Archive for February, 2011

Godspeed vs. Beck

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Witness the awesome rightness of the Glenn Beck/Godspeed You! Black Emperor mashup:

Westboro Baptist Explained

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I’ve posted previously about Westboro Baptist Church, but in the past I’ve never quite known what to make of them. As documented on that five-year-old item, I did a mental double-take when I first encountered them, trying to figure out if they were real or a parody, and eventually concluded that they must be real. But it still felt vaguely off to me. Well, not just vaguely, way off. That one person would be pathological enough to twist Christianity in that particular way and to that particular extent was depressing, but not that surprising. But that his whole extended family would enthusiastically participate? And that they’d stick with it to the degree that they have, doggedly getting their protest signs in front of news cameras at event after event, year after year? It was just… weird. Something didn’t add up.

Fast forward to last week, when someone from Westboro Baptist (presumably) posted a faux threat against the church on AnonNews. Lots of media outlets apparently took the bait, reporting on how Anonymous was going after Westboro, and I confess that I found the notion intriguing: What would happen if the unstoppable force of Anonymous’ droll abusive dickliness met the immovable object of Westboro Baptist’s twisted religious bigotry? Which would win?

Alas, we won’t get to find out (at least not yet). As subsequently mocked at AnonNews: Message to the Westboro Baptist Church, the Media, and Anonymous as a whole. This was blogged about by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, which led me to this item: Fred Phelps is a con man.

Fred Phelps does not believe what he is doing. This is a scam.

It’s a business. They travel the country, set up websites telling you exactly when they’ll be there, and using the most inflammatory statements all over the place, just to get someone to violate their rights for profit. Then they sue the military, the police force that was to protect them, and everyone that is around them for money. This is a sham, and it is a trap to get people sued. Every member of his family is an attorney. Phelps does not break the law. What he does is try to make you break the law by trying to punch your sensibilities about everything you hold dear, and then sue you and everyone municipality around him to the max.

This is a scam.

Finally, it all makes sense.

Curveball says he lied about Iraqi WMD programs…

Friday, February 18th, 2011

This will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who doesn’t suckle at the teat of FoxNEWS but… Curveball (the German/Iraqi ‘source’ for many of the claims that the bush administration used to justify their invasion of Iraq) was lying. And proud of it. And he is shocked, shocked to find out his lies were used to perpetrate an unjust war of aggression.

Evolution Control Committee!

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I took Boing Boing out of my newsreader last month when they were running lots of breathless (boring) product coverage from some completely un-wonderful tradeshow. Then I forgot to add them back until yesterday.

But now they’re back, so I can go back to reposting fun stuff you’ve already seen there. Like this: Evolution Control Committee’s new album, All Rights Reserved:

Way fun! Long live IP theft as art! (I actually mean that seriously. But it gets me in hot water whenever I discuss it with the formerly-music-industry-employed love of my life, so let’s just keep it between ourselves, mkay? Thanks.)

Drum on Standing Up to Glenn Beck

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Reading this made me think of J.A.Y.S.O.N., whom I believe has a dad who consumes a fair amount of Fox News: Standing Up To Glenn Beck.

I know this is whistling into the wind, but it’s long past time for the adults in the Republican Party to speak up about this. Glenn Beck is the Father Coughlin and the Robert Welch of his generation rolled into one, and his brand of noxious conspiracy theorizing isn’t something to be tolerated just because it produces a few useful idiots. It’s time for this to end.

Happy (Belated) 15th Birthday,!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Back on February 7 passed a smallish milestone: Its 15th birthday. The first post ever on was this one, posted on February 7, 1996: So it begins.

I don’t want to do another big “reader” post summarizing the last 5 years (I’ll save that for the 20th anniversary in 2016, assuming we’re all still here). But maybe we could do this instead: Any user of the site who wants to is encouraged to comment on this item with links to one or both of the following things: Your top 5 favorite posted items from the past 5 years, and/or your top 5 favorite comments. Basically, we’re talking any post from this one until today: Iraq war dead for January 2006.

In the meantime, happy birthday,!

Update: NorthernLite nominates the following as his favorite post (stolen from Randall Munroe): Someone is WRONG on the Internet. And his favorite comment (from shcb): Just for grins I melted some aluminum and poured it out in a pan…

Boehlert on Anonymous Insider on Fox News

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I am shocked — shocked — to find out there is gambling going on in here! FOX NEWS INSIDER: “Stuff Is Just Made Up”

Staniford on Wikileaks and Excess Saudi Oil Capacity

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

I thought this item by Stuart Staniford was interesting. Staniford comments on a Guardian article about a Wikileaks cable quoting Sadad al-Husseini (former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco). According to the leaked cable, Husseini told the State Department in 2007 that the Saudis were overstating their ability to increase production. Staniford explains in Wikileaks confirms Saudi reserve overstatement that Husseini’s private statements match what he (Staniford) was already arguing back in 2007 about the Saudis overstating their excess capacity, based on his own analysis of the available evidence:

At the time, Euan and I were introduced by email to Sadad al-Husseini by the ASPO-USA guys, and he did not feel comfortable confirming to us that Saudi reserves were overstated. But apparently, he did feel comfortable confirming that to US diplomats in private. Also, it appears that I got the degree of overstatement pretty much correct.

The reason this matters is that the Saudis’ excess capacity (or lack thereof) is a key factor in assessing when we are likely to begin to experience the effects of peak oil. In Staniford’s view, we’re basically there now. That is, future increases in oil demand will tend to outstrip supply, leading to scarcity and price shocks no matter what groups like OPEC try to do about it.

Plait on Weiner’s Drolly Spreading an Uplifting Message Courtesy of Homophobes

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Phil Plait tells a very fun story about Zach Weiner, Destroyer of Homophobes.

Novella on the Jerusalem “UFO” “Video”

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Ooh, look: It’s a video showing a UFO hovering over Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock Temple Mount:

Except it’s not, as Steven Novella (*swoon*) patiently explains in Jerusalem UFO:

UFO-blogger has uncovered this photograph, which looks suspiciously like the background of the video. It now seems like this photo was used to generate the CG, and the voices were just added over. Once I saw this I went back over the video to see if this fits, and it does. You’ll notice that in the video no lights in the city sparkle, twinkle, or shift at all. Their flares are all absolutely static – because it’s not a video, its a still picture. I’ll have to keep this effect one in mind for the future. Also, I think I notice some pixelization when the camera “zooms” – because it’s not a real zoom, it’s a digital zoom into the photo. I suppose it’s possible that a video camera has a digital zoom, but in my experience most video cameras these days have a pretty high optical zoom function.

So this video is totally busted as a fake.


Lehrer on Srivastava’s Decoding of the Scratch Lottery Algorithm

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Can’t throw a rock without hitting a recently added jbc mancrush. Case in point: Jonah Lehrer, and this article of his in Wired: Cracking the scratch lottery code.

As a trained statistician with degrees from MIT and Stanford University, Srivastava was intrigued by the technical problem posed by the lottery ticket. In fact, it reminded him a lot of his day job, which involves consulting for mining and oil companies. A typical assignment for Srivastava goes like this: A mining company has multiple samples from a potential gold mine. Each sample gives a different estimate of the amount of mineral underground. “My job is to make sense of those results,” he says. “The numbers might seem random, as if the gold has just been scattered, but they’re actually not random at all. There are fundamental geologic forces that created those numbers. If I know the forces, I can decipher the samples. I can figure out how much gold is underground.”

Srivastava realized that the same logic could be applied to the lottery. The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples.