Yesterday, TIME’s online edition ran a column jointly created by three fellows who purported to have a new answer to combating Islamic fundamentalism. They invoked the annoying term “New Atheist” a lot, and while they acknowledged that the stridency of some of the highly visible contemporary atheists has its place in productive discourse, in their view it would be preferable to approach would-be jihadists in a gentler, more diplomatic way.
I was immediately skeptical of this for reasons I will get to even though they are probably obvious to many of you, but I kept reading to see what this novel and apparently magical strategy appealing to jihadists’ kinder sides would consist of.
And then the column ended. Read the rest of this entry »
You have to love it when someone burbles, “I’ve finally realized after all these years that I was doing X all wrong” immediately before making the very same bad life choice he or she just claimed to have put in the past. No, really, I do. The ability to simultaneously learn from a mistake and make that mistake repeatedly anyway is an exquisitely human thing. (I don’t like it when someone who happens to consider me a mortal adversary plays this game, but this is rare, even if it’s what inspired this post.)
In practical terms, wild animals with small brains alter their behavior in accordance with reward-punishment schemes much more readily than people do. If a lizard eats a plant that makes it sick, thanks to its limbic system and the intimate relationship between olfaction and memory, that lizard will never eat that type of plant again. A human, on the other hand, is inclined to engage its cerebrum, and concludes things like, “Well, maybe if I switch from vodka to beer, alcohol won’t be a problem” or “I’ll at least mix in some filtered cigarettes” or “As long as I limit myself to 10 tanning sessions a month, the gratuitous UVB rays really aren’t going to serve as a cancer risk.”
Ironically, we’re the only animals smart enough to be capable of completely pulling the wool over out own eyes. We readily conflate being aware of a problem to having solved it with no further effort.
Is this trait adaptive? It certainly helps reduce cognitive dissonance, which always provides psychological relief, but in general — no. It allows people to repeatedly engage in behaviors that cause them pain, and the fact that it exists to a more obvious degree in mentally unstable but otherwise fairly intelligent or even very intelligent people seems to suggest that it’s not a good approach to the world.
Imagine that for some reason the Bolder Boulder 10K — which I will be running for the first time on Memorial Day — fronted me 200 race bibs for this year’s event, and told me that they wanted $10,000 ($50 per bib) in return. Recognizing that the homeless and low-income population of Boulder is an untapped and eager market for this race — there’s a lot of free food and a free T-shirt involved, after all — I canvass the downtown area and offer to give race bibs away for $5 each, along with any EBT cards with a balance of between $25 and $50 (I might throw in a pint of vodka to sweeten the deal). I am able to very rapidly hawk all 2,000 numbers, giving me about $1,000 in cash and a pile of EBT cards. I have no idea if these have any value and I don’t check because I don’t care.
The reason I don’t care is simple: I’m on the hook for ten grand to the Bolder Boulder, but that is about to become someone else’s problem. Through a process of possibly illegal but complicated forgery, I manage to make the 200 EBT cards look like Whole Foods gift cards with a value of $250 each, and I offer these to people around Whole Foods stores and on Craigslist for $50 in cash, explaining that I have a gripe against the company and want no part of any of their nasty-tasting, overpriced garbage and homeopathic woo-woo. In the fine print of the agreement, which is written in Sanskrit, I have each “gift card” buyer sign for my personal tax records, it says that they also owe the Bolder Boulder 10K $50 in the form of a mandatory charitable donation to the Bolder Boulder 10K itself. It also says that the gift cards are only good in Whole Foods stores that open on or after January 1, 2020. No problem. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been a beneficiary of the Affordable Care Act since the first open enrollment in January 2014. As a freelancer of long standing, I hadn’t had health insurance in almost ten years. When I filled out the online application at the Colorado Connect site (a technical Hindenburg, then and now) and told them I was essentially a self-employed business owner who expected to earn X that year, I was surprised to get a card in the mail just a few days later that includes a very decent plan. They asked for no verification of any of the info I’d supplied them, and have renewed my coverage twice now with no help from me.
So, I have no personal complaints. But I am sanguine enough to acknowledge that this says nothing about the experience of other people, and I am close with a few of them who have less than glowing things to say about the bureaucracy managing the ACA show here in Colorado. Moreover, the healthcare system in this country remains a nightmare for many. And while it makes no sense to blame President Obama personally or declare the program an on-balance failure — clearly, some people will thrive under the system at the expense of others, and I don’t think anyone in the know suggested this wouldn’t be the case — it is very easy to do this, because a large segment of the population is sufficiently bitter and blinkered to draw a direct line of causality between America having black Democratic president and their persistent case of anal warts.
I’ve just described the perfect storm for right-wing bloggers are pseudo-journalists, many of whom seem to prefer writing dishonestly to experiencing orgasms, to embark on a prolonged and gleeful misinformation spree. You’ve got angry right-wingers, lots of polls about health insurance, plausible debate over the overall effectiveness of the ACA in doing what it was intended to do (there are far more articles echoing this and this than stories offering opposing ideas in major media outlets, but we all know what the Yosemite Sam Brigade has to say about the mainstream media). That adds up to carte blanche for conservative “reporters” to throw meat scraps at the starving low-information piranhas just looking for one more reason to bitch about socialism, liberals, and (in the right company) blacks. Never mind that the meat is actually Tofurky or some such vegan impostor; stoking the fury of the pig-ignorant masses is critical. If you can do this by attaching a whole ton of deceitful shit to a central kernel of truth or even faint legitimacy, you’ve done your job and your site’s hit count will rise.
I found a great example yesterday Read the rest of this entry »
The greatest thing about unintentional irony is that its power to amuse is immune to the sands of time.
We live, of course, in an era in which every slack-minded crusader with Internet access seems to think that his frantic and delusional ideas about politics, religion and life in general merit a personal blog. This has boosted the number of people publicly expressing thoughts that are not only profoundly stupid but also magnificently oblivious to levels no observer could have predicted even twenty years ago. Nevertheless, every new addition to the canon of “Look at the pile of chocolate it looks like I stepped in! Why does it stink?” is just as entertaining as the ones preceding it. If nothing else, these actors are largely insulated from uncomfortable emotions such as shame and embarrassment, because they lack the intellectual candlepower to see how badly off the mark their shots invariably fall.
Since you visit the Internet, you’re surely aware that it features a colossal army of jabbering fools whose self-appointed role is to tirelessly clutter the Web with a staggering amount of fact-starved and barely decipherable material every day.
One of the many silver linings of this inexhaustible supply of really, really dumb bloggers is that morons offer excellent examples of the phenomenon of cognitive bias. We all indulge in this practice, but unsophisticated thinkers cannot see their own cognitive biases (hello, Dunning! Meet Kruger!) so they have no motivation to conceal them and probably couldn’t even if they tried.
My one-stop shop for what the dumbest right-wingers in America are thinking, Granite Grok, is biased against atheism, gay- and transgender-friendly legislation, immigrants, minorities, global warming, taxation, and educated people. Not because they have evaluated any of these things objectively on their merits — such a task would be too Herculean for them to even ponder — but because they believe that as “conservatives” they are supposed to automatically categorically reject a well-defined array of issues and concepts. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’ve spent any time reading blogs, you’ve seen at least a few of them that, rather than serving as a linear chronicle of events and ideas sharing a common theme in the writer’s life, center on a particular event, purpose or goal. In a typical runner’s blog, the writer describes his training and races and daily experiences, with the implicit idea that the blog will be regularly updated until the writer gets sick of it or quits running or no longer has the time. It’s essentially a journal, nothing more. But sometimes people start blogs with titles like “My Journey to the 2016 Olympic Trials,” or “Getting to the Bottom of Russian Doping” that have either a fixed temporal endpoint or a finite purpose or both.
With the latter type, you’ll often discover right away that the person behind the blog has a goal he or she stands no realistic chance of attaining, either because the goal is worthy but simply out of the blogger’s reach (for example, a 40-year-old man with a marathon best of 2:50 hoping to make the Olympic Trials standard of 2:19) or the entire scheme is founded on delusional thinking or ferociously corrupt logic (say, a runner who predicts that a Nepalese marathoner will set a world record this fall because of sherpas’ proven ability to perform yeoman physical feats in the presence of very little oxygen). In such cases, you have unearthed a genuine futility blog. Read the rest of this entry »
Bad ersatz-Christian logic, #349 in a series: “If you say there’s no God, you appoint yourself God.”
First of all, I should explain what I mean by by an ersatz Christian. To me, this describes anyone who ignores the idea that Christianity — despite the wreck it’s been turned into in both recent and less-recent periods in world history, the methodically violent and otherwise destructive directives in the Old Testament, the fact that the being its the core is undoubtedly mythical — is supposed to be a force for good. It is supposed to be about forgiveness, humanity, humility, equality, and other outstanding human traits and states of mind.
Now, many atheists may understandably suggest I am being overly accommodating by suggesting that Christians who say and do stupid things, especially when those things have scriptural justification, are not genuine Christians — that I am indulging in a “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy. Perhaps, but the fact is that I do know Christians, more than a few of them, who so in fact have no use for the divisive LGBT bullshit or the shoehorning of creationism into public schools or the mindless opposition to things like embryonic stem-cell research and Planned Parenthood Gardasil on religious grounds. They are generous and kind, often more so than I will ever be, and these people are the ones I choose to view Christians. The noisy louts are the feminism’s answer to feminist women who really do hate men and position themselves as women’s advocates almost solely on this platform, or the skeptical community’s counterpart to people who consider themselves roundly rational simply because they make the facile choice to not believe in the existence of deities.
