Friday, December 28, 2012

Michael Barone discovers percentages, treats them like a child treats Play-Doh

Michael Barone has some thoughts about the 2012 election, now that it's been a whole seven weeks.  Specifically, he thinks that it's interesting how the 2004 and 2012 elections were similar, and thinks that if he shows us some math, we might be interested in that too.  Unfortunately, he seems to think that mathematical operations are just things you can arbitrarily perform on numbers to make them more interesting so that you can have something to write about in your online column.

In combing through the results of the 2012 election — apparently finally complete, nearly two months after the fact — I continue to find many similarities between 2012 and 2004, and one enormous difference. 

Does "combing through" mean "reading some article someone else wrote and using those ideas for your own"?  Because this sounds familiar.
Wowie zowie!  Two elections in the same country separated by eight years were kinda the same but also kinda different in some ways also! 

Both of the elections involved incumbent presidents with approval ratings hovering around or just under 50 percent facing challengers who were rich men from Massachusetts (though one made his money and the other married it).

Logically, these elections were basically the same then!
Whoa!  In a country where people divide themselves roughly evenly into liberal and conservative factions, a president from either side is liked by about half the people!  This math shit is off the hook, you guys.  Also, really loving the random dig at Kerry there.  Excellent stuff.

In both cases, the challenger and his campaign seemed confident he was going to win — and had reasonable grounds to believe so.


In both elections, the incumbent started running a barrage of negative ads defining the challenger in the spring. And in both elections, the incumbent had at least one spotty debate performance.

I don't think there are any elections involving incumbents where these aren't true statements. 

In both elections, each candidate concentrated on a more or less fixed list of target states, and in both elections the challenger depended heavily on outside groups’ spending that failed to achieve optimal results.

"In both elections, candidates focused their efforts in areas where they might matter.  The loser and his friends also spent lots of money, which indicates that they did not expect to lose and thought the money might make a difference.  I am a real writer and these are real insights, I swear."

The popular-vote margins were similar — 51 to 48 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, 51 to 47 percent for Barack Obama in 2012.

These numbers are scintillat--zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Wow!  I care so much that I fell asleep there for a second.  Is this column actually just a list of numbers that you thought were weird?  You guys, in the past several elections, the winning party received an odd number of votes.*  Maximum weirdness!

The one enormous difference was turnout. Turnout between the 2000 and 2004 elections rose from 105 million to 122 million — plus 16 percent. Turnout between the 2008 and 2012 elections fell from 131 million to 128 million — minus 2 percent.

You make kitty bored as fuck.
For what it's worth, the only reason these numbers look interesting is that turnout in 2000 was low because it was 2000 and people were all rocking out about the fact that Y2K never happened.**  When I say "interesting", I of course mean "any word other than interesting, preferably one which means the opposite of interesting".

Turnout is a measure of organization but also of spontaneous enthusiasm. In 2004, John Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore had four years before. But he lost, because George W. Bush got 23 percent more popular votes than he had four years before.

I'm spontaneously enthusiastic!  Not about this article, of course.
This paragraph is a basic explanation of how the way to win is to get more more votes than the other person if they get more votes than the person who tried before and oh my god i am bored someone pls send help.

Kerry voters were motivated more by negative feelings about Bush than by positive feelings for their candidate. They disagreed with Bush’s major policies and disliked him personally. The Texas twang, the swagger, the garbled sentence structure — it was like hearing someone scratch his fingers on a blackboard.

Turn my swag on
Bush voters were more positively motivated. Political reporters had a hard time picking this up. His job-approval rating was weak, but Bush voters tended to have a lot of warmth for him. He had carried us through 9/11, he had confronted our enemies directly, he had pushed through with bipartisan support popular domestic measures such as his education bill and the Medicare prescription-drug benefit.


His criticism of his opponents was measured and never personal, and he blamed none of his difficulties on his predecessor (who had blamed none of his on his).

Maybe that's because Bush's predecessor left him a balanced budget and relatively few long-term problems, whereas Obama entered office with several foreign conflicts and do you say...not-balanced budget?  Weighted budget?  Whatever.  Also, I feel compelled to note that it was very easy for Bush to avoid personal attacks because Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and a legion of Swift boaters took care of those for him. 

The 2012 election was different. Barack Obama got 6 percent fewer popular votes than he had gotten in 2008. And Mitt Romney got only 1 percent more popular votes than John McCain had four years before.

"See, what I did there was I took the numbers and I...mathed them.  After the mathing, there was some really interesting stuff, with the numbers and the maths and all that.  Percent!
In retrospect, it looks like both campaigns fell short of their turnout goals. Yet examination of election returns and exit polls indicates that the Obama campaign turned out voters where it really needed them. That enabled him to carry Florida by one point, Ohio by three points, Virginia by four points, and Colorado and Pennsylvania by five points. Without those states, he would have gotten only 243 electoral votes and would now be planning his presidential library.

I never thought of that!  If several million people had voted differently someone different might have won.  Inception!
For what it's worth (I wouldn't know how much it's worth, since I'm not as good at math as Mr. Barone here), 5 points in Pennsylvania was about 310,000 votes.  This whole paragraph is a giant exercise in "just imagine if everything was totally different!"

But the conservative bloggers who argued that the Obama campaign’s early-voting numbers were below target may have been right. If Mitt Romney had gotten 16 percent more popular votes than his predecessor, as John Kerry did, he would have led Obama by 4 million votes and won the popular vote 51 to 48 percent. Romney, like Kerry, depended on voters’ distaste for the incumbent; he could not hope to inspire the devotion Bush enjoyed in 2004 and that Obama had from a diminished number in 2012.

But to continue this counterfactual scenario, if Obama had won 23 percent more popular votes this year than in 2008, he would have beaten Romney by 85 million to 69 million votes and by 54 to 44 percent. In reality, Obama’s vote and percentage went down. Considering what happened in Bush’s second term, that suggests a course of caution and wariness for the reelected president and his party.

The key word here would be "counterfactual". This has been your day's exercise in pretending numbers are different and painting a word picture of what that might mean, which as I understand it is the heart of modern mathematic theory.

*facts may be fabricated if I see fit
**probably not the real reason

Oh god 1984 what have you done

This is what happens when people in the 1980s hear "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", decide it needs to be jazzed up, and then give serious interviews about their motivation for doing so.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Things you shouldn't say after DUIing into a house

"Y'all are the ones that messed up my car because y'all got in front of me."

Today, in people who are proud of having haters for all the wrong reasons, we have Charlotte Allen

Charlotte Allen wrote a phenomenally terrible piece on how we could prevent future school shootings by having more men in schools, which predictably earned her a denunciation from just about everyone who denounces such things on the Internet (we have reached the point as a society where there are specified denouncers for various types of stories now).  Rather than take note of the fact that lots of people were angry at her because of how wrong (and to pretty much any reasonable person, offensive) her work was and write an apology or take the piece down, Ms. Allen has instead decided to follow her initial article with another equally terrible one, apparently basing this course of action on the idea that if people are angry at you, you're doing something right (spoiler: she's incorrect).  Charlotte, the floor is yours:

Well, at least no one is calling for my “head on a stick” — but that’s probably because Prof. Erik Loomis of the University of Rhode Island is about the only person or entity that hasn’t denounced me for pointing out in NRO’s Sandy Hook symposium that the school could have used a few male teachers on the premises who might have tackled down the runtish Adam Lanza before he did the worst of his damage.

This is actually factually correct--I interviewed several trillion people, organizations, fauna, flora, extraterrestrial entities, and Rush Limbaugh, and not one of them would agree to not denounce Ms. Allen's earlier piece except for Professor Loomis.  Hey, I tried!

It’s no small thing, of course, to stop a gunman, whatever his size, but there might have been more of a chance with a few men on hand.

Do you sometimes read the things you write down afterwards and think about whether they're worth putting on a website where other people can see them, or do you pretty much just type it up and send it in as is?  This is just an awful line of thinking, and I can't believe you are still pushing it.

I asserted that the “feminized setting” that prevails at elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel creates a culture of “helpless passivity” that puts women and small children at risk when a psychopath like Lanza decides to blow out the doors.

Right, because feminism is "a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for helplessly passive people.  This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for helplessly passive people in education and employment. A feminist is 'an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of helplessly passive people'."  Wait, that's not right.  I guess what you said only makes sense if you define things in a way that is totally different than what they actually mean.

I’ve been reviled by the Holy Trinity of online liberal journalism: David Weigel (Slate), Alex Pareene (Salon), and Jessica Valenti (The Nation). Also: Daily Kos, Media Matters, and Mediaite, just to name a few spleen outlets (you can Google my name plus “Sandy Hook” to see the links to dozens of others). At Esquire’s Politics blog, Charles Pierce gave me the McArdle Award, named after the Daily Beast’s Megan McArdle for suggesting that gang-rushing the shooter would work better than gun bans to avert mass murders or minimize their deadly damage. (Since I wholeheartedly agree with McArdle — and I suggested that very tactic in my NRO symposium piece–I’m honored to accept the award.)

It was pretty helpful of you to link to all the places people told you how wrong you were, so that people can go to those places and see how wrong you were.
You know what's funny is that no one seems to be criticizing the idea that someone should make an effort to physically interfere with the gunman (the McArdle is named for a pundit who suggested specifically that children should be trained to do this, which: what the fuck is wrong with everyone?)--in fact, your McArdle Award mentioned nothing about gun bans or gang-rushing the shooter, and lots about the fact that you insinuated that had there been men or "huskier 12-year-olds" things might have been different.  What's even worse about your whole theory is that some people did the exact thing that you wanted them to--the principal and at least one teacher.  Gender of both individuals: female.

One of Pierce’s commenters wrote that someone ought to “beat the stupid” out of me. Remarks like that are the way that liberal guys demonstrate that they, too, possess testicles.

Finally, even Jonah Goldberg right here at NRO accused me of “blaming the victim.” Et tu, Jonah! I can’t take most of the criticisms seriously, but I will respond to Jonah: No, I was not blaming any of the 26 victims or the parents who enrolled their kids at Sandy Hook. I am, however, blaming our culture that denies, dismisses, and denigrates the masculine traits—including size, strength, male aggression and a male facility for strategic thinking–that until recently have been viewed as essential for building a society and protecting its weaker members.

Just stop.  You are actually arguing that the problem we have is insufficient male aggression, and if you can't see how ass-backwards that is I don't know what to tell you.  Also, "male facility for strategic thinking"?  Plenty of school employees did plenty of quick thinking at the time of the shooting, probably saving a number of lives, and you writing that sentence is basically saying that they tried but could have done better if only they'd been men who are innately trained for these situations.  What is wrong with you?  Do you not see why everyone is mad at you for saying things like this?

We now have Hanna Rosin at Slate urging parents to buy their little boys Easy Bake ovens so they’ll be more like little girls.

So fucking what.

Women are less aggressive by instinct, and they are typically trained to be nice. I praised and continue to praise the courage of the Sandy Hook principal, Dawn Hochsburg, and the teachers who gave up their lives along with her, but with some men on the scene who knew what to do, some of those lives might have been saved.

Thanks, for giving us a specific example from this exact event that proves how wrong you are.

I am also responding to David Weigel, who told me I gotten my facts wrong: that there are actually two men, a custodian and a fourth-grade teacher, on Sandy Hook’s 52-person staff. He’s right, and I stand corrected. This does help prove my point, though:

No, it doesn't.

just two adult men in a building containing 500 people — and it’s not clear that both of them were at work that day.

Just two adult men, in a building containing almost all children who are not adults.  You are clinging to this idea so far beyond the bounds of reason that I can't even figure out what someone would have to show you to get you to stop for one half second and think about whether you might be wrong.  You literally just said that your evidence being invalidated proves your point in the space of three sentences.

Indeed, a visit to Sandy Hook’s staff website is a depressing experience, the sea of women’s names.

I'm in goddamn tears over the lack of men employed there.  You know what's depressing, really?  That you could go to that page, and instead of feeling sadness at seeing the names of people who suffered from an unspeakable tragedy, you feel sadness that there are not enough male names on your screen.

Another depressing page on the Sandy Hook website is the “Safe Schools Climate” page. It’s a page of links to “anti-bullying” resources. Yes, the Sandy Hook staff’s idea of a “safe school” was a school where kids didn’t say mean things about each other on Facebook!

How awful.  This is absolutely irrelevant.  You just wanted some other pet issue you could tie in, but it sounds like you think what we need to protect our schools is...more bullying.  Just fantastic work there.  I wonder why people aren't lining up to sing your praises.

The Sandy Hook massacre was a tragedy, but it was at least in part a tragedy of the collision between feminist delusions and reality.

That's wrong.  You are wrong.  Stop it.  Sometimes people get upset at your writing just because it's upsetting.  Being controversial isn't a badge to be worn with pride.  Sometimes pissing people off just means you're pissing people off. 

Foxnation, wtf r u doin

The Patriot Guard Riders, a pretty cool group of bikers who follow groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church around in order to blockade them from protesting funerals and such, is now in Newtown.  Which: that's good to know, because the WBC is one of the few groups I can think of that I'd like to see disrupted in any legal or illegal way possible, because fuck them, for serious.  Foxnation is reporting on this, but they seem to have done a little bit of editorializing:

I don't really get this at all.
Just to be sure, I checked out the Patriot Guard Riders site, which states on the front page:

So Fox Nation made it up.  Despite being concise, that sentence is excessively redundant.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What's the worst thing that's happened to you because of faulty GPS services?

Whatever it is, it's not as bad as this.  Everyone can stop complaining about Apple maps now.

I must say, removing a flag and destroying a forest indicate that there's more to this story than it seems.

Why are we talking about guns when the real menace to America is ping-pongs

Texas state representative Kyle Kacal has some things he'd like to say about some recently suggested gun control measures. 

As someone who operates a hunting business, Kacal said he's opposed to stricter legislation on firearms.

For example, Kacal, who lives on a 2,400-acre ranch in Brazos County, said he wouldn't support a proposed bill instructing residents how to secure their assault weapons.

"People know what they need to do to be safe. We don't need to legislate that -- it's common sense," he said. "Once everyone's gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone's gun is locked up."

