Archive for August, 2012
25 Aug 2012

World’s Best Billboard


Hat tip to Iowahawk (FB).

25 Aug 2012

Origin Point of Indo-European: Anatolia?


The New York Times reports another classic example of reasoning by computer program. This time the result is support for the “peaceful agriculturalist and Anatolian” theory of the origins of Indo-European.

Biologists using tools developed for drawing evolutionary family trees say that they have solved a longstanding problem in archaeology: the origin of the Indo-European family of languages.

The family includes English and most other European languages, as well as Persian, Hindi and many others. Despite the importance of the languages, specialists have long disagreed about their origin.

Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea about 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, about 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.

The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and colleagues have taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and computationally walked them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin.

The result, they announced in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, is that “we found decisive support for an Anatolian origin over a steppe origin.” Both the timing and the root of the tree of Indo-European languages “fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago,” they report.

But despite its advanced statistical methods, their study may not convince everyone.

Results of these kinds of automated analyses inevitably derive from assumptions already programmed in. I’m afraid I think it seems abundantly obvious that peoples speaking Indo-European languages, though they may engage in farming, are historically anything but peaceful. Still, all this is interesting enough to give it a look over.

25 Aug 2012

“Bob Is a Racist”

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Hat tip to Clarice Feldman (FB).

24 Aug 2012

University of Colorado Model Predicts Romney Win


A University of Colorado election model with a strong recond of predictive success forecasts a November loss for Obama predicting Obama winning 218 electoral votes versus 320 for Mitt Romney. The model predicts all swing seats to vote Republican including Colorado, Ohio and Florida.

Daily Mail:

A model which has foretold the correct results of the Electoral College selections in U.S. Presidential elections since 1980, has predicted a loss for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

The forecast was made by two professors at the University of Colorado who used economic data and unemployment figures from each state to predict a Republican win come November.

Political science professors Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry’s study predicts 218 electoral votes for President Obama and 320 for Romney with the Republican candidate winning every seat currently considered to be on the fence. …

The professors’ analysis concluded that Romney would take home all swing states including Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado. …

24 Aug 2012

College Majors Song

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Ben Miller sing’s Randall Munroe’s “Every Major’s Terrible,” (a terrific Pirates of Penzance parody) from the webcomic xkcd. They were very smart to title it all.

23 Aug 2012

Liberal MSM Won’t Stop Talking About Akin Gaffe

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The Washington Examiner quotes Media Research Center:

According to the Media Research Center’s analysis:

— During the first 72 hours of the Akin controversy, ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows ran a combined 40 segments totaling nearly 89 minutes of airtime compared to less than 20 minutes for Biden.

— NBC and CBS both immediately attempted to link the “firestorm” created by Akin to Romney even though his campaign openly supports rape exemptions.

— Obama’s extreme pro-abortion record – including his support for partial birth abortions – was almost entirely ignored by the networks in 2008.

— The networks have given Akin 10 times more coverage than they gave to credible allegations by Juanita Broaddrick back in 1999 that Bill Clinton actually committed rape.

23 Aug 2012

Genomes Used to Find Routes of Bacterial Infection

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Klebsiella pneumoniae

The New York Times has a scary and intriguing medical detective story.

The ambulance sped up to the red brick federal research hospital on June 13, 2011, and paramedics rushed a gravely ill 43-year-old woman straight to intensive care. She had a rare lung disease and was gasping for breath. And, just hours before, the hospital learned she had been infected with a deadly strain of bacteria resistant to nearly all antibiotics.

The hospital employed the most stringent and severe form of isolation, but soon the bacterium, Klebsiella pneumoniae, was spreading through the hospital. Seventeen patients got it, and six of them died. Had they been infected by the woman? And, if so, how did the bacteria escape strict controls in one of the nation’s most sophisticated hospitals, the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.?

What followed was a medical detective story that involved the rare use of rapid genetic sequencing to map the entire genome of a bacterium as it spread and to use that information to detect its origins and trace its route.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Stephen Frankel.

23 Aug 2012

What Happened in Las Vegas

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That sound chap James Delingpole sticks up for Prince Harry’s right to do the sorts of things high-spirited and unmarried young men are wont to do on weekends of leisure at resort locations with like-minded young ladies. The prince will be old and respectable one day.

Anyway, the nude photos of Prince Harry in Vegas cannot be allowed to pass without comment. They have, I note, prompted an outbreak of massive prudery among some of my Telegraph colleagues. And perhaps you feel the same way: that the third in line to the British throne should not be seen cavorting naked with young women in American gambling resorts.

To which I’d reply: are Harry’s critics remotely familiar with British history? This is what young royals do. It’s what they’re supposed to do. Look at the roistering buck that Henry VIII was (before he grew fat and syphilitic); look at the very type of the Regency buck – the Prince Regent (later George IV); look at the playboy Edward VIII (and indeed his grandfather Edward VII); look at Harry’s namesake – Prince Hal – who, if we are to believe Shakespeare, deliberately cultivated an image of debauchery and irresponsibility the better “like bright metal on a sullen ground” to set off the magnitude of his reformation on assuming kingship …

Harry also acts as a very entertaining foil to his more staid elder brother William. I find their evident love for one another one of the most delightful things of all the Royal Family. One of Harry’s functions, I suspect, is to do all the things that William would like to do but can’t being heir to the throne. So Harry acts as his pressure valve, his fantasy alter ego …

Plus, of course, Harry has served his country, on the front line in Afghanistan, so I think deserves to be cut a bit of slack.

Scandalous photos.

23 Aug 2012

Shooting An Elephant

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An elephant hunting video in which the professional hunter very competently stops an unexpected charge. I’d call that a pretty good moment of excitement. It would be nice to know in what country they were hunting, what caliber rifle (probably a .458) that professional was carrying, but they never properly annotate these.

And, yes, Virginia, there are a number of African countries in which elephants can legally be hunted, in which elephant numbers are excessive, elephant populations are rising, and in which elephants create serious problems by coming into conflict with human beings. Trophy fees for elephants are extremely high, and the monies raised fund the conservation departments which control poaching.

Poor jumbo did bite the dust but, before shedding big salty tears, do take note that in the seconds prior to his demise he was advancing purposefully on the humans in the video with lethal intent. The elephant initiated hostilities against people who had every bit as much right to be walking in that African bush as he did.

Shooting a charging elephant at close range is an experience most of us will never have. In many cases, I expect just as well, because not everybody could shoot as fast and as straight as that professional hunter.

23 Aug 2012

Who Needs Alternative Papers When You Have the Times?

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Dan Greenfield
turns out another brilliant essay as a better epitaph than New York’s long-time alternative newspaper really deserves.

The passing of the Village Voice, its thick greasy pages smudged with desperate cries for attention in between glossy cigarette ads and phone sex ads, also coincides with the passing of the bohemian nature of the East Village, now little more than tall glowering condos and coffee shops. To those residents who showed up there in the 70’s and 80’s bearing art school portfolios and a burning desire to be part of the “Scene”, it’s one more triumph of the capitalist running dogs over the “People”.

But the real reason that the Village Voice is dead is because the alternative media is dead and the alternative media is dead because there is nothing for it to be an alternative to. New Yorkers can just as easily read shrill rants about the NYPD in the Daily News, pretentious movie reviews for artsy films at The Onion and leftist denunciations of the War on Terror in the New York Times.

The way that the Village Voice used to cover Republicans is now the way that every media outlet, but the handful that aren’t part of the liberal collective, covers Republicans. Every mainstream media outlet is opposed to fighting terrorism, opposed to the police and opposed to any notion of balance in reporting. And every outlet is churning out the same tired 24/7 coverage of something provocative a Republican allegedly said because every outlet wants to be the Village Voice, the ink-stained pamphleteer on the corner screaming about capitalist pigs before heading off to a concert at CBGB’s, also as dead as the Village Voice and the rest of the East Village.

Newsweek, once the paragon of middlebrow inoffensiveness, now does the kind of covers that the Village Voice used to do. It still hasn’t run a picture of Bush drinking the blood out of the green neck of the Statue of Liberty, but, if Romney wins, you can expect that as the March cover. And by then even that might be considered tame.

If anyone deserves credit for killing the Village Voice, it’s George W. Bush, who was its unwitting cover boy more often than Obama has appeared on the cover of Essence. Under Bush the entire media became alternative and the alternative media became supplementary to requirements. When mainstream newspapers give positive reviews to books and movies that envision Bush’s assassination, cheerlead anti-war rallies run by militant Trotskyites and demand unilateral surrender in the War on Terror; what possible territory is left for the alternative media to explore?

All that was left for the alternative media was to run yet another profile of a new bar where people drink the tears of Ecuadoran children purchased through fair trade while looking at themselves doing it in video monitors as an artistic commentary on capitalism. And these days that’s what the internet is for.

Read the whole thing.

22 Aug 2012

Too Bloody True

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Hat tip to Don Surber (FB).

22 Aug 2012

Liberal Cultural Power Translates Into Political Power

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The left dominates the media, the universities, Hollywood, the arts, all the engines and apparatuses of communication and creation of culture. Jonathan Chait, in New York magazine, freely admits what everybody knows, and openly gloats.

You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television (I’m not) to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. Americans for Responsible Television and Christian Leaders for Responsible Television would be flipping out over the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee, except that those groups went defunct long ago. The liberal analysis of the economic crisis—that unregulated finance took wild gambles—has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. The conservative view that all blame lies with regulations forcing banks to lend to poor people has not, except perhaps in the amateur-hour production of Atlas Shrugged. The muscular Rambo patriotism that briefly surged in the eighties, and seemed poised to return after 9/11, has disappeared. In its place we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures. The conservative denial of climate change, and the low opinion of environmentalism that accompanies it, stands in contrast to cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. The decade has also seen a revival of political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named “Tex Richman.”

In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. …

[The] capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements, may or may not be unfair. What it is undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power. Liberals like to believe that our strength derives solely from the natural concordance of the people, that we represent what most Americans believe, or would believe if not for the distorting rightward pull of Fox News and the Koch brothers and the rest. Conservatives surely do benefit from these outposts of power, and most would rather indulge their own populist fantasies than admit it. But they do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.

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