Archive for March 2009

I know I’ve been AWOL and this isn’t about science at all, but…

March 17, 2009

I do find it really odd (I’ve just taken my medication for the day, and so can express myself so mildly) that the members of the same mass media organizations that worry whether or not President Barack Hussein Obama (I still love writing that) has taken on too much as he attempts to undo the disasters left for him by the previous criminal conspiracy administration [too many to link — ed.] actually complain when President Obama’s spokesman pokes a little fun at the previous administration’s consgliore Vice President after said consigliore eminence grise attempts to portray Obama’s efforts to stop torturing people is a bad thing.

So, it’s ok to accuse someone of endangering the country because he won’t destroy the ability to prosecute terrorists by torturing them to the point of insanity, but it’s not OK to compare the worst vice president in history to a drug dependenent, grotesquely obsese, yakmeister most-popular conservative entertainer in the country?*

[I never pass up a chance to post this portrait of the de-facto dear leader of the Republican Party–ed.]

And, by the way, to fret when the new President shows himself able to actually think about two matters in the same day?

There are lots of structural reasons why the main stream media is falling apart.  But the truth of the matter is that every major dead-tree and traditional broadcaster/cable net had, not too long ago, a serious brand, a name that could be seen as a destination.  CBS, the home to the correspondent who was shocked, shocked, to learn that the Obama administration might not take the former grossly over-promoted button man vice president seriously, was once the Tiffany Network, the place that Murrow and Cronkhite called home — the network that proved it was possible to do real news reporting in that gossamer medium with all those moving pictures.

Now?  With honorable exceptions, its a self-parody, in which the only consolation is that it is not yet Fox “News” [sic — ed.].  (Late breaking:  ABC and MSNBC pile on to defend poor little Dick’s honor, with no sign that they saw anything amiss, or a mite disrespectful,  in Mr. Cheney’s original feral fantasies.

These are all still influential venues, which is of course the problem.  But, speaking as someone who grew up personally and professionally in the traditional medium (stints, early on, at Time magazine and all), this smells to me like the end game.  The institutions that are trumpeting this stuff the loudest are economically and psychologically tied to the idea of being platforms of mass media.  This kind of partisan commentary masquerading (poorly) as commentary is the staple of niche media.  And in that space, there is already plenty of competition, lean, mean and ready to eat the dinosaur’s lunch.

So the next time someone complains about the fate of newspapers or the decline of venues for national conversation, you may (and I do) agree that there is a real loss there.  But recall as well that the supposed moderators of that national agora chose to piss it away in defense of an oilpatch chickenhawk with an eagerness to trade in other’s pain.

*Limbaugh apparently pulls a rating of around or just below 6 — as in 6 percent of radio listeners tuned in to anything at the time of his broadcasts are listening to him.  That’s a serious number. Still, as this report shows, there are some curiousities lurking beneath the gross figures that undergird the fat man’s fat paycheck.

Image:  Cornelis de Vos, “The Triumph of Bacchus,” 17th c.

Comrade Fidel Hearts Him Some Statistical Reasoning

March 11, 2009

Who knew? (h/t Tom Verducci.)  Fidel intelligently criticizing play in the World Baseball Classic by the Japanese team and his own Cubans with a nod to the insights gained from sabremetric approaches to the game.

Ordinarily I ‘d go on here with some pieties about the importance of statistical reasoning, and note that baseball’s mathematicians have actually brought this notion into common public understanding more swiftly and completely than decades of science writing about risk and confidence and all the rest.  (Thank you Bill James, and all your intellectal heirs.)

I might be tempted to talk about the difficulty of modeling the kind of dynamic system that baseball represents, with its enormous range of possibilities to which is added the complication posed by the fact that the responses of people to the knowledge gained by the statistical study of baseball alters that terrain.

But I’m just going to sit back in wonder.  Fidel Castro has a blog?*

Either this means our brave new world (that has such digitalia in’t) is truly manifest…or else all of us here in bloggy pastures have truly jumped the shark.

Good morning, all.

Image:  Thomas Eakins, “Baseball Players Practicing,” 1875.

*The site seems legit, but I’m no kind of a Cuba expert, and I could see the joy possible in a fake Castro blog.   For the purposes of this post, I’m prepared to file this in the too-good-to-check bin of blogospheric delights.  but as with any claim on the internet, if you need to know the material contained within, channel a (very) little bit of Ronald Reagan here and Trust, But Verify.

Because it’s Friday: One Giant Step For Who? department….

March 6, 2009

I and Thou Robot

March 5, 2009

What would Martin Buber have to say to these?

(H/t Kos, who clearly reads my hometown paper/site more assiduously than I do.)

Image:  Jaquet-Droz automata.

Mental Floss: Darwin/Evolution funnies division

March 4, 2009

So PZ posts this video, featuring the latest German Superheroine Susie Smartypants….

….which leads me via the magic of the intertubes to this true rarity: the only rock and roll appearance by the man of the bicentennial himself, Mr. Charles Darwin:

They Report, We Deride: Fox News Medical Journalism (sic) edition

March 4, 2009

Via Balloon Juice, this  from Colbert.

Warning:  coke through the nose funny.

Do Bow Ties Constrict GOP Blood Flow to the Brain?: Tucker Carlson/Global Warming edition

March 4, 2009

What is it about these guys, bow ties and global warming?

Here’s George Will fanboy and bronze medalist in the Narcissus Olympics, mid-level pundit division,Tucker Carlson in a Washington Post (of course) online chat:

…for the record let me say that I think global warming is a crock too.  (H/t Kos)

For the record, Tucker Carlson’s “thought” (sic) on global warming has the same weight as does my cat Tikka Hussein Masala’s opinion on the validity of Perelman’s proof of the Poincare conjecture.  George Will’s too (see below, this blog, and half the science blogosphere to boot).

Image:  Paul Gavarni, “Dandy in Paris,” before 1866.