Inverting the blogosphere into a kind of anti-beauty contest gives me hope

How about them boobies? I was traveling yesterday, and missed most of the astonishing uproar over being photographed while bearing breasts—so I won’t add much to the thrashing except to point out the bright side.

You see, the real resentment is over the fact that Jessica happens to be young and attractive, a couple of fortuitous and irrelevant features that don’t matter to the assessment of her writing. There are a lot of people like that in the blogosphere, like Amanda and Lindsay, and it’s not just the ladies—look at Ezra and Chris. They’re the competition. If we old and homely people can take them out by impeaching them on the basis of their looks and simultaneously elevating our raddled, decrepit appearance into a sign of gravitas and wisdom, we win! We need to constantly reinforce that pleasing “he/she-sure-didn’t-get-there-on-looks-and-sunny-disposition” source of false credibility, and divide the world into crotchety sourpusses you must obey and young kids with taut connective tissue you can ignore.

I suspect Ann Althouse must be cleverly thinking the very same thing.

That’s an upside to global warming I hadn’t considered before

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Republicans are capable of thinking long term—really long term. After a recent hearing, Rep. Don Young (Reprehensible, Alaska) enlightened us with a Deep Thought:

Before he left the hearing, Young, noting the presence of network TV crews, took a moment to reflect on his thoughts regarding climate change, citing the benefit of global warming — not caused by man — in another eon to an area that today is frozen much of the year. “We’re dealing with the most northern part of the United States of America, and a most hostile climate, and we’re pumping oil, and I’d just like to remind them if they’re asked where did the oil come from, and I would say this to Al Gore specifically: This was a jungle at one time, this was a forest at one time, this was a fern-laden area with mammoths at one time, and that’s really why we’re pumping oil,” he said.

Oh, yeah! Global warming will foster the luxuriant bogs and swamps of a new, more tropical Alaska, laying down the deep beds of carbon that will fuel the SUVs of tomorrow’s America! Carbon dioxide…it’s for our future! (“Tomorrow” is defined as “100 million years from now”, and “America” refers to the evolved, sentient descendants of whatever species makes it that long and is resident on the tectonic plate corresponding to the current state of Alaska. No promises to current voters are intended or implied.)

A Minnesotan mentioned another little problem with Young’s peculiarly hopeful idea.

Next to speak was the committee’s ranking Democrat, James Oberstar of Minnesota, who reminded Young that while global warming might have been good for fern jungles, human civilization is another story.
“That happened years ago,” Oberstar said. “The place was uninhabited by humans at that time.”

Pssht. Nattering nabob of negativism.

I think it’s very ambitious. I’d always thought the Republicans would love to roll back history to the Middle Ages, but who’d have thought they’d set their sights on returning to the Carboniferous?

House jumps the shark

True confession: I try to watch the medical drama House when I can. It’s lead character is an acerbic and brilliant atheist M.D. (played by Hugh Laurie, a comedic actor—which was a smart casting decision), and the humor is snarky and dark. That’s just the kind of thing I enjoy. It’s been going downhill, I think, because the episodes have gotten far too predictable—there’s always a weird illness which is handled via increasingly wild semi-random diagnoses that always, and I definitely mean always, ends with the complete cure of the patient. The infallibility is wearing a little thin.

Last season’s finale almost made me give up. They turned the gross-out factor up to 11 (exploding testicles and eyeballs popping out), and resolved everything with the lamest, laziest television cliche: it was just a dream. I hoped it was just an aberration.

Last night’s episode, though, blew it. I have lost faith in House. <spoilers below>

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Cool! A new argument for dualism!

At least, that is, it’s new to me. Austin Cline summarizes a report in The Philosophers’ Magazine by Michael La Bossier:

[R]ecent studies of cloned animals reveal that current cloning techniques produce animals that are as distinct in their personalities as animals produced by “natural” means of reproduction. Texas A&M, which has been on the forefront of animal cloning, has found that cloned pigs differ from each other in, among other things, their food preferences and degree of friendliness towards human beings.…

Given that the clones are genetically the same and are typically raised in similar environments, it seems reasonable to consider the possibility of a non-physical factor that causes the difference in personality. After all, once the physical factors are accounted for, what would seem to remain would be e non-physical. In light of the history of philosophy, the most plausible candidate would be the mind.

Ooh! Ooh! I have to test this!

I have in my hand two identical dice. I throw them at the same time, to the same place, with the same amount of force…whoa. A 5 and a 2. How can that be?

I have two quarters. They are the same, right down to the year. I flip them both and…two heads. That’s a relief. I flip them again, and get a head and a tail.

This is amazing! I have just proven that dice and coins have minds! Is there some kind of big rich philosophical prize I can win for this accomplishment? Would the Templeton Foundation hand out a million bucks for proving that there are immaterial spirits haunting objects in the world?

Please—no one mention the concept of chance until I’ve got the money. And especially don’t mention that complex dynamic systems, such as, say, cloned pigs, are highly sensitive to variations in initial conditions, and offer many opportunities for accumulation of subtle, random changes, such as occur during development.

I recommend this as an entrance exam for the priesthood

Maybe it would have been more sensible to start with the water-and-wine trick, and later work up to the walking-on-water finale.

A priest has died after trying to demonstrate how Jesus walked on water. Evangelist preacher Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle. But he drowned after walking out to sea from a beach in the capital Libreville in Gabon, west Africa. One eyewitness said: “He told churchgoers he’d had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus. “He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. “He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back.”

The Death of the Republican Brain

Perhaps this is redundant, since Jon Swift has already taken care of it, but how could I possibly resist an article titled “The Death of Science,” posted on a “Blogs for Bush” site? It’s got wingnuts, it’s got irony, it’s got dizzyingly inane interpretations of science. It’s like everything that’s wrong with the Bush approach to science, all in one short article.

What reasons could a blinkered Bush supporter with a petrified brain and no background in science possibly advance to support the claim that science is dead?

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I guess you can be innumerate and still become a professor of public affairs

In a surprising discovery, reading the Wall Street Journal opinion pages will make you 57% dumber, will kill 8,945,562,241 neurons, and will force you to invent ridiculous statistics. Don’t follow that link! The article will make you cry as you go through a Flowers for Algernon experience.

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Please just stop

People, people, people. There is far too much attention being paid to a pair of obnoxious trolls in the comments. Ignore them. Do not call them out. Do not pester them with questions. Just let ’em rot.

I’m going to have to start disemvoweling the stuff from Bres Mac Elatha/Robert O’Brien and Jason, as well as the posts that refer to them, if you can’t leave them be. I get cranky when I have to start hacking up annoying comments, you know.

Rah, rah, rah

If you were appalled at the cavalier cops, here’s another story to make you sneer with disgust. Jaquandor reports on a couple of kids who pulled a stupid prank that nearly killed a couple of teenagers (one had a broken neck and brain damage, and has been through 10 surgeries), and the judge gave them a couple of light sentences, and worst of all, delayed the start of their sentences…until the end of football season.

That’s right, they’re high school football players. It would be unduly harsh to prevent them from playing football, you know. And besides, the members of the football team must all be good kids. Regular saints.

I remember the football team in my high school—Kent-Meridian was big on football. I was in gym class with them. If we’d ever picked teams for our games, I would have been one of those picked nearly last; I was the skinny nerd who would have rather been anywhere else. We never picked teams, though, because the coach always divided the class into the football players vs. everyone else. So one day we’re playing basketball—if you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s not a contact sport—when I go to make a jump shot and a 250 pound lineman takes me out with a tackle from the side. I briefly recall seeing them high-five each other before the pain blinded me: I’m really not used to having my patella on the medial side of my leg, or to having my knee bend sideways. My assailant was not rebuked, nor did I get so much as an apology from him.

I do not have a charitable view of the kind of privilege given to participants in team sports.

Oh, well. The football players who crippled another student in Kenton, Ohio are suffering horribly.

The 17-year-old’s father, C.J. Howard, said members of the community have made crude remarks when his family shops at a nearby Wal-Mart store and that his younger children are taunted by older youth when they play in the yard.

Oh, wow, man. They’re getting called mean names. By comparison, the kids who were nearly killed got off easy.