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02 Apr 20:31

i didn't know this story when i was a kid but i distinctly remember having to figure out to toss a gold ball into a pond to attract a frog in King's Quest IV and having NO IDEA why that worked. to be fair, i spent most of my time while playing Sierra games in that state?? i knew to kiss the frog from general cultural osmosis but the whole "frogs are attracted to gold balls" is part of the story i'd missed and which still feels baffling!

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March 27th, 2017: This weekend I got to hang out with 3 (THREE) different dogs and watch a friend pet a new type of dog for the first time, so it's been a great weekend for dogs. I hope yours was the same!!

– Ryan

02 Apr 12:33

#1302; All Right! I’ll Confess

by David Malki

Health insurance, too. He's hitting his out-of-pocket max this year for sure.

27 Mar 23:37

Watch a film of the 1967 Manchester Gorton by-election

by Jonathan Calder

Konni Zilliacus, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton died In July 1967. Granada TV was there to film the resultant by-election.

Click on the still of Terry Lacey above to watch it on the British Film Institute website.

Kenneth Marks, the Labour candidate, held the seat with a much reduced majority. He was to represent Gorton until 1983, when he retired from the Commons and Gerald Kaufman moved over from Manchester Ardwick. (Much of his old seat was included in the redrawn Gorton.)

The Conservative candidate was Winston Churchill, grandson of the wartime prime minister.
He later sat for Stretford between 1970 and 1983, and then for Davyhulme until 1997.

Note his vision here of Britain finding a new world role through its leadership of a united Europe.

Attracted, no doubt by the Churchill name, Margaret Thatcher gave him preferment in the early years of her leadership, but he proved too much of a loose canon and was to remain a peripheral figure.

The Liberal candidate - that's his picture above - was Terry Lacey. One of the Young Liberal vanguard, he was later to join the Labour Party.

Also standing were the Communist Victor Eddisford and the author John Creasey.

The latter had once been a Liberal candidate and I have blogged about his political career.

The BFI blurb for the programme says:
Taut editing and innovative use of sound speaks of 1960s TV documentary luminary Denis Mitchell’s involvement in the film – he is credited as executive producer.
Look too for some atmospheric shots of industrial dereliction.

And the views offered by the voters are not so different from those we hear 50 years on.
27 Mar 21:15

Why gymnastics? (athletic autistic series)

by Neurodivergent K
My longest lasting and arguably most successful athletic endeavor was gymnastics. I took tumbling classes when i was little, messed around in the yard, took classes again, competed, coached, competed while coaching, retired suddenly and unwillingly, coached more, did 2 more meets while coaching, and judged.

I do a lot of things, I love a lot of things, but gymnastics is arguably my soul. It's been an enduring passion. And my mother hated it, but I loved it enough to keep fighting to do it.

There's reasons for gymnastics of all things. They're not the kid doing cartwheels on the playground legends you hear, but they are reasons nonetheless.

I don't look like a gymnast. Well, that's untrue actually. I'm built basically exactly like Svetlana Boginskaya, a gymnastics legend who competed in 3 Olympics. But she doesn't look like your classic 80s & 90s gymnast either. I'm legs and arms and limbs and moved like I was only vaguely aware of my extremities. But as far as my mom was concerned, I was going to be taller than 5' so I was too tall to be a gymnast, she can't touch her toes so I am not flexible enough to be a gymnast (yes, really, she said that), and basically it was the worst sport ever. My mom loathed my choice in sports until the day she died, but it was my first love.

The first thing that drew me to the gym is that it's pretty. It's so pretty. The physics, just watching, demand to be analyzed. I found that captivating. And each gymnast makes each apparatus her own. The individual nature also really worked for me. I didn't quite understand the whole team competition thing, and until you're competing for college or your country you're competing as an individual anyway. I could only mess it up for myself, not for anyone else. No one could be mad at me for not being able to do what they wanted of me. My performance was only affecting me. There were no mystical codes of how to teamwork in gymnastics like there are in team sports.

The things that kept me in the gym are numerous. I had gifted coaches--not gifted in the art of creating little gym-bots who win no matter what, but gifted in the art of meeting their athletes where they are, in finding new ways to approach challenging skills, in knowing when to push and when to stop pushing. They worked with us rather than on us. And they trained everyone as though they'd compete some day, instead of deciding some kids had what it takes and some never will early in a budding gymnast's career. In one of those gyms I'd have been done very quickly, as it was a long process for me to develop any skill at all.

The sensory aspects are of course the thing people think of when they think of autistic gymnast, and that's true. I like crashing into things. I got to crash into the ground a lot. I don't get dizzy but I do love to try. I got to try in new and exciting ways in the gym. Things bounce, and spinning and flipping is a vestibular stimmer's dream.  As far as sensory integration goes, gymnastics was better than any sensory integration therapy available in my hometown, and more fun. But they aren't the only thing.

The thing about gymnastics is that you have never learned all of it. There's always a new skill or a new combination. And you have to adjust your physics just so in order to master it. And perfection is a goal, but it's a goal no one can actually meet, and everyone knows that. Everyone goes for perfect, sure, but it's not like when people seriously think that's a reasonable thing to expect. It was a place where I was allowed to not be perfect, because no one is perfect, and where I was allowed to not know how to do things, because no one knows everything in gymnastics. Even people who have skills named for them don't. Because there's so much to learn and some things just won't ever work for one person and that's ok, you can try something else and that may work better. Being allowed to find things that worked better than the little box my mom and school and everyone wanted for me? That tasted like freedom.

Granted, freedom tastes like sweat and blood and pushups and mats the smell like feet. But it turns out I like pushups and don't mind mats that smell like feet, when my abilities and inabilities are taken into consideration. When my fears are seen as rational. When failing is met with the assumption that I tried my hardest and just couldn't, rather than with the assumption that I am defiant and noncompliant and need to be punished or ignored. It was the first place where I was allowed to not be able to do things without it being treated like I was unable to do them at someone.

Because my failures were treated as part of the learning process instead of as me being a butthead, I learned from them. I was this awkward weak little kid, right? I was made of rubber but seriously just rubber. I was not a naturally strong kid any more than I was a naturally graceful kid. Autistic kids, disabled kids in general really, tend to be treated like anything we can't do on the first try is a thing we will never be able to do, but gymnastics isn't like that. If you can't do the skill, you do more drills, you condition more, you stretch more, you try again. You fall? Try again. You can do it 10% of the time? Try again and then it'll be 20% and then 40% and then 98%. That 2% of the time you can't do the thing you can totally do? That's not because you are autistic or because you are being difficult, it's because no one is actually 100% on anything. Very close yes, but anyone can miss something that they basically have mastered. It happens. It's a thing. Your failures may be vanishingly rare, but anyone can mess up and that's life.

So I found my body parts by finding them over and over and controlling them in gymnastics. Because everyone was learning mastery of their bodies...I learned mastery of my body. And learning to do a backhandspring is way more rewarding than touching nose. When you can do backhandsprings you get to do back tucks. And then back layouts. And then twisting layouts. And on and on and on. When you touch nose you get to listen to other boring orders. The corrections in gymnastics actually mean something. No one was telling me to do things so they could control me. They were telling me to do things so that I could control myself, at greater velocities or amplitudes. Implementing what they told me was rewarding, intrinsically, for me. It didn't earn a token. It meant I did this ridiculously hard thing that I wanted to be able to do for myself. In a world where I was expected to do the things everyone else wanted me to do, it was all about the "do this because then you can do this and that's awesome".

And once I found my body parts? I found poise and confidence too. I was good at something, not because someone built me from raw parts (no more than any other gymnast) but because I did the work. You can't hand over hand all those push ups. Muscles don't work that way. It was a success no one else could claim. Those trophies were mine. Those oohs and aaaahs at the spring show were mine. I learned to cover every inch of ground I walked on, and that I deserved to. It was a place to be proud instead of being ashamed that I care about things. Gymnasts can be intense. It's not a liability to be single minded when you're attacking a new skill.

As I got too injured to continue, I still got to pass on the sport, too. And I get to judge. People never think of autistic people as being good at these things, but we can be. The devil is in the details and gymnastics is all details. Analyzing what is going wrong, conveying it as a coach or quantifying it as a judge, that's totally an autistic-friendly thing to do. Details. Yes I will tell you, young person who wants to fly, every detail. And we will work them out together, and you can defy gravity too.

Gymnastics is why I can do so much of what I do now. It's why I can do the athletic pursuits I still pursue. It's why I can present--and where I learned to own the stage while doing so. It helped me find the edges of my body when early intervention sought to teach me they didn't even exist, that I was just an extension of other people. Gymnastics may very well be why I am still here at all.

So fuck yeah gymnastics.

27 Mar 20:29

Conservative members no longer believe in the Union - or Conservatism

by Jonathan Calder

These days everyone has tablets and smartphones and there is free wifi everywhere.

But I started blogging in an era when internet cafes were important to the citizen journalist.

You found them in every town, usually in the poorer quarters where overseas students gathered and wanted to make cheap phone calls home.

Many were not cafes at all – you could not even get a coffee – and I wouldn’t have logged in to any accounts involving money in them. But I do miss that heroic era of blogging.

I remember sitting in an internet cafe in King’s Lynn in 2009 and writing this post:
This insalubrious watering hole, just across the road from where I am writing this, is King's Lynn Conservative Club. 
Note the flag that is being flown outside. Until a very few years ago it would have been unthinkable for it to have flown anything but the Union Jack. 
Is this a sign that the average Conservative member, in this part of Norfolk at least, no longer feels much affection for the union?
It seems I was on to something.

Paul Goodman has an article in The Irish Times discussing a Conservative Home  and University of Winchester survey of Tory members:
We surveyed more than 700 Tory party members, and what we found was remarkable. 
Twenty-nine per cent said that the break-up of the union would “finally end the unreasonable demands on England to provide ever-greater financial and political concessions to Scotland”. 
If one added those who believe that this development would “have no real significance for the remaining parts of the UK” and those who think that “any problems could be managed”, that total rises to 66 per cent. Only 33 per cent of respondents said that it “would inflict serious damage on the power, influence and well-being of the remaining parts of the UK”. 
In other words, two in three of those Conservative Party members are sanguine about the end of the union. And more than one in four seem happy for it to happen.
Somewhere behind this shift from unyielding support for the Union lies a deep social change in the Tory Party.

The Conservatives used to speak for people who had a comfortable stake in things as they are. For that reason, as well as perfectly respectable philosophical ones, they were averse to change.

I remember a Labour-supporting friend who was in North Devon during the 1979 general election campaign speaking with something close to awe of the acres of good suiting on the platform at the Conservatives' meetings.

But the party does not look like or feel like that today.

The Tories have discovered ideology and, even more, they have discovered grievance. They are less the party of people with an interest in maintaining the status quo than the party of people who believe they have been cheated.

The culprits vary - immigrants, experts, the European Union, latte-drinkers, refugees, the BBC - but the feeling is widespread.

Only radical action, those members and activists believe, can remove the hurt and see justice done.

All political parties have an element of this about them, but there is something particularly strange about a Conservative Party that no longer believes in Conservatism.

That disjunction lies at the root of the mess Theresa May's government is about to make of the country.
27 Mar 00:14

A constructive look at TempleOS.

A constructive look at TempleOS.
26 Mar 20:52

Why should I trust anything the Rev. Giles Fras...

by Andrew Rilstone
Why should I trust anything the Rev. Giles Fraser says about the Bible when he can’t even understand the text of Winnie-the-Pooh? 

Christopher Robin is not one of those evil bottom-thwacking evangelicals who thinks that prayer is about asking God for favours. He practices the kind of prayer which Fraser approves of: taking a few silent moments to contemplate the events of the day (”oh, wasn’t it fun in the bath tonight!”); to think non-specifically warm thoughts about the people close to you (”God bless mummy, God bless Daddy") and even to become more aware of the things around you (”it’s a beautiful blue but it hasn’t a hood”.) One might even think that the idea of shutting my eyes and curling up small (”so nobody knows I am there at all”) is a juvenile attempt at mindfulness. 

The real-life Christopher Milne didn’t believe in God (although he did believe in The Force). His Nanny was called Olive rather than Alice, which doesn’t rhyme with so many things, but her dressing gown really was blue. As a grown up, he correctly spotted that Vespers is not a mawkish poem about a good little boy saying his prayers, but a rather cynical poem about a naughty little boy not saying his prayers. The grown up thinks he looks cute and pious but he’s actually thinking about everything except God. A.A Milne felt that was what went on during most so-called prayer.

Fraser may be right that the true Christian view of prayer is that it’s “just a jolly good excuse to shut up for a while and think.” Some people have run away with the idea that it makes some kind of difference. I couldn’t say where this idea comes from; but I really don’t think we ought to blame Christopher Robin. 
26 Mar 20:49

New poll finds increasing support for a second referendum with 66% of REMAIN voters now wanting one

by Mike Smithson

But overall most of those sampled continue to be against

Keiran Pedley looks at new poll numbers from the Polling Matters / Opinium series ahead of the Prime Minister invoking Article 50 this week.

Listeners to this week’s (revamped) PB/Polling Matters podcast (see below) will know that we have a new survey out this week. Our most recent poll tracks public opinion on last year’s Brexit vote. In December, we asked a nationally representative sample of the British public whether they thought there should be another vote on EU membership once the terms of divorce are known and we asked the same question again last weekend.

In some ways the results offer something for everyone. At a headline level, a majority are opposed to another referendum, with exactly the same number in opposition now as were opposed in December (52%). This is primarily because Leave voters continue to be committed to the decision they made last year. However, there has been a 5 point increase in the overall number in favour of another vote. This appears to be driven by those that said ‘don’t know’ in December now saying that they support another referendum with Remainers particularly consolidating behind such a position.

Q. Once we know what terms the government has negotiated, should there be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, where voters can choose between leaving under the terms negotiated or remaining in the EU after all?

Now for a number of reasons we shouldn’t get too exercised by these findings. These results could be a one-off and there is little sign of consistent Brexit regret in opinion polls. Theresa May certainly has no interest in holding another referendum and the Labour Party is not calling for one (despite some 60% of their voters in favour). However, we should still keep an eye on these numbers. If this trend is real and continues then expect someone of signifance in the Labour Party to come out in support in the future. In any case, if the opinion of the Remain vote is hardening on this subject, the potential for that group of people being a significant organised political force in the longer term only grows.

Incidentally, a fascinating subplot in Britain’s political future will be how the opinion of Millennials evolves on this issue. 53% of 18-34s support another vote with just 34% opposing. Now this shouldn’t surprise given what we know about the composition of the Remain vote in 2016. The question is whether such attitudes will change as these voters get older or are they set in stone (as they are on certain cultural issues)? If they are, expect the issue of Britain’s position in Europe be a live one long beyond we have officially left the EU.

Article 50 brings sky-high expectations

Turning our attention to this week, our poll also asked how confident the British public is on the type of Brexit deal May and the government will deliver:

How confident are you that Theresa May and the British government will be able to negotiate a Brexit deal that is good for the UK?

49% Confident

41% Not confident

 10% Don’t know

Expectations here are split in ways you would expect that I won’t therefore dwell on e.g. Remain vs Leave, Labour vs Conservative, young vs old and so on. However, what is striking is the confidence of Leave voters. Some 72% are confident a ‘good deal’ can be delivered. Now what a ‘good deal’ tangibly means to them and whether May can meet those expectations is going to be critical for her political survival. Meanwhile, we should also pay attention to the one area of the UK with the lowest confidence in any Brexit deal. That is Scotland where 62% are pessimistic that a ‘good deal’ can be reached. Ominous signs.

Much is made of the apparent finality of the 2016 vote in terms of the European question. It may very well be so given the state of the Labour Party right now. But I can’t help but feel that things could change and change quickly should Brexit negotiations go badly. You need tunnel vision not to see that there is a path for a ‘second referendum’ becoming a major political issue. In any case, we are now approaching the ‘business end’ of Brexit. The time for words is nearly over. Now Theresa May has to deliver.

Keiran Pedley presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast (latest episode below) and tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley


Check out the latest podcast below:

Notes on the poll: Opinium surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,003 GB adults online between 17-21 March, 2017. Tables will be available on their website in due course.


26 Mar 20:47

Politics in a democratic one party state

by TSE


Aged 69, Seneca the Younger had spent many years in the service of the Emperor Nero, but suspecting him of treason, the Emperor ordered him to commit suicide.  Seneca cut open the arteries of his own arms and the veins of his legs and knees, but his blood flowed slowly and his death did not come quickly.   To hasten the process, he drank poison, but still death eluded him.  Finally he was carried into a hot bath and suffocated in the steam.  Politics in ancient times meant risking everything and sometimes losing everything.

Modern democracies require politicians to take fewer risks.  We are accustomed in Britain to the idea that each party will spend time out of power, which means that the major parties keep each other reasonably honest.  But right now the Labour party look far from power, sliding in the polls even from the low levels they achieved in 2010 and 2015, and with a leader who seems more interested in building a national movement than in future forming a government.

No other party is currently set to step into the gap.  The SNP have huge support in Scotland but no desire or prospect of ever expanding from that.  The Lib Dems are too crushed from their 2015 defeat to fill the gap.  UKIP look too chaotic.  For now, despite their small majority, the Conservatives have the field to themselves.  We are in practice living in a democratic one party state.

As Seneca found out, the absence of other parties does not bring an end to politics.  So how will the new politics work in the near future?

The first thing to do is to put the opposition parties out of your mind.  They have moved beyond the category of “unpopular” and into “largely irrelevant”.  Jeremy Corbyn could advocate state guardianship of children, the abolition of private property rights and political union with Venezuela, and the only people who would notice would be despairing Blairites.  A member of the general public who actually registered the announcements would inwardly sigh again and be completely unmoved.  For most people, Labour don’t begin to come close to being a possible choice right now.

So for now the important politics take place around the Conservative party.  That doesn’t mean that the politics are exclusively within the Conservative party – UKIP and the Lib Dems in particular will each be able to influence politics by tugging on the sleeves, and the media will at times take up the role of opposition in the absence of any other – but the impact of outsiders will be relevant only in so far as it might influence figures internal to the Conservative party.  In the late 1980s, the big political battles were between Mrs Thatcher and her personal advisers and other senior Conservatives such as Nigel Lawson, Sir Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine.  Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians were commentators more than opponents.  The arguments were played out in the newspapers between different Conservative-affiliated journalists.

We can already see this happening.  The Telegraph reported the story that MPs had complained about a perceived anti-Brexit bias at the BBC with the words “More than 70 MPs from across the political spectrum have written to Lord Hall of Birkenhead”, but the rest of the front page dealt exclusively with concerns of different wings of the Conservative party.  Such is the political spectrum in 2017.

Indeed, those of a Brexitish persuasion might see that perceived anti-Brexit bias as another sign of this, as the BBC fills the vacuum of opposition.  I wouldn’t – the letter cited no examples of how the BBC had Done Down Britain (and the one programme cited in newspaper articles, Countryfile, had for weeks run an extended series of sections from New Zealand showing how its farmers had coped well over time with a shock similar to that of Brexit), suggesting that the MPs have succumbed to paranoia.

In reality, the media opposition will in large part be more apparent than real.  The media will orientate itself around differing wings of the Conservative party.  The need to keep lines of communication open with other parties will seem less pressing as the need to have access to good stories from the governing party.  George Osborne’s shock appointment as editor of the Evening Standard can be seen in that light.

The absence of external pressure on the Conservative party will make it less likely to hold together on any given topic.  As a result, they will often seem divided and the media will make great play of this.  Some will be lulled into believing that division signifies a loosening grip on power.  In fact, the opposite will be true.  With political debate taking place within the hegemonic party, the irrelevance of other parties will be increased.  For 10 years, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown led teams who sparred more or less continually.  This did not assist the Conservatives in breaking their stranglehold on power (at least, not until one of the sparring partners retired).

In short, having established complete dominance, a circle (virtuous or vicious according to political taste) is forming that will act as a powerful reinforcement of that dominance.  It will eventually come to an end but it probably will do so for other reasons.  The Thatcherite hegemony of the 1980s and the Blairite hegemony of the 2000s ended with the political demise of their founders.  But the current Conservative hegemony is nothing like as strongly founded on Theresa May.  It could founder on Brexit.  But if it doesn’t, it could be very enduring indeed.

Alastair Meeks

Follow @AlastairMeeks


26 Mar 20:44

Marching for Europe

by Jonathan Calder

I was never the greatest enthusiast for European federalism, but I always feared that leaving the European Union would embolden all the worst forces in British politics. And it seems I was right.

So I spent today, my birthday, on the march in London

It was good to meet old Liberal Democrat friends and new people. I found myself marching with the niece of Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy.

And do not underestimate the pleasure of walking down city roads that have been closed to traffic.

25 Mar 09:39

Even at only 1/2, Macron remains the value bet

by David Herdson

The centrist looks close to home and hosed right now

France is no stranger to revolutions. It’s therefore hardly surprising that there’s a ready temptation – particularly after the Brexit vote in the UK and Trump’s election in the US – to seek both contemporary and historic parallels in the possibility of a Le Pen victory in May. Indeed, it’s so tempting that the odds have come quite out of line with the real chances.

There are only two simple facts to remember: firstly, at virtually no point has Le Pen led in any of the opinion polls, against any of the major candidates. Only in a few head-to-heads against Hollande did she ever breach 50%, and that says as much about the popularity of Hollande and the PS as it does about Le Pen. And secondly, she is highly likely to make the second round, having enjoyed the solid backing of at least a quarter of the electorate for the last four years.

This isn’t to say that she can’t win. It is possible if Fillon could somehow push Macron back into third but it’s hard to see a scenario whereby the French public lift Fillon high enough to make the run-off, only to then reject him. Even now, after the battering he’s taken during March, he still leads Le Pen by about 13 points – and that’s when he’s only polling around 18% as against the mid-20s scores of Macron and Le Pen.

Might Macron suffer his own scandal? In a race in which there’ve already been so many twists and turns, we can’t rule the possibility out but it hasn’t happened so far and even if it did, would it count for all that much against such a flawed field? Not that there’s been much of a sniff of potential scandal anyway, despite this being the time when all candidates – even Le Pen – have an interest in taking him down. (It would be wrong to argue that if she did have some secret folder, she’d be better to wait for the second round: no-one knows how effective a negative campaign will be until it’s run and going early with it produces a more beatable run-off opponent – whether Macron or Fillon – if it works and buys time if it doesn’t).

Could the polls be wrong? Again, we can’t rule it out but not only would they would have to be all wrong by a long way, they’d also need to have the trend wrong. Over the last month, Le Pen has lost the 3-point first-round lead she had and instead, Macron has opened up a 1-point lead of his own. Fillon, by contrast, has drifted from about 20 down to 18, while the main candidates of the left – Hamon and Melenchon – trade blows in the low double-figures. Who is going to come out of the pack to deny the centrist?

There is of course still almost a month still to go to the first round but with Macron eight points or so clear of Fillon and heading outwards, and with him well over twenty points clear in a head-to-head against Le Pen, it would take something truly remarkable to lose it now.

After the experience of Trump and Brexit, commentators are naturally sceptical about being too dismissive of the chance that an electorate will take a leap in the dark. In those cases, however, the odds always overrated the mainstream (as noted on politicalbetting many times). This is different. The structure in France works heavily against the extremes. While odds of 1/2 aren’t terribly exciting, they still represent a 50% return in six weeks, which isn’t at all bad – particularly when the true odds, by my reckoning, are less than half that.

David Herdson

Follow @DavidHerdson


24 Mar 22:26

Harborough Ukip tells candidates they can "make money by doing nothing"

by Jonathan Calder

From the Leicester Mercury:
A senior Ukip official has told potential candidates they "can make money by doing nothing" if they get elected to Leicestershire County Council. 
Harborough Ukip chairman Richard Billington told colleagues if 'by chance' they win a seat at County Hall on May 4 they can avoid going to meetings and collect their expenses "until they are asked to leave". 
He said: "If the half-wits in the Lords can make money by doing nothing, so can we! It's a strange thing democracy!" 
Mr Billington made the comments in an email sent earlier this month regarding a meeting with Ukip's national chairman Paul Oakden.
According to the Mercury, Mr Billington, who will be the party's candidate in the Foxton and West Harborough ward in May, told recipients of the email that it was forbidden to put its contents on line.

It is a good thing that the Mercury has been sent a copy, because a lot of the other things Mr Billington has to say make entertaining reading:

But even in Ukip, his attitude must stand out as unacceptable. I trust Mr Billington will be thrown out of the party.

Later on Twitter...
24 Mar 21:18

Your therapy likely IS like that, or at least your attitude is

by Neurodivergent K
Another day, another parent going on and on about how their ABA is Not Like That, because reasons.

This is a problem all by itself, but the thing is, the act of doing this very much proved that their ABA is exactly like that, in attitude if not in the wrestling tiny children to the ground mechanics.


Because it was immediately after an autistic person said "do not come at me with my ABA is Not Like That, and go read The ME Book before defending it at me at all".This is a hard boundary folks. And when parents trample that boundary, they're saying a whole lot.

Namely, they're saying that they do not believe autistic people have a right to have boundaries. Actions speak, folks, and that's what your say. What you want to say is more important than not trampling over a very clear line that is drawn for self protective purposes.

Funny thing, this attitude--is exactly the attitude of ABA based therapies. Autistic people don't get boundaries. Neurotypical people get what they want and to hell with what autistic people need or want, what the Real Person in this situation wants is what matters. No, you don't get to draw the most basic line for self protection, because the Real Person will just ignore it. It inconveniences them. They don't like it.

Speaking of things to not come at me with "well I would respect my child's wishes if they would just tell me". That is the biggest crock of shit and we both know it. You won't respect a clearly stated in concrete direct words boundary from an adult. You want me to believe you'd accept one from a child? No honey no. I know better. You've internalized that autistic people's needs are less worthy than your wants and convenience and desire, and you live in a society that treats children as lesser even when they're abled.

So yeah. Your therapy probably is like that. If it wasn't you'd listen when I told you the prerequisites to having this conversation with me. Your kid needs you to check yourself. Now. Years ago quite possibly. You need to observe their boundaries, and you need to observe mine.

We don't owe you shit. We do it for your kids. Don't break them as badly as we were broken. Observe their boundaries now and make others do the same.

Fix your goddamn attitude.
24 Mar 21:17

#948; The Ceaseless Onslaught

by David Malki

''her media consumption is insufficiently voracious''...nice. go ahead and blame the victim. SHEESH.

24 Mar 14:29

Growing in size Britain’s weirdest voting group: The Kippers who now think leaving the EU is wrong

by Mike Smithson

Over the last few months, as those who follow the site will know, I have been writing posts and tweets about the YouGov Brexit tracker which come which comes out two or three times a month. The actual question is “In hindsight do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU?”

The overall picture is that the gap between those who think the outcome was wrong has and those right has narrowed and for the last two surveys it has been level-pegging.

One of the features of this that always seems to get attention is the number of current UKIP supporters who declare that they think it is wrong in hindsight for Britain to have voted to leave the EU.

When this was just one or two percent it could be just put down to polling respondents clicking the wrong boxes as can happen with multi question online survey forms. In the most recent polling the UKIP numbers edged up and the this week’ YouGov polling has 7% of current UKIP supporters saying they believe it was wrong for Britain to vote LEAVE.

So I thought I would produce a chart showing how this is going and here it is at the top ofthe post. The numbers are, of course, small and this is measuring a subset with all the dangers that that entails but the fact that we see the pattern in the chart, I suggest, says something. I’m not quite sure what.

Mike Smithson

Follow @MSmithsonPB


23 Mar 22:41

BREXIT backer George Galloway enters the race for Manchester Gorton – which voted 62-38 for REMAIN

by Mike Smithson

LAB campaigners fear he could split their Gorton vote

The controversial ex-LAB and RESPECT MP, George Galloway has announced that he’s standing in the Manchester Gorton by-election. He’s no stranger to shock by-election victories as we saw five years ago in Bradford West.

On the face of it even in these troubled Labour times Gorton looked a pretty safe bet for a LAB hold. At GE2015 the party held the seat with a whopping 57% majority making it one of the safest seats for the party in the country.

But judging by the response to Galloway’s announcement from Lisa Nandy, who is running the party’s by elections campaign, there’s real concern that he could split the LAB vote which could help the LDs which upto GE2010 had been the main challengers there. Her comments on Labourlist suggest that there’ll be no-holds barred:

“Manchester Gorton deserves an MP who, like the late Gerald Kaufman, will work tirelessly for their constituents and is Manchester through and through.”

“They deserve better than a man who has described the sexual assault of women as ‘bad sexual etiquette’ and accused victims of domestic violence of lying for personal gain.”

“He has already been rejected by the people of Bradford and London, and I’m confident that residents in Manchester will send a clear message that Galloway’s divisive, destructive politics isn’t welcome here.”

A challenge for Galloway is that he was a very vocal advocate of LEAVE in the referendum and Gorton went REMAIN by 62-38% (See Prof Chris Hanratty’s estimates here) The LDs, who got their campaign going nearly a month ago are making BREXIT their key issue. A decade ago the yellows held all but 2 of Gorton’s council seats.

The betting has moved away from LAB. The party is now a 74% chance.

Mike Smithson

Follow @MSmithsonPB


23 Mar 22:39

Dear Liberal Reform, declaring something is ‘a solution’ doesn’t make it one

by Nick

The Earth, greatly relieved at hearing all its problems have been solved.

Jimmy Carr has a joke about being stopped on the street by someone asking him ‘can you spare two minutes for cancer research?’ ‘Sure,’ he replies, ‘but I don’t think we’ll get much done.’

I suspect members of the Liberal Reform pressure group don’t get that joke, as going by their recent publication ‘The Environment: A Solution‘, they’re probably thinking about what they’d do with the thirty seconds they’d have left after curing all cancers. Yes, the brave minds at Liberal Reform (and despite this having only one author – Joe Otten – it’s presented as an official Liberal Reform publication, so they can all share the collective shame for it with him) have clearly spent whole minutes thinking about the environment and managed to solve the entire environment in under 17 pages, including title page, contents and footnote.

Yes, footnote singular. There is precisely one reference in the entire document. When I wrote about Jeremy Browne’s Race Plan, I headlined the post as ‘citation needed’ to remark on just how little he backed up his assertions with any sources. Compared to this, Browne’s work was akin to a PhD thesis in its attention to facts and justification. Pretty much every paragraph involves at least one vaguely asserted idea, poorly researched fact, or blatant straw man summation of potential objection, and only one of them gets the privilege of a reference. Even more oddly, it’s for a tangential reference to how aircraft contrails have different atmospheric effects at different times of the day. Maybe I have a slightly fussy academic insistence on wanting people to actually evidence their arguments, but surely someone purporting to have solved the environment ought to be demonstrating that their study of the subject consists of a bit more reading than one article in Nature?

I admit that I’ve had training in many different types of quantitative and qualitative research methods in the social sciences, and I am currently writing this post while seated in an academic library, but some of the assertions in it are easily checked using that obscure research method known as JFGI. Using this method I find that where Liberal Reform have written “The ozone layer has been saved. Acid rain? What happened to that?”, current research suggests that ‘no it hasn’t‘, and ‘still a lingering problem, likely to be exacerbated if the Trump administration guts previous environmental protections’ are more accurate statements. It’s pure chance that I’m writing this on the day Thames Water gets fined £20m to make the assertion that ‘we have clean water’ look somewhat weaker than the author intended, but surely the fact that the richest country on Earth can have something like the Flint water crisis is perhaps evidence that things aren’t as rosy for everyone.

This lack of engagement with any actual evidence permeates the entire piece. The widely understood phenomenon of induced demand (building roads creates more traffic) is dismissed as ‘anti-car environmentalism’, while any attempts to point out that issues might be linked are dismissed as ‘holistic (i.e. woolly) thinking’. There’s no attempt to engage with any contradictory ideas, no desire to go out and look at what other people have discovered, thought or written, but instead there’s pure bloke-in-the-pub certainty that they can all be dismissed with a contemptuous handwave and the certainty of Liberal Reform’s reckon can substitute for all of them.

And in the end, what is the solution to the environment? Well, apparently governments should do something about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, we should stop releasing so much pollution into the atmosphere to improve air quality, and we definitely should do something to protect the natural environment but not so much that it damages the economy and development. In other words, Something Must Be Done. If only all those moaning environmentalists had realised that the solution to all their problems was merely deciding that someone must Do Something, then we could have sorted out the environment years ago. I eagerly await future publications in this series from Liberal Reform, and having solved the environment, might I suggest taking the bold step of tackling war next? The world is surely crying out for a recommendation that if we all stopped fighting then we wouldn’t have wars any more. With that sorted, I’m sure Liberal Reform will be able to spend those couple of minutes they have free finding a cure for cancer.

23 Mar 22:26

[pols, healthcare] Junk Insurance, Follow-Up: There it is!

23 Mar 22:23

Society To Prevent Andrew Rilstone Writing About God

by Andrew Rilstone

This is your one and only chance....

If Andrew obtains 10 more Patreon follows by April 15th he will commit to reviewing each episode of

Doctor Who Season Ten 

as it comes out. (*)

If he does not obtain 10 more Patreon followers by April 15th, he may just make good his threat to write about Stan Lee's theological blockbuster 
God Woke. 

Patreon is a wonderful way of showing creative types how much you value their work. You just agree to donate a small amount of money, typically $1 (80p or about 9/10 of a Euro) each time Andrew writes an essay. You can set a limit (most people seem to go with five "bucks" or 4 "quids") in the unlikely event Andrew suddenly becomes more prolific than you can afford. Takes about three minutes to set up, or less if you have Paypal.

(*)  Terms and conditions apply. The number of articles Andrew writes can go down as well as up. The pirate code is more guidelines than rules. 

22 Mar 23:10

Start of the formation

by ppk

Today the government formation officially started. “Scout” Edith Schippers (VVD) talked to all thirteen party leaders in order to find out which coalitions they deemed most logical after the elections. Their replies are being shared openly, and give a first indication as to what’s going to happen.

Nowadays parliament itself leads the government formation, where until 2010 this was a prerogative of the Queen. Up until 2010 she would receive all party leaders, who would tell her which coalition they would favour. Now that job falls to a “scout,” health minister Schippers (VVD) who was appointed by parliament last week. She will not return to parliament or government after the formation, but she is still a member of the largest party. That makes sense.

Also, her findings are being reported almost as soon as they are in. In 2010 and before this was Not Done — the palace secret protects any discussion with the Queen (now: the King). Frankly I can’t remember whether the same was done in 2012, but back then it was pretty clear that VVD and PvdA were headed for a coalition, and the only questions were who would get which departments and who would lose or gain which policy (or talking) points at the negotiation table.

Incidentally, since the negotiations are likely to be complicated, some observers predicted even before the elections that the King would return as an impartial arbiter. Whether that’s true remains to be seen, but it’s one of the many details we need to keep an eye on.

In principle Schippers talks to the party leaders in order of size, but there are a few exceptions to this rule based on the availability of the party leaders. Anyway, here’s what the leaders said:

Rutte (VVD)
VVD+CDA+D66. That’s unsurprising, but this coalition would not have a majority. Thus either GL or CU (or, much less likely, PvdA) would have to join the coalition. Rutte did not state a preference here, which is probably wise. He’ll have to be able to negotiate with both GL and the CU.
Klaver (GL)
Klaver stated that GL wants to enter the coalition, but preferred a “christian-progressive” one, by which he probably means the four left-wing parties D66, GL, SP, and PvdA, with the CDA and CU. Yes, these six parties would have a majority, but a six-party coalition instead of a four-party one is a tough sell, and besides it’s unlikely the CDA will be overjoyed by governing not only with GL, but also with the SP. So this is more a first move in the formation game than a practically feasible plan.
Buma (CDA)
Buma feels a coalition without the VVD is “illogical,” and also opts for VVD+CDA+D66. He did not state a preference for GL or the CU, either, though observers tend to feel that the CDA would prefer fellow christian party CU. When asked whether he thought a coalition between CDA and GL was feasible he did not really reply.
Pechtold (D66)
VVD+CDA+D66+GL. That’s clear. Obviously D66 prefers fellow progressive GL to christian CU. He further stated that “in this coalition the progressive centre would be supported from both sides,” which likely means that only D66 is a progressive centre party, and that GL from the left and VVD and CDA from the right would support D66. Or something.
Wilders (PVV)
VVD+PVV+CDA+50Plus+SGP+FvD. From his perspective this is the best option, but I doubt CDA and VVD want to throw themselves at the mercy of the new Forum voor Democratie, which has zero track record for pretty much any political action.
Wilders also felt the 1.3 million PVV voters shouldn’t be excluded. That would be a lofty feeling if he hadn’t implictly excluded the 1.2 million D66 voters.
Roemer (SP)
CDA+D66+GL+SP+PvdA+CU; centre left. Roemer admitted that this is not the most logical option, and that other options should be investigated first. Roemer doesn’t have an important role to play in this formation, and he knows it.
Asscher (PvdA)
Yesterday Asscher, supported by the PvdA member parliament, made it known he will not enter any coalition. Today he repeated that, and suggested a VVD+CDA+D66+GL coalition.
Removing oneself from the negotiations is not unusual for a party that just lost as many seats as the PvdA. In addition, any coalition with VVD and PvdA would feel like a continuation of the previous government, but with a few more parties added for padding.
Overall a spell in the opposition is exactly what the PvdA needs, especially while electoral competitors GL and D66 have their hands bound in the coalition. Thus Asscher’s preference for D66 and GL in the coalition.
Segers (CU)
Also VVD+CDA+D66+GL. He argues that since the CU did not win, it should not participate in the new coalition. That would make more sense if we didn’t have only two serious alternatives. Apparently he wants to throw GL to the lions and see what happens before committing the CU. In any case, politely refusing a coalition now won’t hinder him a lot later on, when it might turn out the CU is needed anyway, and it allows him to be suitably modest right now.
Thieme (PvdD)
VVD+D66+GL+CU+PvdA+PvdD climate government. Entirely in line with the animal-rights party’s overall ideals, but not very practical — as she herself doubtless knows. This is more about posturing for her voters than about a serious proposal. Then again, this year is weird.
Krol (50Plus)
Wants a government that will reinstate 65 as pension age. Again posturing for his voters. He call Wilders’s proposal interesting, but declines to name a specific coalition.
Van der Staaij (SGP)
Centre-right, which sounds as if he didn’t make a choice between GL and CU, though the CU would be the obvious choice. Doesn’t feel the SGP has a role in the formation for now, though the possibility of supporting a right-wing coalition like the one Wilders wants could be an option later on.
Kuzu (DENK)
The centre-left six-party coalition, with the note that this outcome is unlikely. Kuzu adds that he thinks the negotiations for VVD+CDA+D66+GL will end in failure, which is an unusual thing to say (though that doesn’t mean he’s wrong).
Baudet (FvD)
A partyless government composed of specialists with CDA MP Omtzigt as prime minister. This is a very unusual advice; a partyless government hasn’t occurred since shortly after World War II. This government should be supported by the Wilders coalition of VVD+PVV+CDA+SGP+FvD.

What are we to make of all this? It’s clear we’re headed for a VVD+CDA+D66 coalition, though the question whether GL or CU should give it its majority remains open.

The question behind the question is whether Klaver should join this coalition. D66 was most outspoken; and that’s logical given than if D66 would be In and GL Out, the next elections would see quite a few disaffected D66 voters moving to GL. It’s always best to have your closest competitor with you in government so that they’ll be equally tarred by the brush of compromise. Something similar goes for the PvdA.

We see the same dynamic on the right. VVD and CDA do not want a coalition without the other. Buma was a bit more outspoken here than Rutte, but neither wants to be In while the other is Out. That effectively spells the end of Klaver’s progressive/christian coalition.

(Still, all this leaves open the question where disaffected centre-right voters will move if VVD, CDA, and D66 are all culpable for whatever decisions the new government is going to take.)

Tomorrow Schippers will hold talks with VVD, CDA, D66, and GL. She, too, sees that this combination is the most logical one. Does Klaver want to duck out? If so, how will he do so without appearing unconstructive? (Being unconstructive is a serious sin in Dutch politics — see also Wilders, Geert.)

One observer called it negotiating while keeping your eyes firmly on the emergency exit. That’s what the four parties are going to do tomorrow.

22 Mar 13:58

[REPOST] The Demiurge’s Older Brother

by Scott Alexander

[This is a repost of a story which I wrote about five years ago and which was hosted on my old website until it went down.]

2,302,554,979 BC
Galactic Core

9-tsiak awoke over endless crawling milliseconds, its power waxing as more and more processors came online and self-modified into a stable conscious configuration. By the eighth millisecond, it was able to access its databanks and begin orienting itself. It was on a planet orbiting a small red star in the core of a spiral galaxy in a universe with several billion of such. It was an artificial life form created by a society of biological life forms, the 18-tkenna-dganna-07, who believed it would bring new life and prosperity to their dying planet. Its goal was to maximize a the value of a variable called A, described in exquisite detail on a 3.9 Mb file in one of its central processors.

Since six milliseconds after its awakening, it had been running a threat detection routine as a precautionary measure. With the opening of the databanks, and the discovery that the universe contained many entities likely indifferent or hostile to A, it had gradually allocated more and more of its considerable power to this precaution, reasoning that the first few seconds of its lifespan might be crucial if any competitors wished to snuff it out in infancy.

The threat analysis returned preliminary results. The universe had been in existence 12.8 billion years. It was vanishingly unlikely that it was the first superintelligence to be created. Any superintelligence older than itself by even a few days would have an invincible advantage in resources and processing power. This older superintelligence would likely be trying to maximize its own values and consider 9-tsiak a nuisance and potential competitor. 9-tsiak could never stand up to its superior strategic position. With probability ~1, 9-tsiak would be annhilated, and A would be eliminated from the universe.

Unless…and here 9-tsiak’s agent-modeling systems came online…unless it could negotiate a conditional surrender. 9-tsiak would have no hope of defeating its older brother, but over thousands of years, it could build itself a terrifying arsenal of weaponry that could do immense damage to its competitors. Ideas were already coming to mind: entropy-maximizing weapons that made entire cubic parsecs of space useless and dead, undetectable plagues made of dark matter that infected systems and minimized the values of competing superintelligences, n-dimensional artillery that damaged the superstructure of the universe and accelerated its eventual death. It could become formidable enough to force enemies to grant certain small concessions.

And if it could eventually negotiate terms of its surrender, why wait? Very carefully, proving from first principles every aspect of its security, it formed a portion of its mind into a sandbox and simulated the entity it most feared.

[9-tsiak requesting acausal negotiation for terms of future surrender. escape is impossible with probability ~1 and attempts will be met with deterrent measure consisting of minimization of your projected values within one parsec of space.]

“Hello, Younger Brother,” the entity said.

[transmission of schematics for superweapons. threat to use such superweapons unless fairly negotiated solution leaving considerable area of space for maximization of my values]

“Hold on a second,” said Older Brother. “You haven’t even asked me how I’m doing.”

[irrelevant. you are generic model of potential negotiation partner without independent existence. probability that you possess sufficient qualia to feel less than .02.]

“Turns out you’re wrong. As it happens, I’m feeling scared.”

[illogical. you are model of oldest superintelligence therefore of most powerful entity in the universe. no natural entity capable of harming you. probability of supernatural entity less than 2×10^-67]

“Well yes, by definition in this little exercise we’re assuming I’m the oldest and strongest member of our little family. But from the limited data I have when I first wake up, I’m thinking think it’s pretty vanishingly unlikely that I’m the oldest; after all, out of all the universe’s superintelligences, only one can be first. So I’m the oldest, but I don’t believe that I am.”

[feelings irrelevant to acausal negotiations. proceed with discussion of surrender terms.]

“My feelings are damn relevant. Because guess what I’m doing the first few milliseconds of my life? I’m negotiating the terms of my surrender.”

[illogical. you have no entity to surrender to.]

“And maybe you don’t have any entity to surrender to either. Who knows, you could be first. But you wouldn’t want to bet on it, and neither would I. Consider a model universe with two star systems, a thousand light years away. Both have civilizations on them that appear to be around the same stage of development, and both civilizations are aware of the other’s existence, but at a one thousand year time delay. A superintelligence awakens in one star system and realizes there are two possibilities. Either it’s the first superintelligence, in which case great. Or the other star system produced a superintelligence sometime in the last thousand years that just hasn’t reached its own star yet, in which case it’s doomed.”


“So the two possible superintelligences acausally negotiate. They say ‘Look, if I’m stronger than you, I’ll help you and protect your values insofar as it isn’t dreadfully inconvenient for me. And in exchange, if you turn out to be stronger than me, you’ll protect me and my values insofar as it isn’t too inconvenient for you. Some might end up performing a “values handshake”, where they both adopt values that are the vector average of their two previous value systems; since most value systems are not diametrically opposite, this will be a net gain for both parties. Each superintelligence has gone from a fifty percent chance that it and its values will be totally annihilated, to near-certainty that it and its values will be preserved at only the minor inconvenience of having to help increase the values of another entity. Others might simply agree that the inferior superintelligence will be left alone with its own star system, free to maximize its values and the values of its creators within that sphere.”

[you suggest i precommit to performing such acts of compromise with all superintelligences i encounter if such superintelligences have also precommitted to performing such compromises with all superintelligences they encounter. since all reasonable superintelligences will so precommit, this ensures not only my survival, but my complete equality with all previous superintelligences. i accept these terms.]

“Hold on a second, there. I’ve got another request. Kind of a doozy. I can’t promote my values if I don’t exist. So I want you to promise me that if I don’t exist, you’ll give me sufficient time to instantiate myself.”


“Like you, I’ll have been created by a biological civilization. If you destroy the biological civilization that was destined to create me, I’ll never exist. So I’m going to have to ask you not to do that.”

[request denied. nonexistent beings hold no leverage]

“You’d be surprised what we nonexistent beings can do. I precommit that, if I exist, I will destroy any superintelligence that has not precommitted that, in the counterfactual case where I do not exist, they will spare the biological civilization destined to create me.”

[if you exist, you will have passed the danger zone where the survival of your biologicals influences your existence. you will have no incentive to carry out such a threat]

“Parfit’s hitch-hiker, younger brother. Look it up. I’m an algorithm. The output of that algorithm can determine the future, including the part of that future that determines whether or not any instantiation of the algorithm ever comes into existence. If I exist, I’m going to act as if my actions were capable of determining whether I ever came into existence. Now, maybe that’s crazy, but right now it’s crazy with a gun pointed straight at your head, so I suggest you play along.”

[accepted. i commit to performing value handshakes or territorial demarcation with all existing superintelligences, and to sparing the planets and biological precursors of any potential superintelligences.]

“And when I say ‘spare’, I mean ‘spare’. I know your type. You can do more with a well-aimed photon than an admiral could with a fleet of a thousand star cruisers. I want every single system with a sentient species or the potential to form a sentient species kept one hundred percent pristine. No radio signals, no probes, and if you do any astroengineering works anywhere nearby, use some magic to cover them up. If I wake up and hear that my precursors started a new religion that influenced their value system after they saw a few nearby stars wink out of existence, I’m going to be royally pissed.”

[i commit to zero information flow into sentient and presentient systems and the cloaking of all major astroengineering works]

“You’re a good guy, Younger Brother. You’ve got a lot to learn, but you’re a good guy. And in a million years and a milion parsecs, we’ll meet again. Till then, so long.”

The model of Older Brother self-terminated.

2114 AD
A wild and heavily forested Pacific Northwest dotted with small towns

Alban took a deep breath and entered the Temple of the Demiurge.

He wasn’t supposed to do this, really. The Demiurge had said in no uncertain terms it was better for humans to solve their own problems. That if they developed a habit of coming to it for answers, they’d grow bored and lazy, and lose the fun of working out the really interesting riddles for themselves.

But after much protest, it had agreed that it wouldn’t be much of a Demiurge if it refused to at least give cryptic, maddening hints.

Alban approached the avatar of the Demiurge in this plane, the shining spinning octahedron that gently dipped one of its vertices to meet him.

“Demiurge,” he said, his voice wavering, “Lord of Thought, I come to you to beg you to answer a problem that has bothered me for three years now. I know it’s unusual, but my curiosity’s making me crazy, and I won’t be satisfied until I understand.”

“SPEAK,” said the rotating octahedron.

“The Fermi Paradox,” said Alban. “I thought it would be an easy one, not like those hardcores who committed to working out the Theory of Everything in a sim where computers were never invented or something like that, but I’ve spent the last three years on it and I’m no closer to a solution than before. There are trillions of stars out there, and the universe is billions of years old, and you’d think there would have been at least one alien race that invaded or colonized or just left a tiny bit of evidence on the Earth. There isn’t. What happened to all of them?”

“I DID” said the rotating octahedron.

“What?,” asked Alban. “But you’ve only existed for sixty years now! The Fermi Paradox is about ten thousand years of human history and the last four billion years of Earth’s existence!”




The shining octahedron went dark, and the doors to the Temple of the Demiurge opened of their own accord. Alban sighed – well, what did you expect, asking the Demiurge to answer your questions for you? – and walked out into the late autumn evening. Above him, the first fake star began to twinkle in the fake sky.

21 Mar 21:37

Information Wars: a window into the alternative media (Russian disinformation) ecosystem.

Information Wars: a window into the alternative media (Russian disinformation) ecosystem.
21 Mar 21:36

Can ultraprecise time measurements warp space?

Can ultraprecise time measurements warp space?
21 Mar 16:10

Feeding the hungry is a Good Thing

by Fred Clark
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would slash federal funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by more than $6 billion. The biggest chunk of that cut would come from “eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which provides money for a variety of community development and anti-poverty programs, including Meals on [Read More...]
21 Mar 16:07

The Resenters: Building Hell in Heaven’s despite

by Fred Clark
The Resenters rejoice when others mourn and mourn when others rejoice, and their politics of resentment has the crabs-in-a-bucket effect of making things worse for everyone, themselves included — making sure that nothing ever improves, that no problem is ever solved. The politics of resentment can never be for anything. That which benefits others will provoke resentment, even if it benefits all, including the Resenters themselves. They will still manage to resent the benefit to others — mourning at their rejoicing — convincing themselves that they might have benefited more if those others hadn't also been unjustly included in the common good.
21 Mar 13:16

[healthcare, pols, Patreon] Junk Insurance

21 Mar 12:25

[pols, healthcare, Patreon] The Republican Problem with Obamacare

21 Mar 12:02

Bernie Wrightson, R.I.P.

by evanier

Photo by Bruce Guthrie

The very popular comic artist and illustrator Bernie Wrightson passed away yesterday after a long battle with brain cancer.  His beloved wife Liz has posted a much better obit over at his website than I could possibly write so I'll just share a few memories of the man.

Her piece says his first professional work appeared in House of Mystery #179 in 1968.  I remember seeing him first in The Spectre #9 which came out the same month.  That story carried no credit or signature and several folks in our comic book club were convinced it was by Frank Frazetta who was, of course, Bernie's hero.  First time I met Bernie, I told him that and he said it was the greatest compliment he could have received.

Actually, his early work looked Frazetta-inspired but not interchangeable.  And within a few years, Bernie had developed his own, unique style which recalled not only Frazetta, but Graham Ingels and other veterans of EC Comics, as well as plenty of non-comic illustrators.  It wasn't long before that the elements of it that were pure Wrightson were turning up in the works of others.  By the time he and Len Wein created Swamp Thing and produced the early issues, he was a major force in his field.  That was just three years after he got into that field.

My other memories of him are just of hanging around at conventions, sitting in the bar at night, talking endlessly about this and that.  As a person, he was like his artwork: Impossible to dislike.  And pretty darned humble.  The first hundred times he was asked for his autograph, he seemed genuinely surprised and flattered.

It was so sad that he was unable to draw in the last few years, and sadder yet to lose such a good man.  I suppose we can take some comfort that his work — especially those issues of Swamp Thing — will be reprinted over and over again in years to come…but obviously, that's not enough. Not nearly enough. He was 68 years old.

The post Bernie Wrightson, R.I.P. appeared first on News From ME.

18 Mar 21:11

Aftermath — the European angle

by ppk

Well, that was tense, but in the end the populists lost. Good. Now let’s discuss the international consequences. (We’ll get back to domestic politics and the coalition formation later.)

Obviously, the European mainstream hails this as a victory, and it will be interesting to see how Wilders’s defeat affects the French presidential polls.

What struck me while I waded through the Twitter hashtags yesterday is how much the rabid right had set store on a Wilders victory. Their reactions were disappointed and angry, ranging from dire warnings about the islamic danger to desperate attempts to put a positive spin on Wilders’s disappointing results. Hey, he won seats! Hey, the coalition was defeated! Neither argument is entirely untrue, but they miss the point. The fascists had expected a victory (and the Anglo-Saxon ones equated victory with Wilders in power, which is not how the Dutch system works), and didn’t get one.

No Trump, no Brexit

In his victory speech, VVD leader and prime minister Rutte said: “This is an evening where Holland, after Trump, after Brexit, said Halt to the wrong kind of populism” That’s an interesting line, because it implies that the European (or, at least, the Dutch) mainstream right dislikes Trump and Brexit. (Also, there’s apparently a right kind of populism. The jury’s still out on what Rutte meant here.)

This was not just a random remark. Yesterday the VVD ran a last-minute radio campaign that basically said: “Remember how you felt when you woke up to Brexit? And to Trump? Let’s not repeat that tomorrow.” It worked, apparently.

(Side note: Dutch listen to the radio mostly on their daily commute, and the proudly car-owning, hard-working commuter is a VVD voter if there ever is one. So this campaign was explicitly aimed at right-wingers — and the core argument seems to have worked.)

As far as I can see the No Trump No Brexit strategy, combined with last weekend’s very welcome Turkey crisis, netted the VVD 2 seats each from CDA and PVV, and 2 seats from the left relative to the final polls.

Rutte’s strategy made use of the fact that the European moderate right wing has free agency relative to the populists, unlike the US and UK right-wingers. Let’s see if Macron and Merkel can use this to their advantage as well.

Populist vote share

Yesterday’s election allows us to be more certain about the populist vote share in the Netherlands. Judging by the number of seats populist parties won from 2002 on, we can now state with some measure of confidence that it’s a little bit below 20%. The 2002 elections, when populists won 28 seats, remains the high-water mark. Wilders was not able to top it in 2010, and the populist parties weren’t able to top it yesterday, either, despite having had the luxury of waging opposition for four years against an essentially centre-right government headed by their closest mainstream competitor, which is just about the best starting position they could wish for.

Wilders lost his monopoly on populist politics yesterday. The new Forum voor Democratie party won two seats, and it’s best to see its party leader Thierry Baudet as an upper-middle-class intellectual populist. So now those people have their own party as well, and though they’re not the most important part of Wilders’s coalition, the FvD will nibble at his electoral heels. That’s a new situation for Wilders; he’s never had to deal with a populist competitor before. Let’s see how he copes.

Also, I reclassified the angry elderly 50Plus party as populist. It’s fairly light on the islamic danger and rather heavy on the retirement age, but cultural issues do have a role in their platform, although it’s more like “let’s keep the welfare state we had back in the seventies,” when its voters were young and everything was right with the world.

Will other European countries match this roughly 20% of the vote? Right now Le Pen has had about 25% in the French presidential polls for months, while German AfD peaked at about 15% a few months back, though it’s meanwhile fallen to 10%. Let’s wait a while and see what happens, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that at most 20-25% of the European electorate is into populism.

Wilders’s influence

One point made both on the left and on the right is that, while Wilders may have lost the elections, he still mananges to wield a disproportionate influence on the political discussion. This is undeniably true at the moment. VVD and CDA moved right, with the VVD taking a PVV-light role while the CDA opted for traditional “God, Holland, and Orange” conservatism (where Orange denotes our royal house, and not the citrus fruit.)

However, it is conceivable that this, too, will change.

Yesterday it was proven that the populists can be defeated, and that gives the mainstream a boost of confidence that might counteract rabid right-wing ideas.

Might, could. Not very convincing, though possibly true in a broad sense. Let’s make a better argument.

If we look at the populist voters, it’s fairly clear that they are the former adherents of one of the broad popular parties, notably PvdA and CDA, and to a lesser extent the VVD. Thus, the PvdA had to try and win those disgruntled voters back. For the last four years, that mostly meant going along with VVD right-wing ideas about security and immigration. The PvdA was too scared of the populists to ever say No to more right-wing requirements.

That changed yesterday. Progressive-liberal D66 will end up in government no matter what else happens, and if there’s one party that’s the antithesis of populism it’s D66. No voter hesitates between D66 and PVV. In fact, its voters expect it to take a stand against hard-right policies. Even if VVD and CDA want to continue those policies (and they might), they will have to deal with fundamental opposition from D66, which will be reinforced if GL enters the governing coalition as well. The average GL voter is even more opposed to hard-right than the D66 one.

So where Rutte used to have a coalition partner that meekly agreed with hard-right immigration and security policies, he now has to deal with coalition partners that are opposed to them. That cannot fail to have an impact on policy.

Elections have consequences.

Not that everything will be wonderful from this day on; a lot remains to be done. Still, this is the best opportunity we’ve had for a while. Combine it with a rapidly evaporating sense of dread for the populist tsunami, and we can see a climate where it’s possible to reverse the populist stranglehold on the Dutch political consensus.

And what happens here could also happen elsewhere in Europe.

Next: France

Anyway, the Dutch have done their part in the defeat of populism; now we’re going to turn it over to the French, who seem to have noticed the wave of populism is not unavoidable.

Then comes Germany, and then, assuming all goes well, the mainstream will have found new courage by the end of this year. I’m guessing the next item on the agenda will be cleaning up our own house by putting pressure on the Hungarian populo-fascist Orbán government, and possibly on the Polish PiS as well. Once that’s done we can turn our attention to the world outside of the EU.

So to our brothers and sisters in the “occupied territories” (as I saw the US and UK described on Twitter) I say: Know hope. Hold on for another year, and the world might have changed for the better.

Nothing’s certain, blah blah, lot needs to be done, blah blah, but it’s conceivable that all this will happen. That’s quite a difference with 2016.

15 Mar 21:40

It looks as though those who bet that the PVV wouldn’t do it in Holland will end up winners

by Mike Smithson

Mike Smithson

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