An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

August 10, 2010

Conservapedia: Propaganda or Performance Art?

Is there anyone among us who hasn’t gotten a little tipsy at the club, stumbled home safely, and spent an hour or two laughing their nether regions off at Conservapedia?

I didn’t think so.

I know I’m a little late to the party with this story from Talking Points Memo, which relates the tale of Conservapedia founder and second-generation douchebag Andy  Schafly’s inability to remember the difference between general relativity and moral relativism. Whatever, I’m sure even after someone explains the difference to him, he’ll still believe that understanding deep physics leads people away from Jesus (which, ok, there may be some correlation/causation there), and that that means Einstein must have been wrong. Luckily, Conservapedians were able to snark right back, with this mathematically & logically sound bit of self-referencing on their main page:

Counterexamples to the Bible 0
Counterexamples to Evolution 60
IQ of Atheists 0 divided by 60

Oh, snap! Zero divided by 60! That’s gotta be less than regular zero!

But there’s so much more to love about the internet’s most fake encyclopedia. You could go for the obvious, reading the reality-challenged articles on feminism, atheism, gay rights, Obama’s birth certificate, or other far-right hobbyhorses. But the real genius is the care with which they’ve fabricated delusional alternate-universe explanations for  innocent seeming topics.  Did you know that liberals lie about certain species of North American cactus being endangered, so we can up the supply of peyote? (to be fair, they seem to have deleted the entire article on cacti to hide their shame on that one) Or that Dodos might have gone extinct all of their own? Or that the bible proves the existence of unicorns? Unicorns, people. Normally I’d say don’t feed their egos, but this is some seriously worthwhile comedy reading. Just look at today’s top pages:

Most viewed pages
Main Page 8,067,661
Atheism 4,940,958
Homosexuality 3,565,061
Barack Hussein Obama 1,429,644
Wikipedia 924,932
Adolf Hitler 822,325
Sarah Palin 771,927
Liberal 721,863
Examples of Bias in Wikipedia 688,911
John McCain 585,396

Barack Hussein Obama! Adolf Hitler! Sarah Palin! In that order!

Hours of crying while laughing (followed by laughing while crying) are at your fingertips, thanks to the magic of the internet. Welcome to the future.

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August 4, 2010

XKCD FTW

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Radical Scientist @ 11:00 am

This is fucking awesome:

If you don’t read XKCD, you should. But I don’t need to tell you that, because you already do.  That is all.

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July 16, 2010

Libertarians: Overt Douchbags

Today’s post is brought to you, belatedly, by this lovely post over (link should work now) at Gin and Tacos and my thoughts thereon. Long story short: the post is an, er, scathing critique of James Sherk’s (of the Heritage Foundation*) recent appearance on Hardball. (note: much of the audio on the latter half of the video is ruined by Matthews laughing his ass off the soundstage) Sherk asserts that, basically, the Science of Economics Proves having unemployment insurance discourages people from sucking it up and getting a job, any job, ASAP–even if that means moving to where the jobs are, or taking something out of your field and way below your former pay grade. Or all three. And, we are to believe, that’s a Bad Thing, because unemployed people are using Your Tax Dollars to hold out for jobs like their old ones, rather than accepting that the invisible hand of the marketplace has booger-flicked them out of the middle class.

One thing I’ve always wondered: Isn’t it maybe better, long term national economic policy-wise, for the abruptly unemployed to have a chance to hold out for whatever their definition of a ‘good job’ is? Having someone who’s highly trained–whether they have a Ph.D or 20 years experience as an underwater welder–take work way out of their field puts their skills to waste. I’m guessing Sherk would say they’re welcome to keep looking for another teaching or welding job while they flip burgers, but taking that minimum wage job is bound to slow down their job search waaaay down–it’s not like their new boss has any incentive to let a newly-trained employee leave, and they’re not under any mandate to give employees time off to go to interviews. I’m not just speculating, this was been a problem for me when I was in food service and looking to get out. The longer you’re out of a profession, the harder it gets to get back in. At 6 months, you’re an unemployed welder. At 2 years, you’re a former welder.

And for people who don’t have the education or experience to get out of shitty jobs, a sudden influx of formerly-white collar workers is bad, bad news. To take this to a bit of an extreme, consider this: when the last 5 people a McDonald’s hired have a BA or an MBA, there’s a good chance HR will start skipping over applicants sporting a GED. You can see this in places with chronic over education and high employment–isolated college towns and Portland, OR come to mind.