It may be common sense, but people are still fucking it up sometimes.  Still, it does seem like people are getting better at preventing accidents, at least in the hunting business, so there's at least a hint of a decent point there.  However, Kacal loses pretty much all credibility with his follow-up statement:

Kacal echoed a common nationwide argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people.

"I've heard of people being killed playing ping-pong -- ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns," he said. 

Holy shit.  What was that again?

ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns


ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns
In fairness, people do sometimes suffer very serious cases of tennis elbow.  I was unable to find any cases of death by ping-pongs.
 "Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything."

Indeed, it is false.
 It sounds like Kacal heard (made up?) a case where someone was injured by a ping-pong, and decided this was a legitimate argument to be made.  Watch out for those ping-pongs, you guys.  And the flatscreens.  They are the true menace to society.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rush Limbaugh wants to bounce off a theory, whatever that means

Rush Limbaugh has titled a portion of a recent radio show "ChiCom envy at the New York Times".  This appears to be an insinuation that the New York Times has expressed some sort of jealousy at the powers of Chinese Communists, which makes sense if by "sense" you mean "absolutely zero sense of any kind at all ever".  Rush, explain yourself!

RUSH: You know, the theory -- and I'm not espousing it, I just want to bounce off of it.  The theory that Adam Lanza somehow had been convinced the world was gonna end Friday and he was discombobulated by it. His mother was a prepper and a survivalist and showed him guns and he went in there and did what he did to either deal with the pressure of it or maybe save people from the end, who knows what.

It's pretty offensive to just look at a bad thing that happened and start making shit up about what you think might have caused it, which is pretty much what Rush seems to be doing here.  He cleverly avoids actually saying that he thinks this is true with the "I just want to bounce off of it" and then goes on to strongly imply that it is true.  Interestingly enough, many of Rush's advertisers seem to encourage the same kind of survivalist tendencies that he seems to be decrying here--lots of them would love if concerned survivalists wanted to stock up on home security, firearms, and gold, and Rush has been known to promote survivalist viewpoints himself.

It happened in China, is the point.  Some doomsayer in China -- we had the story earlier in the week, and I didn't get to it, I neglected to mention it. But some doomsayer went crazy last week and attacked his mother, and then went into a school and stabbed 26 or so kids.  He didn't have a gun.  But he had a knife, and he stabbed 26 or so kids.  It was an AP story. 

Alright, Rush.  So it's disrespectful to politicize the tragedy in Newtown if you're pushing gun control, but if you just want to compare it to an almost certainly unrelated event in China, that's okay?  Your entire basis for this theory that a survivalist tendency might have to do with Newtown is that another thing happened in an entirely different place and it was similarly tragic.  Also, where are you going with this point?

And today the ChiComs "have arrested more than 500 doomsayers for spreading rumors about the end of the world on Friday."  Don't you think Obama's salivating -- uh, sorry.  Sorry.  That's the old Rush.

Yeah, the old Rush would claim that Obama would love to have authoritarian powers and be able to arrest dissidents.  The new Rush apparently does the same thing, except then he walks it back and pretends like he didn't really say it because he called backsies and that totally makes it not count that he said it, you guys.

That's the threatening, making-people-nervous Rush. 

Totally different than the new Rush!

The new Rush is all about welcoming, friendship, and easing anxiety.
But I do know Thomas L. Friedman's salivating over it, New York Times.  Oh, that kind of power, wouldn't that be great?  If government could just shut up wackos like that.  Wouldn't it?  You know Thomas L. Friedman, the communist of the New York Times, has ChiCom envy.  A number of these guys wish that Obama would simply seize power like the ChiComs have.  Good, decent, smarter than everybody else people.  So when you have a problem like this, 500 doomsayers running around spreading rumors about the end of the world you just go grab 'em and lock 'em up.  You arrest them.

Yes.  Thomas Friedman, a newspaper writer, and the New York Times, a newspaper, who rely on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution about as much as any other individual or organization in the country, would just love it if Obama gave himself power to arrest anyone he pleases, the way it is in communist China.  That seems completely logical.  On another note, Rush Limbaugh himself has in the past expressed frustration that we can't lock people up for speaking freely.  Maybe he should write for the New York Times, that well-known communist rag.

By the way, just to be clear, there's only one person that I know of who is saying that Adam Lanza's mother was a prepper, and that's the ex-sister-in-law.  She's the only source for that.  Have you heard any more?  I don't know of anybody other than the ex-sister-in-law who says that she was a survivalist or a prepper. And again, folks, I have to remind you that everything that was reported on this for three hours on Friday was wrong, and a lot probably still is.  It's getting to the point I don't really believe anything that I see or hear, and the things that I'm told are true and the things I'm told to believe, it's becoming a bit much.

So, you personally acknowledge that you have no faith in the entire premise of your argument here.  Was it that urgent to find a way to compare this to something that happened in China that you couldn't wait, say, 24 hours to clear up the facts?  I suppose if the premise turned out to be demonstrably false, you couldn't spin hypothetical scenarios relying on what appear to be fake facts.  One of the reasons that we can't believe all these things we see and hear from the media is people doing the same fucking thing you're doing right now--everyone wants to be the first with a story or theory and can't be bothered to check if it's actually based on something resembling the real world.  It's becoming a bit much.

It seems truth is a huge casualty in our country.  Right and wrong don't exist anymore.  It's far worse than I think any of us thought it was gonna be.  We've been making jokes about it over the course of the 25 years, how we've been in outcome based education, awarding people who think two plus two is five for trying and refusing to tell 'em that they're wrong 'cause it would hurt their feelings and humiliate them.

Everything you said that preceded this paragraph was a classic example of having a two and another two and trying to tell everyone how they might equal five if something you heard of one time is true and also somehow relevant to the equation, as opposed to being irrelevant and wrong.  I award you nothing for trying, and I am absolutely willing to tell you that you are wrong regardless of subsequent hurt feelings. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Can you drink beers that were near an atomic bomb detonation site?


There must have been some scientist bet where one guy bet that he could successfully publish a study titled "The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages."

Thieves commit most Canadian heist ever

After being apprehended, the thieves apologized politely and profusely for their transgression.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A new threat to our schools is here, and it is yoga

The New York Times reports that some California parents are upset at yoga being included in their children's physical education curriculum.  They are arguing that it amounts to "religious indoctrination", since it has its roots in Hindu theology.  This seems pretty similar to saying that we shouldn't learn about the historical Vikings in school because it will lead the kids to go on raids seeking glory for Odin, but whatever.

They shouldn't learn about the Minnesota Vikings either, unless it's an engineering lesson on "how to build a stadium in Minnesota that can successfully withstand snow."
ENCINITAS, Calif. — By 9:30 a.m. at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, tiny feet were shifting from downward dog pose to chair pose to warrior pose in surprisingly swift, accurate movements. A circle of 6- and 7-year-olds contorted their frames, making monkey noises and repeating confidence-boosting mantras. 

Jackie Bergeron’s first-grade yoga class was in full swing. 

“Inhale. Exhale. Peekaboo!” Ms. Bergeron said from the front of the class. “Now, warrior pose. I am strong! I am brave!”

Wow, what a horrible thing to be indoctrinating the kids with.  If they go around feeling strong and brave they won't be at all prepared for feeling weak and powerless when they graduate college with fifty grand in debt and have to choose which fast-food establishment they'd most like to earn minimum wage from.  Also, anything involving the word "Peekaboo!" just shouldn't be able to count as religious indoctrination.  It's the least threatening thing ever.  "Our Lord, who art in Heaven, Peekaboo!"  "Allahu Akbar, Peekaboo!"  There's no way that could ever bother me at all.

Though the yoga class had a notably calming effect on the children, things were far from placid outside the gymnasium.

I'm not always a huge fan of children, but I must say that this situation is not uncommon, because children have a pretty excellent capacity for not giving nearly as many fucks about things as their parents do.  I remember when I was a kid they said we couldn't play flag football in 3rd grade anymore, which was upsetting to myself and the other kids for, oh, 30 seconds.  Some of the class parents, on the other hand, were extremely upset about this, to the point of creating an extra-curricular program for kids who wanted to play football that much (meaning kids whose parents wanted them to want to play that much, of course).

Pictured: children, almost all of the time.
A small but vocal group of parents, spurred on by the head of a local conservative advocacy group, has likened these 30-minute yoga classes to religious indoctrination. They say the classes — part of a comprehensive program offered to all public school students in this affluent suburb north of San Diego — represent a violation of the First Amendment.

After the classes prompted discussion in local evangelical churches, parents said they were concerned that the exercises might nudge their children closer to ancient Hindu beliefs.

"Yes, we're concerned that our children putting their bodies into certain poses will make them likely to replace their current religious beliefs with belief in Brahman and his various personifications.  One day it's stretching, the next they're debating the significance of the hidden avatar in the Bhagavata Purana."

Mary Eady, the parent of a first grader, said the classes were rooted in the deeply religious practice of Ashtanga yoga, in which physical actions are inextricable from the spiritual beliefs underlying them. 

“They’re not just teaching physical poses, they’re teaching children how to think and how to make decisions,” Ms. Eady said. “They’re teaching children how to meditate and how to look within for peace and for comfort. They’re using this as a tool for many things beyond just stretching.” 

