31 October 2017


Happy Halloween!  However you celebrate Summer's End, may your spooky day be enhanced by contemplation of Donald Trump and his gang being haunted by the very real and inexorable specter of Robert Mueller.  Candy and indictments for everyone!  (Click pics for full-size.)

Crazy Eddie has dancing American witches and a treat for trick-or-treaters you really hate.  If you haven't seen it, here's my earlier post on the true origin of Halloween.  And don't forget Every Day Is Halloween!

[First two images found via Ranch Chimp, skeleton on flute by Might Be Magic, haunting monster gals by Marc McKenzie, dancing Medusa by Jake Clark, Trumpkin found via Progressive Eruptions, other items found here and there around the net]

29 October 2017

Link round-up for 29 October 2017

Animals are weird.

Overzealous regulation fells an imaginative entrepreneur (found via Mendip).

Here's a well-thought-out fantasy world.

I don't think you quite mean that.


Give this candy corn to your trick-or-treaters.

Crazy Eddie has more Broken Peach.

It's just a phase.

Indeed, be cautious.

They're still dinosaurs.

Angel Boraliev shows us how real pumpkin carving is done (found via Politics Plus).

Here's some creepy art by Jakub Różalski.

It's the meat.

Check out these elaborate domino tricks.

Biggest animal ever (as far as we know).


Well, that's one way of "notifying" him.

Spare me this warped travesty of "love".

"Antis" embody a key flaw in the pro-censorship mentalityAmerican censorship weirdly targets sexual content more than violent content.

Listen to one of the real victims of the opioid hysteria (found via ElectoralVote.com).

What if white people really were oppressed?

Which is the better goal?

Some professions shouldn't look for romance at work.

The Catholic Church uses funerals as one more weapon to attack gays.  Not everyone is happy.

Forget Whitefish Energy -- Tesla's solar panels are bringing back power in Puerto Rico.

Trump now has his own national monument.

Women used to be more respected (found via Yellowdog Granny).  Maybe it was back in those days.

A former fundie describes her journey to atheism -- note that the catalyst was exposure to another religion (in this case, that of the ancient Maya), as I discussed here.

Megyn Kelly turns on Bill O'Reilly and his ilk.  More, please.

"Just take our word for it."

Let education be real education.

This is how religious bigotry works.  Be warned.

I wonder if this person would use the same argument about a culture with a tradition of slavery or human sacrifice.

Trump's administration defends us against a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy.

Sometimes evil is neutered by godawful writing skills.

Slimebucket conspiratards are harassing survivors of the Las Vegas massacre.

If you build a tolerant Christianity, they won't come (don't bother commenting there -- comments sit for days in moderation before being posted).

The Christian Right is as hypocritical as ever, as its politics is revealing.  Hackwhackers has a bunch more links on the topic.

Beware of thoughtstoppers.

"Gimme that old-time religion....."

Looks like the Earth's gravity is a bit much for him.

Japanese honeybees have an unusual defense against hornets.

A peculiar fruit bears witness to animals long vanished.

Solar power grew faster than any other form of energy in 2016 (found via Ahab), but China, not the US, is leading the charge.

This book looks interesting.

Gays are viciously persecuted around the world (found via Crooks and Liars).

Ireland is turning away from Catholicism.  But maybe if believers mumble to themselves enough, they can keep forcing women to have babies they don't want.

What's next for Catalonia?  It isn't Spain's only potential secessionist region.  The moribund EU faces problems all over.

Southern Europe is on fire.

Russian chauvinists freak out over a movie about Tsar Nicholas II.

Yes, it's NRO, but this is a good assessment of US mistakes in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince is a reformist, but don't get too hopeful.

Kazakhstan will switch from the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet, a subtle but visible sign of the retreat of Russian cultural influence.

Trump can win by intimidation, but his choice of fights marks him as stupid.   For example, this fight.

What do Mueller's first indictments tell us? Earlier thoughts here.  Maybe Trump should reconsider this advice.

Republicans and Democrats have different fundraising problems, and the difference matters.  The DNC could be doing better.

Two counties epitomize the conflict within wingnuttia.  RedState is still bitching at Trump over the ACA repeal failure.

Somebody is destroying evidence of election irregularities in Georgia.  Now, who might have a reason for doing that?

Don't let the enemy define the narrative of the future.

Russia still has a huge capability for interfering in our elections (found via ElectoralVote.com).

P M Carpenter thinks Republicans will succeed on tax "reform", but most Americans don't want it.

Booman looks at Utah's next Senator.

Democrats are trying to prevent Trump from starting a war, but Republicans aren't ready to go along yet.

James Wolcott looks at the post-Trump future.  Also read this commentary.

[283 days down, 1,179 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

28 October 2017

Video of the day -- It's Mueller time!

Enjoy this sweet vision of the near future assembled by video artist 1oneclone.  May it become a reality!

27 October 2017

Random observations for October 2017

"One man, one woman" is the fundie mantra on marriage, but the Bible is full of polygamous marriages.

o o o o o

No one ideology or philosophy has all the answers or even most of them.  The focus should be on the goal, making use of whatever works to get there -- not on the road, following it blindly whether it goes where you really want or not.

o o o o o

Rape is not caused by "immodestly-dressed" women, nor by porn, nor by "rape culture".  It's caused by rapists, period.

o o o o o

I would hate to ever become the kind of person whose views can no longer change. There's always more to learn, and existing views always have to be re-examined in the light of new knowledge.

o o o o o

"Fat acceptance" is a terrible idea, for most of the same reasons that "smoking acceptance" would be.

o o o o o

I reject slippery-slope arguments.  By that logic, we should never change anything at all, since any change, no matter how obviously beneficial, can be portrayed as a potential gateway to some other hypothetical change that everyone agrees would be bad.

o o o o o

"Faith" -- belief without evidence or in spite of the evidence -- should always be seen as shameful and embarrassing.  It is an abdication of mental integrity and a denial of reality.

o o o o o

The proper level of punishment for a crime is whatever level is necessary to stop people from committing that crime.  Any form of punishment which the criminal considers acceptable or reasonable is, by definition, inadequate.

o o o o o

Religion and "spirituality" are bullshit, there is no such thing as a soul, and we're just modified chimpanzees with mystical delusions.  It's fantastically dangerous to think we can afford to screw up because there's some super sky fairy up there who will save us if we do.  We'd better learn to deal with reality the way it actually is.

[For previous random observations, see here.]

25 October 2017

The struggle for Kurdish independence

After a years-long struggle, Dâ'ish (ISIL) is now almost defeated.  However, a new conflict is threatening to break out, one which the US risks gravely mishandling.

The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture, who live mainly in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran.  The Kurdish language belongs to the Indo-Iranian group, closely related to Persian but not related at all to Arabic.  There are over five and a half million Kurds in Iraq, making up 15% of the country's total population.  Most of them live in the autonomous territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northeastern Iraq, but Kurdish-majority areas extend beyond the borders of the KRG.  Most of the rest of Iraq's population is Arab, divided between Sunni and Shiite; most Iraqi Kurds are Sunni, though some are Yezidis, an entirely separate religion.

Kurdish militias (peshmerga) played a major role is defeating Dâ'ish, and in the course of doing so, gained control of some areas of Iraq beyond the KRG.  Those areas include the city of Kirkuk, which is the capital of the oil-producing province of the same name.  This province's population is now predominantly Arab, but a few decades ago Kurds were the largest group; the demographic change was brought about by Saddam Hussein's policy of "Arabization" of the area, including his genocidal 1988 "Anfal" campaign which used mass killings and deportations to thin out the Kurdish population throughout Iraqi Kurdistan.  Estimates of the death toll range from 50,000 to 180,000.

On September 25 the KRG held a referendum on independence from Iraq; turnout was 78%, and 93% of the vote favored independence.  The Shiite-Arab-dominated Iraqi government immediately responded with punitive measures such as an air-travel blockade and began moving military forces, including irregular Shiite militias (some of them supported by Iran) into Kirkuk province.  These forces have now occupied Kirkuk city.  Kurdish peshmerga offered little resistance, perhaps because Kirkuk is outside the official borders of the KRG.  100,000 civilians have fled Kirkuk since the takeover.  Despite such abuses, the KRG has offered to negotiate with the Iraqi government on the basis of the existing Iraqi constitution.  However, the government shows every sign of taking a hard line against Kurdish independence.

If it comes to a fight, it will be a real fight.  Where the peshmerga have resisted Iraqi and militia advances, they have been effective, and they are beginning to push back near Kirkuk.  It is also possibile that Israel will assist the Kurds, even if covertly.  To its great credit, Israel is the only country so far to openly support Kurdish independence.  Perhaps it feels a kind of kinship; more than half of Israel's Jewish population is descended from Jewish refugees from Arab countries, whose ancestors suffered centuries of persecution in those countries.  The Iranian theocracy has gone so far as to call an independent Kurdistan "a second Israel".

So far the US has followed its usual line of supporting existing borders and states regardless of history or the realities on the ground.  Tillerson has expressed "concern" but suggested that "both parties commit themselves to a unified Iraq" to resolve the conflict, thus conceding in advance the very issue in dispute.  The main US priority seems to be that Iraq not align itself with Iran, as if that weren't already a foregone conclusion; both governments are Shiite, and so far at least, holy water is proving thicker than blood.

Iraq is a recognized state, but it is not a real nation; it's an artifact cobbled together by British imperialism less than a century ago, containing three groups (Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shiite Arabs) who have no particular sense of common identity nor any reason to feel loyal to that state.  Kurdistan is not (yet) a state, but in the minds of the Kurdish people, it is a nation.

The Kurds deserve American support -- if not outright support for independence, at least a firm policy against Iraqi use of force to suppress it.  The peshmerga were the toughest and most effective fighters in the long war against Dâ'ish.  The Kurds are relatively secular by Middle Eastern standards, and there's a good chance that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan would be a stable democracy in a region where such governments are not plentiful.  It would probably be an ally of Israel, something even rarer there.  If it would annoy the Iranian theocracy and the increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan regime in Turkey, too bad.  We should not betray courageous allies for their sake.

23 October 2017

Video of the day -- This Is Halloween

Song "This Is Halloween" performed by Spanish ensemble Broken Peach (in English).  Found via Ranch Chimp's Halloween post.  As with all videos here, well worth fullscreening.

22 October 2017

Link round-up for 22 October 2017

"I'll have what he's having."

Best typo ever!

Just read this.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Great metaphor.

You do sometimes see cool people on mass transit.

Please drive carefully.

Wild kitties!

Japan is far ahead of the West in soap dispenser technology (found via TYWKIWDBI).

We're gonna need a bigger.....

See the colorful world of snails.

Be careful wearing T-shirts in a language you don't understand.


Ancient Romans had a different taste in jewelry.  But the quality of their sculpture lets us see the face of a man almost two thousand years dead.

Fundies would not approve of these octopi.

This would be me.

Comrade Misfit reviews Blade Runner 2049.

Cartoon of the week.

Microsoft has the best offices.

It's October, so it's war on Christmas time again.

For Halloween, a new exhibition on witchcraft opens (found via Mendip).

Everybody should stop thinking these things are good.

Here's an interesting take on Ender's Game (found via Alas, a Blog).

If you use a phone with a "location service", read this.

See photos of the California wildfires.

69 House Republicans voted against aid to disaster-stricken fellow Americans (found via Tell Me a Story).

Biblical inerrancy is not intellectually sustainable.

This girl stood up to harassment.

Fake man has fake paintingAnd lies about it.

The Christian Right has embraced its inner hypocrisy and fully aligned itself with Bannon and Trump.  They really love Roy Moore.

Meet Eric Krieg, the bumbling teabagger terrorist (found via Mendip).

Young Utahns are becoming less conservative, and sympathy for gay rights is a big part of the reason.

College students aren't as hostile to free speech as a recent survey suggested.  Even NRO sides with Biden on the topic.  Speaking of which, I hope they throw the book at this piece of shit.

Christians struggle to love an evil deity.

This is a real flyer (found via this post).

These people exist.

The Alt-Right is misogynistic too.

Weinstein types exist across the political spectrum.  Don't give an abuser a free pass just because you agree with his politics.  A Christian writer calls out Christian hypocrisy.

What could we actually do about a hacked election?

Public pressure fends off wingnuttification of science education in New Mexico.

People in 1895 were seriously spooked by the first X-ray images.

These animals were too big.

Nineteenth-century people went to great lengths to avoid being buried alive (found via Mendip).

Global warming was already understood in 1912.

The more Americans travel, the less they like Trump.

The best major cities for women are London, Tokyo, and Paris -- the ten-worst list won't surprise you.

Australian police use mockery to discourage speeders.

No, there probably were not Muslim Vikings (I read Arabic and that pattern doesn't look like "Allâh" -- the letter alif is not written joined to a following lâm).

Sweden is liberated territory, the enemy bitches about it.

Bulgaria updates old Soviet monuments.

Japan, fed up with Trump's trade policies, prepares to take its business elsewhere.

Kurdish and Arab forces have liberated Raqqa, the Dâ'ish (ISIL) "capital".  A woman rescued from slavery celebrates with Kurdish troops.  Trump, of course, tries to grab the credit.

Iraqi forces and allied militias are rampaging in Kirkuk and have driven out 100,000 Kurds.  Despite widespread protests, the US has so far done nothing to help its Kurdish allies who bore so much of the brunt of the fight against Dâ'ish.  Minorities, including Christians, pin their hopes on Kurdish independence.

"You don't need feminism."

Whose agenda is Trump following?  Is he evil, ignorant, or cut off from reality -- or all three?

Mock Paper Scissors debunks the claim (linked here last Sunday) that the Democrats risk a repeat of 1972.  And this party guest list reads like a Who's Who of political Morlocks.

The administration's newest priority is denying abortions to underage illegal alien rape victims.

Pence is as bad as we think, but he doesn't have much support.

Vote suppression probably cost Hillary Wisconsin.  There's a really, really farfetched scenario whereby she could still become President.

Political parties should resist the urge to purge.  But Democrats must understand the realities of their situation.  The Supreme Court was, and remains, crucial.

If Trump gets tax "reform" enacted, he may regret it.

[Image at top:  Erbîl, capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq]

19 October 2017

Videos of the day -- the sincerest form of flattery

These videos are, believe it or not, completely American; they're ads for the Los Angeles metro system, to discourage rude behavior by riders.  Yet the imitation of Japanese pop-culture aesthetic is virtually perfect, and there's even some Japanese language used.  It's an interesting reversal considering how long other countries (including Japan itself) have imitated American mass-culture style and tossed in English words because those things seem "cool".  More info on the ad campaign here; found via Mock Paper Scissors.

18 October 2017

Space case

In a recent post on Canada, Pinku-Sensei looked at the colorful background of that country's Governor General, Julie Payette, which includes two trips into space as an astronaut.  He ended by wishing that we in the US could have a former astronaut as President.

Bah.  Why think small?  We'll soon be able to elect a leader -- well, a Congresswoman -- who has actually been in regular contact with aliens and has even ridden in an alien spacecraft.

Miami Congressional candidate Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (a Republican, naturally), claims that she was abducted by aliens at age 7 and that they have been in telepathic contact with her several times since then.  There were three aliens, "blond" and "big-bodied", who reminded her of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro (though I assume they weren't actually that "big-bodied").  Their spacecraft had "round seats" and some "quartz rocks" which "controlled" it.  Fellow bloggers PsiCop and Hackwhackers have posted about Rodriguez's claims.

Apparently these aliens spoke English, since Rodriguez reports that they gave her the following information:

- There are 30,000 non-human skulls in a cave in Malta.

- The world’s "energy center" is in Africa.

- "God is a universal energy".

- Florida's "Coral Castle" is an ancient Egyptian pyramid (it was actually built by a local eccentric less than a century ago).

Curious how the celestial wisdom imparted by advanced aliens sounds exactly like a series of National Enquirer headlines.  Also curious how their grasp of English includes the maddeningly nebulous New-Agey misuse of the word "energy" which is so common among scientifically-illiterate people these days.  One would expect aliens qualified to pilot a spacecraft to have a better knowledge of physics.

In fact, the whole story typifies the annoying inanity of the alien-visitation schtick as we've come to know it.  Rodriguez describes the aliens as essentially humanlike -- suspiciously like a child's concept of angels, in fact -- and most such tales do the same, or describe creatures like the "greys", just an unimaginative slight modification of the human form.  Considering the vast variety of forms of animal life which have developed here on Earth, it's vanishingly unlikely that evolution on another planet would produce a species so similar to ourselves.

Then there's the matter of those pearls of advanced knowledge which these superior beings convey to their contactees.  Like the examples above, what the aliens have to say is almost always dull, trite, tabloid stuff, often with religious undertones, reflecting the ignorance and foggy language of the contactees themselves, often linked to fads popular at the time.  They couldn't drop off some blueprints for a planetary anti-meteor defense system or a primer on their theoretical physics?  Even a few landscape photos of their home world would be nice.  In fact, none of these revelations ever contain any clear, testable information outside the (usually meager) knowledge of the contactee.

(Similar nonsense ruined the ending of what would otherwise have been one of the all-time great science-fiction movies, Contact.  After Earth spends hundreds of billions of dollars building an alien-designed machine to send Jodie Foster to Vega, all she gets to see is an alien disguised as her dead father who spends a couple of minutes reciting platitudes out of some mediocre psychobabble book from the "spirituality" aisle, then sends her home.  Worst return on investment ever!  Earth should have sued.)

One also wonders why beings advanced enough to have achieved interstellar travel would spend decades abducting random obscure people, reciting clichés at them, maybe inflicting a "probe" or two, and then returning them.  I'm fairly sure that if NASA became aware of an intelligent alien race technologically inferior to ourselves somewhere in the Solar system, this is not the procedure they would propose.

Oh, well.  I see no reason to doubt that Rodriguez can secure the Republican nomination and even be elected.  The scientific ignorance inherent in her story is nothing compared with that shown by global-warming denialism or creationism, both of which are pretty much mandatory for Republicans these days.  Where idiotic delusions in government are concerned, boring aliens are the least of our problems.

[Image at top from here.]

15 October 2017

Link round-up for 15 October 2017

It's a battle of metaphors.

There are only two genders.

Photoshop artists rise to the occasion.

Our language can be confusing.

Fight the bank -- with fish.

Well, when you put it like that.....

What if the sinking of the Titanic had happened in 2016?

Link looks at internet ads.  Green Eagle wants to fight back.

Follow the squirrel challenge.

A sex worker comments on counterproductive laws.

Why did Dracula have armadillos?

Judge people by their actions, not their fantasies.

Different stories resonate with different people.

These shadows will make you look twice.

Here's a nice spooky painting for Halloween.

The Greeks had a word for it.

Has God changed?

If you use PayPal, read this.  If you're thinking of getting your DNA tested, read this.

This Friday the 13th was the 242nd birthday of the US Navy -- Crazy Eddie observes the occasion with some nautical superstitions.

As Christianity declines, churches are being rededicated to a higher purpose.

Cowards in academia fail to defend freedom of expression.

Something's very wrong with our child-custody laws.

The Supreme Court has already ruled on protesting during the national anthem (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  A majority of Americans now at least know what the protests are about.  Here are some more opportunities for Pence to walk out (found via Hackwhackers).

Make fines proportional to income.

Weinstein has a defender.

Some of the drinking water being distributed in Puerto Rico comes from a hazardous-waste site (found via ElectoralVote.com).  San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz is asking the UN to provide the aid Trump won't.  The island is already getting help from the private sector -- some from Germany.  Then there's this.  Oh, and these people exist.

Raw Story looks at the Dominionist / "Seven Mountains" fundies and their efforts to take over US society.  Never forget that those nutbars are out there.

This young man embodies the spirit of Ted Kennedy.

What does "efficiency" mean?

Here's how Trump got the power to attack the environment.

Science is preparing for a post-antibiotic world.  And don't forget this.

Meet the prehistoric vampire ant from Hell (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

What a croc.

Devoted doggies save a little girl on a freezing night.

Hillary goes to Wales and speaks Welsh.

Malala Yousafzai starts at Oxford.

John Fugelsang sums up Trump's attack on the Iran nuclear deal (found via Hackwhackers).

Iraq is now trying to arrest organizers of Kurdistan's independence referendum -- and may be threatening an attack.

Russian drivers.....

This museum exists -- in China.

Roy Moore could be in trouble for tax evasion.  And here's a nasty episode from his past.

The Markey-Lieu bill to limit Trump's authority to use nuclear weapons has languished in Congress since January.  It's past time to act.

HecateDemeter looks at the problems that limit Democrats' voting power.  There's grounds for hope that the Supreme Court will do something about partisan gerrymandering.  How much risk is there that we'll suffer another McGovern-style disaster?

WND (!) has some solid info about how Trump's bungling of Puerto Rico could impact future elections.

Bannon is raising an army of wingnuts to Akin/O'Donnellize the Republicans for 2018 -- sanity is now unforgivable.  Mark Plotkin at The Hill points out the obvious.

"The least qualified moron" sums up Trump well.  He may be looking to quit a job he hates.

David French says Trump is turning Republicans into crude thugs -- what, more than they already were?

Hackwhackers has reactions to Pence's NFL stunt.  Even RedState is unimpressed.

[Sorry for lack of posts recently -- it's been a rough week.]

10 October 2017

Trump is attacking the ACA again

This is never going to stop, as long as the wingnuts hold power in Washington.  With Congressional Republicans' floundering efforts to repeal the ACA having ignominiously petered out (for the time being), Trump is apparently going to attack the law via executive order:

Trump's order, expected as soon as this week, would allow small businesses or other groups of people to band together to buy health insurance. Some fear that these Association Health Plans (AHPs) would not be subject to the same rules as ObamaCare plans, including those that protect people with pre-existing conditions. That would make these plans cheaper for healthy people, potentially luring them away from the ObamaCare market. The result could be that only sicker, costlier people remain in ObamaCare plans, leading to a spike in premiums.....Andy Slavitt, a former top health care official in the Obama administration, warned that insurers could drop out of the Affordable Care Act markets because of the order.

There's some uncertainty about whether, or to what extent, Trump has the authority to do this.  If he issues such an order, there will be legal challenges.  If it goes into effect, however, over time it will become harder to oppose, since some voters (healthy people on AHPs) will benefit from it, creating a constituency against repealing it.  The time to stop this is before it's issued, or at least before it's implemented.

That may not be easy, however.  The public helped stop legislative repeal of the ACA by deluging Congress with anti-repeal phone calls and other messages, but Trump is less likely to be swayed by such methods.  The sane people in the Cabinet are probably focused on stopping Trump from blowing up the Korean peninsula and don't have time for this.  Our best hope may be the fact that some insurance companies are apparently worried about the order too -- businesses don't like unpredictable changes in their regulatory environment.  Or perhaps Trump will bungle the drafting of his executive order as he has in the past, making it ineffectual.

But the underlying reality is that it's inherently difficult to keep a system running smoothly when Congress and the White House are held by people grimly opposed to that system's very existence.  The ACA will not be safely re-stabilized until we vote them out.

08 October 2017

Link round-up for 8 October 2017

Keep an eye on Every Day is Halloween blog for seasonal spookiness!

Do not release teh wyrm.

Looks like a perfect day.

A wingnut goes grocery shopping.

Fully charged!  Maybe plug in here next time?

This looks like an "alignment chart" for the blogosphere.

Go for a spin.


I'm almost afraid to speculate about the function of this object.

Halloween attacks!  Impressive decorations here.

This person is way too enthused about Autumn (found via Mendip).

Even the mightiest started small.

This gadget could be pretty handy, if it actually works.

Many artifacts recovered from Pompeii fall into a particular category.

Purity-obsessed antis harass f/f and now m/m shipping into blandness (if you don't understand that, you probably won't understand the linked post).

If Trump were a bird, he'd be this one.

Giant snails in Florida have been involved in a truly disgusting religious cult.

Gallantry can come from unexpected quarters.

Earth-Bound Misfit looks at Hugh Hefner.

Capt. Fogg offers some sanity on the Las Vegas mass murder (found via Fair and Unbalanced).  Pat Robertson offers total insanity.  Here's a good debate on guns (and I'm not saying that just because one person linked to me), going beyond the usual mere exchange of clichés.

Noah Smith takes a thoughtful look at freedom of expression on campus (the comments are worth a look too).

Brotha Wolf has a message for "patriots" about black people (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Don't be fooled by this fake photo.

Very often, censorship is about suppressing women's sexuality.

Sometimes, Texas makes sense.

The US public develops more confidence in the media in the face of Trump's constant bashing.

Watch as much as you can stand, and try to imagine the horror of living with this view of reality.

The US may have failed Puerto Rico, but not vice-versa.

When people say feminism is sexist, this is the kind of thing they're talking about.

The creator of Pepe the Frog launches a legal campaign against the Alt-Right for stealing his work -- and in at least one case he's gotten results.

Here's another reminder of what the Civil War was really about.

"It's not murder if they're black."

These people exist.

A Christian and ex-fundie looks at slavery in the Bible.

There's no justice for a victim of false accusation.

Experts assess the chances of a new civil war in the US in the next 15 years (the consensus: it's about one in three).

The "ghost gunner" machine is the latest advance in making your own guns at home.

Here's a collision bigger than you can imagine.

GM plans to phase out the internal combustion engine.

NASA has a plan to save the world from super-volcanoes -- and generate energy too (found via TYWKIWDBI).

This is the Solar eclipse as seen from the International Space Station, with the Milky Way in the background.  Notice the shadow on the Earth.

Imagine stained-glass windows that can produce electricity.

No, you twit, Europe is shaking off its earlier colonization by Christianity.

Thanks goodness we still have the Bill of Rights.

A neo-Nazi march in Sweden leads to violence and a mass counter-protest.

Germany was once led by a Trump-like figure, and the results were not good.

Charlie Hebdo will soon have an online edition in English.

Sorry, but Howard Dean is an idiot.

Swing your chicken do-si-do.....

It's been a century -- but remember this genocide.

Iran's foreign minister has a few words for Trump.

Don't get too excited about Saudi Arabia letting women drive -- it's still a barbarous country.

An American in Japan contrasts its health-care system with our own (found via Crooks and Liars).

Putin assesses the possibility of a military strike on North Korea.

A talented Chinese sculptor wins admiration -- and one weirdly-racist response.

China may have found a solution for its serious shortage of women.

India takes conservation seriously.

It's worked before -- humor is being used to fight extremism (found via Mendip).

Caption this photo.

Trump puts his foot in it with the base again.  The wingnuts are unhappy with Gorsuch, and right-wing donors are getting frustrated and turning to Steve Bannon.  But Booman Tribune warns us not to count on Republicans' divisions to defeat them.

Democrats should focus on the big issues and avoid trivia.

While Pence's dimwit Chief of Staff demands that all Republicans support Trump, the latter's actual approval rating is dragging them all down.  No wonder, as he fumbles and stumbles.

[262 days down, 1,200 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]

06 October 2017

The voters are restless

Alabama is not the only place where a significant election happened in the last couple of weeks.  Here are three cases where votes carry implications reaching beyond the countries in which they were cast.

Catalonia:  The Spanish government is doubling down on its efforts to suppress Catalonia's independence movement.  Leading figures from the region are being hauled into court to face accusations of sedition, while King Felipe VI (who, like the British monarch, is supposed to be an apolitical figurehead rather than an actual ruler) has condemned Sunday's independence referendum.  Catalonians are not backing down; infuriated by the government's brutal police crackdown during the referendum, which injured over 800 people, a protest and general strike on Tuesday drew 700,000 participants, almost a tenth of Catalonia's total population.  The head of the region's government, Carles Puigdemont, has threatened to declare independence within days.

It's hard to overstate the magnitude of the Spanish government's blunder in resorting to violence.  While the ballots cast and counted show 90% support for independence, the disruption caused by the police attacks prevented so many people from voting that the result can't be considered a true reflection of the popular will; polling beforehand showed less than half of Catalonians favoring independence.  Since the government insists the referendum was illegal, a better course (as a commenter here pointed out) would have been to do nothing, simply declaring that it would not recognize the results.  Given the polling, a peaceful vote might well have delivered a majority against independence, as the Scottish referendum in 2014 did, and laid the whole issue to rest for the foreseeable future.  As it is, the brutality doubtless turned many Catalonians against Spain.

There's ample risk of further escalation, given that both sides have used rhetoric which will make it hard to back down.  The European Union is useless, with European leaders, as usual, showing more concern for order and legal technicalities than for justice (with some exceptions) -- a response which has been well noted in Catalonia.

Kurdistan:  On September 25, the Kurdish autonomous area in northern Iraq held a referendum on full independence.  Unlike in Spain, although the Iraqi government opposed the vote, it was unwilling or unable to use force to try to suppress it.  Turnout was over 78%, and 93% of votes cast favored independence.

In this case, the result could hardly have been otherwise.  Iraqi rule has been a bitter experience for the Kurds, especially during the regime of Saddam Hussein, whose "Anfal" campaign in 1988 used mass deportations, concentration camps, and outright extermination to thin out the Kurdish population.  Estimates of the death toll range from 50,000 to 180,000.  Moreover, the Iraqi state is an artifact cobbled together by British imperialism less than a century ago, containing three groups (Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shiite Arabs) who have no particular sense of common identity nor any reason to feel loyal to that state.  In both Iraq and Syria, Kurdish militias did a huge share of the fighting against Dâ'ish (ISIL), and naturally feel all the more right to the lands they defended and liberated with such courage.

Besides Iraq, large Kurdish populations live in Syria, Iran, and especially Turkey.  The governments of those countries, fearing that Iraqi Kurdistan's referendum will embolden their own Kurdish subjects, have reacted with hostility and vituperation (but one Middle Eastern country has been supportive).  The US, despicably, has dismissed Kurdish independence as illegal and an additional headache in a region already brimming with complex problems -- but some within the government are dissenting.  I've already argued that the Kurds deserve our support.

Germany:  Angela Merkel's re-election as Chancellor in September came as a surprise to those who were convinced that the influx of refugees from Syria during her tenure had rendered her hopelessly unpopular.  In fact, Germany's economy has generally been doing well, and the refugee issue is not so dominant in German politics as outsiders seem to assume.  Even so, Merkel's party, the conservative Christian Democrats, lost seats in the Bundestag and will need to form a coalition to govern.

More dramatically, the nationalist AfD (Alternative für Deutschland, or Alternative for Germany), got 13% of the vote and won seats in the Bundestag for the first time, becoming the third-largest party there.  In many cases, the use of the term "far right" in reference to European nationalist and anti-EU parties is simple ignorance or sloppiness, but the AfD believes in German superiority, supports military conscription, and has been plausibly accused of anti-Semitism.  That doesn't mean, of course, that the nearly six million Germans who voted for the party hold those views; they basically represent the segment of the population for which refugees and immigration are an overriding issue.  Germany is smaller than Montana and has 82 million people, and for most of its history has been ethnically homogenous.  Like most Europeans, Germans naturally view large-scale immigration quite differently than Americans do.  But the rise of such a party in Europe's dominant country (and the world's fourth-largest economy), which has spent decades establishing itself as a stable liberal democracy and utterly repudiating the ghastly atrocities of the Nazi period, is an alarming development to say the least.

