July 11, 2007

State of Fear

Posted in Politics at 11:44 am by Calico Jack

From John Rogers, via my favorite cartoonist of all time, John Kovalic:

FDR: Oh, I’m sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we’re coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How’s that going to feel?

CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We’ll be in the pub, flipping you off. I’m slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I’m sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.

US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike … NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!

Rogers’ entire post is eminently reasonable, and well worth a read. It’s also a little less than a year old, but his comments are still congruent to our situation today.

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April 3, 2007

On Procreation

Posted in Politics at 9:50 pm by Calico Jack

Once in a while, I get to read an op-ed which practically shrieks in fright at the perceived troubles — nay, horrors! — at which its author is facing in the world every day. Now, courtesy of the SFGate, Mark Morford tackles that desperately pressing issue which could end civilization as we know it: Even as fewer people identify themselves with the GOP, especially young voters, Republicans are having more babies. Here are several selected histrionic snippets for your reading pleasure:

One theory goes like this: Libs are generally more socially conscious and hence tend to actually give a modicum of thought to what it means to pop out a brood of children in this modern overstuffed age. Also, many other liberal bohos are (admittedly) happy selfish suckwads who want all the modern booty for themselves and won’t want to give up the Ducati and the plasma and the biannual trip to Cinque Terre for the sake of a pod of rug rats and 15 grand a year (each) for private kindergarten. Translation: Libs just aren’t procreating like they could/should be.

Conservative Christians, of course, have no such conscience. Among the right-wing God-lovin’ set, there is often little real awareness of planetary health or resource abuse or the notion that birth control is actually a very, very good idea indeed, and therefore it’s completely natural to worship at the altar of minivans and SUVs and megachurches and massive all-American entitlement and have little qualm about popping out six, seven, 19 gloopy tots to populate the world with frat boys and Ford F-150 buyers and food court managers….

Apparently, according to the research, four out of five kids actually stick with the political affiliation of their parents, generation after generation, with religious conservatives far more unlikely than their liberal brethren to allow their kids to develop the capacity for independent thought (given how it’s so, you know, dangerous to America). Also, one word: homeschooling. I’m just sayin’…

Either we are we headed toward a new dawn full of smart social liberalism, perhaps leading to concomitant ideas of peace and tolerance and a newly evolved American identity, or there is another massive group lurking in the shadows, entirely overlooked by Pew Research, a seething army of religious conservatives who are working like a spiritual STD to force us backward once again, much the way the Bush regime brutally reversed decades of social, environmental, fiscal and international progress and made war and isolationism and megachurch evangelicals the lords of the playground for a shocklingly painful blip of time.

Okay, I’ll grudgingly admit that I laughed rather hard at the article, even as I marveled at the vitriol spewing forth from its “Superiority complex? Who, me?” author. Yet here I am, having been homeschooled all of the way from preschool through my senior year of high school; and with three or four years’ passage of time afterwards, can now look back on my formative years and declare that I am quite capable of analyzing issues carefully and weighing opposing views before coming to my own conclusions — something which, regretfully, many of my peers seem to be incapable of doing. My mom, if asked, can recount thousands of hours spent discussing and debating politics and philosophy and religion with me; and even today there is nothing quite so satisfying as spending an hour with my parents as we tackle all sides of a divisive political issue.

It also strikes me as remarkable that the author’s liberal utopia includes peace, tolerance, and a new American identity; yet he displays a shockingly condescending attitude towards those whose political and religious views differ from his own. There is nothing I despise more than hypocrisy. Is that included in his utopia as well?

March 29, 2007

Rosie’s Meltdown

Posted in Politics at 9:06 pm by Calico Jack

Just when you think she couldn’t possibly get any more asinine…

Thanks to Ace.

February 1, 2007

Attack of the Terrorist Lights

Posted in News, Politics, Random Oddments at 9:00 pm by Calico Jack

Last night, the entire country was abuzz with the revelation that foot-tall signs covered in blinking LEDs and batteries were hanging from overpasses and bridges in Boston — never mind that they had been up for weeks in cities all across the United States, and no one had cared until yesterday. Wil Wheaton has a pretty good summary of what happened:

1. [adult swim] has a clever viral marketing program.
2. People begin to notice the clever viral marketing program.
3. Someone wets their pants, because LEDs in an odd shape clearly mean we’re all about to die.
4. Police City Officials overreact. (Corrected. Bostonians say police acted appropriately.)
5. Media overreacts.
6. Entire city of Boston is f***** for an entire day.
7. Entire city of Boston is (understandably) pissed.
8. Media, which overreacted and labeled the viral marketing campaign a terrorist hoax, decides that [adult swim] and Turner somehow owe people of Boston an apology, and also owe city all the costs the city incurred as a result of Media-induced hysteria.

The two men responsible for placing the signs were arrested and charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct. During the arraignment, Assistant Attorney General John Grossman revealed his keen intellect to those in the courtroom:

“It’s clear the intent was to get attention by causing fear and unrest that there was a bomb in that location…The appearance of this device and its location are crucial,” Grossman said. “This device looks like a bomb.”

Ahem.

Yep, that really looks like a bomb to me.

Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens pleaded not guilty this morning and were released from jail…after which they held a press conference. It must be seen to be believed:

Those guys certainly are fearless, aren’t they?

I agree with Wil: most of the blame here should be placed on city officials and the media for overreacting. You can’t really fault the police for doing their job, but it shouldn’t have taken long to realize that this supposed bomb threat was nothing more than a bunch of lights hooked up to batteries. By labeling this incident a “terrorist hoax,” the media is only encouraging weak-minded people to become paralyzed, recoiling in fear at anything that could possibly harm them. Caution is wise, but a colossal overreaction such as the one in Boston yesterday is inexcusable. The greatest danger to society is crying “Wolf!” too many times. Eventually, just like car alarms, people will grow tired of acknowledging warnings and we will be too slow to react to a true crisis.

January 30, 2007

A Women’s Guide to Men

Posted in Politics, Random Oddments, Relationships at 11:34 pm by Calico Jack

One of my favorite websites to read is the website Ace of Spades. Cleverly disguised as a conservative political blog, Ace of Spades is the funniest website you’ll find, and has the best dedicated group of commenters on the net, bar none. This group of “AoS morons,” as they like to be called, wax poetic not only on political issues, but also anything and everything they want to talk about. They might have the collective intelligence of a chimpanzee, but hey — nobody’s perfect.*

The AoS Morons are famous for a few things: over-the-top flame wars, haiku challenges, and arguing over the differences between women and men. A couple of days ago, Ace issued a challenge to his readers: write headlines for an AoS women’s magazine, written by men. The women were free to respond in like…and everybody rose to the occasion, although I’m not sure that it is an entirely apt description. Six hundred comments later, there is a veritable treasure trove of punchlines to howl at. Some of these are not entirely kiddie-friendly, so I’ve put them after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

December 26, 2006

Kerry’s Kristmas

Posted in Politics at 10:37 pm by Calico Jack

I find this fittingly hilarious:

This is a true story…..Check out this photo from our mess hall at the US Embassy yesterday morning.  Sen. Kerry found himself all alone while he was over here.  He cancelled his press conference because no one came, he worked out alone in the gym w/o any soldiers even going up to say hi or ask for an autograph (I was one of those who was in the gym at the same time), and he found himself eating breakfast with only a couple of folks who are obviously not troops.

Even better, there’s a picture:

Nope, never could have seen that one coming…

August 27, 2006

Survivor: Race to the Finish

Posted in Politics, Television at 7:52 pm by Captain Morgan

Clever title, isn’t it?

If you read any kind of entertainment news site, or are addicted to CBS, by now you know of the plan for next season of Survivor. According to reports, the producers are separating the contestants in 4 groups. By races. White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic.

This, naturally, has enraged many a politically correct person. The main complaint is that this decision will be more divisive than anything else. Apparently, by seeing people divided by race on TV, in our lack of free will and intelligence, we will want to be divided ourselves. What a dumb argument!

I have not watched Survivor since the first season, but I will definitely be watching this season. I think it’s a fascinating idea. Survivor has always been a study in human behavior, so I don’t know what the big fuss is about. I don’t recall Gloria Steinem complaining when they divided the contestants by gender. So why now?

What are your thoughts?

Princess Sela adds: I don’t think separating teams by gender is something to complain about. I do, however, thinks it’s riding a line that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. That doesn’t make it a bad thing though. As a psychology minor, I think it will be very interesting to see how they project the teams and what comes of it. If nothing else, it will be an interesting show to watch during study breaks…:-)

June 27, 2006

Could having older brothers make you gay?

Posted in Politics, Relationships at 11:35 pm by Calico Jack

According to a new study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, men who have several older brothers are more likely to be gay. Of course, the media is going to treat this claim with due consideration and careful scrutiny, right? Let’s take a look at the AP article to see how this information is presented to the public:

“It’s likely to be a prenatal effect,” said Anthony F. Bogaert of Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, “This and other studies suggest that there is probably a biological basis for” homosexuality.

Okay, the conclusion is that a person’s sexual orientation could be biological, likely being formed while still in the womb. Therefore, the data must support that claim for it to be a valid conclusion. So far, so good.

S. Marc Breedlove of Michigan State University said the finding “absolutely” confirms a physical basis.

“Anybody’s first guess would have been that the older brothers were having an effect socially, but this data doesn’t support that,” Breedlove said in a telephone interview.

The only link between the brothers is the mother and so the effect has to be through the mother, especially since stepbrothers didn’t have the effect, said Breedlove, who was not part of the research.

First of all, why did the AP interview a professor who had absolutely nothing to do with the study in the first place? His credentials are never listed in this article; how are we supposed to know whether or not he is qualified to actually comment on this study?

I did some research, and here’s what I came up with: S. Marc Breedlove earned a Ph.D in psychology from UCLA in 1982, after which he became a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. He transferred to Michigan State University in 2001, receiving the Barnett Rosenberg Chair in Neuroscience and a tenured professorship in the departments of psychology and zoology. His areas of research include “sexual differentiation of the brain and spinal cord, morphological sex differences in the nervous system, and permanent and transient effects of hormones on neurons.” So what exactly does that mean? Well, he’s published papers on various subjects such as “Finger-length ratios and sexual orientation,” “Differences in finger length ratios between self-identified butch and femme lesbians,” and “Sexual dimorphism in digit-length ratios of laboratory mice.”

I’m speechless. Back to the study.

Bogaert studied four groups of Canadian men, a total of 944 people, analyzing the number of brothers and sisters each had, whether or not they lived with those siblings and whether the siblings were related by blood or adopted.

He reports in a paper appearing in Tuesday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that having several biological older brothers increased the chance of a man being gay.

It’s an effect that can be detected with one older brother and becomes stronger with three or four or more, Bogaert said in a telephone interview.

But, he added, this needs to be looked at in context of the overall rate of homosexuality in men, which he suggested is about 3 percent. With several older brothers the rate may increase from 3 percent to 5 percent, he said, but that still means 95 percent of men with several older brothers are heterosexual.

Okay, let’s see…944 people divided into four groups means that there are 236 people per group. An increase in the overall rate of homosexuality among men from 3 to 5 percent means that the number of gay people in each group ranged anywhere from 7 to 11…hardly a noteworthy statistic. Keep in mind that this rate is an assumption by the researchers; without hard data it is hard to provide an accurate picture. The sample size may be large enough, but a variation of two percent is so small as to be almost meaningless. Also, notice the complete absence of a margin of error or confidence interval; this could easily eliminate any differences in the study.

Ignoring the shaky statistics, however, my one question is this: what kind of biological effect on homosexual inclination could possibly be caused by having older brothers? And why would this effect increase along with the number of older brothers that someone has?

Bogaert said he concluded the effect was biological by comparing men with biological brothers to those with brothers to whom they were not biologically related.

The increase in the likelihood of being gay was seen only in those whose brothers had the same mothers, whether they were raised together or not, he said.

Men raised with several older step- or adopted brothers do not have an increased chance of being gay.

“So what that means is that the environment a person is raised in really makes not much difference,” he said.

Just out of curiosity, where are the fathers in this research? I understand the need to study mothers, since that is the only way to support their biological claim. But solely looking at brothers and not fathers means that the researchers cannot claim with absolute certainty that environment does not matter. Have they eliminated all environmental factors in their research, allowing them to have a solid control? Or have they merely seen a correlation between two pieces of information, and made that their theory without adequate study?

