Tuesday, July 31, 2012

GOP Double Standard: Obama Criticized For Not Visiting Israel (Reagan and Bush Didn't, Either)

These people are simply so irrational, dogmatic and partisan, and they hate Obama so much, that they can't help seeing everything he does--or doesn't do--as an outrage. St. Ronny of the Teleprompter didn't visit; Bush '41 didn't, and Bush '43 didn't until the end of his second term. But it is, of course, an outrage--AN OUTRAGE--that Obama hasn't.

Though, I guess it does make sense that, if the GOP is going to turn our foreign policy over to Israel, maybe Presidents should visit more...just, y'know, to find out what we're going to do...

GOP Congressman Blasts GOP Deference to Extremists

You'd think there'd be more of this sort of thing...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dean Smith, Great Human Being

Well, basically everybody who knows anything about Carolina basketball knows that Dean Smith is a great person. Here's yet another story to that effect, from a story about David Hart, a student manager on the JV and varsity teams, and roommate of MJ:

“The night we won the national championship, the NCAA awarded watches to the winners. They had 22 watches they awarded in the ceremony after the game but when you counted players, coaches, one trainer and four managers, there were 23 of us and as the youngest manager I was the odd man out. I truthfully did not think a thing about that, because I was a kid who grew up in North Carolina and loved Carolina basketball. I would've paid for the privilege to do what I was doing,” Hart said.
“On the bus back to Chapel Hill from the airport the next day, Coach Guthridge told me that Coach Smith wanted to meet with me in his office, so could I come by at a certain time. I figured he was doing that for everybody to kind of wrap up the season, so I went not expecting anything. I walked in and he said, ‘You were as much a part of the team as anyone else,' and he handed me the box with his watch.
“It was his first national championship and here was a 5-9 kid who didn't score a point or contribute to the team winning other than being the best manager I could be, and yet he cared enough about me to get the same thing that Michael Jordan and James Worthy got. What a wonderful man. It just blew me away, and all it did was reinforce everything I've ever seen in the man and quite frankly, everything I ever saw in the next three years being around him.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Douthat on Guns and Prohibition

I am not entirely comfortable agreeing with Russ Douthat about things.

Douthat seems sane, and seems like a nice guy...and those two things alone are sufficient to make him one of the best conservative columnists in the country...but just about every time I read something he's written I disagree with him. So when I do agree with him, it makes me want to check my reasoning...

But agree with him I do, this time, at least.

Here's one point I thought was right on target, in response to Adam Gopnik's claim that resistance to gun control is a peculiarly American type of political madness:
 ...take it from a social conservative with a fair amount of experience in potentially lost causes: When you find yourself on the losing side of an argument that you used to be winning, accusing your opponents of being lunatics and nihilists isn’t usually the ideal way to turn the tide.
Word, Russ.

Firearm owners are not crazy, and the view that the populace should be armed in order to be able to resist a tyrannical government is not a crazy position. It's a position that is problematic--very problematic--but it is not insane.

Friday, July 27, 2012

False Equivalence Watch: Marc Fisher On Obama's Birth Certificate and Romney's Tax Returns


So, I have to disagree with Mr. Fisher's main claims in this piece.

First, I don't see that we've got anything like evidence of some general lack of trust in American society.

Second, no, there is no equivalence between the respective dust-ups about Obama's birth certificate and Romney's tax returns. The birthers are lunatics, driven by dogmatism and hatred of the President, who refuse to believe the absolutely conclusive evidence that has been presented to them. Those of us who would like to see Romney's tax returns have not been provided with the evidence. We're just asking to see the things. We're suspicious that he won't cough them up. And the request is perfectly reasonable and ordinary. Asking for evidence is not the same thing as ignoring conclusive evidence you've already been provided.

And, furthermore: MSNBC, whatever its flaws, is not the equivalent of Fox "News," and for the love of God, NPR is not the equivalent of Drudge. Jesus. The mind, it reeleth...

It's becoming harder and harder for me to resist the conclusion that the press is, in general, simply too gutless to even admit that crazy people and sane people are not equivalent. They're so afraid that the crazy people will call them unobjective that they're willing to maintain their equivalence axiom no matter how obvious its falsehood becomes.

It's really time that American journalists started acting like, y'know, journalists. Journalists elsewhere risk death to tell the truth. Our journalists are unwilling even to merely endure the scorn of lunatics and liars.

Upper-Class Twit of the Year: R-Money Bombs in Britain

From the Guardian (h/t Jared E)

From PoliticusUSA

"Another Dubya?" and "Worse than Palin" are just two among many scathing reviews of Romney's performance by our friends across the pond.

Good news to start your Friday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NRO: Evil Gosts Responsible for Aurora, CO Mass Murder

Not making that up.

The National Review's inimitable Kathryn Jean Lopez links to a piece (calling it "interesting") that hypothesizes that "demonic possession" might have been at play in the shooting. Demonic possession is real, we're assured by the piece in question. Oh, it's rare, sure, we're told...but...we just can't rule it out...

This is the sort of thing that is taken seriously by influential voices at influential publications across the aisle...

Though, OTOH, there is that Dennis Kucinich UFO incident, so...

[I followed another blog's link to all this...but I can't remember whose... H/t whoever you were...]

Perversapedia: Conservapedia on Bestiality


First off: Wow. Twelve sub-entries on bestiality. That's a lot of entries for a website that has only stubs on C. S. Peirce, Plotinus and Wittgenstein... Quite a bit of interest in bestiality at Conservapedia...

And check out the titles of the first three entries:

Atheism and Bestiality
Evolutionary Belief and Bestiality
Liberalism and Bestiality


Oh, man. You really just couldn't make this shit up.

But the very best part has to be that the entry begins: "The unbiblical act..." Now that's how you want your encyclopedia entries to look alright...

And permit me to regale you with an entire section from "Washington State and Bestiality":
Data on the no-religion population of Washington plus political makeup:
According to the CUNY 2000 religious survey, Washington was declared to have the second highest per capita number of people in the United States who answered "no religion" on a survey. 27% of the Washington state population declared they had "no religion". In addition, in 2007 the pro-evolution magazine the Scientific American said that Washington state did a "satisfactory/good" job of teaching evolution (see: Evolutionary belief and bestiality) 
See also: Atheism and bestiality 
A 2011 study reported by CNN indicated that Washington state was a politically liberal state (see: Liberalism and bestiality)

Fer chrissake. How are we supposed to run a respectable democracy when less than 100% of our citizens laugh out loud at stuff like this?


We're screwed.

Any possibility of building down the population a bit now?

Nah. Of course not...

Romney Team Issues Warning About The Mongol Horde

Washington, DC

Romney foreign policy advisor Rich Williamson speaking at the Brookings Institution warned that President Obama is not doing enough to protect the United States against the Mongol Horde.

"Listen," Williamson said, "these guys are no joke. They are a real threat to the U.S. I find it very puzzling that President Obama refuses to protect us in the way that the baby Jesus and the Founding Fathers intended."

Williamson also warned of threats from Xerxes, Napoleon, and "injuns."

538 Nate: Obama's Chance Of Winning: 65.9%

To R-Money's 34.1%

(There's no way to link directly to Silver's frequently-updated predictions in the sidebar, so I just linked to his latest story.)

Keep yr fingers crossed...

Why is the Campaign "Ugly" Compared to the Last 20 Years of Republican Politics?

So, there's this confused stuff.

But look: how is it that the campaign is "ugly" and "negative" compared to the last 20 years of psychopathic Republican politics? Compared to the seemingly non-stop delusional screeds of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck? The campaign to destroy Clinton? The campaign to destroy Obama?

This campaign is business as usual for the GOP--which means, lies, character assassination and accusations of being unAmerican. Obama has stretched the truth at points, but he's kept it largely in the ballpark. As usual, the Dems are notably less loathsome than the consistently terrible GOP.

There is, of course, the pervasive false equivalence axiom operating in the background. Obama has stretched the point about Romney and outsourcing; Romney is flat-out lying about "cronyism." Not to mention the pervasive accusations that Obama is unAmerican by Republican toadies. The two parties are not equivalently reprehensible on this score.

This isn't really an ugly campaign. It's business as usual for the GOP--and SOP for the press, which blames both parties for Republican viciousness.

Star of Romney's I-Did-It-All-Myself Ad Took Over $1 Million In Gov't Loans

LC points us to this gem.

So R-Money is desperate enough now to predicate whole ad campaigns on an obvious and intentional misinterpretation of of one sentence in one speech by Obama.

