Saturday, March 31, 2012

Survey: Conservatives have least trust in science; film at 11

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Today in You Really Don’t Say? news: Evolution-hating, climate-change-denying and “expert”-dismissing Rightists do not, in fact, put much trust in science as an institution:

To figure out which of these trends might apply, [researcher Gordon Gauchat] turned to the General Social Survey, which has been gathering information on the US public's views since 1972. During that time, the survey consistently contained a series of questions about confidence in US institutions, including the scientific community. The answers are divided pretty crudely—"a great deal," "only some," and "hardly any"—but they do provide a window into the public's views on science. (In fact, "hardly any" was the choice of less than 7 percent of the respondents, so Gauchat simply lumped it in with "only some" for his analysis.)

The data showed a few general trends. For much of the study period, moderates actually had the lowest levels of confidence in science, with liberals typically having the highest; the levels of trust for both these groups were fairly steady across the 34 years of data. Conservatives were the odd one out. At the very start of the survey in 1974, they actually had the highest confidence in scientific institutions. By the 1980s, however, they had dropped so that they had significantly less trust than liberals did; in recent years, they've become the least trusting of science of any political affiliation.

The article then lists some obvious possibilities explaining this shift, including the increasing influence of the anti-reality Christian-Right, the ideological belief that instinct and “common sense” trumps all, and (perhaps most of all, in my opinion) some generalized uncertainty due to the survey’s own imprecise manner of seeking and obtaining data (it asks if respondents have “a great deal”, “only some”, or “hardly any” confidence in various institutions, such as science, which doesn’t seem to make for a very precise statistical analysis).

Meanwhile, some are claiming that because it’s primarily “more educated” conservatives whose opinion of science has dropped, the usual explanation of ideological divide no longer applies in explaining the Right-wing distrust of science, or else that these anti-reality dissenters still do trust in science as a method as opposed to science as an institution. I’m not seeing it. For one thing, it’s difficult to pinpoint just what “more educated” means depending on context, and it’s quite possible that it could translate to “more ideological” in some, or even most, cases. (After all, the more informed someone is – accurately or otherwise – the faster they make up their minds and take up ideological positions.) It’s also been made evident over time that those who actively and proudly mistrust science as an institution tend not to put much stock in the scientific method, either, especially since being dismissive of actual scientific researchers and consensuses generally indicates one’s own cluelessness when it comes to understanding even the basics of science in the first place.

People who are renowned for knocking anything scientific that doesn’t mesh with their predefined worldview cannot reasonably be excused on the basis that they really do trust science, just not those untrustworthy ideas from the untrustworthy people who actually do the (untrustworthy) work. That’s as twisted a rationalization as I’ve heard in the long, egregious history of trying to defend the hoi polloi’s increasing generalized, willful and boastful ignorance. Being scornful of “elites” and “experts” isn’t just not a virtue; it’s dangerous … and sadly reflective of how too many people are quick to prefer self-delusion and irrational nonsense over having the moral or intellectual fortitude to face reality for what it is.

(via @todayspolitics)

Did Santorum just (almost) call Obama a “government nigger”?

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While I’m all for granting the benefit of the doubt to virtually anyone, I don’t see many other ways how this double-take and quick change of course could possibly be interpreted:

My transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

RICK SANTORUM: We know, we know that Candidate Barack Obama, what he was like – the anti-war, government nig— guh, uh, the – America was a source for division around the world.

I’m seeing some in the YouTube comments wonder whether he might have said some other, less intelligible term, like “nik” for “peacenik”, but I don’t buy it. It’s pretty clear that Mr. Goody Christianist here just had himself a little Freudian slip, much as with his previous faux-pas about not wanting government financial assistance to help make “blah(ck) people’s lives better”. Let’s see if his eventual excuse for (nearly) calling the President a “nigger” on camera is more or less amusingly pathetic as the one he gave that last time.

(via On Knees for Jesus)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Daily Blend: Thursday, March 29, 2012

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George Zimmerman
George Zimmerman

Added two new myths: A19: “Atheists are their own god” and A20: “Atheism is a childish belief”. Quite possibly the two silliest claims I’ve ever heard … which might explain why so many theists happily use them.

