Look down, look down

and see my pretty little blog formatted decently again. Thanks to Zachary for getting me off dead center.


that lonesome road, and you'll find my text.

Blogspot seems to have mucked up something. I'm not the only one whose text has suddenly been forced down below the sidebar. Meanwhile I need to keep assigning new dates to this silly text to keep it on top.

Reader, if you require a foreign policy disaster,

look about you, or to the South.

Latin America: our own backyard. Latin America: an official exclusive United States sphere of influence for 180 years. Latin America--

Without Denis DeKat's pointer, how long would it have been before I knew how stunningly the boggle-headed klunks in charge of telling the rest of the world what to do have been screwing up in that obscure little backwater of the modern world?(Less than 90 miles from home!) Read it and barf. Then cheer. They are simply losing this one, and there's no army available to invade anybody about it.

But seriously, folks

RangelMD, an actual physician, not just playing one on TV or in the Senate, gives us this:

"I'd like to close this evening speaking more as a physician than as a United States Senator and really speak to my involvement as a physician and -- and as a Senator and as leader in the United States Senate in what has been a fascinating course of events for us over the last 48 hours."
As someone who identified themselves and emphasized their role as a physician Dr. Frist broke several ethical rules that March day. He claimed to make a diagnosis on a patient without directly examining her or reading her medical records. He did not make or keep any formal patient record of his medical evaluation of this case. He gave his professional opinion on a patient who resides in a state where he has no license to practice medicine. He misused his professional opinion (as officially entered into the Congressional record) and abused and misrepresented his stature as a licensed physician for the purposes of influencing a major legislative body during debate on pending legislation.
Read the rest for his case that Frist needs to lose his medical license.

If that gets you down, cheer up with the comments at Orac, where I picked this up. Sorry, I have to quote one comment here, from Ron Sullivan: "I did not have diagnosis with that woman."

The Hitler Zombie

"When you compare your opponent to Hitler, you demean your opponent, you demean yourself, and you demean Hitler."
--Jon Stewart

Today Orac defends his position on the brain-eating Hitler zombie. You don't have to have read the post he's defending, much less disagree with the point Durbin was trying to make (Orac doesn't), in order to benefit from reading it.

Nor is there any real need to parse that sentence and figure out who is on which side.

I wonder if the zombie is related to the worm in the brain, discovered by Richard Mitchell in Less Than Words Can Say, which devours the part of the brain that governs the use of the active voice, and thereby causes a move into administrative jobs. How do you analyze a zombie's DNA?

How to write a spoof

Yesterday's ruminations by the head of the CYACIA remind me to look for historical precedent. Before getting to the point, here are the history and the generalities.

Mark Twain wrote a number of outrageous hoaxes, or satires, depending on how you take them. In his early days in Nevada, he reported a bloody multiple murder that shocked everyone in town, since they didn't notice details such as that the man who murdered his family was a well-known bachelor. And there was the Petrified Man, described in great detail, with some obvious impossibilities in the geography, and the small matter that he was petrified in the position of thumbing his nose.

Then, later, there was a wonderfully stuffy and humorless British review of A Tramp Abroad, which the discerning reader (like, ahem, me at age 16) could see was written by Twain himself. (I think it was an utterly Twainish deadpan "This is surely an exaggeration" that provided what we now call the Tipping Point.) It got a lot of attention, including some from smart people who told Twain that it was a fake, and he had been taken in. They had a hard time accepting the obvious truth when told about it.

Anyway, Twain always played fair, sorta, putting in something outrageous enough to make it clear that the whole thing was false, provided you were paying attention. That was the problem with the massacre, as Twain later perceived it: it was so lurid and shocking that no one had his brain turned on while reading it.

The recent creationist manifesto might be real, and it might be a hoax to expose the profound ignorance of a supposed expert on the creationist side. By the Mark Twain rules, it ought to be a fake, but you can't be sure when you don't know anything about the author: this kind of thing is perfectly possible among sincere creationists, as you can see from the PhD who expressed herself as unsure that it was for real, but was favorably inclined.

So, Porter Goss of the CYA says that he knows where Bin Laden is. Then, to make sure we understand in what sense he is saying that, he adds in true Mark Twain fashion that we can't just go in and get him because of "our sense of international obligation, fair play."

Emergency alert

If you haven't already got in on this one, don't delay. It is now just about 5 AM in England, where this absolutely fabulous idiot lives. (You want the deranged protest item, not the Mallard Fillmore wannabe comic.) Pretty soon he'll get up and find the (188 and climbing) comments that nice polite people have made about the intellect of a commentator on American politics who thinks that Fred Phelps is a commie pacifist leftist. And probably the stuff will be removed, hence the hurry.

Tip of the hat to Pharyngula.

Helping the war effort

Jesus' General has organized an effort to support our troops by supplying reinforcements, now that Army recruiting is way down, from the ranks of the highly educated and patriotic Young Republicans. For some reason or other, he has adopted a logo of a Yellow Elephant.

They now have the first report from one of the special operatives. I do recommend looking at it. The Young Repugnants' level of politicial seriousness and sophistication, let alone their patriotism, must be seen to be believed. (Oh, and if the YR correspondence turns out to be a hoax, it's a far better and nastier one than the creationist maybe-hoax I just wrote up.)

Any sufficiently advanced technology...

...is indistinguishable from black magic -- so said Arthur C. Clarke. I think it's a lot less profound, and a lot less true, than lots of other people do. Much better is

"Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from creationism."

That's Stuart Weinstein in a comment at Panda's Thumb on a truly awful farrago of creationist pseudo-science.

I think, and it would be interesting to hear whether I'm right, that a person with no great science background would see from the tone of the thing that it's not to be taken seriously. What's sobering is that the lady who presents this anonymously contributed theory claims to have a PhD in molecular biology. What do they teach the children in school these days? In my day, let me tell you, you couldn't get a BA in biology from a self-respecting school without knowing enough elementary physics to spot at least a few of the howlers in the piece.

It's suggested that she is a hoaxer, but evidence is presented to the contrary. Probably the piece isn't her work but was sent to her as she says. The jury is out on whether the thing is a hoax, but I'm confident that Alan Sokal didn't write it. The science nonsense in his famous hoax was much more subtle.

By the way, if you don't see what's so mind-blowingly bad about the so-called science, there's nothing wrong with you, assuming you don't claim to have any kind of science degree or to be doing any kind of science whatever. People have different interests and different specialties. Still, from my own limited knowledge of the Humanities, let me ask how you would react to an essay proving that Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare's plays, written by someone who confuses Ben Jonson with Samuel Johnson and believes that the Metaphysical Poets were friends of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The problems of compassion

Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is often depicted in Tibetan tradition as having eleven (11) heads. Three stacks of three, facing forward and left and right, another one on top, and another, different, one atop that.

Here's the reason: He reflected on the fact that no matter how many creatures he helped, there would always be more. He reflected on it till his head exploded.

Just thought you'd like to know.

But his spritual father Amitabha Buddha took the ten pieces and fashioned ten heads, then gave him one of his own to keep the whole thing straight.

However, when Avalokiteshvara got to China, he had only one head, and he's called Guanyin, and he's female.

I am not making any of this up.

Sometimes you can learn a lot by just watching. One of the things I've watched is the new Tibet exhibit at the Asian Art Museum here.

They hate our freedom

From Lance Mannion:
You know what they like to say about the terrorists? "They hate us for our freedom."

Well, that's why the Right hates the Left these days. We aren't as afraid as they are.

They hate us for our freedom from fear.

I'm not kidding!

Any blog that has a picture of the Campanile in its header has to be looked at. Even if the author has a bit of trouble spelling it and even if he describes himself as moderate. After all, what's moderation in Berkeley?

And without Bounded Rationality I might never have found the true story, science news category, that's better than the story that's too good to be true. So here it is, not the physiological basis of the conscience, but the physiological basis of sarcasm.