For sale: beachfront property on Mars. Contact B. Smith (R-Hazard, KY)

JISHOU, HUNAN — Kentucky State Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) is stupid. By now you have heard about Smith’s now famous remarks about man-made global warming being a hoax, because … Mars. As you (Energy & Environment Cabinet official) sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of. — Brandon Smith in committee, July 3 Well, many people did dispute the idea that Mars and Earth share the same temperatures. They don’t. Mars is way colder. More on that later. In a sane world, a politician making such a certifiably ignorant remark would claim he misspoke, or made an error, or offer some other lame excuse. Smith did not. He confirmed his ignorance, and corroborated his stupidity. First, he claimed that he was misquoted. False. KET recorded the ...

Letter to Missouri’s ‘Christian’ parents

Letter to Missouri's 'Christian' parents
This letter is what I would write to Missouri parents who would want me as a science teacher to excuse their children from a teaching unit on evolution. For details about what that’s all about, read this article at Talking Points Memo. This is only a bill now in the Missouri legislature. For the purposes of this letter, I am assuming it’s become law. Dear parents, I understand that you would prefer your child not be required to attend class during our upcoming unit on evolution. Per the new law recently passed in the Missouri legislature, I am required to excuse your child from class. Please find enclosed the excuse slip with my signature. Your child will need to show this slip to the hall monitors during our science class period. Otherwise, his or her absence from class will be recorded as a cut, and after-school detention will be assigned. Please remind your child to carry the slip at all times. Now, I need to discuss other matters. Please pay close attention to the following remarks, as they have some bearing on your child’s success in this course. As you may be aware, evolution is one of the key foundations ...

x ways to write a headline that are sure to drive me crazy 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Where x = 1. Can we just stick a fork in this sloppy habit of writing “numbered list” headlines on ‘Net sites? It’s as bad as the “one weird trick” ad line. From alternet.org: 11 Things Americans Get Wrong About Australia; 11 Jobs Where an Honest Day’s Work Earns You Poverty From thoughtcatalog.com: 59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again; 15 Things College Friends Teach Us And then there’s cracked.com, which I blame for foisting this craptastic habit on the Internet: 5 Ways Growing Up Inside Scientology Was a Nightmare; 30 Most Baffling Design Flaws of Popular Products. Here’s the thing, people. Writing an article about the top x things means nothing when x can be any flippin’ number from 2 to infinity. If it was a definite number, “the top 10,” “the top 5,” then it would mean something. It would suggest that the writer gave the topic some, you know, thought, weeded out the less important stuff, and only picked what the writer thinks we need to know most. That’s kinda the job of a good writer, ya think? Making up a list of items until you run out of ...

Civics 101 — emergency edition

My host had a major malfunction a few days ago, so I am reposting this to be sure my latest edits are in it. How laws are made President or congressman proposes a bill. The bill is debated in congress. It may be amended. It is put to a vote. If it wins a majority vote in the House and the Senate, it is sent to the President for his or her signature. If the president signs the bill, it becomes law. If the president vetoes it, Congress can try again or drop it altogether. The basis of American democracy is majority rule. If a majority of Congress and the President approve a bill, it becomes the law of the land. Laws can be changed, amended or revoked by future Congresses. The process is the same as above. This system has worked very well for the last two centuries (except for that one little glitch in the 1860s). How laws are not made A minority of Congressmen demands a law be revoked, amended, or created, as the case may be. They obstruct necessary legislation until their demands are met. The nation grinds to a halt. Note that this behavior is ...

An open letter to Joel Stein and TIME magazine

Dear Joel Stein and editors of TIME magazine, Get off my lawn!! Every 20 years or so TIME publishes an issue bewailing the current generation and predicting the end of civilization as we know it once the young folks get old enough to run things. Seriously? This trope has been around since Plato (see quote below) and for sure predates him. And guess what, it’s not news! It’s opinion. Tired out, useless opinion. Try to be a news magazine once in a while, instead of a source of jokes like this one: For your edification, here’s what Plato (I knew Plato. Mr Stein, and you, sir, are no Plato!) said about the young people of his day. Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers. — Plato (d. 347 BC) Nice to see TIME is keeping current with ancient Greek philosophers. Real Pulitzer material, that. Sincerely yours, A guy in his 50s who remembers what people said about the ...

Well, still here

JISHOU, HUNAN — In case you were worried, the end of the world has not come as some predicted. It’s midway through Dec. 21 here in China, and everything is copacetic. You do know that all that hoo-roar about the Mayan calendar was a lot of hogwash, don’t you? Good. Have a great weekend! Woo-hoo!

More bonehead advice from the Right

JISHOU, HUNAN — As stupefied as I was a few days ago by Megan McArdle’s idea to gang-rush would-be shooters, today I read that another armchair strategist, Charlotte Allen, has another solution. More strong men. Yup, the whole problem with the Newtown shooting tragedy was there were too many girly-girls in the primary school. An ample supply of men would have nipped that mass-shooting in the bud. Writes Ms Allen for National Review Online: But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza. Fractally wrong. The more you examine the assumptions of this blitheringly stupid argument, the more wrongness you find, ad infinitum. I can think of what Sandy Hook would have been like, if any men or boys had followed Allen’s tactical wizardry. A couple of dead ...

World’s dumbest suggestion, I mean, really dumb

JISHOU, HUNAN — Others have commented on this boneheaded idea of Megan McArdle, but I have to add my two cents. The. Dumbest. Suggestion. In. The. World. Near the end of a long screed about how gun control laws would ultimately be futile, she opines: My guess is that we’re going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips. [Bolding is mine.] What a wonderful idea! Forget gun controls. If we all make a habit of ...

The Return of Birtherism 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Back in the old days (2008), some very noisy people got the addlepated notion that Barack Obama, even after he was elected fair and square as president, could not possibly have been born in the USA. First, there was his name. Then his Kenyan father, who was (ohnoz!) raised Muslim. Then his schooling as a boy in Indonesia, where the future pres would learn more stuff about Islam … and eating dogmeat. Nevermind that he was born in Hawai’i in 1961, with a birth certificate and all. And his mother was American. And his eligibility to even run for president was undoubtedly checked and rechecked by the Secret Service, FBI and who knows what else alphabet agency. The doubting Thomases still kept on a-doubting. It’s now 2012, another election year, and damn if the same addlepated nonsense is still in circulation. The freaking Arizona Secretary of State recently badgered the State of Hawai’i to cough up proof of Obama’s birth there, before the (Republican) SoS would allow ballots to be printed with Obama’s name on them. SadlyNo! sums it up quite nicely: God himself could descend from the heavens in a burning, fiery chariot, land in Times ...

Fisking Conservapedia: A paragon of lazy scholarship

JISHOU, HUNAN — For the last few posts, I have been critiquing just one entry in the bizarro-world online encyclopedia called Conservapedia, where relativity is liberal claptrap and physical science is just politics with a different name. Now, I want to address an even deeper issue: Con-pedia’s sloppy scholarship. No self-respecting teacher accepts even Wikipedia as a primary source in a term paper, but Wikipedia’s scholarship shines compared to Con-pedia’s reliance on proof by assertion and shaky, non-scholarly reference materials. I will use the present entry under examination, E=mc2, as a prime example. In the first four paragraphs previously fisked, there have been four notes. The first was to a strange footnote about how E=mc2 only works when metric units are used. No outside reference is mentioned. The second is to a likewise odd statement that “Many leading scientists (including Lord Rutherford and Princeton Physics Professor Robert Dicke) rejected the Theory of Relativity,” which to some extent was true in, say, 1905, but not so much now. This note has links to Con-pedia articles about Dicke and relativity. Note three follows the weird statement that the equation is “liberal claptrap,” and offers no basis in fact for the allegation. It ...

Fisking Conservapedia: ‘Nothing of value’, for sure

JISHOU, HUNAN — After a suitable recovery period, and some time devoted to my day job, I am returning to the cognitive black hole that is Conservapedia’s explication of the equation E=mc2. My paragraph-by-paragraph fisking is, alas, necessary, since the entry is so wrong on a fractal level. The closer you look, the wrongness continues to even finer levels. The entry begins by claiming E=mc2 is meaningless, liberal claptrap, and an attempt to unify matter and light. (It isn’t, and doesn’t.) Then, the principal author, Con-pedia founder Andy Schlafly, veers into the murky realm of Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge in an attempt to show that E=mc2 is simply impossawobble. In the third paragraph, Con-pedia completely mangles the definitions of mass and energy, which any engineering graduate like Andy Schlafly should have internalized just to pass Physics 103/104 (or whatever freshman course EE majors had to take at Princeton), and shows a pretty weak understanding of even basic physics. (Advice to Con-pedia writers: one should at least brush up enough on basic physics so as not to look like a complete blithering idiot.) The fourth paragraph is the focus of this latest installment. It states, with jaw-dropping conviction: For more than a ...

Fisking Conservapedia: Failing Physics 101

JISHOU, HUNAN — This is the third installment of my critique of Conservapedia’s blatantly stupid entry on E=mc2. In the previous posts, I fisked the entry’s opening paragraph, which calls the famous equation “liberal claptrap“, and looked into the entry’s reliance on some nonsense called Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge (a Conservapedia exclusive!), which supposedly shows that E=mc2 is just plain impossible. Eppur si muove. Up to this point, it is already clear that the principal author of the entry, Andy Schlafly (the mastermind of Conservapedia), really has no idea what he is talking about. High school students could have done a better job. While few sensible people would consider Con-pedia a reliable source of anything useful, other than a chuckle or two, some naive, overly religious homeschoolers (or politicians!) might indeed be using Con-pedia as a credible resource. It is far from it. Instead of a straightforward, factual, accurate explanation of a physical law, Con-pedia instead gets the physics all wrong, falsely claims only liberal politics ensures the equation’s persistence, and conflates religious belief with scientific discovery. Multiple levels of fail. So, let’s see what else the entry gets wrong. Paragraph 3 says: Mass is a measure of an object’s inertia, ...
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