Fox makes fun of scientists, NASA, and climate realists in one fell swoop

Fox News gets it wrong, on purpose, again. I know, I’m shocked too. They breathlessly title this article Aliens Could Attack Earth to End Global Warming, NASA Scientist Frets — having obviously been edited from “NASA Scientist Claims” (check the URL) because that was insufficient sneering.

First, let’s make this clear — the panel was asked to come up with scenarios why aliens might attack us. They were asked to come up with “neutral”, “unintentional harm” and “intentional harm” scenarios wherein we make first contact with aliens. Among the reasons aliens might decide to attack us are: 1) to enslave us, 2) to eat us, and 3) to strike preemptively before we wreck their shit.

Extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) “could attack and kill us, enslave us, or potentially even eat us. ETI could attack us out of selfishness or out of a more altruistic desire to protect the galaxy from us. We might be a threat to the galaxy just as we are a threat to our home planet,” it warns.

One such scenario is the stuff of many a Hollywood blockbuster, a “standard fight-to-win conflict: a war of the worlds.” But another might resonate more with fans of Al Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient truth.”

It speculates that aliens, worried we might inflict the damage done to our own planet on others, might “seek to preemptively destroy our civilization in order to protect other civilizations from us.”

The reason they might clue in to our presence to begin with? Well, we’re kinda in the process of wrecking our own environment, in ways that might be detectable from light years away via the same methods that we’re using right now to figure things out about exoplanets’ atmospheres. The fact that once, we had very little CO2 in the atmosphere, and now we’ve got a lot more (like double!), might be a big old warning flag to these extraterrestrials that something is happening on our planet and it might be worth checking it out. They might realize that we’ve entered the industrial age but haven’t matured past rampant capitalism, and that has arrested our ability to actually do something about having destroyed our only life support system. They might well be concerned that we’re spacefaring, and that we might spread our self-destructive habits to other niches in the cosmic neighborhood, maybe even threatening their own planet with our backward and self-centered ways.

But the scientists were asked to come up with sci-fi scenarios why they might attack us. This ain’t “oh those crazy liberals think we’d better stop that imaginary global warming that Al Gore invented or else some aliens will wipe us out”. This ain’t about the conservative ideals of profit-first, sustainability-never. This is speculation based on a specific request made of these scientists and it’s not all that far-fetched given that our own level of technology allows us to determine things about planets that are hundreds of light years away that might just tip us off that something big was changing on those planets too. This is barely science fiction. And yet Fox News takes the opportunity to craft the perfect headline, the one that’ll make sure us crazy liberals are laughed at for our crazy ideas.

There’s nothing objectionable about the study you’re sneering so hard at, Fox. I’d advise you stop sneering soon or your collective faces might freeze like that.

Election projections for your riding; who to vote for to simply beat Cons

Canada’s election at the moment looks like a choice between another Conservative minority, or a Conservative majority government, unless everyone were to suddenly vote Liberal strategically. In Canada, one can gain a majority government (e.g., enough seats to mean your party basically wins every parliamentary motion) with a mere 35% of the popular vote with our current political breakdown. That means that with a minority government, it’s well possible that at least 65% of the country disagrees with the party in power. In the case of Conservatives vs. Everyone Else, that is assuredly true. The Conservative Party of Canada, since being created in a coalition between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform TeaParty a few years ago, makes up the entirety of the right half of the political spectrum. The Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens all make up the left, with the only outlier that could possibly be called right-wing being the Bloc, whose prime motivating reason for existence is secession of Quebec from the rest of the country.

So we have a political climate today wherein the Right has unified into a coalition for the purpose of leading our country off a cliff (or more accurately, siphoning money from the pockets of the average Canadian and directly into the pockets of big businesses, as though Reaganomics ever worked for anyone!), and the only way to kick them out is to form some sort of coalition on the left. Well, the only way short of strategic voting, which really hurts when you don’t particularly like one of the alternatives.

If you’re willing to suck it up and swallow your pride in order to vote strategically for the sole purpose of tossing the bums out, and just need to know which party to vote for in your riding, here’s an excellent tool, wherein you can find out what the current projections are for your specific riding and therefore decide whether to vote strategically for the Libs, NDP or Bloc, depending.

Sorry, my loyal Green readers… they’re simply not competitive anyplace at the moment, even in Vancouver where they’re running double-digit candidates. However, if you want to vote for the competitive challenger in your riding, you can ask someone in a less competitive riding to vote for your first choice via PairVote.ca — that way your party doesn’t technically lose your vote, and you still get to make a difference in the more competitive race.

Or you could, you know, vote Conservative if you really want to. Or if you’re unmotivated, you can just let the Conservative in your riding win. You know, if you happen to think that the problem with Health Care is that we have TOO MUCH of it. Or that the economy would benefit most from CEOs pays increasing while normal folks’ wages stagnate. Or if you think they’re all just going to pull the same bullshit nonsense that the Conservatives actually have as party planks, and the other parties actively oppose. Whatever. It’s up to you, of course. I merely reserve the right to hate you for not doing whatever you can to stop the avowed party of privilege.

Vote, please. Your vote could very well mean the difference between us ending up with the same nonsense we’re already living in a Conservative minority, or much worse in a Conservative majority.

Fox vs video games: the Bulletstorm shitstorm

The other day, when I saw it appear on the Playstation 3′s “What’s New” splash, I downloaded a demo for a first-person shooter game I hadn’t heard anything about before, called Bulletstorm. The demo video preceding the actual playable level pretty much set the expectations for the game — chaotically violent grindhouse with over-the-top game mechanics, protagonists with generally more machismo than intellect (even the girl) who are quick to make lewd sexual references, and buckets and buckets of blood. Despite its outlandish presentation, the demo was actually fairly fun. The ability to kick enemies and have them thereafter hang in mid-air long enough for you to aim at specific body parts is a bit silly. but otherwise my first impression was that with some polish, the game has potential.

I had no idea that potential that I saw was the potential for lulz when Fox News lost their shit over it. But there you have it. Turns out I’m not prescient — whoda thunk it? Though, given their earlier performance in grossly mischaracterizing Mass Effect’s “full digital nudity and controllable explicit sex” (which, as it turns out, is no more controllable or explicit than any sexually tinged and artistically presented offering on Fox Network’s prime time block), I should have seen it coming.

In the new video game Bulletstorm due February 22, players are rewarded for shooting enemies in the private parts (such as the buttocks). There’s an excess of profanity, of course, including frequent use of F-words. And Bulletstorm is particularly gruesome, with body parts that explode all over the screen.

But that’s not the worst part.

The in-game awards system, called Skill Shots, ties the ugly, graphic violence into explicit sex acts: “topless” means cutting a player in half, while a “gang bang” means killing multiple enemies. And with kids as young as 9 playing such games, the experts FoxNews.com spoke with were nearly universally worried that video game violence may be reaching a fever pitch.

“If a younger kid experiences Bulletstorm’s explicit language and violence, the damage could be significant,” Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Southern California, told FoxNews.com.

In their private parts! Such as the buttocks! You just can’t make this up.

More commentary below the fold.
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Rachel Maddow and others on Loughner and guns

NOW I ought to be in the air on my way to Science Online 2011. I hope so.

I can’t properly blog about all the things I’m thinking about this. And I’m sure, since I’m writing this a few days in advance of publication, that more information will come out that provides more context to some of these links. However, I can say this — I am scared for Americans in a country that so values its “right to bear arms” that any attempt to make “arms” reasonable and limited, such that Loughner didn’t have the ability to fire 31 bullets without reloading, is quashed at the starting gate. And I am seriously concerned that politicians are being assassinated by idiots influenced by antigovernmental conspiracy theories, and that the political discourse contains popular people like Sarah Palin claiming “blood libel” when someone says “hey, maybe you shouldn’t be talking about ‘don’t retreat, reload’ and putting gunsights on politicians”. I’m just going to link a bunch of stuff below the fold. Tell me what you think. What are our options for restoring sanity to the political discourse? Is it possible in an environment where one is expected to only be able to take the 7.62mm anti-aircraft machine gun from someone’s “cold dead hands”?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Pope quote more nuanced than I thought – but he’s still no moral authority

My mea culpa on this one quote — widely reported out of context, which I accepted uncritically as the full context based only on its widespread dispersal — doesn’t mean I’m softening my opinion on the Pope’s past duplicity and his inability to own up to simply being wrong about anything. Nor does it mean that I was particularly wrong about my assessment of his quote, even with context, though the distinction you have to cut for it is rather fine.

Daniel Fincke pointed out at Camels With Hammers that I was wrong about what the Pope was trying to say when I denounced any claims to moral authority he once had in this post, stating that he all but admitted morals are subjective. Having read the full address, the section that everyone’s been quoting as stating that pedophilia was in some way acceptable in the 70s, is in actuality a claim that some people with that philosophy “corrupted” the otherwise incontrovertible stranglehold on objective morality the Catholic church claimed — and therefore this (wholly fictional) pedophilia meme was drawing the Church away from the objective morals that exist in their doctrine.
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Science Victorious

The past thirty days have been rife with excellent science news, which for various reasons I’ve been unable to blog on. Rest assured, I’m very grateful to those of you that submitted links to these pieces of good news! I’d love to encourage you all to continue submitting such victorious tidbits, as every submission proves you’re thinking of me, and, as I’m a blogger, I’m also therefore a huge egotist. Also, every one of these links made me cheer, and the more cheery, the better, I say.

The first and obviously biggest victory we skeptics can celebrate, is the retraction by The Lancet of Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s spurious study linking autism and vaccination, a campaign he evidently started out of reprehensible self-interest, having previously patented a “safer” MMR vaccine. That’s right, he sought to destroy the existing vaccination schedule not because it was actually unsafe, but because he had the alternative and would have stood to make a shit-ton of money.

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The nexus of politics and religion

Neal Gabler at the LA Times has this exactly right — the party that kowtowed for too long to the Religious Right has successfully converted the entire conservative movement into a fundamentalist religion with all the trappings of radicalization and irrationality.

Religious groups may have found a community of interest with a political party to further their aims; they have not, by and large, sought to convert the political system into a religious one. Until now.

The tea-baggers who hate President Obama with a fervor that is beyond politics; the fear-mongers who warn that Obama is another Hitler or Stalin; the wannabe storm troopers who brandish their guns and warn darkly of the president’s demise; the cable and talk-radio blowhards who make a living out of demonizing Obama and tarring liberals as America-haters — these people are not just exercising their rights within the political system. They honestly believe that the political system — a system that elected Obama — is broken and only can be fixed by substituting their certainty for the uncertainties of American politics.

As we are sadly discovering, this minority cannot be headed off, which is most likely why conservatism transmogrified from politics to a religion in the first place. Conservatives who sincerely believed that theirs is the only true and right path have come to realize that political tolerance is no match for religious vehemence.

Unfortunately, they are right. Having opted out of political discourse, they are not susceptible to any suasion. Rationality won’t work because their arguments are faith-based rather than evidence-based. Better message control won’t work. Improved strategies won’t work. Grass-roots organizing won’t work. Nothing will work because you cannot convince religious fanatics of anything other than what they already believe, even if their religion is political dogma.

I shouldn’t pull that large a blockquote, but the entire damned piece deserves a read. If we’re to understand why fundamentalists are now dominating the discourse in America, and pulling the nation further and further into the rabbit hole, we need to understand why, and how, religion has perverted the Loyal Opposition.

Zdenny’s Greatest Misses

Zdenny has 22 comments in a holding pattern at the moment, and I continue to anxiously await any sort of reasonable attempt at re-earning his commenting privilege — though I’m starting to think it’s a lost cause, and I should simply let him languish in his holding pen. However, many of the things he’s posted are so utterly laughable or enraging, that I figured I should share it with you, gentle reader. If you have no stomach for this sort of thing, I strongly advise you not click “continue reading.”

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Poe’s Law Writ Large

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I contend that this is not necessarily the case. I have discussed Poe’s Law previously, but I feel it’s time to revisit this phenomenon. What’s Poe’s Law, you ask? Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

[I]t is impossible to write a parody of a creationist trope that will not convince at least one reader that it’s a legitimate belief held by a real religious person.

(Yes, I blockquoted myself.)

This is a slight oversimplification of the problem at hand, however; a full explanation is available elsewhere on the intertubes. The original law states that it is impossible, without use of smileys or other distinguishing marks. It occurs to me that these distinguishing marks do not necessarily have to be blatant. They could be implicit, or consist of in-jokes. But in these cases, when the implicit marks or in-jokes are missed, we’re right back where we started — a whole website full of hilarity, whose point is completely missed by the sheer numbers of horrified and traumatized visitors who cannot bring themselves to countenance that real people really believe the things they saw there.

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Think of the children eh?

You’ve got to be kidding me. Apparently Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has put forth a bill allowing police vast snooping powers on the internet, forcing ISPs to implement hefty snooping equipment and allowing for warrantless retrieval of information on any person they claim to suspect as being part of organized crime, terrorism or child pornography.

All you have to do is imply that this will help stop any of the three, and you’ll get some asshat more than willing to give up privacy and other essential human rights in the name of Teh Childrens. And Mark and other PC leaners, I’m sorry to say, it’s most often the Conservatives that fall into this particular category — this was Stockwell Day’s whipping horse for years!

The worst part is, nobody’s actually implying that any current investigation is being impeded by a lack of ability to warrantlessly internet-tap any citizen. If this passes, expect vast dragnets along the same lines as the snooping that’s already taken place in America in the name of preventing terrorism, while they only really snooped on reporters’ and liberals’ e-mails.

Makes me sad that Ignatieff and Harper have hashed out a deal to avoid a Federal election this summer. With the NDP riding high in NS presently, who knows, maybe sentiment has swung leftward in other, less backwater provinces.