Archive for July, 2010

Look at this fucking slow-motion video of lightning

July 31, 2010



Krystof on the cost of the war in Afghanistan

July 31, 2010

Nicholas Krystoff of the NY Times has a great article on the cost of the US’ longest war / military occupation. It plays on an angle that is, if you ask me, kind of missing the point; but it appeals to the more xenophobic of our population, and it turns out that there are a lot more of them than which most of us would be comfortable. To me, the stronger appeal of stopping the war is in that it’s causing more unnecessary harm than good. I could imagine a case being made for it if that were not the case even if the cost were great.

He starts off with a pretty simple fact:

The war in Afghanistan will consume more money this year alone than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War — combined.

Now you’re probably thinking that’s an obvious statement since he’s probably only talking about the cost of those wars in terms of the rate of inflation of those times. But those are all adjusted for inflation before you even combine them, according to this report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service. And that’s just this year – we’ve already had 8 other years leading up to this one.

Some other comparisons of costs really bring home the waste of the military occupation of Afghanistan. The money spent on deploying a single soldier there could be used to build 20 schools. A single cruise missile’s price tag is equivalent to 11 schools. And really, which is more corrosive to fundamentalist Islam: Cruise missiles that kill families and give recruiting slogans to al Qaeda, or education? As long as we’re not talking about the Wahabi madrasahs that get funded by outsiders and the Taliban in the absence of secular education, the latter’s bound to work and the former is bound to fail.

And it has failed, and failed hard. Today’s the last day of July, and this month has set a new record for US casualties in Afghanistan. The old record? Well, that was June, 2010. So much for winning their hearts and minds. Obama can fire all the generals and tweak all the knobs he wants, but this war’s going to remain a complete and utter failure when it’s pursued in this way.

Bill Murray to cause apocalypse in an obscure way

July 28, 2010

The good folks at ChristWire are really mad at Bill Murray. So they’re trying to get people to boycott him. You might think Murray did something recently that really set them off. But no. They’re just angry at his whole body of work and his personality. They’re so enraged… How enraged are they?… Well, this much:

He is a weak man, a murderer of lambs, a despicable hedonist who waves the white flag welcoming the end of American moral and economic primacy. He is a harbinger of our death as a culture, the death of that preëminent philosophy of faith married to capitalism that has saved the world countless times from repression and annihilation. Bill Murray is a fatal disease and the sad news we bring you today is that your children have been infected.

The bold print is in the original.

Oh, but it gets better when the author starts fantasizing about being raped by Bill Murray. Seriously:

When you see this man on screen, his eyes wander all over you like a caged New York City rat. They seek out your curves and muscles with eerie desire. Those are not the eyes of someone you can trust. His mischievous grin suggests rape and sex and wanting to violate any thing he comes into contact with in the dead of night. He seems willing to say whatever it takes to get you where he wants to go, both physically and intellectually. Many of my fellow journalists have reported their fear of this man and his wicked charm, the way he works his way into the depths of your life, gets you to confess your darkest secrets.

Dr. Freud, call for you on line two.

OK, that’s hilarious, of course. Now the best part of these kinds of screeds is how you can tell that the author is really overpowered by their emotions, while at the same time want to give the impression that they’re literate and educated. And these two factors just trainwreck in the closing paragraph, just before the quote from Revelation. This time the added emphasis is mine:

Or has Bill Murray come to the grand revelation himself that he is desperately clawing against his own mortality with half-hearted sexual perversion and intellectual degeneracy, wandering drunken through the night, without passion or direction, already lost to the game of life. He is defeat. He has given up making meaningful gestures of faith or righteousness to instead nest in those small moments of self-satisfaction before he slips into the quiet bosom of obscurity. There is no denying that this grotesque and dangerous creature can be described as nothing less than one of the four horsemen of America’s impending Apocalypse.

