29 March 2015

Video of the day -- god, god, god.....


This is great.

Link round-up for 29 March 2015

You have bean warned -- a "farticle" full of fart facts (found via Margin of Error).

I'm all four of these things.

A mentally-disturbed man from Canada has been seen trying to get into the White House (found via Republic of Gilead).

Brian Brown's real desk is probably a busted folding table he found in a junkyard.

I can't wait to sample Willie's Reserve.

If Reagan came back today, he'd wish he hadn't.

Here's an insightful Venn diagram of three professions.

Scott Walker waffles on illegal aliens, and heads explode across a lengthy RedState comment thread.

Yee hah, my city is number one!

Before there were all these faggots, America was Christian, and that's why slavery was so nice -- oh, and rape is caused by uppity women.

Green Eagle's latest Wingnut Wrapup includes a Gateway Pundit cover-up of some spectacular bullshit.

Stop worrying about the "decline" of marriage (found via GoodShit).

I really hope Nancy LeTourneau is right about this.

Religio-nutters predict gay marriage will lead to persecution of Christians and eventually revolution (yeah, we've seen that before).

Sam Brownback has a novel idea for economic stimulus -- forced childbirth (found via Republic of Gilead).

Why are we keeping Jose Chua Lopez out of the United States?

Sylvia Allen is perhaps the ultimate Republican.

Christians, please consider this -- and I think it will be well within our lifetime.

Activism can win real results, even in a red state.

See blog reports on Indiana's new "we don't serve your kind" law from Mock Paper Scissors, Progressive Eruptions, Earth-Bound Misfit (comments are revealing), Green Eagle, Squatlo Rant, and Republic of Gilead.  There are already signs of an economic backlash, and also sarcasm (found via Mendip).  Update:  More on the growing backlash, and an example of who supports the law.

Two posts that speak for me:  atheists have no duty to play nice with religious bigots, and when they hassle us, arguing with them is pointless.

Baggot Congresswoman issues call for Obamacare horror stories, gets swamped with replies.

What if all the energy Christian put into hating gays was put to constructive use? (found via Republic of Gilead)

Cruz will make the whole Republican Presidential field less viable.

Are Biblical marriages a good model for modern marriage?  Let's look at the record (found via Margin of Error).

Women in every demographic favor Hillary Clinton.

Bobby Jindal, once a Republican rising star, has imploded.

A simple test -- what kind of Christian are you?

The Christian Right now dominates the Republican party, and wants even firmer control (found via Republic of Gilead).

Minnesota and California exemplify the superiority of Democrats at governing.

Podemos, Spain's Syriza-like anti-austerity party, shows strength in regional elections.

The US war on drugs is devastating less-developed countries (found via GoodShit).

Catholic priest Josef Tiso was a fascist dictator, friend of Hitler, and accessory to mass murder -- and never faced disapproval from the Vatican.

US strategy in Iraq depends upon Iranian involvement (found via Margin of Error).

Persian New Year is celebrated at Crazy Eddie's Motie News and at Margin of Error, though inevitably there's one party-pooper on the scene.

Iran has let the genie of feminism out of the bottle (found via Margin of Error).

I haven't posted about the (US-supported) Saudi attack on Yemen's Houthi rebels, because Yemen isn't a country I know a lot about, but this overview sounds credible to me.  I will say I have a very bad feeling about this.

The Antarctic ice shelves are melting faster and faster, but at least there's some good news from Britain.

27 March 2015

Ad-clog

You go to one of your favorite blogs or news sites and suddenly your browser becomes slow and only jerkily responsive as three or four tiny video ads scattered around the page buffer themselves and start autoplaying.  You start reading the text and suddenly it jerks to one side as an ad shoves in from the margin.  You read to the bottom of the screen and another ad rises up or scrolls across to cover up what you're looking at, and you have to stop what you're doing to find the X to click on to get rid of it.  One of the tiny video ads finishes buffering and starts playing, an annoying, attention-grabbing distraction, so you click the pause button on it and eventually it stops, but a pop-up ad opens in a new window and you have to stop and close it.

