Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We're Back!

After a long hiatus, the vitriol reserves are restocked, and we're set to go!

I probably flatter myself by thinking there are readers out there - but if there are, I apologize, and now return you to your regularly scheduled rants.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

And Then There's THIS Asshole...

Straight up: I abhor racism, in all its forms. But there's a certain point where you get unmitigated wankery of the highest order in the effort of fighting racism, such as Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, who see racism where it doesn't exist, and can very well be making racist comments themselves. Some refer to this as 'race-baiting' or have other interesting names for it, but no matter how you slice it, in my books, it's still racism. Today's Asshat is a man who has gone the route of Jackson and Sharpton. That man? Dallas County Police Commissioner John Wiley Price. Why? For taking offense to the term 'black hole'. Yes, apparently, 'black hole' is racist.

So here's the shakedown: Another commissioner, Kenneth Mayfield, made a comment that the central collections had become a black hole, saying that paperwork concerning traffic tickets had been getting lost in the office. Anyone with any idea what a black hole is would understand what he's saying. Commissioner Price, on the other hand, takes offence and corrects Mayfield, calling the office a 'white hole'.

It's at this point where I'd love to give Mr. Price a quick lesson in astrophysics, and I figure here is as good a place as any to do it. A black hole forms when a massive star goes supernova and the remaining 'corpse' of the star is so massive and so dense that at a certain distance from the object, escape velocity exceeds the speed of light (the Event Horizon). At that point, no object, including light, can escape the object's gravity (the 'hole' part), and all light is absorbed, making it appear black.

Simple enough nomenclature, right? Apparently not. Admittedly I'm a space geek, so I have some trouble grokking how he doesn't know what a black hole is or think it's racist, but spinning it around and using white hole? Never mind that white holes are still purely theoretical, does he not see the irony in what he's saying? It appears to me that he's doing exactly what he got upset about. He's upset about the term 'black' being used in negative contexts, so he decides to use 'white' in such a context. This implementation of weapons-grade stupid is how Price earns his Asshat of the Day tag.

It doesn't help my temper that the Judge, Thomas Jones, demanded an apology from Mayfield as well, but hey, you get two asshats for the price of one tonight!

(Apologies for the video, in particular, the comments section; I'd have loved to find a video without racist dipshittery in the comments section, but it's Youtube. Comments there are a bottomless pit filled to the brim with weapons-grade stupid.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Make Her Go Insane... Like a Tumour in Her Brain...

Basically, I'm talking about living la vida Shona. Shona Holmes, that is.

Originally, I didn't consider Mrs. Holmes to be AotD material - and I still don't, but she's certainly headed in that direction.

For those who are unaware, Shona Holmes is a Hamilton resident who suffered from what's known as a Rathe's Cleft Cyst. It is a cyst that occurs in nearly a third of all individuals, but asymptomatically; usually, it's only uncovered incidentally in an autopsy. In a very small percentage of cases, the cyst grows (filling with fluid, not multiplying cells, as would be the case in a tumour), and can put pressure on the visual centre of the brain as well as the pituitary gland, causing headaches and hormone troubles, as well as visual disturbances or reduction in quality of vision. These symptoms, in virtually all recorded cases of symptomatic cysts, go away once the cyst is drained or surgically removed.

Originally, I didn't think that Mrs. Holmes was a candidate for the title, because it seemed to me that she was a gullible woman being taken advantage of by right-wing american political movements for their own purposes.

Then, on As It Happens, she claimed that a doctor at the Mayo Clinic told her that if she didn't receive surgery for the "tumour", she was going to die.

"Well, alright," I said to myself, "Some money-grubbing fear-mongering doctor at the Mayo Clinic lied to her to get her panicking and grab her money. Not really her fault she was scared. Still stupid, but not her fault."

But she decided to sue OHIP, and that suit is backed by the Canadian Constitution Federation.

She has been told, time and time again, that what she had was not life threatening, that it could have been treated in Canada, and that a lawsuit against OHIP simply does damage to a system she's already criticizing, thus making things harder for everyone else. She is willfully cooperating with people who vilify our health system and attack Obama's attempts to reform American healthcare in a positive way.

If she's not an AotD just yet... she's certainly gunning for a position.


Yes, I know it's been a while. Yes, I know I'm a bad blogger. (Bad blogger! Bad!)

In contrite apology, I offer this comic penned by Jen McCreig of Blag Hag (soon to be appearing in a blogroll near you!) It is almost deliciously blasphemous. And funny. ROTFL funny, in fact.

(Real post tomorrow, I promise.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Every Now and Then...

...I dip into the comments section of a CBC.ca article. And then I remember why I don't do that more often.

The article: Vancouver charges ahead with electric-car plug-ins.

It makes me happy, if a bit disappointed at the scope of the operation - 20% of new development? 20%, scaling up to 100% over the next ten years, maybe, and including retrofitting existing apartments/condos. The electric car is the perfect urban vehicle - quiet, no emissions, and limited range isn't a deal-breaker. Anything that can be done to encourage its adoption is a good thing. (Plus, think of the number of streetcorners that can be reclaimed from gas stations!)

And then we get to the comments. First, this gem, from "MaryRedcord":
Yet another example of a Canadian special interest group of latte sucking yuppie wimps that has taken over and obtained access to government policy. As a result of this each stall will cost $2000 eh. Think again. Do the freaking math folks. Those are after tax dollars. In addition the cost will be added to your mortgage. Your real cost will be about $5000 a stall which is stupid beyond belief. People will likely pay for the charges via their credit cards pushing the costs even higher. Eventually a cost will be reached which exceeds the cost of gasoline. Oh and stand by for a taxpayers paid incentive for electric cars. That will add more cost to you as it will go onto the deficit.

The fix is easy. Keep the special interest groups away from government policy making. Oh and you can bet the instructions will be in at least three or four languages too. Anybody heard of an extension cord? You can buy one at crappy tire for about $20.

You betcha!
So. No calculations, assumption of persecution/conspiracy by "latte-sucking yuppie wimps" (presumably real men drive carbon-spewing trucks), implied pie-in-the-sky assumptions that the price of gasoline will remain fixed, hint at bigotry (languages), total lack of knowledge regarding electric car power consumption/charging rate (extension cord) and an insult, in passing, to a proudly Canadian institution whose products have always served me well. Did I miss anything?

Oh yeah. Hint of Palin worship.

Next on the docket, we have the arrogantly-named "BCHimself":
As we all dance around the "May Pole" celebrating the newest of electrical marvels does anyone realize that BC has the "easy" potential to produce hydro electricity at virtually "no cost" to you & I.
We have so many rivers and large volumes of water in the province why are we not producing more electricity from these sources , then issue the hydro electricity to those that want to charge their vehicle batteries "free of charge" ?
The mental migets that are in Victoria and Ottawa by the drones is simply amazing !
Now, aside from this man's abuse of "quotation marks"... what, does he think that hydroelectric dams and generators are free? Perhaps we've been doing it all wrong; clearly, all we have to do is plug the grid into the rivers. All this mucking about with dams, and that's all there was to it this whole time. Boy, do we feel stupid. By the bye, BCHimself - "mental midgets"? Glass houses and stones, boy.

Who's next? "wallycat" contributes:
Plug ins for the street people to recharge their cell phones, I pods, and most importantly to plug in their electric blankets on the cool evenings.
In apartment building and condominium parking lots? In Vancouver? There are easier places for homeless people to get electricity - especially given that part of the reason these charging stations are going to be more expensive than your conventional wall socket is that they will be high-capacity electrical sockets, akin to that which powers an electric stove; not a standard "plug in the phone" socket. Sorry, next contestant?

Ah. "IronMaiden" wins the "not contributing to the conversation" award with this bit of inspired prose:
If we could make a battery powerfull(sic) the power the space shuttle that would be great.