What makes a difference, he said, is having older brothers who shared the same womb and gestational experience, suggesting the difference is because of “some sort of prenatal factor.”

One possibility, he suggests, is a maternal immune response to succeeding male fetuses. The mother may react to a male fetus as foreign but not to a female fetus because the mother is also female.

It might be like the maternal immune response that can occur when a mother has Rh-negative blood but her fetus has Rh-positive blood. Without treatment, the mother can develop antibodies that may attack the fetus during future pregnancies.

Whether that’s what is happening remains to be seen, but it is a provocative hypothesis, said a commentary by Breedlove, David A. Puts and Cynthia L. Jordan, all of Michigan State.

Okay, let’s review for those of you who may be lost by this incoherent mess. Based on a single small study with faulty testing and inadequate research, these “scientists” are suggesting the following:

  • There is a corellation between having older brothers and an increase in the likelihood of being gay…up to a two percent difference.
  • This effect does not matter whether or not the brothers were raised together, only that they shared the same blood, meaning that there must be a biological, not environmental, basis for this effect.
  • Since some of the brothers were not raised together, this biological effect must take place in the womb before birth, because the womb is the only invariable factor where this effect could occur.
  • To explain this pre-natal effect, these researchers raise the possibility that the maternal immune system could assault successive male fetuses, since the mother may recognize the male fetus as a foreign object and attack it.
  • Over time, as more male fetuses gestate, the mother’s immune defenses could become stronger, until eventually…what?

See, that last point is the hardest question to answer. If a predisposition towards homosexuality is caused by a reaction of the mother’s immune system, could that mean that such tendencies are an aberration? That raises a whole slew of interesting questions. However, the point is moot, since this study is inherently flawed. These researchers made a mistake that is inexcusable for a high school student, let alone professional scientists. They assumed that because there was a correlation between two things, a causation must follow.

I won’t rule out that there could be a biological predisposition towards homosexuality, but this study does nothing to advance that claim. The media are making a much bigger deal out of this than they should be doing. To spread this story–sans critique–all over television and the internet is irresponsible. I suggest that the next time a story such as this is released, reporters and scientists take a hard look at the data presented. Doing so will serve the public much better than blindly accepting a faulty study.

June 23, 2006

Lessons from CNN and Fox News

Posted in Celebrities, News, Politics at 2:52 pm by Captain Morgan

I stayed up until way too late last night watching CNN and Fox News, and I learned a few things.

1. Nancy Grace is the funniest fake newscaster since Jon Stewart. What, oh she's serious? Oh well. She's still funny as heck!

2. While I may agree with some of Bill O'Reilly's politics, he's kind of mean. Plus he wears more makeup than RuPaul. 

3. Anderson Cooper is cool, but he doesn't do much. Mostly he repeats whatever everyone else says.

4. Between what's going on in the main screen, and reading the ticker on the bottom, you have to be an expert multi-tasker in order to fully get the news.

5. We need 10 people to communicate 1 story to us.

6. Sometimes, in an effort to be "fair and balanced", the news is boring. 

Odds and ends

Posted in Games, Politics, Random Oddments, Sports at 1:34 pm by Calico Jack

Apologies for the light blogging; each of us has had a busy week for one reason or another. We promise that we'll be back to normal soon; until then, here is a roundup of links from across the net that you might find interesting…or not. We make no promises.

This is the biggest website I have ever seen. Literally. At nine quadrillion pixels wide and nine quadrillion pixels tall, it is 1.844 billion miles on each side. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself; just be prepared to spend a lot of time scrolling.

You can tell our elected officals have nothing better to do when they start attacking the video game industry. Jon Stewart shows us that common sense beats bureaucracy every time.

Do you like to play Euchre, but find yourself consistently losing? It helps to memorize the Ten Commandments of Euchre; they'll give you a solid foundation for playing well.

I don't like the World Cup, but a few minutes of this might help to change my mind.

What do you do when it's taken you six years, 4,872 demerits, four and a half years on academic probation, and two reprimands from the admiral to graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy? Why, you give the President a huge bear hug, and the Secret Service a heart attack!

(Copyright AP)

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