Recent reading.

PLEASE NOTE: Acquisition of links for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization, source or individual.

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Ferguson Police Busted – Attempt To Defame Shooting Victim Blows Up In Their Face. Downe, N., Addicting Info (Aug. 2013). [with VIDEO] (“When the Ferguson police department released the name of Darren Wilson, they also chose to release video footage which they claimed was of Michael Brown robbing a convenience store for some cigars. The problem is, the video shows Michael Brown at the register, paying for the cigars.”)

Campaigns for #MikeBrown #Ferguson. Spaceship Dreaming (Aug. 2014). (“a list of donations, protests, and petitions that you can do to help the people in #Ferguson and to assist #MikeBrown and #EzellFord all others who have been killed by the hands of the police.” updated regularly.)

Atheists face death threats on Fox Facebook page; re: 9/11 cross. Stone, M., Examiner.com (Jul. 2014). Slideshow of screencaps.

The Role of Help-Seeking in Preventing Suicide Attempts among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals. Meyer, I.H. et al, Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior [paywall] (May 2014). (from the Williams Institute press release: “individuals who sought religious or spiritual treatment had higher odds of later attempting suicide than those who did not seek treatment at all.”)

Know Your Rights: Demonstrations and Protest. ACLU.
Know Your Rights: Photographers. ACLU.
Know Your Rights: What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI. ACLU.

Global Peace Index 2014. Institute for Economics and Peace (pdf). (map and rankings.) [SPOILER ALERT! The United States ranks 101 out of 162 countries.]

Harassment in Science, Replicated. Aschwanden, C., The New York Times (Aug. 2014). (“the problem will not be solved with new rules archived on unread websites. The responsibility for pushing back should not rest solely with the victims. Solutions require a change of culture that can happen only from within. It will take chief executives, department heads, laboratory directors, professors, publishers and editors in chief to take a stand and say: Not on my watch. I don’t care if you’re my friend or my favorite colleague; we don’t treat women like that.”)

In Texas, Activist Group “Stop Patriarchy” Draws Criticism. Klabusich, K., Bitch Magazine (Aug. 2014).

George Orwell’s review of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf. (Mar. 1940). (via Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing). [h/t Simon.]

Photos of women & girls in the National Child Labor Committee Collection at the Library of Congress. (LOC source.)

12 things white people can do now because of Ferguson. Woods, J., Quartz (Aug. 2014).

 

Church sign tragedy turns to triumph!

Loyal Readers™ will recall the Palace’s ongoing mission to extract $82 billion in benefits from the Religion-Industrial-Complex on behalf of U.S. taxpayers, on account of our $82 billion yearly taxpayer subsidies to same. One of the ways we accomplish this is amusing ourselves by regularly mocking a particular church sign in the small town where my mother lives.

The lazy church sign person(s) left the same sign up for weeks after our last report until only recently: it now reads “SIGN GUY ON VACATION. MESSAGE INSIDE,” with an arrow pointing to the church. Much as we love mocking these people, there is no fucking way we are going inside that massive monument to ignorance just for some easy blog fodder. Not even for you, our beloved Many Tens of Loyal Readers™.

But all is not lost! As if he could sense across the many miles that separate us our aching disappointment in Trinity United Methodist Church for its unconscionable failure to entertain us, Loyal Subject™ SJ sent us a picture of a different church sign. And the best part? It had already been mocked.

evolutionlieEVOLUTION IS A LIE.

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The mocker(s) affixed a sign of their own:

IF YOU HAVE EVIDENCE
TO DISPROVE
EVOLUTION…
THEN WRITE IT DOWN,
GET IT PEER REVIEWED
& COLLECT YOUR
NOBEL PRIZE.

We could not have mocked it better ourselves. Bravo.

Reality: It’s Not For Everyone.

[UPDATED: added new and/or improved links. Also, WordPress ate my post title. I found this entirely unacceptable, so I am putting it back. Take that, WordPress!]

