December 05, 2013
What They Said
Best intro ever: "for an intensely ironic experience, watch this on your phone":
We spent the week after Columbus Day in Hilton Head, SC. After unpacking the car on our first night, the Spousal Unit and I walked down to the beach to catch the sunset and take a walk.
It was a stormy evening - the last of a bank of rain clouds darkened the sky on the landward side, the wind was blowing birds this way and that as they wheeled and tried to land, and the surf almost seemed like it was calling out to us. Unbelievably beautiful.
As we walked along the beach, the landscape ahead of us looked like it was dotted with tiny stars...
Cell phones. About half the folks out there were intently focused, not on the scenery or on talking with their families, but on their phones.
I still don't know what to make of that.
November 19, 2013
Houston, We Have A Problem
My Mom always told me that it's not nice to laugh at people when they're down. Well, I'm sorry, Mom, but this is pure comedy gold.
"President Barack Obama held a conference call Monday meant to whip up support for Obamacare, but many supporters who logged onto the Organizing for Action website to listen in experienced technical problems instead of the President's inspiring words.
One chatroom visitor asked if everyone was getting the 'reconnecting message'? Another complained, 'I can't hear any audio.' Still another screamed in all caps, 'WHERES THE SOUND YO?'
The most pointed chatroom posting reportedly read, 'Don’t tell me there are troubles with this live event like there were with the Obamacare website!'"
One could almost think it an SNL skit -- only with more "cowbell".
November 18, 2013
Coffee Snorters: Are You a Man Or a Mouse Edition
This is a fascinating theory: fear causes physical changes to the brains (and noses!) of mice, which are then passed from fathers to their offspring:
When a male mouse becomes afraid of a specific smell, this fear is somehow transmitted into his sperm, the study found. His pups will also be afraid of the odor, and will pass that fear down to their pups.
“Parents transfer information to their offspring, and they do so even before the offspring are conceived,” said Brian Dias, a postdoctoral fellow in Ressler’s lab, at an engaging talk about this unpublished data on Tuesday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.
And why, evolutionarily, would a parent pass down such specific information? “So that when the offspring, or descending generations, encounter that environment later in life, they’ll know how to behave appropriately,” Dias said.
The researchers made the mice afraid of certain odors by pairing them with a mild shock to the foot. In a study published a few years ago, Ressler had shown that this type of fear learning is specific: Mice trained to fear one particular smell show an increased startle to that odor but not others. What’s more, this fear learning changes the organization of neurons in the animal’s nose, leading to more cells that are sensitive to that particular smell.
So what happens when an entire generation grows up in relative security? How long does the effect take to die out?
Two things in this article rang true for the Blog Princess. The first one could well explain the feeling so many happily married people report of experiencing a special connection with their spouse:
“If you ask people about their experience of falling in love, over 90 percent will say that a major factor was discovering that the other person liked them,” according to Dr. Aron...As a result of the interviews, the researchers speculated that the best strategy would be to give a potential date the impression that in general you were hard to get (and therefore a scarce resource worth having) but really enthusiastic about him or her specifically. They tested this notion by using some of the same techniques… and found overwhelming evidence to support their hypothesis.
The second one may well explain why I've always found it incredibly off putting when men brag about how many women they've slept with. Speaking only for myself, such talk generally produces exactly the opposite effect of the intended one:
Conscientiousness is predictive of a number of very important positive elements in life.
Agreeable, conscientious people make better spouses and parents — but disagreeable, non-conscientious people have more sex partners.
The former invest in quality, and it seems like the latter make up the difference in, well, volume.
Looking to settle down? Check if that person has their ducks in a row, is organized and easy to get along with. That’s marriage material.
Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold:
Public school advocate and actor Matt Damon has taken heat for sending his own kids to private school, and now he’s eating his words for comments he made about the Bush family on CNN Friday.
Damon promised to eat his own shoe if any of the Bush family even walked into public schools. He may want to start chewing now:
The Miami Herald reported in 2002 that Jeb Bush initially attended the public Grady Elementary School in Houston before mother Barbara enrolled him in the private Kincaid School closer to where they lived.
Brother George W. attended public schools in Midland, Texas – Sam Houston Elementary and San Jacinto Junior High – before being enrolled at Kincaid when the family moved to Houston.
Tweep @bzaz points out that George W’s kids Jenna and Barbara both attended public schools – Preston Hollow Elementary in Dallas and Austin High School in Austin – and Jenna a few years after graduating college worked as a teacher’s aide at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Washington D.C.
Progressive do-as-we-say, not-as-we-doism is everywhere you look, from big tax-and-spenders like John Kerry mooring his yacht out of state to avoid paying taxes to Al Gore's ginormous carbon footprint to the relationship between charitable giving and political party.
But our favorite example is undoubtedly this one:
Public School Teachers: Nationally, more than 20% of public school teachers with school-age children enroll them in private schools, or almost twice the 11% rate for the general public.
Philadelphia Public School Teachers: 44% enroll their own children in private schools, or four times the national average.
Cincinnati Public School Teachers: 41% enroll their own children in private schools, more than three times the national rate.
Chicago Public School Teachers: 39% enroll their own children in private schools, more than three times the national average.
Rochester, NY Public School Teachers: 38% enroll their own children in private schools, or more than three times the national rate.
San Francisco-Oakland Public School Teachers: 34% enroll their own children in private schools, slightly more than three times the national average.
New York City Public School Teachers: 33% enroll their own children in private schools, three times the national rate.
"Good enough for other people's kids" seems to be a core tenet with these folks.
Joe Queenan on scientific studies:
Drinking too much alcohol makes it hard to drive an 18-wheeler. Really hard. Just about impossible. And excessive use of cocaine falls into the same general category. The study will appear in The Journal of Automotive Obviousness.
Dishonest people can't be trusted. High-level research conducted among duplicitous Swedish twins separated at birth confirms that no matter where a dishonest person grows up, and no matter what his background, he simply can't be trusted. The chronically dishonest are just plain untrustworthy.
Little boys make lots of noise and break things. They are very fond of the word "vroom!" Just in from The Annals of Juvenile Epidemiology.
Athletes aren't as smart as brain surgeons. Though there are exceptions—curling, badminton, Xtreme golf—the study published in The Journal of Cerebral Endorphins asserts that brain surgeons, by and large, are a lot smarter than jocks. "It may be the reason they choose medicine over boxing," says the lead author of the study. "Well, that and small hands."
November 08, 2013
Friday Morning Ferocity
The eternal battle: babies vs. doorstops.
Somewhere we have pictures of The Burrito attacking a doorstop in the hallway of our old house. Hard to believe that little guy is 6 years old now.
November 05, 2013
"The Only Part of Government That Actually Listens"
We don't care who you are - this is funny:
October 11, 2013
Coffee Snorters: Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home Edition
A state appeals court on Tuesday tossed out child abuse findings against a frustrated Northern California mother who spanked her 12-year-old daughter hard enough with a wooden spoon to cause bruising.
The 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose reversed the child abuse determination made by the Santa Clara County Department of Social Services. Social workers waned to report Vernica Gonzalez to the state Department of Justice's child abuse database with a "substantiated" abuse determination. That determination was upheld by a trial court judge.
The appeals court said the spanking came close to abuse, but that social workers and the lower court judge failed to consider the family's entire circumstances.
Gonzalez and her husband testified that other forms of punishment such as groundings and taking away her phone had failed to persuade their 12-year-old daughter to do her schoolwork and avoid gang culture. The parents said that other family members had testified that spankings in the household were a rarity.
A rare victory against the Zero Defect Parenting mind set, and in California, no less! Context: it's not just for breakfast anymore.
"Nobody really thought about Marilyn Monroe having plastic surgery. It was always speculation - did she or didn't she?" said Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien's Auctions. "They thought she was such a natural beauty, they didn't want to believe."
Gurdin’s notes explain that Monroe had a chin implant in 1950 and the X-rays include images of the star’s nose and chest.
"Also at that time, going back to the 1950s, people didn't go for plastic surgery procedures," Nolan said. "This is very, very new."
We always thought she was beautiful even in the early years, and the biggest part of her beauty came from the joy and infectious sense of fun she was able to project. Sad to think that wasn't enough.
Two articles highlight our schizophrenic attitudes towards pornography. We're not sure whether to file the first one under "All men do... " or "All men lie about...." (two equally idiotic memes):
Just 12 percent of online adults said they watched "adult" videos, with a pretty big gender gap of 25 percent of male respondents vs. 8 percent of female respondents reporting they're watching porn. But since the survey relied on respondents' honesty, Pew notes that "this may reflect a reluctance to report the behavior among some adults."
Some adults? 75% is "some"? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless, of course, we admit the possibility that either:
a) "All men" don't actually watch porn. Add that theory to the long, long list of other things that "all men" don't do: watch sports, cheat on their wives, crush the souls of oppressed womynfolk, hate shopping... Then there's the even more deliciously amusing possibility:
b) All men do, but 75% of them are ashamed to admit doing so, even in an anonymous survey.
In other news, the incoherence appears to be of the equal opportunity kind:
Apparently Swarthmore College feminist-activist students hate fraternities so much they want to join them. That’s the circular logic unfolding at the notoriously liberal liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.
The fraternity Phi Psi recently put out a fall rush pledge flier made up of a collage of tiny pictures of mostly half-naked women, and these angry female students have billed that mosaic as sexist, misogynistic gender discrimination.
Apparently feminists at Swarthmore are unaware pornography – watching it, posing for it, making a career out of it – is liberating for women.
...this is the same campus that, last spring, formed a masturbation club. This is the same campus known for Crunkfest, an annual sexcapade typically held in a dorm’s courtyard during Easter weekend. A witness to Crunkfest described it as a “nude celebration” of sorts, in which students take part in circle jerks and similar activities.
This is the same campus that has another spring fling called “Genderf**k” in which students “are expected to defy normal gender standards by cross-dressing and/or wearing very little clothing.”
But those things don’t get public rebukes at Swarthmore – they get celebrated.
And we are supposed to get all up-in-arms over one flier with minuscule pictures of scantily-clad women that you can barely make out unless you squint? The Swarthmore Independent, the conservative campus newspaper, also weighed in on this latest drama with a quasi-eyeroll, and rightly pointed out the flaws in the demand:While we find the flyers sexist and call on Phi Psi to apologize to the Swarthmore community, campus activists have truly outdone themselves with the ridiculousness of this “defund” movement. Defunding the fraternities on the basis of these flyers, however offensive, would set a dangerous precedent for all funding decisions to follow. Under the petition’s standard, SAC funding could be withheld from any group engaging in speech that any subset of the student body finds offensive.