Wow...stop for a second and reflect on the utter contempt for democracy and the nation that that reveals... Utterly nauseating.

Anyhoo, turns out that Jack Gilchrist, the fellow in Romney's I-Did-It-All-Myself ad...took over a million bucks in government assistance for his business.

You're a regular Jack Galt, my friend.

This is, of course, in addition to the stuff Obama was talking about--the roads and bridges and other infrastructure and public education system and legal system, fire and police departments, etc. that we all collectively pitch in to build and maintain.

Again: no one--NO ONE--thinks that individual talent and initiative is not necessary for success in most (non-Paris-Hilton-esque) cases.

But it is not sufficient.

That was Obama's point.

And he was right.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obama: "You Didn't Build That"

As you know, the latest straw conservatives are grasping at is here, starting around 1:40.

The worst blog in Virginia is on this, too...

Here's what Obama said:
"Somebody helped build this incredible American system that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business...you didn't build that."

What is Obama saying that current business-owners didn't build? That is, what's "that" here?  It's very clear: "The incredible American system that allowed you to thrive," and: the roads and bridges.

What are conservatives saying that Obama is saying?
That current business-owners did not build their businesses.

Conservatives are lying again because...well...that's all they've got this time around. If they tell the truth, they lose. So here, as elsewhere, they're going with laughably dishonest attempt to pretend that Obama said something that he obviously didn't say--something that no one would say.

Obama's point is that individual initiative alone is not sufficient for success. Success is a function of two things: individual attributes and background conditions. Without both, you're not going to succeed. It doesn't matter how smart you are, you're not going to have much success if you live alone on a desert island, or in a country with bad roads, a corrupt government, no public education, etc. Good background conditions + little intelligence and/or initiative --> low probability of success. Similarly: lots of intelligence and/or initiative + crappy background conditions --> low probability of success.

The real difference between liberals and conservatives here is that very few liberals deny that individual intelligence and initiative is important for success. I've known a few lefties--folks way left of liberal--who thought that. But they're a different story entirely. But liberals acknowledge that background conditions are vitally important. Contemporary conservatives, however, either believe or are pretending to believe that individual initiative is sufficient for success, and that background conditions are irrelevant. I mean, hey, Microsoft could just as easily have happened in Ghana, right? Or Mongolia. Heck, what's really a mystery is why some really smart cave man didn't do it...  I mean, it's all about individual initiative, right?

One of the really loathsome things about all this is that conservatives are not merely denigrating the government here, they're denigrating the legacy bequeathed to us by past generations. Roads and bridges, houses and schools and public buildings, the legal system, patent law, secure borders, a system of public education...all the things that past generations worked to build to provide us with the opportunity to--so long as we're reasonably smart and industrious--succeed. Conservatives are, basically, saying that everything that our parents and grandparents and other fellow Americans did for us in the past is irrelevant.

What a crock of shit.

So the conservatives lose 3-0 on this one. They're:

A. Wrong about what Obama said
B. Wrong about the role of government in providing background conditions that enable success
C. Intellectually dishonest.

Wow. Total shut-out...

From On High: The Worst Blog in Virginia?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Go To Hell, Cat

Caterpillar is trying to rip off its employees despite record profits last year.

Like any good (former) redneck, I've got a Cat hat around here somewhere, and I can guarantee that it's going in (as we used to say back home) the shit can as soon as I find it.

Go to hell, Cat.

You suck.

And Godspeed, Machinists Local 851. My dad was a Machinist, and--though he hated the Machinists Union with a fiery passion--he always said that the only thing worse than the union was the company (McDonnell Douglas (aka "Mac," now Boeing) in his case).

Quoth my father: @!#$* those *%&#&@ing @#$*% **&@ers. They can *@#$ my #$%!@ing %*%&% and I hope they #$%*#@$ ^(*@&#$& @#$%*!&## %&#&@.

There needs to be some way to raise funds to support the union. I'm sure other multinationals are helping out Cat in subtle ways. If Cat can bust the union, it will benefit corporations generally. We need to figure out some way to help out the working men and women of the Cat plant in Joliet.

Chronicles of Gipperphilia: Naming the Ocean After Reagan

L. O. L.

Desperate for a Republican FDR, the GOP has decided Reagan--a second-rate actor and third-rate President--is the best they can do.

They've named everything that isn't nailed down after that...uh...respect the office if not the man....respect the office if not the man...person....and more than a few things that are.

Now they want to name the waters around the U.S. for the guy.

This crap has gone from infuriating to hilarious to pathetic...

(Incidentally: National Airport is still National. I do not acknowledge claims to the effect that it has been re-named after Reagan.)

NRA Supported CO Bill Banning Background Checks

One hardly knows what to say about this...

Should We Ban Super-High-Capacity Magazines?

Well, I always feel as if I need to point out that I'm a gun-owner and defender of the Second Amendment who is torn about several types of gun control...

Today's question: should we ban super-high-capacity (e.g. 100 round) magazines?

Pete Mack points us to this in comments: Ron Johnson (R-WI) arguing that we shouldn't, because, hey, there are already tons of 30-round mags out there which could have done just as much damage...  (A strange argument, that... Perhaps that means we should ban 30-round mags, too. And: 70 additional rounds don't make a difference? Well then, I guess 20 extra don't make a difference. So maybe we should only allow 10-round magazines? [edit: that is, if more rounds don't make a difference, why shouldn't gun owners be satisfied with 10 rounds? or 5? Or 1?])

One reason I advocate firearm ownership is because I think the populace should be able to defend itself against the government if necessary. You may not agree with that position, but that's a different discussion we can have at a different time. But that's a premise to which I'll help myself here and now.

On that assumption, we do have an interest in having relatively high-capacity magazines for, e.g., AR-15s. However it does seem that we can exercise a certain degree of judgment here. In the U.S. armed forces, M-16s and M-4s are typically issued (IIRC) with 30-round magazines. Supposing that's about right, might we not reasonably say that allowing 20-30 round magazines is good enough for the civilian population as well? And, so, that banning 30+-round magazines would be a reasonable thing to do?

There are some decent objections to such a proposal, but I don't think they're particularly powerful. I'll discuss them later, but, for now, I'll just leave that proposal on the table.

In brief:
If it's good enough for the military, it's good enough for civilians; 30 rounds are enough for combat purposes, and a ban on 30+-round magazines would not be unreasonable.

(Incidentally, I own several 20- and 30-round magazines for my own AR-15. Yes, they're fun to shoot. No, I don't think I really need them. But there it is, for full disclosure. I've never felt the urge to buy a bigger magazine, incidentally.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Better Off Unarmed: Bloomberg's Firearm Fallacy

Bloomberg sidles up to the Better Off Unarmed argument here:
”Do you really think that you’d be safe if anyone in the audience could pull out a gun and start shooting? I don’t think so,” Bloomberg said.
Would you be safe? Well, by hypothesis, you're not safe in the situation we're discussing. However and on average, you'd be safer if one of your fellow potential victims were armed.

Everything Bloomberg says in this piece is either false or irrelevant. Unfortunately Gohmert--a lunatic who blames the shooting on "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs"--is much closer to being right here. Way to go, Bloomberg. Blinded by your irrational commitments, you let yourself get hosed by this superstitious nut case.

The anti-gun folks simply have to quit pushing this point. It's not only making them looks stupid, it's making them stupid.

We might try to rehabilitate Bloomberg's point like so:

Yes, Gohmert is right. If there'd have been an armed sane person in the theater, it would have likely lowered the death toll. However, there are not and never will be enough people with legal CCWs to make it likely that any arbitrarily-selected mass shooting will be stopped by such a person. A better solution is to decrease the availability of guns, not increase it.

There are obvious objections to this response, but at least it is sensible, and does not force proponents of gun control to accept the patently absurd proposition that you are better off being unarmed if you are attacked by a murderer.

(Previous post on the Better Off Unarmed argument here.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weird Sh*t on Youtube: Seven Nation Army by...the Oak Ridge Boys

I am not making this up.

The Police Have No Duty To Protect You

In case you'd forgotten, the police have no duty to protect.

Just thought I'd remind us all of that, given that we're about to be deluged with outraged demands that we all disarm.

(Remember: I'm not opposed to all gun control!)

Bad Gun Control Arguments: Armed Citizens Are As Dangerous As Mass Murderers

I'm torn on the issue of gun control, but there are some unequivocally bad arguments on each side. We need to filter these arguments out from the get-go if we're ever going to make any progress in figuring this out.

