THEY NEED AN ENTRY FOR "PSEUDOSCIENCE"

Posted in Rants on February 27th, 2007 by Ed

Here is an ironclad law of life in the contemporary political climate: whenever something advertises itself as "the conservative alternative to XYZ" you can rest fully assured that it is going to be hilariously awful. For example, conservative punk or The Half-Hour News Hour. See also: Conservapedia, which proclaims itself as "A conservative encyclopedia you can trust."

Apparently there is no entry for "tautology" or "irony." It's both overtly politically biased and completely trustworthy. Amazing.

This site exists to counter Wikipedia, "which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian "C.E." instead of "A.D.", which Conservapedia uses." Read their hilariously thorough list of examples of bias on Wikipedia, such as "The entry for the Renaissance refuses to give enough credit to Christianity." Um….

Seems harmless enough up to this point. Typical bunch of backward idiots running a site (probably hosted by the AEI) no one reads with about 5,000 entries to Wikipedia's 2 million. But wait. The plot thickens.

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Not pictured: Nobel Prize winning Creation Scientist Fred Phelps

Apparently the site is based very heavily on the kind of "Bible-based science" that keeps places like Bob Jones University from getting accreditation. Rather than continue to explain what I mean, let me simply quote the Conservapedia entry for "unicorn":

"The existence of unicorns is controversial. Secular opinion is that they are mythical. However, they are referred to in the Bible nine times, which provides an unimpeachable de facto argument for their once having been in existence."

Impressive. But they do recognize that unicorn existence is controversial. How can they be so sure that they're correct? There's no scientific proof, is there?

"One recognized theory is that the unicorn was actually the rhinoceros, however a growing number of Creation researchers are theorizing that the unicorn was actually a member of the ceratopsian baramin."

Ah, I was wrong. "Creation researchers" are hard at work on the case of the unicorn. Science has indeed shown us the way. What can they tell us about Unicorns aside from the fact that they existed? Sadly, quite little.

"Post-Noachian references to unicorns have led some researchers to argue that unicorns are still alive today. At the very least, it is likely that they were taken aboard the Ark prior to the Great Flood."

Well at least we know that much. Read the whole comedy here.

Two things immediately spring to mind. First, you'd practically have to be missing a chromosome or two to make a site with information that is actually less reliable and more inaccurate than Wikipedia. Yet somehow the religious far-right has done just that. Second, Ringling Brothers circus, in one of the most scarring experiences of my childhood, already proved the existence of the unicorn to millions of children by surgically attaching a horn to the middle of a goat's forehead (pictured above). Even at five years old I knew something wasn't quite right with that unicorn.

WHAT WHAT

Posted in Rants on February 26th, 2007 by Ed

The authors of this site are unashamed to admit that we collectively dedicated about 6 hours of our lives on Saturday to watching this video in incrementally higher levels of resolution (YouTube to large monitor to downloaded and burned in full DVD quality played through an HDTV).

We are simply floored at Samwell's level of homosexuality, and I am almost speechless as I try to provide you with words that convey it. I cannot. Just watch the video, and if YouTube proves insufficient to communicate his gayness (as it did for us) then head over to Samwell's production company – "Brownmark Films" – and download the DVD-ready 1GB file. It is worth it.

I strongly suspect that Samwell was created in a laboratory by a team of gay artisan-scientists working exclusively in the medium of gay. He is composed of parts gleaned from lesser gays and was created with the intention of turning Islamic fundamentalists gay in secret CIA prisons.

It might work.

Regardless, we do have cause to question one of Samwell's claims – that he is "delicate like a flower" and therefore anyone who accepts his challenge to put it in his butt must be gentle. We are skeptical. Something tells me that Samwell's anus is actually quite rugged, proving relatively accomodating to a variety of objects inserted with various, and sometimes minimal, levels of gentleness.

WINNING OVER THE KIDS, ONE MARION BARRY JOKE AT A TIME

Posted in Rants on February 22nd, 2007 by Ed

I do not want to spend any time or energy making fun of The Half Hour News Hour, Fox News' "conservative answer to The Daily Show." There is such a thing, even in blogging, as wasting time and flogging a dead horse. Look, the show is fucking awful, it's a fundamentally-flawed premise (The Daily Show primarily makes fun of the media, whereas this retort is largely just a vehicle to push right-wing propaganda), and it will be cancelled in about 6 weeks. History will remember it somewhat more fondly than The Chevy Chase Show. If they're lucky.

I will point out just one thing and then leave this abomination to history. Check out this clip – a hilarious little skit about Rush Limbaugh….as president! Ha ha ha! Anyway, aside from how painfully un-funny the clip is, one thing blows me away: have you ever heard more laugh track on something in your life? Aside from the Americanized version of the British sitcom Coupling, I cannot recall watching anything in which the canned laughter was more egregious and out of place. I mean, in this Limbaugh clip the laugh track is going (and on full-blast "hysterical" setting) during parts that aren't even jokes. I don't mean "bad jokes" (like comparing Barack Obama to Marion Barry…is it 1990? How about some Tonya Harding jokes? John Wayne Bobbit?). No jokes at all.