...Should Genderf**k, with its hyper-sexualized and derogatory “girls wear less” slogan, also get the ax?
Whenever we read idiotic screeds about how "all men do X" or "all women do Y", we can't help imagining hordes of entranced zombies marching in rigid lockstep to the harsh, guttural cadence of their Inner Ovarian or Testicular Overlords.
How do we manage to get through the work day?
The Chill Wind of Hope gooses the Associated Press:
...To bypass journalists, the White House developed its own network of websites, social media and even created an online newscast to dispense favorable information and images...
...Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor, said the report highlights the growing threats to independent journalism in a country that has upheld press freedom as a measure of democratic society for two centuries.
Must be part of that whole "restoring American moral legitimacy in the eyes of the global community" The Won kept yammering on about during his first inaugural speech.
Not much gets past the media. It only took them 6 years to notice what was going on right in front of them.
More evidence (as though it were needed!) that the Pachyderm is a wise and noble beast.
Men of VC, PAY ATTENTION! "Science" has spoken:
UPDATE: Wow. Stay Classy, buddy.
The countdown until some blogger starts blathering about "#WARONMEN" starts in ten...nine...eight....
October 07, 2013
Coffee Snorters, Zero Tolerance Edition
But this. will. not. stand.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present the latest Looming Threat to Good Order and Discipline in our Public Schools:
The Geico 'Hump Day' ad has many people laughing across America but teachers at Vernon Center Middle School in Vernon, Connecticut, would prefer to put the chatty camel in detention.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary P. Conway told WFSB that some sixth-grade boys at the school were impersonating the camel so much that teachers claimed it was disruptive.
'Everybody's walking around in the hallways and saying its hump day in that weird voice,' student Brooke Lewis said.
The issue got a bigger rise as some students began imitating the camel during the entire week and not just on Hump Day.
'Sometimes it's the counting down to when it is,' Lewis said.
Wethinks Dr. Mary needs to cut back on the caffeine. Perhaps then, sanity will have a fighting chance.
The common Beagle. It is a fearsome creature:
How many people have died because of Communism?
In introducing the Black Book, lead author Stephane Courtois, Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, offers the following rough breakdown of the numbers of people that communism killed:
USSR -- 20 million
China -- 65 million
Vietnam -- 1 million
North Korea -- 2 million
Cambodia -- 2 million
Eastern Europe -- 1 million
Latin America -- 150,000
Africa -- 1.7 million
Afghanistan -- 1.5 million
Communist movements, parties not in power -- 10,000
In total, this is not far short of 100 million deaths at the hands of a single ideology.
“The Congress of the United States is in deep trouble,” one eminent columnist wrote. “More than ever before, the public attitude toward Congress is a mixture of indifference, amusement and contempt. . . . Never before in history has Congress talked so long to accomplish so little.”
...On a more somber note, Alsop opined: “When the citizens of a democracy begin to hold their legislature in contempt, democracy is itself in danger.”
Well, we’ve been hanging in there for a long time.
The triumph of ideology is one of the great political upheavals of recent decades. It is, of course, partial; it coexists with interest-group politics and always will. It’s also full of paradoxes. On both the left and right, many activists are intelligent, sincere and hardworking. But the addition of so many high-minded people — usually “true believers” in some cause — to the political system has made it work worse. It increasingly fails to conciliate or, on many major issues, to decide.
President Obama has become the Hamlet of the West Wing: One minute he's for bombing Syria, the next he's not; one minute Larry Summers will succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, the next he won't; one minute the president is jetting off to Asia, the next he's not. To be in charge, or not to be in charge: that is indeed the question.
MS. HARF: No numbers.
QUESTION: Why don’t we have any numbers on furloughs?
MS. HARF: We just don’t have any to provide at this point. We’ve said it’s a very small number in these offices. If we have numbers to share, we will.
QUESTION: Well, it’s small, like what – like under 10 or 50 or –
MS. HARF: I know you ask the same question every day, and we just don’t have numbers for you at this point.
QUESTION: Why not?
QUESTION: My question is: Why.
MS. HARF: Why?
QUESTION: Why are you unwilling to provide the numbers?
MS. HARF: Right. Well, we – I just don’t have those numbers in front of me. I know our folks are looking at them now.
QUESTION: How long does it take? It’s been going on for days.
QUESTION: But I didn’t ask you whether you had them in front of you. I asked why, and Deb asked why.
MS. HARF: Well, I said that’s why I can’t provide them, because they’re not in front of me.
QUESTION: Why? No, but that’s – look, tautologies like this don’t help anybody. There’s got to be a reason why you’re unwilling to provide the numbers. What is it?
Most. Transparent.Administration.In.History.(It starts at the top):
In November, a presidential memorandum instructed all government departments and agencies to set up pervasive “Insider Threat Programs” to monitor employees with access to classified information and to prevent “unauthorized disclosure,” including to the news media. According to the policy, each agency must, among other things, develop procedures “ensuring employee awareness of their responsibility to report, as well as how and to whom to report, suspected insider threat activity.” Officials cited the Manning leak as the kind of threat the program is intended to prevent.
