Archive for September, 2009

The real David Attenborough

September 30, 2009

There’s definitely something creepy about how he looks at those birds.


Health care reform

September 30, 2009

There are a couple of aspects of health care reform I don’t think I’ve heard much about in the ongoing debate. Actually there are probably a lot more than just a couple, but two in particular I just wanted to briefly mention.

One would be the words “signing statement.” Remember those laws passed by Congress during the Bush administration which did things like restrict things like warantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and then Bush would sign it attached to a statement which clarified the legislation as being interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what it actually said? Bush set a record with the sheer number of those signing statements. It was big news for a while back then.

So I’m not saying that Obama should do that as a way to force in a viable public option. But has anyone even mentioned it? All I’m finding is that he claimed to want to weaken the executive power involved in signing statements, but then used exactly that power to weaken whistle-blower protection, among a few others. But nothing about health care reform in regards to signing statements.

The other issue is that if we actually do get a public option, viable or not, there is a danger that the “alternative medicine” industry will try to capitalize on that and get even more subsidies for their quackery than they already have. The Center for Inquiry has released a report (PDF) warning of the dangers of funding “alternative medicine” alternatives to medicine garbage.

On the one hand, lots of other government-funded scientific organizations successfully avoid woo in their studies. NASA doesn’t have to study astrology. The US Geological Survey doesn’t have to entertain flat Earth or expanding Earth “theories.” The American Institute of Physics doesn’t have to invest in alleged perpetual motion machines.

But on the other hand, the “alternative medicine” industry has something that flat Earthers and perpetual motion machine scammers and astrologers don’t – lots and lots of money and political influence. So there really needs to be some stipulation in whatever health care reform gets passed – if it even does – where methods of treatment will need to be tested and will need to pass those tests. And they’ll need to be double-blinded with proper controls. Anecdotes and testimonials can not be good enough.

Sure, people like Bill Maher and Jenny McCarthy and Kevin Trudeau will claim this is all part of a conspiracy to outlaw their useless “medicine,” but so what? Fuck them. There is real danger in allowing that into a government supported health care system. One is that obviously we’re going to be forced to pay for treatments that don’t work, and the other is that it will make true all the conservatives’ claims that government can’t run health care. Because in that case, they’ll be right.

Today is Blasphemy Day

September 30, 2009
OK, buddy. As long as its this God thing punishing us and not you.

OK, buddy. As long as it's this "God" thing punishing us and not you.

Four years ago today, some Danish newspaper printed some drawings of Mohammed and yada yada yada, a bunch of people burned shit down and then yada yada yada, now it’s Blasphemy Day.

The Center for Inquiry is having a Blasphemy Contest. The deadline is midnight tonight for verbal submissions (< 20 words), and the cartoon version is yet to be fully described.

There have been a lot of issues regarding blasphemy still, which is just completely fucking insane. This isn’t just about remembering some cruel past where people were severely punished or even killed because of what they said.

In the “liberated” Afghanistan, 24 year old journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh was given a 20 year sentence for blasphemy. His “crime” was in downloading an article which was critical of Islam’s treatment of women. Although, to be fair, he was recently pardoned by Karzai.

In India, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been involved in attacks on women in pubs. They were said to be acting “obscenely.” By drinking with men to whom they were not married. That’s “obscene.” This is where you end up when you start allowing people to think they have a right to not be offended by anything ever.

The BJP then started a War On Valentine’s Day by trying to intimidate non-married couples from going out in public and maybe doing something OBSCENE like kissing or holding hands or something AWFUL like that. So some opponents of the BJP and their supporters started a campaign to send BJP leaders pairs of old ladies’ pink underwear.

And this past July, Ireland passed an anti-blasphemy law which made it a crime to cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents” of the religion so blasphemed. Since this is the nice, civilized western world, instead of decades in some of the worst prisons in the world, “offenders” are to be charged with a €100,000 €25,000 fine. There is now a campaign to repeal this legislation.

So celebrate Blasphemy Day today by offending someone. Not just anyone. Try to find someone who thinks they have a right to not hear about any ideas that might offend them and show them that they have no such right. Because if they did, nobody could ever say anything ever, since what we consider to be offensive is subjective. I might find the idea of another “National Treasure” movie offensive and nauseating, but that doesn’t mean I should be able to have Jerry Bruckheimer arrested.

Or should I? Does he ever travel to Ireland? Maybe these blasphemy laws have an upside after all.

Follow-up: “Faith is no reason”

I get search engine terms.

September 29, 2009
  • Nanobots will destroy us all
  • Is Ray Comfort retarded?
  • I detest Glenn Beck
  • The holy nanobots
  • Are nanobots in vaccine?
  • Nanobots enemy of man kind
  • Nanobots in seasonal flu shot
  • Radiohead not enslave us
  • Sad monkey

There were actually several dealing with the idea that the government would actually be injecting nanobots into the H1N1 vaccine in order to (why else?) enslave us all.

So I kind of had to do the search myself to see where this idea was coming from. Here’s a comment from a freeper thread:

“I heard that the whole swine flu thing was man-made in order to get people to take the vaccine, which is really made up from nanobots that will be used for universal mind-control, and Obama is behind it.”

To be fair, the other freepers mocked him, although pretty gently. One even said that he was wrong because it was “childish” to think that the nanobots in the H1N1 thing was in order to induce mind control. A much more adult approach, according to him or her, was that it’s all about population control. One thing I don’t get about people espousing this population control conspiracy idea is that since the population is steadily increasing, whoever is running this alleged conspiracy must be comically incompetent.

There were also returns from things called Godlike Productions and Survivalist Boards. Completely rational and upstanding ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure.


