Monthly Archives: September 2013

RT @pattonoswalt: You can shut down the government, but you can’t shut down my Twitter fe

Remember Ashleigh Banfield?

She fits became well-known as a reporter for MSNBC, who happened to be in downtown Manhattan on 9/11.

But a few years later, she gave a speech that basically lambasted Bush and the way the news covered (or failed to cover) Bush and the impending wars.  She was demoted and eventually, quietly, let go.

She's clawing her way back — now on CNN.  More like this please:

 

Finally, The DOJ Steps In

Justice Department to sue North Carolina over voting law

By , Published: September 29 | Updated: Monday, September 30, 12:01 AM

The Justice Department will sue North Carolina on Monday over the state’s new voting law, according to a person briefed on the department’s plans, the latest move by the Obama administration to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that officials have said threatens the voting rights of minorities.

The suit, to be announced at a Washington news conference, follows the department’sdecision last month to sue Texas over that state’s new voter-identification measure. And it comes after a recent warning from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that the administration “will not hesitate to take appropriately aggressive action against any jurisdiction that attempts to hinder access to the franchise.”

Under the new law, North Carolina residents are required to show a photo ID at polling places. The law was signed by the state’s Republican governor last month, andcivil right groups moved quickly to challenge it. They said that the law’s requirements will make it harder to vote and that racial minorities will be disproportionately affected because they are less likely to have the forms of photo ID required by the law. In their suit, the Advancement Project and the North Carolina NAACP also argued that voter fraud is not a significant problem in the state.

Gov. Pat McCrory said the law will protect the integrity of the election process. He noted that voters will not be required to present a photo ID until the 2016 elections and insisted that the law was necessary to ensure that “no one’s vote is disenfranchised by a fraudulent ballot.”

The high court’s June ruling invalidated a key section of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that had required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to receive approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before they could make such changes to their voting laws. But the Justice Department is expected to rely on another section of the act to bring its suit against North Carolina, just as it did in the Texas case.

Justice will challenge four provisions of North Carolina’s voting law, according to the person briefed on the plans. They include the strict voter-ID requirements, which critics say do not provide adequate protection for voters who lack the required ID. The suit will also challenge the elimination of the first seven days of early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration during the early-voting period and the prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast by voters in their home county but outside their home voting precinct.

The department will also ask that North Carolina again be required to get clearance in advance of any changes to its voting laws.

White Mans’ Paradise Ruined By Gubmint Intervention

Sigh.  It's so hard to be a bigot these days:

BISMARK, N.D. – An order giving white supremacist Craig Cobb five days to come up with a plan for installing running water and a sewer outlet into his home in Leith expired Monday and it’s possible the house could be declared uninhabitable.

The order was written by the Custer District Health Unit’s environmental health practitioner Aaron Johnson, who said Cobb owns two other structures in town that possibly will be removed next month.

Johnson said Cobb was given time to show the health unit that he will have potable water in his home and a way to remove it to a sewer outlet and since he hasn’t, the home could be declared uninhabitable.

Cobb, a hate crimes fugitive, has said he buys bottled water from Wal-Mart for washing and Johnson said he believes he may be using an old outhouse on his property.

Johnson said he can issue an order declaring the home uninhabitable, or it's possible the matter could wind up in court, depending on advice from the unit's attorney.

"I don't know how the situation will progress, but the notice has expired and there is no extension," Johnson said.

Because of other complaints, Custer District started looking at vacant and nuisance properties in Leith before Cobb announced his plans to take over the community with other white supremacists and run the town's government.

The town was the scene of a protest Sunday, when some 350 people showed up to rally in support of Leith on the same day the commander of a national pro-white organization held a town hall meeting there.

Besides Cobb's home, Johnson said an abandoned creamery adjacent to Cobb's property, owned by Cobb, and a small house that Cobb is apparently selling to a Wisconsin man are in the process of being condemned.

Johnson said nine other Leith properties — some structures and some piles of junked cars and wood — are under similar abatement orders and the city plans to move toward removing all of them in mid-October.

Cobb did not respond for this story.

What Obamacare Will Cost You

Okay, it's arrived (despite Ted Cruz's embarrassing attempt to kill it).

Obamacare is here.

For most of us who are employed, it'll probably mean some kind of change in our health coverage.  But of course, Obamacare wasn't meant for people who already had coverage; it was meant for those who didn't.  And when we are all covered, that works to everyone's benefit.

So, for those without coverage, you have to go to your state exchange and see what your state offers.

But 36 states (including North Carolina) have opted to go with the federal exchange.  And now we have the numbers for the federal exchange.  The cost of a healthcare plan under the federal exchange depends on, well, your age and where you live, as well as what plan you choose.  

And it's pretty good:

Table 1: Premiums and Qualified Health Plan Choices, 36 States (Weighted average across entire state)

 

State

 