The percentage of Americans with college degrees has meandered ever-upward over the last few decades, and with it, the minimum qualifications for many jobs have gone up incrementally too. Office drone & secretarial type listings often demand a bachelor’s degree rather than a HS or associate’s degree, unskilled workers are expected to have graduated high school, and skilled labor has slowly swung from on-the-job training toward a tech school first, employment later model. I think this downturn will push that trend a little further, as the unemployed people with MBAs settle into office jobs a tier or two below their last position, the people with undergrad degrees go down another notch or two, and so on. People who are highly educated aren’t going to be unemployed forever, they’ll just wind up pushing everyone below them down a notch.

Human-interest stories about the crappy economy always focus on the former banker who now works as a gas station attendant. But what about the guy who can’t get a job as a gas station attendant because all those jobs are now going to college graduates?

I’m guessing Sherk hasn’t had much experience being unemployed without good prospects. So he sat down and thought real hard about it, read some intro economics texts that say things will all work out so long as everyone makes ‘rational’ choices and people have perfect information. And using his Rational Power, he deducted people should go where there are jobs.

But he obviously didn’t talk to anyone in the ‘real world,’ (or even in the rural poverty hot zones of Real America (TM)) or he’d have noticed that he’s full of shit. For starters, there’s no where in the US right now where business is booming and jobs are plentiful. And if he’d talked to anyone actually dealing with unemployment,* he’d know that the whole ‘rational decision’ model isn’t what’s actually sensible for people to do. In a model, moving for a crappy job is better than staying put with no job. But in practice, there are all kinds of costs–the cost of moving, of giving up your friends, family, professional network, etc. If only one person in a couple is unemployed, moving just to see if a state with 7% unemployment is better than one with 10% unemployment is especially stupid. I could go on, but I’m sure everyone gets the point.

*Yeah, I know, the Heritage Foundation fancies itself more conservative than libertarian, but in this case, the economic argument is pure free-market freebasing, which both teams support but libertarians do so with less social finesse. Sherk’s fuck-you-and-your-kids attitude is a stellar example of that kind of malicious social cluelessness. So there.

**At one point he cites his well-off unemployed friends, who he doesn’t seem to have talked to at all, and who are exempt from his admonitions to take jobs they currently consider beneath them.

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April 22, 2010

Georgia Legislature: Embarrassing Us in Front of All the Other States, Again

So, there’s a bill before the Georgia legislature right now, banning Georgians from non-consensually implanting microchips in each other. Fair enough, I’d figure that would fall under assault or something, but sure. Forcibly implanting something under someone else’s skin is Not Ok.

A few years ago, some friends of mine were doing a study on bats where they were implanting  subcutaneous RFIDs about the size of a grain of rice into the animals and releasing them. They got drunk one night and decided they should inject themselves with a chip each, to see what it was like for the bats. Apparently, it hurt more than a little, but less than a fuck ton.

Yet no one is currently running around Georgia like a mad animal-shelter worker, tagging residents with their own home addresses in case they get lost (though that might do my brother some good). Nor do they plan to. As near as anyone can tell, the fine ladies and gentlemen of the Georgia state legislature are pushing SB 235 to protect us all from the Mark of the Beast ™, which they seem to think will take the form of a microchip implant (I think they mean an RFID tag, in this century. But who knows).  Despite growing up mostly in the bible belt, I have no real idea of what the hell they’re talking about. I think it has something to do with Satan tagging people to take to hell, or somesuch. I don’t know, my parents are atheists. Form what I’ve pieced together from incoherent billboards and Chick tracts, the Unholy One will kick off the end times with some sort of game of Mafia, where if you get tricked into letting yourself get marked, uh, you lose. For eternity. Until Jesus un-tags you, or you reach base.
But the real question is, why is this matter up for debate in the state legislature? Are they tired of trying to end droughts with prayer? Trying to draw attention away from their massive budget shortfalls, their education cuts, or their refusal to pony up even a little bit of cash for mass transit, even when the federal government is offering to pay for high-speed passenger rail through the state? Getting bad press for trying to sue to stop Georgians from getting healthcare? Probably. But so what if the state falls apart for the next 10, 20, or 50 years? They’re protecting us for eternity. That’s why they can’t be bothered to worry about the trifling details of governing in this world.

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December 20, 2008

Midnight Regulations: Not just for HHS Anymore

Though Bush had done enough damage with the Amish Busdriver Rule (h/t Rachel Maddow), barring hospitals from booting workers who refuse on religious grounds to to the jobs they were hired to do? Well, there’s more. Cara at Feministe has a whole round-up of other on-the-table changes, including gutting the endangered species act, allowing coal mines to dump into rivers, upping logging, fucking up family medical leave, allowing more domestic spying, and paring back limits on lead and other pollutants.

This is fucking bad, folks.

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December 18, 2008

Bloggers 1, Evolutionary Psycology 0

Filed under: feminism,gender — Tags: , — Ethan @ 12:32 am

Thomas at the Yes Means Yes blog has the tidiest take-down I’ve ever seen of human sexual selection psudoscientific fairytales, and mainstream media reposting thereon:

I give you this. Apparently, men are “hardwired” to spend to attract mates because, somehow, some pre-consumer society behavior that developed before agriculture magically transmogrified directly to behavior at the mall. And the scientists are in no way simply imposing a “just-so story” on their observations. At least not any more so than is standard in their field.

This is worthless in and of itself. People who don’t understand science tell us something about the findings of a discipline that is pseudoscience.

The intro, though, is what cracked me up:

We all know the stereotype: the “goldthrower.” The guy who spends profligately looking to attract female partners, whether he can afford it or not.

Wait … did you miss that one? Me too.

But we all know what a “golddigger” is.

But, while we’re neologizing, (look! I verbed!), I’d like to cast my vote for ‘goldflinger’ instead. I think it comes closer to matching the indignity implied by ‘golddigger.’

It’s not like there’s no value in trying to suss out how humans pick who we make babies with, or how that’s shaped human evolution. But there seem to be a couple big flaws in the reasoning the researchers (or the journalists reporting, to be fair, I can’t seem to find the original journal article anywhere handy) apply to modern dating, let alone the way they assume that human mating strategies have remained fixed, with only the tactics shifting to match current culture.

I mean, really, who believes that sleeping with more people equals having more babies these days? Shit, the more people I sleep with, the more careful I am to avoid makin’ the babies. And I’m sure lots of women and men are out there doing the same–using condoms like flac jackets when we’re single, letting the BC slip when having a kid would be more of a surprise than an accident. Second, assuming that today’s conspicuous consumerism is directly decended from cave men giving cave women cave jewlery to get in their cave pants is, well, fucking stupid. In a society where women gather the large bulk of everyone’s calories, gifts of food would be more of a gesture than a survival aid. Money didn’t exist for the bulk of human history. And today, men who get laid more buy what, supposedly? Doesn’t say. Gifts for women? Fancy status-symbol possessions for themselves? Paying off medical bills? Supporting their aging parents? Student loans? Supporting their meth habit? Don’t those things sound kinda…different to you, in terms of whether or not someone’s spending to get laid?

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May 29, 2008

Good PR Indeed

After decades of running of being a terrible magazine, perennial Mad Magazine imitator Cracked has metamorphosed  into a sometimes funny, sometimes annoying web publication. Check out their 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science, or at least the first page. No. 5, “Drs. Warren and Barry Marshall Drink Stomach-Eating Germs,” is one of my favorite semi-apocryphal science stories, second only to the laboratory urban legend about the undergrad who inadvertently overfilled an autoclave with still-frozen severed monkey heads.

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May 17, 2008

The Right Wing Says Soy Makes You Gay

Thanks to Bria for sending this my way. The article is old, but it’s some pretty amazing fear-mongering from a popular right-wing news blog thing. I’d never heard of ‘em before, but Wikipedia says it’s big. The guy says he’s warning parents about the risks of endocrine disrupters, but he gets it all wrong. For starters, apparently soy foods are the only source of estrogen mimics out there. Not biphenol-a, not DDT, not whatever DES might still be floating around out there. Just soy. Take a look:

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.” No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.

So, what is all that hippy food doing to our children? He mentions the toll endocrine disruptor can do to one’s fertility, and the sharp uptick in cancer amongst people who have been exposed to synthetic estrogens (not naturally-occurring phytoestrogens, like those in soy) early in life. But all of that pales in comparison to the fear of effeminizing little boys. And, apparently, here’s not difference between beingintersex, being a ‘feminine male’ and being gay. No matter that the assertion that gay men have a testosterone deficiency/estrogen surplus was disproved the moment someone developed a handy way to test hormone levels. Giving gay men extra testosterone just makes them want to have more gay sex, since testosterone tends to up your sex drive.

Honestly, I couldn’t stomach reading all 5 parts. I have a short attention span, and I’d need to artificially extend it to wade through all that psudoscience. Plus I can’t even figure out who this guy’s misinterpreting, because all his citation either lead back to the home page of the site, or to a 404 error. Which I guess says it all.

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