People, I just don’t know why I bother to click on linkbait at mainstream American media outlets like the Washington Post. Today, I got suckered by We think our enemies are idiots, and that’s a problem: The psychological explanation for our partisan strife, by psychologist and assistant professor of management and organizations at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Adam Waytz. The piece is full of false equivalencies between conservatives and liberals, and finishes up with the usual pointless whinging:

“if we believe our political opponents are as rational, thoughtful and empathic as we are, then we are likely to pursue political compromise through rational debate, civil discussion and collaborative analysis of the facts.”

What bubble does Adam Waytz exist in, where American conservatives are rational, thoughtful and empathic? In this amazing Bizarro Bubble, the Republican party actually wants to pursue compromise, and Fox News thrives on rational debate, civil discussion and collaborative analysis of the facts.

FACTS?! Bwahahahaha!

If you truly believe that women cannot get pregnant from “legitmate rape,” you are definitely not rational or thoughtful. If you think uninsured people should be left to die, you have a cavernous empathy deficit. In either case, you should not be anywhere near a public office, because holding an “alternate view of reality” is not only about being flat-out wrong factually, it has demonstrably harmful and often deadly consequences. That makes it morally wrong, too.

Here is the gist of what apparently passes for insightful analysis at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and as publication-worthy by the esteemed editors at the Washington Post:

Another example is Thomas Piketty’s claims about income inequality to climate change. His champions who believe in rising income inequality and his detractors who see little cause for concern both say the other side is biased. Climate change believers and skeptics alike see their opponents as mistaken and lacking in basic analytical skills.

The arguments here, such as they are, rarely grapple with the interlocutor’s alternate view of reality, let alone the merits of the point. Rather, they center on the other side’s deficient mental capacity, and all the ways that “you” are less reflective, less rational, less empathic and more biased than “I” (or “we”). In other words, we see our opponents’ minds — their capacity for reason, emotion, thought and desire — as less sophisticated than our own minds, a phenomenon my colleagues and I have termed the lesser minds problem.

That’s pretty hilarious, because “the lesser minds problem” is a perfectly apt description of both the source of this crap and how it ends up in the Washington Post. You see, in the real world, income inequality is either rising, or it is not. (SPOILER: it is.) Man-made climate change is either happening, or it is not. (SPOILER: it is. Even the Department of Defense knows it, and is acting accordingly.) “Rational debate, civil discussion and collaborative analysis of the facts” will get you precisely nowhere with those whose minds are not remotely interested in actual, verifiable, demonstrable reality.

Remarkably, Waytz comes close to nailing the problem with this:

If I believe that I think more thoughtfully than you and feel more deeply than you, then it makes little sense for me to try to reason with you, much less listen to what you have to say.

Exactly correct. But he thinks the problem lies in merely believing that one’s political opponents are less thoughtful, rational and empathetic, not whether this is actually true and what to do about it. Worse, he appears to have no idea that conservatives are not only constitutionally resistant to facts, but that exposing them to more facts makes conservatives even more resistant. It does indeed make little sense to try to reason with conservatives, much less listen to what they say (except to mock it, of course).

Waytz really thinks he’s on to something when he scolds us:

This suggestion to disavow oneself from beliefs of mental superiority is preached often, but rarely practiced.

And thank the fuckin’ Lard it is rarely practiced. I hate to break it to Waytz, but conservatives in both parties (and Republicans especially) are openly waging war on Social Security. Unions. The environment. Education. Food and water. Immigrants. Cancer patients. Muslims. The poor. Gay and trans people. The oceans. Palestinians. The middle class. Black people. Brown people. The young. The elderly. The disabled. Science. The Earth. The godless. History. Women.

If conservatives were even remotely rational, thoughtful and/or empathic, would any of that be the case? Further, even if it were possible, when we are talking about life and death issues, why would anyone with any sense and empathy ever want to pursue “political compromise” on such matters, through “rational debate, civil discussion and collaborative analysis of the facts” or otherwise?

You know what? It doesn’t matter to me one whit if global warming deniers think I’m the one with a lesser mind. “Alternate interpretations of reality” are neither legitimate nor worthy of respect to the extent that those interpretations do not comport with, you know, actual reality. I am sick and tired of the Waytzes (and Linds, and Mooneys) not only ignoring reality themselves, but urging us all to respect and accommodate those who remain stubbornly, intractably untethered to it—and proud of it.