Average Number of QHPs

27-Year-Old, Before Tax Credits

27-Year-Old with an Income of $25,000

Family of Four with an Income of $50,000

Lowest Bronze

Lowest Silver

Lowest Gold

Lowest Catastrophic

Second Lowest Silver Before Tax Credit

Second Lowest Silver After Tax Credit

Lowest Bronze After Tax Credit

Second Lowest Silver Before Tax Credit

Second Lowest Silver After Tax Credit

Lowest Bronze After Tax Credit

AK

34

$254

$312

$401

$236

$312

$107

$48

$1,131

$205

$0

AL

7

$162

$200

$248

$138

$209

$145

$98

$757

$282

$112

AR

28

$181

$231

$263

$135

$241

$145

$85

$873

$282

$64

AZ

106

$141

$164

$187

$107

$166

$145

$120

$600

$282

$192

DE

19

$203

$234

$282

$137

$237

$145

$111

$859

$282

$158

FL

102

$169

$200

$229

$132

$218

$145

$96

$789

$282

$104

GA

50

$179

$208

$242

$142

$221

$145

$103

$800

$282

$132

IA

39

$139

$175

$203

$95

$189

$145

$96

$683

$282

$103

ID

42

$150

$182

$211

$134

$188

$145

$107

$680

$282

$144

IL

58

$134

$180

$210

$134

$188

$145

$90

$682

$282

$84

IN

34

$200

$258

$332

$168

$265

$145

$80

$961

$282

$46

KS

37

$130

$171

$192

$87

$171

$145

$104

$619

$282

$133

LA

40

$175

$235

$253

$142

$249

$145

$71

$902

$282

$15

ME

20

$216

$255

$336

$182

$265

$145

$96

$961

$282

$104

MI

43

$146

$178

$218

$118

$202

$145

$89

$731

$282

$80

MO

17

$162

$211

$242

$110

$220

$145

$87

$798

$282

$72

MS

22

$225

$265

$321

N/A

$295

$145

$75

$1,069

$282

$28

MT

26

$165

$204

$222

$149

$208

$145

$102

$753

$282

$126

NC

22

$186

$237

$283

$123

$243

$145

$88

$880

$282

$74

ND

24

$185

$230

$259

$142

$232

$145

$98

$841

$282

$111

NE

40

$159

$196

$232

$122

$206

$145

$98

$744

$282

$113

NH

12

$186

$236

$281

$157

$237

$145

$94

$859

$282

$96

NJ

29

$219

$253

$303

$186

$260

$145

$103

$943

$282

$131

NM

52

$143

$181

$204

$120

$186

$145

$102

$672

$282

$128

OH

46

$177

$200

$243

$131

$212

$145

$110

$768

$282

$156

OK

53

$114

$169

$203

$105

$175

$145

$84

$634

$282

$63

PA

56

$151

$170

$205

$125

$187

$145

$109

$675

$282

$152

SC

26

$176

$219

$259

$146

$223

$145

$97

$809

$282

$109

SD

32

$196

$225

$272

$169

$235

$145

$106

$852

$282

$141

TN

59

$119

$155

$205

N/A

$161

$145

$103

$584

$282

$128

TX

54

$139

$189

$225

$139

$201

$145

$83

$727

$282

$57

UT

82

$153

$183

$212

$116

$203

$145

$95

$656

$282

$122

VA

47

$156

$213

$253

$118

$221

$145

$80

$799

$282

$48

WI

97

$189

$227

$280

$150

$238

$145

$96

$861

$282

$106

WV

12

$185

$218

$266

$169

$218

$145

$112

$789

$282

$161

WY

16

$286

$324

$365

$259

$342

$145

$90

$1,237

$282

$81

Average,

36 States

53

$163

$203

$240

$129

$214

$145

$93

$774

$282

$95

NOTE: Premiums shown above are a weighted average of the lowest cost plans in each rating area within a state. Weights are derived from county-level population under the age of 65, projected by the Census Bureau. The average across all 36 states is based on the number of uninsured eligible for the Marketplaces.

So, say you're 27 years old, making $25,000 a year, and live in North Carolina (under 27, you can remain on your parents' plan, thanks to Obamacare).  The lowest plan (the Bronze Plan) will cost you $186 per month, which isn't too bad.  When you factor in the tax credit you get, it will only be $88 per month.

Not bad.

Ted Talks

He talked throughout the night and is still going as of 10:00 AM:

WASHINGTON — Condemned from all sides, Sen. Ted Cruz launched a talkathon Tuesday intended to cripple Obamacare but aimed — inconveniently — at a bill that would deliver exactly what he asked for.

Cruz came to the Senate floor destined to lose, armed with a thick three-ring binder of talking points, black athletic shoes, and a willingness to shrug off the rolled eyes of colleagues who view his tactics as grandstanding.

“I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand,” Cruz declared to a near-empty Senate chamber at 2:41 p.m.

It was more theater than filibuster, though Cruz used that term to describe his effort. Senate Democrats had already scheduled a Wednesday morning vote clearing the way to begin debate on a House budget bill.

Even if Cruz’s voice, feet and bladder could hold out that long, he would have lost control of the floor at that point no matter what.

The marathon was sure to please tea partiers itching for confrontation. It cemented Cruz’s credentials as a newcomer willing to take extraordinary steps, even in a quixotic fight. But most of his GOP colleagues refused to follow him into a fight they feared could lead to a government shutdown for which voters would blame their side.

Sigh.  When will grown-ups return to Congress?

Love C-Span's caption here:

Quazxojtewlvqh5vqzxm

UPDATE: He ends at Noon EST.

Supposed to be on Rush at 1 pm.  Ah, I see.

Emmy Winners

I didn't see the Emmys, and for a change, I actually wanted to.  I thought the match-ups were amazing, and it is really interesting to see how TV has changed in just two years.  A lot of people are watching the shows by streaming them — some nominated shows — like House of Cards or this season's Arrested Development could only be seen via streaming (Netflix).

Then, of course, you had stellar shows and performances.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

(1)  Breaking Bad wins best drama series.  Well, it had to, right?  So many people are calling it the best series ever made for television, and while its first few seasons didn't warrent that praise, it certainly has an overall claim to the title.  Which means it should have one Emmy for Best Series under its belt.  I don't think this last season is its best season (that would be season four), so this is like a Lifetime Acheivement Award.  But well-deserved in some VERY heavy competition: Downton Abbey, PBS; Homeland, Showtime; Game of Thrones, HBO; House of Cards, Netflix; Mad Men, AMC.  All classics.

(2)  Last decade's comedies didn't do so well.  Nothing for Arrested Development's revival season.  Nothing for The Office.  One writing award for 30 Rock.  All those shows on regular network TV, all taking a bow.  

(3)  Bob  Even though it wasn't broadcast on the regular Emmys, how cool is it that Bob Newhart won his first Emmy?  Although not trained as an actor, his shows were staples for many years, and I love his acting style.

(4)  Series vs Mini-series: This needs to be explained to me.  Why are Jessica Lange and Laura Linney (Ameican Horror Story and The Big C) in mini-series, while Claire Danes is in a series (Homeland)?  What's the difference  - like, two episodes?

(5)  People I'm glad they won:

Jeff Daniels for Best Actor in a Drama Series - Talk about tough competition!   Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey or Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad or Jon Hamm, Mad Men or Damian Lewis, Homeland or Kevin Spacey, House of Cards?  Holy crap!  Daniels must be walking on air right now.  However, he was indeed very good and deserving.  So I won't call it a "surprise".

Michael Douglas for Lead Actor in a Miniseries - Playing Liberace was such a departure for him and he really pulled it off in a way that made me uncomfortable.  Damon was good and deserving of the nomination, but Douglas had it all the way.

Bobby Carnivale for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series - Like Jeff Daniels, this was a tough bracket.  I've never seen Broadway Empire, but I've seen Carnivale, and he's an amazing actor.  So I'm not surprised he won, even though I feel bad for his Breaking Bad competition Jonathan Banks and Aaron Paul, as well as for Jim Carter, Downton Abbey, my man Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones, and Mandy Patinkin, Homeland.

At least Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad got a win for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.  This was her best season, I thought.  Also, yay for Claire Danes of Homeland for Best Actress in a Drama Series.  It's a great role and she played it even better in Season Two.

Pleased about Louis C.K.: Oh My God for Best Variety Special (although there's not much "variety" in comedy specials).

And finally, I knew Merrit Weaver (Best Supporting Actress for a Comedy Series, Nurse Jackie) would go places.  She had a very very small part as Matt's assistant in the old Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but she had a way about her that — well — made me notice her and think she would go places.  She had a kind of unforced subtlety and complete (or perhaps convincing) unawareness that she is on camera which I found interesting.  I never knew what happened to her after Sunset Strip closed up after one season.  Now I do.  So yay for her.

Who’s Right?

This is on the cusp of going viral, so weigh in.

Backstory: GTA V (that's "Grand Theft Auto V") was released, and a lot of people had pre-ordered it from places like Gamestop.  At midnight of the release which was two days ago, people lined up at Gamestop (and other places) to get their reserved copy.

So this one guy was asked to show his ID that he was over 18 (because the game is rated M for "Mature").  In the video, he's pretty clearly over 18.  He doesn't have his ID, but he shows his business card.  The women behind the counter and Gamestop gives him a hard time, but apparently lets him have the game.  

He's not happy with the way he is treated.  He leaves the store, comes back and asks for the woman's name.  She goads the other customers into making fun of him.

At least that's how it looks like to me.  You be the judge:

 

Even though the YouTube video talks about "nerd rage" (poking fun at the customer), I would say that the comments on YouTube, on Gamestop's Facebook site, and other places are about 90% against the female Gamestop employee.

Most of the comments say something like: "Sometimes you have to deal with difficult people in customer service.  That's part of the job.  Being rude to them and mocking them, however, is not the proper way to respond.  This woman should be fired."

Gamestop has tweeted that it is investigating the matter.

NOTE: There is a comment at the YouTube site, which may or may not be true, saying that the woman was fin fact ired:

I work for GS in the LA area. I am happy to report to all of you that this bitch has been fired as of today. She was a cunt to work for, and trust me when I say that we are all happy that she is gone. Also, she has done worse than just this. Just last year she was under investigation for fudging the numbers in her books because money and games were coming up missing. She talked her way out of it and pegged it on an innocent girl who just killed herself this past May. Burn in hell Chrys.

Fictitious Journalist Tweets Are Awesome

Chickenhawks

Yes, this is annoying.

When Obama was making noises about bombing Syria, Republicans (and some Democrats) chastized him as being reckless.

Now, thanks to Russia, it looks like we’re going to get the chemical weapons away from Assad, and we don’t have to bomb Syria.

And those same Republicans are now criticizing Obama.  John?

It’s obvious that these people have no moral, or even political center. If Obama is for something, they are against it. That’s it.

Common Sense Needs To Enter The Gun Debate

People need to start asking some serious questions here:

The shooting Monday at Washington’s Navy Yard that killed at least a dozen people occurred not only at a secure military installation but in a very secure building.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the shooting took place in Building 197, the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, a workplace for about 3,000 people, both military and civilian.

NAVSEA, as it’s called in the military, is the largest of the Navy’s five system commands, with an annual budget of nearly $30 billion. It’s responsible for designing, building, buying and maintaining the Navy’s ships, submarines and combat systems.

And it’s home to lots of classified information and shrouded in tight security. To access the building, employees must pass through multiple checkpoints.

Sam LaGrone, news editor at the U.S. Naval Institute and a frequent visitor to the Navy Yard, described the building as a “rabbit warren.”

Most people who work for NAVSEA, he said, enter the Navy Yard through the Isaac Hull Gate off of M Street in Southeast Washington, not far from Nationals Park.

Civilian and armed Navy police guard the entrance and do a 100 percent ID check, LaGrone said. Visitors without military credentials require a sponsor to escort you onto base.

Getting on the base, though, does not mean you can get into Building 197, said Chris Cavas, a reporter with Defense News who makes frequent trips to the Navy Yard.

“A shooting on the base would be one thing, but the idea that this would be inside NAVSEA is kind of amazing because it’s not an easy building to access,” he said.

Since much of the work there is classified, people who work in the building would notice a stranger wandering around unescorted, Cavas said. “You’re either known or you’re watched,” he explained.

What’s worse? That in spite of the hundreds of billions thrown at national security infrastructure, that some random person can kill a dozen people in one of the supposedly most secure military installations in the country?

Or that assault rifles are such dangerous weapons that a killer carrying them can slip in to commit atrocities almost anywhere?

Either way, wouldn’t the logical choice be to spend fewer billions on what is obviously security theater, and a lot more simple time and energy on commonsense gun control to make it much harder to acquire assault weapons?

Ok. NOW I Get Newsroom Season Two

Oh, Aaron.  You got me.

Here I was thinking you were writing a terrible season about some silly journalism scandal while avoiding the relationships of the charactors in HBO's The Newsroom, and it turns out that the silly journalism scandal was a metaphor for how the charactors fail to connect.

Well, needless to say, the finale of Season Two of The Newsroom came as a bit of a surprise.

It was the second part of a two-part episode — both parts taking place on Election Night 2012.  While this kept everybody busy, the actual election held no suspense at all.  Everyone (except Romney) knew that Obama would be re-elected.  Everyone knew Republicans would hold the House and Democrats would hold the Senate.  The suspense in the episode came from Jerry Dantana's pending lawsuit, to be filed in court the next morning, and thereby publically expose all the supposed unprofessionalism of ACN's NewsNight staff.

To stave off the lawsuit's damage, as well as to give credibility back to the network that reported falsely that the U.S military used sarin gas in a rescue operation, Charlie, Will and Mackenzie are trying to convince ACN owner Liona (Jane Fonda) to accept their resignations.  She won't, in part because she's high as a kite, and in part because — who would have thunk it — she actually loves NewsNight.

I of course, harken back to my last review, in which I chastized the whole premise.  Like the character of Don Keefer, I have to ask: what exactly did NewsNight do wrong?  They had a story that the U.S. military used sarin gas.  They got seven different sources.  But the clincher — the retired lieutenant colonial who admitted using it — that tape was doctored by Jerry Dantana, who was immediately fired.  And now he's suing for wrongful termination?  And everyone is worried about what the lawsuit will expose?  Does that even make sense?

It certainly doesn't to Don, who is much more likeable this season, and who does another wonderful rant at how stupid things have become because of the ease of which idiots can sue.  Shower cap warnings that say "To be used on one head" or warnings on irons which say "Do not iron clothes while wearing them".  He wonders how people who generate these lawsuits aren't laughed out of court.  Just like Jerry Dantana's.

Finally, by the end of the episode, everyone seems to have the same epiphany.  Charlie withdraws is resignation (which doesn't matter because even Reese thinks the lawsuit should be fought).

And even though Mackenzie still thinks she is to blame for the whole Genoa debacle (she was, after all, executive producer), Will says out loud, "She did everything right except for what she did wrong."

Pause.

What he just said causes him to stop in his tracks.

She did everything right except for what she did wrong.  So why should she be punished?

Will realizes that applies not only to Genoa, but to Mackenzie's cheating — which he has not been able to forgive her, even six years later.  He's been torturing her, and yes, she did wrong — but she did everything right about what she did wrong.

The episode ends up with the sweetest, most awkward, marriage proposal that only Aaron Sorkin could write, pulled off wonderfully by Jeff Daniels.  She says yes, of course.

And finally, Sloan Sabbith overcomes her unnecessary awkwardness around men.  Her dilemna for the evening was that she donated a signed copy of her academic book for Sandy relief, a dry tome about the post-war economic recovery in Germany.  The book sold at auction for $1,000, which surprised Sloan, in part because she never signed it.  She gets Neil to track down who bought it, but all he discovers is that someone used names of characters from movies like The Sweet Smell of Success and The Secret Garden to drive up bids for Ms. Sabbith’s boring economics book – ostensibly to save her from the embarrassment of no one wanting to buy it.

Cut to Sloan in Don Keefer’s office a while later, when she realizes that he’s got a Sweet Smell poster on his wall… and this is when Sloan gets awesome. Sloan marches into the control room, signs the book she found in Keefer’s possession, kisses him full on the mouth in front of everyone, slaps the book against his chest and sashays on outta there with a contented smile on her lips. It. Is. Fantastic. When Don recovers, he calls out, “What I have can’t be taught!” but Mac hushes him up and demands that everyone get back to work. 

 

This really was Sloan and Don's season.

So you have Will and Mackenzie, Sloan and Don.  And it works.  Jim has his long-distance Skype relationship with Hallie, but he also had a chance run-in with Lisa, his ex-girlfriend and Maggie's roommate.  He learns that Lisa and Maggie haven't talked for over a year, despite being roommates, and he's concerned about Maggie's hair.  If she got a shitty haircut, that's one thing.  But if she cut off her own hair — well, that's the behavior of someone experiencing trauma.  Lisa confirms that Maggie's hair was on the bathroom floor lo those many months ago.  Jim and Lisa take steps to help Maggie heal, if only by assuring her that she is brave, rather than a brave wannabe.

There is a theme running through all the events of the season closer, and Charlie hits on it when he has his change of heart about his resignation.  Using the assertion of popular author Jedidiah Purdy and his book, “For Common Things”, Charlie Skinner made the case that ACN’s principled execs were committing noble professional suicide when it wasn’t necessary.  Charlie says: “He (Purdy) talks about cynical times. People having terminal irony with a steady refusal to hope and care openly. Sound like us?” 

And it's at that point in the episode where Will finds Mackenzie, Sloan finds Don, Jim and Lisa being to address the pained Maggie, and a ray of light breaks through what has been a rather bleak newsroom.  

"Hope and care openly."  That's the note that Season Two left us on.  And it wasn't a bad one at all.

RT @nycsouthpaw: Not enough guns on that military base, apparently.

Shooters in Washington Navy Yard

Terrible unfolding of events.

First it was a lone gunman, and nobody wounded.

WaPo is now saying it is three gunman and several are dead….

 

Hmmm… sounds like bad info.  Nobody else is saying more than one shooter.

And reporting from police scanners?  Stoopid.

UPDATE at 11:48 a.m. - Still much confusion.  Latest is that there is one shooter, now dead.  Although I've seen two shooters, both dead.  And I've seen 4 dead victims, but also 4 non-dead victims.

So who knows?