A survey of government departments and agencies this summer by the Washington bureau of McClatchy newspapers found that they had wide latitude in defining what kinds of behavior constitute a threat. “Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material,” it reported in June. “They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for ‘high-risk persons or behaviors’ among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.”
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told me that the Insider Threat Program has already “created internal surveillance, heightened a degree of paranoia in government and made people conscious of contacts with the public, advocates and the press.”
At the same time, revelations in the documents Snowden gave to The Post and Britain’s Guardian about the NSA’s collection, storage and searches of phone, text and e-mail data have added to the fear surrounding contacts between reporters and sources.
“People think they’re looking at reporters’ records,” Post national security reporter Dana Priest told me. “I’m writing fewer things in e-mail. I’m even afraid to tell officials what I want to talk about because it’s all going into one giant computer.”
This President has prosecuted more Americans under the Espionage Act than every other President combined. Kind of makes all that Bush-era blathering about Chill Winds look overblown, doesn't it?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered a striking mea culpa on the Senate floor Friday as he opened the chamber, saying he and his colleagues have simply gotten too personal and nasty in their floor debates.
A day earlier Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, had scolded Mr. Reid for attacking Sen. Ted Cruz, another Texas Republican, by name as they debated the government shutdown. Mr. Cornyn read directly from the Senate Rules that prohibit members from impugning each other’s motives or conduct.
“There’s no question, Reid is now the quarterback,” said a Senate Democratic aide.
That became clear when Reid persuaded Obama last month to abandon an effort to set up a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders before government funding expired.
Gosh - even Dubya didn't let Dick Cheney speak for him.
"Based on estimates drawn from CBO and OMB data, 83 percent of government operations will continue. This figure assumes that the government pays amounts due on appropriations obligated before the shutdown ($512 billion), spends $225 billion on exempted military and civilian personnel, pays entitlement benefits for those found eligible before the shutdown (about $2 trillion), and pays interest costs when due ($237 billion). This is about 83 percent of projected 2014 spending of $3.6 trillion."
So the government shutdown, at least as measured by money spent, is really a 17 percent government shutdown. Perhaps that is why the effects of the shutdown, beyond some of the most visible problems, like at the monuments and memorials on the Washington Mall, don't seem to have the expected intensity. Seventeen percent of federal expenditures is still a huge amount of money, and the shutdown is affecting many people. But many more who are dependent on federal dollars are still receiving their money, either as salary, transfer payment, or in some other form.
September 27, 2013
Coffee Snorters - Citrus Fruit Edition
In our never ending attempt to keep the villainry informed of those all important Pachyderms in the News stories, this morning we are reliably informed that elephants are quite fond of oranges.
On Thursday afternoon, Wolf Blitzer grilled White House Press Sec. Jay Carney over President Barack Obama’s insistence that he will refuse to negotiate with Republicans over the next increase in the nation’s debt ceiling. Blitzer asked Carney to explain why the circumstances were different when Obama was a senator and voted against an increase in the debt ceiling under President George W. Bush.
Blitzer began by noting that Obama will be “the first president in a long time who won’t negotiate with the opposition to try to raise the debt ceiling.”
But it didn't stop there:
After running a clip of the president saying, “if you like your doctor, you like your plan, then you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan,” Blitzer said that wasn’t the case.
“As you know a lot of people are not going to be able to keep their doctor or keep their plan under this system,” Blitzer said. “What do you say to them?”
Carney denied Blitzer’s charge.
“Well, Wolf, when you say a lot of people, that simply is not true,” Carney said. “If you have employer provided health insurance, that health insurance will not change when Obamacare takes effect and the marketplace is open on Jan. 1, and the options that you have will not change unless your employer decides to change them.”
Carney attempted to explain how people with pre-existing conditions and others could now have coverage and at lower costs than before.
“Hold on a second,” Blitzer said. “All of that is true, but you know that there are companies like UPS, Home Depot and a lot of other companies that are taking full-time employees, making them part-time employees, eliminating their healthcare benefits.”
Blitzer also explained that those people could not keep their benefits – and may not even be able to keep their doctor.
The peasants no longer seem to know their place. If only there were a profession whose mission it was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted...
It’s easy to dismiss Obama’s claim on factual grounds. More interesting is to see what prompted it: a soda-straw view of the world in which only the president’s inauguration-day priorities are visible. His aim then was to bring home U.S. troops, end the “endless war” of George W. Bush, defend the homeland from al-Qaeda and step back from the quagmire of the Arab Middle East. He did all that; ergo, the world is more stable — and from the attenuated perspective of an American who mainly wishes the world would go away, perhaps it is.
This definition of stability, however, requires ignoring all that would disturb it — anything that might demand new military commitments or deeper U.S. engagement with Arabs and their seemingly endless conflicts.
... Obama warned the General Assembly on Tuesday that “the danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war . . . may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation can fill.” Sadly, it is not just a danger. It was the message of his speech — and the tangible result of his presidency.
Ouch. And the hits just keep on comin':
IN HIS second inaugural address, President Obama delivered a ringing pledge of U.S. support for American ideals around the world. “We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East,” he promised, “because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”
Just eight months later, the idealism is gone. In what may be the most morally crimped speech by a president in modern times, Mr. Obama explicitly ruled out the promotion of liberty as a core interest of the United States. Instead, he told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, America’s core interests consist of resisting aggression against allies; protecting the free flow of energy; dismantling terrorist networks “that threaten our people” and stopping the development and use of weapons of mass destruction.
