Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bill O'Reilly Pays Legal Bills Dead Marine's Father Incurred Suing Wingnut Protesters

Good on you Bill O'Reilly.

I don't want to deny that O'Reilly is doing something good here, but I have to say, in general I don't understand people making a big deal out of stuff like this. O'Reilly makes something like ten million bucks a year. Him giving $16k to a good cause like this is really not that impressive. If you've got that kind of money, it's not really worth your time to pick up $16k off the floor if you find it. What's astonishing is that people who make that kind of money don't give way more to good causes like this.

Still, good on Bill.
Made Of Awesome:
Clothes To Get You Beat Up Edition

So I see this add over at TPM and it is so astonishing that I actually click on it. Here it is.

This get-up is just flat-out made of awesome. Check dude out. Dude is wearing a bow tie! And a granny sweater! What is up, dude? What is up? What is up with that?

And do not miss the shoes. They are truly amazing.

I am going to ask a serious question here: does anyone dress like this? Anyone? Anywhere?

I predict that, if you wear this, the bully from your grade school will be teleported forward in time to kick your ass. (Actually, that'd be the one thing that'd get me to dress up in this clown suit; I'd do almost anything to run across that guy again and have a little talk...) In fact, if you wear this, perfectly reasonable and ordinary people might be seized with the irresistible desire to kick your ass. The mailman might just kick your ass. Or your neighbor. Or your grandma.

Would wearing this constitute a kind of cross-dressing of some type?

Would an actual female ever have sex with a guy wearing an, er...ensemble...such as this? Inquiring minds kinda sorta wanna know...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fake Ads
They're Funny Because They're Like Real Ones, But More So

At Hyperbole And A Half, again.
Improved Doctors' Office Pain Chart


(Via Reddit)
Stuff I Don't Understand:
Being "Forced" To Make Lots of Money Edition
With Thoughts On Women Who Want Guys Who Make Lots Of Money

Well, there's this.

Here's the thing. Nobody's forcing this guy to make lots of money, nor to be in the career he's in. I know: I whine about teaching. It's not like I have much room to talk. But I realize that it's a choice I made, and that I could do other things. (In fact, much of my whining is a way of saying: I am currently thinking about doing something else.) But anyway: nobody's forcing you to try to make scads of money, dude. If you think there's any amount of money worth working 80 hours a week for at a job you don't seem to like, then you are a crazy person.

And as for women: if you're dating women who care how much money you make, then you're not dating women worth dating. I mean, it's reasonable for someone--male or female--to not want to get involved with a bum. But the tone of this letter suggests that the women in question are making being absurdly wealthy a necessary condition for dating someone. And, uh, not only are such women not the only women in the world...but if you're pursuing such women for anything other than very casual sex (something the author in question seems to rule out), then you're doing something very, very stupid.

I have little sympathy for guys like this because odds are they are guys with little going for them other than their earning potential. We are largely responsible for the people we become. And if you become someone who is interested largely in money and women who are interested in guys who have money, then it's little wonder that you're miserable. That's a miserable kind of life to lead, and miserable kind of person to be. In fact, the phrase "get a life" comes to mind. Get some interests. Learn something. Then get friends who know things and who are interested in interesting things. Then what will happen is that you will meet interesting women who are interested in interesting things. And such women are, interestingly, interested in guys who are interested in interesting things. And some of them will be interested in you. Then you will not only have opportunities to go out with non-gold-digging women, you will be a non-gold-digging guy as well--that is, a guy interested in something other than money and the women it attracts. Which means there will be a decent chance of you living a meaningful life and being a good person. Which is its own reward, in addition to the happy consequence it has, girl-wise.

I cannot believe I have to explain this stuff to some people.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dark Flow and The Multiverse

Jebus things are getting weirder.

Or, well, they might be, anyway.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

dook Sucks: Cupcake Bracket Edition

Buried under a house-renovation nightmare, and, what with no Carolina in it and all, I haven't been paying any attention to the tournament.

But I will go ahead and gripe about one thing: as basically everyone has noticed, dook was given a cupcake bracket, virtually guaranteeing them an unimpeded path to the final four. That might be defensible if dook were the overall 1-seed, but, of course, they weren't. They were the weakest 1-seed, the number four 1-seed. So why the bull**** treatment?

Ratings, apparently.

So, a school largely based on undeserved privilege gets another break handed to them on a silver platter.

And people wonder why everybody hates those guys...

One last thing: contrary to Whitlock's claim, dook is not "squeaky-clean." As basically everyone else in the ACC knows, dook plays dirty. They hand-check like mad--doing it so frequently that the refs just give up calling it--they flop like fainting goats, and are adept at jumping into defenders on their 3-pointers. They're also fond of interfering with the ball after their own made shots in order to impede the other team's break. And none of that is to mention K-rat's non-stop F-bombs, Henderson's fairly-likely-to-have-been elbow that broke Hansbrough's nose, and Singler's penchant for throwing elbows.