  • Newly released surveillance footage destroys George Zimmerman’s [pictured] claims that Trayvon Martin attacked him. Is anyone really surprised?

  • Bob Cesca on the Right’s habit of attacking children. It’s true that some on the Left do the same, but it cannot be denied that conservatives do it far more frequently and viciously.
    (via @mmfa)

  • Pew Research Center offers a (somewhat vague) look at religious demographics in U.S. prisons, estimates up to 10% of inmates may be nonreligious.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Fail Quote: Bill Donohue, classy as ever

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    Bill Donohue (President, Catholic League)
    Bill Donohue

    From the ever-charming Bill Donohue, who never misses an opportunity to display his Christian love:

    I spent my St. Patrick’s Day marching in the parade up New York’s Fifth Avenue, and then drank beer with my friends. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spent her St. Patrick’s Day at a conference attended by homosexuals, lesbians, and men/women with new genitals. I had a good time.

    In case anyone was wondering, he’s also on Twitter:

    I’d tell him to put a couple of femcum-drenched socks in it, but then I realize – what better way is there to disillusion people of the idea of Catholicism (if not Christianity at large) being an institution of love and compassion than by having a flaming bigot like Donohue act as its spokesman?

    Keep at it, Bill!

    Wednesday, March 28, 2012

    Daily Blend: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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    Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
    Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
  • Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) [pictured] thinks providing basic medical care to prevent detained immigrants from dying in their cells is like giving them a “holiday”.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • Now taking bets on how much lower Newt Gingrich’s campaign can fall before even he recognizes it’s time to call it quits.

  • As much as the idea that a third of Americans being nonreligious may be appealing, I have to disagree with the premise that merely not going to church and not counting religion as an important part of their daily life is enough to make people “religious nones”. (Unless I’m missing something.)

  • NewsBusters’ Brent Bozell, last seen calling President Obama a “skinny ghetto crackhead”, turns his impotent bluster to the Reason Rally for being offensive.
    (via Catholic League)

  • MythBusters by the numbers. Only 2.75% of total footage shot ever made it on the air. Also, needs more exploding vehicles.
    (via @donttrythis)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Preliator hits 100,000!

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    Earlier today, at around 10:20 AM, some lucky passer-by officially became the 100,000th visitor to land on this blog. Three years in and 3,385 blog posts (and literally dozens of comments) later, Preliator is officially … moderately well-trafficked. By small blog standards. Or something.

    Whelp. That one kinda died, didn’t it?

    Sitemeter site summary for Preliator pro Causa

    My transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []


    Total: 100,026
    Average Per Day: 123
    Average Visit Length: 2:11
    Last Hour: 7
    Today: 82
    This Week: 860


    Total: 154,562
    Average Per Day: 190
    Average Per Visit: 1.5
    Last Hour: 7
    Today: 133
    This Week: 1,332

    It’s been a great pleasure blogging so far. Even though this blog really is just my personal outlet/journal at its core, I can’t deny being rather tickled by the idea that over 100,000 individuals have frequented my writings here, not to mention my approximately 72 RSS readers (though that number fluctuates a bit too widely from day to day to be entirely reliable) and (somewhat less relatedly) the 302 bored saps stalking me on Twitter. I know these stats pale in comparison to even other relatively low-traffic blogs, but frankly, it’s more than I ever expected. And I have no plans to stop any of this for the foreseeable future (or at least for however long it takes for conservatives and religionists to stop saying and doing stupid things).

    Anyway, I suck at this self-congratulatory crap, so I’ll make it short: Thanks to everyone who, for some reason or other, has chosen to stick around. Your comments, relatively few as they may be, never fail to make getting up in the morning a little more worth it.

    Merci, and peace, y’all.



    Alaska bigots release anti-transgender ad

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    The city of Anchorage, Alaska is currently considering a non-discrimination ordinance, titled Proposition 5, that would include protections for transgender people in the workplace. So, naturally, the bigots are all pissy, as demonstrated in this ad:

    My transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    NARRATOR: Carol runs a daycare center in Anchorage. But if Proposition 5 passes, it will be illegal for Carol to refuse a job to a transvestite who wants to work with toddlers. If she hires him, she risks losing customers. And if she refuses, she can be fined or imprisoned.

    Anchorage is already a tolerant city. Vote ‘no’ on Proposition 5.

    Beware the hairy men in secretaries’ clothing who want to “work” with toddlers! *The Scream-face*

    There isn’t much to say, other than remarking with amusement on how adept the haters really are at shooting themselves in the foot, not to mention their complete and utter inability to present any remotely new arguments. It’s only fitting they’d end the ad by declaring, as if it were a bad thing, that “Anchorage is already a tolerant city” – implying the need to make it a little less so.

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012

    Daily Blend: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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    Sick of Stimulus logo
  • Ontario, CA top appeals court legalizes brothels to protect prostitutes. More of this, please.
    (via @BreakingNews)

  • Baltimore, MD cop suspended after grabbing a woman’s cellphone to stop her recording him. More of this too, please.
    (via The Agitator)

  • More Cracked awesomeness: Five ways modern men are trained to resent women. A perfect explanation for MRAs.

  • Today in WTF?: Herman Cain (redux). [pictured]

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Doggycide in Ansonia, Connecticut

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    Ice the pitbull
    Ice the pitbull

    Police are called to investigate reports of a roaming pitbull that bit a man. The clusterfuck that ensues ends with the wrong dog being shot and killed for displaying the “extremely aggressive behavior” of standing by calmly and wagging its tail:

    Ansonia police shot Ice in the front yard of his home on Judson Place the night of March 3.

    Police officers were responding to the report of a dog attack and roaming pit bull. In the 911 call, a resident said the dog had “chewed up” a person, and was loose.

    When they arrived on scene, Ice was the only pit bull roaming. The dog was in the woods behind his owner’s home.

    The backyard is fenced in on three sides. The fourth side is enclosed by an embankment.

    Ice was able to get out of the yard by jumping up the embankment and down into a neighbor’s yard.

    Ansonia police said the dog charged at them, and showed “extremely aggressive behavior.” A police report for the incident said Ice was running back and forth and couldn’t be contained by police.

    But Ice was not the dog that bit the man. That dog — a mastiff named Zeus — was still inside the home, where the attack took place.

    Police claim the dog had to be dispatched because of its alleged aggressive behavior and evasion of capture. Watch this video of the shooting; maybe someone with better vision than mine can identify the precise moment when the dog began displaying “aggressive behavior” while standing there on the sidewalk with its tail wagging – before it gets shot and bolts:

    ‘The Conservative Teen’: Wingnuttia for sheltered young’uns [updated]

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    It can be so difficult for neoconservative parents to raise good little Right-minded children. There’re liberals and gays and godless socialist-commie-Marxists at every turn, and conservative cable news is, like, just totally lame, dude. What the Right needs is a way to reach out to those impressionable youths and teach ’em good, old-fashioned traditional values, like hating Obama, laughing at poor people and understanding why giving women control over their own bodies makes baby Jesus cry.

    Well, look no further. From the same people who brought you such bastions of truth, morality and teen-inspiring coolness as the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation, I present to you: The Conservative Teen!

    ‘The Conservative Teen’ cover (winter 2011 issue)

    Because what teenager doesn’t just crave reading about economics and why they totally shouldn’t stick their screwdrivers wherever they like? And as if you weren’t already hooked, Dangerous Minds has the scoop on some more spellbinding content found within:

    EXPOSED: Internal NOM memos reveal race-baiting campaign

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    National Organization for Marriage logo

    I’m feeling the schadenfreude already. The Human Rights Campaign has just published a number of confidential internal memos from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) revealing an intensive and detailed plot to divide minorities and turn Blacks and Hispanics against gays in order to undermine support for same-sex marriage, among other ethically challenged schemes:

    Today HRC got a hold of internal NOM documents that shed light on the anti-LGBT movement’s overall strategy. These documents were just unsealed in Maine mid-afternoon. The docs are part of the ongoing investigation by the State of Maine into the campaign finance activities of NOM in that state. Much more to come but some high (low) lights from PDF page 13 of the “confidential” 2008-09 report to the NOM Board of Directors:

    “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”

    Another passage:

    "The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation."

    On PDF page 12, it talks about “sideswiping Obama,” painting him as a “social radical” and talking about “side issues” like pornography.

    Sidenote: Many are already using this revelation to declare that NOM is racist, and while bigots of a feather do tend to hate together, I would disagree in this case. While it’s perfectly possible – and I would even say, probable – that many or most anti-gay activists also share other forms of bigotry, it seems NOM is only utilizing currently existing racial and cultural divides to increase tensions between gays and other minorities; it may well be purely strategic as opposed to actually bigoted (against other minorities than gays, that is). Of course, I’m not saying this as a defense of the (increasingly) odious group; the fact alone that they’ve sunk to resorting to these sorts of tactics – not that it should surprise anyone, mind you – is more than enough to reveal their true colors and further destroy their claims to impartiality.

    Either way, this is going to hurt something bad. And that makes me quite happy.

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Daily Blend: Sunday, March 25, 2012

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    Gil Kerlikowske
    Gil Kerlikowske
  • Obama administration “drug czar” [pictured] responds to Radley Balko’s exposé on the war on prescription painkillers: “No, we aren’t fighting a Drug War! Except that drug abuse!, so that’s why we need to fight a Drug War.”
    (via @radleybalko)

  • FBI (legally) reactivates 2,750 of the 3,000 GPS tracking devices it had turned off after January’s Supreme Court ruling.

  • Graphic: Why gaming is better for dating than actual dating sites. (Focuses on straight males, but interesting nonetheless.)

  • For Titanic geeks like me: Amazing new mosaic photos of the wreck from the upcoming April edition of the National Geographic magazine.
    (via Ian Meredith)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Mexico’s top drug lord thanks Obama & Bush for his empire

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    Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman
    Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

    This dates back to 2009, but I only just heard about it and it’s so beyond priceless that I just had to mention it. From the annals of damning praise, this one ranks pretty much at the very top:

    Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera reported head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, ranked 701st on Forbes' yearly report of the wealthiest men alive, and worth an estimated $1 billion, today officially thanked United States politicians for making sure that drugs remain illegal. According to one of his closest confidants, he said, "I couldn't have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you."

    I think I’m feeling empathetic pain for the new asshole every president since Nixon has just been torn. (Note that the latter doesn’t count because it would mean ripping his entire being in half.)

    Even the Mexican President finds it hard to disagree:

    According to sources in the Mexican government, President Calderon is begging American officials to, in the words of reggae great Peter Tosh, legalize it. "Oh yeah," said an official close to the Mexican president, "Felipe is going crazy. He's screaming at everybody who comes in, 'Why don't they make this sh*t legal already! You're killing me here!' Look, everyone knows, when you have Prohibition, you create gangsters. And the more you prohibit, the more gangsters you make. El Chapo is hero now to all those slumdogs who want to be millionaires. Kids in the street, when they play games, they all want to be El Chapo, the baddest man in the whole damn town."

    “El Chapo” has since been named the “world’s most powerful drug trafficker” by the U.S. Treasury Department.

    At this point, from spawning the Taliban to propping up dictators around the world, I’m starting to think the U.S. Government just enjoys continually creating its own worst enemies. Surely no-one can possibly be so wildly incompetent by accident?

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Daily Blend: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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    Trayvon Martin (17)
    Trayvon “little thug ghetto monkey” Martin

    Administrative: Kontactr has apparently gone belly-up, so I’ve installed a new contact form system on my Contact Me page. Also, the ever-awesome Blogger team has finally given we bloggers the ability to customize our own 404 pages, so check mine out. (I am almost unreasonably excited about it.)

  • European Court of Human Rights declares that gays and lesbians have no inherent right to same-sex marriage. This could spell trouble.

  • New Hampshire (Republican) lawmakers try – and fail – to overturn the state’s 2-year-old gay marriage law and return to civil unions.
    (via @BreakingNews)

  • Anonymous doctor shares some rightful outrage over mandated transvaginal ultrasounds to intimidate abortion-seeking women.
    (via @BadAstronomer)

  • The Catholic Church castrated a number of young abused Dutch boys to “help” their “homosexual tendencies”. But it happened years ago, so who cares, right, Bill?
    (via @jamesmoran)

  • Least controversial “Atheists” bus ad ever gets rejected … again. Our mere existence really is that offensive. And hopefully, lawsuit-inspiring.

  • [L]ittle thug ghetto monkey”: Fox News commenters react to Trayvon Martin [pictured] case. Beware.
    (via ThinkProgress)

  • Lawmakers follow the Jack Thompson school of (stupid and irrational) thought in trying to place vague warning labels on videogames touting a bullshit “link to aggressive behavior”.

  • 48 minutes of Itchy & Scratchy.
    (via @emeraldcitycon)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Firemen hitch up their skirts to put out a truck fire (literally)

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    Here’s what happens when a pesky truck fire interrupts a local St. Patrick’s Day parade with firefighters in drag:

    That may just be the awesomest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Heroes really do come in all shapes, colors and lace trimmings.

    (Though, honestly, would it kill people to learn to turn their phones sideways when recording?)

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Doggycide in St. Petersburg, Florida

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    David Florian kneeling over dead Phero the dog
    David Florian kneeling over Phero’s body

    In which a beloved pooch meets a violent and untimely end after cops arrive to investigate an apparent domestic dispute at a neighbor’s house:

    Esther Flesner saw white fur streak past her seconds before she heard the gunshots and saw her daughter's dog bleeding on the sidewalk.

    Phero, the dog many in the Crescent Lake neighborhood knew and loved, was dead.

    The shooting occurred when St. Petersburg police responded to an apartment house Thursday afternoon at 421 10th Ave. N after multiple 911 callers reported people yelling, officials said. At least one caller said someone had a knife. Then police heard there was a stabbing.

    When officers arrived, they drew their guns, then saw what was described as a pit bull terrier charging them from the back of the house, officials said. Officer Jeremy Hayes fired three times from about 10 feet away.

    "He (the dog) just barely got out and I heard BOOM BOOM on the curb," said Flesner, 87, who owns the four-unit house.

    Phero died on the sidewalk.

    Sadly, this appears to be only the latest in doggycide from the St. Pete police, who shot and killed seven dogs in 2011 alone.

    (via @radleybalko)

    Doggycide Bingo card
    [full size (514×625)]

    Doggycide Bingo Index

    Confirmed hits:

  • Dead Phero
  • Firearm as first reaction
  • Total: 2/25
    Few details available, so no bingo.

    Tennessee Senate passes anti-science education bill

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    Scopes Monkey Trial cartoon

    Tennessee apparently hasn’t learned its lesson from its landmark 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial – and what’s more, it’s now extending the same ignorance-based approach to education that led them to that crushing courtroom defeat in the first place to other scientific domains as well:

    The Tennessee state Senate passed a bill Monday that protects teachers who allow student to question and criticize "controversial" scientific theories like evolution.

    The Senate voted 24-8 for SB 893, which would allow teachers to help students "understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories" like "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning."

    "The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory," Republican state Sen. Bo Watson told The Tennesseean. Watson is the bill's sponsor.

    The proposal also instructs teachers on how to comfortably and appropriately "address students' concerns about certain scientific theories" within a curriculum established by the Board of Education. The bill would not affect the state's science curriculum.

    Sneaky as ever. See, they’re not changing or corrupting science education in schools; they’re just allowing kids to ask questions about myths and rank pseudoscience … and encouraging teachers to answer with lies. But the curriculum itself is totally safe!

    If so, then how come …

    The National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and all eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences

    … are all against this bill? Gee, maybe it wouldn’t preserve the integrity of science classrooms after all.

    The bill now heads to Gov. Bil Haslam (R) for an almost-certain signature. Thank god for those liberal activist judges who will (even more certainly) slap this silly law down the first chance they get. It seems somewhat upsetting to me that people should rely on the criminal justice system to know better about what should be taught as proper science than the lawmakers elected to make those very decisions in the first place.

    Coincidentally, new research is in: Global warming is still real and temperatures are still rising. One wonders what Tennessee teachers will have to say about it once SB 893 hits the rulebook.

    (via @radleybalko)

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Double doggycide in Redding, California

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    One of the dead dogs
    One of the dead dogs

    In which police were “forced” to shoot down a 6-month-old boxer puppy – and also killing a pregnant chihuahua in the process – when the latter “charged” at the officers:

    The incident started about 5:30 p.m. Friday in North Redding when police were searching for 33 year old Danny Tompkins of Redding. He was a fugitive wanted on a $25,000 felony arrest warrant for probation violations.

    Tompkins ran to the Motel 6 on Twinview Blvd and knocked on the door of Jennifer Obanion, who was staying at the motel with her fiance.

    Police tell us Tompkins was in the room briefly and exited. As officers started to cuff him, Obanion's boxer puppy reportedly "charged" at both officers and Tompkins.

    Officers tell us they fatally shot the boxer to prevent it from attacking officers. The pregnant chihuahua was caught in the line of fire and was also killed.

    Another officer also explained why cops tend to reach for firepower rather than other, nonlethal methods of subduing supposedly threatening canines:

    Corporal Shawn McGinnis tell us, "Officers are given lots of different tools at their disposal such as tasers, pepper mace, other types of less lethal weapons to use against dogs. However, when a dog is actively charging an officer, there's often very little time to get to those weapons and some of those weapons are very slow acting and they may not stop the attack like a firearm can."

    Murder does certainly stop an animal from doing anything pretty dang fast, I’ll give him that.

    On the upside, some good Samaritans are offering to give the grieving family two puppies to console them, which is by far the best thing I’ve ever read in any of these reports.

    Doggycide Bingo card
    [full size (514×625)]

    Doggycide Bingo Index

    Confirmed hits:

  • Dead dog (×2)
  • Cops open fire as first reaction
  • Non-threatening animals
  • Puppy was almost certainly just playing
  • Officer claims officers were in danger? (Please.)
  • Total: 5/25
    No bingo.

    (via @radleybalko)

    Republican Utah governor vetoes ignorance-based sex ed bill

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    Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT)
    Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT)

    In one of those rare times I find myself applauding a Republican official, kudos to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for rejecting the state’s broad-brushed anti-sex-ed bill, which would have banned any mention of homosexuality as well as pushed abstinence-only ignorance in public classrooms:

    Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday vetoed a controversial bill banning public schools from teaching contraception as a way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    The bill, which also sought to bar instruction on homosexuality or other aspects of human sexuality other than the teaching of abstinence, would have been the first of its kind in the nation if it had become law.

    It had previously cleared Utah's Republican-controlled House and Senate, and Herbert was widely expected to sign it.

    It’s so nice when Republicans go against party expectations, given how far they’ve degenerated these days. And I also liked Herbert’s well-framed reasoning:

    "If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah's parents as to what is best for their children," he said.

    "In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement, and more choice — not less. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice," he added.

    Of course, a plainer statement would be that kids need to be given reality-based information on how to have sex safely, period, rather than have adults stick their heads in the sand and pretend that their sweet little urchins won’t lose their clothes faster than their lunch money the first occasion they get. One has to wonder whether these pro-abstinence-only adults have completely forgotten about how they were when they were young, themselves – or whether they’ve deluded themselves into thinking that the new generation wouldn’t follow their example if only they were lied to even more.

    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    Daily Blend: Monday, March 19, 2012

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    Trayvon Martin (17)
    Trayvon Martin (17)

    I shall be offline for most of tomorrow as I head out in the hopes of finding myself some employment. Try to keep yourselves entertained (and stay the hell away from my Faberge eggs).

