Syntax and Science Writing

Okay, I know it’s basically a press-release aggregator, but I still check in on ScienceDaily.com from time to time. Today, I found this and couldn’t stop WTFing.

A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star’s habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water. [emphasis added]

Now I’m going all kooky with images of a scientist named Talos who is 12,000 miles tall with one foot in Noordwijk, Netherlands and the other in Greenbelt, Maryland.

 

Why the mask?

So, earlier PZ posted a picture that has been widely shared around the internet, this one, from a Michigan protest:

Michigan Ohio protest photo, with protestor wearing Guy Fawkes mask in the 2nd rank of persons pushing at the door of the Michigan Ohio capitol building.

While I was over reading Wonkette (where I first encountered this photo) someone asked a question to people generally about why such a protestor would wear a Guy Fawkes mask unknown in the United States until the movie V for Vendetta, especially given the peculiar situation in the fictional setting was so different from that of the present day United States. (For later clarity, the movie was referred to as the “normal context” of the Guy Fawkes mask for Americans by the person asking the question).  I actually took some time to think about and respond to it, and thought people here might be interested in reading what I wrote over there…

I think it’s like this: the “normal context” of that mask in the USA doesn’t come from Guy Fawkes Day celebrations, but rather from the movie (no, not the comic book) V for Vendetta. In the movie, V is portrayed as a superhero, a Batman-like figure. He is immune to pain because of damage previously done to him. He’s smart as a Batman. He has effectively infinite resources, gadgets, money, etc. And, finally, he has his secret V-Cave.

But V doesn’t set himself to clearing the streets of common criminals, no. The streets are already cleared of them by the fascist government that enforces curfew. V is after the fascist government itself. By attacking secret policemen and other targets of special privilege inside the government V (again, like Batman) inspires fear in the people who make up the government.

Now, we could take a turn here and talk about how the disease in the movie is caused by the government and the crisis is then used to impose fascism. We could point out that even in the movie the quarantine wasn’t the problem but that the government used the time of the quarantine to achieve its fascist ends. And, of course, we could point out that the governors are only doing the quarantining, and it’s Trump who is actually using fear of disease to increase his own power in myriad ways, from stealing states’ own supplies to asserting infinite executive power including the power to (temporarily) dissolve a Congress.

But ignore all that for a moment, because we want to know why this idiot wears the mask, not what motivates the protest more generally (which the idiot could attend without a mask).

In the movie, only V is superhuman, but because he wears a mask that is already well-known and mass-produced, anyone can get hold of V’s costume, and if they walk down the street wearing that costume, the government officials terrorized by V will be equally terrified by the random wearer of V’s costume … at least until someone shoots the normal person and they don’t go all super-human fascist-stomper.

So from the point of view of a random normal person in the movie who dons Guy Fawkes’ face, the point of wearing the mask is to cause someone else to be afraid.

And I think for this person the most important point is exactly the same. Though also I think the idiot thinks that wearing the mask somehow makes the wearer “cool”. But that’s secondary. Lots of things could make you cool. This mask is intended to make others afraid.

In the movie, V tried to target the fear, but there’s no denying that the average Security Bear in the final scene was very afraid. To make V heroic they had to play up the fear of the most powerful and play down the fears of every day contributors to the functioning of the government. How could the unemployment clerk know that V wouldn’t target the unemployment office? The clerk couldn’t. V, even if bringing down the fascist fictional Brittain was a good goal, acted like a terrorist. He acted deliberately to inspire fear, to terrorize. And the movie made that seem cool, because in fiction land we don’t have to deal with unintended, undesired consequences. The writers just skip that part and move on.

And so… V for Vendetta, in the midst of a post-9/11 world that appears to uniformly condemn terrorism, provides seemingly the only cultural reference that permits the possibility of the good-guy terrorist, the cool terrorist. There is a reason why the right wing calls every mildly-left wing proposal tyranny. They were raised with the KKK as heroes, able to kill others just for wanting to vote while the wrong race or the wrong party. They’re nursed on dreams of ethnic cleansing and genocide, looking forward to the time when they reestablish a permanent theocracy or permanent white ethno-state. But denying people the right to vote isn’t cool anymore. The right to murder racial others no longer inheres to white skin.

