Saturday salmagundi

• The official souvenir program for the inauguration of William McKinley in 1901 included an almost-steampunk imagining of the inauguration of 2001.

At the close of his address, President Barrington was escorted to the Mansion of the States by the Governors of the 118 States and 99 Territories. Here a great banquet was spread in the main hall, covers being laid for 25,000 persons. All of the Government officials and the heads of the Army and Navy were present, and many notable addresses were delivered through the phonelegraph.

Click through to read that whole program — it’s fantastic, like something out of a short story by Jay Lake.

• And speaking of Jay Lake, the Acts of Whimsy fundraiser for his cancer treatment is a thing of beauty.

Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, seems to be borrowing from Neil Gaiman. Newport’s new book is called God Is Alive and Well, by which he means that polling shows that belief in God is alive and well. The idea suggested by Newport’s title seems to follow the conceit of Gaiman’s American Gods, in which the strength and survival of the gods depends on the depth and number of adherents to their respective religions.

It’s a very cool idea as the premise for a fantastical, speculative novel (or an HBO series). It’s a very strange idea for a pollster or a student of religion.

• The fabulous ministry of The Reverend Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes.

• “Wilson and Krause encountered a pod of whales, made up of several adults and calves, that had apparently adopted an unlikely non-whale companion to join their clan — a deformed bottlenose dolphin.” They have pictures.

• “How to Start a Revolution.” Gene Sharp, now 85 years old, is the most dangerous man in the world.

• I’m looking at these lists of the “top 10 most psychopathic professions” and “top 10 least psychopathic professions” and thinking maybe they help to bolster my longstanding argument that journalists should be craftspeople rather than professionals. (They list “craftsperson” as a “profession,” though, so it seems either they or I have some misconceptions about those words.)

Angry, stupid white people on Twitter.

• The US government is “an insurance company with an army.” — Peter Fisher, undersecretary of the Treasury, in 2002.

• Religious right radio: Labor unions must be stopped because abortion and gays.

• More “gracious and cordial” Christians making up nasty stuff about gay people. I guess once you embrace the idea of Lying for a Good Cause, then it starts to seem like the more outrageous and vicious those lies are, the more virtuous you are for telling them. Or something.

• Here’s a map and diagram of what the NRA wants American elementary schools to look like. (Actually it’s a diagram of “The Citadel” — a heavily armed Randian utopia intended for somewhere in Idaho.)

• How good is Paul Bibeau’s Goblinbooks blog? So good that posts with titles like “A Message to the NRA From a Guy With a Duffel Bag of Guns” and “A Message to the Tea Party From a Guy Who Urinated on a Power Line” live up to those headlines with pitch-perfect panache.

Ric Alba:

Everyone has the drive to be known and loved. During the ’80s I couldn’t let myself feel the love so much, because I felt I wasn’t letting people know the real me. When you’re delivering to friends and fans, someone other than your true self, it’s nearly impossible to absorb the love people send you. It always feels like it was meant for someone else, and that you’re taking love under false pretenses.

Jodie Foster:

I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to be not so very lonely.

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  • Second, as said before about these libertopias, where do they get the food from? “

    Atlas Shrugged: One Hour Later

  • hidden_urchin

    Ah, it’s all clear now. Based on the lack of medical facilities, a cemetery, and a reasonable source of food, I can only draw one conclusion: Soylent green.

  • arcseconds

     The computer game ‘Populous’ has the player playing a god, whose power is dependent on the number of followers. 

    That was created in 1989.

    Mind you, this kind of idea also appears in Gaiman’s Sandman series, which also debuted in 1989.

    The idea doesn’t actually seem all that surprising to me.  It’s kind of obvious if you think about designing a game like Populous.   And it’s only one step from the idea that beliefs determine the world, which has been around for quite some time.

  • I like David Brin’s take of friendly communities working better than isolated prepper types. The idea is that if someone attacks the preppers, they might be well armed, but nobody will go to their aid because they’re assholes. 