I do realize that it's easy to demonize one's athletic opponents, and I think that's the height of irrationality. dook seems to recruit cleanly, and there are many things about the program that are admirable.

But "squeaky-clean" they absolutely ain't.
Karl Rove Still Sucks

It's impossible to identify the single most loathsome member of the Bush/Cheney administration. David Addington? John Yoo? Cheney himself? Bush himself? Rummy? The list goes on and on. And on and on.

If I had to pick just one guy who stands out in my mind as the loathsomest of that loathsome bunch, it might very well be Karl Rove.

Sure, he didn't fabricate bogus legal opinions that made the U.S. a nation that tortures its prisoners. And no, he didn't take us into the disastrous Iraq war. And he didn't play the same kind of pivotal role in trying to steal the 2000 election that, say, James Baker played...

But what nauseates me about Rove is that he is a 21-st century sophist--a man who diligently works to make the world a worse and less reasonable place by devoting all his devious energies to making bad reasons sound good and good reasons sound bad. Sure he's all about style over substance...but that was one of the major failings of the Bush/Cheney admin--everything was about polls and politics and spin and appearance; by all indications, policy took a back seat to politics. So 'Karl Rove' might reasonably thought to be a kind of synecdoche, a proxy for the whole damn disaster of the Bush administration.

Here's a piece on Rove's book. You'll notice that even his central example used to criticize Obama is spin and sophistry:
In the memoir’s final chapter, humbly titled “Rove: the Myth,” the architect of a two-term Republican presidency reports how angry he was when he read a passage in then-Sen. Barack Obama’s second book lumping him in with Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed as “conservative operatives” with “fiery rhetoric” like “No new taxes” or “We are a Christian nation.”

“I certainly don’t believe and have never said, ‘We are a Christian nation,’” writes Rove. “I put the offending page in my pocket and went about my business.” Later that day, he encountered Obama and fell victim to “feistiness,” challenging the senator for using “my name and the word ’said’ and quote marks.” Obama, Rove reports, blanched when the torn-out page was shown to him and tried to wriggle out of the conversation: “It seemed to me he didn’t much care that he had attributed to me something I had never said and found offensive.”

Obama does not say that Rove said "we are a Christian nation;" rather, he said that Rove was one of the people who used inflammatory rhetoric of that kind--that is, Rove was one of he people who said things of a type that Obama listed, with "we are a Christian nation" being one of the examples. So Obama did not do what Rove says he did--attribute that specific quote to him. And, of course, Rove said so many things in that general ballpark that lumping him in with that bunch is hardly a stretch.

Now, I absolutely agree that Obama should have been more precise, and that you don't want to even suggest that someone said something that he didn't say. However, first, if this is the best Rove's got by way of impugning Obama's character, then the president is on secure ground indeed. A criticism this lame is a sign that there's no significant ammunition available. And, second, Rove himself has played so fast and loose with such claims that I must say, this thin gruel seems thin to the point of insubstantiality by comparison.

Rove is a scumbag. He bent all his energies to harming this country, even if he somehow managed to spin some Gerrymandered story in his own mind about the justness of his cause.

Jebus, what an astonishingly terrible person that guy is.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Economist on HCR

The Economist, of course, does not like health-care reform.

Well, um... I hope they're wrong.
Dude Built a Turing Machine

Amazing no one's ever done this before. Cool.
Hell Is The Absence Of Reason
Russia Edition

What's Russia really like these days?

Apparently very, very bad.

The poor damn Russians just never seem to be able to catch a break. On the bright side, the people are alleged to be pushing back against the thugocracy.
Can Americans Handle Legal Weed?

So Andrew Sullivan seems to have convinced himself that legalizing marijuana is a real possibility. I haven't been paying all that much attention to developments on that front, but I'll believe it when I see it. In fact, I might not even believe it then.

But I wonder: can Americans handle legal weed? I mean, we can't handle legal alcohol--this is a country with about fourteen thousand booze-related automobile fatalities per year. Conventional wisdom seems to indicate that weed impairs driving ability less than booze does. And I'm all for legalizing weed in principle. But when I sit down and think about adding a bunch of high morons speeding around in SUVs to the drunk morons we already have speeding around in their SUVs, it gives me pause.

The smart solution would be to make penalties for impaired driving more severe, but for some reason that escapes me, we seem to be unwilling to do that.
The Universe: Now With 90% More Universe!

Holy crap.

Sometimes this stuff is just too major to wrap your head around.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

You freakin' geeks.

(h/t Captain Quantum)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If This Were A Movie:
Health Care Reform Edition

My good buddy Andy (who, interestingly, was "the genius" on a recurring David Letterman bit called "The Strong Guy, The Fat Guy, and the Genius") likes to occasionally play the "if this were a movie" game. Though it isn't really a game. Goes like this: something happens or somebody makes a decision, you say "if this were a movie, there'd be a a fadeout and then when it faded back in..." and then you describe some disaster or bit of hilarity that would be consequent on the occurrence or decision in a movie.

So, for example, if you told Andy that you'd just won a trip to Costa Rica, he might say "if this were a movie, the next scene would be you running through the jungle to get away from a big fat guy who set up this contest scam so he could run of those 'the deadliest prey' things."

So we got Obama into office, and he's pretty awesome. Then he got health care passed, which certainly seems like there's all sorts of awesomeness in it (though I remain uncommitted on this issue)...

I guess my worry is that, if this were a movie, the next scene would be like 2055, with jack-booted government insurance agents chasing a rag-tag, fugitive band of insurance resisters through the ruins of America. "Who knew," one might say, "that forcing people to buy health insurance would be the thing that finally allowed the government to control every aspect of our lives"... And then the HKs come...

See, that's about as sophisticated as my thinking about health care reform gets. And that's why I don't have a position on it...
N-U-T-Z in the GOP

This stuff absolutely cannot be true.

57% of Republicans think that Obama is a Muslim? 45% believe that he wasn't born in the U.S.? 24% believe that he "may be the antichrist"?????

It's bad, but it just simply cannot be that bad.

Er...can it?

The GOP is willing to risk the destruction of the country in order to win elections. This has long been clear. I mean, as the election of 2000 taught us, they're willing to try to steal elections. After you're willing to steal an American presidential election, what, exactly, would be off limits in your mind?

My guess is that, if the GOP/Fox News conglomerate believed that it could gain a significant political advantage by convincing its zombie-like followers that all Democrats should be killed, they would either do so or at least think pretty hard about it.

Of course Hillary didn't exactly cover herself with glory in this department when given the opportunity.

Maybe some day we'll have Eric Cantor say that he has "no reason to believe that Obama is the Antichrist"...

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Problem With Wingnuts:
Broken Bullshit Detectors?

Turns out that Glenn Beck practices crying.

Just about anything about Beck reminds me of my long-held view about wingnuts; goes like this:

Wingnuts are wingnuts because they have broken bullshit detectors.

It's long seemed to me that the loonier denizens of the right lack the ability to automatically detect egregious bullshit. Take Beck as an example--though Limbaugh would do just as well. If you can't tell within the first ten or fifteen minutes of watching this guy that he is basically made of bullshit, then there is something wrong with you. You lack an ability that almost everyone I know has. Your bullshit detector is broken.

Beck is not subtle; he's a walking, talking parody. The very fact that a giant herd of righties adore the ravings of a guy who was one of the main morons on one of those "morning zoo"-type radio shows tells you that there is something deeply wrong on that side of the aisle.

As usual, it's not that liberals are all smart, nor any such thing. But you usually have to simulate rationality a little more accurately if you want most liberals to like you. Anyone who would take Glenn Beck seriously has a very big cognitive problem.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

(A) Big Bang

Holy crap!
Quacks Sue Science Writer for Acknowledging Their Quackery

Man this sucks.
The Iraq War Was A Mistake And Nothing Will Change That

I mention this again because this, like almost everything else written about the subject, suggests otherwise.

Even if (as is extremely unlikely) the war somehow miraculously turns out to have been for the best in the long run, it will still have been a mistake. That is to say: it was a stupid idea, undertaken for bad reasons at pretty much exactly the worst possible time.

Imagine a doctor who discovers that his patient has malaria, and who decides to lop off his leg instead of treating the disease, because "there are gremlins in it." Now, even if it turns out that, unbeknownst to anyone, there was cancer in the foot, the decision was a mistake and the doctor is an idiot.

Unlikely future contingencies can make a bad decision a happy accident, but they cannot make bad decisions good.
Teaching Sucks

Man, I am getting more and more fed up with teaching, and thinking more and more seriously about doing something else.
The proximate cause of my ire right now is grading. In particular--and ignoring the other twenty or thirty things I could complain about--it irks the **** out of me that I am basically forced to give students higher grades than they deserve.

My students can't write, in part because they can't read. Oh, they can kind of read textbooks, which, of course, pre-digest the material for them. And they can kinda sorta write. The problem is--or the problem that's bugging me right now, anyway, is--that they are apparently being given 'A's and 'B's in their other classes for writing sentences that only approximate actual English.
(Um...and, I'm not actually a stickler for proper style, at least in casual writing...) At any rate, perhaps I should also note that my institution, though non-stellar, is reputed to be far better than the average American university.

We recently read an essay by a fellow named Leiser, who
holds (sensibly) that the term 'unnatural' is ambiguous. He disambiguates the term, generating five fairly reasonable definitions, then plugs each one of the definitions into the unnaturalness argument against homosexuality and argues that the argument is unsound no matter which definition we choose.

Now, if I ask my students to explain what we've read, many of them will produce sentences like the following:

"He thinks the definition is ambiguous and he comes out with the different definitions to show that they are all immoral."

If I try to explain to them that it is not the
definition that Leiser believes to be ambiguous, but, rather, the term...or that it's not a good idea to write that he "comes out with" "the different definitions" when one ought to say that he disambiguated the term...or that no one anywhere thinks that the definitions are immoral, but that Leiser holds that each definition generates a false premise when substituted for the term 'unnatural' in the argument...the students will look at me as if I am insane. And possibly evil. They seem to think that I'm fishing for reasons to impugn their writing. They often think--and sometimes go so far as to openly suggest--that I am demanding of them something so absurd, so out of step with what their other professors are demanding, so alien that it might as well be madness. None of their other teachers have ever corrected them on such points. Who am I to do so?

Among the many things that piss me off about teaching, perhaps the thing that pisses me off the most is this: if you actually try to help the students, actually try to show them what they need to know if they are to avoid being idiots for the rest of their lives, a large proportion of them will conclude that you are basically some kind of nut who is out to get them. 'B's, in their eyes, are 'C's, and 'C's are 'F's. Give them a grade that's even roughly commensurate with their actual ability and performance, and you are a bad person. Then you get to deal with a classroom full of students who are not only poorly-educated, but surly to boot.

Maybe teaching is just something one ought not try to do for more than ten or so years at a time...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

dook sucks

That is all.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I Am Petty
Roy Ashburn Edition

Well, here's another GOP anti-homosexual crusader who seems to have turned out to be gay--or, at least was busted for drunk driving after leaving a gay nightclub with another man.

If he had half the gumption of Larry Craig, he'd just say he was doing research.

It's really kind of unfortunate that I find such stories so amusing.

I'm a petty, petty person.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Statistics and Medical Studies: Making False Positives a Certainty

No big surprises here, but it's good to see this problem getting more attention.

A friend of mine, Holly, and I used to discuss starting a "Journal of Negative Results," though we (as is my nature) never did anything but talk about it. Turns out it's a thing (here, here), which is good.

This is a problem in philosophy, too--though since we have little effect on anything important, it's less cause for concern. But you're not going to get a Ph.D. if the last line of your dissertation was "so I guess the argument I've been developing doesn't work after all." Science will figure this problem out, because it matters, and because self-correction is the essence of science. Philosophy will probably continue to wallow in its own crap for a couple thousand more years. (Here's the question I most commonly ask myself: if I were wrong, how could I tell? (This is not a rhetorical question.))

Previously: fishy science.
Lawyers Who Defend Terrorists Are Terrorists?

Is it just me, or is that the message in this ad from Liz Cheney's outfit "Keep America Safe?"

If not, then the message is: lawyers who defend terrorists are evil. Or something dang close to that.

Why is it that we have a right to know who the lawyers are? I mean, the reason for not knowing who they are is clear--it would put them in danger. In danger, that is, from the very kinds of lunatics who Cheney's crew is trying to stir up.

Are these lawyers some kind of super-lawyers who have super reasoning powers that allow them to win every case? Or do they have, like, mind-control powers that they use on judges? I guess that's the kind of lawyer that would be appropriate for the al Qaeda super-villains who cannot be held by even the country's most super-duper-max prisons.

There's no plausible way to get to "Keep America Safe"'s conclusion without accepting something like the premise that any lawyer who defends a defendant who may have committed a terrible crime is evil. The idea here seems to be that no one should defend someone accused of a crime, since some such people are guilty. Which means that the entire adversarial system of justice is evil--or, at least, makes people evil, or cannot function without evil people to defend defendants. But we couldn't have an inquisitorial system either, since, by similar reasoning, anyone who offers any argument in defense of a guilty person is also evil--even if they do not know the person to be guilty.

So I suppose we should be able to intuit the innocence or guilt of a defendant without holding a trial, since the very process of trying to determine guilt or innocence is inherently flawed.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I find "Keep America Safe" at least as worrisome as I find al Qaeda. There's no way for al Qaeda to win this thing. KAS and their ilk, on the other hand...they might very well win in the end. And then there will be no America at all in any important sense.