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March 19th, 2011

10:35 pm: Do [Some] Christians Act Like That?
I'm not sure that Tamtampamela's motive are particularly pure (she sounds like a true troll, looking for attention. But I think her satire does work as satire. She may not know of anyone who is rejoicing about the Japanese earthquake. But I don't think Swift actually knew anyone advocating cannibalism when he wrote "A Modest Proposal".

Where it breaks down as satire, I think, is that while people in the past have said that 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina were punishment for our sinful ways, I don't think anyone said they were actually praying for something like that to happen, or seemed quite so happy that they happened. (Smug vindication, yes; genuine happiness, not so much.) It makes the satire feel a little unfair, although it's arguably justifiable in the name of humor/artistic license.

Some WNBA player is saying that the Japanese deserved to be struck by disaster.

Also, another example of satire somewhat relevant here: Dr. Pangloss in Candide.

10:18 pm: Julian Assange makes himself sound guilty
This quote from Julian Assange, more than anything else I've heard, makes him sound guilty:
Mr Assange said he regarded himself as a victim of Left-wing radicalism. “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism,” he said. “I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.”

Not, "I was set up for a crime (a crime that is bad)." Not, "Sweden is a hornet's nest of being a lackey for the US." His comment basically seems to say, "This thing they're accusing me of isn't bad! Only wacky left-wing radical feminist extremists would think so!" It still doesn't necessarily mean that he did it, but it doesn't sound like he thinks the crime he's accused of is serious.

March 18th, 2011

03:17 pm: Classic Nice Guy(TM) Move
I don't always like Dear Prudence/Emily Yoffe, but I have to agree with her on this one. One of the headlines Slate uses to link to it is,Help! My wife is young and hot but kind of dumb.

Yoffe's response is basically, "Then why did you marry her, dumbass?"

He sounds like a classic Nice Guy(TM):
I'm no Einstein, but I have a degree in computer science and am knowledgeable about economics and other intellectual pursuits. She loves reality TV. Now here I am, barely able to have a conversation with the woman to whom I am married. I don't want a divorce, but I don't want to spend the rest of my life watching The Bachelor. Is there a middle path that allows me to continue my marriage (the sex is incredible) while not forcing me to give up on having a stimulating partner with whom I can share my interests? Or am I forever condemned to being married to an incredibly hot woman for whom I have not an iota of intellectual respect?

March 12th, 2011

03:52 pm: Right-Wing Terrorism: it's still terrorism when it's not a Muslim
The latest incident of right-wing terrorism was committed by five people with ties to the Citizens' Sovereignty movement. This isn't the first time something like this has happened.
The movement has been around for decades and has included some notable cases of violence in the past. Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing was a sovereign citizen, and Joe Stack, who flew his small plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas. in February, was also affiliated with the movement.

There's a good timeline of right-wing terrorism in the last couple years here.

But Janet Napolitano clearly had no evidence to say that right-wing terrorism would be a threat and was just "unleashing the dogs of war against [Obama's] political opposition at home".

March 7th, 2011

10:29 am: Proud to be an American, Part II
I'm glad I don't live in Austria.

Having a legal ban on denigrating the teachings of Islam can be problematic
, for many unpleasant points are made in the Quran, including those concerning Jews, the position of women, ‘hypocrites’ who call themselves Muslims but refuse to go to war for the Cause of Allah, and not least statements against ‘infidels’, who do not consider Muhammad a prophet or Allah worthy of their devotion.

This is the kind of thing that happens when the government gets involved in religion.

...Judge Neubauer found that it was not legally acceptable to apply the label ‘paedophile’ to Muhammad, for two distinct reasons:

1. Apart from the marriage to Aisha, which was formalized when she was 6 and consummated at the age of 9, Muhammad had many other women, in wedlock, as mistresses, or as war booty. This documents the fact that Muhammad did not have a primary sexual attraction directed towards minors.
2. The marriage, and thus the sexual relations with Aisha, did not end when she reached puberty, but continued until she was 18 and Muhammad died. This further underscores the fact that Muhammad was not attracted to her primarily due to her being a minor.

10:24 am: A letter to all "Real Americans"
Hey, all you so-called "Real Americans". All you Hatriot groups. ("Patriotic people who claim to love America but hate most of the people in it.")

This is MY country. I am a US citizen. My ancestors fought for the US in the Revolutionary War. (Also, my ancestors were not traitors to their own government, unlike some Southerners.) If I'm not a "Real American", who is? If you and I cannot be part of the same country, maybe it's YOU who are not "Real Americans". In fact, given that MY country has freedom of religion, and you don't want to live in a country that has freedom of religion, I think that just may be true. You are NOT Real Americans. America: love it or leave it!

March 5th, 2011

10:20 am: Mike Huckabee on Gay Marriage: logic or non sequitur?
The thinking of the Christian Right on gay marriage is so alien to me that it sounds like a non sequitur.

Mike Huckabee starts his new book A Simple Government by talking about the family. Its health is not just a moral requirement for a stable society, he writes, but an economic one. He says there is a $300 billion "Dad deficit" because fathers do not care for their children. Two-thirds of the children who live in poverty wouldn't be in poverty, he writes, if their parents were married.

OK, Mike Huckabee, fair enough. That is enough to demonstrate that the state has an interest in getting parents to marry/stay married and/or to get unmarried/divorced fathers with a decent income to provide more economic support to their children.

With such a focus on the family, he was upset at the president's decision on Wednesday not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. He sees the decision as a shift to a broader support for gay marriage (which Obama still does not support). "He himself didn't take this position when he ran for president," Huckabee told me in an interview. "I think if he had, he wouldn't be president. … I don't think the president sits down and says. 'Hmm, let's destroy the family.' I mean, I don't think that. I think he thinks he's either got to do this for political reasons or maybe he really believes it—I don't know. But I do know there is a definite economic impact of the breakup of families in this country," he says. "One decision isn't going to destroy the family, the family's pretty strong. It may destroy him, may destroy his credibility, may destroy his campaign and candidacy and ultimately his term in office."

...OK. So at least he doesn't think that "the president sits down and says. 'Hmm, let's destroy the family.'" That's ...something, I guess.

Talking about gay marriage as somehow related to fathers not economically supporting their kids seems like a non sequitur at first. But it's actually perfectly logical from the point of view of the Christian Right. Logic is only as good as your starting assumptions and data, after all; garbage in, garbage out. Because they think that allowing gay marriage actually affects their own straight marriages, they think allowing gay marriage will decrease the number of straight marriages by causing people to take marriage less seriously. Whereas from a secular point of view, if you're worried about one parent not economically supporting their child, gay marriage is a good thing--same-sex couples can have children, too, through adoption, sperm donors, surrogate mothers, or as parent and step-parent to children from previous (straight) relationships, and those children need economic support if the family splits up, too.

March 2nd, 2011

10:01 am: Does the NYT know how it sounds?
I think it probably does:
My decision to devote this week’s recipes to salad dressings was partly a reaction to my son’s request for a bottled sesame ginger dressing. “We don’t buy dressings in this house,” I said huffily.

OK, it's kind of funny, but--if you want to sound like a Bill O'Reilly/Rush Limbaugh stereotype, keep on writing stuff like that.

February 25th, 2011

11:47 pm: New blog
Hey, I made a special blog just for my fat and sizism and such posts. It's at http://closetpuritan.wordpress.com/

I will probably be moving some of those types of posts over and reblogging them there as well. So far I have seven posts there, of which one is a reblog.

February 11th, 2011

07:57 pm: When I was musing about worldwide obesity rankings, I mentioned that the US is not the world's fattest country, despite the fact that it is often referred to that way.

According to this article, the US isn't even in the top 13 (when measuring by average BMI):
Of the 13 countries with average BMIs over 30, only Kuwait and Egypt (where just the women average over 30) aren't islands. (Although the United States, with average BMIs of 28.33 for women and 28.46 for men, is well on its way.)

It lists several factors for why these countries have the highest average BMIs in the world--their small population size (it's easier to be an outlier if you have a smaller population), genetic factors (it has been suggested that one reason the US has a higher average BMI than European countries is the greater number of black and Hispanic Americans, who have higher average BMIs than white Americans), the rapid transition to modernity, and a less thin ideal. I'm skeptical of this last one: the ideal body in the US became thinner as the population as a whole became fatter. Clearly, if thin ideals have any causal effect at all, it's a paltry one.

My personal theory is that the thinness of the ideal body will have different effects on different people within the population. People close to the ideal (of whom there will be a lot fewer, the further it is from the population average) may be motivated to get/stay just a little bit skinnier and to fight creeping weight gain as they get older, and maintain a small, relatively easy to sustain weight loss/keep their body near the bottom of its set point range. People who are NOT close to the ideal may simply give up and be less motivated to stay at the bottom of their set point range, since they see the ideal body as completely unattainable. Or they may make an all-or-nothing attempt to get the ideal body, and because this requires a large weight loss for them and they are no longer anywhere near their set point range, they experience the typical result of such attempts: 95% of them regain all the lost weight within five years, and about half of them end up heavier than they started.

This is just my personal theory, but here's some circumstantial evidence to support it: Americans at the left side of the BMI bell curve didn't gain any weight during the obesity crisis, people in the middle gained about 10 lbs, and people at the right side gained about 30 lbs. Of course, this could also be explained by the possibility that some people's bodies are just way more sensitive to society-wide changes in diet and exercise patterns, so it's not a very strong piece of evidence. If your body has been selected more to resist famines than for running and jumping, it may hoard extra calories more than another person's body would.

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