Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trump's challenge coin

America's 45th president isn't just awful in big ways, he's awful - narcissistic, grandiose, and divisive - in petty ways, too.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Trump attacks 2017

This might have been created too early, since the year isn't over. Trump might well attack another dozen people in the next few days.

Of course, he gets along with everybody, huh? LOL

Actually, this didn't even mention his worst attack - on America:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A remarkable year in medical science

Need some good news for a change? This article at the BBC might cheer you up. I'll just note a few of the highlights:
Incurable diseases from sickle cell to haemophilia now look as though they can be treated. ...

The defect that causes the devastating degenerative disease Huntington's has been corrected in patients for the first time. ...

Doctors say they have achieved "mind-blowing" results in an attempt to rid people of haemophilia A. ...

A French teenager's sickle cell disease was reversed using a pioneering treatment to change his DNA. ...

Scientists have, for the first time, successfully freed embryos of a piece of faulty DNA that causes deadly heart disease to run in families.

It potentially opens the door to preventing 10,000 disorders that are passed down the generations.

The news isn't always bad. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Rescuing slaves in Kenshi, part 2

Sinkum (click the pictures to enlarge)

OK, this is the conclusion of my story (Part 1 is here). We're rescuing slaves in Kenshi, and now need to make our way south, through or past both the United Cities and the Holy Nation.

Note that both societies keep slaves. Both will eagerly capture escaped slaves. And the Holy Nation, at least, will attack non-humans on sight especially hates non-humans. (With the ex-slaves, I have two different species of non-human in my faction right now.)

My plan was to skirt United City territory on the west. I'd never been there before, but we'd seen a Hive Village just south of us. So far, the Hive people have always been peaceful. (I'm not sure why. I doubt if human beings have treated them well.)

When we got there, I left the escaped slaves hiding nearby, and the rest of us went in to trade. We were able to sell all of those skimmer claws, but they didn't have anything we needed. So we moved on,... into Sinkum.

As soon as we crossed into Sinkum, my guys started warning me about the dangers there. Apparently, this wasn't going to be simple. So I tried to stay just inside Sinkum, but not very far. We needed to head south, and I figured that our best chance was to stay near the border between Sinkum and the Great Desert.

That first night, we were ambushed by two heavy bandits. I don't know where they came from, because I didn't see them coming. And there were just two of them against 13 of us - 14, if you include the pack bull. But they were very tough.

Red, our pack bull ("Red Bull," get it?), in Sinkum

It was probably lucky for us that they focused on our pack bull at first. (I forgot to order the bull to stay out of the fight.) But after the battle was over, everyone needed bandaging, and we had to carry not just the pack bull, but also two of the ex-slaves we were rescuing. (Again, there's no magical healing in Kenshi. You can bandage people and splint their broken limbs, but it takes time to heal - more time if you can't sleep it off.)

So we slowed down - and started sneaking, which made everyone move at a crawl - and I tried to keep a better eye out for danger. Sinkum was clearly a dangerous place, but it still seemed like the best option. (For one thing, it wasn't sand dunes, so skimmers couldn't wait in ambush. There was a type of skimmer in Sinkum, but they appeared to be solitary, and they could be avoided.)

As we got further south, we started to run into canyons, which limited our options and made it hard to see what was coming. And there were both United Cities patrols and Holy Nation patrols (looking for each other, but we had to stay clear of both).

At Drin, a heavily damaged United Cities outpost, I finally gave up and decided to try the desert again. Partly, that was because of the scary cannibals we saw (luckily, they'd already captured their lunch - an unlucky slave they'd grabbed at Drin - and didn't see us). But when both factions have patrols out, it doubles the number of people we have to look out for. And it's just so much easier to see what's coming on the open desert, too.

So we stayed right on the edge of the desert and made good time for awhile. Then we reached the Skimsands near the mountains south of Okran's Fist. All we had to do was get across the mountains and we'd be in Holy Nation territory (not safe, but a lot safer than we had been!).

The first trail led directly to Okran's Fist, apparently. (At least, there was a wall with a guarded gate across the trail.) So we tried to get to the next one, further south. What a nightmare!

The dangerous Skimsands, looking towards the mountain pass

First, there was all sorts of traffic here - manhunters, slavers, mercenaries, bandits, and military patrols from both sides. Even worse, this was the mother lode of skimmers, apparently. I've never seen so many in one spot! (I had to reload a saved game once when my entire party was wiped out by a skimmer ambush. That was the only time, luckily.)

Eventually, I had everyone stay put, hiding in the sand dunes, while other travelers tripped the skimmer ambushes. The patrols were always a lot stronger than we were, so they'd defeat the skimmers and move on, at which point I'd loot the skimmers for meat (and ensure that they didn't get back up again).

At one point, Rebecca - one of the human women I'd recruited before rescuing the slaves - ran up to a huge Holy Nation patrol which had easily defeated a skimmer. She was intending to wait until they left, then loot the corpse. And normally, that would have been fine.

But the Holy Nation is a patriarchy which doesn't like women a whole lot more than they like non-humans. Usually, that doesn't affect us too much. Women just have to pretend to be submissive. But in this particular case, they got suspicious because she was in disputed territory - a woman in disputed territory, with no man keeping her in check. Clearly up to no good, huh?

Luckily, she was fast enough to run away and lead them towards a huge United Cities patrol, where the two sides began an epic battle (larger than I've ever seen in this game). She ran off a bit, started sneaking, and made her way back to the rest of us.

But we weren't going to survive there much longer. It was just too dangerous. So when a group of manhunters got distracted by dying bandits (just like the last time, they'd been ambushed by skimmers and now were going to be enslaved), we made a run for it.

The Holy Nation has some of the richest farmland in Kenshi

I sent my fastest character up the path through the mountain, to see if the way was clear. (Luckily, it was.) And I sent my second-fastest character to lure another skimmer out of the way. Everyone else, with fingers crossed, ran up the mountain path and across the border.

It was night by then, and there didn't seem to be anyone around. In general, Holy Nation land is a lot more peaceful than the rest of Kenshi, provided you're human and not an escaped slave or a heretic. We still had to keep our eyes open, but the rest of the journey was a piece of cake, compared to what we'd just gone through.

We stayed to the rough land on the east side of the mountain range, where there was unlikely to be much traffic. And we skirted a Holy Nation village in the middle of the night. Just as it got light again, we crossed the main road between Blister Hill and Okran's Shield, running south on a well-maintained road that seems to get no traffic at all except for bandits. (We avoided them.)

Technically, we were still in Holy Nation land, but not the populated part of it. There were a couple of ruins there - former Holy Nation mines, now completely destroyed - and I was able to leave our ex-slave recruits hiding in relative safety while the rest of us made a run to Blister Hill for backpacks and food.

When we got back, everyone loaded up with construction material looted from the ruins. At that point, my new recruits had only ten hours left, out of that initial 100 hours, to stay out of sight (at which point they'd be under no risk at all of being identified as escaped slaves).

So we headed further south, out of Holy Nation land and into the Border Zone, looking for a place to build a settlement for ex-slaves. (I've decided that my goal will be to rescue slaves - mostly from the Holy Nation, no doubt - and bring them back to build a new life with us.)