September 28, 2009

“By “library smut” I am in no way referring to the photo books on native peoples, or the illustrated health manuals, or any of the other volumes which, in your childhood, you lurked about the library aisle to find with the sole purpose of sneaking guilty glances at naked bodies. Nor am I referring to the “risqué” novels by Miller, Cleland, Réage, or Lawrence you leafed impatiently through as a teenager. No. What I’m talking about here is the full-frontal objectification of the library itself. Oh yeah.”

Monday Music Recommendation

September 28, 2009

Bomb the Music Industry! – Scrambles (2009)

This album actually came out earlier this year, but I’m going to recommend it anyway because I couldn’t find anything decent that came out this week. I say that now but I know that in a month or two I will regret it.

If you listen to this album and don’t like it, turn it off and forget all about it immediately. All of their music is incredibly catchy and very difficult to get out of your head once it’s there. So be careful. You have been warned.

You can download the album by clicking the artwork above, and donate to the band if you’re so inclined by clicking here.  And you can listen to one of the songs from this album with the media player below. I usually like to put a video of a live performance at this point, but honestly the audio quality on the videos I was able to find is pretty awful.

Similar: Intro5pect – Record Profits

AI Will Enslave Us All

September 27, 2009

The Singularity Institute is having their Singularity Summit next weekend in NYC. I learned about this from the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe show where SI President Michael Vassar was interviewed.

I’m really not sure what to think about the SI. They seem to exist in some no-man’s-land between kookiness and practical planning for the future. Dr Novella of the SGU tried to get Vassar to explain how we can expect to allow for AI tech to recursively self-improve without constraint and at the same time be reasonably sure they won’t turn on us and use humans for batteries.I’m not sure that Vassar explained that very well. He seemed to be jumping back and forth between different semantical games – that creating AI so that it couldn’t follow a certain path once it begins to improve itself isn’t really constraining it. But then again it’s probably more likely that I’m just too dumb to get it.

The interview portion of the show linked to above starts at about 26 minutes in.

Criminals of the week, part II

September 27, 2009

I really should have waited to do a top five or something.

Finely Autotuned Universe

September 27, 2009

You can download the song here.


Obama hates something I’m afraid to talk about

September 27, 2009
Katie Couric: Gots purdy teeth. Purdy mouth, too.

Katie Couric: Gots purdy teeth. Purdy mouth, too.

I have to admit I was pretty skeptical when Katie Couric took a top spot at CBS. She was taking the position once held by Walter Cronkite, and she had never even been in a war zone before. It looked exactly like CBS was just putting a purdy face on the evening news in order to get young’uns watching that there teevee again.

But she’s been pretty steadily proving my instincts wrong. Here is a great example:

The only way that would’ve been better would be if she had just pulled out a gun, asked him what country he was from, that What wasn’t no country she ever heard of, etc…

As someone who is supposed to know something about journalism, Beck should really know better than to pretend this was an unfair question. He wasn’t asking a question, as he tried to defend himself as doing. He said that he thought Obama hated “white culture.” So it’s fair to ask what exactly he meant by “white culture.” He could’ve said that he misspoke, or that he could’ve chosen better words, and then clarified, but he didn’t want to do that. When he says something like that, it’s in his interest to keep his meaning unclear so that his audience can fill in the blanks for him.

I also love how at the end he’s pretending to think that asking “tough questions” is so important for Americans. Yes, we should ask tough questions; just don’t ask Glenn Beck any tough questions. It might hurt his feelings.

Talkin ’bout yo momma!

September 25, 2009

Best criminals this week

September 25, 2009

Atheism is worse than murder

September 25, 2009

There’s this website called What Does the Internet Think? Here are some funny results:

The internet is mainly positive on the subject of murder

The internet is mainly positive on the subject of murder.

The internet is mainly negative on the subject of atheism.

The internet is mainly negative on the subject of atheism.

Atheism is worse than murder.

Think For Yourself

September 25, 2009

George Hrab is great:

Same song with a band available here.

Similar: Jonathan Coulton

Only half of American adults want H1N1 vaccine

September 24, 2009

The other half are just dumb, apparently. To be fair, this was an internet study so the results might be a bit biased.

But then I have to wonder about that, because it’s not like half of Americans read “Natural News” and other New Age crackpots. So where does this irrational fear come from?

Debbie Goddard at the Center For Inquiry might have an answer to that question. She received an email from some pastor about the role of the H1N1 vaccine in the “End Times.” He hilariously describes his “vision” showing him that, although he thought he was amongst sheep, they were really WOLVES IN DISGUISE!!!!!! Get it?  They looked like sheep, but they were really wolves in disguise. It’s almost as if they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.

After this revelation, God did that authorial intrusion thing it sometimes does:

Here, God spoke to me saying ‘my son, every person will be asked to compulsorily take immunization against the swine flu in the next few days. This is a disguise. They will in the process be infected with demons from the abyss; all who do not have my spirit and my seal upon them. Yes, it will be such that that they will receive a deadly spirit inoculated into them.

Two things occur to me:

  1. Did Mesac Damas get an advance version of the “deadly spirit” injection? Is that how the devil got him?
  2. God’s promise about every person being forced to vaccinate against H1N1 sounds like a testable claim. If this actually happens “in the next few days,” I will sell everything I own and become a mindless servant to this pastor. Actually, I’ll be generous and interpret “the next few days” as being until the end of flu season.

On that second point, I wonder if this pastor will admit he was mistaken in his “vision” if everyone is not forced to vaccinate. I guess we will have to wait and see. [UPDATE: Good debunking of H1N1 antivaccine fears here]