Some of them tone down their dreams. They gerrymander. They call vote-by-mail corrupt. They pass new voter ID laws during a fucking pandemic when the DMV isn’t open to provide new IDs.

But predictably, some of them yearn for the days when terrorizing others was cool. In a time when the USA has gone out of its way to erase distinctions between freedom fighters resisting occupiers and “aggressive” terrorists who launch violence from behind a wall of privilege, when the USA itself denies that bombing weddings and fruit-pickers on siesta might have a terrorizing effect since it was done while wearing the flag, V for Vendetta is the only model the alt-right has of the popular terrorist.

And they yearn, they yearn existentially both to create fear in their enemies and to be popular, not the pathetic and fringe movement that they are.

So idiots like this wear the mask, not to fight fascism. They don’t know what that is, and don’t oppose fascism itself anyway.

Idiots like this wear the mask to be the bully, to be king of the elementary school again for just a moment, to inspire fear and worship. In a word, to be awesome.

Idiots like this wear the mask because they are terrorists.

Edited Above: Corrected erroneous protest location, replacing mentions of Michigan’s capital with Ohio’s.

I’m Glad Pandemic Modeling Isn’t My Job

So just recently I wrote a post pointing out how reasonable it was to expect 6 doublings of COVID-19 deaths in the USA by early May (which would have given us a bit over a quarter million total persons dead), and how after that even one more doubling would be an unthinkable tragedy. But we’re not seeing doublings on the rate I feared (and which seemed reasonable given a comparison to other nations then-current rates of doubling when they had initiated nationwide stay-at-home policies before the USA). Commenter militantagnostic was early on the case, informing me on April 6th:

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Feminism Saves Men’s Lives

Don’t ask me why, but I was trying to look up a cissexist jerk’s comments on trans* folks in anti-DV shelters that I was sure had been in a pharyngula discussion. While looking those up, I ran across an old comment of mine about how feminism reduced women’s killings of men.

It’s been said in a number of contexts, of course. I’m far from the first to observe that increasing access to shelters and other anti-DV resources has saved the lives of men. (In fact it seems to have saved more men’s lives than women’s lives.) But still, I think outside of certain feminist circles, it’s a fact that gets too little attention. So after running across this old bit of analysis, I thought I’d subject you all to it anew. Here’s the text (although there’s also follow-up comments and more discussion in the original thread that you can read if you follow the link above):

24. Post-feminism, women kill fewer men.

From the USDOJ publication:
Cooper, Alexia, and Erica L. Smith. Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008. (Annual Rates for 2009 and 2010.). Washington DC: US DOJ, 2011. Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Web. 9 Feb. 2015. .
The murders of men/males by intimate partners as a percentage of all murders of men/males:*
1980: 10.4%
2008: 4.9%
The report concluded that this constituted a trend, which can be seen in graphical data included in the report. The report did not conclude that 2008 was an aberrational year. But perhaps women have been killing more men and yet men have been killing EVEN MORE men, giving wives and girlfriends a bigger death toll yet less market share? Let’s test that hypothesis.
Supplementary to the earlier report is the census bureau report on homicide trends (that itself relies on FBI/DOJ numbers, so they are using the same underlying dataset).*
How many men were murdered in 1980 and 2008?
1980: 17,803
2008: 12,731

Is this trend or aberration? Well, the census report doesn’t make conclusions like that, but over the course of 2 decades we fell from the 1980 high to a low of just over 11,700 in 1999. After that, the numbers never go lower than 11,700 or higher than 13,433. The mean over those years is 12,629 and the median is 12,664. Even rounding to the hundreds place, there is no repeat year and thus no valid mode.
But as 12,731 is very close to both mean and mode, it’s pretty typical for that last decade or so.
So how many murders is that?
10.4%*17803 = 1851 or 1852. Or thereabouts, within the limits of the 3 significant digits given in the 10.4% figure.
4.9%*12,731 = about 624.
As a percentage of murders, the murder of men by wives or girlfriends is down about 52.88%.
However, as a total number of murders, the murder of men by wives or girlfriends is down about 66.6%
But wait, there’s more!
According to this document, the population of men in the US in 1980 was 110,053,000. In 2008 it is not broken out by gender, but the total is 304,375,000 and in 2009 the total (which was 307,007,000) was broken out to specify 151,449,000 men. Even if the 2,632,000 person increase from 2008 to 2009 was all men, it would still leave 148,883,000 men in the US in 2008.
Dividing 110,053,000 by 1851 (being generous), we get 1 intimate partner murder of a man for every 59,456 men in 1980.
Dividing 148,883,000 by 624, we get 1 intimate partner murder of a man for every 238,595 men in 2008.
59,456/238,595 = 24.919%.
Yep, that’s right, post feminism the murder rate of men by their intimate partners has fallen 75%. You men now have only 1/4th the chance of being murdered by your intimate partners that you would have had in 1980.
Now use your very, very nicest tone of voice when you say, “Thank you,” boys.
*Note that the FBI/DOJ data upon which both these reports were based excluded deaths attributable to the 9/11 terror attacks, including those persons on the hijacked planes as well as those persons killed in/near the towers and the pentagon. However, since we are examining intimate partner violence, those murders would not have been relevant to our investigations anyway.

 

 

 

US COVID-19 Death Rate: Understanding a link

So I linked to one important source I used in my non-professional but (hopefully) mathematically literate guesswork about how COVID-19 deaths in the US will increase over the next while. What I didn’t appreciate at that time was that the graphic that they used to discuss geometric growth in deaths in various countries is a dynamic graphic. Every time a country updates its total deaths on its own official websites, which happens once a day or more for Eurpoean and North American countries, the graphic itself updates. This means you can’t click on the link from a past article (or in this paragraph) and get easy access to the numbers I used when writing a particular blog post.

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How fucked is the USA? A COVID-19 DeathSplainer.

SARS-CoV2 infections were originally doubling once every 2.5 days, according to the CDC and the WHO. Over the last 4 days, deaths in different countries have had different doubling rates, but US deaths doubled very close to once in that 4 days.

This is a result of the fact that the places with the highest numbers of deaths also have done the most to slow transmission via shelter-in-place orders and other measures. So even if infections and deaths are doubling much faster in counties and states that haven’t yet been hit hard, the total number of deaths they add from a single doubling might yet be small compared to deaths in, say, New York City, which had over 500 on Friday. (By the way, New York City’s measures haven’t yet been effective at slowing the doubling: their deaths doubled in a mere 3 days.) We are not likely headed for a slowdown of the doubling rate because there are so many places where the virus is just beginning its infectious burn, and while each individual county might be small, there are many counties with many, many people in Texas and Florida and Georgia and other red states.

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Hand washing getting repetitive?

Now you have instant options! The website “Wash Your Lyrics” will generate a poster copied from the NHS but with the lyrics to the song of your choice – automatically, no typing of lyrics whatsoever. Input the song name and artist & away you go! My first creation was based on Bikini Kill’s Tony Randall, off the album Reject All American. This is how it came out:

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Victory Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Indianz.com has an important story up about a victory against DAPL.

NOTE: The TL;DR is that the expedited process for issuing permits for the project was illegal, DAPL might be shut down (at least temporarily), and the uncertainty created by the illegitimate permits might further delay fully connecting DAPL to the Albertan tar sands oil projects.

The Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) has a long history of neglecting not only treaty rights but also duties imposed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). That act requires certain steps to be taken BEFORE concrete actions like issuing permits can be legally undertaken. There are good reasons – have been good reasons – to believe that they did not meet the legal prerequisites for issuing the DAPL permits and today a federal judge agreed.

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