Lots of fun!
PS. We did start a settlement, too. Now, the Dust Bandit king is trying to extort money from us. It's just one thing after another! :)

Beginning to build the Phoenix Aerie, sanctuary for ex-slaves

Rescuing slaves in Kenshi

Phoenix Rising in the Great Desert of Kenshi (click pictures to enlarge)

Yeah, I don't blog at all, anymore. I certainly don't make game posts. But I had such a blast with my first attempt at rescuing slaves in Kenshi that I thought I would write it up.

Note that I didn't plan to write this, so I haven't saved any especially beautiful screenshots, even though the world can be really beautiful in Kenshi - especially for an indie game. So I'll just take a look at my saved games and try to come up with some illustrations here. (Note that all of the screenshots in this post were taken in the Great Desert. The terrain in Kenshi is more varied than this.)

I've written about Kenshi a few times previously. It's an open-ended squad-based game of exploration, combat, and construction on a arid, alien world devastated by environmental destruction and violence. (It's single-player, so you don't play with other people.)

I've been playing it off and on for three years, and it's been great fun, even though it's still in development. (The final part of the already-huge map is supposed to be finished early next year sometime.) But the game just gets better and better.

You start the game by creating a character. But this character starts off with no impressive attributes, no skills, nothing heroic at all. He's wearing rags and wields a crappy sword, and there is literally nothing in the whole world which can't kick his butt. A puppy would leave him bleeding in the dirt. (Admittedly, the puppies in Kenshi are pretty tough.)

And the only way you get better is by doing. You learn to fight by fighting. You learn to heal by healing. You learn to cook by cooking.

Your strength increases when you carry heavy weights or fight with heavy weapons. Your dexterity increases when you fight with light weapons and no encumbrance. Your toughness increases whenever you get badly damaged or even defeated in combat (assuming that you don't bleed out and die).

I don't want to talk about strategies here, but you start off staying near a town and just running everywhere, so that you get fast enough to escape from danger. (Again, you have to run in order to get better at running. The whole game works like that.) But you need to eat, too, and your starting money won't last long.

North Port at midnight

When you recruit other characters to join your faction (some will join you for free; others require a payment), they become no different from your initial character. Often, they start with some skills, but otherwise, it's exactly the same. Indeed, if your initial character dies, the game will continue as long as someone in your faction is still alive (or so I've heard, at least).

But you can play the game however you want. You can have one character or dozens (there's a mod which increases the maximum from... 30, maybe?... to 256). You can explore, just running away from danger. You can look for fights. You can trade. You can steal. You can even build a small city (and/or several smaller settlements). You play the game the way you want, and the only goal is whatever you decide for yourself.

So, anyway, I wanted to stick with just the one character and explore the world. It's huge, it really is. Even with part of the map unfinished, it's absolutely enormous! It's rather empty - this is a damaged world - and parts of it were much too dangerous for me to explore, but I tried to make a start at it, at least.

Then I decided that I really needed some help, so I recruited a few more people - just a handful. (They are pictured in the first screenshot at the start of this post.) And we continued to explore. But I got pissed off at what I was discovering. The Holy Nation is a bunch of bigots. The United Cities seems better, until you take a closer look. And both make extensive use of slavery.

It's funny, since this is just a game, but I absolutely hated seeing how they treated their slaves. And the Traders Guild nobles - who make their money off slavery - really pissed me off, acting as arrogant as rich, evil bastards can be. So I decided that my goal was going to be to free the slaves - some of them, at least. (I tried to steal from a noble, but... they've got a lot of guards in their homes!)

Eventually, we found ourselves near North Port, a slave compound far to the north, bordering the sea in the Great Desert, in United Cities territory. (This was a bad place to start, as it turned out. But it was lots of fun.) And I didn't really know how this even worked in the game. So I figured I'd just give it a try.

I waited until after midnight, but the gate to the encampment stayed open - and well-guarded. I wasn't expecting that, since I'd seen slave compound gates locked at night in Holy Nation territory. Here, I was able to walk right in, but it would be a lot harder to get any slaves out. (I left the rest of my team hiding outside, just west of the encampment.)

Starving North Port slaves at midnight, before my rescue attempt

The North Port slaves were still working, even in the middle of the night, but their overseers had gone to bed, apparently. In the dark, I was able to sneak around and pick the locks on their shackles. But other than their expressions of gratitude, nothing else seemed to happen.

Eventually, I realized that I had a bunch of slaves following me, sneaking along as I was. I figured that I'd release as many as I could, so if we rushed the gates, maybe the guards wouldn't be able to stop all of them from escaping.

But then I noticed that the guards had been pulled away from the gate by an attack of skimmers - giant, dangerous, insect-like monsters which inhabit the desert. This seemed to be a great opportunity to free at least some slaves.

I'd removed the shackles of ten or twelve slaves by then (it's hard to tell, because some slaves are so beaten down they won't even try to escape), and there were lots more. But I felt that I couldn't pass up this opportunity. So I led the slaves to the gate, all of us sneaking through the darkness until some of them were discovered, at which point we started running for freedom.

Most of the guards were still fighting the skimmers. Only two followed us, and both had been injured. Even so, they were much too tough for my squad to fight, but their injuries probably slowed them down. At any rate, after awhile, they gave up the chase, and we started sneaking again - heading west along the shore, through the sand dunes.

Note that my faction hadn't been identified as criminals. No one saw me unlock the slave shackles - a crime in United Cities territory - and although the guards chased after us, they were just trying to recapture the slaves. Either they didn't recognize the rest of us or they didn't connect us with the crime.

Of course, the world of Kenshi is dangerous enough even without the active enmity of the United Cities or the Traders Guild, but it would be far worse with it.

After awhile, one of the slaves expressed his everlasting gratitude and joined my faction. One by one, the others did that or simply ran off into the desert. Six of the slaves had stayed with me - three of them human and three of them Shek (which would become important when trying to get through Holy Nation land, because their guards will attack non-humans on sight).

[Correction: The Holy Nation people are bigots, and they hate non-humans, but they won't necessarily attack them on sight. Apparently, I was mistaken about that.]

The rescued slaves (disguised now, and well-fed) who joined our faction

They were all starving. Slaves are kept at the ragged edge of starvation specifically to make it difficult for them to escape. They had no skills at all, they were wearing slave rags, and they'd had their hair cut off to make it obvious that they were slaves.

Note that this is exactly the same thing which would happen to any of my characters if we were captured by slavers. We're just... ordinary people in the world of Kenshi, just like the NPCs. And now that the slaves had joined my faction, they were exactly the same as even my initial character. They were just skinny, slow, weak, completely unskilled, and really, really hungry.

I gave them food, but starvation is like injuries in Kenshi - there's no magic solution here. It would take time to recover from near starvation, and in the meantime, they'd eat a lot more food than normal.

And they were obviously slaves. For the next ten hours, anyone who saw them would know instantly that they were escaping slaves. (And even if they weren't recaptured then, that recognition would reset the timer to ten hours again.) So we really need to stay out of sight - not just from the slaver patrols and the manhunters, but from everyone. And that's not easy to do.