Well, which is it? Is Bill Murray a horseman of America’s impending apocalypse? Or is he slipping into the quiet boom of obscurity? I don’t think that the author believes that the America’s impeding apocalypse is an obscure event. So it’s got to be one or the other.

Of course, to people who buy into this kind of stuff, it doesn’t matter if even two consecutive sentences are consistent. That’s not the point. The point is that they’re mad. They don’t even care if they’ve formed a comprehensible case for getting so worked up in the first place. And when you just appeal straight to people’s emotions, pretty much anything flies – even a Bill Murray boycott.

UPDATE: OK, I’ve looked more extensively through ChristWire‘s stuff, and I’m now about 90% sure that it’s satirical in the same sense as Landover Baptist or Objective Ministries. So now the egg is on my face.

WikiLeaks publishes tens of thousands of documents detailing the harrowing inside story of Lindsay Lohan’s imprisonment

July 27, 2010

(WASHINGTON, DC) The whistleblower group WikiLeaks released to three major newspapers this weekend tens of thousands of leaked internal documents which detail the first few days of Lindsay Lohan’s imprisonment in Lynwood, CA.

The documents detail incidents of Lindsay Lohan crying, and some of the conversations the actress had with her fellow prisoners in neighboring cells. There are even some of the menus from the prison’s kitchen; meals which the former child star reportedly described as “unpalatable garbage.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs earlier today condemned WikiLeaks at a press conference.

“I think WikiLeaks should concentrate on ways of disagreeing with Ms. Lohan which are legal and which do not put our future reality television stars in danger,” Gibbs remarked to a question from the NY Times. Staring off into a far corner of the room he continued, “These people keep us safe from the.. uh…” At this point, Gibbs wandered off mic and out of the room, oblivious to the gathered reporters’ urges to continue with the conference.

President Obama later made a statement claiming that the WikiLeaks documents give no new information on Lohan’s imprisonment, but that he is very concerned with how they may endanger the ability of the inexplicably famous to serve relatively small prison terms. The President said that he is worried that this will endanger national security, and will proceed immediately to destroy the internet with predator drones.

Australian witch uses the Kent Hovind defense

July 27, 2010

In the article, the reporter calls it the “alien defense.” What happened is that a witch from a city called Geelong, which is near Melbourne, tried to escape a traffic stop by claiming that since she was a being of another world and therefore earthly laws didn’t apply to her. From the Mercury:

“Your laws and penalties don’t apply to me. I’m not accepting them, I’m sorry, I must go, thank you,” Eilish De Avalon said, driving off with the officer’s arm caught in her driver’s side door.

The cop grabbed the keys from the car’s ignition so the witch couldn’t escape to her other world.

So the reason I called it the Kent Hovind defense is because when that creationist was hauled into court for not paying his taxes, he tried a similar line of reasoning.

But anyway, this is about Eilish De Avalon, not Kent Hovind. I found her website (“Temple of Eilish,” lulz) via the “Natural Therapy Pages.” Apparently she’s into some pretty antisocial behavior in her day to day “work” too, and not just when she gets pulled over by a cop for talking on a cell phone while driving, where she then tries to escape, hospitalizing the cop in the process.

Here’s what the “Natural Therapy Pages” have to say about her:

Eilish De’Avalon is a Spiritual Healer, Reiki Master, Hawaiian Bodywork Massage Therapist, Level 2 SFEF Kinesiology Practitioner (with SFEFopathy), Meditation Teacher, Auric / chakra Diagnostician, Colour Therapist, Spirit Medium, Clairvoyant Tarot Card Reader, Holistic Beauty Therapist as well as an ordained Pagan Priestess/Civil Marriage Celebrant for all your sacred ceremony needs.

Remember, this is a sympathetic reading of what she does. They’re not making fun of her.

On her website she offers some further services, one of which is called a “Fairygram,” so I just had to check that out. And it’s pretty much what you might expect. She will send a woman dressed as a fairy to read poetry or sing. She recommends this for children and old people and everyone in between, and that it be done for anything from love to revenge, promising “public humiliation” upon request. It’s fun for the whole family!

This is the picture advertising for (not against) the "fairygram."

You just never know what you didn’t need until you hear about what you didn’t need.

This is so Canadian

July 27, 2010

This has all the trappings of those lame “Black guys are like… and white guys are like…” jokes, except that it’s more like “Americans get drunk and shoot at each other, but Canadians get drunk and call 911 demanding that the police get their local hockey team back.” From the Winnipeg Free Press:

“He began the conversation by saying he wanted the Jets back. He was quite upset about it,” a justice source told the Free Press on Wednesday…
The final straw came when the man began insulting the 911 operator, eventually calling her a crude name. She warned him that his number had been traced and police were being sent out to arrest him.
“If you’re coming to get me, can you bring me some smokes,” was his reply.

And you know what? I bet those police did bring that guy his cigarettes.

Evil genie possesses young adult, father forced to lock him in basement for six years

July 26, 2010

The only news source I can find on this story is the notoriously awful Daily Fail so this should be taken with a grain of salt, I guess. From the Daily Mail:

A Saudi man has been chained in a basement apartment for more than six years because his father believes he is possessed by an evil female genie.

The victim here is referred to as Turki, and he’s 29. His father – who’s unnamed in the article for some bizarre reason – claims that he went into convulsions where his eyes went completely white. It sounds like he was having some kind of a seizure and his eyes rolled back.

At first his father took him to a mosque so that some clerics could read the Koran at him. Then Turki started speaking in a female voice, telling him that he was a Jinn and that the only way to exorcise him was to kill Turki. The clerics had a better idea: chain Turki up in the basement and continue reading the Koran at him. And that’s what his father did.

It’s funny how these specific kinds of demonic possessions only seem to happen where the culture is already immersed in stories about them. Why don’t Jinns ever seem to possess Canadians or Norwegians? You would think that this might give pause to people like this unfortunate guy’s father, or even the clerics. The Daily Fail even accidentally offers some further insight on this issue:

Turki’s father claimed he himself was afflicted by a jinn at the age of nine and suffered for more than four decades until it was exorcised by a cleric.
‘I used to see a woman who would at times appear very beautiful and at times extremely ugly,’ he said.

It sounds a lot like those people who would say that they had been abducted by UFOs and then years later the aliens would come back for their children. But those alleged abductions seem to be more of an American phenomenon. It never seems to happen in Saudi Arabia. There you get Jinn possessions instead. And we never seem to get Jinn possessions here in America.

Again, that should give pause to the people making these claims. They should explore the possibility that all of the various mythical interpretations are wrong, and that the victims here are experiencing some kind of natural, earthly phenomenon. And the best way to explore those kinds of problems is with a medical doctor and not ignorant peddlers of superstition.

Alvin Greene has a music video

July 24, 2010

Oh shit, yo! This hot new jam from Alvin Greene is off the hook! It just dropped yesterday when it flew onto the YouTube in a DeLorean DMC-12 from the early 1980s.

Although the esteemed candidate endorsed it on The Twitter, it’s very unlikely that he had anything to do with either the writing or production. For one he’s probably a busy guy right now, if only from media appearances. And secondly, he doesn’t seem to get the humorous appeal of his campaign at all, so the self-depreciating humor doesn’t fit with his style.

In case you can’t make out the auto-tuned parts and really want to sing along (you know you do), here are all of the dope rhymes:

When I say “Alvin,” you say “Greene.”
Alvin! Greene! Alvin! Greene!
When I say “Alvin,” you say “Greene.”
Alvin Greene for Senator!

Listen up everybody, ’cause I’m here to say
If you’re tired of the government you have today
And you wanna big change in a major way
Then vote Alvin Greene on Election Day!

Jobs! Education! Justice, too!
My man Al knows what’s best for you
So come together party people, both red and blue
And don’t believe the rumors that are just not true.