04 October 2017

Videos of the day -- the natural world and its challenges

Rather than re-embed all of these, I'm just going to refer you to Crazy Eddie's Motie News, which has them all posted already.  First, these eight clips on nature and biology, which have spectacular visuals -- though the very last one may not be for all tastes.  Then there are these, looking at a wider range of scientific issues (including the one above).  All of them are from longer works which you may well want to seek out and watch in full.

01 October 2017

An attack on self-determination

As voting proceeds in Catalonia, the Spanish government has escalated its efforts to shut down today's independence referendum, sending paramilitary thugs to attack polling places and using clubs and rubber bullets on Catalonian civilians.  Hundreds of people have been injured.  The BBC, the Guardian, and Deutsche Welle (in English) have current coverage.

I can't help contrasting this with Scotland's referendum on independence from the UK in 2014, which the British government allowed to proceed freely.  As it happened, the Scottish people voted to stay in the UK by a margin of more than 10%.  Spain may be able to hold on to Catalonia by force, but its present tactics seem doomed to create permanent hostility and resistance to its rule over the region.

Link round-up for 1 October 2017

This plate of crab is certainly fresh (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Tree wars!

Follow a kitten's Halloween adventure.

Savor these cream-filled waffles from Thailand.  Wear these earrings too.

This driver meant it.

Letter spacing is important.

Perhaps Cassini avenged the dinosaurs.

Ancient Greek and Roman soldiers added insult to injury.

Ancient Egyptian religion was different from what exists now.

Looks like this dog is in no hurry.  Or maybe there's no dog at all.

A desperate prisoner cleverly escapes.

Somebody give this horse a record contract.

Worst ad ever, or maybe the best.

Here's an interesting re-interpretation of the Greek tale of Medusa.

Change a light bulb?  These guys have a bigger job.

Barnes and Noble takes another step toward obsolescence.

Got your Halloween costumes for right-wingers right here.

Huh?  It's a Nazi gay wedding.

Animals are pervs.

There's a good reason for planting trees like this.

New York man pwns red-light cameras.

Help catch these jackasses.

Some teachers need to be in a different line of work.

It may be that men and women have a different idea of what "friend" means.

God makes no mistakes.

If you need to call 911 but there's a threatening person with you, use the pizza trick.

Remember, this was only sixty years ago.

A man who once fought for freedom defends it again.

Fox admits that equality, diversity, and inclusion are leftist values.

Remember Hugh Hefner.

Here's how a real leader handles a racist incident.

Amber Ruffin pwns Trump over his NFL comments.  Former CIA Director John Brennan gets it too.  The players aren't the first to receive such criticism.

Christian teachers in Colorado allegedly sabotaged a student because of her outspoken atheism. Some Christians can't even tolerate other Christians.  But don't treat them all the same (found via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird).

Wingnut boycotters are going to have a lot more boycotting to do.

The inner reality of the Alt-Right is scarier than its public face.  But they still stink at getting things organized.

As the country declines, looters take the money and run.

Cruise lines are helping Puerto Rico.  Trump still hasn't done all he could.  And why the hell will it take four months to get the electricity back on?  When the going gets tough, the "tough" go golfing.  Even RedState realizes this looks terrible.

This is what a hurricane can do.

Even exotic life a mile and a half under the sea is threatened by Trump.

Listen to the stars.

Project Blue will search for Earthlike worlds in the system of our nearest stellar neighbor (sorry, it's still about 7,000 times further away than Pluto).

It was only a fish.

Here's how it might look if the Earth were destroyed by a black hole.

Australia prepares to venture into space.

Foreigners use US locales metaphorically. But silly redefinitions of words don't travel well.

How long does a queen last?

Donna at Tell Me a Story is visiting Iceland.

Catalonia votes on independence today despite brutal efforts by the Spanish government to stop the referendum.

Brazilian wingnuts attack gay culture -- others push back on social media.

Venezuelan professionals resort to sex work to survive.  But read this too.

The technology North Korea struggles to copy is hopelessly antiquated -- we can do better.

Traditional beliefs and practices continue in east Africa.

Last year, Russia actively supported Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders as part of their effort to elect Trump.

Here's a look at the winners and losers in Alabama.  Roy Moore is a lawless theocratic lunatic (found via Mendip).

Trump has a history with the NFL (found via Progressive Eruptions).  His DoJ is going after info on his opponents.

Who gets to complain?

Enough with the "empathy" for Trumpanzees -- they need to learn to empathize.

NRO takes a gloomy view of Republicans' chances next year and the Bannonization of the party.  A couple of local election results drive home the point.  And their tax "reform" plan won't pass easily.

[255 days down, 1,207 days to go until the inauguration of a real President!]