    On the other hand, if the community with the brewer who brings beer to all the neighboring communities, or the medic who travels from town to town gets attacked, the attackers face the wrath of numerous, interdependent communities, who have no real reason to be all that technologically inferior to the preppers anyway. 

    Regarding that Citadel compound: notice how they have separate communities at the top and bottom of the map. I give it two weeks before they declare war on each other.

  • It’s from a page off the one Fred linked:

  • Kiba

    The only thing that can compare (at least for my present state of mind) is the new bill proposed in Arizona which requires that students swear an oath (complete with the words “under God”) before they’ll be allowed to graduate.

    Wait, isn’t that the oath taken by Congress? I feel that I’m probably missing something here, but I don’t understand the reason for this. 

  • Isn’t it illegal to make people swear loyalty oaths in the USA?

  • Kiba

    According to ThinkProgress constitutional experts are saying it’s unconstitutional and violates the 1st Amendment.

    I still don’t understand the purpose of the bill. It seems incredibly stupid and pointless.

  • Baby_Raptor

    It’s also part of the enlistment oath, except that the military allows exceptions to “so help me god.” The bill as presented does not. 

  • Question regarding the adopting whales link. Sweet story and all, but one word choice kept nagging me. Aren’t dolphins whales? A different branch of whale than sperm whales, certainly, but still whales. Or did the classification change recently to make them a separate family of aquatic mammals?

  • Kiba

    They are related to whales. They fall under the suborder Odontoceti which includes dolphins and porpoises. Also, which I didn’t know, hippos are related to whales.

  • reynard61

    “I still don’t understand the purpose of the bill. It seems incredibly stupid and pointless.”

    It’s another Tribal thing. You’re basically being made to swear loyalty to The Tribe — in this case, Republican Christianity.

    These morons *really* need to be introduced to the clue-by-four-of-Reality…

  • Question for folks here – has anyone read about this? It’s rather worrying. Worrying enough that if it’s true I’m surprised I haven’t heard it before (the bit about oxygen levels dropping severely more than the trees dying – I know that bit is true).

  • EllieMurasaki

    Shit. I hadn’t heard. And I still don’t have the money to start a monthly donation to Nature Conservancy for balancing carbon emissions.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Another book that used the “Believe in a God-and He/She/It Becomes Real” trope is The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams.  The protagonist focuses his own guilt to create a gigantic, amoeba-like  Guilt God that devours his enemies.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    “I still don’t understand the purpose of the bill. It seems incredibly stupid and pointless.”  —  Kiba
    This type of bill is known in Congress as a “Showboat,” a bill that has no chance whatsoever of passing but looks mighty damn good to the voters back home.

  • Sigaloenta

    My favorite part of fantasy-2001 is the president’s inaugural  (although not so much the call for man-made climate change): “that the anti-trust law prohibiting any corporation from making profits in excess of six percent a year be strictly enforced.”  YES PLEASE.

  • Lord Dunsany also used the idea that gods lived on belief in several of his stories. Most explicitly, “Poseidon” has the title deity complaining he can no longer cause earthquakes because of a shortage of the blood of bulls and drifting away when a butterfly flapped its wings.

    Just to say that this story is related to the idea spoils it all, so here it is in ROT13: “Gur Rkvyrf’ Pyho.”

    The novel “The Blessing of Pan”  is distantly related, but it’s also worth
    reading as one of the few fantasy novels set more or less in the real
    world that even questions whether Christianity is the best way and worth
    pushing for everyone. I may be a bit jaundiced from encountering
    Lawhead’s Pendragon series when younger.

    Several other stories here and there deal with belief and sacrifices and the relationship between deities and humans, but I don’t think there’s anything systematic about it like Discworld has.

  • That pine beetle problem has been a thorn in the side of this province for the last 20+ years, and politicians are basically hoping for a sudden really long cold snap to kill ’em off.

    The only saving grace is such infestations are usually self-limiting, since past a certain point they just won’t be able to get to any more trees.

  •  Oh, Thanks! I just looked them up and supported their plant a billion trees campaign. I’ll look into a monthly donation to them or a similar UK charity once my monetary situation is better.

    Having said that Carbon Offsetting isn’t the most effective

  • EllieMurasaki

    Do you have a better idea for sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and putting oxygen in than planting as many trees as we can and keeping as many mature trees as we can from being cut down?

    That page looks a lot like the Nature Conservancy’s carbon-footprint calculator, actually, only less precise.

    I have in GnuCash an account for Liabilities/Carbon Usage, which I am treating like a loan currently in deferment, payments due to Nature Conservancy, simple interest monthly at the approximate value of a twelfth their suggested contribution to offset my annual carbon footprint, opening balance of loan that twelfth times however many months it was between when I opened the account in GnuCash and when I was born. I am going to offset every carbon emission I’ve ever been part of producing. That debt has to wait till after I’m done paying the ones that will go to collections if I don’t pay them timely enough, though.

    (Mother, our washer and dryer are older than me, can we junk them for Energy Star compliant machines already? I am paying you hundreds of dollars a month, I have been for some time, I am not convinced that you do not have the money, and your electric bill will go down into the bargain. The difference should be immediately apparent, since we will no longer have to run the dryer twice to get a single load dry! And maybe start going to HOA meetings to advocate for being allowed to use outdoor clotheslines when it’s sufficiently warm and sunny.)

  • I’m not a great fan of the “something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do this” school of thought.

    Did you even read the page? Carbon Offsetting doesn’t work to prevent global warming.

    “It’s not possible to truly ‘offset’ carbon emissions or become ‘carbon neutral’ by
    planting trees. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon that has not been in the
    carbon cycle for millions of years, and therefore creates a net increase of carbon in
    the biosphere. Also, by the time a tree reaches the size where it can absorb a certain
    amount of carbon, the CO2 will already have contributed to global warming.

    In addition, promoting the concepts of ‘carbon offsetting’ and
    ‘carbon neutral’ runs the risk of providing an apparent justification
    for continuing with a fossil-fuel intensive lifestyle and culture,
    whereas it is a drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage that is required

    Planting trees is good and I heartily approve of it because it helps aid ecosystem resilence against global warming but that’s not the same as preventing it.

  • DorothyD

    My first glance at it, it doesn’t make much sense to me. The article says some cities’ oxygen levels have dropped from 21% to 15% due to combustion of fossil fuels?  The atmosphere is only .04% CO2. Something doesn’t seem right. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    I read the page. My concern that tree planting will help resolve is with CO2/O2 balance in the air. Which is also your concern, isn’t it? Didn’t you start this conversation with a link about tree-eating bugs throwing off that balance? Climate change and total carbon use are separate concerns from levels of major gases in the air.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Burning fossil fuels burns oxygen, which is supposed to be, what, twenty percent of the air?

  • P J Evans

    It seems incredibly stupid and pointless.

    That describes the Arizona legislature pretty well.

  • DorothyD

    Yeah, 21% of the atmosphere is oxygen (by volume). From another reference:

    While no danger exists that our O2 reserve will be depleted, nevertheless the O2 content of our atmosphere is slowly declining–so slowly that a sufficiently accurate technique to measure this change wasn’t developed until the late 1980s. Ralph Keeling, its developer, showed that between 1989 and 1994 the O2 content of the atmosphere decreased at an average annual rate of 2 parts per million. Considering that the atmosphere contains 210,000 parts per million, one can see why this measurement proved so difficult.


  • P J Evans

     Oxygen levels aren’t dropping. It would be world-wide, not on a city basis. It’s air, not land or water.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But local levels could drop. Air doesn’t move quite that fast.

  • DorothyD

    It’s dropped world-wide, but only a bit. Estimated at ~ .01% change from pre-industrial levels, from this article which was linked in that Survival Acres article, which also stated “Dangerously low levels of oxygen are now being reported in cities around the world…How alarming?  Some cities are down to just 15%, far lower then safety standards dictate.”  but didn’t give a reference for that. 

  •  Allegedly, the author of the bill fully supports having it ammended to make the “so help me god” part optional, and just left that out because he was in a time crunch.

    I think he should pull the other one.


    Discusses the issues with measuring oxygen levels and how apparently “safe” O2 levels could actually be unsafe.

  • Lori


    I still don’t understand the purpose of the bill. It seems incredibly stupid and pointless.   

    As others have said, it’s Right wing posturing. It’s purpose is to fire up the base and help the guy proposing it to win reelection. It’s a

    Step 1: Propose a law that appeals to the tribe, but will never pass and is unconstitutional on its face and thus would never be implemented if it did somehow pass.  (note that the first 2 qualities are critical. The 3rd is somewhat optional, but highly desirable.)

    Step 2: Announce the proposed lawl with great fanfare and watch your core constituency drool. In this case the bill dangles the juicy possibility of not only othering, but actually directly harming anyone unwilling to bow to the tribe’s brand of weaponized RTCism and chest-thumping faux patriotism. That’s a winning combo, for sure.

    Step 3: Sit back and wait for people who are clearly not tribal members to point out why the bill unconstitutional on its face and for the bill to die a much-derserved death because it’s ridiculous.

    Step 4: Go back to your core constituents and tell them that the failure of the bill is proof once again that the government is oppressing them.

    Step 5: Campaign and fund raise on being the brave little toaster who took a stand for values and will continue to fight government oppression.

    Step 6: Profit!

    Unlike the underpants gnomes the Right wing hucksters know their game.

  • Loyalty is not in and of itself a virtue. Nor is sticking up for a friend a neutral thing. In sticking up for her friends, Jodie Foster has harmed their victims, and because she has such a huge platform, sticking up for her friends has harmed victims of domestic violence and rape.

    I do not admire loyalty to scum. That loyalty is doing harm to innocent people. Anyone who remains friends with rapists and violent misogynists is scum themselves. Even worse when they loudly defend those rapists and violent misogynists. Jodie Foster is a horrible person.

  • stardreamer42

     It was also the basis of the Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonis?”

  • DorothyD

    OSHA standards for enclosed spaces are 19.5% O2 minimum* (though that article’s author seems to be saying it’s a bit more complicated than that, namely that if your work space has a reduced oxygen level it’s best to find out what’s displacing it). So that 15% number also seems questionable – I’m not finding any references for it, so I think we can breathe easy. 

    *not to be confused with reduction of total amount of O2 with altitude. Percentage of O2 stays constant with altitude (ref)

  • TW: rape, violence

    Maybe re Mel she’s hating the sin but loving the sinner.

    No, she’s not. She’s never said anything about the sin being bad. No “he really messed up” stuff here. Solely stuff like this:

    “He’s so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is. He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie. And he’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life.”

    Things your nephew would do. Like wax on and on about how he wants to murder his romantic partner while anally raping her. Yeah. Bullshit.

    The closest Jodie Foster has come to saying Mel Gibson did anything at all wrong was to say he’s “complicated” and “has troubles”. That’s what you say when someone is struggling to overcome an addiction or something — NOT when someone is a violently anti-semitic misogynist. 

    I refuse to look up what she said about Roman Polanski, as I am not going to go through again seeing nearly every visible person in Hollywood talk about how it wasn’t “rape rape” to drug and hold down and penetrate someone who is sobbing and saying it hurts and begging you to stop. (There was a cohort of Hollywood people who called foul: screenwriters. But screenwriters have basically no power or visibility.)

  • DorothyD

    Discusses the issues with measuring oxygen levels and how apparently “safe” O2 levels could actually be unsafe. 

    He seems to be saying that that 19.5% doesn’t leave much margin for error, given how water vapor changes things. 

  • Do you have a better idea for sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and putting oxygen in than planting as many trees as we can and keeping as many mature trees as we can from being cut down?

    Water conservancy. Algae and other green water stuff contributes way more oxygen to our atmosphere than trees do. (70 to 80 percent.) This is one of the many reasons the oil spill in the Gulf was a complete catastrophe — much worse than the Colorado forest fires in the long term, for instance.

  • stardreamer42

     I’d buy that book! You’ve got a good premise there, with a twist on formulaic expectations that promises an interesting read.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …that makes sense. Do you know of any organizations that are working on replenishing the algae populations in the oceans and could use some money to help them in that effort? The nearest thing I can think of offhand is them who take concrete balls containing the ashes of the deceased (per the deceased’s wishes) and plant them somewhere for coral to grow on, which isn’t very similar at all.

  • P J Evans

     1/100 of 1 percent is – hardly anything. That would probably track with the increase in CO2.


    “Carbon credits are like putting a humidifier in a room then putting a
    dehumidifier in as well to offset the effects,” the PFY offers.

    “Only with carbon credits they’re in different rooms,” I add. “Or
    maybe it’s a bit like putting your heater on in one room of the house
    and turning the aircon on at the other.”

    “I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.”

    “Okay,” I say. “Carbon credits are a bit like beating someone up on
    this side of the world and sponsoring one of those poor starving kids on
    the other side of the world to make up for the fact that you’re a
    complete shit at home.”

    “Only people think you’re great because you’re cancelling out a bad deed with a good one.”

    “Instead of not committing the bad deed in the first place,” I add.

  • I think FearlessSon may be thinking more along the lines of what Yugoslav or Soviet partisans did to combat Axis occupying forces in WW2.

    Well, if push comes to shove, we could take our surplus a few months before the harvest, go into town, and find seven hungry samurai to come and defend us against the bandits from the citadel.  

  • As others have said, it’s Right wing posturing. It’s purpose is to fire up the base and help the guy proposing it to win reelection.

    I remember reading a blurb from a study of the Religious Right which said that they have a habit of turning every legislative defeat into a moral victory, further galvanizing them to try again, no matter how little chance they have.  

    Unfortunately, this creates all kinds of collateral damage in the process, wasting productive legislative time and cooperative goodwill, if nothing else.  

  • Water conservancy. Algae and other green water stuff contributes way more oxygen to our atmosphere than trees do. (70 to 80 percent of the total.) This is one of the many reasons the oil spill in the Gulf was a complete catastrophe — much worse than the Colorado forest fires in the long term, for instance.

    I know that there have been some proposals for iron seeding, putting iron into the water to fertilize phytoplankton, catalyzing algae reproduction to better absorb carbon.  The danger though is that it would not be particularly discriminate in how it creates that growth, and harmful invasive or toxic algae could also be pushed into greater growth, or the algae could create a population explosion which the food chain would not be able to bring back to equilibrium quickly enough to prevent other damage.  

  • Lori

    I honestly cannot see conservatives welcoming Roman Polanski back into their fold and showering him with awards.   

    If you mean they wouldn’t have welcomed him back into the fold because he would never have been out of it then, yeah.  If you mean he would have been put out and would have remained a pariah, then I’m not seeing it. It’s not like conservatives would have been more likely to believe that what Polanski did was “legitimate” rape. If RP was a conservative cause celebre the defense would simply have been different. Instead of saying it was all a witch hunt driven by silly American prudery it would have been wall-to-wall slut shaming and she was asking for it and she just cried rape afterward to get money from a wealthy man.

    It’s not that I think supporting RP is an acceptable thing. I don’t. There are a number of people whose support for RP caused me to lose whatever respect I ever had for them*. I just don’t think it’s helpful to give conservatives credit they haven’t earned in the process of pointing out that liberals have major failings when it comes to rape culture (among other things).

    *Same goes for the music industry giving awards to Chris Brown.

  • TW: Roman Polanski

    I don’t even get how people can rationalize a grown man drugging a 13 year old girl and then forcing himself on her. I really don’t.

  • Addendum: I get that there is a legitimate complaint to be made about prudery in Canada and the USA, but there are lines that just don’t get crossed no matter what the culture.

  • For my own part, I find I do better to concentrate on what motivates people to rationalize atrocity. Our ability to do so, I just take for granted.