"Hassel99" provides us with the expected "long tailpipe" argument, along with "anything short of perfection is unacceptable":
Keep in mind most of our electrcity(sic) comes from still comes from fossile(sic) fuels and every time the province trys(sic) to promote "green" Energy "run of rivers, there is major public resistance by the same people who want to use electric cars, its a vicuous(sic) cycle.

Figure out how to power everything cleanly first before you dramaticly(sic) increase our need for said power.

"Otto2010" doesn't realize why the charging stations would cost as much as the article indicates:
Again I ask the question; Who then pays for the electricity they use to charge their electric cars? When I go to the gas station, I pay for my own gas. It seems to me that if these people get to plug their cars into common property (strata payed) outlets, then the other tenants/owners in the buildings will be paying for their electricity as well. Why should they get free "Fuel" just because they decided to buy electric?
Well, me boyo, part of that cost is for separate metering. For just that reason. Next?

From "Tyee.Mike":
I think this is a great plan, lets put plug-ins everywhere so people can plug in their electric cars FOR FREE. Ya thats it it will be just like gas cars, where you park someone always leaves you with 5-10 litres of gas so you can fill up.

I guess impark and the various parking companies will give you all that power for free right. We should power up the parking meters too. Just hand out the 'fuel' for those people who are wealthy enough to afford an electric car.

Maybe some additional planning could be done before jumping on the electric bandwagon. There are a lot of questions before forcing developers to add the cost of these installations to their buildings.
Guess what, Mike? The folks doing the legislature here? They're smarter than you. If you could figure that out, you can bet they already have. Next!

Our last contender (because I'm tired of reading them) is "DavidSt. Denis", who, like so many others, wishes to broadcast his ignorance online:
As for the electric car, it just doesnt appear to be feasible to operate. I can see stalled vehicles in Metro Vancouver all over the place. And as for long journeys by highway - forget it! No logistics to ever be able to support them and they travel way to slow for highway/freeway speeds.
Lessee. First, just 'cause the fuel changes doesn't mean that drivers won't keep an eye on the tank. Are there stalled ICE cars all over Vancouver? No? Then shut it. Now, the second point is almost coherent - there are not, in fact, too many places that have charging outlets for electric cars. But if you're willing to make a trip of it, it's not actually a problem. With a 300km range, you'll get to wherever you're going, and if you stop for lunch, you might be able to plug into a conventional outlet to charge up. The speed comment, though; that one is just too big a lie to let slide.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I'm speechless. I know this blog is supposed to be about vitriol, but sometimes you have to make room for passion.

Kudos, Dr. Myers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is Ironic... Wait, No, That's Not the Word...

...what was the word I was looking for? Oh yes. Predictable.

Alberta Closes Books on Fiscal Year with $852 Million Shortfall. (Globe and Mail)

This is why I kept my mouth shut when folks like Hunter were saying...
If oil keeps above $60, and the bank rate stays below 1%, I predict massive profits for the federal government because of oil sands development. Did Page factor the oil sands into his calculations? I doubt it because he has no clue what is happening in the west.

Oil's at $72/barrel today. Federal prime rate is at half a percent. And profits... wait, what?

Alright, Alberta separatists. Alright, right-wingers from Alberta who believe that the rest of the country wants your oil money - where's the money? Huh? Where has it gone?

Oh, that's right. Tax cuts to corporations and the rich. Carry on.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 29th, 2009

Today's candidate is Miss Christie Blatchford. Much as I respect the great old edifice of the Globe and Mail for having columnists from both sides of the great political divide, it's only natural that their more socially conservative ones should draw my ire - and that's precisely what Miss Blatchford has done. Drawn. My ire.

Her most recent column - Madoff's No Murderer - decries the fact that Bernie Madoff got handed down a sentence of 150 years in prison for the elaborate Ponzi scheme he maintained.

To quote Miss Blatchford,
I am unconvinced that the slower justice Canadians receive is better; unconvinced that white-collar crime is worthy of more grievous punishment than violent criminal offences (most particularly murder); unconvinced that those who were swindled by Mr. Madoff ought to be seen purely as victims, although they are universally being described that way.
She goes on to rail against Canada's "lax" justice system, with a particular bit of venom reserved for the Canadian life sentence ("...or what passes for it in Canada...") and the "faint hope" clause.

Now, this might be viewed as reasonable, but let's examine the two crimes. Murder, we'll all admit, is a horrible thing. But we've created implements that make it very, very easy... and humans are fragile creatures at the best of times. This is why there are degrees of severity in murder charges. Manslaughter is when you do it by accident.

Moreover, murder is the work of a second, most of the time. Premeditated murder is a special sort of evil, and so most who commit it are put away for a very long time - but unless we have irrefutable proof that the accused committed the crime (for example, Paul Bernardo), the faint hope clause and the chance of parole after twenty-five years is our justice system's way of providing a safety net. For the people who lashed out in a moment of anger that will pain them for the remainder of their lives - they deserve punishment, certainly, but to damn them instantly and eternally? (Come to think of it, that's a fairly Conservative viewpoint.)

Mr. Madoff, in contrast, carried on with his Ponzi scheme for seventeen years. He caused $65 billion dollars of savings to vanish. He wiped out life savings, pensions, charity funds! Erased philanthropic holdings, destroyed building loans! And you don't think that's premeditated murder?

I'll leave you with a bit from a man far wiser than I...
"I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr Pump. I may be— all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!"

"No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr Lipvig. You Have Ruined Businesses And. Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr Lipvig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game."
--Terry Pratchett, "Going Postal"
Just because Madoff wore a suit when he committed his crimes doesn't make him any less evil, Miss Blatchford. Just more palatable to you.

A Brief Outburst on Spelling



Use your 'i's, people.

Also, just so we're clear, 'irregardless' is not a word. It's just 'regardless'.

That is all.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 26th, 2009

Samson Effect here. Been a while, hasn't it? Humblest apologies.

Today's AotD post comes by way of the Blogging Tories (when was the last time they won an Assie? I think it's been a while. But I digress.) and she of the fetus-centric all-caps, SUZANNE, over at Big Blue Wave.

Why? This is why.

WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC PHOTO CONTAINED THEREIN. View at your own risk. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm actually somewhat surprised Nudger, the captain of this good ship, didn't take this one since he directed me to it, but he was hounding me for dereliction of duty and I suppose he was leaving it for me. So, what's wrong with this post, horrendous gore aside? Well, for one, she gets the story wrong; the photo was from the war in Iraq, not from Iran, nor did the Iranian government have anything to do with it. However, she has acknowledged that, mitigating my ire on that front.

Second, as you well know, SUZANNE is a pro-life catholic. This is not worthy of an AotD post per se, however, it is the underlying reason. The entirety of the post, the mother of the fetus was mentioned only once, as being the one who was shot. That's all the poor woman got in this article. No photo, or even mention of her condition at all, just a horribly grisly photo of the fetus. (Apparently no photo of the woman was available; this does not excuse the almost total absence of sympathy for said woman.)

Nudger himself got into the fray in the comments section of the article here, and said it likely better than I could have, but never underestimate the apparent stone-deafness of these folk, as evidenced by All-caps' meagre rebuttal:


I don't have the picture of the mother.

Is that a reason not to discuss the baby who was shot in the womb?

Why must the absence of the mother preclude discussing the baby?

Quite simply, it doesn't. You'd be hard-pressed to find a person, no matter what wing of the political ship they're on, who doesn't think that these are tragic circumstances. My question, however, is this: Why must the presence of the fetus preclude discussing the mother-to-be? And now the other shoe comes down, courtesy of JJ:

Artful - According to the story, which has since been pulled, the mother was killed.

But so what? She wasn't a fetus.

So here's the key point. Allcaps is getting all misty-eyed because a fetus ended up taking a bullet. Tragic turn of events, don't misunderstand. Here's what really gets my goat: Not a single breath spared for the dead mother. Didn't even bother looking into the mother's condition, I imagine, which in my mind is a woeful lack of due diligence, not to mention a Herculean slap in the face to anyone with a sense of decency. Suzanne's words in this post and the comments demonstrate quite clearly that she was being exactly what everyone has accused her of on a regular basis previously: A stark-raving fetus-centric lunatic.

May the dead rest peacefully; they didn't deserve this fate.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 25th, 2009

Yep, it's him again.

This guy, I tell you. If he's not eliminating one of the scientific endeavours in which we do well, or plotting to sell off crown corporations, he's polishing up the mud-slinging and similarly disgusting political behaviour his party engaged in when there was a threat of an election.
“I do think the people want to see the parties work together. But, certainly if the parties aren't going to work together, the Conservative Party won't unilaterally disarm.”

Apparently, when proper parliamentary procedures and good governance aren't on your side, the next weapon you pull in Canadian government is smear tactics and attack ads. Classy.

There's also this little gem, near the end of the article:
[Harper] also defended the size of the federal deficit, saying it is relatively small compared to the United States and will not require tax increases to deal with because so much of the spending is temporary.

Them. Us.

It could be, Mr. Harper, it just might be, that our debt is so much smaller because we are so much smaller! If we take away the debt incurred by George W. Bush, the US debt was 41.5% of their GDP. Ours is at 56% - and your deficit stands to increase that to 60%. Theirs is currently much worse than ours, but a name can be put to the reason why. Do you really want to be Canada's George Walker Bush Jr, Mr. Harper?

Or is this just part of your plan to destroy the country that you hate?

This Explains So Much...

It's old news, but still worth dredging up:

As of 1999, and again in 2005, surveys indicated that 1 in 5 American Adults believe the sun orbits the earth. From the Gallup poll:
As far as you know, does the earth revolve around the sun, or does the sun revolve around the earth?

Earth revolves around the sun 79%
Sun revolves around the earth 18%
No opinion 3%

Like I said - it explains so very much.

Afterthought: Who has "no opinion" about a binary statement of fact?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 24th, 2009

Let's spin the big wheel and see who we get today... ah yes.

He's the dictator of a country where most of the citizenry are well below any poverty line, he's known for making ridiculous comments and for his own idiosyncrasies, and he might actually be insane - ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kim Jong-Il.

From the article:
"If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will … wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all," the official Korean Central News Agency said.
Look, Kim.

I don't know how to say this, so I'll just say it. You can't make these threats. Your nuclear program is doubtful, you've not had a successful ballistic missile launch - and even if you had a few nukes, your palace would be rubble two hours after you tried to launch. And anything less than a few hundred nuclear weapons would be pretty much insufficient to "wipe out the aggressors (as you see them) on the globe once and for all."

You're not fooling anyone; no one is seriously frightened of you - not even South Korea, and you share a land border with them. Give up the nuclear program, let foreign aid in, and rebuild your economy. Prove that you're not as nuts as you seem. Or, you know, keep making threats like this, and go down in history as a sad, insane little dictator who couldn't cut it, and so made his people suffer for his own inadequacies.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 23rd, 2009

Today's pick? Alberta MLA Doug Elniski.


Part of [Elniski's] posting included advice to girls saying, "Ladies, always smile when you walk into a room, there is nothing a man wants less than a woman scowling because he thinks he is going to get s--t for something and has no idea what."

It continues, "Men are attracted to smiles, so smile, don't give me that 'treated equal' stuff. If you want Equal, it comes in little packages at Starbucks."

That's why.

Not all Conservatives are sexist, racist, or homophobic - but it's peculiar to see how many people who are find things in common with them, eh?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 20th, 2009

As they often deserve, today's AotD is the Harper government.

Why? This is why.

Most telling from the article?
  • "We have not and we will not be proposing legislation to grant police the power to get information from internet companies without a warrant. That's never been a proposal," Day said.

  • In a reversal from Day's position in 2007, one of the new bills would require internet service providers and cellphone companies to provide police with "timely access" to personal information about subscribers — including names, address and internet addresses — without the need for a warrant.

The government goes on to protest, "But all the cool countries are doing it!"

Let's quickly summarize the other countries laid out for us by the CBC:

  • UK - RIPA is a pretty sweeping anti-privacy bill. So a valid comparison there.

  • US - The Patriot Act. Need I say more? But they're working to rescind certain wiretapping abilities, and, come to it, do we really want to be emulating the Bush Era US Government?

  • Australia - You still need a warrant. Under this bill, our police don't.

  • New Zealand - Still need a warrant.

  • Germany - warrantless behavior overturned.

  • Sweden - is worse. No question there.

But if "the cool kids are doing it" isn't a good reason for children, why should it be a valid excuse for our government?


One of the better articles I've read: Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Outing in the Country

So, there's been quite the to-do amongst the various Blogging Tories - even Suzanne took some time off from spouting Christian double-talk and defending the rights of zygotes to chortle in triumph. Mind you, it wasn't her opinion that finally made the penny drop that it might be worth making a post about here. Oh no. That came from a much higher power.

So, we now know that Canadian Cynic is, in fact, Rob Day. He's friends with (or, at least, had his picture taken with) P.Z. Myers. He's a techie, and runs a Linux course site. If anything, the outing has made him cooler.

Now, I've never really agreed with CC's use of language; while shouting obscenities can be a useful tactic, I find it numbs one's opponent to their sting. Best to save them for when they're really needed. With that being said, I've never disagreed with his choice of targets. Vitriol notwithstanding, one could almost condemn him for hitting targets that were too soft - targets that virtually mocked themselves. (But then I would be forced to acknowledge the colour of the pot, and where's the fun in that?)

But with people lying about what precisely he said in an effort to vilify him, banning him from their sites so he can't attempt a reasoned rebuttal - one finds it hard to see how your tactics could possibly be worse. Oh dear. He called you names. Well, you'll just have to lie about him so he seems worse, and prevent him from trying to set the record straight. That'll show him!

More to the point, I'm not certain what this was meant to accomplish. As was pointed out very accurately by a Conservative party blogger:
…and now that it’s been shown to have been a positive thing to “out” Canadian Cynic, as it’s not only increased his traffic but has shown the whole world that the “outers” are pathetic, petty and childish…

Absolutely right. Also, do you honestly think he's going to stop mocking the deservedly mocked? What was the worst thing you could threaten him with? Exposure. That's been done. He's still here.

You're screwed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review - Frost-Haired Vixen

Now, I know that most of the space in this blog is taken up by rants and tirades - and this post is no different.

Frost Haired Vixen by John Zakour is a heinous book. If you receive it as a gift, the person who gave it to you hates you. I personally checked it out from the library, and it is a waste of shelf space there. An empty shelf would actually be better than a shelf with this travesty of a book upon it.

First, points off for mechanics. The writing is trite, and in the style of a fourth grader who had Phillip Marlowe read to him and thought it sounded fun. (Subject-verb-object-period. Subject-verb-object-period.) There are grammar mistakes and spelling mistakes. At one point, he butchers the mechanism of photosynthesis, so there are even technical mistakes - in a science fiction book, where reality is mutable. These are not cutting-edge science mistakes, or predictions that turned out wrong. These are grade-school science mistakes.

Second, points off for writing. Aside from the aforementioned mistakes, the characters are cookie-cutter; they have no depth at all, their dialogue is laughable, and the majority of the characters are based on tired or, frankly, offensive stereotypes. The computer scientists from Mars? No social skills, kind of greasy-looking, thick glasses, obsessed with women. The mind control? Trite. The end villain was no more predictable than Poe's locked room mystery, and for the same reason; the protagonist had clues that the reader did not.

Don't buy this book. Don't even let your gaze linger on it for more than a moment. I read it from beginning to end, in the hopes that it would improve along the way. It did not.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sometimes Even Self-Publishing Companies Should Have Shame

I know, I know - still none of the regular features. Things will look up; trust me.

In the interim, I present the most compelling argument against facilitating self-publishing ever seen.

The book is in caps. The whole thing. (With the exception of any bible passages, which, given their total lack of spelling mistakes, dramatically different font and formatting, and general coherency, I'd wager were cut-and-pasted from elsewhere.)

This tome of internet shouting (clocking in at a hefty 648 pages!) is priced at the easy-to-afford rate of $135.00, plus tax. For the paperback. Anyone who buys this book has too much money, and should be putting it to some other, more beneficial use. Say, burning it.

The author, one Eliyzabeth Anderson, went to the good folks at Authorhouse.com, and I sincerely hope an automated system handled the rest, because I'd like to think a company that actually binds proper books would have some sense of shame. (Incidentally, I think she opted for the essential paperback package. The length of her opus notwithstanding, I would've sprung for the proofreading option. Costly or not, she would've got her money's worth. Or caused deaths at Authorhouse.com headquarters due to proofreader cerebral hemorrhaging.)


I'd hope that Ms. Anderson had/has some sense that she has no ability to write, that she is a complete failure as an authoress and should never put pen to paper again... but given the existence of this book, I rather doubt it.

H/T to the good folks at Canadian Cynic

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Fun Game While You Wait for An Update

Go to Conservapedia. Swallow your bile. Choose any page at random (this page is a good start) and read it as if it were written as an article in the Onion, or one at Landover Baptist.

You see? Conservapedia is an untapped source of comedy gold!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Today's Pet Peeve...

...people who use "was" when they should use "were". (Ex. "If I was a rich man.")


That is all.

(And I've got a couple of AoTD posts coming up, folks. We'll get back on track.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ignorance and Illumination: The Boy or Girl Paradox

Today's I&I segment comes via my younger brother, who directed me to this thread on the Something Awful Forums, which after some time devolves into arguing about how probability works with respect to the particular problem. My aim here is to point out the problem, and elucidate the proper solution. So without further ado, I present to you the Boy or Girl Paradox:

You are walking around town when you come upon a mother and her son. She makes chit chat with you, and mentions that she went to the park on a picnic with her two children the other day.

Assume for a moment that the odds a girl or boy is born are equal. Now, what is the probability the other child is a girl?

There are two answers that crop up continually throughout the thread: Either the probability of the unobserved child being a girl is 1/2, or the probability of same is 2/3. Now, there are all kinds of ways you can organize the information when you work this through, but the two ways it's done most in the thread is age, and whether or not the child is observed. The 2/3 answer comes up as a result of a mistake in the interpretation; either there's a missed piece of information, a misinterpretation of what the mother is actually saying, or it's mistaken as a Monty Hall Problem (which I won't be getting into here; that's a whole different can of worms.).

The major misinterpretation of this problem is as follows: Some people read this and think the question is asking what the probability of a child being a girl will be given that at least one of the two is a boy. In that case, the probability IS 2/3; There are four possible configurations, BB, BG, GB, GG, and based on what you're told, only one of them, the GG case, is invalid. The problem with this? This isn't what the question is asking.

One of the issues with ordering the children by age is that you're not given any information about the ages, which can lead to this false interpretation, as outlined by HHHH:

Here's how you get 2/3:

There are four configurations of sexes, each with equal probability:


Obviously the last one is impossible since at least one is a boy:


So this means that there are only three possibilities. Since a girl shows up in two of the three possibilities, and we've already established they're equal, the probability of the other child being a girl is 2/3!

Yes, I know it's wrong, but the more challenging question is what is the fallacy with this logic?

The fallacy here is that although you know one of the children is a boy, you also don't know which child she brought, either child A or child B. Because of that, there are two possible cases for the BB arrangement. So, labeling this by age, and first-born with a subscript 1, second-born with a subscript 2, we get the following cases for the boy being brought to the park:











The crowd that are insisting that the probability is 2/3 are assuming in the BB case that the woman is bringing the first son, and forgetting that it's possible that the second son could be with her, and the first at home. They're arranging it by age, but forgetting that there are two possible arrangements for the two-boy case, because there are two distinct boys in that case. As such, the probability of the other child being a girl is in fact 1/2.

Now, let's look at the problem another way, also equally valid: Observed or unobserved. The table here goes as follows, first child is observed, second is the unobserved:


Again, four possibilities here, and we can scrub the last two, since the observed child is not a girl, thus leaving BB and BG as the two remaining possibilities, and the probability of the unobserved child being a girl is once again 1/2.

In truth, this problem is trivial; the question gives us the answer straight up. The probability of a child being either a boy or a girl is equal. Since the gender of the observed child has no bearing on that of the second, children being independent trials, we can say straight off that the probability of the second child being a girl is 1/2.

This problem was even attacked by one poster using Bayes' Theorem, and not only did the answer turn out to be 1/2, but when he used the probabilities of 2/3 for a girl and 1/3 for a boy, Bayes' theorem yielded a probability sum of 4/3, which is impossible; by definition, the sum of all probabilities in any given scenario must be 1.

Of course, given that the only two possibilities for a chromosome pair (trisomies notwithstanding) are XX (female) and XY (male), biology on its own bears out that the probability must be 1/2. Why do you think there's a roughly even split of men and women in the world? SA user semicolon said it best:

It's 50% because biology doesn't give two shits about your tables and theorycrafting.

No, it most certainly does not.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Brief Public Service Announcement...

From blogger Hunter of "Climbing Out of the Darkness...":
If you want to successfully protest, make sure hits home with the silent majority, and is easy for everyone to participate in, without having to go out and march in the streets. Try these two protests.

Bank fees - pick one day for everyone to stop using their credit and debit cards. If you need money, actually go into the bank to get it. Using an ATM machine is a big no no. Can you imagine how our banking system would react? It's not illegal to not use your debit card, nor is it illegal to walk into a branch of your bank and ask for the cash from your account. Every Canadian could participate without having to take time off work.

Now, aside from his comment that the "TEA parties worked", of which there is no evidence, he seems to suffer under bank fees. So I thought I'd do my good deed for today and provide solutions.

Now, neither Royal Bank nor CIBC offers no-strings attached fee waiving for a monthly balance, so I'm not including them in the list, but there's one other service I thought I'd mention:

So there you are, Hunter. Adopt any one of the above and you can never pay a bank fee again. How's that for a protest, hmmm?

(H/T to CC for Hunter's idiocy.)

Afterthought: Hunter also uses the redundant phrase "ATM Machine". Doubtless, when using the "ATM Machine", Hunter also uses a "PIN Number". It's not an uncommon mistake to make, linguistically, but it's still painful.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Asshat of the Day - April 11th, 2009

Today's Asshat of the Day? Paul Edwards.

Now, were it not for a case of mistaken identity in a Pharyngula comment thread, I'd never know of the man. Mr. Edwards is a pastor and radio host for WLQV, an evangelical Christian radio broadcaster operating out of southern Michigan. Given their transmission wattage, they cover nearly four states and southern Ontario with their broadcast.

Now, Mr. Edwards was fortunate enough to have the esteemed Christopher Hitchens on his show (hence the confusion in the comment thread from a similar interview), and, for the most part, was respectful. Granted, he repeatedly said that he wasn't out to win a debate, but to "show the Gospel to Mr. Hitchens", but pretty much all evangelists are like that, so I suppose that cannot be held against him.


Now, to digress for a moment, I was under the impression that Pastors were, among their various theological studies, trained in the sort of interpersonal techniques that in which psychologists and counselors are trained. If so, Mr. Edwards clearly failed that part of seminary, because he totally fails to see the points at which he says things that are so abhorrent to Mr. Hitchens as to prompt the later comment, "I felt as though I wanted to hang up, just then." In fact, he goes on, after the interview is over, to ask his audience to "show [him] the point at which Christopher Hitchens got emotional".

I can tell you the things that you said that disgusted him, Mr. Edwards (though I'm not dead certain about the order):

  • Mr. Hitchens had already made it clear earlier in the program, that the Bible's acceptance (and mild support) of slavery was absolutely revolting in his eyes, and that he felt that there are few greater evils than one person claiming to own another. And then you went and said that you are a "willing slave to Jesus Christ", and moreover, that you "Do what God wants, without question". Slavish thinking, slavish action - both of these, Christopher Hitchens made it clear he despises and wishes to see eradicated, and you held them up as virtues. If you wanted to deliver the Gospel to your guest, that was not the way to go about it. Specifically, he made reference to Abraham and Isaac, with regards to the slavish obedience to the Lord, with the question being this: What if God hadn't stayed Abraham's hand? Abraham would have killed his own son, just because God told him to do so.

  • You also clearly missed the point Mr. Hitchens was making when he said you owed the American Armed Forces an apology for your comparison. You attempted to spin it, in the after-talk, to sound like he was accusing you of suggesting that the US Army had committed war crimes, but this was not the case. In Iraq, the invasion was partially for oil, partially as a victory when Osama Bin Laden couldn't be found, but ostensibly to free the citizens from a tyrannical dictator. The only people they were aiming to kill (and even then, only after a fair trial) were Saddam and his ruling council. If enemy combatants faced them, certainly, there could be deaths. But, tragic though it may be, battlefield deaths are a generally-accepted part of war. What were "God's orders" to the Israelites regarding the Alamekites? Oh, right:
    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Samuel 15:3)

    Now, assuming that we're treating the Bible as a fairy story (and what better way to treat it?) wherein every single Alamekite was not only evil, but born evil, perhaps this is acceptable. But if you want to claim that the bible represents parts of history, this is religion-motivated genocide. An effective means of ending an opponents ability to pose a threat, true, but you can't claim it to be good, nor can you draw a parallel between it and modern warfare conducted by any nation that follows the Geneva Conventions. According to the Story Book, God told the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child in Alamek, and not one Israelite stopped and said, "Hang on, they can't all be evil." Mind you, later, when Moses instructs them not to kill everyone, it gets even worse.

  • Finally, I think the third major point wherein you got Mr. Hitchens angry was in stating that you were not his enemy, and alluding to Matthew 5:43. On the face of it, this is just fine. Hate is, after all, a destructive emotion - very little good has come of it. But doing good for those who hate you is a recipe for an abusive relationship! Feeling empathy for your enemies is fine, and good - but loving them as you would love your neighbour is both impractical and dangerous!

    In many ways, this passage (and, later, Mark 9) are representative of one of the truly frightening messages espoused by believers of many stripes - that what happens in this life doesn't matter. That suffering under your enemy's hands while you love him, or that mutilating yourself rather than admit fault are good options, because you'll be rewarded once this life is over. Those, however, who do not believe, view this as insanely self-destructive - and worse, it can impact them as well, even though they don't think they're getting any sort of benefit after death other than decomposition. It's what makes religious fanatics so unstoppable - death is merely a transition to reward. It seems to me that is the reason why suicide, at least in the Christian doctrine, is a sin. They needed a way to stop people from taking the shortcut to the good life. This is what horrified Christopher Hitchens.

So there you are. Now you know. And, to top it off, you're the Asshat of the Day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ignorance and Illumination: The Fine Tuning Argument

So, (he said conversationally), this video, courtesy of Pharyngula, got me thinking about a popular apologist argument of late - one that even showed up in the most recent Discover magazine (this being the International Year of Astronomy) - that of Fine Tuning.

For the unfamiliar, I will elucidate. Fine Tuning is a universal variant of the Argument from Design. Rather than looking inward (the "I sure didn't evolve from a monkey!" crowd), the groups that posit fine tuning look outward. Look at the universe, they say. If there had been a trifle less matter at the beginning, the matter/antimatter imbalance wouldn't have worked out in our favour. Look at the density of matter and the Cosmological Constant. If those were even a trifle different from how they are, the universe would never have lasted long enough for life to form.

On a more local scale, look at the solar system and our place in it. If there weren't gas giants to scoop up most of the incoming interstellar debris, Earth could've been pulverized by an asteroid long ago. If Earth weren't the precise distance from the sun that it is, it would've been too hot or too cold. If Earth's moon weren't in the orbit it is, there would never have been the tidal pools that life needed to get out of the oceans, or, conversely, the tides would've been catastrophically intense - in either case, no tidal pools. If Earth's gravity weren't exactly what it is, the earth might have lost its atmosphere. And so on, and so forth. I'm sure, thinking about it, you can come up with hundreds of stellar and universal constants without which life as we know it could never have come to be.

Now, some apologists find this particularly enticing, and it may seem a more moderate view than most, simply because it presupposes that a great deal of astronomy is, in fact, accurate, and that geological "Deep" time is a fact, rather than, as the YECs would have us believe, a hypothesis. Don't be fooled - this is just Paley's tired old argument, dressed up in fancy new clothes. How can [object] come to have been, when it is so [intricate/beautiful/sensitive to change]? Surely there must have been an intelligence behind its design!

Now, the Watchmaker concept has been thoroughly debunked, but this latest variant on Paley's postulate hasn't been around long enough to get its own book as yet. However, it has a number of arguments against it - one of which is a bit of a knockout.

First, there is a counterargument against those who might argue that a benign creator designed the universe for life (or for some creators, especially for Human life) - they did a really, really poor job of it.

Look at every other planet in the solar system. Look at any of the hundred nearest stars. Look, for that matter, at the vacuum of space. None of these are capable of supporting life. Look, for that matter, at our own planet. While unicellular life is found just about everywhere, the polar extremes sure as heck don't support much of anything - and if your opponent is arguing in favour of a human-centric deity, more than three-quarters of the planet is not very conducive to human life.

In this argument, much depends on the postulated creator being omnipotent. If your opponent in such a debate is willing to grant that the postulated creator was neither omnipotent nor omniscient, or, alternately, that they were either non-benevolent or actively malevolent, then the problem of incompetence (that is, for someone tuning the universe to favour life, they did an awful job) doesn't come up. Now, the question arises as to exactly how much they could have to do with things like the Cosmological Constant if they don't have omnipotence on their side... but I digress.

Regardless, both the Tuning argument and its major opposing arguments spring from the same source - the Anthropic Principle. (The universe we are in is capable of sustaining intelligent life at least at one location in space/time. Us, if you were wondering.)

To the theist, the answer to "Why is this the case?" is very simple. God made the universe with the intent that we might live in it.

However, there are a number of more plausible explanations - and a few that are slightly less plausible but still more feasible in Occam's eyes than "God did it".

The first is comprised of four sub-clauses, but the final point of each is this: if a universe exists/existed where the conditions were not conducive to the emergence of intelligent life, no one would be around to ask the question. That we are guarantees that the universe in which we ask it has these properties. Ah, say the theists, but how?

Well, the simplest answer is coincidence. Yes, a stunning display of coincidences, but if they hadn't occurred, we'd never know about it, since life (including the questioning folks) would never have arisen. So, say the proponents of coincidence, we're here, so it did happen. Q.E.D.

A second group, with a few more followers than the first, suggest that part of the Theory of Everything that we've not yet encountered includes strictures on the laws of physics such that if a universe exists, various constants must be the way they are, or that all the constants are dependent on some other variable (possibly discrete), which forces them into their current values. Therefore, if a universe exists, and isn't radically different from ours, it would have to have laws, topology, and constants similar to our own. This argument is given limited credence, as it is, as yet, only a hypothesis, with little evidence to support it.

