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: