March 28, 2007
wednesday news bites
Pope Reaffirms That
He is Catholic.
As part of a series of sermons intended to make clear the teachings of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI noted that hell is in fact a real place where sinners will be tormented for all eternity and not just a symbolic metaphor.
The series is expected to run through the spring and will
include future talks on:
Jesus, the Son of God: And No, We Really Don't Care What James Cameron Thinks.
Mother Mary: What Part of “Virgin” Don’t You Understand?
The Bible: The Stuff in There is What We Believe.
Take that, Michelangelo, You Hack!
In other religious news, artist Cosimo Cavallaro is set to unveil a six-foot sculpture of Jesus made entirely out of milk chocolate. New York Arthouse director Matt Semler said of the piece, "His art always gets a reaction, but this is the most dramatic piece of his career."
Well, sure, making a six-foot tall statue of Jesus out of milk
chocolate may very well present viewers with the profound, heretofore
unexplored interplay between modern metaphysical belief systems and a Hershey’s bar but can it really be compared to
“Ham on Bed,” “Cheese Chair” or really, any of the groceries-scattered-on-furnishings
No, we didn’t think so.
Maybe He Just “Loves too Much”
A North Carolina man is facing cruelty charges for keeping 80 sheep in his suburban home.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney used the opportunity to again repeat his strong belief that a relationship must be between one man, and one sheep.
If Bad Things Happen, It Would Be Bad
A study published in the current issue of “Environment and Urbanization” finds that hundreds of millions of people would be put at risk if sea levels were to rise 33 feet. Just because not even Al Gore has suggested that there is any credible concern for a sea level rise of that magnitude is no reason why we shouldn’t do our best to be incredibly alarmed about it.
Future issues of Environment and Urbanization are expected
Most Poor Nations Ill-Prepared for Supernova: “We Are at a Tipping Point” Say Scientists.
Volcanic Eruption in Midtown Manhattan Would Kill Tens of Thousands, Wreck Theater Season.
Zombies Walking The Earth Feasting on Human Brains Would Severely Stress Already Overburdened Medicaid/Medicare Program.
It Takes a Village to Spoil a Child.
Hundreds of New Zealanders marched to protest an attempt to essentially make it illegal for parents to strike or spank their children.
Counter protestors supporting the ban on striking children chanted "2,4,6,8 — teach your children not to hate."
The protesters responded with “3,5,7,9 — smack that kid if he gets out of line.”
Okay, we made up that last part.
March 26, 2007
we’ll drink to that. wait, what?
A research study led by Professor David Nutt of Britain's Bristol University and published Friday in the British medical journal The Lancet created a new ranking of drugs based on the actual danger they pose to society and found to the shock of many that both alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than many illegal drugs such as marijuana.
“Hey,” you may be saying to yourself, “in the interest of fairness perhaps they should relax the penalties on some of these other drugs.”
Whoa, easy there big guy. Just step away from the bong, get your hand out of the Fiddle Faddle, and grab some Visine.
According to Wayne Hall, of the University of Queensland in Australia these rankings clearly “suggest the need for better regulation of the more harmful drugs that are currently legal (ie, tobacco and alcohol).”
But you probably saw that coming.
How did alcohol and tobacco end up being ranked as intrinsically more dangerous than not only marijuana but also LSD and ecstasy? One of the main criteria used to determine a drug’s ranking was its current impact on society.
Of course, the study’s authors noted (full text here,
registration required) that this is spurious as “direct comparison of the scores
for tobacco and alcohol with those of the other drugs is not possible since the
fact that they are legal could affect their harms in various ways, especially
through easier availability.”
However, that presented a problem. Excluding alcohol and tobacco from the results would produce a research paper lacking the most critical element driving modern scientific inquiry: The discovery of new and exciting headlines. Compare:
With alcohol and tobacco included in the results:
Without alcohol and tobacco included in the results:
Study: Ketamine and
Benzodiazepines Worse Than Buprenorphine!
Fortunately, one of the more important innovations in social sciences research over the past several decades has been the rising primacy of conclusions over evidence and so the report ignores the fact that a direct comparison is not possible, and instead closes with: “The fact that the two most widely used legal drugs lie in the upper half of the ranking of harm is surely important information that should be taken into account in public debate on illegal drug use.”
Professor David Nutt doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase,
No, seriously, he doesn’t.
Dispensing with the annoying constrictions of evidence-based conclusions opens up whole new fields of inquiry and could be used, say, to prove that bullets are much more dangerous to society than nuclear weapons since bullets have killed far more people. (Just imagine what that could do for fishing with explosives enthusiasts!)
The rankings themselves were scientifically determined using the rigorous clinical method of “asking people stuff.” Since “asking people stuff” lacks the inscrutability necessary for this approach to sound credible, the authors described this process as using “delphic principles” in which “participants were asked to score each substance” on a 4-point scale in an approach that “incorporates the best knowledge of experts in diverse disciplines.”
Asking people stuff.
More specifically, two groups of people were asked to record
their opinions regarding these various substances: Law enforcement officials
While this might strike some as an odd way to conduct a
study, most people will surely agree that teaming up cops with psychiatrists
would make for an excellent television drama:
Law and Disorder. “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the psychiatrists who explore the underlying motivations of the offenders which often involve unresolved feelings of inadequacy in their relationships with their mothers.”
“These are their stories.”
What might thwart attempts to use the results of this study to further regulate alcohol and tobacco? Again, from Wayne Hall: “The wealthy, well organized, powerful, and politically connected alcohol and tobacco industries will be able to resist policies that would more effectively reduce the harms that their products cause.”
But we think he meant that as a criticism.
March 23, 2007
we think it was the milk income loss contract funding that sealed the deal
It was a difficult undertaking, but Democrats have managed to pass an Iraq war funding bill that includes a firm deadline of August, 2008 to remove combat troops from Iraq.
Getting Democrats to support the bill required uniting the
liberal wing of the party which believes we have already lost, with the
moderate wing which believes it would be better to lose next year.
So really it was mostly just a scheduling conflict.
Republicans railed against either option taking the far more philosophical approach that failure is not so much a destination, as a journey…
President Bush has promised a veto should the bill ever
reach his desk and considering the slim margins of the vote, it is unlikely it
could be overridden. This makes today’s
vote more symbolic than anything else.
Unfortunately, this leaves vulnerable the very people the bill was originally intended to help:
And let’s face it, every day that goes by is one more day without citrus relief. And it’s not like those spinach patches are going to subsidize themselves. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the lobbyists and their families.
Besides, as Wisconsin Representative David Obey points out, it’s perfectly appropriate to include money for such constituencies as spinach growers since they were hit last year with a deadly E. coli outbreak.
And when it comes to battling E. coli (the murdering SOBs), you’re either with us, or against us.
We’re forgetting something. Oh, yeah, there were some funds in the bill for the troops as well. Fortunately for them the most critical shortages they are facing consist largely of symbolism with many combat units running dangerously short of desperately needed gestures.
Democrat’s Three-Phase Plan:
Phase 1: Remove troops
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit!
Republican’s Three-Phase Plan:
Phase 1: Add troops
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit!
March 22, 2007
CONSENSUS WATCH – 3/22/2007
An occasional series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, man-made, and must be addressed immediately if we are to forestall cataclysm. After all, without consensus, science is merely an ongoing journey of exploration and discovery.
this edition, we recognize that despite the relative popularity of “An
Inconvenient Truth,” it is still a documentary and as such does not have wide
enough appeal to counter the kinds of criticisms Al Gore continues to come
under. That is why we present some
excerpts from the screenplay “The Gore,” the upcoming big-budget disaster movie
coming soon to a theater near you:
INT. UN IPCC OFFICES
(in glasses and lab coat, enters room)
According our latest calculations, sea levels are going to rise.
(dressed in field jacket looking grim and committed)
Give it to me straight. How bad is it?
A foot. Maybe more. By the end of the century.
Are you telling me that if we don’t take immediate action, the oceans could rise 20 feet?
What? No. Our calculations suggest a much more modest…
(walking through door hurriedly)
I’ve got to get to Washington. I just pray to God they’ll listen this time.
(Gore’s faithful mixed-breed beagle rescued from an animal shelter)
INT. EMERGENCEY CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS - MORNING
CONGRESSMAN JOE BARTON
(taking check from ExxonMobil discreetly handed to him by an aide, turns towards the former Vice President sitting before him)
You don’t know that man causes global warming. You don’t know that sea levels will rise. You just think you know, isn’t that right, Mr. Gore?
(tight shot, dramatic pause)
I don’t know how to think.
And get that damn dog out of here!
EXT. SOMEWHERE IN THE ARCTIC - AFTERNOON
I’ve got to get these pictures. I’ve got to show the world how the polar bears are suffering.
You know it’s August, right? And these polar bears are fat and happy?
Those are just facts, Bob, but facts can’t keep you warm at night. Facts can’t see you through a long, cold winter.
I don’t have time for your fancy Ivy League facts. I’ve got more important things to deal with. I’ve got emotional appeals to make. Look, if we're going to get the American people to take drastic, life-altering steps now, we can't let the fact-mongers get in our way.
I always knew you were a crazy son of a bitch, I just never knew how crazy!
INT. BILL SIGNING CEREMONY – MORNING
Well, I have to admit, I was wrong about you. Your passion, well, it made us all see that there’s more to life than just making a critical assessment of the facts and weighing that carefully against the available evidence in a deliberative manner. Sometimes, you've just got to go with your heart. I’m proud to have sponsored this bill raising taxes and investing billions in alternative energy programs. Again.
I didn’t do it just for me. I did it for our children. And me.
(peeing on Joe Barton’s pants leg)
It looks like you’ve made TWO new friends today!
It sure does!
March 21, 2007
no one wants to risk being accused of not supporting the trade group lobbyists
It’s amazing the difference an election can make.
Two years ago, Democrats were in the minority in Congress and were incapable of effecting any real change regarding the course of the war in Iraq.
Today, the Democrats are in control of both houses of Congress and are incapable of effecting any real change regarding the course of the war in Iraq.
While Democrats have had difficulty lining up support for a bill that provides both emergency funds for the troops in the field and sets a firm timetable for their eventual withdrawal, they have managed to come up with a clever parliamentary maneuver to break the gridlock: Bribery.
The current version of the emergency spending bill that provides funds for the military's continued operations in Iraq also includes money targeted for peanut warehouses, citrus growers, and Atlantic menhaden fisherman.
Because, let’s face it, pretty much nothing gets done in Washington without support from the powerful Atlantic menhaden lobby.
Add in the extra money the bill provides for shrimp and salmon fisheries and you’ve got a real seafood lovers delight of a bill.
Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois is seeking to strip the bill of this extra spending noting in particular that "Spinach farmers in California should not be getting emergency war spending money."
But we ask, if not spinach farmers, who? And if not now, when?
This leaves us in a situation in which one of the most important decisions of our times, a decision that could determine, no matter which side you are on, the success or failure of the Iraqi conflict, hinges on whether the Milk Income Loss Contract receives additional funding.
Last fall, Patrick Murphy, while running for a seat from Pennsylvania, criticized his incumbent opponent for having voted for pork-laden bills such as the infamous Teapot Museum.
“I have nothing against teapots. What I do have a problem
with is the irresponsible and reckless spending of my opponent,” he said at the
“Sometimes you have to take a stand and vote against bills that are fiscally irresponsible.”
Congressman Murphy defeated his opponent and now sits in Congress. Congressman Murphy plans to vote for the Iraq funding bill.
“There's no teapot museums in this bill,” the Congressman said.
Just funds for new office space for Congressmen and additional livestock subsidies.
It’s amazing the difference an election can make.
March 20, 2007
lifestyles of the rich and guilt-free
“Carbon-neutral” living is the biggest craze to sweep through celebrity circles since not wearing underpants, from the band Coldplay to Wall Street's movers and shakers being whisked about in hybrid limousines to Oscar swag carbon credits to everyone’s favorite eco-warrior, Al Gore!
How do the rich and famous manage to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide to a net total of zero despite extravagant lifestyles that include large mansions that can use 20 or more times the energy of the average American home?
They don’t! Instead,
they engage in “carbon offsets” in which their own emissions of carbon dioxide
are countered by reductions made elsewhere.
But what about the average American who yearns for similar redemption, is there any way that normal people with modest incomes
can hope to afford to live a seemingly carbon-neutral lifestyle?
You bet there is. Just follow-
Planet Moron’s Carbon-Neutral Living for Average Joes:
Look to your own community first. See if you can work together with a neighbor who is of a similar age and lifestyle as you and who shares your concerns about global warming.
And kill him.
You have just bought yourself carbon-neutral living for the rest of your life. Remember: “Kill a neighbor. Save the Planet.”
Al Gore is installing solar panels to help offset a portion of the electricity his 10,000-square-foot home uses. That may sound expensive, but given your more modest energy consumption, you can make a proportionately similar contribution by buying a solar-powered watch. Go ahead, take that private jet to Rio. You’ve earned it!
Whenever you come across a magazine advertisement that suggests that “you can save this child or you can turn the page,” just turn the page. Every time you turn the page, you’ve just bought yourself something like a month of carbon-neutral living. But don’t do it for yourself, do it for the children.
Set up your own company like Al Gore and make payments to yourself to offset your activities. For instance, every time you drive to work, pay yourself five bucks to promise yourself you won’t set a tire on fire that evening. Voilà! You’ve just offset your carbon emissions for that day. You say you weren’t’ going to set a tire on fire anyway? That’s the beauty of guilt-free living through carbon offsets. It doesn’t matter!
Go Green, Drive a Hummer. Get rid of that ecologically disastrous Toyota Prius and buy a Hummer H3 instead. Not only have you just reduced the total life-cycle resource depletion associated with the Prius, but hey, you’ve got yourself a honkin’ Hummer!
Sure, you could just buy a Chevy Aveo. It gets the same mileage as a Prius but at half the price and absent the array of rechargeable batteries and other complex gadgetry the Prius requires is much more environmentally friendly than either the Hummer or the Prius and so over its life produces much less CO2.
But we’re talking about feeling guilt free, not actually being guilt free.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?
March 18, 2007
my parents went to an anti-war rally and all i got was this stupid communist manifesto
You probably didn’t know that this was an issue, or in particular need of clarification.
That is because you did not attend the “MarchOnPentagon” anti-war rally where one speaker spent his time on the podium exhorting the crowd to join him for a rally in New York to stop war against Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela.
But of course, this rally was about more than just a
potential conflict with
Oh, and "Palestine."
But I’m not being fair. A.N.S.W.E.R. organizers did set aside some time for the real reason people came out for this protest:
To end capitalism.
Well, okay, A.N.S.W.E.R has always had a problem staying focused.
“Down with capitalism!”
Ooh, so very, very close.
Later, a speaker with the Socialist Worker's Party had a chant going:
War (or poverty or discrimination, etc.) isn’t an accident!
And for those of you who were not particularly interested in
ending capitalism or avoiding war with
There were even representatives from "Free the Cuban Five" which I'd considered talking to but realized that any outrage I may have expressed about communist suppression and the subjugation of free will would have been undercut by the Cohiba Siglo IV I was smoking at the time.
According to the Associated Press, protesters “marched by
the thousands to the Pentagon” which is technically true since you only need
two to earn that plural “s.” The Washington Post reported one estimate of
between 10,000 and 20,000 which strongly suggests that the person making the
estimate had gotten confused and counted the crowd at the nearby Pentagon City Mall
instead. (“Wow, these protesters sure
like to shop!”)
Although the organizers had to have been disappointed with the surprisingly sparse attendance, there was an upside.
With anti-war fever rising, costs mounting, and the conflict dragging on into its fifth year, what would account for such a low turnout? The cold? St. Patrick’s Day?
Let’s just say that if you keep telling people that you’re throwing a party and every time they show up you hand them an issue of “The Watchtower” and try to talk to them about God's Kingdom and the evils of blood transfusions, you’re going to have to start seriously considering cutting down on the number of Costco meat and cheese platters you order.
March 16, 2007
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA): Celebrating 15 Years of Saying Stuff
The timeline is irrefutable:
2000: Press Release -U.S. SENATE PASSES CASA "NATIONAL EAT DINNER WITH YOUR CHILDREN DAY" INITIATIVE
2002: Press Release - CASA ESTABLISHES COMMISSION ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
2004: Press Release –UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME PRESIDENT REV. EDWARD A. MALLOY, ELECTED TO CASA BOARD
2005: Press Release –TEN STEPS PARENTS CAN TAKE TO PREVENT
TEEN SUBSTANCE ABUSE
The result a matter of public record:
2007: Press Release – WASTING THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST, HALF OF COLLEGE STUDENTS BINGE DRINK, ABUSE DRUGS
The conclusion inescapable:
Surely something can be done to stop this growing menace to our young and put an end to CASA’s insatiable appetite for press releases. Take this latest release. It’s not even based on anything new. It was simply cobbled together from a bunch of old studies and represented as something original (call it the sitcom clip show approach to academic research).
What is that, if not a cry for help?
But we can’t give up on CASA, after all, it’s just a teenager and could surely benefit from some active intervention right now. So please, consider taking the following proactive steps:
Include CASA in “Take Your Non-Profit Issues-Advocacy Organization to Work Day” to show CASA that there are other rewards in life besides issuing press releases.
Remove all research material from your premises including anything that could be used to create a study and issue a press release. CASA has issued press releases about people making comments about their press releases, so really, it's important that you not underestimate the desperation of a true addict.
Don’t let CASA fall in with the wrong crowd again. There’s no end to the damage that peer pressure can do.
If we don’t succeed, CASA will just keep on issuing press releases, and the substance abuse problems on our college campuses will continue to get worse, thus jeopardizing our children’s ability to, you know, study hard, do their homework, and make an effort to be smart. Otherwise?
March 15, 2007
shangari & ahmadinejad: two thumbs down, way down
Iranian government officials expressed deep anger and
outrage this week over the movie “300,” a stylized depiction of the Battle of
Thermopylae in which 300 Spartans held off a vastly larger Persian army in 480
And not just because of the thinly drawn characters, stilted
dialogue, and over-reliance on CGI effects, but because it casts Persians, the
forebears of today’s Iranians, in a poor light.
Before you scoff at such seemingly excessive sensitivity on the part of the Iranian government, it is important to remember that this is not “just” a movie.
It’s an IMAX movie!
Plus, it’s not as if these events took place a long time
ago. We’re talking, what, 3000
years? Heck, I’ve got rocks older than
Iranian Presidential Cultural Advisor, Javad Shangari, accused the film of being “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological warfare aimed at Iranian culture.”
Of course, we all know what he’s getting at, so we might as well get it out in the open right now: Hollywood has long been controlled by Spartans.
And where does the money come from to finance these movies? The Greek financiers. They’re the ones who really call the shots on Wall Street.
Answer this: Can you think of a single production to come
out of a major Hollywood movie studio in the past 50
years that was even remotely critical of the Spartans? Yeah, we didn’t think so. And it’s not a secret that many in Iran were secretly cheering Mel Gibson for his tirade following his second arrest in
which he asked a police officer, “Are you a Spartan? You look like a Spartan. The Spartans are
responsible for all the wars in the world.”
Well, that last one had some truth to it, but still.
Part of the Iranians’ concern is that the movie will create additional animosity towards their country. This is based on the curious assumption that the average American knows that Iranians are Persians. Let’s just say that there’s a reason that Arab-Americans feel compelled to specifically point out that Iranians are NOT Arab in a useful FAQ for journalists, right after “Is Palestine a country?” but before “So, not all people from the Middle East are Arabs?.”
It’s the same reason why, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” is a smash hit this season.
Iranians are particularly upset over “historical inaccuracies” in the film. This is really more of a principled, philosophical stand, as the Iranian government prides itself on never letting ideology get in the way of determining that everything is the fault of the Jews.
“Everyone is starting to react. The DVD is already very available, and people are quite angry," observed one Iranian producer. In fact there is probably only one person in the world more outraged and distraught over this very unfortunate situation.
Marc Brandon, Vice President, Anti-Piracy Internet Operations, Warner Bros. Entertainment.
March 14, 2007
everyday life with al gore
In The Kitchen
Al: Hi, I
couldn’t help but notice these muffins in the oven have been rising.
Tipper: Oh, yes, I thought it would be fun to…
Al: How long have you been in the kitchen?
Tipper: Oh, I don’t know, a half hour?
Al: And have they been rising that whole time?
Tipper: Well, not right at first when I was mixing them but after I …
Al: I’m afraid the inescapable conclusion is that increasing levels of carbon dioxide expelled by your breathing is causing the muffins to rise.
Tipper: But, I turned on the oven too so…
Al: And based on my calculations, at the current rate of expansion, we could see by the end of this week, not only the lower-lying cupboards threatened by the advancing batter but our breakfast cereal and FiberCon capsules becoming dangerously imperiled as well, helpless before the unyielding swell of flour, butter and dehydrated blueberries.
Tipper: Al, I think you’re being a little…
Al: At best, you have ten minutes to leave the room or I’m afraid it will be too late to even save the pasta maker…
Going Out To Eat
Al: It’s settled
then, the consensus is we’re all going to Applebee’s.
Al Gore III: Actually, I thought it would be kind of fun to hit McDonald’s real quick.
Al: Son, I think we all know why you are advocating going to McDonald’s.
Al Gore III: Why I’m…? Look, I just thought it would be a nice change of…
Al: I have here proof, in the form of pay stubs, of money being funneled to you by McDonald’s Corporation.
Al Gore III: Um, yeah, I worked a couple of months one semester years ago for a little extra…
Al: So you admit you’ve been on the payroll of McDonald’s.
Al Gore III: No. Yes. Wait, that’s…
Al: I’m afraid that your input on this is hopelessly tarnished meaning that we finally have a consensus for Applebee’s.
Karenna: Actually, I was thinking the Olive Garden.
Al: Karenna, do you know what could happen to you if you continue to insist on this whole Olive Garden thing?
Al: Okay then, everyone in the car, we’re going to Applebee’s!
Reading a Bedtime Story
Anna: Hi grandpa!
Al: How would you like me to read you a story?
Anna: Oh yes, please!
Al: So Little Red Riding Hood set out through the forest to visit her grandmother.
Anna: Yay! My favorite!
Al: But the forest had long ago died due to the catastrophic effects of global warming.
Anna: Wha... what?
Al: And rising sea levels had completely engulfed grandma’s house and buried it under ten feet of water.
Anna: Oh no! Was grandma okay?
Al: I’m afraid not. Little Red Riding Hood found her lifeless body bobbing in the murky, algae-laden waters clutching an Exxon-Mobil cash card.
Anna: <sniff> <sniffle>
Al: And when Little Red Riding Hood tried to return home, she was attacked by wolves driven mad by widespread famine and pestilence brought on by her own greedy, SUV-driving parents who refused to believe my dire warnings…