I understand that some people want to try to make money from their websites, but this has gotten completely insane.  I don't know how many times I started reading something that looked interesting but gave up because the barrage of various kinds of ads was simply too aggravating and distracting.

Notable offenders are those bottom-of-the-barrel news sites that have a bunch of links at the end of each post like "10 foods you should never eat" or "7 celebrities you didn't know were part Jewish" (the topics are usually stuff like that, which gives you an idea of the target audience).  Ever click on one of those?  Each one of the 7 or 10 or whatever items is on its own mini-page, requiring you to click "next" to get from one to another, and each mini-page is festooned with ads -- if you actually make it through all the items, waiting each time for all the flashy, jerky things to download, you'll have been subjected to enough ads to last you a lifetime.

YouTube is another big offender here.  Pretty much every video with a lot of views now has a video ad that comes on at the beginning.  The longer ones have a "skip ad" button you can click after the first five seconds, but the shorter ones don't.  Then the inevitable rectangular ad pops up at the bottom, covering a good chunk of the action (especially annoying if it's a video with subtitles), and by the time you've found the X to get rid of it, one of those stupid "annotations" appears, so you have to click the gear symbol to bring up the "annotations off" button, which then shifts out of the way when you're about to click on it.  By the time you've gotten rid of all this crap, you've missed a good 30 seconds of the video and have to drag the progress button at the bottom back to the start to re-watch it.  Some longer videos even have ads in the middle now, interrupting them like TV commercials (this one does, for example, and it was not there when I originally posted it).  If you watch a video embedded on a blog, the beginning video ads usually don't appear (though the other stuff does), but I've seen even a few embedded videos that had them.

The ignorance of psychology here is amazing.  I never pay any attention to what an ad is advertising any more; the instant it starts autoplaying or flickering or pops up on the screen, I reflexively just look for whatever I have to do to get rid of it, and that's all.  They are too numerous and too annoying to do anything else.

I've always been resistant to getting anti-ad software like Adblock because I don't trust an algorithm to distinguish reliably between ads and content, and don't want it blocking things that I actually want to see -- how good is it at distinguishing video ads on YouTube from the actual video, for example?  But these days I'm reconsidering.  Do any readers have experience using such software?  How well does it work?

We've beaten back the attack on net neutrality, at least for now, but there's more than one way to tangle up a web.

[The forest view at the top has nothing to do with the post.  I just thought people might like a more soothing image since the post is all about irritants.]

24 March 2015

To liberal supporters of Pope Francis

Pope Francis recently visited Naples, where he was present for a "miracle" which is regularly performed by the local bishop there, in which what is allegedly the dried blood of a long-dead saint is made to turn liquid before a crowd of assembled worshipers.  Rosa Rubicondior has the details.  The way in which the liquefaction is done is well understood.  The material in the container is not blood but a mixture of easily-obtained chemicals which is normally dry and brownish but turns liquid when shaken.  In other words, the "miracle" is a trick -- conscious and premeditated fakery, an intentional scam knowingly performed to fool gullible believers.

It's hard to imagine that Francis is unaware that the miracle is fake.  He's the top man in the Catholic Church; the "miracle" is a renowned one which has been performed since the 14th century; the information about how such tricks are done is widely available.  Yet when this scam was repeated in his very presence, he let it pass without comment.  For that matter, even before visiting Naples he was no doubt aware of this and other cases of conjuring tricks being passed off as authentic miracles to impress the credulous.  He has done nothing to suppress, much less expose, the use of such deliberate deceptions to enhance the Church's prestige.

Francis has won praise from some liberals in our country for a few extemporaneous remarks which sound less hostile to gays and other "sinners" than the Church has traditionally been (and these remarks have also aroused alarm among more traditional / bigoted Catholics).  But there has been no substantive change.  And Francis has shown no interest in dismantling the vast framework of lies and trickery, of which faked miracles like this one are just one example, which the Church uses to maintain its prestige and back up its supernatural claims (here's another case of obvious deliberate lying about something very easily checked), and to keep the rubes donating from their meager incomes to top up its vast wealth.  Apparently he is not only quite comfortable with such scams, but also fairly confident that God too finds them acceptable.

About the worst Catholic scandal of all, the systematic cover-up of child molestation by clergy and the world-wide pattern of shielding the molesters from prosecution, Francis has similarly made some noises that sound good, but has not taken the one step that would actually be meaningful -- a clear and firm directive that accused priests must be turned over to civil police and courts for trial rather than dealt with through the Church's internal disciplinary procedures.

So, where Francis is concerned, liberals should focus on substance rather than being impressed by a few examples of friendly-sounding but empty rhetoric.  The Catholic Church is an irredeemably evil and corrupt institution.  It won't change because of one man who, on all evidence, doesn't want to change it anyway.  It won't change, period.  It can't.  It is what it is.

22 March 2015

Link round-up for 22 March 2015

One good thing about being a fundie is, you don't need to worry about asteroids.

This is pretty close to how the Christian Right actually thinks these days.  And seriously, read this.

This woman has learned from experience.

Yellowdog Granny observes St. Patrick's Day.

Obama signals he'll fight Republican plans to wreck Social Security.  And remember, he gets stuff done.

No, it is not true that the higher minimum wage is driving Seattle restaurants out of business.

Facts remain facts even if Republicans ban people from talking about them.

No, your stupid sports obsession does not make it OK to threaten people.

Matt McLaughlin's "kill the gays" initiative in California brings out the genocidal implications of fundamentalism (read the comments too).

As Santorum said, Republicans will never win the support of smart people -- so why bother trying?

Here's a great response to the claim that "you're an atheist just because you want to sin".

The menace of theocracy:  Republic of Gilead reports on major speeches by Paul Blair and George Barna.

Morality and behavior in the US are getting better with time, not worse.

WWJD takes a look at that stupid "pissed-off rednecks" song.

Nikki Haley tries to help Jeb Bush, blunders embarrassingly.

How can students learn anything when their communities are this dumb?

Georgia's proposed pro-religion law is a threat to everyone.

Larry Kramer's magnum opus is a new view of American history.

Stupidity has its costs.

No, Obama did not suggest making voting mandatory.

Plato explains the 2012 election.

Take a look at the future of marijuana (found via GoodShit).

57% of Republicans say they want a Christian nation, so let's give it a try (found via Republic of Gilead).

Yep, this is exactly how Jesus would have spent $65 million.

RedState fumes over the impending collapse of yet another Senate Republican effort at what they themselves call hostage-taking.  Some on the right are boiling with rage at the Republican party for not being wingnutty enough.

Here's the real story behind that "Satan was the first to demand equal rights" sign.

If Hillary doesn't run, there's an obvious alternate candidate for the Democrats (while Republicans swoon over this guy).  But the e-mail kerfluffle doesn't seem to be hurting Hillary.

From Canada, an example of Christian parenting.

British voters have shifted to the left, though not by much.

Will Pope Francis be squeezed out by the grossly-corrupt Vatican establishment?

In Germany, there's some justice for an anti-vaxxer.

Here's some stuff you didn't know about Hitler (found via GoodShit).

Religious groups are trying to block birth control for refugee girls from Central America who get raped (found via Republic of Gilead).

São Paolo contemplates a law to protect public breastfeeding.

Faith-based mass murderers will face trial in the Balkans.

The ISIS-linked attack on Tunisia's National Bardo Museum has brought yet another country into the war against jihadism.  Muslims are also using mockery and satire to combat ISIS (found via Lady Atheist).

The Chinese regime bans an embarrassingly-popular documentary about Beijing's nightmarish smog.

The North Korean regime hates criticism.

The liberation of a Nigerian town from Boko Haram Islamists reveals mass killings.

Rabbits in the Everglades are being gobbled up by invasive pythons.

Globally, this winter was the warmest on record.

2014 saw several breakthroughs in our understanding of human evolution.

20 March 2015

A few random observations

Every time I see a post about the Liz Mair fiasco, my brain tries to read the name as Liz Phair -- as if Scott Walker could ever be cool enough to hire her as a consultant.