...has a president ever boasted that promoting democracy will not be a core interest?
...Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan have promoted these “practices” not just to “achieve peace and prosperity,” as Mr. Obama said, but because they believed deeply that every human being has an inalienable right to live in freedom and dignity and that the United States is uniquely positioned to help other people achieve those rights.
This President seems to be racking up a lot of "firsts": first President to refuse to negotiate with the other party over the debt ceiling, first President to state that promoting democracy is not a core interest...
Obama chooses odd issues to take the lead on.
September 25, 2013
Coffee Snorters, Telepathy Edition
Oh, like this sort of thing doesn't happen to you all the time...
Meloney Selleneit was accused of illegally purchasing a gun for Michael Selleneit, a violent felon, and inciting him to shoot Tony Pierce twice in the back while Pierce was working in his yard.
Michael, 53, later told police Pierce, 41, had been telepathically raping his wife for years and was using crack cocaine to control her mind.
"But my next door neighbor was using crack cocaine to control my mind!" may be the best excuse ever. Except, possibly, this one. (CWCID: spd)
During a discussion about the importance of good grammar, Jackson is asked by the writer, Stephen Rebello, about his thoughts on a “society that views graduating from college or grad school as elitist, or one in which President Obama or other highly educated Americans consciously drop gs off the ends of words to sound like Joe Average?”
“First of all, we know it ain’t because of his blackness, so I say stop trying to ‘relate,’” Jackson said. “Be f-----g presidential. Look, I grew up in a society where I could say ‘It ain’t’ or ‘What it be’ to my friends. But when I’m out presenting myself to the world as me, who graduated from college, who had family who cared about me, who has a well-read background, I f-----g conjugate.”
Among influential U.S. political tweeters, President Barack Obama is the undisputed king of the fake followers. A MailOnline analysis ranks his sizable Twitter following as the most deceptive total among the 21 most influential accounts run by American politicians: More than 19.5 million of his 36.9 million Twitter followers are accounts that don't correspond to real people.
The four phoniest accounts in the sample, which included Democratic and Republican Party leaders in Washington, D.C., were those belonging to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and the White House communications shop.
Of the president's 36.9 million Twitter followers, an astonishing 53 per cent – or 19.5 million – are fake accounts...
If this sort of thing keeps up, we may begin to doubt the veracity of Dreams from my Father:
Courtesy of David Maraniss’s new book, we now know that yet another key prop of Barack Obama’s identity is false: His Kenyan grandfather was not brutally tortured or even non-brutally detained by his British colonial masters. The composite gram’pa joins an ever-swelling cast of characters from Barack’s “memoir” who, to put it discreetly, differ somewhat in reality from their bit parts in the grand Obama narrative. The best friend at school portrayed in Obama’s autobiography as “a symbol of young blackness” was, in fact, half Japanese, and not a close friend. The white girlfriend he took to an off-Broadway play that prompted an angry post-show exchange about race never saw the play, dated Obama in an entirely different time zone, and had no such world-historically significant conversation with him. His Indonesian step-grandfather supposedly killed by Dutch soldiers during his people’s valiant struggle against colonialism met his actual demise when he “fell off a chair at his home while trying to hang drapes.”
September 16, 2013
People Let Me Tell You
September 06, 2013
Foul Deeds Will Out
And you folks are worried about the NSA breaking your browser encryption:
A stork has been detained by police in Egypt on suspicion of spying.
The bird was put behind bars after a man fishing in the Nile in Qena, some 280 miles south-east of Cairo, spotted an electronic device attached to its feathers.
Thinking it was an undercover agent, he captured the stork and took it to a police station near his home, said Mohammed Kamal, head of security in the Qena region.
Puzzled officers examined the bird, fearing the gadget was a bomb or spying equipment, and then called in veterinary experts.
Eventually, they discovered it was a wildlife tracker used by French scientists to follow the movement of migratory birds, said Ayman Abdallah, head of veterinary services in Qena.
He said the device stopped working when the bird crossed the French border, absolving it of being a spy.
But he said it would have to remain in police custody for the time being because officials need permission from state prosecutors to release the bird.
The world is a dangerous place, and you can't be too careful.
July 19, 2013
Coffee Snorters: High Five Edition
July 11, 2013
Coffee Snorters: "Is Your Cat on Facebook?" Edition
New smartphone app allows cats to take selfies (sadly, our pop culture street cred is so pathetic that we had to look that one up). But can it post them to Facebook?
First there were animals photobombing pictures - now a new range of smartphone apps lets cats take their own photos, also known as selfies. When the phone is placed on the ground, the screen shows virtual bouncing lasers or moving dots designed so that the cat will chase them. When the cat paws at the screen trying to catch the dot, the hit acts as a shutter press and the phone takes the cat's photo.
Please tell us that these cats are not using people's cell phones to sext other cats. Because that would just be wrong.
July 02, 2013
Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!
It's word bubble time at Pew Research Center, and that's not really good news for President Obama, especially when compared to the one word Americans used to describe former President George W. Bush as this time.
