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Archive for October, 2006

So what about the chupacabra?

[ 0 ] October 28, 2006 |

This is strangely comforting:

Let us assume that a vampire need feed only once a month. This is certainly a highly conservative assumption given any Hollywood vampire film. Now two things happen when a vampire feeds. The human population decreases by one and the vampire population increases by one. Let us suppose that the first vampire appeared in 1600 AD. It doesn’t really matter what date we choose for the first vampire to appear; it has little bearing on our argument. We list a government website in the references [US Census] which provides an estimate of the world population for given any date. For January 1, 1600 we will accept that the global population was 536,870,911.3 In our argument, we had at the same time 1 vampire.

We will ignore the human mortality and birth rate for the time being and only concentrate on the effects of vampire feeding.

The results are persuasive, except possibly to those who denounced The Lancet study based on their earnest conviction that math doesn’t work. In short, the authors conclude, it would take surprisingly little time for vampires to rule the earth:
vampires
Relying on the anthropic principle — which declares that any condition essential for human existence must indeed be true — the authors conclude that because the non-existence of vampires is necessary for human survival, vampires cannot in fact be real.

Leaving that aside for the moment, let’s explore the problem further. Obviously a vampire conquest would pose different public health and policy challenges than, say, a zombie infestation. The only real viable alternatives, it seems to me, would be an aggressive pro-natalism (with the intent perhaps of reaching a state of coexistence with the vampires) or a genocidal campaign against the undead. As for the first option, the authors note that even when an ordinary human birthrate is factored into these tables, the population would still diminish geometrically; indeed, they point out, for humans even to survive a wave of vampire feedings at all, they would need to double their numbers (at least) each month. (Worse, such a birth rate would only stabilize the human population while catastrophically over-taxing the planet’s food resources, since pregnancy requires the consumption many more calories than ordinary). That said, even the most accelerated, biologically plausible birth rate would delay the vampirization of the human species by a mere month or so.

Of course, the authors’ grim, worst-case calculations assume that if vampires did exist, humans would either not notice the slow geometric growth of vampires, whose numbers would only swell beyond reason after about 20 months, or — having noticed the sudden appearance of vampire cells — lack the fortitude to do what’s necessary to exterminate the enemy. Assuming the threat were detected early enough, it seems perfectly plausible that humanity — acting through appropriate multilateral institutions and abiding by all the proper checks on abuses of state power — would easily have nearly two years to develop an effective genocidal program before some kind of “tipping point” were reached and the human species was forever transformed into nocturnal leeches.

Iron Glove

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

As much as I hate to concede any point to Tim McCarver…I knew Chris Duncan was a bad outfielder, but I didn’t know that he made Pete Incaviglia look like Roberto Clemente. (And they’re calling the Casey fly a double? There’s home cooking, and then there’s just outright fraud…)

…Congrats to the Cardinals and their fans, condolences to MHS, Mr. Sisyphus Shrugged, and all the other Tiger fans out there. I’m not sure if this should make me depressed because this could have been the Mets, or happier because losing to the Cardinals isn’t quite so humiliating…

"You’re Walking Blind Without a Cane, Pal."

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

Shorter Verbatim Camille Paglia: “I was bitterly disappointed after voting for Ralph Nader that he didn’t devote himself to helping build a strong third party in this country.”

Paglia was also bitterly disappointed that George W. Bush didn’t turn out to be the Gerald Ford-like moderate that Joe Klein assured us he would be, and that Cinderella Man turned out to be a third-rate melodrama rather than the greatest American film since Citizen Kane. (But that J-Pod is so reliable!)

Anyway, I’m sure that, like me, your first thought on Salon‘s inexplicable decision to devote significant bandwidth to this kind of crap was, “Wait…Camille Paglia is still alive?”

…A commenter also points out this gem:

And why didn’t Democrats notice that they were drifting into an area which has been the province of the right wing — that is, the attempt to gain authoritarian control over interpersonal communications on the Web? It’s very worrisome and yet more proof that the Democrats have lost their way.

In addition to the general idiocy of blowing off the importance of arbitrary executive power, the denial of habeas corpus, etc., etc., there’s the additional irony that the bill that established special penalties for these kind of IM communications was largely rammed through Congress by Foley himself. This is the problem with discussing politics when you know absolutely nothing about it.

Afghanistan

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

I have an article up at TAP Online retroactively assessing the decision to go to war against the Taliban.

Ezra and Spencer comment.

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

P3270069

Herbert.

The poor guy was diagnosed with diabetes last week. This photo is from a 18 months ago, when he was three pounds heavier and actually had the energy to clean himself and go outside to kill things. Lately, he’s been just lying around the house getting thinner and dirtier. The insulin shots have helped a bit, and the dogs do their best to help keep him clean, but but he’s in pretty bad shape. We realized today that he’s no longer capable of jumping onto the 3-foot-high cabinet where his dry food is located. It’s all so goddamned depressing.

Nicaragua v. Women

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

I have a post up at TAPPED about the total ban on abortions in Nicaragua. As a follow-up, Liza Sabater provides valuable cultural context.

The Conservative War On Aesthetics Continues

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

George Allen and Matt Drudge: world-class wankers.

See also Steve on the contemporaneous conservative reactions to Webb’s novel. Meanwhile, Patterico trots out the “but Democrats would hypothetically be doing the same thing, so they’re equally guilty, and remember that the obscure crank who tried to out a Senator who’s not even running this year represents the entire Democrat Party!” routine…

Ezra has more.

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

What am I doing reading Mickey Kaus? Rob? I blame you for this.

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

I actually vowed to leave the LG&M piñata alone when I joined this blog, as I believe that respecting the territorial principles of organized crime syndicates is a good survival strategy. But sweet bleeding Jesus, Kaus is a moron. I realize that statement sounds as if I were just now discovering parachute pants, but holy toasted shit — today’s puff of flatulence was too much. As we know, it’s a well-established fact that Kaus endorses cultural foot-dragging on gay rights because it’s really best for liberalism; today he claims that judicial foot-dragging on gay rights is preferable to actually interpreting and applying state law because the delay will somehow allow cultural conservatives the breathing room to “try worthy experiments like gay unions and gay marriage”. There’s no evidence for this claim, of course, but that doesn’t deter Kaus from insisting that if only Andrew Sullivan weren’t so “self-righteous and condescending,” Karl Rove would be thwarted in his efforts to whip the base up into an angry foam over “activist judges.”

By far, though, the most bovine moment occurs when Kaus relies on Amy Sullivan to claim that

voters are scared of letting scientific research proceed willy nilly with cloning, etc. “without ever having a conversation as a society about the moral issues involved.” Given that concern, framing the gay marriage debate as “law” and “logic” against prejudice is analogous to framing the stem cell debate as “science” and “progress” against faith-based Luddism. The framing itself is what’s most alarming.

I’m not sure by what standard it’s possible to suggest that gay marriage is analogous to recombinant DNA technology, but I’m going to venture a wild guess that it’s not the “framing” but the substance of the issue that’s most alarming to Kaus. To delay stem cell or cloning research in the name of having a “moral conversation” does not, so far as I can tell, deprive anyone of rights that they might claim are fundamental to their full and equal participation in our society; the conversation might at times be stupid and ill-informed and knee-deep in superstitious dogma-crap, but it might also be based on sophisticated, sober, respectable moral and intellectual positions. It seems to me, however, that we’re talking there about something completely incomparable to the claim that we need to continue denying living, committed couples an array of legal rights simply because we need to have a “moral conversation” that includes people whose views are universally stupid and ill-informed and knee-deep in superstitious dogma-crap.

The better analogy — as self-rightous and condescending as this may be — would perhaps be to suggest that having a “moral conversation” about gay relationships is like having a “moral conversation” about evolution. That is to say, if you want to have a debate and get your knickers in a twist over something that is incontestably not dangerous to the social fabric or the boundaries of life as we know it, be my fucking guest.

