Here’s a completely random smattering of stuff I’m reading on the internets the last few days:
(1) Hitchens unloads on Sarah Palin for her ridiculous fruit fly comment:
With Palin, however, the contempt for science may be something a little more sinister than the bluff, empty-headed plain-man’s philistinism of McCain. We never get a chance to ask her in detail about these things, but she is known to favor the teaching of creationism in schools (smuggling this crazy idea through customs in the innocent disguise of “teaching the argument,” as if there was an argument), and so it is at least probable that she believes all creatures from humans to fruit flies were created just as they are now. This would make DNA or any other kind of research pointless, whether conducted in Paris or not. Projects such as sequencing the DNA of the flu virus, the better to inoculate against it, would not need to be funded. We could all expire happily in the name of God. Gov. Palin also says that she doesn’t think humans are responsible for global warming; again, one would like to ask her whether, like some of her co-religionists, she is a “premillenial dispensationalist”—in other words, someone who believes that there is no point in protecting and preserving the natural world, since the end of days will soon be upon us.
(2) This site allows you to choose up to 10 colors from a standard color chart and then it searches Flickr for photos with those colors. What? … Awesome!
(3) If you don’t have the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture photo-blog in your reader … well, get with it. Each and every one of these simply blow me away. Recent posts have highlighted Encaledus and (shown below) World Animal Day.
(4) Why the heck is an 8-year old firing a machine gun?! The boy accidentally shot himself in the head and died. It’s interesting that some mainstream media articles include commenting like blogs now. Since these articles get huge numbers, the comment thread typically becomes a shouting match. This particular thread, perhaps predictably, started discussing gun control issues. I didn’t read all the comments, but skimming through I found this one from a vet that struck a chord:
As a US Army Infantry Vet, I can tell you, automatic weapons are tricky and have no place in the hands of an eight-year old– nor even in the hands of the general population. I own two guns, but– listen– if you’re such a lousy shot that you can’t defend your home with a pistol or semi-auto rifle, then go practice. Even the Army A-4 (m16) rifle is usually fired on semi-auto, and hasn’t had a fully auto setting for years. And don’t give me any nonsense about your “2nd amendment rights.” The 2nd amendment is the right to form “a well-regulated militia.” Well guess what, we have a well-regulated militia. It’s called the National Guard, and you’re welcome to go join it. They’ll give you a rifle and let you go learn how to use it in Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of playing soldier at gunshows and backwoods america.
(5) Check out this post from The Dynamic Earth about the recent Haq & Schutter paper in Science presenting a sea level curve for the Paleozoic. A very good summary complete with historical context and witty banter about Exxonian sequence strat … you won’t find that in a ScienceDaily press release (this is what the science blogosphere is all about!).
(6) From GraphJam … this is really dumb, but made me laugh.
(7) Finally … if you check out some of my past posts it’s no secret I’m supporting Obama. I think almost everybody has made up their mind at this point … a lot of people, including myself, are feeling fatigue over thinking and talking about this election.
I’ve always despised the use of false dichotomies and false choices in complex and nuanced issues. I was pleased to hear Obama address this directly in a speech yesterday. Here are a few snippets that introduce full paragraphs about the particular issue:
We don’t have to choose between allowing our financial system to collapse and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street banks.
The choice in this election isn’t between tax cuts and no tax cuts.
When it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or allowing every job to disappear overseas.
When it comes to health care, we don’t have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one we have now.
And when it comes to keeping this country safe, we don’t have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq.
This doesn’t mean that tough choices won’t have to be made … they do. Whoever gets elected will have very tough choices to make and probably end up scaling back some of their proposals (even though neither would ever admit that during a campaign). But, I am eager to listen to a leader who appreciates a complex world – who doesn’t make rash decisions from their “gut”. Someone who doesn’t boil everything down to absolutes, false dichotomies, and an us-vs-them mentality.
Finally … I was especially pleased to hear this statement from Obama:
We don’t need bigger government or smaller government. We need a better government – a more competent government.
Exactly! The debate of big vs. small government misses the point … NEWS FLASH: We have a big government. I want it to be effective. There was a time that true, old-school conservatism made a lot of sense to me … it was about effective and responsible government. This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Perhaps conservatism can reinvent itself in the coming years. But for right now, I simply don’t want those that despise the very notion of government in charge of mine.