UPDATE at 12:35 pm - Apparently one shooter.  Now it gets political.  Pro-gun people enthusiastically point out that the Washington Navy Yard is a gun-free zone.  (A) I don't know if that's true and (B) I don't know if that makes any difference.  The assumption is that if it is NOT a gun-free zone, everyone is packing and the shooter didn't have the element of surprise?

UPDATE at 2:50pm – Apparently 12 dead.  Including the shooter.  Oy.  Possible other shooters, some say.

Some Ig Noble Prize Winners

MEDICINE PRIZE: Masateru Uchiyama [JAPAN], Xiangyuan Jin [CHINA, JAPAN], Qi Zhang [JAPAN], Toshihito Hirai [JAPAN], Atsushi Amano [JAPAN], Hisashi Bashuda [JAPAN] and Masanori Niimi [JAPAN, UK], for assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice.

REFERENCE: "Auditory stimulation of opera music induced prolongation of murine cardiac allograft survival and maintained generation of regulatory CD4+CD25+ cells," Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda and Masanori Niimi, Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, vol. 7, no. 26, epub. March 23, 2012.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Masanori Niimi

 

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Laurent Bègue [FRANCE], Brad Bushman [USA, UK, the NETHERLANDS, POLAND], Oulmann Zerhouni [FRANCE], Baptiste Subra [FRANCE], and Medhi Ourabah [FRANCE], for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.

REFERENCE: "'Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder': People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive," Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, epub May 15, 2012.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Brad Bushman, Laurent Bègue, Medhi Ourabah

 

JOINT PRIZE IN BIOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY: Marie Dacke [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA], Emily Baird [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], Marcus Byrne [SOUTH AFRICA, UK], Clarke Scholtz [SOUTH AFRICA], and Eric Warrant [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.

REFERENCE: "Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation," Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke H. Scholtz, Eric J. Warrant, Current Biology, epub January 24, 2013. The authors, at Lund University, Sweden, the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the University of Pretoria

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Eric Warrant

 

SAFETY ENGINEERING PRIZE: The late Gustano Pizzo [USA], for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane's specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival. US Patent #3811643, Gustano A. Pizzo, "anti hijacking system for aircraft", May 21, 1972.

 

PHYSICS PRIZE: Alberto Minetti [ITALY, UK, DENMARK, SWITZERLAND], Yuri Ivanenko [ITALY, RUSSIA, FRANCE], Germana Cappellini [ITALY], Nadia Dominici [ITALY, SWITZERLAND], and Francesco Lacquaniti [ITALY], for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon.

REFERENCE: "Humans Running in Place on Water at Simulated Reduced Gravity," Alberto E. Minetti, Yuri P. Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, Francesco Lacquaniti, PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, 2012, e37300.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Alberto Minetti and Yuri Ivanenko

 

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Shinsuke Imai [JAPAN], Nobuaki Tsuge [JAPAN], Muneaki Tomotake [JAPAN], Yoshiaki Nagatome [JAPAN], Toshiyuki Nagata [JAPAN, GERMANY], and Hidehiko Kumgai [JAPAN], for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realized.

REFERENCE: "Plant Biochemistry: An Onion Enzyme that Makes the Eyes Water," S. Imai, N. Tsuge, M. Tomotake, Y. Nagatome, H. Sawada, T. Nagata and H. Kumagai, Nature, vol. 419, no. 6908, October 2002, p. 685.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: All six co-authors.

 

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE: Brian Crandall [USA] and Peter Stahl [CANADA, USA], for parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.

REFERENCE: "Human Digestive Effects on a Micromammalian Skeleton," Peter W. Stahl and Brian D. Crandall, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 22, November 1995, pp. 789–97.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Brian Crandall

 

PEACE PRIZE: Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

 

PROBABILITY PRIZE: Bert Tolkamp [UK, the NETHERLANDS], Marie Haskell [UK], Fritha Langford [UK, CANADA], David Roberts [UK], and Colin Morgan [UK], for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.

REFERENCE: "Are Cows More Likely to Lie Down the Longer They Stand?" Bert J. Tolkamp, Marie J. Haskell, Fritha M. Langford, David J. Roberts, Colin A. Morgan, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 124, nos. 1-2, 2010, pp. 1–10.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Bert Tolkamp

 

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, for the medical techniques described in their report "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam" — techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck. [THAILAND]

REFERENCE: "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam," by Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, American Journal of Surgery, 1983, no. 146, pp. 376-382.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Nobel laureate Eric Maskin read aloud the acceptance speech sent by the winners.

– See more at: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#sthash.7rkilh9k.dpuf

The full list of winners for 2013 is here.

Science Again Confirms What We Already Know: Gun Edition

The largest study of gun violence in the United States, released Thursday afternoon, confirms a point that should be obvious: widespread American gun ownership is fueling America’s gun violence epidemic.

The study, by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University and two coauthors, has been peer-reviewed and is forthcoming in the American Journal of Public Health. Siegel and his colleagues compiled data on firearm homicides from all 50 states from 1981-2010, the longest stretch of time ever studied in this fashion, and set about seeing whether they could find any relationship between changes in gun ownership and murder using guns over time.

Since we know that violent crime rates overall declined during that period of time, the authors used something called “fixed effect regression” to account for any national trend other than changes in gun ownership. They also employed the largest-ever number of statistical controls for other variables in this kind of gun study: “age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, income inequality, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, hate crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted nonfirearm homicide rate, incarceration rate,and suicide rate” were all accounted for.

No good data on national rates of gun ownership exist (partly because of the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress), so the authors used the percentage of suicides that involve a firearm (FS/S) as a proxy. The theory, backed up by a wealth of data, is that the more guns there are any in any one place, the higher the percentage of people who commit suicide with guns as opposed to other mechanisms will be.

With all this preliminary work in hand, the authors ran a series of regressions to see what effect the overall national decline in firearm ownership from 1981 to 2010 had on gun homicides. The result was staggering: “for each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership,” Siegel et al. found, “firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9″ percent. A one standard deviation change in firearm ownership shifted gun murders by a staggering 12.9 percent.