Lesser minds, indeed.

Cosmos: mocking religious conservatives by merely existing.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos has so far been a reliable source for a sweet, sweet dose of brain candy. Perhaps for the scientifically astute there are no new mind-blowing insights revealed here, but even so, I’ve found exquisite pleasure in seeing even familiar and well-understood scientific concepts illustrated with dazzling visuals to great effect, and Tyson’s enthusiasm for discovery and sense of joy and wonder are downright giddy-making. For instance, my own scientific knowledge pretty much starts and ends with a basic understanding of evolutionary biology, so Episode 2’s focus on evolutionary mechanisms covered no new ground for me. But the show was supremely enjoyable nonetheless, and all the more so by pondering the possibility that those who were previously unfamiliar with these concepts might experience the same WOW moments that I did upon discovering them. Episode 1 was equally compelling in demonstrating the sheer, awe-inspiring scale of the known universe.

Alas, it turns out that brain candy of the Cosmos flavor is only enjoyable to minimally reasoning brains. The barking loons at Answers in Genesis and Intelligent [sic] Designers over at the Discovery Institute are all having collective conniptions because science demolishes their kooky theory of humans being poofed into creation by Jeezus’s daddy out of mud or ribs or some such stupid thing. Apparently, facts about the world just don’t allow these particular apes to feel like Super Special Jeezusy Snowflakes, and this they will not abide. Only two episodes in, creationists are now whining and demanding equal time to present their inane views on a science show. Via Raw Story:

Creationists demand equal airtime on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ to provide ‘balance’

Creationists held a pity party for themselves Thursday because “Cosmos” isn’t being fair and balanced to their beliefs.

Hahaha. Awesome. Personally, I think the scientific community (including Tyson & Co.) is far too accommodating of religious bleatings, and should instead aggressively and derisively decimate this nonsense with everything they’ve got. But if they’re not going to do that, they should at least counter these narcissistic little shitheads with a deal to allow them equal time for science education during their church services and religious broadcasts. Let’s see how that goes over.

“Creationists aren’t even on the radar screen for them, they wouldn’t even consider us plausible at all,” said Danny Falkner, of Answers In Genesis, which has previously complained about the show.

That’s because you are not, in fact, plausible at all, Danny!

Falkner appeared Thursday on “The Janet Mefford Show” to complain the Fox television series and its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, had marginalized those with dissenting views on accepted scientific truths, reported Right Wing Watch.

I must say that in general I am not a fan of marginalizing those with dissenting views, provided those views have any merit. But since creationist views do not have any merit whatsoever (except of course as potential source material for mockery), it’s a goddamn moral imperative if not a solemn patriotic duty to marginalize the shit out of them. Like this:

don'tmasturbatejesusuniverse(Source.)

“I was struck in the first episode where he talked about science and how, you know, all ideas are discussed, you know, everything is up for discussion – it’s all on the table – and I thought to myself, ‘No, consideration of special creation is definitely not open for discussion, it would seem,’” Falkner said.

Christ, what a dumbass. Special creation has been discussed ad nauseam for centuries, and it has long been dismissed on the merits—or in this case, the lack thereof. As Tyson told CNN, “You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers.”

Tonight’s Cosmos episode, “When Knowledge Conquered Fear,” will focus on human intelligence and the origin of scientific theory. Wonder what creationists will have to say about that?

I’m guessing, “Waaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Happy Pi Day.

piIt’s Pi Day (3/14), and wonder of wonders, we just happened to remember we did a post about it a couple years ago. Well, we are too lazy to write a new post about it today—and apparently last year we were to lazy to even take the slightest notice. But fortunately for our Many Tens of Loyal Readers™, we are not too lazy to cut and paste some shit from that old post:

Pi, Greek letter (π), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th. Pi = 3.1415926535…

With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal. Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating.

The Palace hereby proclaims solidarity with people everywhere who celebrate the important occasion of Pi Day, and proudly takes part in the traditional ritual of consuming pie (of the fruit, custard, chocolate and/or pizza varieties).

I and my fellow geeks the world over cannot wait until March 14, 2015 at 9:26 AM (and 53 seconds). It is going to be so freaking awesome.

Iris HEARTS Neil deGrasse Tyson.

neildegrasstysonNice interview at io9: Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why the new Cosmos matters so much.

Tyson: I want to clarify that the goal of this Cosmos is not to update the science. A lot of science has happened in the last 35 years. We’ve discovered a thousand exoplanets, for example. But that’s not the goal, because any time of day you can channel surf and find a documentary about black holes, colliding galaxies, the search for life, the Big Bang, dark matter, the Higgs-Boson, etc. There’s no end of documentaries that serve that goal.

Cosmos has, as its mission statement, the effort to convey to you why science matters. That is a different motivating factor than “Here’s all this science I want to teach you.” When you take ownership of why science matters, then you are self-motivated, driven. You take the responsibility yourself to continue to learn. It’s a new Cosmos not because there’s so much more universe to talk about, but because the country and the world needs to know more than ever why science matters.

The director of photography for the new series is Bill Pope—the director of photography for The Matrix trilogy. OMFG I am totally geeking out ovah heeyah.

The new Cosmos premieres this Sunday, March 9th on Fox.

Back to IMPORTANT business: tardigrades.

Now that every single thing has been said on the subject of abortion rights, the shitweasel arguments in opposition thereto, and the Man Children who feel entitled to materially abandon their own offspring because waaaaaaaaah, we can finally get back to matters far more pressing than forced birth, child abandonment and all the dead and maimed women and impoverished families around the globe.*

I refer, of course, to the tardigrades.

Waterbear Tardigrade (water bear) Hypsibius dujardini
scanning electron micrograph by Bob Goldstein & Vicky Madden
UNC Chapel Hill

Immediately after the first episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, I took to Facebook to complain bitterly about the inexcusable lack of attention paid to tardigrades. Tyson and the producers obviously saw my complaint, because they attempted to rectify this tragic oversight by briefly discussing tardigrades in the second episode. But still, there were not nearly enough tardigrades, because as visitors to the Tardigrade Wing at the Palace Zoo well know, tardigrades are the coolest creatures ever:

They are teeny, tiny, water-dwelling, eight-legged animals prevalent in moss and lichen. About 1 millimeter (0.039 in) in length when fully grown, they can be seen under a low-power microscope. Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal: they can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about 6 times stronger than pressures found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than would kill a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for many years, drying out to the point where they are less than 3% water—then rehydrate, forage, and reproduce. Tardigrades have been found in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice, in ocean sediments, in lakes, ponds, meadows, stone walls and roofs. Usually males and females are present, but some species are parthenogenetic.

Here is Professor Bob Goldstein at his lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill ‘splaining:

In other words, tardigrades are possibly space aliens, and in any event they are damn near…immortal.

I am sure you can see where this is going.

Yes, Loyal Readers™, the Palace lab will be testing the hypothesis that if I eat enough tardigrades, I will become a virtually immortal extremophile just as they are. To get started on this exciting and important research project, I sent an urgent missive to Professor Goldstein at his lab:

Dear Professor Goldstein:

I am a New York City-based columnist and blogger who usually writes about sex (I’m for it!) as well as politics and religion (I’m against ‘em!), and who finds herself weirdly enamored with tardigrades. I also write to promote science, skepticism, and the sheer transcendent joy to be found in discovering the wonders of the natural world. To that end I maintain a virtual zoo on my personal blog, in which I have a tardigrade specimen named Schnoot.

If I sound like a kook so far, well you’re probably right but I hope you will bear(!) with me.

____________

Professor Goldstein, have you ever eaten tardigrades?

If yes:
What do they taste like?
Do you have any good recipes?
What wine pairing would you recommend?
Are you now immortal?

If no:
Are they poisonous or otherwise dangerous to eat?
Would you recommend that I cook them (over 303 degrees F of course!) before I eat them, or do you think I have to eat them live in order to become immortal?

__________

With many thanks and kind regards,
-Iris Vander Pluym

I sent this over a week ago, and yet believe it or not as of this writing I have received no response from the good professor. WTF, Professor Goldstein. I have, however, made some important progress: a Loyal Subject™ is presently on a covert mission somewhere in the hinterlands of North Carolina collecting tardigrade specimens for me to eat. I shall report my progress once the next steps have been taken and/or Professor Goldstein responds to my inquiry. In the meantime, in order to remedy the appalling failure of Cosmos to provide us with enough tardigrades, please enjoy this slideshow, courtesy of Prof. Goldstein’s lab.

And this:

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*I am not really making light of or minimizing these things, of course. That was some heavy shit we’ve been dealing with around here, and, well, sometimes I crave a little dark humor in order to recharge, retrench and prepare to do battle with the shitweasels the next time. I make it a point to find some joy in my day, every day. Otherwise, the terrorists shitweasels win.

Happy Darwin Day.

charlesdarwinCharles Darwin, circa 1854.

This is the oft-quoted last paragraph of Charles Darwin’s world-changing masterwork, On the Origin of Species:

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

As you can see, Darwin was a fine writer, and his classic book is eminently readable. You can read it online for free here.

entangledbankAn entangled bank.
Tempisque River, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Come on, Florida! You can do better than this!

Via EarthJustice:

Pollution killing manatees at record pace.
Yet, industry group seeks to removed endangered species status.

I’m sad to report that 2013 has become the deadliest year ever for Florida’s endangered manatees.

So far this year, 769 manatees have died (Jan. 1 through Oct. 29), the largest annual manatee die-off in Florida since record-keeping began, according to the Save the Manatee Club.

Florida regulators are doing the bidding of polluter-lobbyists, and environmental disasters like the record manatee deaths are the sad result. Instead of stepping in to enforce the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has backed off.

The Indian River Lagoon has lost 47,000 acres of sea grass since 2010, which, as the Tampa Bay Times noted, “one scientist compared to losing an entire rainforest in one fell swoop.”

When scientists performed necropsies on the manatees, they found that their stomachs contained a reddish seaweed they don’t normally eat—their normal sea grass food source was wiped out.

What’s the problem, Florida? Are your state regulators not quite corrupt enough yet? Is Obama’s EPA not captured by polluters? Come on, already! I am confident that you can destroy the aquatic habitats of all your waterways during my lifetime, and finally be rid of those pesky manatees once and for all. It will be a crowning achievement of conservatism.

manatee[Photo: Ahodges7 via Wikimedia Commons]

Invade the sun!

solarflaresViolent menace: “The Sun.”

Loyal Readers™, it has come to our attention that a story with major world-altering consequences is being completely ignored by the mainstream media—as usual.

We refer of course to the news that yesterday, the G-type main-sequence star in the center of our solar system—it goes by the grandiose name of “The Sun,” as if there were only one!—erupted violently with not one but two of the strongest solar flares it is capable of unleashing. I am sure it will not be lost on astute readers here that these flares came just mere days after The Sun blasted a bunch of intense solar storms at our planet:

The sun fired off a flare that registered at X1.7 on the space weather scale at 4:01 a.m. EDT (0801 GMT) Friday, then followed with an X.2-class event at 11:03 a.m. EDT (1503 GMT). NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured video of the X1.7 solar flare, which came after several smaller sun storms over the last few days.

At this point in the investigation we cannot yet confirm whether it was the gays, the atheists or the abortionists that set the sun off (one early rumor we heard through our intelligence sources indicated that it might be the Saudi women’s campaign for driving privileges, but that was quickly dispelled because as it turns out the women intend to remain completely covered from head to toe). Either way, what we do know is that it is clear The Sun has WMDs and is perfectly willing to deploy them in our direction, and/or hates us for our Freedom™.

This. Will. Not. Stand.

President Obama, you really need to quit screwing around with Yemen and Libya and Pakistan and Colombia and Iran and Brazil and wherever else you’ve been illegally invading or occupying or spying since taking office that we have already forgotten about, and immediately direct the total defense resources of the United States at the real terrorist menace: The Sun.

We implore you to invade that @$$hole before it’s too late and the Earth is reduced to nothing but a smoking cinder. Otherwise, the terrorists win.