  • The American Taliban’s vision: A Texan woman’s account of suffering at the hand of ideological, lie-mongering lawmakers in order to end her doomed pregnancy. Words just can’t.
    (via Pharyngula)

  • PZ Myers in short: “The Reason Rally will be addressed by prominent celebrities who will bring crucial recognition to atheists, but they believe or said some kooky things, so screw ’em!” Definitely siding with Hemant Mehta and Jen McCreight on this one. And if PZ really can’t see the critical importance of having even any elected representatives support the godless movement, particularly a sitting U.S. senator, regardless of what else they may believe in, then he truly is blind.

  • Everything you need to know about the tragic and outrageous Trayvon Martin [pictured] case. Not that Fox News is interested in telling you.
    (via @todayspolitics)

  • The (apparent) libertarian defense of Citizens United: It allows for crazier and longer campaigns than ever (and corporate money is totes a good thing!).
    (via The Agitator)

  • Wheelchair-bound 3-year-old gets TSA’d.
    (via The Agitator)

  • Yet another graphic failure from Fox News: Gas tax edition.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Rob Reid destroys entertainment industry’s piracy claims

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    In case you missed it, here’s a great five-minute lecture by Rob Reid on the laughable claims about supposed damages that media piracy inflicts upon the movie and music industries:

    My transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    ROB REID: The recent debate over copyright laws like SOPA in the United States and the ACT Agreement in Europe has been very emotional. And I think some dispassionate, quantitative reasoning could really bring a great deal to the debate. I’d therefore like to propose that we employ – we enlist – the cutting-edge field of copyright math whenever we approach this subject.

    For instance: Just recently, the Motion Picture Association revealed that our economy loses $58 billion a year to copyright theft. Now, rather than just argue about this number, a copyright mathematician will analyze it, and he’ll soon discover that this money could stretch from this auditorium all the way across Ocean Boulevard to the Weston. And then to Mars. If we use pennies.

    Now, this is obviously a powerful – some might say dangerously powerful – insight. It’s also a morally important one, because this isn’t just the hypothetical retail value of some pirated movies that we’re talking about, but this is actual economic losses. This is the equivalent to the entire American corn crop failing, along with al of our fruit crop, as well as wheat, tobacco, rice, sorghum. Whatever sorghum is. Losing sorghum.

    But identifying the actual losses to the economy is almost impossible to do unless we use copyright math. Now, music revenues are down by about $8 billion a year since Napster first came on the scene. So that’s a chunk of what we’re looking for. But total movie revenues across theaters, home video and pay-per-view are up. And TV, satellite and cable revenues are way up. Other content markets like book publishing and radio are also up. So this small missing chunk here is puzzling.

    Since the big content markets have grown in line with historic norms, it’s not additional growth that piracy has prevented. But copyright math tells us it must therefore be forgone growth in a market that has no historic norms, one that didn’t exist in the 1990s. What we’re looking at, here, is the insidious cost of ringtone piracy. $50 billion every year, which is enough, at 30 seconds a ringtone, that could stretch from here to Neanderthal times.

    It’s true. I have Excel.

    The movie folks also tell us that our economy loses over 370,000 jobs to content theft, which is quite a lot, when you consider that back in ’98, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the motion picture and video industries were employing 270,000 people. Other data has the music industry at about 45,000 people. And so, the job losses that came with the Internet and all that content theft, had therefore left us with negative employment in our content industries. This is just one of the many mind-blowing statistics that copyright mathematicians have to deal with every day. And some people think that String Theory is tough.

    Now, this ($150,000.00) is a key number from the copyright mathematician’s toolkit. It’s the precise amount of harm that comes to media companies whenever a single copyrighted song or movie gets pirated. Hollywood and Congress derived this number mathematically back when they last sat down to improve copyright damages and made this law (Copyright Damages Improvement Act). Some people think that this number’s a little bit large. But copyright mathematicians who are media lobby experts are merely surprised that it doesn’t get compounded for inflation every year.

    Now, when this law first passed, the world’s hottest MP3 player could hold just ten songs. It was a big Christmas hit. Because what little hoodlum wouldn’t want a million-and-a-half bucks’ worth of stolen goods in his pocket?

    These days, an iPod Classic can hold 40,000 songs, which is to say eight billion dollars’ worth of stolen media. Or about 75,000 jobs.

    Now, you might find copyright math strange, but that’s because it’s a field that’s best left to experts.

    So, that’s it for now. I hope you’ll join me next time, when I’ll be making an equally scientific and fact-based inquiry into the cost of alien music piracy to the American economy. Thank you very much.

    How intriguing. I had no idea that my hard drive alone was (conservatively) valued in excess of $200 million. Should I sell, or should I invest? Maybe I need a decent brokerage firm, first. Does anyone have any references? Ah, it’s so hard being this filthy rich.

    Unless, of course, the MPAA and RIAA are completely full of guano or something. Who knows?

    Relatedly, this explains everything.

    Sidenote: It’s right after I’d spent half-an-hour tediously typing out the entire above transcript that I realized the whole thing was already available on the TED site. S’cuse me while I go break something expensive now.

    (via Bad Astronomy)

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Request: Veritas | Defenders of the West Theme

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    This entry has been removed from Preliator and can now be found over at Creativitas. (See here for more info.)

    Request: Gene Burmington | Leading Man Main Theme

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    This entry has been removed from Preliator and can now be found over at Creativitas. (See here for more info.)

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Fail Quote: Penn Jillette calls social welfare “immoral self-righteous bullying laziness”

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    Penn Jillette
    Penn Jillette

    I saw this quote being floated around by libertarian tweeps this morning, and while I was hoping it was quote-mined or otherwise fake, I was able to track it down to this CNN opinion piece, confirming its veracity – and the reason why, yet again, so many people hold libertarianism in contempt. From Penn Jillette (again, sadly), after explaining that he’s both an atheist and a libertarian because he “doesn’t know”:

    It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

    People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

    So, voting to have your elected representatives take a pathetically tiny slice of the overall financial pie and use it to provide critical assistance to the poor, homeless and starving is actually a form of “immoral self-righteous bullying laziness”. Because we’re all totally able to end poverty right this minute if only we’d stop being selfish prigs and give our own money to the poor. I mean, sure, ending government intervention in the matter and relying on private citizens to provide the only aid to the downtrodden would only result in a catastrophically inefficient quagmire with thousands and millions of the very poor suffering and dying in even greater numbers, but hey, at least we’d experience “great joy” for our “moral credit” in refusing to “forc[e] other people” – who we elected to do just that – to “do what [we] think is right”.

    Look, I’m all for encouraging people to take personal responsibility for their own actions and to do things themselves rather than rely on others, but this sort of libertarian “government is bad and shouldn’t be relied on for nothin’!” rhetoric is as ridiculous as any other fringe schtick. Living in society is a contract: You are protected and served by the collective, with your interests watched over by an overarching organization of, by and for the people; and in turn, you must donate some of your own resources (in time and money) in order to keep the wheels turning for everyone. Of course, there will always be faults and points of failure – that’s inherent to any system that relies on people, and the bigger the system (and the more people in it), the greater the problems. But acting like it’s morally condemnable for the more helpless classes of people to rely on said system to do essentially the very job it’s intended to do – keeping them alive and safe to the best of collective’s ability – is more than just irrational; it’s frankly bizarre (not to mention incredibly petty).

    The government is, essentially, an extension of all of us, formed by people we select to work for us. What sense does it make to then turn around and condemn this very group we create and task with the responsibility of watching over us for doing just that – and even moreso, to accuse those who demand just that from it of being “lazy”, “immoral” “bullies”? Or do libertarians really believe that we’d all be better off without any real governing entity and left to our own devices? As caricaturized as that sounds, it’s increasingly similar to the inevitable logical outcome of so many of these ridiculous deregulation and “free market” arguments. (No, the people will not always choose the right thing. In fact, they mostly seem not to. Seriously, what planet do these naive bozos come from?)

    It’s becoming remarkably difficult to defend libertarians when the irrational attacks aimed at them are proving increasingly on the mark.

    (via @maysae)