Those who want to abandon regulation remind me of those who want to abandon vaccines. The solution has worked so well that we've forgotten how bad the problems were that made us need that solution in the first place.

Some people, once their own group achieves liberation, try to pull up the ladder behind themselves to prevent others from climbing it after them.  They merely wanted to join the elect, not abolish it.

Anti-Semitism is like racism in that, if you feel a need to specify that what you're about to say isn't anti-Semitic, it probably is.

Oh, and happy new year!

17 March 2015

Video of the day -- "To hell with the pearl!"


I love this conversation.  It's from Joseph Losey's 1975 film Galileo, adapted from the play by Bertolt Brecht.  Watch from the beginning of the video to the 8:30 mark.

15 March 2015

Link round-up for 15 March 2015

Crows in Seattle bring presents to a girl who feeds them.

Convert now and get 15% off!

Maybe there's a reason why zombies are such a popular concept these days.

Pwned!

This frattard is "heartbroken" that people think she's racist because she sang a song featuring abundant use of "nigger".  More frat freakery here.

This cartoon says it all.

Hey, Biden's a pretty cool guy.

Take risks.

When Obama's no longer President, this should be his next job.

Are the baggots finally starting to devour each other?  Even in Congress?

Here's one assessment of the Hillary e-mail kerfluffle. Among 2016 Presidential contenders, she's the best-known and best-liked.

A chaplain gets demoted for criticizing American Sniper.

You're not imagining things -- Republicans really are getting crazier.

Being gay is worse than murder or genocide, so obviously gays should be executed.  Ultimately it's all about self-righteousness.

There's a specific reason why Democrats lose some winnable elections.

Jeb Bush's newest senior adviser is a flaming religious bigot.

PZ Myers fisks a really awful song.

Scott Walker's anti-union Wisconsin is losing jobs to Democratic-run Minnesota.  Let's hope it doesn't end up like this.

Books help a woman embrace her sexuality as it is, not as others try to dictate that it should be.

The spirit of Wallace in the schoolhouse door lives on in Alabama.

Here's an overview of how legal marijuana is working out in Colorado (found via GoodShit).  In Texas, even some Republicans are getting with the program.

The Iran letter is part of a broader pattern of right-wing subversion.

Religious freedom now means cheating abuse victims.

Obama's Selma speech and Republican absenteeism highlight the contrast between the parties.  Some wanted to send a stronger message.

A Breitbart story on Ferguson brings a vomitous outpouring of racism to the surface.

The Tennessee state senate has its priorities

It's dawning on some Republicans that that Iran letter was a stupid idea, while others try to minimize it as "light-hearted" and "cheeky".  Iranian foreign minister Javâd Zarîf's response is winning some fans in the US.  Joe Biden comments at length.  Progressive Eruptions has a collection of responses, and more here.  And here's a liberal Iranian view.

We still can't accomplish what Norway did in 1912.  Then there's this.

Ahmed al-Jumaili left Iraq for someplace really dangerous.

Mosaddegh and Allende would have laughed too.

The euro common currency condemns Europe to slow, grinding misery.

A statue in Italy's Campo de Fiori honors Giordano Bruno, who was burned for heresy there in 1600 (found via GoodShit).

Mexico's ex-President calls for sanity in the war on drugs, but will Americans listen?

Being a war refugee in Ukraine is no fun, especially if you're gay.

Iranian conservatives contemplate new laws to push women back into traditional roles.

Iraqi forces are beating ISIS in Tikrît.

A reminder that there's another regime almost as bad as ISIS.

A filmmaker made a documentary on India's rape problem.  India banned it.  And they're serious.

The Chinese regime's growing repression masks serious signs of instability.

The newly-discovered Ganymede ocean annoys creationists.

Finally, some good news on global warming.

13 March 2015

Quote for the day -- hooligans

"In these times, we are faced with a new Republican outrage almost hourly. Tradition means nothing to them and the 'constitutional system' they so valiantly hail and self-righteously cite is but a plaything, as are the nation's security and general welfare — both of which they once pledged to defend on their sacred Bibles. There is no cheap political trick beneath them, no honor they refuse to trespass, no skullduggery unworthy of exploitation, and quite simply no bottom to their infamy and deceit. Every day we suspect they have finally hit some imaginary bottom, but they always surprise us.

"I no longer believe there is a bottom for these hooligans. Their disgraces are as endless as they are unfathomable. Indeed, their rolling disgraces are so predictable, I no longer even find merit in itemizing at any length the transgressions entailed or detailing the absurdities. I reckon that anyone who still fails to see these gangsters for what they are — naked buffoons of the worst sort of demagoguery — never will."

-- P M Carpenter, on the Republican letter to Iran

11 March 2015

The destruction of Hatra

After smashing ancient statues and carvings in the Mosul Museum and destroying the Assyrian site of Nimrud, the barbarians of ISIS set their sights on the ruins of another ancient city:  Hatra.  Based on this report, it seems that at least part of Hatra has now been blown up, and other structures bulldozed.

Hatra was not as old as Nimrud or some other cities of the primordial land of Mesopotamia.  It was of the Classical period, specifically what is called the "Hellenistic" age.  After the premature death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the lands he had conquered (basically the original Persian Empire plus Greece) fragmented into kingdoms ruled by his generals and their descendants.  Alexander had dreamed of bringing together the Greeks, Persians, and other advanced peoples of the Classical world in a shared civilization under a unified state, and the Hellenistic successor kingdoms offer some hints of what the world he was trying to build might have looked like.  Hatra was founded in the third or second century BC under one of the Hellenistic dynasties, the Seleucids, and the main structures that survived into modern times show an interesting mix of Greek and Middle Eastern influences:





ISIS is destroying pre-Islamic relics and non-Islamic sites throughout the territory it controls because it wants to purge the memory, and thus the identity, of that territory's people of anything other than Islam.  In the case of Hatra the destruction is especially symbolic because the society that built Hatra was explicitly eclectic.  The reason why the buildings shown above probably no longer exist is that they challenged the world-view of people whose minds are too simple and barren to feel comfortable in anything but an absolute monoculture.

After the Classical civilization was destroyed, the vultures of Christianity and Islam cut its corpse into halves, making the Mediterranean Sea -- the center of the Classical world -- into a militarized frontier dividing the Middle East and North Africa from Europe.  Each of the two conquering Abrahamic religions set out to become the sole legitimate identity of its half of the territory, purging (rather sporadically and incompletely, thank goodness) people and ideas representing the greatness that had been before.  ISIS merely represents this destructive puritanism taken to an extreme.  Not only people and ideas must be eradicated, but even the buildings and art of the past, which potentially remind today's Islamized populations of what their ancestors really were.

09 March 2015

Sizing up the Republican demolition derby (2)

It's still twenty months to the election, but there's no denying that the race for the Republican nomination is already well underway -- and like a driver passing a horrendous traffic accident, I can't help gawking even though I know I really shouldn't.  Here's how the situation stands at the moment:

Jeb Bush is the man to beat, we're told, but his rivals seem more than willing to rise to the task.  Despite the favor of the party establishment, and raising obscene mountains of cash, polls reveal a distinct lack of enthusiasm among rank-and-file Republicans unhappy at the prospect of "another Bush", to say nothing of teabaggers determined not to let the establishment foist another boringly-sane moderate like McCain or Romney on them.  Almost everywhere, Jeb currently trails.....

Scott Walker, the union-busting, evolution-discomfited Governor of Wisconsin.  He's not well-known nationally, suggesting he may be serving as a blank slate onto which the various party factions -- fundies, libertarians, nationalists, etc. -- can project their hopes.  Some, already concerned about the party's anti-intellectual reputation, are worried by his lack of a college degree.  Does he have a real shot, or is he just the first of a rotation of anyone-but-Jeb placeholders, like the anyone-but-Romney merry-go-round of 2012?  Only time will tell, unlike with.....

Rand Paul, whose trajectory can already be pretty much foreseen.  As his father repeatedly did, he'll stay in the race to the end, but won't get the nomination.  His cult status among libertarians gives him a guaranteed base of support, but his anti-interventionist foreign-policy views horrify nationalists and will prevent his support from growing much beyond its core.  The position of.....

Mike Huckabee is somewhat similar.  He's the candidate of a specific faction of the party -- the Christian Right -- and some in other factions are wary of him.  Still, the growing dominance of the fundies within the party could make him a stronger contender than outsiders expect.  If so, the Maurice Clemmons issue will be brought up.  Fanatically anti-gay and anti-abortion, Huckabee's surprisingly moderate on some non-religion-related issues.  This strongly repels the wingnut-teabagger types, who prefer.....

Ted Cruz, the Canadian-born Latino known for his hard line against illegal aliens (but only the naïve find this ironic).  After the debt-ceiling showdown of October 2013 which nearly crashed the world economy, his commitment to using any tactic available to thwart Obama and advance the teabagger agenda is beyond question, but his brinkmanship and blundering have thrown some scares into the saner elements of the party, including the Wall Street guys.  If he starts looking like a strong contender, expect an all-out push by the establishment to stop him -- perhaps in favor of.....

Marco Rubio, a rising star viewed by some Republicans as their party's Obama because he's young and a minority and..... well, the parallels actually peter out pretty quickly.  Said to be a "great communicator", though I have yet to see any evidence of it.  The establishment hopes he can make the party appealing to Latinos, but much of teabaggerdom loathes him for his early support of illegal-alien amnesty.  There's also some feeling that he's simply too inexperienced and should wait to run for President until 2020 or 2024.  Still, if Bush flames out, the establishment is more likely to turn to him than to.....

Chris Christie, the Greek-tragic figure in the race.  Once expected to be the establishment candidate, he ran afoul of Bridgegate and concerns about his bullying character.  Now there's another scandal brewing, and his sinking ratings in New Jersey suggest that his supposed appeal to Democratic voters is fading.  And, let's face it, we haven't elected an obese President in living memory.  Still, even Christie isn't as much of a no-hoper as.....

Rick Perry.  Sorry, Governor Oops is strictly a comic-relief character this time around.  If Walker just being a few credits short of a college degree worries people, this guy doesn't have a chance in hell of living down his 2012 performance.  But even a rigorous education in one field is no guarantee of intellectual seriousness, as is illustrated by.....

Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and flaming religious nutball with no political experience who has mostly been in the news for gaffes about science and homosexuality.  I think much of his strength in polls comes from Republicans feeling that supporting a black guy immunizes them from accusations of racism, just like the whole "war on women" issue went away because of.....

Sarah Palin, who, I'm sorry to say, is not running, guys.  Look, she's no longer a politician, she's a celebrity whose schtick is based on a previous career as a politician.  Thing is, to keep the money coming in, she's got to keep the fans interested, which means she has to make occasional noises about getting back into politics, the way Lindsey Lohan has to stage an occasional wardrobe malfunction to get attention on celeb sites.  But that's all it is.  I wish she would run, for the entertainment value and to diminish the other Republican candidates by association, but it's just not happening.  Still, she'll sit on the sidelines dropping hints and spouting word salad for months yet, trying to hog the limelight, getting her fans' hopes up -- and preventing them from settling for another candidate.

If you think this line-up is embarrassing, remember that Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and (God help us) Donald Trump are dropping hints about joining in as well.  So, what do you think?  Will a year and a half of "more teabaggish than thou" feces-flinging among this motley assortment of primates produce a viable candidate for the most powerful office on the planet?  Or will the party end up turning to.....

.....this guy?  Think about it.  Romney was polling far ahead of anyone else among Republican voters before he dropped out -- which some think he was pressured to do by an establishment that feared he would split the non-crackpot vote and perhaps even rob Jeb of the nomination.  I can understand them not wanting to let us re-live the glory days of the etch-a-sketch, Big Bird, 47%, the dog on the car roof, Bain Capital, and trees that are the right height -- but considering the alternatives.....

08 March 2015

Link round-up for 8 March 2015

Elephants just wanna have fun (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Would you dare climb this staircase?

Here's an amusingly nutty blog by an MRA who seems to think he's a neanderthal (link provided by an anonymous reader whose missive I reproduce in the comments).

Sometimes a joke (if that's what this was) reveals a person's true nature.

Hardly anyone qualifies to be a member of the Republican party in Laurens county, South Carolina.

A deeply embarrassing teachers' contract from 1923 shows how far we've come in less than a century.

DC cops pilfer nude photos from people they stop (found via Mendip).

Maps highlight our country's problem region.  A few more are here.

BP is still trying to weasel out of paying for the mess its oil made in the Gulf of Mexico.

We need more CEOs like Mark Bertolini.

Green Eagle's Wingnut Wrapup keeps us up on the latest right-wing lunacy.

Women have been making special use of cannabis for thousands of years (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Some fundies think ISIS is cool because it's a sign of the End Times.

As long as we're dependent on antiquated fossil fuels, this kind of thing will keep happening.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are as bad as the Catholic Church in facilitating child molesters.

Republican control of Congress is off to a pathetically awful start (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Guns were a vital part of early black American resistance against racist violence (found via GoodShit).  In some people, it seems, the spirit of the lynch mob lives on.

Scott Walker's question-dodging evokes a kind of sophistry -- the annoying kind.

Drinking milk is weird -- stop it!

Loony rightists suddenly realize their hero Putin is a murderous thug.

If Hillary doesn't run, who will be the Democratic candidate?  Here are some possibilities.

Cornwall may be a small place, but it has a distinctive culture and history (found via Mendip).

Some Danish leaders want schools to teach about the menace of religious extremism.

A Cuban who fled to the US may need to return to Cuba -- because of the limitations of the US health-care system.

Slovenia becomes the first Slavic country to legalize gay marriage (don't tell Putin).

Must-read of the week:  a liberal Iranian assesses Netanyahu's speech to Congress.

Iraqis lament ISIS's destruction of their history, while Syrian Christians take up arms to protect their territory.  ISIS has destroyed the ruins of the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra.

At Tikrît, the Iraqi army, with Iranian support, is kicking ISIS's ass.

India's censors guarantee that Fifty Shades of Grey will be a hit there on underground DVD.

Sorry, I'm with the Singaporeans on this one.

Interactive photos dramatize Beijing's terrible pollution problem (found via GoodShit).

Two of a kind:  Boko Haram declares loyalty to ISIS.

Titan might have life, but not as we know it.

[Image at top:  Hatra, northern Iraq.]

06 March 2015

Video of the day -- the true roots of morality


Studies of babies are revealing that morality -- and our bias in favor of those similar to ourselves -- are inborn, not dependent on religion.  Found via Lady Atheist, who has much more on the subject.

03 March 2015

Republicans get pwned again!

Yes, their scheme to reverse Obama's executive orders on illegal aliens by holding DHS funding hostage has ended in abject, ignominious defeat, with Boehner allowing a vote on a clean funding bill which then passed mostly with Democratic votes.  It's reminiscent of the October 2013 debt-ceiling crisis, which also ended in an unconditional surrender even though Republicans seemed to hold every card.

Part of how Democrats managed to win despite being in the minority in both Houses is that they were able to put their differences aside and stay united.  There are more than a few Democrats in Congress who have serious reservations about Obama's executive orders, but they clearly realized that stopping the latest Republican lunge into governing by hostage crisis was more important.  Allowing such a tactic to work has the same effect as negotiating with terrorists -- it leads to more and more of the same, until restoring normal functioning becomes impossible.

Republicans, by contrast, are hopelessly factionalized, and the divisions get deeper and more acrimonious with each defeat like this -- which is what makes such defeats so delicious.  I knew that, in the wake of Boehner's surrender, sites like RedState would be awash in volcanic outpourings of rage, 5% of it directed against Democrats and 95% against establishment Republicans.  I wasn't disappointed.  A sampling from the comments there:

█ Boehner just destroyed the Republican party virtually forever and what's left of America along with it ! Enjoy what's left of America, it will soon be gone along with our language, culture and American way of life.

█ And to think everyone denied denied denied Pelosi's assertion that Boehner promised they would be voting on a clean funding bill this week. Every word Boehner says is a lie--including "the" and "and."

█ Boehner is a Vichy Republican - a collaborator with the Obama regime.

█ Yes, we all know what Boehner did was outrageous. Now, what are we going to DO about it?  P.S. McConnell must be destroyed.

█ I would argue that Obama Republicans are worse than Democrats, in the way that a wolf in sheepskin is worse than a plain old wolf.

█ What this pair of fools and / or traitors are doing is equivalent of George Washington surrendering at Yorktown to Cornwallis. The GOP brand will be destroyed if McConnell and Boehner are not removed from their positions.

█ What we need to do is name names and kick ass. Any Republican who votes to fund the Obama amnesty power grab in the House or Senate should be primaried and defeated. If we don't get them in the primary, lets get them in the general.

█ How the Hell do we get rid of this worthless crybaby?

█ I am glad we all are starting to talk sensibly. [!!! -- Infidel]

█ In the next election the conservative turnout will vanish. There is a breaking point at supporting Quislings.

█ I fully endorse defeating GOP leadership in either the primary, or the general. It's better they lose and let a Democrat take their place than continue to let them lead this party to ruin. Quislings, one and all.


More of this, please.  Oh, no, it's not that I think we can keep the right-wingers spitting and clawing at each other like this all the way to November 2016.  But the Congressional Republicans, and the demolition derby for the Republican Presidential nomination -- they might very well be able to do it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find more teabagger sites to gloat over.

02 March 2015

The Infidel reprieved

Starting about a week ago, whenever I logged on to Blogger I saw a prominent link to a new policy announcement (text mostly requoted here) which read in part:

Starting March 23, 2015, you won’t be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.....If your existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, your blog will be made private after March 23, 2015. No content will be deleted, but private content can only be seen by the owner or admins of the blog and the people who the owner has shared the blog with.

Or, as Faye Kane put it, "They decided to go the way of MySpace".

They also apparently sent e-mails to some bloggers who were especially likely to be impacted.  I didn't get one, but of course that's no guarantee of anything.  This blog currently has 2,936 posts on it, spanning eight and a half years, including a fair number of videos and images.  How the hell am I supposed to remember whether any of them "are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity", especially by the standards of some prim, pursed-lipped bundle of disapproval hired by grey men in grey suits to review and judge borderline cases?  One instance I do remember is the picture I used with this post, simply because a couple of commenters remarked on it, which surprised me a little.  When I chose it for the post, the fact that the person in it is naked didn't register to me as especially important, because it doesn't come naturally to me to think of sexuality or nudity as distinct or problematic categories.  Whether some pearl-clutcher would consider it "graphic" nudity, who knows?  And I certainly don't have instant recall of every picture and video I've ever posted.  Beyond that, I don't want to be constantly worrying about this kind of nonsense with everything I post in the future.

So I was faced with the prospect of having to find a new "platform" which would be acceptably hassle-free (some of them stink) and figure out how to transfer eight and a half years of stuff to it, which would have been a huge PITA -- I don't know much about the technical side of the internet, and it bores me.  I was planning to do a post this week asking for recommendations from readers who use different platforms for their own blogs.

I should have known better.  A few days later, an "update" appeared on Blogger Help:

This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy stating that blogs that distributed sexually explicit images or graphic nudity would be made private.

We’ve received lots of feedback [I'll bet they did -- Infidel] about making a policy change that impacts longstanding blogs, and about the negative impact this could have on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.

We appreciate the feedback. Instead of making this change, we will be maintaining our existing policies.

Faye Kane is probably right -- if I had left, I would not have been alone, but part of a mass migration leaving Blogger a ghost town enlivened only by occasional tumbleweeds.  Bloggers being what we are, even many who would never post "graphic nudity" would likely have left simply due to disgust at a tightening of content-based censorship.  And we tend not to be shy about giving our "feedback" on such matters.

So for now, the migration is off.  This is still a bad sign, though.  Whatever impulse prompted the planned change in the first place is still there, perhaps to surface again someday.