Well, Greene’s a new face in politics,
And he don’t show porno to college chicks.
But he’s got some ideas that’ll fix the state,
So open up your minds and stop the hate.

Time to dig down deep in your wallet or purse.
It can only get better and it can’t get worse.
Shake up DC, sat in the church,
And put me, you and Alvin Greene back to work!

Well, let’s talk about the issues one time –
Makin’ sure the punishment fits the crime!
And if you don’t think that’s cool enough –
He’s gonna give lots of money to the schools and stuff!

Real family values those are rad –
He loves family and lives with his mom and dad!
November’s coming, it’s time to choose –
And Jim DeMint should be ready to lose!

Alvin Greene, is on the scene.
Gotta get out and vote, if you know what I mean.
Alvin Greene is the one for you.
He knows how you feel ’cause he’s unemployed, too.

Alvin Greene is the natural choice.
Don’t listen to the folks that make fun of his voice.
Alvin Greene, his campaign’s legit,
And you know this great nation will benefit!

US Senate does something undeniably good for once

July 23, 2010

UPDATE: This bill is now a law.

A while back I wrote about the case of Simon Singh and his battle with chiropractors and the UK’s terrible libel laws. One thing I neglected to mention was a further ramification to the British legal system when it comes to libel laws – the possibility and practice of something called libel tourism.

Let’s say I wrote a book called Osama bin Laden is a Big Stupid Jerkface for an American publisher. And in it, I wrote about why I think bin Laden’s a big stupid jerkface. Then someone who didn’t like me saying that could obtain a copy of my book from a British distributor and then sue me under the UK’s jurisprudence even though both my publisher and I are American. That’s libel tourism.

Well earlier this week, the US Senate passed a bill regarding this issue which is now on its way through the House of Representatives. From the Agence France-Presse:

The measure would prevent US federal courts from recognizing or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
It would bar foreign parties in such cases from targeting the US assets of an American author, journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.

And what makes this even better is that it was passed with unanimous consent, which means that both Democrats and Republicans were all like this:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is reporting that this law, which is co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is in response to a book called Funding Evil by Rachel Ehrenfeld. Ehrenfeld was sued by a Saudi billionaire she accused of funding terrorism under British jurisprudence. She now hopes that this legislation will pass the House and set off a ripple effect both within the UK itself and in former British colonies which adopted their backwards legal system.


July 23, 2010

  • The Onion: Repeal Of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Paves Way For Gay Sex Right On Battlefield, Opponents Fantasize
  • Video: Hitler sees a double rainbow
  • NY Times: Mark Twain’s autobiography will be released later this year, 100 years after his death
  • Wonkette: Tom Vilsack Fires Shirley Sherrod As the Summer of Firings Over Nothing Continues
  • Discovery: Phil Plait has a new show called Bad Universe
  • ComicCon: Nerds vs. Westboro Baptist Church

Sylvia Browne’s Q & BS

July 21, 2010

Sylvia Browne recently trolled Orange County and the local press were successfully baited into giving her free advertising for her new book about how she lived in “two worlds.”

“I want people to know that I’m a real person,” Browne says of her motivation to write her new memoir.

Oh, and also the money. GIMME GIMME GIMME!!

Q: When will we get a Big One-style earthquake?
A: Thirty years from now.

Browne is now 73. So anything that she’s predicting will happen in 30 years is a pretty safe bet for her. Hopefully we’ll be rid of her long before then.

Q: What do you say to your detractors and skeptics?
A: I say, ‘I don’t give a rat’s you-know-what!’ If you know what’s in your heart is right, and your motive is pure, it’s between you and God.

So since Browne doesn’t keep her “psychic powers” and her raga-to-riches life story between her and God, it can be safely assumed that either her motives are not pure or her heart is not right. Or is she holding skeptics to a higher standard than she holds to herself? And if so, wouldn’t that contradict the “golden rule?” And speaking of Christianity:

Q: How is being psychic not counter to God and the Bible?
A: I’ve read all 26 versions of the Bible. Where they’re getting that from is Deuteronomy: Do not consort with sorcerers. But they forget that in Kings they went to the witch of Endor (who consulted with Samuel’s ghost). And that in Deuteronomy they say Joseph has always been an interpreter of dreams. It’s not the Bible’s fault, it’s people’s fault. They pick out one little piece and they’ll beat you over the head with it.

See, if only people would stop picking out one little piece of the Bible and beat you over the head with it, everyone would understand that the little piece of the Bible which Sylvia Browne uses to beat others over the head is the really important part you need to concentrate on.

If you were to look at the passage Sylvia refers to in context (which is actually in 1 Samuel, not Kings), you’d notice that it’s perfectly consistent with the prohibition of using mediums in Deuteronomy. You see, once the Witch of Endor raises Samuel from the dead on behalf of King Saul (this all sounds like the D&D crap it really is), Samuel’s ghost complains about being woken from his rest and condemns Saul for disobeying the Deuteronomic necromancy ban:

And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.
Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

As it turns out, Saul died in battle three or four days later, not the next day as Samuel’s ghost predicted. But this is a strange kind of mixed message with nuances which are obviously lost on someone like Sylvia Browne. As it turns out, sorcery actually works. Sure, you can raise a ghost or two, but their predictions about your death might be off by a few days.

Kafka’s unpublished works cannot be published until his lawyers’ descendants navigate a maze of bureaucratic insanity

July 21, 2010

Before Kafka died, he asked his friend to burn all of his work. As those of us who have read him might have guessed, he wasn’t the happiest and most well-adjusted guy in the world. But thankfully his friend posthumously broke that deal, releasing some of it to the public and locking much of it away in a Swiss bank account.

Now it seems that some lawyers have been working their way through various courts in Switzerland and Israel to make sure that they follow the proper protocols and sign all the correct forms in order to ensure maximum efficiency in extraditing the vaults of Kafka’s as yet unpublished works.

As a Kafka fan, I’d like to be able to read some of it. But at the same time, it’d be very fitting if these conflicts between various bureaucracies all over the world just kept going on for decades over legal minutiae.

I for one welcome our robotic arm overlords

July 15, 2010

This is so awesome! Darpa is about to test a brain implant which is supposed to directly control artificial limbs. So soon we will all be able to re-wire ourselves so we can be stronger, faster, and more deadly than before.

If you happen to be missing a limb, you’d probably do well to get in on the ground floor on this by volunteering to guinea pig at Johns Hopkins. Katie Drummond at Wired’s Danger Room blog reports that human trials should begin within the next two years. If you’re lucky, you can get trapped in some kind of quantum entanglement experiment while you’re there and somehow be given super powers.

Mother who murdered her daughter gets 3 years probation

July 15, 2010

See this classy lady?

Well, she killed her daughter by strangling her with a scarf, was found guilty, and sentenced to only three years of probation. Just to clarify, that means that she’s not even going to prison. For murder.

I looked around for mitigating circumstances, but this is really the closest thing to that available:

Magomadova had claimed her daughter, who was a rebellious teen who had been in trouble with the law and had run away from home, attacked her while they argued over whether Aminat would make a court appearance that day.

But LoVecchio said the evidence didn’t support the accused’s contention she had to use her scarf to defend herself from a deadly attack.

So the best that made it through the Canadian legal system for the side of the defense in this case was that she was a rebellious teen who had been in trouble with the law.

There’s definitely no implications of this being religiously motivated, but it might be worth noting that this woman’s actions are pretty much in line with the Bible:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

So we’ve gone from killing rebellious offspring being the official punishment to it being a kind of sort of crime. I mean, I guess maybe she should get probation for killing her kid. That’s progress.

Have you seen this man?

July 14, 2010

Some guy robbed a pharmacy on South Park Ave on Monday morning. This photograph was released to aid in the investigation:

Oh yeah, I know that guy! I’d recognize that blurry silhouette anywhere. It’s a human, right?