This show cannot possibly succeed because there is absolutely nothing funny about the current ideological basis of mainstream conservatism. Moral prudishness, greed, and anti-intellectualism are not the building blocks of a comedy fortress. If you're shocked at how awful The Half Hour News Hour is, you shouldn't be. After all, the banal fratboy ramblings of Jonah Goldberg are currently considered to be tremendous wit on the right. I feel sorry for young conservatives. It wasn't that long ago that the movement had some intelligent people representing it. From Irving Kristol, Buckley and Safire to Coulter, Goldberg, and Hannity in one generation.

YOU'D BEST SOUND OFF YOU LOVE THE VIRGIN MARY

Posted in Rants on February 21st, 2007 by Ed

I think that the finest moment in what is clearly a very fine film, Full Metal Jacket, comes when Sgt. Hartman is berating Matthew Modine's Pvt. Joker character (who is implied to be Jewish) for refusing to worship the Virgin Mary. On the off chance that you missed it, the scene goes as follows:

Hartman: Private Joker, do you believe in the Virgin Mary?

Private Joker: Sir, no, sir!

Hartman: Well, well, Private Joker, I don't believe I heard you correctly!

Private Joker: Sir, the private said "no, sir," sir!

Hartman: Why you little maggot, you make me want to vomit! [Slaps Joker] You Goddamn communist heathen, you had best sound off that you love the Virgin Mary, or I'm gonna stomp your guts out!

Private Joker: Sir, NEGATIVE, sir!

Hartman: Private Joker, are you trying to offend me?

Pretty hardcore. It's undoubtedly the kind of thing that went on a lot in the Vietnam-era military establishment. Flash forward to 2007, and the Loyal Republican Base is pulling the Sgt. Hartman on "poor" Mitt Romney. Apparently being a Mormon is intolerable heresy in the eyes of John Q. Republican these days, so much so that the party faithful fee comfortable putting candidates through the religious test in public. Did I miss something? Are Mormons permissive heathen sodomites? I always thought they were the squeaky-clean, freakishly Ned Flandersish kind of people that the Religious Right wanted to populate Washington.

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Governor Romney, I will motivate you.

While the heckler didn't quite yell "Governor Romney, you'd best sound off you love the Virgin Mary," it's safe to say that he or she did come away with the impression that Romney was in fact trying to offend everyone by not being a southern evangelical of some sort.

WHAT A TRAGIC MISUNDERSTANDING

Posted in Rants on February 20th, 2007 by Ed

We here in the reality-based community have been so hard on Saint McCain. His pious I'm-sort-of-against-the-war (in some vague and unspecified sense) rhetoric, coupled with his lemming-like support for Our President every step of the way, has led a lot of Americans to question his integrity.

Fortunately, as the 2008 Election heats up, Saint McCain is clarifying that we have been terribly wrong about him. It turns out that he has been the world's biggest Iraq war critic all along.

Now I know some of you cynics might be wondering why he would wait until 2007, 3 months into Mr. Rumsfeld's retirement, to go on a scathing tirade about the former Secretary's inept mismanagement of the entire war. How dare you question this man of integrity? The timing and Saint McCain's motives are entirely pure.

It might make "sense" in the reality-based world to look at his voting record and remind everyone that he has been a rubber stamp in the Senate for five years. But that is misguided. People, it is his words, and not his actions, by which he needs to be judged.

WITH A BOCEPHUS STICKER ON HIS 4-4-2

Posted in No Politics Friday on February 16th, 2007 by Ed

I was going to write an awful lot about Tim "I hate gay people" Hardaway but I couldn't muster up the energy on this No Politics Friday ™. So instead I decided to do the next best thing: post a video of a high school drumline playing "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver."

You're welcome.

SOMEHOW "DELUSIONAL" IS INADEQUATE

Posted in Rants on February 15th, 2007 by Ed

Thank god for biased liberal academics. The National Security Archive at George Washington University obviously has a few, and their use of the FOIA has brought a smile to my face and bile to the tip of my tongue.

They obtained some declassified documents today revealing some of the post-invasion Iraq "planning" done by Tommy Franks and the like. Thomas Blanton of the NSA describes them as "delusional" and "completely unrealistic" yet after reading over them I'm not sure those terms are strong enough, nor that anything contained within could reasonably be called "planning" at all.

Among the highlights:

1. All US forces would be out of Iraq 45 months after invasion (meaning they'd be leaving right about…NOW, the moment at which we're talking about increasing our committment significantly)

2. The Provisional Iraqi government would be in place and effective by the invasion date.

3. The Provisional government would be able to handle substantial responsibility for its own security in short order.

4. By December 2006, US troop levels would be at 5,000 with full redeployment coming just 3 months later (IE a few weeks from today).

Read all the fun details here. Seriously, grab some popcorn. It'll be a good time.