Anyway, that digression leaves me looking at yet another shitburst from a bottom-of-the-barrel right-wing squawking head and self-described Evangelical Christian, Skip Murphy. Read the rest of this entry »
Camille Paglia on Election 2016: Whether 2 plus 2 might equal 5 for sufficiently large values of 2 is anyone’s guess
This is unbelievably bad by the standards of both Salon and Camille Paglia, which is like saying that Donald Trump just said something amazingly ignorant about foreign policy, the economy, Christiani…oops! I’m not supposed to do that, because, see, as Paglia scolds, liberals are responsible for the explosive rise of Trump to the top of the Republican shitheap. (Andrew Sullivan has been saying the same thing, almost as tediously and tendentiously.)
Paglia asserts that Democrats have been “playing the race and riot cards against him to the max.” While I’ve never heard of the “riot card” before. I am mystified as to what the appropriate response to people disturbed by racist comments from a leading political candidate should look like. Feigning deafness? Nervous giggling? Sighing, “Ah, that scamp, he’s a bit much, but he’s just trying to breathe life into things”?
Paglia seems oblivious to the fact that Republicans have been pillorying Trump for the same things, as loudly as they dared, throughout the campaign. Well, except for respected voices such as David Duke, The American Freedom Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and various other Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, who in viewing Trump as a racist might as well be shouting their closet liberalism from the rooftops, on Paglia’s view.
It would be great if an acclaimed — and more importantly, extremely widely read — U.S. newspaper could boast “Health” and “Science” sections that boasted consistently impressive articles. This one is getting a lot of attention, and with good reason: something like two-thirds of adult Americans are considered overweight, millions of them are trying to shed pounds, and Gina Kolata’s article in effect conveys the message that they are screwed.
I’m going to assume that anyone reading this has read the article and the study it draws from or at least has tabs open to these, because I am not going to review it in depth.
A couple of very quick, seemingly obvious, and (perhaps deliberately) underemphasized or omitted points:
George Will is a hack. A very glib one, who can deftly turn a phrase and whose columns are usually worth a read for their literary dynamism alone. But he’s still nothing more than a blindly partisan shill.
Here he proclaims that Donald Trump has done serious damage to the Republican Party, but that the destruction has only really just started and that if he’s nominated, the damage will only multiply. What he ignores is that Trump didn’t himself knock the down the door allowing undisguised bozos to walk into the GOP clubhouse; other Republicans started tearing this door off its frames years ago, and Trump has merely strolled through the now-unguarded opening, yammering and telling off-color jokes in a manner reminiscent of Rodney Dangerfield’s character in “Back to School.” Trump did not create Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitch McConnell, Michele Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Steve King, Jan Brewer, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rick Scott, Orrin Hatch, Paul LePage, Mike Pence, Sam Brownback, or, most recently, Pat McCrory or Robert Bentley.
It must be nice, in a sense, to be sufficiently simple-minded to believe that every analogy, comparison and analysis you create or borrow — even when every last one is a dismal logical failure — is are not only coherent, but clever. (On top of that, fart jokes and Bazooka Joe comics are, no doubt, a never-ending gift of titillation to abject simpletons.) One such trope that is unlikely to disappear is “If we’re evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” This is the kind of outburst that, despite being inexcusably stupid on multiple levels, can cause whole congregations to erupt in wild, heartfelt applause.
And on the topic of self-reinforcing inanity, I just read this in one of several manufacturing plants of self-contained electronic ketamine that I really should quit frequenting:
I admit that in my experience, people who are overly fond of the phrase “just saying” usually have few if any intelligent things to say. It’s a close rhetorical cousin of “‘Nuff said” and “True dat.” Unbeknownst to those who use it, the phrase is essentially code for “I know you’ll tear into this and rightly so, but I can’t help myself,” and shallow thinkers often append it to written or spoken opinions as a means substituting glibness for reason. It’s like saying “My bad” instead of offering a real apology or some sort of reparations for harm done, and does nothing to bolster an irredeemably foolish idea.
So when I happened across this startlingly stupid post by someone named Kathy Dunton on a blog with a title that starts with “Just Saying,” I was admittedly not expecting much of substance or value. Still, even the most open-minded reading of this bullshit does nothing more than open one’s mind to being flooded with bullshit. As it were. Get my drift? You feelin’ me? Werd!
The post is an open letter of sorts to transgender people, and asks them to understand that recent legislation coupling clear anti-transgender motives and actions to a dose of straight-up anti-gay nonsense isn’t really about transphobia or homophobia; it’s about keeping kids safe from sexual predators.
Taking it from the top:
No, really, I just read this sentiment and it’s not an intentional joke.
This counter to the “One in five female college students has been raped” trope may well be the dumbest thing I have seen the blinkered jackwad labeled Skip Murphy write yet, and because his chief mission in life is churning out the screeds of a benighted jackwad, the competition for this dubious honor is extraordinarily fierce. If you’re a runner, think of trying to come up with the most inspiring race or racing moment in the career of Haile Gebrselassie, and you get a sense of how difficult it is to properly stratify the sodden turds in the Granite Grok verbal sewage stream.
Sometimes the lack of basic reasoning skills possessed by pseudo-pundits like Sarah Palin is as profound as their general ignorance.
Palin is claiming that Bill Nye lacks the credentials and background to be commenting on scientific issues like global warming — even comparing him to *herself* by way of trying undermine his statements.
Even if she were right about Nye, who worked as an engineer for years before becoming the popularizer of science he’s best known for being, how does she expect to be taken seriously if she admits that she has no business talking about about climate change even as she continues offering her own childishly stupid ideas about it? How intellectually crippled does one’s audience have to be to hear someone say, almost flat-out, “Don’t listen to him, he’s as dumb as me! Listen to me instead!”
“I think about the public outcry that there was for an elk, and I think about the thousands of babies — healthy, full-term babies — that are killed down the street from where they paraded a stupid elk down the road.”
So spoke Abby Johnson to about 300 people on the campus of the University of Colorado as part an anti-abortion talk, or rant, or fever-dream soliloquy, or whatever description best fits
Abortion is an unpleasant topic and for obvious reasons is extremely emotionally charged. This, however, no excuse for slinging bullshit. If self-described anti-abortion crusaders were barred from lying or making abysmal analogies at nearly every opportunity, almost all of them would immediately fall mute. Read the rest of this entry »
Another sine qua non of being a right-wingnut is refusing to embrace positive findings if a Democratic president stands to take any credit for them. GraniteGrok now has a post claiming that the estimated 14.4 million jobs the U.S. has added in the past six years don’t mean much:
“[T]hat job growth is stretched over almost six full years, during which time the working age population grew by 15.8 million. In that respect, we’ve lost ground on jobs under Obama … Continued growth is good but ONLY if it keeps up with population growth … it is clear, simply by results, that the Obama Administration’s actions (based on socialist / Statists philosophy) have come up way short.”
Skip is talking out of his ass, which has to be crippled by pseudo-laryngitis by now.
The social philosophers that operate incoherent goofblogs have a fondness for the word “hoplophobe” (except that to them it’s sometimes “Hoplophobe,” in the Fine Wingnut tradition Of Capitalizing random Words) to characterize anyone who supports anything pertaining to the purchase, possession, or use of firearms, period. Owing to the fact that every once in a while, something like this happens — even though the media never reports such things, of course — they reckon that anyone proposing that it is entirely unnecessary to allow, say, an Uzi to be toted into the U.S. Capitol by a civilian covered in swastika tattoos is simply fearful of guns in all their forms.
This is one of countless ironies emanating from the far right. Given its members’ collective stance on homosexuality, pornography, premarital sex, abortion, contraception, and even sex toys — at least the one they project to the world — it’s not surprising that they want to regulate practically everything pertaining to human genitalia, and to a far greater degree than most liberals want to regulate guns.
Is dipshits squaring off against morons, much like the street-fight scene in the original Anchorman.
This is a textbook display of blaming the woman victim of male aggression, right down to the guy doing the blaming being an inbred-looking halfwit in his sixties who still thinks yo-momma jokes and dragging people’s girlfriends into petty Internet wars are not only clever but an effective means of chasing off your betters when you have unwisely picked fights with them.
…means being a stinky-assed liar.
It’s one thing to remain a creationist in the face of incalculable amounts of scientific evidence undermining every possible rational justification for your position — to just stick out your tongue and say “Fuck y’all, I’m a Faptist and CHOOSE to believe the Bible.”
But it’s another thing to sit in a legislative session and proclaim with a straight face to your colleagues that there exists scientific evidence to support creationism. Even the most far-gone idiot knows this…I think.
Imagine the outrage that would ensue if some elitist liberal politician with a bunch of letters after her name stood up in told U.S. Congress that the latest research in psychology demonstrates that raising your child to believe anything in the Bible would likely lead to bedwetting, ADHD, compulsive masturbation, fecal incontinence, acne, intractable body odor, and a fondness for Justin Bieber in adolescence. People would rightfully start demanding evidence for this claim, which is on no less solid ground than Milkovitch’s.
(This guy is a Democrat, by the way.)