To put this in perspective, take the state of Mississippi. “All other factors being equal,” the authors write, “our model would predict that if the FS/S in Mississippi were 57.7% (the average for all states) instead of 76.8% (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17% lower.” Since 475 people were murdered with a gun in Mississippi in 2010, that drop in gun ownership would translate to 80 lives saved in that year alone.

Of course, the authors don’t find that rates of gun ownership explain all of America’s gun violence epidemic: race, economic equality and generally violent areas all contribute to an area’s propensity for gun deaths, suggesting that broader social inequality, not gun ownership alone, contributes to the gun violence epidemic. Nevertheless, the fact that gun ownership mattered even when race and poverty were accounted for suggests that we can’t avoid talking about America’s fascination with guns when debating what to do about the roughly 11,000 Americans who are yearly murdered by gunfire.

Voyager 1 Leaves Solar System

I guess it's a little difficult to determine when you're inside the solar system and when you've crossed out of it, but Voyager One is officially out of it, as of August 25, 2012, although we just figgered that out today.  It's the first man-made object to leave the solar system.  Ever.

UPDATE:  What it sounds like out there….

 

Those Who Don’t Laugh At The Past Are Forced To Repeat It

So this happened in 1919:

Panorama of the Molasses Disaster sitePanorama of the Molasses Disaster site

On January 15th, 1919, in what was probably the most bizarre disaster in United States' history, a storage tank burst on Boston's waterfront releasing two million gallons of molasses in a 15 ft-high, 160 ft-wide wave that raced through the city's north end at 35mph destroying everything it touched.

And then this week, this happened:

Hawaii spill

Here’s What’s Wrong With The Newsroom Season Two

Aaron?  You there?  Did you stumble on this website because you googled "what's wrong with the newsroom season two"?  You did, didn't you?  That's why you're here, right?

Okay, I'll cut to the chase.

I'm fine what you did with the Jim-Maggie-Don thing.  That needed doing.  And I like Don's growth.  He's my favorite charactor now.  And I know I'm not alone in that.

I'm fine that you turned down the whole Will-Mac thing.  Yes, he was hurt.  Yes, he can't forgive her.  We got that.

Here's what's wrong with Season Two, Aaron.

Genoa.

The Season Two finale airs this coming weekend.  And we're supposed to believe that somebody has to pay for Genoa?  That heads must roll?

There is a great scene at the beginning of Season Two Episode 7.  It's Don Keefer, in the room of lawyers.  He asks repeatedly, "What am I missing?  Why am in a room with lawyers?  Why are there lawyers?  Why lawyers?"

He's acting with incredulity.  ACN is being sued for wrongful termination by Dan Tanner, the Washington bureau chief who replaced Jim, and who pushed the Genoa story.

Oh yeah, and he doctored the interview.  He spliced it to make it look like a 3-star general admitted that the U.S. used chemical weapons.

I'm with Don on this.  Whatever else may have happened, it is certainly not the fault of Mac or Will or Charlie or anybody that the story aired.  Dan Tanner made a fake interview tape.  Others lied to Charlie.

Is it unfortunate that Will McAvoy now has a credibility problem?  Sure.  Does ACN need to fix that?  Sure.

But I don't buy that Will, Mackenzie, and Charlie all have to resign.  And this falling all over themselves to do the "right thing" — well, it seems wrong.

Aaron, in every show you've written, you write about people who are good at what they do.  The Newsroom is no different.  They are good at what they do.  Maybe Genoa taught them to be less smug about how right they are, and that's fine.  But I don't think it is the crisis that the entire season has made it out to be.  Because no matter what, they all are pretty good at what they do.  Very good, I would say.

Too Discouraged To Blog

There's this…

1101130923_600 (1)

which is totally true.    The headlines this week, buried in the back of your favorite newsite, said:

Income Disparity Between Richest 1% And Rest Of US Biggest Since ’20s

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the Roaring ’20s.

The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

One of them, Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez, said the incomes of the richest Americans surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital gains taxes that took effect in January.

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

And although a Democrat is president and GOP popularity is at its lowest, it makes no difference, since a minority of Republicans can gum up the works so badly that nothing gets done (including Wall Street reform).

Meanwhile, while progressives care about many issues, those on the right tend to be one-issue voters who act with a passion.  That explains how this could happen:

WASHINGTON — The first recall election in Colorado's history on Tuesday marked a stunning victory for the National Rifle Association and gun rights activists, with the ouster of two Democrats — Senate President John Morse (Colorado Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo). The two lawmakers were the target of separate recall fights over their support for stricter gun laws earlier this year.

"The highest rank in a democracy is citizen, not senate president," Morse said in his concession speech, as his supporters solemnly watched, some shedding tears.

What originally began as local political fallout over the Democratic-controlled legislature's comprehensive gun control package quickly escalated into a national referendum on gun policy. Morse and Giron both voted in favor of the legislation,signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in March, which requires background checks for all firearm purchases and bans ammunition magazines over 15 rounds.

Gun rights activists initially sought to recall four Democrats they perceived as vulnerable, but only collected the required signatures to challenge Morse and Giron.

That's right.  Some lawmakers backed a bill for stricter gun laws, and for that, they lost in a recall.  Take note — they didn't lose in the normal course of the election cycle.  They were recalled.

And this happened in Colorado… fourteen months after the shooting in Aurora which killed 12 and left 70 injured.

It's frustrating.

RT @MattBinder: OK. George Zimmerman did threaten to shoot his wife. But what about all the black on black instances of domestic abuse!?! -…

Sex Education For Kindergarteners

Whaat????  OUTRAGE!!!   NEVER!!!  KERFUFFLE!!!!!

Wait… maybe I should read up on the facts….

CPS [Chicago Public Schools] insists the curriculum will use language children understand and focus on topics like bullying, correct names for external body parts and the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.

“As you identify body parts, you talk about should you be touched here or not.,” said Stephanie Whyte, the CPS Chief Health Officer. “And if someone touches you, and it’s uncomfortable, you should tell a trusted adult.”

Oh.  Ok.  I should have noticed the headline which reads:

CPS Mandates Sexual, Health Education For Kindergarten

Well, I'm sure the Christian right wing news is reporting this in a sane, honest and responsible manner:

Chicago Public Schools Mandate Sex Ed Classes for Kindergarten Students

They are much, much too young to even be thinking about sex and sexual acts at their age are the worst form of pedophilia, but Chicago public schools think little boys and girls in kindergarten are ready for sex ed classes

Not to quibble, Lifenews.com, but kindergarteners performing sex acts isn't technically pedophilia.  That's when an adult is involved.

And also, I'm not aware of any sex classes — at any age — where the students perform sex acts.

But you know, you gotta crank up the outrage machine.  Who cares about being, you know, honest?

Let's keep reading:

But parents are already up in arms about not only how appropriate the classes are but whether they distract from real education.

Oh, well, sure.  Wouldn't want this "fake" education to get in the way of….

“The new policy calls for 300 minutes of instruction or about 30 minutes a month,” the report says.

30 minutes a month?

We're taking 30 minutes a month to tell kids what their genitalia is called, and how they shouldn't whip it out, etc. and to be tolerant of each other…. and this is a problem?

OUTRAGE!!!   NEVER!!!  KERFUFFLE!!!!!

BONUS KERFUFFLE:  The socialist Nobama is in favor of the program.

Pull Up A Chair, NOM. I Have Some News.

From an email from the National Organization for Marriage:

How many generations of children will be sacrificed to the gods of the gay lobby who demand the redefinition of marriage as an idol to their political movement? How long will children be told that men and women are not unique, that children don't need a mom and a dad, and that there's no special connection between marriage and child birth and rearing — it's just a sperm and egg that can be carried by anyone; any two people will do. Oh, and there's no need to limit parentage to just two people. If adults want to form a plural relationship and obtain rights to a child, who's to say they shouldn't if that makes them happy.

Ok.  Let's unpack that.

How many generations of children will be sacrificed to the gods of the gay lobby who demand the redefinition of marriage as an idol to their political movement? 

I'm not sure what that really means.  For example, I don't know what a "gay lobby" looks like (and least in a non-theater sense).  But I know what other words mean, and the answer to this question is zero.  Zero generations of children will be sacrificed to…. well, to anything.

How long will children be told that men and women are not unique…

Well, they have distinguishing qualities, but that just because they are different doesn't mean they both can't be parents.

…that children don't need a mom and a dad…

Yyeaah.  This is the part that got my attention.  Guess what, NOM?  Children don't need a mom and a dad.  How do we know this?  There are millions of children who don't have one or the other.  It's not only that way now; it's been that way throughout history.  I was one of those children.  So was our president.

…and that there's no special connection between marriage and child birth and rearing…

Well, there IS a connection between marriage and childbirth.  There's also a connection between marriage and cohabitation.  But it is not a necessary connection.

it's just a sperm and egg that can be carried by anyone; any two people will do.

Well, no.  See, here's where you mess up.  You think that respective owners of the sperm and the egg are necessarily the best parents by virtue of being the owners of the sperm and the egg.  But the sperm itself does not exude parental skills on its owner.  Neither does the egg.  There's simply no connection.  Put another way, a biological mother and biological father can be terrible parents to their biological offspring.  

I'm not saying "any two people will do".  I'm saying that, while the male and female biological parents usually have a vested interest in being good parents to their generated offspring, it's not a biological rule that they MUST be.  And the world is full of excellent adoptive parents (some oppo-sex, some same sex) which disproves the whole "sperm and egg" theory.

Oh, and there's no need to limit parentage to just two people. If adults want to form a plural relationship and obtain rights to a child, who's to say they shouldn't if that makes them happy.

I'm not sure how your mind works, but it is pretty creepy. "Rights to a child"?  Who is talking about children like they are chattel?

I don't think that's anyone's position.  I think the concern is what is best for the child.  And while study after study shows that two parents are better than one (all other things being equal), study after study shows that the sexual orientation of the parents does not cause any deteriment to the health and well-being of the child, physically or emotionally.  

NOM's fanciful example isn't an issue.  I'm not even sure what it means.

These people are dinosaurs.

Oh, Who Cares?

I've been paying close attention to the debate over Syria, and how the United States should respond to the revelation that Assad used chemical weapons to kill over 1,500 of his people, including hundreds of children. 

And here's what I've figured out:

(1)  We should bomb in retaliation because this is a clear violation of the Geneva convention and it crosses a line that only Hitler and Saddam have crossed.

(2)  We should bomb in retaliation if only to establish our moral outrage and this immoral act.

(3)  We should bomb in retaliation because to do nothing would show Assad that he can get away with it, and he will continue to do it on his own people and maybe even us in the western world.  If we are to remain a world leader, we must act like one.

(4)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because we're not even sure it happened.  Let the UN inspectors finish their investigation.

(5)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because 100,000 Syrian citizens have been killed since the outbreak of civil war there in March 2011… and we're supposed to say that Assad crossed a "moral line" when he suddenly uses chemical weapons to kill several hundred?

(6)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because it'll just get Assad mad and you know, 9/11.

(7)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because it's only symbolic.  If isn't going to oust Assad, then why do it?

(8)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because Assad's opposition in Libya ain't no angels themselves, and probably have used chemical weapons too.

(9)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because of the law of unintended consequences, i.e., we don't know what happens next.

(10)  We shouldn't bomb in retaliation because we shouldn't be the worlds' policemen.

The political fault lines are interesting on this.  You have a lot of Republicans voting against retaliation, but they're only voting that way because they want to see Obama fail.  What really ticks me off are the Republicans who wanted to invade Iraq, but are now calling Obama a warmonger over Syria.

The Democrats are at least more consistent on this.  Those who opposed Iraq (and are still in Congress) are against retaliation (except, notably, Obama himself).

Where do I stand?

It's clear that the limited bombing strike proposed by Obama is the only military option, and therefore the only response, that there is.  But it's entirely symbolic.  Obama wants to punish Assad for violating the abstract norms of war even as he leaves Assad capable of continuing his massacre by more conventional means.

That's why I can't get enthused about intervening in Syria: Making the decision to punish Assad means explicitly making the decision not to stop him. 

And so what's the point?  Bomb just to show we're pissed?  Really?

Ok, Fine.

Death Of A Talking Point

The main takeaway from an exhaustive new study of premiums on the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces by nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation: They’re generally going to be lower than expected.

KFF on Obamacare Premiums

I know.  You're not going to read it.  But here's the bottom line:  Marketplaces premiums are coming in below initial estimates.

The expected monthly premium for a 40-year-old adult purchasing a silver-level plan (the baseline, which covers 70 percent of costs) on a marketplace had been $320, according to previous projections from the Congressional Budget Office. But in 15 of the 18 regions studied by Kaiser, the average premium will be below that — thus the study’s conclusion that the prices are going to be lower than anticipated.

“While premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected,” the authors wrote.

If Kaiser’s estimates bear out, it could be a big blow to one of the main conservative talking points against the Affordable Care Act: rate shock. Everybody from House Republicans to think tank types like the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy and the Heritage Foundation have been warning that consumers would see skyrocketing prices under the law.

And to be sure, premiums are going to go up.  But this was known.  That's why health care reform was needed in the first place.  Doing nothing would have made premiums so high that they simply could not be attained.

So much for the "rate shock" Republicans warned us about.

Lack Of Sensitivity

NYC mayorial candidate Bill de Blasio is a meanie:

When New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio first proposed taxing the rich so every child in the city could attend all-day preschool, it was October and he had support from fewer than 10 percent of Democrats in polls.

Now he leads the pack. And some of the wealthy New Yorkers who’d pay more under his plan say it bewilders and offends them.

It shows lack of sensitivity to the city’s biggest revenue providers and job creators,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a network of 200 chief executive officers, including co-Chairman Laurence Fink of BlackRock Inc. (BLK), the world’s biggest money manager.

Days before next week’s primary election, de Blasio, 52, has seized the lead decrying economic inequality. After 20 years of Republican and independent mayoral rule during which crime rates and welfare rolls plummeted and parks, stadiums, shopping, tourism and luxury apartments and office towers rose up, de Blasio speaks of a “Tale of Two Cities,” where almost half of New York residents are poor or struggling.

***

De Blasio, elected in 2009 to the watchdog post of public advocate, says he’s concerned that the number of middle-income city residents is shrinking. The city's richest 1 percent took home 39 percent of all earnings in 2012, up from 12 percent in 1980, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group in New York.

“Almost anyone with a self-perceived degree of affluence will be uncomfortable with de Blasio’s tax ideas,” said Michael Steinhardt, chairman of New York-based asset manager WisdomTree Investments Inc. (WETF) While growing inequality is troubling, Steinhardt said, “perhaps even more so is the thought that more government spending is the way out of our problems.”

 

Right.  21% of all families of four living in New York are living below the poverty level, while the richest 1 percent took home 39 percent of all earnings in 2012.  How cruel to talk about a tax increase.

Castro Found Dead In Cell

Not Fidel.

The terrible one.  Ariel.

(CNN) – Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years for kidnapping and raping three women, as well as murder, committed suicide in his prison cell Tuesday night, the Frankin County, Ohio, coroner's office said.

Castro hanged himself with a bedsheet, Dr. Jan Gorniak of the Franklin County Coroner's Office told CNN Wednesday.

Authorities found Castro, 52, hanged in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, about 9:20 p.m., the state's Department of Corrections said.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him but failed.

Castro was taken to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

Seems a fitting end to the whole sordid tale.

A Few Things Need To Be Said

(1)  I recognize that many believe that the Steubenville Rape matter technically didn't involve rape.  I recognize that the story of what happened is complicated, and I recognize (although I don't agree) that some feel that the "rapists" are now the victims.  I know there are two sides of the story, even though I'm fairly sure that one side is blatently wrong.

(2)  But I'm pretty sure Miley Cyrus wasn't responsible for any of it, Richard.

Yup, it's Richard Cohen making a connection — improbable and strained as it is — between the Steubenville "rape" and Miley Cyrus at the VMAs:

So now back to Miley Cyrus and her twerking. I run the risk of old-fogeyness for suggesting the girl’s a tasteless twit — especially that bit with the foam finger. (Look it up, if you must.) But let me also suggest that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them. They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women’s movement back on its heels. What is being celebrated is not sexuality but sexual exploitation, a mean casualness that deprives intimacy of all intimacy.

Oy.

I'll try to forgive Richard because he is, after all, exactly the old fogey he purports to be.  But what Richard is doing is slut-shaming Miley — i.e., telling her that she has transgressed the code of acceptable sexual behavior.  And then cheeses me off a little.

Miley's performance is rightfully being condemned because it was bad.  It was a poor performance, and not terribly sexy (to most people).  There's a difference between condemning a performance because it exhibited unacceptable sexual behavior, and what Miley did.  I didn't find what Miley did to be a transgression of some social mores — I just thought it was embarrassingly bad, creepishly self-involved, and squeamishly derivative of those who did it before and did it better.  It read "let's shock and make history" without giving a concern for being, you know, good or entertaining.

But vile as it was, taking what she did and holding it up as the culprit in a rape case (and Richard, it WAS a rape — there was a trial and everything) — well, that's just ridiculous.  And offensive.  First you blame the victim, and then you blame — yes, I find this incredible — Miley Cyrus.  

How about the boys?