"That you may ruminate"

…On Crappy News From Spain.

Posted by Steve on January 9, 2011

The wrong side won another battle in the war over bullfighting.

This, of course, follows on Catalonia’s execrable decision to outright ban bullfighting.

A commenter on the Yahoo story summed up my thoughts pretty well:

What a shame it is that bullfights will no longer be aired so that children will learn the valuable moral lessons these noble events instill. An important tool for teaching virtues is being tossed aside, and I fear the virtues themselves will be lost because of it.

Those who decry bullfighting for being cruel, violent, barbaric – those people miss the point. Barbarism is good. Cruelty is good. Violence is good. To be weak or peaceful is to be an abomination. It is to be prey, meant for killing and exploiting. Bullfighting teaches the value of killing the weak, which is mankind’s highest calling.

Bullfighting should be flourishing in Spain and spreading to other countries. Instead, it is dying, and mankind’s goodness is dying with it, replaced by the lies and sins of “compassion” and “mercy”. Bullfighting is good. Bloodsports are good.

I don’t know that I’d say killing the weak is mankind’s highest calling, but the rest of it is pretty much spot-on, I think, especially the knocks against compassion and pacifism. That said, I’d add that there’s also a problem with criticism of bullfighting based on “animal rights” reasoning, since “animal rights” is a contradiction in terms. No such things exist. Rights stem from consciousness and sentience, which animals (like fetuses, coma patients, plants, rocks, and everything else that doesn’t possess or deserve rights) are incapable of having.

And as for bullfighting? A world with bullfighting is a better world than a world without bullfighting, and humanity with bullfighting is better than humanity without bullfighting.

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…On A Wasted Opportunity.

Posted by Steve on August 23, 2010

The song “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” by Type O Negative is a great song. However, the verses have nothing to do with not wanting to be yourself anymore. Just the chorus & the title. I think that’s a shame, because if the song’s verses really had addressed that emotional state, that would make it a perfect song. I mean, not wanting to be yourself, wanting to be someone different, I believe that’s a common feeling. As Neil Peart wrote, “Some of us are born to live our fantasies, but most of us just dream about the things we’d like to be.”

Oh well.

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…On Political Emails.

Posted by Steve on August 20, 2010

I’m very confused: somehow, several political causes that either I don’t agree with or have nothing to do with me (I don’t live in Maine) have gotten ahold of my email address and keep sending me emails asking me to write politicians or give money. I don’t mind doing that for causes I support – NARAL, say, or the NRA (yes, I believe in unrestricted access to guns and abortions. I also support capital and corporal punishment as well as strong separation of church and state). But I’m not going to do it for causes I oppose – that goes without saying – and I think it’s inappropriate for me to inject myself in state matters for states I don’t live in. Like Maine.

Of course, this spam’s better than the other spam I get.

I just wonder how these organizations got my email address, is all.

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…On “Gravatar”.

Posted by Steve on July 22, 2010

I don’t like it.

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…On Your Morals.

Posted by Steve on January 2, 2010

Late in 2009, I discovered an interesting website, YourMorals.org. It’s a site set up by social psychology researchers at UVA, UC-Irvine, and USC in order to facilitate research into the link between moral beliefs and political ideology. Basically, you identify as liberal or conservative, and then fill out questionairres relating to morals or politics. I have no idea if they get good data out of it, but it’s very interesting, especially since it compares your answers to raw data from other takers. For instance, there is a “Moral Foundations Questionnaire” that attempts to measure the degree to which five bases for morality are relevant to liberals and conservatives – and tells you how your score compares to the average of liberal and conservative participants.

Just thought I’d share, since I like sharing interesting websites.

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…On Joe Bouchard.

Posted by Steve on October 18, 2009

You most likely do not know who Joe Bouchard is, especially since I’m not talking about the Blue Öyster Cult bassist, because you most likely do not live in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Well, Joe Bouchard is the incumbent delegate to the Virginia General Assembly from the 83rd District. And in his effort to defeat Chris Stolle and get reelected two weeks from Tuesday, he has released what may well be the worst attack ad I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, I saw it come on TV the other night, and I was just baffled by why the Bouchard campaign thought it would sway people against Chris Stolle. See, it doesn’t attack Stolle’s proposals, or his judgment, or his values, or his ideas, or his record from another position… ok, it does that last, but it’s a ridiculous stretch. See, Chris Stolle works at a hospital. So, of course, Bouchard’s put on tv an ad that attacks… the hospital.

WTF?

Tellingly, the ad has not been put on YouTube. As it stands, it’s just one more example of the reason I don’t like election season – which seems to be neverending here in Virginia: the damned campaigning.

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…On Celebrity Endorsements.

Posted by Steve on August 29, 2009

My previous post was about Blackwell v. Wyeth, a case arising out of the recent fad of having autistic children and blaming it on vaccinations*. Apparently, a driving force for this fad is the efforts of some celebrities, like Jenny McCarthy.

This mystifies me. Setting aside the root question of “Does there exist – and if so, what is it – a valid reason for allowing a non-expert celebrity’s opinion to sway your judgment on anything?”**, I have to wonder: what reason is there to give more credence to Jenny McCarthy’s belief that vaccination is good than to give credence to Salma Hayek‘s belief that vaccination is good, or Amanda Peet‘s belief not merely that vaccination is good, but that the refusal to vaccinate your kid is destructive anti-social behavior worthy of public censure. Sure, if you look into the available research (which Peet clearly did), you’ll find out that Peet and Hayek are right and McCarthy’s wrong, but before then… what is it that makes people say “My kid’s doctor, Salma Hayek, and Amanda Peet all say I should have my kid vaccinated, but Jenny McCarthy says I shouldn’t, so I just don’t know what to do.”

Really, in a field where neither has any expertise by dint of professional experience, rigorous education, or performing original research… what is it that gives one person more credibility than another?

*I’m really not sure whether I think the fad is having autistic children or blaming your kid’s autism on vaccination. You know the theme in Rain Man where nobody, not even the nurse at the doctor’s office, knows what “autism” is? That’s because until Rain Man, nobody who wasn’t directly connected to autism or an autistic person had ever heard of it – which was because it was rare. Kinda makes me wonder if it’s been overdiagnosed of late.

**As the memorable scene goes:
Kid #3: My Mommy says smoking kills.
Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?
Kid #3: No.
Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Kid #3: No.
Nick Naylor: Well, then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?

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…On Some Damn Fine Judging.

Posted by Steve on August 27, 2009

I have often been critical, here on this blog, of the American legal system, the judiciary of multiple countries, and multiple tenets of American common law. So, I feel like I ought to try and balance that by giving props when I can. So, this is by no means news since it’s about a case that was decided back in May, but Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals of Maryland, totally hit one out of the park when it unanimously upheld Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Stuart R. Berger’s ruling on the inadmissibility of junk pseudoscience in Blackwell v. Wyeth. They ruled that in Maryland, in order to be an expert witness you have to actually 1) be an expert 2) who used legitimate methods 3) in a legitimate field 4) that’s relevant to the testimony you’ll offer. If there’s a court ruling that more strongly and explicitly establishes adherence to the scientific method as a prerequisite for testimony on scientific matters, I’m not aware of it. So Maryland Judiciary, a tip of the hat to you.

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…On the Appendix to Brave New World.

Posted by Steve on August 24, 2009

So, Yahoo has posted a news article about appendices. Frankly, calling it “news” is a bit inaccurate, I think, as the hypothesis that the appendix is a gut flora reservoir is a couple of years old. Anyway, the quote at page bottom, about artificially stimulating the immune system to keep it from getting sullen and cranky and causing appendicitis or autoimmune disease… reminds me of Brave New World’s “pregnancy substitutes”. And you know, speaking of Brave New World… I recall reading it and not thinking it was so terrible, since it seems to me it’s a utopia-and-dystopia swirl, not the straight uncut dystopia it’s so often labeled. Without a doubt, the creation of the gammas, deltas, and epsilons is an atrocity – hands down, unequivocally evil and an atrocity. Also, the profligate waste of the materialism-for-the-sake-of-consuming-resources is really damned stupid, and I can’t say soma’s an appealing idea. On the other hand, take those elements out and you have… the alphas living lives of uninterrupted hedonistic pleasure. Perfect people living perfect lives – isn’t that what utopia is? And I don’t think the book makes a compelling case for the argument that the good can only be obtained by the bad – the whole point of the book, after all, was that everything’s predestined through conditioned behavior and mechanistic control over the world. So, given such an ability to craft reality (yeah, an utter impossibility, but work with me here), what reason is there for producing the horrendous along with the wondrous? Seems to me the smart thing to do is only produce the wondrous.

Anyway, seems the 5-second-rule isn’t unhygienic unhygenic, it’s prophylactic!

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…On District 9.

Posted by Steve on August 17, 2009

I’m very glad I went to see District 9 Friday night. And I’m glad I went to see it again yesterday. I wanted more after the first time, and yesterday I gave myself more – and at the same time, got to notice all sorts of little things I’d missed the first time. The sorts of rich backgrounds of a truly well-made film. Which, this most certainly is. It’s the most imaginative sci-fi movie I’ve seen in years – as far as I can remember, at least since Dark City. It’s intelligent, it’s a thrilling action movie, it’s emotionally gripping, and in the best traditions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, it is honest in portraying the deep and rudimentary flaws in human nature – in a way, like Children of Men. And indeed, I predict that like Children of Men, it will be horribly snubbed come the Academy Awards: I doubt it will be nominated for the Best Picture it will deserve to win, and I doubt Sharlto Copley will be considered for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

So be it. All I can say before we go to happy-cut-tag-land to prevent spoilers, is: Go see this movie. It is amazing. And remember, “A smile is cheaper than a bullet!”.

Actually, before the cut, I’ll add something else. The woman “E” who wrote this review displays a lamentable ignorance of human history. I agree that the movie contains a level of gore that will disgust many people (though going to a movie with Peter Jackson’s name so prominently associated with it, you should expect gore. Being surprised by gore in a movie associated with Peter Jackson is like being surprised by fart and Jew jokes in a movie associated with Mel Brooks), and there is horrific barbarism (though in my opinion, there is justice meted out and redemption had), which was unsettling even to me the first time. But to watch the movie and say “[I] was insulted that they tried to make that comparison” is equivalent to watching Children of Men and saying “I was insulted that the movie suggested prison guards would put a prisoner in a black hood and garbage-bag cloak, stick him on a box, and string him up with wires“. Considering that the movie pulled the details straight out of real events – as I will explain in spoilering form below the cut – you should not be insulted. If anything, you should be ashamed of your limited knowledge of actual human history.

Read the rest of this entry »

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