As the night went on, we continued sneaking towards the west, since I had a plan (not a good plan, as it turned out, but... well, I suppose we were lucky).

Sneaking is a lot easier in the dark, of course, but it's also harder to see people at a distance (one benefit of being in the desert). When it got light, we stopped sneaking - so we could run - whenever the way looked clear. Note that sneaking is very slow, especially with unskilled people, so we couldn't stay ahead of any slaver patrols coming from behind us is we didn't do anything but sneak. And the ex-slaves were quite slow even when running.

At one point, I saw a trader's caravan in the distance, so I ran off - just my initial character, who has become very fast - to buy some more food. Starving ex-slaves take a lot of food, and we were already getting low. The whole trip was very tense - trying to spot patrols, estimate where they were heading, and then attempt to avoid them - and we'd barely begun.

Crossing the Great Desert

After ten hours, though, my new recruits were no longer "escaping slaves." Now, they were "escaped slaves." The difference is that they wouldn't immediately be identified as slaves, provided I could disguise them a bit. And if they could avoid being recognized for another 100 hours after that, they'd be free and clear.

And that's when we had a real stroke of luck. We'd seen a small group of bandits traveling from the west, and I was hoping that they'd stay far enough from shore that they wouldn't spot us hiding there (while also hoping that they'd move quickly enough to clear the way for us to continue west before slaver patrols came up behind us!).

But then they were ambushed by skimmers. As I noted, skimmers are insect-like monsters which live in the desert. But they're especially dangerous because they can hide under the sand and then spring out to ambush you when you get close. And that's exactly what they did to the bandits.

The bandits fought back, and it was a very tough fight on both sides. At the end of it, all of the skimmers were down, along with all of the bandits but one, who limped off, severely injured.

Note that these were starving bandits, ragged people living on the edge, owning almost nothing. They didn't have any first aid kits, or the surviving bandit would have bandaged himself and his friends (not "healed" them, but at least bandaged to stop them from bleeding to death).

And note that none of them were dead, though most of the bandits were dying. Without help, they'd eventually just bleed out. The skimmers were a lot tougher. They were unconscious - and badly injured - but they would get back up again (and be almost as dangerous as they were before).


But I ran over before that happened (just me, again). By taking even one piece of meat or claws from an unconscious skimmer, that would kill it completely. And I wanted them to stay dead! Besides, we needed the food (and the claws could be sold for money).

I was sneaking (my first character is very fast by now, and very accomplished at sneaking), so the surviving bandit didn't see me. Most likely, he would have continued leaving anyway,... except when I started stealing everything from his buddies.

Yes, I stripped all of them naked and left them to bleed to death in the desert. What can I say? It's a rough world. And I needed that stuff.

You see, that bandit clothing would help disguise my escaped slaves. I had them throw away their slave rags and dress in that bloody bandit gear that was probably just as ragged. But it made them look less like slaves. After that, there was only a 10% chance that a person getting a good look at them would recognize that they were escaped slaves.

Those aren't real good odds, given that we had six escaped slaves and that there might be a dozen people in any patrol we encountered. Slavers and manhunters are especially good at identifying escaped slaves - and they don't really care anyway, since they'll enslave anyone they can, regardless - so my new recruits were still at huge risk. But... step by step, huh?

Indeed, shortly after I ran back to my people, a group of manhunters saw the dying bandits and gleefully ran over to bandage them up,... and then enslave them. Well, it was that or death, I suppose. But I was very glad to see the manhunters head back east, carrying their new 'property.'

It was time to try to make our way south, through or past both the United Cities and the Holy Nation. (Just before we left, I saw a nomad caravan and ran up to purchase a pack bull from them. I could afford it, and I thought we could use it to carry stuff. As it turned out, though, I ended up carrying the pack bull myself, much of the way - plus everything it was carrying. Heh, heh.)
Note: This is getting very long, so I'll continue with the story in Part 2.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Quick rebuttals to common Christian claims

This is just a brief excerpt from Richard Carrier (the entire debate is available here), but I thought it was interesting how many different arguments were addressed in just a few minutes.

From the video description, here are some of them with the relevant time stamps:

00:28 "Spacetime had a beginning"
1:38 "The Universe is fine tuned for life"
3:43 "Life requires a creator"
5:20 "Consciousness requires a spirit/soul"
7:34 "God is needed for objective moral values"
9:07 "Jesus was resurrected"

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (anyone left reading this, at least). Sorry I don't blog anymore.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

One of the great memories of all time

Another Cracked video. But I haven't posted anything in a long time, and these just get better and better (as reality here in America just gets more and more depressing).

Monday, October 9, 2017

Creation Today: Risen Without a Doubt

This guy - his YouTube channel is Paulogia - does a great job with all of his videos. As far as I can tell, he's only been on YouTube for ten months, but he's developed quite a following - and for good reason, don't you think?

Apparently, his first - short - video was "Ken Ham made me an atheist." That's a good one, too, since it tells you Paulogia's own story of a devout Christian discovering that he'd been lied to all his life.

But I think his videos are so good that I've been sampling some of the earlier ones, like this one from April. Note that he had a thousand subscribers then, while he's got more than 9,000 now. Not bad for ten months, though he deserves a lot more than that!

The Confederacy

This is great, isn't it? I'm glad they ended on a high note. Only 38% of Americans realize that the Civil War was fought over slavery? Just 38%? Really?

Damn it, I'm depressed again. I should have quit while I was ahead.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The all-American gun debate

This is another one from Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, but it's not something you would have seen on TV. This is just Noah talking to the studio audience while they're between the scenes of the show.

It's unscripted. It wasn't written by his writers. It's just him speaking from the heart. But it's great, isn't it?

I really don't get it. We are a nation of immigrants! What is the matter with these right-wing bigots?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fox News struggles with the Las Vegas shooting

I really don't want to be talking about the Las Vegas shooting, given how many times we've had this same discussion.

I'm tired of it all. We won't do anything. We know we won't do anything. We'll just wait until the next mass shooting and go through it all again. Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station even uses the same post he always uses for these recurring events.

So what's the point?

Of course, I could say the same thing about hypocrisy at Fox News, couldn't I? What's the point? We know that they're hypocrites. They're struggling a bit here since the killer was an older, apparently-wealthy white man, that's all.

I'm fed up, I really am. But Trevor Noah does a good job with this.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Another day, another mass shooting

If we didn't do anything after Sandy Hook, we sure as hell won't do anything now, huh? After all, every lunatic in America needs a way to kill large numbers of innocent people as quickly as possible, right?

Hell, it's worse than that. We can't have registration. We can't have researchers studying gun violence. We can't even have a simple way of determining who the murders were after-the-fact. Nothing is too extreme for the NRA and its enablers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

No, he's just crazy

This is why I like Keith Olbermann.

Donald Trump isn't going to change. He's just crazy. He's a narcissist who cares about nothing but himself. He treats his allies as badly as he does his political enemies, because while he requires their slavish devotion, he also despises them for it.

Of course, if you object even slightly to anything he says or does, you're instantly on his shit list no matter how much you kowtowed previously. Trump demands loyalty, but he doesn't give it. He cares nothing about anything or anyone but himself.