We wouldn't want kids to be able to find peace and comfort within themselves, now.  That'd be bad.  In all seriousness, yoga is derived from Hindu practice, but at this point it's also used by all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons.  A large number of professional athletes use it as a flexibility aid and to help prevent injuries, yet somehow I'm pretty sure there has not been a rampant growth in the number of converted Hindu athletes in recent years.  In fact, if you google "Hindu athlete US", the second result is Jim Thorpe's Wikipedia page and the first is not about the U.S.

Why Jim Thorpe?  I have no idea.  The word "Hindu" doesn't even appear on his Wikipedia page anywhere.
The district has stood firm. Tim Baird, the schools superintendent, has defended the yoga classes as merely another element of a broader program designed to promote children’s physical and mental well-being. The notion that yoga teachers have designs on converting tender young minds to Hinduism is incorrect, he said. 

“That’s why we have an opt-out clause,” Mr. Baird said. “If your faith is such that you believe that simply by doing the gorilla pose, you’re invoking the Hindu gods, then by all means your child can be doing something else.” 

Seems reasonable.

Ms. Eady is not convinced. 

“Yoga poses are representative of Hindu deities and Hindu stories about the actions and interactions of those deities with humans,” she said. “There’s content even in the movement, just as with baptism there’s content in the movement.”

So, you're basically saying that moving one's body in certain ways makes one more attuned to Hindu theology.  "There's content in the movement."  That's such a vague way of explaining what's wrong here.  If I start a cult that is devoted to running, will you stop running?  In fact, we can go even further.  If we start cults devoted to each normal way of moving around, we can make sure Ms. Eady and her friends have to walk around in a ridiculous manner so as to avoid accidentally doing anything that's related to another religion in any way. 

It would actually be pretty wonderful if different religions directed their followers to walk in certain ridiculous ways.  I'd spend all day in church.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When rescuing stray cats, one should ensure that one is not in fact rescuing a wild bobcat

A Maine woman yesterday struck a cat with her car, and decided to put the cat in her car and seek medical assistance.  Ordinarily, this would be admirable; however, the animal she picked up looked like this:

I don't know how to caption a photo of this magnitude
She had in fact rescued a wild bobcat, which regained consciousness in her car and naturally freaked out.  The police were able to assist, and the police chief later gave some simple recommendations to those who might be wondering whether it's easy to tell a bobcat from a house cat:

But does a bobcat look sort of like an oversized house cat?

“That would be a really big house cat,” he said. “Most cats have long tails, and a bobcat does not. They have short, stubby tails. Also, their appearance is an indicator. They look like they are built to live in the wilderness.”

This does not look like a friendly kitty.

Edwards emphasized the danger of approaching a wild animal in his police report.

“Although this seems amusing,” he wrote, “one should always be careful handling injured animals and call local animal control officer or game wardens when in doubt.”

To summarize, here is a helpful guide for interacting with felines in the wild:

If you find one of these, it's okay to save it.
If it looks more like this, seek professional assistance.  Do not put it in your car.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ukrainian parliamentary deliberations sound fun

The Ukrainian government has had an interesting couple of days.  According to a Yahoo! News story:

Ukraine’s parliament has been engaged in two days of all-out brawls, which have also featured a boxing champ and naked protesters.

I feel like this must be exaggeration, at least a little bit-

Outside of the two or three people sitting right next to the fight, no one seems to much care that it's happening.  Is this standard procedure?
Oh.  Okay, then. 

A pro wrestling style fight started on Wednesday between members of President Viktor Yanukovych’s party and the opposition in parliament. It continued on Thursday as two men tried to change their party affiliation. 

This sounds like the playground wars I used to have in kindergarten.  Just as in this case, there were a number of teams, frequent physical fights, people secretly changing sides in the middle, and large Ukrainian men on both sides.

I thought "pro wrestling" was another exaggeration, but that man appears quite ready to hit someone with a chair.
Pro boxer Vitali Klitschko made a cameo appearance on camera on Wednesday, and security forces had to divert naked women from storming the House floor.

Wait, are those two items related?  When you put it in one sentence like that, you make it seem like nude women stormed the floor because Vitali Klitschko was there. 

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the main opposition party, is a woman, and she is currently jailed after losing the 2010 election to Yanukovych.

The protesters were members of the group Femen, and they were arrested after they stripped off their clothes in below-freezing weather and charged the parliament building.

So, to clarify: Klitschko was there because he was recently elected to the parliament.  The women were there protesting the jailing of a politician who lost an election in 2010.  Ukrainian politics is unusual, to say the least.

Images from Wednesday and Thursday showed a scene that resembled a WWE pay-per-view event, with parliament members using full nelsons, choke holds and other moves familiar to American wrestling fans.

From the photos, I was unfortunately not able to identify any specific wrestling moves, but I certainly don't doubt the truth of this statement.  These people fight for serious.
At some point, people might want to wear athletic clothing instead of suits to these proceedings.

On Thursday, the fight over control of the floor again exploded, as members fought on the assembly floor.