One bad argument, which I'll call the Better Off Unarmed argument, is used in several different ways by those advocating gun control (e.g. it's used as an objection to the argument that law-abiding citizens with concealed firearms can help stop mass murders like the Colorado Batman shooting). The BOU argument goes roughly like this:
Consider a hypothetical mass shooting/mass murder. Suppose one or more of the potential victims was/were armed. Now, without training, and in the heat of the moment, these people, and their firearms, are likely to be ineffective against the murderer, likely to have their guns taken away from them, likely to shoot innocent people, perhaps even each other. So armed response to mass shooters won't work. So...etc.*
This is a bad argument. An armed citizen responding in such a case will simply not, on average, accidentally injure or kill nearly as many people as an armed murderer who is intentionally trying to kill people. [See EDIT below!!!]  But the BOU argument only works if you think that such a citizen will injure or kill more people. Sadly, in such debates we must grant that harm will occur, and we can only ask which option is likely to minimize it. Consequently, advocates of BOU are committed to the following position: suppose you are in a position to make a decision for a roomful of people who are about to be attacked by a maniacal mass murderer. You can choose for one of the potential victims to have a concealed weapon, or you can choose for everyone in the room to be unarmed. Advocates of BOU are committed to the claim that you should opt to leave the victims entirely unarmed. Arming them decreases their chance of survival. That, of course, is madness.

Note also that, if it were that easy to take guns away from shooters, we'd expect that more such shooters would have their guns taken away by their victims. Advocates of the BOU argument are committed, inconsistently, to a view according to which guns, in the hands of criminals, are terribly effective; when in the hands of those resisting such criminals, however, they are utterly ineffective and, in fact, counterproductive.

Needless to say, this doesn't settle the issue. But banishing the BOU argument from rational discussions would be a step in the right direction.

As Spencer notes, I didn't say what I meant/should have said. We need to compare:

(Attempted) mass murders in which there is no armed response by citizens


(Attempted) mass murders in which there is an armed response by citizens

What I meant to say above is that, on average, there will be fewer innocent deaths and injuries in the latter kind of case than in the former kind. What I actually wrote was egregiously imprecise and totally different.

I am hanging my head in shame.]

* One place this argument shows up is in an unutterably terrible and intellectually dishonest episode of 20/20, in which Diane Sawyer sets up an experiment to prove the relevant claim above. A few college kids are put in an absolute worst-case scenario, with paint guns shoved into their waistbands. They aren't informed that a police firearms instructor is about to barge into the room, knowing exactly where the "armed" student is sitting. Needless to say, the firearms instructor is able to best the student almost every time. The one time a student does shoot him, it's dismissed because she "only" hit him near his femoral artery... Another time, a result they don't like is dismissed because one of the students almost shot another student, who had been specifically instructed to run across his field of fire... It was a shameful bit of pseudo-science...
(An earlier post on that program)

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Colorado Batman Murders and Gun Control

I wish I had something intelligent to say about the mass murder at the showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.

On the one hand, I am firmly committed--and you should be, too--to the principle that the populace should have the capacity to resist the government with force. On the other hand, that means that the public should have access to very powerful, high-capacity firearms. Honestly, I'm not wild about either of the obvious options; I find myself unable to agree either with the NRA or with the Brady Campaign.

My current inclination--and a fairly long-standing one--is to think that we should do more to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and people with mental problems. Obviously criminals and the insane (two largely co-extensive groups) already have access to illegal weapons. And that's a problem that cannot be easily solved. It sounds as if the Batman shooter, however, bought all of his weapons legally and recently.

Perhaps the only real options are (1) thorough-going gun control--which is never going to happen in the U.S. (and which I myself would oppose)--and (2) increasing the number of sane people who are armed. Two non-great options.

I often feel guilty that I've never applied for my CCW. My brother has one, and goes most places armed. He never thinks he'll need it, but he feels obligated to be prepared, just in case. Armor or no, had he of someone like him been in the theater, fewer people would have been harmed. The thing is, few people are dedicated enough to tote around a handgun. They're very inconvenient to carry, especially in hot weather. They're heavy. They're oily. People freak out if they see them. It's just not a very good solution.

This is a tough problem. I simply don't see any good solution.

And that's all I have to say.

Save the Guinea Worm!

These people are insane.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lost Boys

Wikipedia entry  [link fixed]

Young males kicked out of polygamous Mormon communities in order to free up more females for the older males.

That's some messed up sh*t right there...

Romney and Company: Lying Scumbags


Sooo....the best they can do is a lame ad lying about what Obama said.

And their weak, desperate toadies think this is "the best political ad of the last 30 years"?

Man. That's desperation right there.

The American right is now dangerously deranged, and with every campaign they show that they are more willing to destroy the foundation of trust, rationality and good will that is essential for democracy.

This truly is the party of Rush Limbaugh.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a Nut

In case you needed any more proof, here's TPM summarizing this moron's latest "press conference" on Obama's birth certificate.

Anybody this incapable of assessing the strength of evidence is unqualified to be a sheriff. He's just an annoyance to most of us...but pity the poor people of Maricopa county, over whom this guy has actual power.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wingnut Lunacy Infects Egypt

Rachel Maddow on how Glenn Beck et. al.'s conspiracy theory about Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood has infected some anti-American groups in Egypt.

Crazy really is like a mind virus. It's rampant on the American right, and now its spilling over into other vulnerable populations. The ME is already susceptible to wacky conspiracy theories. The fever swamp crazy isn't just a domestic issue anymore.

(h/t The Mystic)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Obama Gives Yellowstone National Park to United Nations!

The company my brother worked for went out of business about five years ago mostly as a result of mismanagement. For most of that time, he's worked part-time at a gun shop to get by. (Southeast MO has been hit even harder than most placed by the recession and its aftermath.)

He has to put up with his co-workers and most of his customers gibbering right-wing talking points much of the day. He tries to tune out, but it's gotten so bad that, despite having no other current job options, he's probably going to have to quit. He just can't stand it anymore. I really should have been posting his stories all along...they really are unbelievable..

This week's buzz has largely been about something the liberal media hasn't told you about...President Obama has given Yellowstone National Park to the United Nations!

Hard to believe, eh?

Now, this, like so many things these guys are outraged about, doesn't have even the vaguest hint of plausibility about it. It can easily be disconfirmed with a bit of Googling. And you'd have to be a complete moron to think it has even a 1% chance of being true. Yet these guys buy it.

There is more crazy in the fever swamps than most of us realize...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Air Conditioning Problem


I love air conditioning. I've lived all my life in states that are hot and humid in the summer, and I find it hard to live without a/c.

But man...we as a country really do have to do something about our a/c addiction. I'm repeatedly amazed by stores and hotels--the fancier they are, the bigger offenders they seem to be--that are freezing in the summer. We stayed at a Sheraton in Midlothian recently where our room a/c was set at 69 degrees when we walked into it. It was 102 outside, and freezing inside...and freezing throughout the entire, huge, sparsely-occupied hotel. The bed, I noted, did not have a sheet per se, just a big, thick comforter encased in sheets. So the idea seems to be: use the a/c to get the room so cold that you have to use a comforter...while it is 100 outside.

See, this is the kind of thing we could stop doing with no loss. It is stupid. We're not even really talking conservation here, we're talking about not doing things that don't make any sense at all, and such that the absence of them will not only not make us less comfortable, but will make us more comfortable.

And don't even get me started on the people sitting in their SUVs outside of stores running the a/c while someone else shops inside...  Jesus, we are a stupid people...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Obama at +8 in the OD


And I had no idea that Virgil Goode is the nominee of The Constitution Party. If he qualifies for the ballot in VA, it's Obama 49-35.

Hot damn. That's good(e) news!*

* 'Goode,' for you non-Virginians out there, is not pronounced like 'good,' but, rather like 'goo' with a 'd' on the end.

Louisiana Republican Discovers Christianity Is Not The Only Religion, Decides Public Money Should Not Go To Religious Schools


I mean, nobody has any doubt that the GOP's devotion to pushing religion in the public square is really a commitment to pushing Christianity, right? But man...they rarely get busted for it in such an obvious fashion...

Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?


Tough to figure out from this column, but it seems as if much of it has to do with the fact that more conservatives are married, more are religious, and more have kids. Three strikes for me, happiness-wise...

Seems to be hard for people to resist trying to spin this in favor of their favored group. Since I doubt that happiness and virtue go together, there's nothing here that makes me want to spin anything.

Again: There Is No Voter Fraud In America

I've posted this from the Brennan Center before.

The odds of some arbitrarily-selected person committing voter fraud are somewhere in the vicinity of the odds of such a person being struck by lightning.