A third group uses the multiverse theory to suggest that there are, in fact, googols of other universes which DO have different constants, or different distributions of matter, and so forth. If everything that can happen must happen, it is then a certainty, rather than a possibility, that in at least one universe, life must arise. In fact, since there are many ways life could have arisen without intelligent life, or without any one creature, an infinite number of universes must have life, by this argument. Recent developments in quantum physics - particularly quantum computing - lend credence to this argument. It also suggests interesting things about human thought, as decisions might very well simply be bifurcations between new universes in the multiverse, with what you perceive to be "yourself" progressing down a particular branch of the tree.

The fourth and final group suggests that while there is only one universe at any given time, it has repeatedly appeared and collapsed, been and then not-been, on a sort of quasi-timescale (as linear time cannot exist outside the bounds of the physical universe). After however many quadrillion iterations, the chance of the universe having the features necessary to engender life becomes more than reasonable. In a way, this is like the multiverse theory, in that as the number of iterations approaches infinity, the chance of a universe coming into being that can support/engender life approaches one.

There is one other, more recent explanation for the principle, but this one is both a bit more out-of-left-field and a bit more difficult to wrap one's head around. (At least my own head. Those with more capacious heads might find it simple. In any event, read on.)

This last group postulates that life, and intelligence, is in fact necessary to allow the universe to exist. As has been demonstrated in quantum physics, the act of observation changes the observed. Known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle, a simplification of this point of view would be that the universe itself can be interpreted to act like a Schrodinger waveform, and unless or until life arises to act as the observer, it takes on all possible properties. This, in a way, is similar to the multiverse theory, in that if the universe takes on all possible properties, it is a given that life will arise.

In summary - while both "how" and "why" are nebulous at the moment, (and in fact, the "why" may never be more satisfactorily answered than "because"), the argument for Fine Tuning by an intelligence is far less plausible than any of those offered by the Anthropic Principle. It's just Paley's Watch meeting the God of the Gaps.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


To spruce things up around here a bit, I've created a couple of logos to correspond to our regular features.

First, Ignorance and Illumination:

Featuring Pharyngula (and Monty Python)'s inimitable Mr. Gumby to represent ignorance, and a brilliant CFL (just to really piss off the AGW-deniers) for the purposes of illumination. I think it gets the point across.

Next, Asshat of the Day:

Fairly self-explanatory, I should think.

And that's it! Smaller versions of these logos will adorn their corresponding posts. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ignorance and Illumination: Going Galt

Apparently Obama's announcement of a 4.9% tax increase for those earning more than $250000 (and 3% increase for those making more than $200000) has people making claims that he is a socialist or, alternately, a fascist. You'd think that people would have difficulty combining the two, given that their respective positions on the political spectrum, but some people manage the feat.

Regardless, this has some people talking about "going Galt". For those of you unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a quick synopsis:

Atlas Shrugged centres around Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, and the titular John Galt. The novel is set in a sort of idealistic dystopia (as contradictory as that sounds) populated by two (maybe three) types of people. Producers, like Reardon and Taggart. Looters/moochers - those who either demand things from the producers or appeal to their sense of pity. And the third category are those who have the right ideals, but aren't themselves producers. At best, they are assistant producers - Eddie Willers, Dagny's assistant, for example - a man who does his job, but isn't a visionary.

At any rate, the moochers/looters wind up in control of the government, systematically punishing the producers because they hate them, and yet depend on them. Psychologically speaking, it tells us a lot about Ms. Rand's mind - she emigrated from Soviet Russia, and therefore had a certain amount of vitriol for "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". The titular character, fed up with the looters/moochers' activities, establishes an enclave in the Colorado Rockies, and entices other producers to stop "empowering" the parasites, and join him there. With this handful of industry giants removed from the scene, society collapses.

Cheery, eh? Well, this is the hero that people (predominately right-wingers) supposedly wish to emulate. However, the manner in which they do it would be enough to make Ms. Rand cringe...

The meme really got its start from a post by Dr. Helen Smith. Now, the post itself is rubbish - "rewarding those who overspend, underwork, or are just plain unproductive" indeed! - but the real proof of the pudding (sewage pudding with arsenic frosting, in case you were wondering) were the comments this post engendered. It was a veritable Baskin Robin's of wignuttery - every flavour showed up:
  • The very first comment suggested refusing to live up to a contract (anathema for Rand's characters), abuse of a system designed to help ailing family members, and communes. If anything is likely to make Rand turn in her grave, it's people proposing communes in her name!

  • Here in Tenneessee we not only have the Caney Fork and the Little River in which to fly fish but we also make our own cars. Lots of them.
    It does my heart some good as a southerner to know that this time it is the South that is on the productive and responsible side of the issue.
    This gentleman seems to forget what industry was asking, even then, for a fairly colossal bailout, because it wasn't economical...

  • Minimalism. Work all you want. Make all the money you want but spend as little as possible. Put your cash in a safety deposit box so it's yours but the bank and the rest of the financial system can't count is as an asset and use it to make loans, etc.
    This gentleman has a bit more of a Galtish feel to him, but doesn't seem to get that this only helps the US by increasing the value of the currency, increasing the worth of the money the US does collect in taxes. That said, I am all for this technique. I wish the government did it.

  • Anyone who stands against replacing public education with a private educational system or home schooling (and immediate reduction in school based taxes at all levels) should be voted out.
    And here we sample a different flavour of wingnuts - the home-schooling nuts. The idea of "home skooling iz bettar!" is so ridiculous it deserves a post all its own - but to summarize: there's something that manifested in the twentieth century private sector more than any period before it - specialization. While I'm fairly certain I could repair a cart and keep a horse fed and healthy in addition to my other skills, I wouldn't have the first idea of how to repair a hybrid automobile. While my math and computer science skills are fairly well-developed, I know virtually nothing of electrical engineering. I'm sorry, but unless you are in the top 0.5% of the population, there's no way you can teach your child every subject to the same depth they would receive in a classroom. I'll stop here before I really get into it... this will definitely be a later post, however. the stupid, it burns!

  • In business I can lower my salary and either leave it in the business or pay it out in dividends (no FICA taxes). Buy gold instead of stocks and CDs. Drop all subscriptions to MSM. Buy antiques, used guns, etc. instead of new products.
    Once again, we have the stupid people who don't seem to get the concept of a marginal tax rate. If you want to reduce your income out of spite, to deny the government taxation on your earnings... well, that's your prerogative, and good for you for sticking to your guns, I suppose. But diminishing returns?

  • The final straw was the last debate, when the One proclaimed that health care is a "right". Screw him and his minions. Let them try to provide this "right" to the masses, when those who produce it by their labor and intellect refuse to do so.
    And herein we see the benefit inherent in a socialized healthcare system - no idiots like this who commoditize health care. No pay, you die, is that it?

  • I went to dinner recently with a client. He works his butt off. She has never worked and never will work, because she is far, far better than her husband or me. I got the drift.
    And why on earth are these house-pigs praised while the working men are slammed in society?
    Strangely, all the right-wing debates usually feature at least one comment of this nature. Odd, isn't it?

  • Hold your breath, or you may be breaking the law. Any scientist knows that CO2 is not pollution, nor can it be classified as a pollutant. One more reason to vote against Obama
    This stuff too.

And on, and on, and on.

Let's make things simple, folks. Here's how you "Go Galt". First, you have to truly be a producer. One poster suggested that lawyers were producers. I think Ms. Rand would probably disagree with you. Doctors also seem to get short shrift in her novel. In fact, the only people who get respect are the industrialists - the ones who manufacture things or facilitate their manufacture, and get joy out of so doing. So if you work just to pay the mortgage - you never were a Galt, so don't pretend otherwise.

Second, you have to be willing to withdraw your services from society altogether. This may mean working as a fry cook, it may mean living on a self-sufficient farm - but whatever your choice, you cannot contribute to society in a productive manner. You cannot, however, become a moocher or looter yourself; that would run entirely contrary to Objectivism. You cannot join a commune, either. Ideally, you would join a community with its own currency, or which trades by barter.

But the fact of the matter is, even those of the would-be Galters who aren't moochers or looters themselves still aren't Galts. At best, they are Willers. They get their jobs done, but were they to vanish, there would always be others to fill their shoes.

Finally - when Ms. Rand wrote her book, the marginal tax rate on the highest tax bracket was 91%. 39%? Dagny Taggart would laugh at you and tell you to grow a pair.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Asshat of the Day - March 18th, 2009

Samson Effect here, with another Asshat of the Day. Today, we have an asshat who a large number of people believe is beyond reproach; that his words from the pulpit are the divine word of God. Well, I am not one of those people, and so this Asshat of the Day title belongs to none other than His Holiness the Pope Benedict XVI himself. Now, some of you on one side might say what I just said above, that his God speaks through him, and when he speaks about doctrine, he is infallible. On the other side, though, you might think that tabbing any of the higher-ups in the Catholic Church, up to and including the Pope, is just plain unsporting.

Anyways, I'm sure you're familiar with the Church's stance on birth control of any form, which, if you aren't, is 'no artificial birth control' and that abstinence is the way. Well, Benedict XVI is making his first papal visit to Africa, and a few days ago, in line with Catholic doctrine, has said that condoms are not the answer in fighting HIV/AIDS. In fact, he goes so far as to say that it can increase the problem.

Here's the problem with that line of thinking: It's wrong. It's very wrong. It's woefully wrong. Condoms, when used properly, not only reduce the risk of pregnancy significantly, but they have a profound effect on the likelihood of contracting just about any sexually transmitted disease, HIV included. Want proof? A cursory search for stats on Google regarding the subject quickly shows that the pope is quite clearly, at least on the subject of condoms making things worse, talking out of his ass. And when it comes to transmission and prevention of diseases, I think the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention knows a little bit more than the Pope does. Still not sure about it? More from the CDC about the subject, and going beyond HIV and on to STDs in general. Not only does claiming that condoms exacerbate the problem show up to be flat-out false, it's contrary to the goal of just about every single AIDS relief organization in existence.

Right, now that the comment about condoms is thoroughly dusted, the other part that I have to talk about is the Pope stating his opinion (or doctrine) that 'sexual abstinence as the best way to prevent the spread of the disease'. Now, on its face, this much is true. If you don't have sex, you're much less likely to contract or spread diseases such as AIDS, syphillis, gonorrhea, and all those nasties. Two things: First, those are not the only way to spread or contract those diseases, and second, I really don't know how to put this any more succinctly, but he and his followers are eventually going to have to get it into their heads that the very vast majority of people REALLY like to have sex. You aren't going to change that without seriously damaging those people psychologically, not unlike that portion of the Catholic clergy you seem to hear about in the news an awful lot, or (although not Catholic himself) Ted Haggard. You CAN, however, teach people about sex and safety, and how and where the two intersect, and that will help stanch the flow of spreading STDs.

It took about four centuries for the Catholic Church to admit that Galileo was right, hopefully it won't take nearly as long for the Church to admit that the CDC is also right, and that claiming condoms make this problem worse is baseless, harmful misinformation. Pope Benedict XVI, you are the Asshat of the Day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oh Sweet Merciful Cheese...

...he's back.

We talked about him just two weeks ago, when we looked at his (lack of) credentials for the important post he holds. Now, however, he's only deepening my misery:
Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution.

“I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Asking the Minister of Science and Technology whether he believes in evolution is not asking a question about his religion! It's asking a question about whether he's fit for his job! (The answer to that question is no, by the way.)

Dr. Alters, founder and director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal, has it right, later in the article:
“It is the same as asking the gentleman, ‘Do you believe the world is flat?' and he doesn't answer on religious grounds,” said Dr. Alters. “Or gravity, or plate tectonics, or that the Earth goes around the sun.”

If he wants to discuss ID or creationism - fine, put him in charge of some government theological department. But if he's going to be Minister of Science, he'd better damn well put away the fairy stories.

Brought to our attention by the good folks at Canadian Cynic.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Asshat of the Day - March 16th, 2009

Today we return to the well - and by well, I mean the Big Blue Well of Infinite Idiocy. And what do we dip out of that well? Well, what would you expect from an anti-abortion site but a misogynistic chauvinist who thinks that feminists are the cause of society's woes?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ken, aka RuralRite.

Now, my attention was first drawn to this wannabe patriarch by his first comment to a post that already smacked of patriarchal influences:
Most women have yet to be liberated. They moved from the protection of a naturally dominant man to an overly domineering feminist to think for them.

Wearing men's clothing, men's haircuts and being aggressive certainly isn't liberating.

So, pretty damning right off the bat; a generalization, and not even one of an ideology, but of a full half of the population. Also, he equates feminism with the butch look, and implies that women who prefer more boyish haircuts or enjoy wearing pants as opposed to dresses do so out of envy, rather than simple preference.

A couple snarky comments to deal with "feminized" men as being "she-men", and then we get into "yikes" range once again...
I respect my ladyfriend and she respects me so we don't have to prove anything by having sex.

Er... what? In this blogger's opinion, if you truly respect your ladyfriend (or boyfriend), you're having sex as frequently as she (or he) likes. It's not a matter of "proving" anything. It's a matter of "I care for you, and want very much to give you pleasure." Now, given Ken's behaviour, I'm not surprised that "as much as she wants" is none, but I can't help but feel bad for her.
Feminists have comletely failed to convince most women that they have the best intentions for women. Indeed, if it wasn't for the continual infusion of tax-payers(including mens) money, the whole movement would die.

They had enough time and resources over the years but the fact is you can't fool all the people, all the time.

So, now we've progressed from rudimentary sexism to advanced sexism with a paranoid conspiracy theory focus. Come on, Ken, I know you can reach doctoral levels...
It was thanks to men and men only, that everyone including women enjoy all the lax time they have. Without our inventions you'd still be living in a cave.

Women's 'rights' took a notch upward when they weren't tide down with chores.
... and there it is. Men have apparently invented everything in history. Women have been riding our collective coattails for the duration of human history. That, I think, earns him a PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) in bullshit.

But wait, there's more!
"you seem to think you should share in the achievements of others just because you have a penis."

Now we get to the root of the problem. Envy.

"And I have news for you Ken, women have been inventing things for millennia "

No they haven't but they have been a better help to mankind in more ways than men because of their different, patient personalities and gifts.
So now we're taking Freud's approach - all women view themselves as incomplete men. Also, apparently we're not going to just suggest that women don't invent things, but state it as fact. Where can we possibly go from here?
Another thing a man invented, The Bassiere.

...huh. Well, at least this is innocuous. It's wrong, of course, but at least it's not insulting...
"Why on earth would a man invent a bra?"

Why would he invent a toolbox?

Come on, man! Give me something here! But surely he can't run with this one, given the substantial proof to the contrary...
I guess you ladies are all too young to remember all the inventions or even books on who invented what. Try as they might feminists haven't been able to change that part of history, yet.

I'm quite secure in all that I have accomplished across Canada but it is absolutely nothing in comparison to what our Lord does every nanosecond.

*sound of head repeatedly hitting desk*

Right. So Ken is another "history is being revised by a conspiracy" group. Unlike the right-winger we previously wrote about, though, in this case, it's not the leftist conspiracy. No, it's the feminist conspiracy, which is simultaneously all-pervasive and on its last legs, supported by the patriarchy and undermining it. And then, of course, to throw away whatever shreds of sanity he might claim to cling to, he gives a shoutout to teh Ceiling Cat.

Ken's baseless claims became so outlandish that she-of-the-all-caps, SUZANNE herself, calls him on it. He returns with another claim of revisionist history, content in the knowledge that SUZANNE is anti-feminist and anti-choice, and therefore almost as nuts as he is and bound to agree with his worldview. But not so, despite defending him against other posters.

