There's one example that especially concerns me.

It's long been a dream of the Republicans to get as much of the white population as possible to vote Republican as a self-conscious racial bloc in the same way that blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic.  Non-Hispanic whites are still almost two-thirds of the national population.  If they were to vote primarily along racial lines, the party they supported would win every election overwhelmingly.  No rival party would ever stand the ghost of a chance.

It doesn't happen because for most white Americans, other traits -- religion (or lack thereof), ideology, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and so on -- are a more important part of their identity than race is and have more impact on how they vote.  (Obviously the same distinctions exist among people of other races too, but being a target of racism tends to loom larger.)  But there are forces trying to herd white people collectively into a race-conscious Republican voting bloc.  Unfortunately some of those forces are on the left.

I'm referring to the meme seen on a few blogs and forums that white people are collectively to blame for Trump's election because most of those who voted for him were white (here is an example, but I've seen several others in the mere four days since the election, and yes, the people doing this are often white themselves).  I can't imagine anything the Republicans would want more than to see this kind of talk become widespread.  A big part of the reason so few blacks or gays vote Republican is that they know the Republicans in general are bigoted against them, and voting for someone who is bigoted against you is practically unthinkable, regardless of any other issues.  Trying to trigger a similar rejectionist response in two-thirds of the electorate is the stupidest thing the left could possibly do.  Stop it.

Tens of millions of white people are liberals.  Tens of millions of white people voted for Obama (and Hillary).  Tens of millions of white people were aghast at the election result this week.  I am not anyone's enemy just because of what I look like, and no one has any right to treat me as such.

11 November 2016

Mistah Chick -- he dead

One news item I neglected to note here in the run-up to the election was the death of Jack T. Chick, one of the more bizarre figures in the world of evangelical propaganda.  For those who aren't aware, Chick produced and distributed vast numbers of tiny comic books, known as "Chick tracts", filled with fanaticism, hate, and ignorance in various proportions.  He was 92 at the time of his death on October 23.

Chick's work expresses a crude and simple form of Christianity.  If you accept Jesus before you die, you go to Heaven; otherwise you go to Hell regardless of your sins or virtues, with no thought given to explaining why God would make our lives such a simplistic and unjust game for such high yet invisible stakes.  The world is massively infested with demons -- homosexuality, drug use, pop culture, anything "occult", all non-Christian religions, and all forms of Christianity deviating from Chick's own (especially Catholicism) -- all are the work of demons.  "Illicit" sex is condemned, though that subject doesn't come up as often as one might expect.  Any character representing anything Chick doesn't like is mono-dimensionally evil and usually absurdly short-tempered.

There are several distinct art styles, and most likely several artists worked on the comics over the years.

Chick's ignorance is amazing.  Evolution, atheism, sexuality, Catholicism, science, history, and pop culture are absurdly misrepresented.  In one comic, Muslims are shown seeing the error of Islam because it conflicts with the Bible -- as if Chick were unaware of the very existence of the Koran.

The comics' subject matter varies considerably.  Some are simple retellings of Bible stories, many are tales of an individual being offered the chance to accept Jesus and either taking or rejecting it (though the circumstances shown in these tales are very varied), some are stories of sinners who either reform or come to a bad end, a few are visions of an apocalyptic future where Christians are viciously persecuted by a secular world.  Some of the comics can be pretty entertaining if you are in the right frame of mind.  A personal favorite image of mine from Chick's work is this one:
Though Chick's world-view is childishly simple, I'm not kidding about the hate.  If you're not in the right frame of mind, reading these things will make you feel constantly agitated at how they twist things to make everything and everyone Chick disapproves of look evil.  His is a vision of a tiny minority of virtuous fanatics under siege, yet fighting back heroically, against a world of demonic evil -- with you and me clearly part of the latter.

It's hard to believe many people were actually converted by Chick tracts.  The world they depict is so blatantly at odds with reality that one imagines Chick must have been some sort of hermit.  Smart propagandists work to understand the people they're trying to convert.  Chick seems to have known very little about anyone different from himself.  The tracts are widely sold by secular vendors to secular customers for entertainment -- which is how I got my own large collection, including the ones scanned for the image at the top of this post.
In the unlikely event that Chick was right about the nature of the universe, he is now dwelling blissfully in a glowing-white, severely underpopulated, and extremely boring Heaven.  More probably, of course, he is simply nowhere.  But he left a legacy much more colorful and memorable than most of his ilk.

10 November 2016

The British option -- a speculation on the unthinkable

What I say here may sound shocking or even treasonous to most American readers.  But I ask that you read with an open mind, and with due attention to the reservations and caveats I invoke.

Having given some further thought to our situation in the wake of the election, an idea occurred to me for an extreme but decisive solution -- so extreme and so decisive, in fact, that it should only even be considered if a worst-case scenario seems inevitable.  It involves following the example recently set by Britain.

In 1975, the land of my ancestors joined what was then the European Common Market, a free-trade area including most of the European countries west of the Iron Curtain.  Over time the Common Market evolved into something very different -- the present European Union.  The EU is now a supra-national quasi-government, or as atheist activist Pat Condell more aptly called it, "a continent-wide political coup".  The EU is undemocratic in the sense that the people who hold actual power in it are not elected by the voting populations of Europe, nor can they be voted out by them.  As this unaccountable oligarchy takes over more and more powers from elected national governments, democracy itself has been eroded.  In the worst example (and one about which I've blogged a great deal over the years), the EU has imposed austerity policies -- an emphasis on budget balancing via spending cuts over all other priorities -- on the nations of southern Europe.  These policies are very similar to those favored by US Republicans, and have predictably proven disastrous, locking the target countries into a death spiral of economic contraction and ever-deeper spending cuts.  Voters in those countries have repeatedly elected anti-austerity national governments, but it makes no difference since their wrecked economies cannot survive without continuous loans from the EU, which enables it to continue to impose its chosen policies on whoever is elected.

By this year, as we know, the British had had enough of the constantly-growing interference in their internal affairs by a foreign, unelected oligarchy.  To the shock of pundits everywhere, they voted to leave.  This caused a certain degree of economic upheaval, but as any Third World country that regained its independence from a European colonial empire could tell you, restoring self-government and democracy is worth some costs.

The situation of American liberals is not perfectly analogous, of course.  We do have a vote in the selection of those who run the federal government -- occasional defeats are not the same as being disenfranchised.  More importantly, the US is one country (albeit a very large one), not a conglomeration of countries with separate languages, cultures, and histories.  My position on secession, when it has been suggested by right-wing radicals in places like Texas, has always been consistent with the American mainstream -- the Civil War established the principle that the US is an indivisible federal nation and that states have no right to secede.  Individuals who don't like living in the US are free to emigrate, but the territorial integrity of the country is inviolable.

But what if the US is no longer really a nation?  What if it's becoming something more like Belgium -- two distinct and mutually-hostile peoples entangled together in a common territory?

Lately we and the kind of people who habitually vote Republican seem to be divided by a chasm of mutual incomprehension much larger than that which separates the peoples of, for example, Britain and France.  Different attitudes on religion, sexuality, race, the role of women, and many other issues certainly look like two distinct cultures.  The level of mass mutual hostility between the two groups probably exceeds that existing between Flemings and Walloons or between Anglo-Canadians and Québécois.  The time may be approaching when the differences become irreconcilable.  The fact that red America voted for a man like Donald Trump is certainly a milestone.

Moreover, the distribution of political power between the two groups is inequitable.  We live mostly in a few states with large populations, they live mostly in many states with small populations.  The set-up of the Senate gives them disproportionate power; so does the Electoral College.  This is the second election in 16 years in which the Electoral College gave a Republican the Presidency despite losing the popular vote.

Separation should not be proposed lightly.  We should consider it only in the event that the differences between us clearly become irreconcilable, a condition I would consider met if either (a) Trump is re-elected in 2020 or someone like him succeeds him, or (b) the regime shows intent to unambiguously abolish the Constitutional order, by actions such as explicitly suspending the Constitution, declaring an official religion, threatening to suspend elections, introducing explicitly race-based limitations on the right to vote (apartheid), or actions of that nature.

If Trumpism looks sufficiently permanent and becomes sufficiently intolerable, one could imagine a large, prosperous state such as California starting to contemplate what was once unthinkable.  It is often remarked that if California were a separate nation, its economy would be among the world's largest (comparable in size to Britain's, in fact).  If secession became a serious issue, the discussion would rapidly spread to nearby blue states like Oregon and Washington and Hawaii.  If a referendum in one or more states delivered a majority in favor of leaving -- as in Britain this year -- one could hope to open serious negotiations on a reasonably amicable division of the union.

Divorces are always messy.  In a few cases it might be necessary to divide states -- I could imagine us giving up the Florida panhandle in exchange for getting northern Virginia, for example.  There would need to be some kind of guarantees of rights for people who ended up on the "wrong" side of the borders, such as blacks in the South and the "red" populations in the rural areas of blue states (realistically, many such people would migrate to the other side where they felt more comfortable -- an exchange of population).  Blue America would be a nation consisting of several regions not geographically connected to each other.  Genuinely "mixed" states like Ohio and Wisconsin would pose special problems.  But problems can be solved if there is a will to solve them.

Both sides might well feel freer if no longer encumbered with each other.  Red America seems to have a profound fear of globalism and anything "foreign" -- Trump won on a platform of belligerence toward most of the outside world, hostility to trade and immigration, and literally walling the country off into isolation.  Blue America relishes trade, immigration, and openness to the new and different -- perhaps it's no coincidence that most of our states are on the coasts.  Having two separate nations would enable both sides to follow their own preferences.  This again mirrors the case of Britain -- no longer hidebound by EU rules on internal trade preferences, Britain will soon be free to open up trade agreements with the whole rest of the world on its own terms, and several non-European countries started putting out feelers within days of the Brexit vote.  If Trump's isolationism and incompetence crash the world economy, other nations would welcome the re-emergence of the most innovative and productive part of the US onto the global scene.  Red America would be free to isolate itself in the continental interior.

It might be objected that withdrawing the blue states and their voters from the union would guarantee the permanence of Trumpist Republicanism as the latter's ruling ideology, along with the military threat which that ideology would pose to the rest of the world.  But remember, separation would be considered only if it became clear that Trumpism was already becoming permanently entrenched anyway.

And separation would force Red America to face the consequences of its ideology and practices.  As we know, the rich blue states (cities, mainly) send more revenue to Washington than they get back in benefits; with the poorer red states, the situation is reversed.  Our productivity subsidizes their backwardness.  As long as we felt like members of the same nation, this was acceptable -- but more and more, we no longer do, and neither do they.  Breaking up into two separate nations would cut off the flow of money.  We could plow our resources into infrastructure, a national health system, and so on; they would be forced to live on only what their own states can produce, and might find the experience educational.

As I say, this is an idea for the worst-case scenario only.  But it's worth keeping the option in mind.

09 November 2016

Disaster

If you've come here hoping for some crumbs of reassurance, you had best look elsewhere.  I have none to offer.  There is no honest way to put a positive spin on this.

Obama's accomplishments will be destroyed.  Obamacare will be repealed and the millions of newly-insured people will be thrown out in the cold again (it hardly matters whether the Republicans bother to "replace" it with some half-assed scheme of their own).  The nuclear agreement with Iran will be abrogated and our government will likely make that country a primary foreign scapegoat, returning relations to pre-Rouhani enmity if not worse.  The US will abandon the Paris climate agreement and return to reckless exploitation of fossil fuels and official denial about global warming.

It will go further than that.  The Supreme Court will be packed with activist ideological wingnuts who will remain long after Trump is gone.  Gay marriage, abortion rights, minority voting rights, separation of church and state, and what few institutional protections workers still have are all in serious danger.  Even Social Security and Medicare could eventually be destroyed ("privatized").  Ethnic and religious minorities will come under attack, not only from hostile government policy but also from a racist subculture massively emboldened by Trump's victory.  If those minorities react violently, that will be used to justify all kinds of "security" measures which will accelerate the slide toward fascism.

Very likely the economy will collapse as Obama's policies are replaced by a combination of Trump's random blundering and the standard Republican tax-and-spending cuts which have created such a mess in, for example, Kansas.  The resulting unemployment and shortages will intensify racial and class polarization and bring a government witch-hunt for scapegoats, domestic or foreign, on whom to place the blame for "sabotaging" the economy.

Given the importance of the US to the global economy and the tremendous uncertainties that the mere prospect of a Trump Presidency have already produced, the economic disaster will likely be world-wide, leading to similar upheavals and threats to democracy in other countries.  Worse, given Trump's ignorance and belligerence, the US is likely to become a rogue nation, using its vast military power to bully and threaten and worse.  Even if there is no actual act of genocide, the world order as we've known it since 1945 has depended on the US as a guarantor of security and stability.  It's unclear whether that role will continue; certainly the world-wide assumption that it will has been badly undermined.  If Trump replaces Obama's nuanced Middle East policy with the kind of general anti-Muslim belligerence he has expressed during the campaign, millions will become radicalized against the US, and groups like Dâ'ish and al-Qâ'idah and their likely successors will gain new strength.  There's also the matter of Putin's influence over Trump, whose extent and nature are still unknown.  Europe could be in more danger than the Middle East.

I expect the US left to now dissipate a great deal of energy debating the exact nuances of how this disaster came about and how things could have been done differently.  Would a more aggressive or more conciliatory campaign have produced a better result?  Would Bernie Sanders have done better against Trump?  Did third-party votes rob Hillary of victory in a few critical states?  Did Republican efforts at vote suppression make the difference?  Would Trump have lost if the media had been more forthright about him and less fixated on even-handedness?  All of this will be as useless as the political-analysis sites' descent into navel-gazing about how the polls could have been so wrong.  What happened is what happened.

Worse, even more energy is likely to go into throwing blame around.  The Sanders/Warren wing of the Democrats will blame the Clinton/Obama wing and vice versa.  Minorities will blame white liberals who didn't feel quite as threatened by Trump and didn't focus enough on stopping him.  Moderates will blame radicals for overreaching and provoking the troglodytes who made up Trump's base, and radicals will blame moderates because, well, they always do.  Everyone will blame the media.  Much of this rancor will be expressed in faux-dramatic one-sentence paragraphs and in swear words typed entirely in capital letters.  Some or even most of these accusations will have some merit, but the point remains that the only practical effect of such scapegoat-hunting and bridge-burning will be to profoundly weaken the left and sap its ability to take advantage of any opportunities which the new regime's incompetence offers us over the next few years.  Our strength has always been in our ability to remain unified despite differences.  Trumpism in practice is likely to provoke plenty of backlash and buyer's remorse, but a left divided into warring camps trying to blame and purge each other will not be able to exploit these.  The best one can hope for is that our side gets those impulses out of its system by 2018.

There are a few glimmers of hope.  Arpaio lost and Cortez-Masto won.  Legal marijuana won.  Growth of the non-religious and Hispanic populations will continue to work in our favor.  Democratic governments in the blue states where many of us live will try to shield us from some of the worst effects of Trumpism.  Popular culture will continue to be a subtle but powerful force changing social attitudes for the better.  It's possible that Trump could resign in frustration if Constitutional constraints on his antics prove too strong, or that he could overreach so badly that even a Republican Congress would impeach and remove him.  But that would leave us with Mike "God hates fags" Pence as President.  Pence would be far less likely to incinerate millions of innocent foreigners in a fit of rage, and that's actually tremendously important.  But domestically he would continue the massive reactionary shift of the government under more disciplined, more effective, and more explicitly theocratic leadership.

Moreover, the value of those "glimmers of hope" depends on the assumption that the institutions of the republic will continue to function normally.  If they end up being subverted by the fascistic impulses and mob thuggery that Trumpism has already displayed, all bets are off.  It's true that our institutions are much more deep-rooted and resilient than were those of, say, the Weimar republic.  But the main institution one would expect to constrain Trump -- Congress -- is in the hands of that same Republican establishment which displayed such fecklessness and cowardice at every step of his rise from the beginning of the primaries.  The courts may do a better job, but remember that the Supreme Court will soon have a wingnut majority including one and then more Trump appointees.  It's seriously possible that within a few years everyone who has persistently spoken out against Trump -- not only MSM big fish but minor bloggers like me -- will be in physical danger from some sort of Internal Security whatever staffed by semi-literate goons with badges empowered to act out their resentment of pointy-headed intellectuals who can spell.  Makes all that infighting with other factions of liberals seem a bit less worthy of your energy, doesn't it?

The best we can hope for is that democracy and its institutions do remain solid and that Trumpism provokes a huge backlash and that the Democratic party remains unified enough to take advantage of that backlash to regain Congress in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020.  But even then, the new President will be starting from the same position as Obama did in 2008 -- cleaning up a gargantuan mess left by his predecessor (likely much worse than what Bush left), with little time or energy remaining to accomplish anything positive.  What more he or she does accomplish will probably just repeat Obama's work that should have been built on by Hillary and will instead be wrecked by the Republicans.

And we'll have lost at least four years in the fight against global warming.  This has direly increased the likelihood that humanity's very survival will depend, a few decades from now, on a desperate gamble on some giant planetary-engineering scheme to keep the Earth as habitable as possible for ourselves while most of the natural ecosystem is irrevocably lost.

Sorry, but I can't come up with any scenario more optimistic that this except by resorting to fantasies, such as Trump turns out to be the closet liberal that anti-Trump Republicans have accused him of being, or this election result gets exposed as a gigantic Russian hacking operation and Hillary actually won.  That's Alex-Jones-level stuff.

I'm 56 and frankly I don't have a lot of fight left in me.  The main thing that's keeping me going is the hope that I've overlooked some critical point and things won't really be as bad as now seems inevitable.  Rational people in 1933 or 391 may well have clung to such hopes.  It's far more likely that the situation is exactly as it seems to be, and that the future that should have existed has been wiped out by a maddeningly spurious and arbitrary, but now irrevocable, confluence of events.  Perhaps I should simply focus on getting what I can out of whatever time I still have.

08 November 2016

Election day images and links


I don't have much more of my own to say about the election beyond what I said here and, of course, on the special concern of nuclear weapons.  I would observe that the opposition is even worse than it looks, for while Trump's own gutter ethno-revanchism is at least mostly secular, the Republican party as a whole has not lost its fundamentally theocratic character.  Just look who Trump chose as his running mate.

I admit to some anxiety about today, but not real fear.  Fear was long ago replaced by cold anger as my dominant emotion toward the cultural enemy.  And I feel reasonably confident that our country will choose leadership that embraces the future rather than a dark lunge backward into racial tribalism and thuggery, building on Obama's achievements rather than destroying them, cooperation rather than belligerent isolation.  There's more of us than there is of them.  Turnout patterns in the early-voting states suggest that Hillary will win by a bigger margin than the forecasters are giving her, and I think the odds are better than even that we win the Senate as well.

An observation:  Starting on January 20, the countries with the three largest economies in the Western world will all have women leaders -- Hillary in the US, Angela Merkel in Germany, and Theresa May in the UK.







A last election-day link mini-round-up:

Vote for Hillary, she's persuadable.

Failure is not an option.

What if Harry Potter were an undecided voter?

Green Eagle looks at the Mosul battle and Trump's craven dishonesty.

Republic of Gilead has some pre-election links, and some more here (yes, he's back, though likely on a reduced blogging schedule).

Here's what's at stake for Trump.

These people exist, and they'll probably vote.

Reddit's Marisam7 put together a huge collection of links on why Trump should indeed be considered a fascist.

This small incident illustrates the Trumpanzees' character -- and Obama's.

The world is watching.

David Frum makes a conservative case for voting for Hillary (found via Progressive Eruptions).

Andrew Sullivan considers Trump a unique threat to the republic (I disagree with his remarks about the Democrats toward the end, but as far as I know he still considers  himself a conservative).

There's a lot to like about Hillary, despite the wingnuts' relentless smear campaigns.

Trump's candidacy is based on delusions and living in the past.

FiveThirtyEight has an hour-by-hour guide for tonight, and some clues to watch for on the House races.

Finally, my own stab at prediction for the outcome of the Presidential race:
Hillary carries the usual Democratic states and the swing states, plus Arizona and Georgia.  Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I think turnout is going to be better for us than the forecasters anticipate.  We'll see.

[Video at top found via Progressive Eruptions]