The word "incompetent" is a popular word for both, though Obama just edged Bush in those references, 27-26.
Another shared word is "honest." Here Bush won with 31 references, Obama just 18.
And "liar" also appears high on both the Bush and Obama list, with Obama collecting the most, 18-13.
At least he's not a metaphoric Hitler...
June 19, 2013
Two day brighteners to go with your morning coffee:
...and you thought you needed to spend a lot of money on toys:
Update: this is wonderful, too.
June 07, 2013
What's in a Name?
Quick, make a guess: Are Liam's parents Obama voters, or did they pull for John McCain? How about Kurt's mom and dad?
If your gut suggested that Kurt's parents might swing conservative while Liam's are liberal, congratulations. A new study of baby names does, indeed, show that parents in liberal neighborhoods are more likely to choose softer, more feminine sounds, such as "L," for their babies' names, while conservative parents go for macho-sounding K's, B's and D's.
The same research finds that liberal, well-educated parents are more likely to pick obscure names for their children, while conservative, well-educated parents take a more conventional naming path. Both methods seem to be a way of signaling status, said study researcher Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago — though it's unlikely parents realize what they're doing.
...The results revealed that overall, the less educated the parent, the more likely they were to give their child either an uncommon name (meaning fewer than 20 children got the same name that year in California), or a unique name (meaning only one child got that name in 2004 in California). When parents had less than a college education, there were no major ideological differences in naming choice.
However, among college-educated whites, politics made a difference. College-educated moms and dads in the most liberal neighborhoods were twice as likely as college-educated parents in the most conservative neighborhoods to give their kids an uncommon name. Educated conservatives were more likely to favor popular names, which were defined as names in the top 100 in California that year.
For boys, 46 percent got a popular name in conservative areas, compared with 37 percent in liberal areas. For girls, 38 percent were given a popular name in conservative neighborhoods, compared with 30 percent in liberal neighborhoods.
Notably, the kinds of uncommon names chosen by upper-class liberals differed from the unusual names picked by people of lower socioeconomic status, Oliver said. Lower-status moms tend to invent names or pick unusual spellings of common names (Andruw instead of Andrew, for example). [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]
"Educated liberal mothers are not making names up," Oliver said. "They're choosing more culturally obscure names, like Archimedes or Finnegan — or, in our case, we named our daughter Esme."
That seems almost cruel.
February 06, 2013
Nothin' But Net
Something to make you smile over your morning coffee:
February 05, 2013
Coffee Snorters: Stone Cold Killers Edition
And by "stone cold killer", we mean Fluffy the domestic purr factory. Charles Lane asks, "What shall we do about these killer cats?":
... government-affiliated scientists have produced statistical proof of feline perfidy, in a new study showing that cats stalk and kill 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals in the United States each year, give or take a few billion.
This “kill rate” is two to four times higher than previously believed, and worse than that attributable to windmills, cars and other “anthropogenic” killers.
The victims include not just rats and mice but also songbirds, chipmunks and other valued wildlife species, according to the New York Times.
Feral — “stray” — cats, which number 80 million or so, are the main culprits, the study concluded. But the nation’s 86.4 million domestic cats account for about 29 percent of cat-on-bird killings and 11 percent of cat-on-mammal slaughter.
It's a good thing no one can prove these felines are reaping obscene profits from the fossil fuel industry (or - Goddess forfend! - voting for Republicans). Otherwise, the Justice Department would be prosecuting cats and cat owners within an inch of their miserable, Gaia-raping lives:
A few months ago, the Justice Department brought charges against Oklahoma oil company Continental Resources as well as six others in North Dakota for causing the death of 28 migratory birds in violation of the Bird Treaty Act.
...Continental was accused of killing one bird “the size of a sparrow” in its oil pits. “It’s not even a rare bird. There’re jillions of them,” Hamm said during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Yet in central California, 70 golden eagles were killed by wind turbines at Altamont Pass, without prosecution. The findings follow a 2008 study by the Fish and Wildlife Service that estimates wind farms kill nearly a half million birds per year in the United States.
Wethinks it's time for the President to follow his own oft-proffered (try saying *that* 3 times quickly!) advice. America should be a country where everyone plays by the same set of rules.
And if it prevents the death of just one innocent sparrow, we are morally obligated to do something.
A Virginian gently makes fun of the Commonwealth:
Only one or two centuries late, Virginia lawmakers have decided it is none of their business if unmarried couples share a roof. So the legislators are now working diligently to repeal the state’s law against “lewd and lascivious cohabitation.” Huzzahs all ’round for that.
But do not unclutch thy bodice yet. Virginia law is riddled with antiquated provisions meant to govern the “morals and decency” of the fair people of the commonwealth. And while the law against shacking up apparently never gets enforced, others do.
Just for starters: While it might soon be legal to live in sin, that doesn’t mean you can, by gad sir, fornicate. Fornication remains forbidden under the Code of Virginia, Section 18.2-344. So keep your hands and whatnot to yourself. Especially the whatnots.
And don’t even think of doing other stuff. Virginia’s “crimes against Nature” statute—Section 18.2-361—still prohibits oral sex. Even between married straight couples. Moreover, state lawmakers seem particularly opposed to that practice—because in Virginia, it’s a felony. Efforts to repeal that provision or even to reduce oral sex to a misdemeanor have failed repeatedly.