This is a case in which the conclusion is clear: GOP efforts to make it harder to vote are aimed at suppressing Democratic turnout, not at decreasing voter fraud.

There Is No Voter Fraud In America

I can't believe that I used to worry about this stuff.

But, as you probably already know: there is, in essence, no voter fraud in the U.S. In fact, it's downright astonishing how little there is.

What that means is that Republican efforts to make it harder to vote are, in fact, efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic.

My God these people are corrupt.

We Don't Need No Stinking Thinking

This passage from the Texas GOP platform has been making the rounds for a week or so, most recently showing up in a Valerie Strauss column in the Post:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
Wow. A toxic stew of stupidity and confusion. (Of course, the same could be said of most pedagogical fads and edu-babble...)

There are many other, equally-scary passages in this lunatic document. Here are some examples that showed up on Reddit:
Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.
American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism."
Here's another one Strauss cites:
Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
That might sounds pretty good if you didn't know what it was really supposed to mean. One of the most effective tools of the dogmatist is the differential application of criticism. Typically in high school, you just learn the expert consensus about any given issue. But if expert consensus supports evolution or the view that climate change is significantly anthropogenic...wellsir, then you need to look at all the arguments against the consensus. So that you can...er...think critically about...uh...wait...

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Martial Arts Voodoo


I love that we're told like six times that LIBRUL ACTIVISTS who have passed laws allowing illegal alien gangs and TERRORISTS to rule our streets are up in arms about this AMAZING COMBAT SYSTEM!!!111 And want it BANNED!

Also, it's SO EFFECTIVE that EVEN YOUR GRANDMA can become a killing machine JUST BY WATCHING THIS AWESOMEZT VIDEO!!!111111

Oh and: you only have a FOUR PERCENT CHANCE of successfully defending yourself even if you have a gun! LOOOOL  (Of course, you've got a zero percent chance if you base your self-defense efforts on crap like that stuff...so you might want to get a gun and be happy with your 4%...)

What unmitigated bullshit. Not that anyone here would every take such nonsense seriously. But it does repeatedly amaze me that people think that you can learn to fight effectively by watching a video or taking a class or two. Would anyone believe that you can learn to hold your own in the average pickup basketball game by watching a video or taking two or three classes?

I once found myself in a discussion with a 50-year old, super-meek vegetarian dude who weighed like 100 pounds, and who was eager to tell me about his Aikido class, which, he claimed, had taught him so much that he was confident that he could win almost any fight. He enthusiastically told me about the awesomeness of his instructor. Her most amazing ability, as it turned out, was the ability to throw people without touching them. I tried to, very gently, explain to the guy that there was simply no chance that this was true, and that I was worried that he was setting himself up to get hurt if he ever did have the misfortune of being in a fight. (Actually: he'd get massacred.) To top the whole weird thing off, though I'm not a particularly intimidating-looking person, and though I was being super-duper nicey-nice about the whole thing, the guy actually started to look afraid of me. That really freaked me out. Very strange conversation...

Anyway. Don't fall for self-defense bullshit like that on the other end of the link. Learning to be good at chop socky takes lots of training. You've got to find a good school (which is kind of hard), avoid the bullshitters, and train quite a bit. It's not some magic power you learn in a day that makes you invulnerable forever. It's a set of athletic skills that require lots of training.

Vice: Greatest American

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Back From Berkeley


Whew. What a trip. The IARPA meeting was productive and interesting. We all stayed at the awesome Berkeley faculty club--extremely pleasant, hospitable digs. The days ran long, so I mostly just ate at the faculty club, and availed myself little of the legendary Berkeley eateries. I'd never seen the Cal campus before, and, with apologies to Carolina and UVa, I must proclaim it the most beautiful I've ever seen. Redwoods right on campus! And the Eucalypts! The trees in general, in fact, were just fantastic.

We got up to Muir Woods one day, and that was just astounding. I've longed to see redwoods since I was a kid...absurd that it's taken me so long...

Had about two days in San Francisco, where I got to meet Myca IRL, not to mention the lovely and charming Mrs. Myca. This was my first IRL meeting with someone met through the blog. Good conversation, good burgers, spiked shakes...very enjoyable. (Thanks again, M and Mrs. M!)

Then from the wonderful SF weather back to...the worst the OD has to offer...100s and off-the-scale humidity...  Yeargh. Now I see why everybody loves California...