Wrapping It

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14th, 2007 by Mike

So last weekend I attended a birthday dinner where the crowd was mostly people in Public Health. Several of the people I was seated with did outreach for STDs prevention in parts of Champaign. There was a lull in the conversation, so I asked "What is the most bizarre thing you heard of someone doing that they thought would prevent STD transmissions or pregnancy but clearly wouldn't."

One guy at the table said "Well, I have a story that is personal."
Me: "Ok, go."
Guy: "Well, in high school, a girl wanted me to use a baggie since we didn't have a condom."
Me: "Ziploc, or off-brand?"
Guy: "No, not even a seal. The kind of bag you fold over."
Other Girl at table: "You could have used saran wrap."
Guy: "We didn't think of that. She did suggest we use toilet paper."

There was a silence over the table, with a growing horror as everyone slowly realized what he was talking about. Getting people to accidently confess to this kind of stuff is probably why I'm not invited to more dinner parties.

Me: "You mean, like wrapping yourself in toilet paper? [as opposed to plugging her up?]"
Guy: "Yeah. She wanted me to wrap my member in toilet paper and then have sex. She was really smart otherwise, but she didn't make sense there."
Other Guy, friend of his, coming to defense: "Oh, I've heard of this."
Me: "I don't believe you."
Girl: "Hasn't she seen wet toilet paper?"

I know some people involved with the medical and health fields read this page – was he just dating someone with cognitive defects or is there really a problem with teenagers thinking toilet paper can work as a prophylactic? We've searched the hell out of google and found nothing about this at all, even as an urban legend.

And if you'd like to leave a comment of stories you have heard of where a person though something would constitute "safe" sex but clearly would not do any such thing, it would make for some great Valentine's Day blogging.

An Army of 24 (Or: "Dammit Chloe!")

Posted in Uncategorized on February 13th, 2007 by Mike

I unapologetically love the Fox action show 24. Like many left-of-center people, I tend not to get worried one way or the other about the torture scenes – it's television, it's a plot device, etc. Lately, with the way the show is being turned into a snuff film, the absurdity of it (does Jack have to torture his own brother to save America?!?!?) seems more real than it informing reality.

Evidently not everyone feels this way. This week the New Yorker has an article about the show 24 and torture. The center of it is about a meeting between General Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, who "was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country", and the producers and writers of the show.

What was the meeting about? The army wanted them to stop writing torture scenes in 24. Why? In exhibit A of what is going wrong in the War on Terror, the Army can't find recruits, especially for command and intel jobs, who don't believe 24 is completely accurate and legal – ie, the Military can't find cadets who don't want to go out and immediately start torturing suspects a la 24 (bold mine):

In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show's central political premise–that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country's security–was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I'd like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show's producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires."…

At other moments, the discussion was more strained. Finnegan told the producers that "24," by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country's image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors–cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by "24," which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, "The kids see it, and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about "24"?' " He continued, "The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do."

"The kids" is condescending rank-and-file military talk, so it is important to clarify that "the kids" are actually the Senior class of West Point – the best of the best, about to head off and fill the leadership and officer roles of our military for the next 50 years.

(I always think people on the pro-, and especially on the ambivalent-towards, torture side should take a quick walk through the chicago reader articles on police torture scandals. For every "ticking-time bomb" scenario you can imagine, the actual implication of your ambivalence is 100,000 "this guy probably doesn't know anything about this low-level felony, but let's make sure" or "he may not have done this crime, but he's guilty of something, let's get a confession" scenarios.)

Read about poor Kiefer, stuck between a great action show, a contract, and his conscience, trying to make "Don't Torture People Young Soldiers!" infomericals for young cadets. Watch an FBI expert who has participated in 12,000 interrogations try explaining how torture doesn't get you anywhere (ie morals aside, it doesn't get you anywhere as an interrogator) while the doughy middle-American staff of 24 goes "sure it doesn't, wink wink." It is good stuff.

The writers and producers are all Rush Limbaugh types (Rush hangs out at the studio). You already know the routine about how elites just don't understand real Americans, who want to feel safe and are willing to compromise. However, this caught me off guard:

["Path to 9/11" writer/producer] Nowrasteh said that he and [co-creator of 24] Surnow regard "24" as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. "Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business," he said. "It's a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business–even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy."

!?!?!? I'm pretty sure I've heard this one before. I love how quickly the "People are scared and need to be comforted" turns into "it's nice to have a secret government that can kill people secretly" (and to hear it from a LA writer/producer type no less!).

In case you are wondering if you can still like 24, this page of 24 sound clips should ease your conscience. The show is worthwhile if only to watch Kiefer do that thing where he repeats lines, just louder and angrier on the second time.

JURY SELECTION

Posted in Rants on February 12th, 2007 by Ed

So after reading this and getting my daily dose of loss-of-faith-in-humanity, I can't help but call up the stripper's lawyers and congratulate them on doing such a bang-up job of jury selection. One woman, eleven males over 50. Awesome!

In case you're wondering why "She was a slut, she wanted it" still works as a defense, well, I think this pretty much explains it.