Now, there's other stupidity on a truly grand scale at Ken's blog - too much to detail here, but do check it out; gibbering idiocy on a grand scale.

Okay, one post that I have to make note of, just because of the sheer insanity that engendered it. Calling someone a "good person" is an insult. Ken is a man (questionable) not a person, apparently. He goes on to say that "person" isn't a real word, and shouldn't appear in the bible. He cites some etymological background for this claim, and it's not entirely from left field. But then he drops right out of the calm shallows of simple misogyny and into the depths of religion-fueled insanity:
The only words which have substance are nouns. Nouns have substance, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc., do not. Verbs are not substantial, they only indicate action. The substance is in the noun. For example, the word party was previously only a noun, but now it's a verb, now it's an act. Instead of saying, "let's go to a party", we say, "let's party". We see how the English language, through its evolution, changes the substance of a word into nothing.

There are no words. Which is fine, because apparently, even if there were words, they would have no substance.

I wonder if he has a tinfoil hat to fit over his asshat?

Right, I Call Bull$%@&.

A few days ago, Justin the Raging Tory (sounds kinda like a kids' TV monster, doesn't it?) posted his swan song. While I wouldn't say I'm "jumping for joy", every time someone like dear Justin - people who mistake opinion for fact and confuse a personal lack of understanding with evidence of fraud - leaves the public forum, the world as a whole gets a little bit smarter, on average. So for that, at least, Justin, I thank you. Thank you for edifying the world by your own withdrawal.

Now, that aside, I call bull$%@& on Justin's chemical stifling of creativity. Do I doubt the mental health issues and medication? Of course not - I have no reason to doubt his word on that, and, in fact, have long suspected, even before he indicated it to be true, that Justin suffered from some mental health issues. However, I'm calling him on the creativity issue.

Why? Well, this, for one. This, for another. (In short, the articles indicate that Methylphenidate and its derivatives either have no statistically significant effect on creative ability, or actually have a salutary effect. The second article also indicates that most of the articles to the contrary are based on anecdotal evidence, or, in extreme cases, simple fear of medicines that adjust neurochemical balance.) So Justin may be feeling uncreative, but the most he can blame on his medication is the placebo effect combined with his own belief in its effect.

Lack of creativity or not, however, the removal of comments seems like simple revisionism (you know, the sort he accuses "leftists" of perpetuating). If he isn't feeling up to maintaining his blog, he could quite easily lock comments, leaving those that had been written visible to anyone who chooses to peruse his blog. I am (as one might expect, given the forum in which I write this) familiar with the Blogger control panel - and it is emphatically not necessary to remove all existing comments to lock posts to any future comments. So what it looks like to me is that in his dramatic departure, Justin is taking the opportunity to make it seem as though his opinions were unchallenged fact, and to erase the contraindicative evidence posted in response to some of his more egregious assumptions or biased comments.

If he ever reads this, he'll probably dismiss this as a "false and wild accusation", but his reason is not "100% true". I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that it wasn't an intentional lie, but he is wrong in his statement. Though, given the rest of his blog, I suppose we should all be used to it.

Farewell, Justin. You will not be missed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ignorance and Illumination: The Airplane and the Treadmill

Samson Effect here with a new segment called Ignorance and Illumination here on Not Fit to Print, where we find some situation with a major misconception or ambiguity, and make efforts to dispel the fog surrounding it.

For the inaugural event here on I&I, I'll be discussing the ever-confusing Airplane-on-a-Treadmill problem. There are a few typical descriptions of it, but the key points are this:

  1. You have a typical airplane on an infinitely long treadmill.

  2. The treadmill can accelerate to any speed.

  3. Structural integrity will not be considered as a restriction (i.e. No structural failures of the airplane, tires, or treadmill.)

  4. The axles on the airplane's wheels are, for this case, frictionless.

  5. The airplane will start its engine and attempt a takeoff roll as the treadmill begins moving in the opposite direction, matching speeds with the wheels of the plane.

  6. The airplane will either take off as normal, or will be stopped by the treadmill.

Now, the major source of confusion with this problem seems to be in item number 5; many people have differing interpretations of just what this statement about 'the speed of the wheels' means, as follows:

  1. The speed of the wheels as measured by a speedometer connected to the wheel. This is dependent on the rotation rate of the wheel.

  2. The speed of the wheels as measured by a stationary observer off the treadmill as they move through space, i.e. The translation speed of the wheels.

  3. The ground speed of the airplane, which is identical in principle to case b.

So we'll deal with the misconceptions that abound in case a. Many people think that since the treadmill speeds up, it's going to draw the airplane back as it tries to accelerate; this is not the case. The issue here is that a false analogy to a car is being drawn. A car engine delivers its power to the wheels, which rotates them; that rotation then translates into a static friction force between the tires and the ground, which is what propels the car forward. A car on a treadmill would be stopped by the treadmill because it operates with respect to the ground. An airplane, and the wheels thereof, however, behave differently.

What IS the difference, I hear you cry? Well, the difference is an airplane isn't driven by rotating the wheels; it's driven by pushing the entire aircraft through the air via direct, and the wheels simply rotate freely on the axle to allow the plane to move more easily along the ground. A car's driving force goes through the ground it rests on, while an airplane's driving force goes through the air. The airplane operates in a different reference frame than a car, speficially, with respect to the air, not the ground.

Now, time to analyze the forces involved in the plane powering up. Brakes are off, throttle wide open, which means at our initial situation of a stationary plane and a stationary treadmill, we have two forces acting – thrust, and static friction. Thrust acts through the structure of the plane, accelerating it forward, and the friction acts on the tires. That friction, however, translates very little into the structure of the plane, and mostly only serves to rotate the tires along the ground. Additionally, that friction exists whether the treadmill is moving or not; it exists just the same on a paved, static runway, and airplanes take off from those all the time.

Now, what's the biggest problem with case a? This situation fundamentally defines the speed of the airplane as zero for all time; that's the only case where this situation would be true, and the only case where it can be true is if the engine is not running, or if you're picky, at low idle. Since it makes that definition, it's not physically significant, and once the airplane begins moving through space in reality, then you get a situation where the treadmill is constantly accelerating to match the speedometer connected to the wheel, which accelerates the wheel (but fails to decelerate the plane), which accelerates the treadmill. So with this feedback loop happening, you'll eventually get a situation that is eventually going to become physically untenable, but still failing to stop the acceleration of the plane through space.

So, that being said, case a is physically trivial. There's no important physics happening there because we've demanded in the question that the airplane remains stationary, and it has essentially reduced to “Demand that the airplane remains stationary. Does the airplane take off?” It creates a tautology by framing the question poorly or incorrectly.

So now that we've shown why that definition not only runs afoul of sense, but makes no difference to the physics of the problem as well, let's talk about case b, where the treadmill runs at the speed of the wheels through space. So, for a plane traveling at any given speed, v, along the ground, the treadmill will be running at the same speed, v, in the opposite direction. Now, taking into account what I mentioned well above about the friction, the wheels, will be rolling – and freely spinning on the axle, remember – at a relative speed of 2v, so for a plane traveling at 50 knots, the treadmill rolls back at 50 knots, and the wheels rotate at the equivalent of 100 knots. All the treadmill does is speed up the wheels, slow down the plane.

So, after all that, no matter how you rig it up, as long as your axle is frictionless and your wheels don't explode, then you can get moving forward, get lift, keep accelerating, and take off, no matter how you rig it up.

Still don't believe me? Well, here is some experimental verification, with a real plane on a moving tarp acting as a conveyor belt. You don't even need the ideal scenario!

So hopefully after reading this, you'll be able to find the signal for all the noise on this subject. Fare thee well, and hopefully we've learned something interesting!