27 February 2015

Americans for criminalizing Congress

Andy Borowitz gets this right...

By a huge majority, Americans support laws legalizing marijuana and criminalizing Congress, according to a poll released on Thursday. While the poll reflects a relaxation of attitudes about recreational pot use, it also suggests that many Americans now view membership in Congress as a problem ravaging the nation. Harland Dorrinson, an activist who has spent years mobilizing support for the criminalization of Congress, said that “this poll reinforces what many of us have been saying for a long time: Congress destroys lives.” “I’ve seen productive members of society get involved with Congress and completely lose the will to work,” he said. “They just sit there, totally numb and out of touch with reality.” He noted that the once prevalent view that membership in Congress was “harmless” is now being discredited. “If you look at what happens to someone’s brain after ten, twenty, or even thirty years in Congress, it’s devastating,” he said. “There is severe impairment.” Additionally, he warned that Congress is a “gateway elective office” that leads many to try running for President.

24 February 2015

Vito Barbieri

This was apparently the only guy who slept through his high school sex-ed class:

 Republican State Representative Vito Barbieri from the state of Idaho apparently believes that a woman's vagina has some sort of direct passageway to her stomach. (How else could the woman's poo come out?) This rather impressive display of anatomical ignorance came during an Idaho House State Affairs Committee hearing where the members heard testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine. Vito asked Dr. Julie Madsen, who was testifying against the bill, if women could simply swallow a camera so that doctors could perform remote gynecological exams. Madsen had to explain that "swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina."

If the Republic Party ever dissolves, comics around the world will fill the streets in protest.


Saudi Arabia has given the death sentence to a Saudi who openly renounced his Muslim faith.

18 February 2015

17 February 2015

Sean Carroll on the fine tuning arguments

Sean Carroll has a good rebuttal of the "fine tuning" argument for God's existence. Personally, I'm not entirely convinced that there's even anything that needs to be explained. Since the "tuning" being discussed is purely metaphorical, I don't know that it makes sense to wonder why physical laws happens to be the way they are. If someone knows of a good philosophical treaty that sheds light on the validity of the question, please tell me. One thing Carroll does well here is to discuss theism as a theory, explicitly stating what we'd expect to see (and clearly don't see) if theism were true.

Costs of healthcare around the world

10 February 2015

Objectives and realities

Excerpt from a recent article by James Fallows in The Atlantic:

Yet repeatedly this force [= the U.S. military] has been defeated by less modern, worse-equipped, barely funded foes. Or it has won skirmishes and battles only to lose or get bogged down in a larger war. Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion; Linda J. Bilmes, of the Harvard Kennedy School, recently estimated that the total cost could be three to four times that much. Recall that while Congress was considering whether to authorize the Iraq War, the head of the White House economic council, Lawrence B. Lindsey, was forced to resign for telling The Wall Street Journal that the all-in costs might be as high as $100 billion to $200 billion, or less than the U.S. has spent on Iraq and Afghanistan in many individual years.

Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned. “At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.” In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world. When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.

8 February 2015

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I finally got around to watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ben Stiller is always great in comedies. I think my favorite part was when Walter was being arrested at the airport. (The picture above is from an unrelated scene of Walter and his sister.) The first half of the movie has numerous excursions into Walter's very active imagination.

4 February 2015

Some like it hot

Some recent studies (2014 and 2015) by Byrnes and Hayes suggest that love for spicy food (cayenne pepper) is associated with sensation seeking (love of exploring, etc.) and sensitivity to rewards (planning how to get rewards). This certainly hits the mark in my case. I've always love spicy food to excess and have also always pursued novel experiences.