Among the new members of the opposition faction is Klitschko, who was on the floor during the skirmishes, but not throwing punches.

Pictures show a well-dressed Klitschko smiling, and he later joked about the fighting to reporters.

Klitschko is the head of the Punch party (yes, there is a Punch party) and he stood back from the fray.

Let's hope no one starts a Knife party.  This is ugly enough as is.  Ukraine might be the only country where "pro boxer" is the most appropriate career track for politicians, so Klitschko should be a natural.

This makes no sense, unless you can become president by successfully sitting in the president chair.
The country is deeply divided between factions that support ethnic Ukrainians (who want closer ties to Western Europe) and ethnic Russians (who want political ties to Russia).

The groups also couldn’t agree on parliamentary procedures on Thursday.

Ukraine has a history of violence in its parliament. Fights are common and one brawl in 2010 sent six deputies to the hospital with concussions.

Ukrainian parliament has a bigger head trauma problem than the NFL.  In any case, it sounds like a much more exciting experience than our American version.  If this kind of thing was on C-Span I'd watch all the time.
Politics in Ukraine: not so different from Walmart on Black Friday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The most excellent headline about drunk Austrians in German pools you'll see today

University of California unveils new logo, everyone points and laughs

The University of California has had the same logo for 102 years now, so somebody decided it was time for a change.  There's nothing in particular wrong with the old logo--it's just kinda old, and higher-ups felt like it wasn't well suited for online use.

There appears to be a rudimentary Kindle there in the middle.  How quaint.
So they went off and consulted some graphic designers, who came up with this:
No, that's not a loading screen--that's actually the logo.
Understandably, some people were confused why UC suddenly felt like they'd be best represented by a Vista loading icon on a kickboard.  Words like "derision", "blunder", "mockery", and "backlash" were thrown around by critics (really, those are all words that now appear on the first page of Google results for "UC logo").
The Internet hasn't been this riled up since, well, probably some other time this morning when a thing happened.
 The new logo was also an easy target for Photoshop artisans, who quickly pointed out the unfortunate resemblance to a loading icon. 
I guess they just figured that anything related to computers would communicate how cool and futuristic they were.  Nothing says "the future" like the thing you look at when you wait for your goddamn computer to work fucking properly.

UC isn't the first organization to pick a technology-themed logo which didn't really send the message they were hoping for--in fact, it's more common than you might think, even among tech companies.

Is that man trapped in the hourglass?  Who thought this would be good as a logo?  Were they drunk?
Other dedicated Photoshoppers made other mockups, which: just because two things are both related to the University of California does not mean they are funny when you put them together.

Ha Ha!  The cop's pepper spraying a bad logo, get it?  Me neither.
Anyway, following the furor over the new logo, UC refused to back down--the logo was implemented on their site and they seemed to think that the criticism would die down, which is reasonable for anyone who's ever seen the Internet get fired up about something for approximately three hours before something else happens and everyone forgets about it.  However, the criticism here seems to be sustainable--public figures up to and including the Lt. Governor of California have stated their opposition.  It's unclear what the university will do--presently, the logo appears to have been largely removed from the site.  In fact, it appears nowhere on the main page at present, and if you go to Berkley's page, you'll see it just once: it appears as part of a news story about the outrage over the new logo.  This has been your internet controversy of the day.

Nothing says "proud of our new logo" like burying it in the bottom left corner of your site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jim DeMint has some ideas about signing treaties

Jim DeMint delivered a speech the other day opposing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  At least, I think that's what it's about, because that's what he says it's about, although he certainly has trouble staying on point if that's the case.  For those who may not be aware, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is basically an treaty that emulates the Americans with Disabilities Act on an international level.  John McCain has lended his support to the treaty, saying that it is an example of American leadership on rights for the disabled.  Bob Dole has also spoken extensively in support on it, and was present to give some testimony in support of a treaty that would have been a major victory in his lifelong campaign for disability rights.  In fairness, there are some valid reasons to be concerned about signing U.N. treaties, but I have a feeling Jim DeMint isn't going to be paying much attention to those (because secretly, I read the whole speech ahead of time.  Shh.).

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have participated in the hearings and debates on this treaty, and I understand the aspirations of the groups who support it. But I have serious concerns about reaching those goals through a legally binding United Nations treaty.

Other U.N. organizations have failed to achieve their stated purposes and actively work against the interests of the United States.

I'm sure he has some examples in mind, but he doesn't even say what I should look up to see if he's right.  If you're going to be paranoid about a U.N. takeover at least tell me what part you're paranoid about.

Not even a week ago, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to “non-member observer state” over the objections of the United States and Israel. This is a breach of the Oslo accords and will hurt the Middle East peace process. Secretary Clinton called it “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

Whoa, shit!  Now the Palestinian representative can come watch silently next time Israel tries to make sure they get no representatives at U.N. meetings.  What does this have to do with the topic?  What was the topic again?  Oh, right, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Onward!

The U.N. Human Rights Council includes notable human rights violators such as Cuba, China, and Russia.

I think you left somebody off that list.

These countries have made little progress improving the rights of their citizens, and nearly 40 percent of the council’s country-specific human-rights condemnations are against Israel.

That's fair, maybe--that said, the fact that 40 percent of the "country-specific" condemnations are against Israel isn't really evidence for anything.  "Country-specific" is a pretty strange limiting factor there, so that could just mean that Israel is frequently condemned for actions that they undertake alone, whereas other countries violate human rights in groups.  It's a somewhat interesting fact, but it means virtually nothing in isolation.

More worrisome, convention committees–such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women–have a track record of overstepping their authority and advocating positions contrary to American laws and values.

People disagree with me on anything, ever? 
/regains consciousness
Good heavens!  People sometimes advocate positions that the U.S. disagrees with?  What on Earth are they asking us to do, throw all the white males out of office?

In the past, these committees have supported giving voting rights to felons, 

A thing that several U.S. states already do, including two states where felons can vote from prison.  Next?

the decriminalization of prostitution, 

A thing that is already legal in Nevada.

gender quotas,

This is vague.  I'm assuming this refers to either a political representation quota or a hiring quota for minorities, given the context.  Neither is being mandated by any U.N. treaty that I could find, and also we are talking about the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or at least I thought we were.  I guess we'll go with:

If DeMint gets to re-use his anti-UN talking points, I get to re-use my pictures.
and increased access to abortion.

He's saying that these are things that treaties have "supported" in the past.  Are we seriously this scared of people supporting things we don't?
Overly broad language included in this treaty would likely allow the U.N. to meddle in many of our domestic matters.  International bureaucrats working with the U.N. should not be able to influence how the United States creates and implements laws for the disabled, especially when members come from countries with lower human rights standards than our own.

This is basically the opposite of what this treaty isIt's based on legislation (the Americans with Disabilities Act) that already exists in the U.S., and really is designed to get those countries with low human rights standards to improve them.  This is a case where the U.S. influenced the U.N., not vice versa.

The purpose of any treaty should be to advance specific security or economic interests that make us a stronger and safer nation. This treaty does neither.

This seems to be an argument that we should not sign a treaty we do not "win".  That said, it's one of DeMint's more logical points, if you believe that the U.S. should not be responsible for advancing human rights on an international level.

Last week on the floor, Leader Reid argued that we must ratify this treaty to “take the high ground” on these issues with the rest of the world. But the United States does not have to join a U.N. convention or any other organization to give ourselves legitimacy and moral authority in the world.

Because America.  Fuck yeah.
This convention will do nothing to improve the rights of Americans in the United States. We have little evidence to suggest that joining this convention and its committee will ensure that other countries improve their protection of disabled people. Of the 126 member countries, this convention’s committee has only issued recommendations to a handful.

Let's summarize the main points DeMint is making.  First of all, this treaty is dangerous because it might force the U.S. to adopt all kinds of binding legislation that would take away our sovereignty and prevent us from making our own laws regarding the disabled.  Secondly, there's little evidence that other countries would have to do anything to improve their protection of disabled people, because apparently those terrifying binding clauses only apply to us (I'm not posting the citation needed image again).  I guess we're worried that they might issue us some very sternly worded recommendations?

Portions of this convention also concern reproductive health, 

Oh!  That's code for something, I bet.  Noted leftist John McCain, do you have anything to say about whether we should reject this treaty because of sections related to abortion?

"With respect to abortion, this is a disabilities treaty and has nothing to do with abortion. Trying to turn this into an abortion debate is bad politics and just wrong."

the rights of families,

Here, DeMint is insinuating that this treaty will take control of disabled children away from families and give it to the government.  It will not.

and the use of the treaty in our courts.

We should never cede the authority of these matters to an international organization. President Washington’s warning in his farewell address bears repeating here. He said:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Not surprisingly, DeMint's best argument is made using someone else's words.  There's a case to be made that we shouldn't enter into treaties that we don't need, but we should recall that Washington was president in the 18th century, when the U.S. didn't have to debate whether we should be involved in human rights issues in foreign countries.  It's not a wholly illegitimate point today, but it's a bit outdated.  Outside of a general philosophy opposing treaties that makes a modicum of sense from a certain worldview, all of DeMint's arguments here are essentially without evidence.  He's saying that X might hypothetically cause Y because he thinks it might, and he doesn't like Y, so we can't even consider X.  It's like if I was considering getting a cat, but then I had a dream where a cat scratched me, so I instead led a campaign to outlaw all cats ever. 

Don't look so worried!  I'd never do that.  I'm sorry I even brought it up.