And he has zero impulse control. Sometimes, his minders can get him, grudgingly, to read something moderately rational off the teleprompter, but it's never going to last. That always pisses him off (because the rest of the world should see how wonderful he is without all that, right?), and he's only as disciplined as a three-year-old, anyway.

It seems like most journalists either don't see that or else want to pretend that they don't. Of course, recognizing the truth about our president would be 'biased,' huh? Not that his supporters - or any Republican, really - will believe anything but what they want to believe, anyway.

That's the crazy thing. Even if a journalist bends over backward giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, that's never going to be enough. For narcissists and their supporters, it's slavish devotion or nothing.

And you can't be subtle about it, either. Remember when Trump got his cabinet together - on camera - so that each could give a little speech about how wonderful he is? Bizarre, wasn't it? But that's what Trump wants from everyone.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Anderson Cooper's response to Trump

When I was a kid, I used to wonder what it was like to see Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party rise to power in 1930s Germany. Well, I imagine that it was a lot like this, don't you think?

Look at that idiot, the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, whining about what a victim he is. Look at those loony supporters, eagerly cheering every lie, gorging themselves on dishonesty, victimization, and bitter hatred.

And look at the Republican Party, which created this monster through decades of their "Southern strategy" of deliberately wooing white racists. Now, even treason isn't enough to really bother them. They criticize timidly, sure, but they still do everything Trump wants.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

How little things have changed

Keith Olbermann calls this "the enduringly lame explanations to excuse a scandalous president," but that's too long for a title.

Art Buchwald's column was first published in 1973, but it's amazing how we're still hearing the same lame excuses for a different (and far worse) president, isn't it?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tina Fey at SNL after Charlottesville

I don't know why, but it feels good to know that other people are just as pissed off at the state of our country as I am.

Trump's four weeks

'Fake news,' huh? Yeah, I don't recommend reading the YouTube comments on this one. Hysterical Trump supporters are losing their minds. Well, what few brain cells they actually have, anyway.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Breaking crazy: Donald Trump's press conference

Though I haven't been blogging, that's not because I haven't been paying attention. And certainly, it's not because the crazy in Washington has diminished in any way. I'm just worn out, I guess - depressed and dispirited.

But I had to post this. The fact that President Dumb-as-a-Trump can't see the difference between George Washington, a guy who did everything he could to support our country, and Robert E. Lee, a guy who did everything he could to destroy it, just blows my mind.

It doesn't surprise me, though. And it doesn't surprise me that Trump continues to encourage neo-Nazis and white supremacists, either. After all, we saw that during the campaign, when he tried to avoid criticizing David Duke and the KKK. So of course that's not surprising.

Will the Republican Party succeed in destroying America before they finally destroy themselves? It's looking more and more likely, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Creationists don't build starships

I haven't been blogging lately, and that's not likely to change. But I thought I'd mention this post at Stonekettle Station. I highly recommend it.

I'm not going to blog about this myself. He says everything I could say - and better. So I'll just give you the general idea with a few brief excerpts:
These sons of bitches just can’t seem to face reality.

We didn’t know.

We hoped he'd act more presidential.

I mean, we knew Trump was an ignorant self-aggrandizing jackass with no experience in government at all, right. We knew that. We knew he was a liar, a misogynist, a con artist, an abuser, and a bully. We knew he was prone to uncontrolled rage and that there was no filter between his ego and his thumbs. We knew that. We knew all of that. Of course we did. Sure. That part was obvious. But see, we hoped – we hoped – Trump would somehow just magically become a dignified adult, suddenly imbued with reason and self-control and filled with knowledge and wisdom of how to actually run a government.

That is what they told us. That is literally what they told us. He’s just doing this to get elected. Once he’s president, you’ll see. He’ll straighten out, he’ll become…

…a unicorn.

Now, admittedly, we’re not really sure how any of that would happen, but we hoped it would.

We hoped it would.

Magical thinking.

Trump is the manifestation of all the worst aspects of modern America writ large, loud, florid, and proudly ignorant. A mindset that is shamelessly hypocritical, self-important and self-involved, wrapped in a flag waving a cross and obsessed with money at the expense of everything else, downing handfuls of Viagra not because we need it but rather for instant self gratification without effort, and a sneering dismissal of any debate that can’t be compressed into a Tweet as “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

I’m not the first to note that Trump is what stupid people think a smart person sounds like and it doesn’t take much digging around on social media to find those who despite all evidence to the contrary still dogmatically believe in they’re going to get a unicorn...

Somewhere in the last half a century, we Americans traded Apollo moon ships for the Creation Museum and the ugly truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is a reflection of who we’ve become as a nation.

Trump is the utterly predictable result of decades of an increasingly dumber and dumber electorate. A deliberately dumber electorate, Idiocracy in action, a society that dismisses intelligence and education and experience as “elitism” while howling in drunken mirth at Honey Boo Boo and lighting their farts on fire.

Creationists don’t build starships.

Read the whole thing here. Seriously, read it!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Alex Jones

I don't know about the first part of this. How could Alex Jones be considered "charismatic"?

Or does "charismatic" mean "unethical, combined with batshit crazy" in the UK?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

President Trump, desperate for the validation of boy scouts

I haven't been posting here, but I couldn't resist this. How pathetic can the President of the United States get?

Monday, June 26, 2017

John Oliver: Vaccines

What has happened to my country? It's the 21st Century, yet we've got anti-vaxxers, global warming deniers, creationists who reject the very foundation of modern biology, and all manner of unscientific idiocy.

I know that Donald Trump is president, but are we all eager to return to the Dark Ages?

PS. I'm sorry I haven't been posting. But it's not going to get any better. Everything is just too depressing these days.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fight back at the polls

Sorry, but I don't have time to say much about this. In fact, I'm not sure what I would say. ("Elections have consequences"? But that's obvious.)

So I'm just going to copy the whole thing here (something I rarely do), and let you decide for yourselves.

Josh Marshall at TPM writes:
In the Senate right now, Republicans are making rapid progress on repealing Obamacare and forcing more than twenty million Americans off the health care coverage rolls. They’re doing it by making a mockery of almost the entire legislative process. The law they’ve written is secret, even apparently from most Republican Senators. It will remain secret until after a score is released by the CBO. Then, presumably, it will be rushed for an immediate vote before anyone has had a chance to even look at the law or what it does. President Trump will sign it. And it will be done.

This is awful. But, really, stop saying it’s awful.

There is a perhaps understandable but entirely wrongheaded reflex to shout from the rooftops how this is simply wrong, how it’s not the way to legislate in any way in the public interest, how it willfully breaks all the norms of legitimate legislative behavior. But seriously, stop.

The process isn’t the wrong. The corruption of the process is evidence of the underlying political bad act.

This kind of griping operates on the premise that broadcasting a situation in which you have zero power and acting as though your attempted shaming will produce any positive effect will have some positive effect. It won’t. Broadcasting weakness is never an effective strategy. Always choose to fight on a different ground. It looks hapless to try to shame people with acts they are carrying out openly, eagerly and happily. You look stupid. This kind of shaming operates on the unstated premise that the targets of the shaming care or are in some sense failing to grasp the extremity and inappropriateness of what they’re doing. Stated as such, this is obviously not true. It’s a feature not a bug and all that. Pretending otherwise makes you look stupid, weak and hapless. Those are never qualities that political victories are made of.

Rhetorically, politically and in the simplest terms of reality, Republicans know there is no justifying this legislation. The public has already spoken. It is overwhelmingly unpopular. They are trying to do it in the dead of night because they know that. They convict themselves by their actions. Not because those actions violate norms but because they are evidence of knowledge of the underlying wrong. They are trying to slip it past everyone, do it by stealth and have all the details secret until it’s too late. That’s a political crime, a corrupt bargain. That’s the message, with all the rhetorical color that can be added to it. Don’t say that Republicans shouldn’t feel the license to act this way. They can do it if they want and it is entirely in character. Accept their freedom do it and label it for what it is. Adjudicate it at the next election. Make that clear.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trump picks fights with our allies

So, London suffers a terrorist attack, and Donald Trump attacks... London. (And lies while doing it, of course. But you expected that, I hope.)

Please, make it stop before the Republican Party completely destroys our country!

John Oliver: Paris Agreement

Pardon my French, but we Americans so completely fucked ourselves - and everyone else on Earth - last November!

And yes, if you were eligible to vote, but you didn't - or you voted, but not for Democratic candidates - this is your fault. If you can't accept that, if you're not willing to even recognize your mistakes, you'll keep making them.

All the bullshit rationalizations in the world won't change a thing. You have to do something. And, among other things, that means you have to vote, in every election. You have to make the effort, because when you don't, this is what continues to happen to us.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mr. D goes to Washington: deplorables

This guy is a comedian. He's Mr. Deity. This is how bad things have gotten in my country. We can't even laugh about things like this anymore.

And Republicans are sticking with it. Well, if using racism for political advantage didn't bother you*, what would? Treason with Russia? Nah, why bother, right?

* What am I saying? Heck, using racism for political advantage is what attracted most of these people to the GOP.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Timothy Snyder "On Tyranny"

This is excellent, isn't it?

I especially liked this part:
What post-truth does is it paves the way for regime-change. If we don't have access to facts, we can't trust each other. Without trust, there's no law. Without law, there's no democracy. So, if you want to rip the heart out of a democracy directly - if you want to go right at it and kill it - what you do is you go after facts.

And that's what modern authoritarians do. Step one, you lie, yourself - all the time. Step two, you say it's your opponents and journalists who lie. Step three, everyone looks around and says, "What is truth? There is no truth." And then resistance is impossible and the game is over.

Monday, May 22, 2017

White House scandals, then and now

Funny, isn't it? Of course, the biggest 'scandal' in the eight years of Barack Obama was that he's black.

And this even minimizes the differences, given that Obama's 'scandals' took place over eight years. Trump has only been in office four months! (Yeah, it feels like so much longer, doesn't it?)

Stupid Watergate

As a roundup of the Trump administration, this is depressing as hell, isn't it? Very funny - and with a great label for these scandals ("Stupid Watergate") - but fundamentally depressing.

We did this to ourselves, and there's no easy way to get out of it now. Stupid Watergate is happening because stupid Americans gave him the election - not just those who voted Republican, but everyone (far more than those who actually voted for Trump) who couldn't be bothered to vote at all.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The truth about vaccines

He does a great job with this, doesn't he?

It's hard to believe that this bullshit is still going on, but then I posted a video about another measles outbreak just a couple of weeks ago. And we've still got Creationists, after all, even in the 21st Century.

Anti-scientific idiocy never dies, it seems.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fox News struggles to defend Trump

As you've no-doubt heard, former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed as special counsel investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

He was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who then notified Donald Trump one-half hour before it was announced in the news media. Trump doesn't seem very happy about any of this.

The whole thing's a mess, and it's still critically important that Congress investigate publicly. After all, the criminal investigation by Mueller will be secretive by necessity. And there's a lot we citizens need to know that might not reach the level of an actual crime (or, at least, a crime with enough evidence to prosecute).

But, as I noted Tuesday, it's just been one scandal after another. Every day, there's something new. And I thought it was funny - though not at all surprising - how Fox News has been desperate to defend this Republican president.

I wanted to point out this article in The Atlantic, too. It's another list of the past ten days of scandals - similar to, but slightly different from, the list I posted Tuesday.

The whole thing is worth a read, it really is. But what's it all mean? Here are a few widely-scattered excerpts:
It is difficult to assess the relative danger of each of these stories, because in any normal administration any of them could consume weeks if not months of attention as the press and politicians ferreted out each loose end. In this case, each seems to be supplanted by a new self-inflicted casualty within hours. ...

Time and again, Trump’s errors have been dismissed—even, incredibly, by his own aides and defenders—as the work of a man who simply has no idea what he’s doing. He doesn’t understand the gravity of Flynn’s duplicity. He didn’t think firing James Comey would be a big deal. He didn’t intend to make a liar of his vice president; it just slipped out! Even in the case of the classified information, National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, while refusing to state that what Trump shared was classified, said the president wouldn’t have known its status either way. These repeated lapses, taken together, create a case that Trump is simply not up to the job of the presidency. ...

The president does not help his own case. While it is fashionable to compare Trump to Nixon—a comparison Trump recently seems to be courting, from his hobnobbing with Henry Kissinger to his “tapes” threat—Nixon was a far more careful, strategic operator. His lies took time, and secret tapes, to unspool. Trump, however, keeps confirming his critics’ suspicions to the entire world. When the White House insisted Trump had not fired Comey over the Russia probe, Trump said he had. When the White House rebutted the classified-info disclosure, Trump implicitly admitted it, tweeting that he had an “absolute right” to do so. Where Nixon insisted he was not a crook, Trump boasts of his crookedness 140 characters at a time. ...

In part, Trump benefits from a double standard. Because he is not a career politician and because his reputation for crassness was well-established before he ran, he received a pass for some of his actions. This is true even now. While Hillary Clinton’s careless handling of classified information was perhaps the decisive factor in her November loss, Donald Trump appears to have handled far more sensitive information far more carelessly, even if, as he says, he was within his legal rights to do so. Yet although his position is precarious he is not finished. It is much harder to remove an elected president than it is to defeat a candidate, for reasons both legal and cultural.

Again, I recommend that you read the whole article.

But the crazy thing is, none of this has stopped. Even today, TPM talks about "a small landslide of new news this morning." Yes, this morning. It's nearly impossible to keep up, isn't it?

Well, we Americans did this to ourselves, voting for an ignorant clown with a narcissistic personality disorder for president (or not bothering to vote at all, which is almost worse). And we gave control of Congress to the Republican Party, too - as we did most states (not to mention the Supreme Court).

This is a nightmare. No, it's much worse than a nightmare. At least you can wake up to escape a nightmare. We'll be living with the results of the November election for a long, long time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Can we impeach this guy yet?

Incredible, isn't it? We can't even keep up with this stuff!

I used to think that Donald Trump was golden for political comedians, but I'm starting to feel sorry for them now. After all, every time Seth Meyers gets a monologue prepared on the latest Trump scandal, there's another scandal just minutes before he goes on air.

Yeah, Trump gave the Russians classified information - stuff so secret that it hadn't even been shared with our allies, let alone with Congress. And after having his people lie about that (National Security Advisor McMaster, who took over for disgraced General Flynn, flat-out said that the story was "false"), Trump admitted it.

That's a big deal! Both the action itself and the lying about it were big, big deals, but now, that's just... yesterday's news. Because today, we hear that Trump tried to get FBI Director James Comey - the guy he fired because, as Trump eventually admitted, of the Russia investigation - to stop the investigation into General Flynn's ties to the Russians.

Can you keep all of this straight? It seems like every day there's a new impeachable offense from our Clown in Chief. And every day, Republicans in Congress try to ignore it, or minimize it, or otherwise avoid actually doing their duty.

This might help. It's the timeline Meyers mentions in the video above:

Monday - We learned that Barack Obama had warned Trump about hiring General Flynn, the guy fired in disgrace, because of his undisclosed ties to Russia, less than a month after Trump hired him as National Security Advisor.

Tuesday - Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who's been investigating this Russia stuff.

Wednesday - Trump met with Russian diplomats, including an accused spy, in the Oval Office (giving Russian photographers access, but not the American news media).

Thursday - Trump admitted that he'd fired Comey because of the Russia investigation (after having his representatives lie about it using two other, contradictory explanations first).

Friday - Trump threatened Comey with secret tapes of their conversations (while refusing to divulge whether or not those tapes actually exist).

Saturday - The Justice Department interviews Trump-friendly replacements for Comey.

Sunday - Mothers Day. Trump was golfing.

Monday - We learned that Trump gave the Russians in that meeting highly-classified intelligence information.

Today - We learned that Trump had asked Comey to shut down the investigation into Flynn.

Thank god for the holiday, huh? This is not normal. It's excessive even by Trump standards, don't you think?

How many different ways does Trump have to attempt to obstruct justice before the Republicans who control Congress will start impeachment proceedings - or even agree that we need a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of this mess?

If Barack Obama had done any of this stuff, he would have been gone months ago.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SNL: Lester Holt interviews Donald Trump

The funniest thing about this - and the scariest thing - is how true it is. That ice cream stuff, for example? It's both silly and completely inconsequential,... yet it's Donald Trump to a 't', isn't it?

Undying loyalty? Trump says he doesn't see anything wrong with asking for personal loyalty from the FBI director who was investigating him.

And Trump himself mentioned the Russia investigation when he explained why he fired James Comey (after a week of alternate explanations which began with trying to pin the blame on Rod Rosenstein).

It never stops, does it? Trump just gets crazier and crazier, and the Republican Party either ignores it or makes excuses for it, as they continue their own crazy destruction of America more-or-less behind the scenes.

Friday, May 12, 2017

And Stephen Colbert's audience goes wild

Funny, isn't it? It's not enough that Donald Trump throws tantrums like a child, but he's actually stupid enough to say something like this in public! Does our president know nothing?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

This week's constitutional crisis

These contain more details, and lots more humor, about Trump firing the guy who was investigating him for collusion with the Russians, which I noted yesterday.

Thank god for comedians, huh?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ravi Zacharias and quantum physics

This is about the bogus educational claims of Ravi Zacharias, rather than quantum physics itself (although "quantum" does seem to be the latest buzzword in pseudoscience and religion).

This is shorter than most videos by Seth Andrews, and I did think that the interview was interesting. Note that there are links to RaviWatch, and to the other videos mentioned, here.

Into the abyss

As you've heard, Donald Trump has fired James Comey, Director of the FBI, the guy who has been running an investigation into Russian interference with the recent election and possible collusion with Trump and his campaign team.

This is big news! This brings to mind the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of the Nixon administration, when President Nixon was desperately trying to stave off impeachment.

But this situation is potentially much worse - a hostile foreign power influencing our elections and possible blackmail reaching into the White House itself - and the details are even more incredible (and I say this as someone who has no respect for James Comey's actions during the campaign).

Here's Josh Marshall at TPM:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo articulating the argument for why James Comey should be fired. I was just speaking to one of my colleagues who said that in isolation, Rosenstein’s memo was not totally off base. Comey has made a number of big mistakes as FBI Director. (You can see the memo at the bottom of this article.) But that is really beside the point. As an argument in the abstract to justify why Comey could be fired, it’s an interesting argument. As an explanation of why Comey was in fact fired it is flatly ridiculous.

We heard earlier from CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that President Trump decided he wanted to fire Comey a week ago and then tasked Jeff Sessions with coming up with a rationale. But we don’t need Zeleny to tell us that. It’s obvious that this a rationale and not an explanation.

The idea that Trump fired Comey because he was unfair to Hillary Clinton or set aside DOJ guidelines in a way that was damaging to her is clearly not true. Indeed, it is so transparently nonsensical that putting it forward as a rationale suggests a certain presidential indifference to what anyone thinks.

As an accomplished lawyer, Rosenstein may have been able to justify the memo as an argument within the four corners of the document. But he knew that he was preparing an argument for firing the FBI Director while the FBI is investigating the President and his top associates for colluding with a foreign power to subvert a US election. The theory isn’t the point. The nature of the act is. This is a massive abuse of office. It is a very plausible basis for impeachment, though its plausibility in that regard is irrelevant unless and until there is political will in the Congress to take that step. Impeachment is a political not a legal process. ...

Months ago Jeff Sessions recused himself from any involvement in the Russia probe. That recusal put the investigation in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Whatever his reputation to this point, Rosenstein has zero credibility to run this investigation. The taint of corruption and disgrace on him permanent and irreversible.

Here’s the fundamental issue facing the country right now.

In criminal trials there are certain actions defendants can take from which judges will tell juries they can infer guilt. In a political context, this is one of those moments. We are now hearing word from White House officials that the White House is stunned at the backlash at Comey’s firing. Didn’t Democrats think he was doing a bad job? We’re even hearing commentators speculate that maybe this may have been a huge miscalculation. The White House didn’t realize how big a deal this was. In the final analysis I think this will be judged a major miscalculation – just not in the sense they mean. Frankly, no one is that naive. It doesn’t wash.

There is only one reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to fire Comey: that there is grave wrongdoing at the center of the Russia scandal and that it implicates the President. As I write this, I have a difficult time believing that last sentence myself. But sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It’s speaking clearly: the only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein.

You don't do something like this unless you have something to hide. It's the same reason why Donald Trump didn't release his tax returns. We all know that. You can't be so naive as to think otherwise.

What he's hiding, I don't know. And we may never know. The Republican Party certainly isn't eager to investigate. Yeah, the President of the United States might be colluding with Russia, possibly under blackmail by Vladimir Putin, and Republicans aren't interested.

Well, if Republicans cared about anything other than their own political ambitions, we would have noticed that by now, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anti-vaxxers cause another measles outbreak

I feel like I should apologize for even posting this. As if there's not enough depressing stuff going on these days, huh?

And our idiot president supports these anti-vaxxer morons! What is happening to my country?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Net neutrality under attack, again

Aren't you glad you didn't bother to vote in November?

OK, OK, the few people who'll read this undoubtedly did vote, assuming that they were eligible, but I'm still pissed at the turnout. And for good reason, wouldn't you agree?

That link to leave a comment at the FCC is here. (On my computer, NoScript identified a cross-scripting attempt when I used that - which is the whole point of the link - so I had to grant it permission.) Then just click on "Express" to leave your comment to the FCC.

Or you can used the more involved method, which is also clearly described in this video.

One commenter on this video clip recommended the message, ""Preserve net neutrality and Title II. I specifically support strong net neutrality backed by Title II oversight of ISPs."

That will work as well as anything, certainly. You don't need much, just a clear statement of what we internet users want, which is "net neutrality backed by Title II oversight of ISPs."

The oily crust of corruption

Will the Trump White House end up as the most corrupt in history? Check this out:
You’ve probably heard that the Kushner family was caught over the weekend literally selling visas to immigrate to the United States in exchange for funding a $150 million dollar New Jersey real estate project. [See this article.] The sale itself is actually legal. It’s part of a highly controversial and widely abused program which provides visas to foreign nationals in exchange for $500,000 investments in US projects which by certain standards are judged to create jobs in impoverished or economically distressed parts of the United States. It’s become a widely abused vehicle for real estate developers looking to fund luxury development projects.

Setting that controversy aside, what sets this apart of course is that Jared Kushner is the most senior advisor to the President of the United States, as well as being the President’s son-in-law. While nominally stepping aside from his family business, his family is in China openly trading on the Kushner family’s ties to President Trump to rake up money. As much and as quickly as possible. Kushner’s sister Nicole actually led the presentation. Reporters from the Times and the Post were on hand at the presentation in Beijing (where they were able to get in) and at a second in Shanghai (where they weren’t.)

Trump – as well as the Kushner family’s connection to him – was explicitly invoked as the “key decision maker” in getting the visas. A Times reporter posted this picture of the presentation to Twitter, which I’ve marked up to identify the people in the slide …

This is, needless to say, the most open and flagrant kind of monetizing of the Presidency – as bad as anyone could have imagined from the conjoined Trump/Kushner families. The fact that this ‘nationalist’, ‘crack down on illegal immigration’ White House is connected to cash for visas activities like this just adds a layer of oily crust to the corruption.

The article goes on to point out that reporters only happened upon this event (and weren't allowed into the Shanghai presentation at all). As it notes, "We see hints and shreds of evidence popping up – Ivanka Trump securing numerous trademarks for her company in China," but we are highly unlikely to have seen it all.

The Trump/Kushner families do seem to be cashing in on the Donald Trump presidency, don't they? But then, he is, himself. As he's been doing since the start of the campaign.

And speaking of corruption, here's an article about scientists being removed from the Environmental Protection Agency to make room for lobbyists industry representatives. I'm sure those industries will be very grateful to the Republican Party when it comes to campaign donations, don't you think? Even secret campaign donations? (And thanks to the Republicans on our Supreme Court, that's even legal these days.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

House Repubicans pass Trumpcare

The funny thing is that Republicans were lying when they were talking about 'Obamacare.' But everything they complained about - and more - is what they've done with 'Trumpcare.'

What hypocrites!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How the rest of the world sees us

Thanks to Jeff for the link!

The problem with monopolies

Read this. The headline is "Our Problem with Monopolies and Why Everything Sucks." I'm not going to excerpt any part of it here. But it's worth a read.

It's just a couple of anecdotes, nothing more than that. And it's funny, though it wasn't funny for them. But this is at least one of the problems with monopolies.

Remember, we witnessed this same stuff in the Soviet Union. Communism failed because of the inherent problem of monopolies, at least in part. Monopolies in a capitalist system aren't much better.

Of course, some things are inherently monopolistic. We call those things "utilities." They require effective government regulation and political consequences when they screw up too badly.

It doesn't matter much to me if monopolistic businesses want to join the ranks of utilities, with all of the regulation and restrictions that entails, or if they want to get out of the business of being monopolies (one way or another).

My argument is just that we should be actively seeking to eliminate monopolies which aren't considered to be utilities (and regulated that way).

Of course, the devil is in the details. Monopoly power is a problem even when one single company isn't the only option. The question should be more about the degree of market control, and we won't all agree about that.

Extremely large companies have many advantages, from economies of scale to political and economic power, so large companies tend to get larger. That's natural. And that's why we need an active effort to avoid monopolies.

I'm not claiming to have the solutions. It's not likely to be simple, and it's almost certainly not going to be just one solution. But it's something we need to work on. And it's one big reason why money is such a problem in our political system.

These companies have the money to get what they want - and prevent what they don't want - in our political system, especially after such destructive Supreme Court decisions as Citizens United. Well, that's the law of the land now. We're going to have to live with it while we seek to change it.

None of this is going to be easy, and it's all going to require compromises. But we've seen what being stupid, simplistic, and unyielding did to us in November, didn't we?

If we didn't learn from that, this is just going to get worse and worse as the Republican Party continues to dominate the American political landscape.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Surreal disarray and a confused mental state

Do you think the crazy can't get worse? Take a look at yesterday:
President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War — which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the "right circumstances."

The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was "looking at" breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.

And Monday still had nine hours to go.

"It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. "It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president." ...

"White supremacists, lost causers, states-rights activists could latch onto this,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “I don’t know if Trump even knows he’s doing it. You can be too ignorant to know you’re ignorant.”

Fun, huh? And this presidency has barely begun!

Read the whole article. It's scary as hell. Trump seems to have completely lost his mind.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hasan Minhaj at the 2017 White House Correspondents' Dinner

That was a tough audience, but Hasan Minhaj was great, wasn't he?

I was wondering how this would go, since the president and his entire administration skipped it (for the first time since Ronald Reagan was recovering from being shot). So did many celebrities.

This was a tough gig. And I'd only seen Minhaj in brief sketches on The Daily Show. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But he killed it, don't you think? I was impressed.

Incidentally, Samantha Bee held a competing event last night, the Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Check it out.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The proof that God is evil

This is the summary of this playlist called "The Case for an Evil God."

Of course, to be technical, this is evidence, not proof, and it's only about the Biblical god. But personally, I think we're all lucky he doesn't exist.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The first 100 days of Donald Trump

Jebus, only 100 days? We are so screwed.

Luckily, this is a short video, because I really can't stand to think about it any longer than this.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hypocrisy and the GOP

The first part of this (the first three and a half minutes) is what gets me. Could Republicans be any bigger hypocrites?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ivanka & Jared

More than any other late-night comedian - and just think for a minute of the worrisome state of our country when I have to say this about a comedian - John Oliver takes the time for an in-depth look at the issues.

I know we'd all like to think that there's someone in the White House who's not batshit crazy, but hope isn't evidence.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to get climate change wrong... again and again

This is exceptionally good, I'd say. But it's also a bit depressing, given how it won't accomplish anything at all. Crowder doesn't care if he's wrong, and none of his fellow deniers do, either, as far as I can tell.

Five misconceptions about undocumented immigrants

These are good points to keep in mind, don't you think?

The case against the resurrection

I meant to post this on Sunday - Easter- but I never got around to it. Oh, well. It's still worth your time, but I'll make this post especially short.

This is a playlist of video arguments against the resurrection of Jesus Christ - ten video clips from nine different people. They're all interesting, though I'd especially recommend the video with Bart Ehrman and the two from Richard Carrier.

Again, here is the link at YouTube. Enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Was the United Airlines victim actually a felon?

Rebecca Watson is one of my favorite people on YouTube. It's not about this particular incident. (Frankly, I never even saw previous videos about it, and I don't normally jump on outrage click-bait, anyway.)

But she always gives me a lot to think about. And her lessons are quite valuable.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"It's not so easy"

We'll be seeing more of this, I suspect:
President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon.

Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”

Four quick observations about this:
  1. Trump thought China could fix North Korea until the Chinese president politely informed him that North Korea is in fact complicated.
  2. Trump seems to have required the leader of China to explain basic facts to him that he could have Googled, or at least asked one of the many US government North Korea experts about.
  3. Trump came to a profound realization about one of the most dangerous conflicts on earth after a 10-minute conversation.
  4. Trump is getting his information about East Asian affairs from the leader of America’s largest rival in the region.

This is the problem - one of the problems - with electing a president who makes George W. Bush look smart.

Incidentally, Trump also decided to abandon another of his campaign promises:
"On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2015. In his Contract With the American Voter describing his plan for his first 100 days in office, he pledged: "I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator."

Well, it ain’t happening. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, President Trump said that he wasn’t in fact going to deem China a currency manipulator.

Yeah, like healthcare, "nobody knew" this stuff could be so complicated, huh?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Samantha Bee: Russian hacking

Samantha Bee is great, isn't she?

Of course, we've known about this Russian hacking for some time. But people don't like to think that they've been idiots. Often, even the victims of a scam don't like to admit that it happened.

So will this change anything? I doubt it.

Is the New Testament reliable?

Bart Ehrman gets pretty worked up here, but I understand it. Keep in mind that Ehrman does believe in a historical Jesus. That's not universal among scholars, although it's the majority position.

Who or what that Jesus was,... well, there's certainly no agreement about that, even among the people who think he actually existed.

And keep in mind that Ehrman was an evangelical Christian who became an expert in the New Testament for his faith. He lost that faith when he discovered too much about his own holy book, but he certainly didn't want to lose it. Just the reverse, in fact.

Finally, note that he talks about "scribal errors" in the Bible. But many of the most important of these weren't errors at all. They were deliberate changes.

For example: "Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." That entire story was added later. It can hardly be an "error."

And the entire ending of the Gospel of Mark - the first gospel to be written - was added later, apparently because the original ending seemed appropriate only for fiction. (The women who supposedly witnessed the resurrection never told anyone about it, because they were afraid. The end.)

Ehrman gives other examples, including the justification for the whole idea of the Trinity. That's certainly not a minor issue, but it's clearly not an accidental "error," either. It was added to the original text deliberately, by some unknown person, for his own reasons.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump, O'Reilly, and Fox News

Fox News has long been the propaganda arm of the Republican Party (although we've never really known who was controlling whom). And although I'm glad to see advertisers abandoning O'Reilly, what took them so long?

Besides, you know that they won't be leaving Fox News. And you know that Fox will eventually replace O'Reilly with someone equally bad.

It's certainly no surprise that Trump and O'Reilly are in bed together. As I say, Fox News is the propaganda arm of the GOP, so what else would you expect?

Still, I'll laugh at all of them while I can still find something humorous about what's happening to my country.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Is this the White House or the Kremlin?

Wow, this Russia stuff is just getting crazier and crazier. Comparing it to Watergate is minimizing the whole thing. This is about the influence of an unfriendly foreign power in the White House!

This article at TPM will make you think. I recommend that you read all of it. But let me just excerpt one part about one of the players involved - a protege of Michael Flynn (yes, that Michael Flynn) who still has access to top secret information:
[Ezra] Cohen-Watnick is a 30 year old Mike Flynn protege from the Defense Intelligence Agency who was brought in by Flynn to serve as the NSC's senior director for intelligence programs. H.R. McMaster tried to remove Cohen-Watnick after McMaster replaced Flynn as National Security Advisor. In that goal, McMaster apparently had the strong backing of Mike Pompeo, the Director of Central Intelligence. But Cohen-Watnick appealed his ouster to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Bannon and Kushner went to Trump and Trump decided that Cohen-Watnick should stay in his position.

White House factional politics are not in themselves necessarily of great interest. But having two aides with no national security experience overrule the National Security Advisor on a key NSC personnel decision is rather remarkable - even more so when the person in question apparently had the job only due to the influence of the former national security advisor who resigned in disgrace and now is reportedly the target of multiple criminal and counter-intelligence probes.

That set of facts in itself raises a lot of alarm bells. Did Flynn's influence still extend into the White House's inner circle early this month, weeks after he was fired? Is Cohen-Watnick that important a loyalist that Bannon and Kushner would refuse to see him dismissed? Was he doing work at their behest? ...

In this latest turn of events, Cohen-Watnick apparently scanned through highly classified material looking for something to justify Trump's ridiculous wiretapping tweet. He then found a way to get that material to Devin Nunes when Nunes visited the White House in the middle of the night. Nunes then returned to the White House the next day to present the information to Trump. Again, it's not altogether clear to me whether Nunes or Trump actually realized that the material was of little real consequence and had no bearing on Trump's tweets. However that may be, at a minimum Cohen-Watnick was using his access to highly classified information to mount a political pushback campaign against the various Trump/Russia probes and quite likely breaking the law to do so.

But Bart Gellman, who has a very granular understanding of the modalities and rules tied to handling this kind of material, suggests an additional possibility: that Cohen-Watnick et al. had this material because they were using their privileged access to the nation's top secrets to keep tabs on the FBI's investigation of Trump and his top associates.

There are at least two parts of this that should worry us. The first is that the Trump White House seems ridiculously unconcerned with Russian connections to people with access to highly classified intelligence material - an issue that does worry the professionals at the CIA and NSC, apparently, but not the president or his political appointees.

But the second part is that Donald Trump and/or his political appointees seem to be trying to use those highly classified intelligence findings for political gain - or, rather, political cover. Trump keeps calling these people "whistleblowers," but that's not the correct word for people who are leaking information at the direction of the White House itself.

Whistleblowers leak information which the White House, or other governmental agencies, don't want released. When you're sifting through top secret documents looking for ways to defend your boss - or just trying to give him advanced warning of anything incriminating which might be uncovered by an investigation - that's not "whistleblowing."

Meanwhile, of course, Republican politicians couldn't care less about any of this, except for the possibility that it could damage them politically. So they're far less eager to investigate Trump than to cover for him and sweep it all under the rug.

(Admittedly, I'm sure that most of them would rather have Mike Pence as president. But impeaching Trump would leave a stink behind that other Republican politicians wouldn't exactly welcome. So who knows?)