Procedure Masking Substance

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

Tom Maguire objects to my suggestion that objections to the Supreme Court of New Jersey ‘s recent decision from (nominal) supporters of civil unions are, at bottom, substantive rather than procedural:

My personal opinion is that gay marriage or civil unions is fine if enacted by the state legislature but wrong if crammed down by judicial fiat. How would pollsters, or Mr. Lemieux, score that? Surely I am not alone in believing that process counts.

Maguire is, of course, correct that the fact that a majority of New Jersey’s citizens support civil unions goes only to the questions of whether the decision is “countermajoritarian,” and neither here not there in terms of the merits of the opinion. But he doesn’t quote the passage where I actually address his point:

I would be interested in a more robust explanation of why nominal supporters of gay marriage such as Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds oppose these judicial decisions, which are based on a perfectly plausible (although contestable, and opposed by precedent) reading of equal protection clauses. It certainly can’t be a general commitment to judicial deference to the legislatures in cases where the constitutional text is ambiguous–when the Supreme Court deferred to state legislatures in Kelo, for example, Reynolds and Volokh strongly disagreed, arguing that the Supreme Court should adopt a plausible (but contestable, and opposed by precedent) reading of the takings clause that would have the federal courts use a broad conception of “public use” to trump the judgments of elected officials.

The problem is that I don’t see any evidence that, as a general rule, Reynolds or Volokh believe that exercises of judicial review based on ambiguous constitutional provisions represent cramming policy judgments down the throats of the public. (This may not be applicable to Maguire, although the stray references to Kelo I found on his blog suggest that he believes that the federal courts should, to use his purported vision of the democratic process, “cram” a judicially-determined conception of public use “down the throats” of the public against the will of elected officials.) And it’s not just Kelo; Reynolds and Volokh also seem to support more aggressive Supreme Court policing of federal powers, for example. Moreover, given that Reynolds, Volokh and Maguire pre-empitvely oppose any judicial decision expanding marriage benefits irrespective of the text, history and precedents of an individual state’s constitutional order, it’s implausible that this is simply about the fine points of legal doctrine. “Process” matters here only in the banal sense that of course the court’s shouldn’t strike down laws without a constitutional basis, but given that there’s surely at least a plausible argument that the denial of marriage benefits to same-sex couples is inconsistent with broad guarantees of equal protection, that doesn’t do any real work in this case. What’s going on here is that Reynolds et al. place a higher substantive value on the rights of property owners than on the rights of gay people. That’s their privilege, but they should defend that rather than hiding behind banalties about judicial restraint that are clearly intertwined with substantive judgments about the merits of rights claims.

Once they conquer the cab stands, there really will be no way to stop the awful tide of Islamofascism

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

Scott Johnson loses his mind over the Somali cab drivers at Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport, who are serving up a “template for the Islamist imperial project forcing the acceptance of Sharia law by the infidels.”

The whole controversy is remarkably stupid. But because the Great Civilizational War on Islamofacists and Fifth Column Dhimmitudinous Appeasers requires that every local cultural dispute — which might be otherwise resolved in a normal, sane process of dialogue and negotiation — be inflated into the latest sign of the End Times, Johnson and Daniel Pipes and every other right wing Henny Penny in the known world feel obligated to hammer away at the town church bell, drawing the faithful into the streets to vanquish the Muslim hordes.

The Majority Get What it Wants

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

Ann Althouse claims that yesterday’s civil unions ruling by the Supreme Court of New Jersey is an example of “judges who get out in front of what the majority wants.” The problem is that the court was doing what the majority wants. (This is what one may call the Robert Bork fallacy: if I disagree with what the courts are doing, then they must be countermajoritarian.) As with abortion, it was legislators who were behind the public. This doesn’t, in and of itself, make the decision right, but if there’s a problem with what the court did, it’s not that it’s going against the will of a majority of the citizens of New Jersey.

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