Also: Don’t try to open a “bawdy place,” which the code defines as any place “used for lewdness, assignation or prostitution.” (Assignation?)
The meme du jour (really, mème de l'année for every year we can remember) on conservative blogs is that America has devolved into some sort of fascist police/nanny state... in our lifetimes, no less! And there's little doubt that the federal government in particular passes a lot of ill advised and intrusive laws. When it is pointed out to conservatives that the Golden Age of Small Government - typically rather loosely defined as "any time I am too young to have lived under, or remember either" was just chock full of the kind of intrusive, nanny statism we upright defenders of something-or-other normally decry, they generally reply, "But we're totally *fine* with nanny statism at the State level!"
To which the princess often finds herself thinking, "Hmmm.... what's more onerous? The vague threat that federal law enforcement will happen by and arrest us for engaging in proscribed marital delights? Or the far more likely threat that local law enforcement will pull us over whilst we attempt to enjoy the wonders of nature on the Blue Ridge Parkway?
Yes, we get the arguments for federalism. It's the weirdly asymmetrical threat-assessment-and-consequent-outrage we don't quite cotton to. I can't quite escape the recurring thought that most political outrage (yes, even ours) is poorly thought out. Having lived under a system of laws in which both fornication and adultery were punishable offenses under the UCMJ, I can attest that it's quite possible to be happy - to thrive, even! - under such a soul-crushing regime. I'm reminded of a fascinating study on what happens to our professed beliefs when we're asked to explain how our preferred policy positions will work in the real world:
In a forthcoming article in Psychological Science, written with Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and Craig Fox of U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management, we report on experiments showing that people often believe they understand what is meant by well-worn political terms like the “flat tax,” “sanctions on Iran” or “cap and trade” — even when they don’t.
That’s not much of a shocker, of course. The real surprise is what happens after these same individuals are asked to explain how these policy ideas work: they become more moderate in their political views — either in support of such policies or against them. In fact, not only do their attitudes change, but so does their behavior. In one of our experiments, for example, after attempting to explain how various policy ideas would actually work, people became less likely to donate to organizations that supported the positions they had initially favored.
Interestingly, asking people to justify their position — rather than asking them to explain the mechanisms by which a policy would work — doesn’t tend to soften their political views. When we asked participants to state the reasons they were for or against a policy position, their initial attitudes held firm. (Other researchers have found much the same thing: merely discussing an issue often makes people more extreme, not less.)
Why, then, does having to explain an opinion often end up changing it? The answer may have to do with a kind of revelatory trigger mechanism: asking people to “unpack” complex systems — getting them to articulate how something might work in real life — forces them to confront their lack of understanding.
This is probably the biggest single thing that keeps me blogging - having to think through my instinctive reactions to various news stories (and justify them to some very smart folks who disagree with me) may not keep me honest, but it does force me to think a little harder as opposed to indulging my beautiful and natural predilection for knee jerk reactions.
November 13, 2012
Coffee Snorters and Other Delights: L'Ennui Edition
The Editorial Staff won't have much time to write this morning so in lieu of our usual vapid meanderings, we offer random items from our browsing history.
Thursday, 20 August, 1959: 2:10 P.M.
If Man exists, God cannot exist, because God’s omniscience would reduce Man to an object. And if Man is merely an object, why then must I pay the onerous fees levied on overdue balances by M. Pelletier at the patisserie? At least this was the argument I raised this morning with M. Pelletier. He seemed unconvinced and produced his huge loutish son Gilles from the back, ominously brandishing a large pastry roller. The pastry roller existed, I can tell you that.
President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.
Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Truth be told, we are torn about this. As a blogger, we rather miss the windsurfing, Phrench speaking former junior Senator from Massachusetts.
By the end of this week, states must decide whether they will build a health-insurance exchange or leave the task to the federal government. The question is, with as many as 17 states expected to leave it to the feds, can the Obama administration handle the workload.
“These are systems that typically take two or three years to build,” says Kevin Walsh, managing director of insurance exchange services at Xerox. “The last time I looked at the calendar, that’s not what we’re working with.”
When Walsh meets with state officials deciding whether to build a health exchange, he brings a chart. It outlines how to build the insurance marketplace required under the Affordable Care Act. To call it complex would probably be an understatement:
The longer these folks are in office, the more we're inclined to think the best way to oppose them is to cheerfully hand them more rope.
Socialist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is using President Obama's re-election as a time to publicly criticize him.
Chavez -- who opposes U.S. military involvement around the globe -- says quote -- "He should dedicate himself to governing his country and forget dividing and invading other nations."
Yep - they're just lovin' us.
It's 3 a.m. - do you know what your Cabinet is doing?
Senate Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, called it "a lightning bolt," and it was. Congressional overseers of the intelligence community should have been told far earlier about a monthslong FBI probe that -- in its later stages -- was looking at a possible security breach from an affair by CIA Director David Petraeus. The day Petraeus resigned last week was not the appropriate day to tell Congress.
Nor should the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, have been kept in the dark until Election Day. Clapper then apparently informed the White House.
The most transparent admininstration evah sure seems to have kept an awful lot of secrets from the guy who's supposed to be running things. Looks like the old excuse du jour ("I inherited [fill in blank]") is about to give way to the new excuse du jour ("I had no idea this was going on!").
But that's part of being the boss: you're supposed to know what the folks who work for you are doing.
October 30, 2012
Inconvenient Truth of the Day
Unexpectedly(!), several studies of the relationship between national investments in higher education and economic growth find... no relationship whatsoever:
We're guessing hiring lots of teachers doesn't help, either:
If raising education really is so fantastic for countries, why can't we find nation-level evidence of that? We can easily find evidence that switching to faster money growth usually predicts higher inflation, that switching to more market-oriented institutions predicts faster economic growth. The correlations show up just fine there--so why is data-torturing required when countries switch to pro-education policies?
And if defenders of increased education want to claim that "We just need to do it right next time" then defenders of sound social science need to retort: "Then I'm sure you'll understand if we absolutely insist on solid, experimentally sound evidence, along with proof of scalability, before we sign off on a nationwide program that will cost a couple of percent of GDP."
Mexico has spent heavily on higher education in the last decade, particularly for schools of engineering. Somehow, somebody down there decided the way to build a prosperous economy was to train lots of engineers, who would then attract and create engineering jobs. Sadly, they got the directional arrow wrong— leading to a boondoggle of immense proportions.
Most prosperous countries started out educating people for job openings, not the other way around. Many of the new engineers are woefully underemployed, or unemployed entirely. The government is footing the bill, and it must have cost a bundle to a country that isn’t exactly flush. Central planners everywhere are scratching their heads wondering why, since their attempts to mandate production quotas have never worked anywhere, they didn’t work this time around, either.
Of course, the same sort of thinking is going on in this country. Last year, Virginia put into law a mandate to produce 100,000 more graduates, and North Carolina is considering something comparable.
This would be funnier if it weren't so predictable.
October 03, 2012
A little something to get y'all in the mood for tonight's debate:
Vote for your favorite Obama verbal tic in the comments section:
Statistics gathered by the Global Language Monitor reveal that Obama has said ["Make no mistake"] 2,924 times since he was sworn into office more than two years ago.
Other signature Obama sayings include: "Win the future" (1,861 times), “Here’s the deal” (1,450 times), and “Let me be clear,” (1,066 times). In a nod to the tough financial times he has faced, the president’s fifth most popular motto is “It will not be easy” (1,059 times).
July 16, 2012
"Artists" Gobsmacked by Human Nature
Today in Chronicles of the Intuitively Obvious, art curators at the tony National Gallery are shocked to find that the unwashed masses have a better feel for Art than they do:
It was supposed to be a tribute to a Renaissance master. But the National Gallery’s latest exhibition – which features women recreating nude scenes from Titian’s paintings – is attracting a type of visitor not normally found in the capital’s cultural landmark. Curators are disturbed at the plethora of ‘dirty old men’ who come to look through peepholes at the naked models, ignoring the masterpieces on the wall.
...Since the show opened last week, men have been sidling up to staff and asking for directions to ‘the peepshow thingy’.
One has visited five times in just seven days, while some older men have even complained to staff about the quality of the nudes – and the small size of the peepholes.
Apparently, the appreciation of Great Art requires gobs more education than is possessed by the average bear:
The Diana installation, part Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, was conceived by Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger, whose previous work includes a video of himself dressed as a bear wandering aimlessly around a gallery.
Damned cultural Philistines.
June 22, 2012
Been There, Didn't Get the T-Shirt
A “bunch of leprechauns” beat up a man in Belltown on Saturday, the bruised and bloodied victim told police.
Police say they received reports about the fight around 1:55 a.m. on Bell Street near the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but when they arrived they saw numerous people running from the scene.
Police then saw a man on the ground, who was covered in blood and holding his head and screaming in pain.
When police asked the man who was involved in the fight he said, “It was a bunch of leprechauns,” that were mad because he was dancing with a girl, according to police.
He told police one of the assailants was wearing a white tank top, but could not provide any more details about the leprechauns.
May 23, 2012
Coffee Snorters: Inconvenient Truths Edition
Unexpectedly (!), women's votes may not be for sale to the highest bidder:
President Obama's composite citizen, Julia, may be enjoying the free handouts she's getting under his polices. But new polling data indicate she probably won't be voting for him. At least if she's among the majority of women voters.
The latest CBS/New York Times poll shows Republican Mitt Romney leading Mr. Obama 46-44 among women. That's a big change from last month when a CNN/ORC poll found that the president had a 16-point advantage among women voters.
Mr. Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter tried to explain to NBC's Chuck Todd that the CBS/New York Times poll didn't count because it was "significantly biased." And she was right—the poll sampled 6% more Democrats than Republicans. But somehow women still chose Mr. Romney.
The reversal will come as a shock to those who thought the GOP was conducting a war on women. And it will come as an even bigger shock to Mr. Obama—who is working hard to win the female vote as he did in 2008.
This is bad news for Mr. Obama, but also for tone deaf pundits on the right who have been lamenting the sad fact that half of the American populace are "allowed" to vote in ways they don't agree with. Unexpectedly (!) the facts don't happen to support the narrative:
How would the last 38 years of presidential elections have turned out if only men had been allowed to vote? As it turns out, virtually the same as they did with more women voting than men. An all male electorate would have changed the results of only ONE election in the past 4 decades: