Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Let’s talk about more science stuff today; Anti-GMO Activists Are Harming Hungry Africans.  Excerpt:

African crop yields lag well behind those of the world’s developed countries, and the continent’s food security is shaky at best. Starvation is an ever-present threat for many, and the impending effects of climate change loom ominously in the distance. But scientists have solutions, genetically modified crops that are resistant to droughts, pests, and disease, that, pending government approval, are ready for planting. Dismayingly, Luddite anti-GMO campaigners have smeared these potential problem-solvers as unsafe and unnatural, and as a result, to-date no African government has approved the use of GM crops.

Looking for a logical argument coming from the kind of eco-Luddites who oppose things like GMO crops and vaccines is like looking for a piece of straw in an enormous stack of needles, but even that isn’t the worst of it.  The thing is this:  Africa should be a wealthy continent.  The place is huge; you could drop the United States and Russia into Africa and have room left over for a Europe or two.  It has enormous mineral wealth, some of the world’s best farmlands, and plenty of manpower.

So, what’s holding Africa back?

Sleepy-bearGenerations of fundamentally corrupt governments, for one thing.  In some places – like Sudan – Islamic nutballery is a big part of the problem.  But the West has limited ability to affect those things.  What can we affect?

We could – and should - stop helping them.

Heartless?  Not at all.  The GMO controversy is just one way in which well-meaning but ignorant outsiders are preventing the spread of technology that could revolutionize African agriculture.  And yes, the anti-GMO protestors are ignorant; no reputable study has ever found a threat to human health from GMO crops (see here and here.)

What’s interesting is that the anti-GMO nuts are almost invariably members of the political Left.  I thought the political Left was supposed to be pro-science?

In all candor, in our country at least, this is probably more a symptom of the United States’ utter failure in basic science education than anything else.

Animal’s Daily News

Smiling BearThanks as always to The Other McCain for our inclusion in the Sunday Rule Five index!

This morning, let’s look at some tidbits from the world of science.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Is a Fucking Idiot.  ‘Nuff said.

Check out the vehicle that people could drive on Mars.  I doubt you’ll see one at a showroom near you any time soon.  Too bad.

The Secret of Natural Sandstone Arches.  Sandstone arches, not Golden Arches; the only secret to the latter is how they manage to stay in business while serving such crappy food.

What Happened When A State Accidentally Legalized Prostitution.  Thumbnail:  Rape cases decreased.  Specifically:  “The statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women declined by 39 percent, and the number of rapes reported to police in the state declined by 31 percent, according to the paper.”

Finally, in answer to a question that nobody had ever asked until now:  Scientists Use MRI to Measure Precisely How Your Butt Deforms When You Sit Down.  Excerpt:

The complex deformation of buttocks tissue seen in this case study may help explain the inconsistent results reported in finite element models. 3D imaging of the seated buttocks provides a unique opportunity to study the actual buttocks response to sitting.”

Uh… OK?

And on that note, we return you to your Tuesday, already in progress.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday
Goodbye, Blue Monday

Here’s an interesting take on the current state of global terror from Pajama Media’s Richard Fernandez:  The Element of Predictable Surprise.  Excerpt:

The current model of al-Qaeda is much more sophisticated than the original, with a minimum 7,000 jihadists with Western passports supported by intelligence, signals and other specialist cells.  While they have waxed, the West has deliberately waned.  The Obama administration has defined the threat away by tying the War on Terror to a campaign talking point. They must now maintain the fiction that “Osama bin Laden is dead and Detroit is alive” because that was an electoral promise which on no account must be falsified.

The WOT is now officially over, except for low-level  responses like drone strikes and targeted intelligence operations.  But what if it’s not? What if the president declared victory with the enemy still rampant in the field? In retrospect, the major strategic miscalculation of the Obama administration may have been a failure to anticipate that the terror threat would evolve. Their implicit assumption was that the jihad would remain at the al-Qaeda 1.0 level indefinitely.  They never imagined it would mutate and they would have to take the very roads that they proscribed.

It’s a truism in military circles that we always train to fight the last war.  This one is no different.  We’ve been watching for another 9/11, and there has been a certain amount of hubris amongst our military and intelligence communities – and in the White House- that there has not been a repeat of that day.  But the savages that adhere to radical Islam – and make no mistake, “terror” is not the enemy, radical Islam is – almost certainly won’t try the same thing again.

Bear in mind that these people have access to chemical weapons (from Syria and, presumably, from those stocks of Saddam Hussein’s that may have found their way there) to nuclear materials and maybe even nuclear weapons (from Pakistan and soon, Iran) and possibly even biological agents (from who knows where.)

Bear in mind also that these fucking savages have, in many cases, the resources of nation-states behind them:  Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Hamas-governed Gaza.

Mr. Fernandez ends with an interesting thought:

The major reason for the absence of large-scale attacks despite the growing jihadi capability is they are not yet sure what the response will be. Ironically, it may be the fear of Europe that is holding terror back. European politics can be far more volatile than American politics.  The flip side of the soft left in Europe can be the very hard right.

Grizzly-Bear-FaceA jihadist nuclear device, placed on a container ship and detonated in New York harbor, would almost certainly result in the American people demanding an overwhelming response – and, assuming we can determine a source for the nuclear material, a Middle Eastern nation turned into a smoking, radioactive ruin.  But Europe is a lot closer to the Islamic nations, and most of Europe now has a significant and frequently troublesome Muslim minority.

Imagine how Europe would look if increasing jihadi activity brought another Hitler to the fore – or another Charles Martel.

The Continent could them make World War II look like a minor scrap in a schoolyard.

Rule Five Friday

2014_07_18_Rule Five Friday (1)Consider the following:

“If there were any way to make compromise work, (the President) is the man who could have done it.  He was an expert at the game of manipulating pressure groups – a game that consists of making promises and friends, and keeping the second, but not the first.  His skill as a manipulator was the one characteristic that his “public image builders” were selling us at the height of his popularity.  If he cold not make it, no amateur can.

The practical efficacy of compromise is the first premise that (the President’s) history should prompt people to check.  And, I believe, a great many people are checking it.  People, but not Republicans – or, at least, 2014_07_18_Rule Five Friday (2)not all of them.  Not those who are now pushing an unformed, soft-shelled thing like Romney to succeed where a pro has failed.

What are we left with, now that the consensus has collapsed?  Nothing but the open spectacle of a mixed economy’s intellectual and moral bankruptcy, the random wreckage of its naked mechanism, with the screeching of its gears as the only sound in our public silence – the sound of crude, range-of-the-moment demands by pressure groups who have abandoned even the pretense of any political ideals or moral justification.

Sound familiar?  Maybe a statement from the Presidential election of 2012?  You could certainly be justified in thinking so.

But this was Ayn Rand, in a lecture given at the Ford 2014_07_18_Rule Five Friday (3)Hall Forum on April 16, 1967.  The President she was speaking of was Lyndon Johnson; the Romney in question was Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney.

But there’s another parallel that is, perhaps, even more telling; earlier in this same speech, Ms. Rand said:

Where is President Johnson’s consensus today?  And where, politically, is President Johnson?  To descend – in two years, in an era of seeming prosperity, without the push of any obvious national disaster – to descend from the height of a popular landslide to the status of a liability to his own party in the elections of 1966, is a feat that should give pause to anyone concerned with modern politics.

2014_07_18_Rule Five Friday (4)Mark Twain once said that history may not repeat, but it often rhymes.  Consider once more the rhyming of Johnson’s Presidency and that of Barack Obama:  Johnson’s downfall gave us the price-freezing, paranoid Nixon, the bland place-holder Ford, the inept and hapless Carter and finally, when the nation was sick of mediocrities and buffoons, the truly transformative Ronald Reagan.  Barack Obama enjoys none of the advantages Johnson had; we are embroiled in a savage battle against radical Islam, the economy is stagnant due to idiotic fiscal and economic policies, and Barack Obama is probably the most inept President since Andrew Johnson.  And there does not appear to be a Reagan waiting in the wings.

Rand also said, in this same speech:  “As of this date, Governor Reagan seems to be a promising public figure – I do not know him and cannot speak for the future.”

Where is our next Reagan?  Who will bring us the next Morning in America?  Who will be the next promising figure in America’s future?

There is a historic rhyme that we’re still all waiting to see.

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Animal’s Movie Reviews

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apesLast weekend, along with a few million other people, we went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Before discussing this particular installment:  So far this reboot (unlike the unfortunate Mark Wahlberg effort) has been brilliantly handled.  The CGI/motion capture technology has worked movie magic that was not dreamed of in the times of the Charlton Heston/Roddy McDowell originals, and where it would have been easy to turn the new Apes franchise into a special-effects-fest (Michael Bay, are you listening?) the movies have not gone in that direction.

Now, on to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

Technically, the film is brilliant.  Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance made the character of the ape’s leader, Caesar, a compelling and powerful presentation.

But there was one jarring flaw in the penultimate fight scene:  The defense set up by the human leader, portrayed by Gary Oldman, was simply awful.  Oldman’s character was supposedly a military veteran of some unstated sort – but who, with any modern military training, would:

  1. Facepalm-bearSet up a compound with no defense in depth, no fallback positions, no prepared firing positions, no interlocking fields of fire?
  2. Store almost all of the weapons and the sole functional armored vehicle outside of the compound?
  3. Mount a defense on one line, and from on top of a wall?  What did they think this was, the Middle Ages?

Aside from that rather distracting series of mistakes (seriously, how hard is it to hire a military advisor?) though, the movie was enjoyable.  It had good character development, a noble, well-intentioned leader (Caesar) who comes to a realization that his own prejudices have endangered his people apes, and a rather ominous ending leading us right at the next film, which presumably will be Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

All in all, three and three-quarters stars.  It’s worth the price of admission.

 

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Our thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links, and we hope you enjoyed the vacation Rule Five posts.  Las Vegas was, as usual, fine in limited doses, and much steam was blown off.  Yr. obdt. is now in much improved state of mind and ready for more work.

Which is a good thing, as I find myself back in northern Indiana this morning for another on-site stint.

But I digress.  Back to Las Vegas for a moment:

Vegas by Night.
Vegas by Night.

Las Vegas is a place that is not quite like any other place in the United States, except perhaps (and only perhaps) Atlantic City, and never having been there I can’t really compare.  But Vegas is a great place for:

  • Shows
  • Food
  • Gambling (if you’re into that)
  • Best of all – people-watching.

On shows, we went and saw , the Cirque Du Soleil show currently running at the MGM Grand.  I recommend this how if you’re ever able to take it in – like most Cirque Du Soleil shows it is magnificent in scope and execution, with amazing acrobatics and a stunning soundtrack.  We took it in on a Tuesday evening and the auditorium was only 2/3 full, making for a comfortable experience.

Food:  Vegas used to be known for cheap, high-quality meals.  The first time I went there the Strip was loaded with “Prime Rib, $3.99″ signs, the objective being to draw you in for your gambling dollars.  No longer.  Eating there is expensive; you can enjoy all manner of food from hot dogs to the ubiquitous massive buffets to elite dining, but you’ll pay for all of it.  If you’re on a budget, take a cooler and sandwich fixings to stretch your food dollar.

Gambling:  I don’t.  Mrs. Animal has a small fondness for penny slot machines, but keeps herself on a tight budget.  This time she came home about $30 ahead, a nice little bonus.

VegasAnd last but far from least:  People-watching.  I don’t just mean girls, although that’s certainly a high point.  Las Vegas is a popular destination for people from all over the world, and you can find yourself in conversation with people from such disparate places as Australia, eastern Europe, China, Japan or (as Mrs. Animal and myself did this trip) Jordan – that last being a young Christian couple from Jordan who (wisely) decided it was time for people of their religious persuasion to GTFO of that area.

Vegas is a place I can take for four or five days, then I’m ready to leave.  But in another two or three years, I’ll be ready to go back.

And now work beckons, so we now return you to your Monday, already in progress.

Animal’s Rule Five America!

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (1)Happy Fourth of July, True Believers!

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry said to the Virginia House of Burgesses, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Now, two hundred and thirty-nine years later, that liberty has been vastly diminished.   The minions of the Imperial Federal government pry into our financial affairs, they regulate every aspect of our businesses from start to finish; they interfere with us in our very 2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (2)homes.  The Imperial City sits like a Colossus on the Potomac, having proven itself a dangerous servant and a dreadful master, far from the limited and transparent servant of the people our Founders envisioned.

Among those gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence were three ancestors of Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt.  Two are in my father’s lineage, Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania and Delaware and (tenuous connection) Abraham Clark of New Jersey.  Mrs. Animal’s mother’s line can be traced back to Maryland’s Charles Carroll.  Our ancestors fought to establish this country, but that gives us no 2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (3)special privilege or standing, merely a large dose of pride.  America is still, for the most part, a land where we are judged by what we do, not by who our parents were.

What would the Founders think of what their brainchild has become?

Consider the words of another Founder, Samuel Adams:  “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (4)It is a pretty pass we have come to.

Still, I try to remain cautiously optimistic.  While many in our nation freely accept the chains Mr. Adams warned us about, the chains of government dependency, the over-reaching Presidency of Barack Obama may have rekindled some small appreciation for liberty.  The upcoming Millennial generation of which my younger children are a part show strong sympathies with libertarian principles.  So perhaps it is not too late to bring the Imperial City to heel, to retake the rightful control of our affairs which Washington has usurped.

So today is a holiday for most Americans, and most of us (yr. obdt. and family included) will enjoy a day free from toil, a day to enjoy the company of family and friends.  But we should remember that this is also a day in which a small band of rebels threw off the chains of the greatest empire in the world to bring into being the greatest nation in human history, a nation that for whatever faults it has remains the best and last hope for peace, freedom and civilization in the world.

In a  1961 speech Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

We must guard our liberty with great and overwhelming jealousy.  So much has already been chipped away, but if you look at the rest of the world – the Dark Ages mentality of much of the Middle East, the socialist morass of Europe, the fast-approaching demographic calamities of Russia, China and Japan – we’re still in pretty good shape.

The shining city on a hill has lost some of it’s luster.  But we should not be ready to give up on America yet.

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Animal’s Daily News

Bear SpeechA good bit on higher education:  Americans Think We Have the Best Colleges.  We Don’t.  Excerpt:

Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. Many families are worried about how to get into and pay for increasingly expensive colleges. But the stellar quality of those institutions is assumed.

Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America’s schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way. The nation’s deep education problems, the data suggest, don’t magically disappear once students disappear behind ivy-covered walls.

For another take on this, read Stuart Schneiderman’s analysis here.

Both articles miss one of our major problems with our institutions of higher education, and that is the continued – nay, the increasing offering of crap degrees.  The recent, unwashed, unfortunate “Occupy” movement was rife with examples of recipients of such degrees:  Dupes who, having been awarded degrees in such areas as Derp BearWomen’s Studies or Underwater Dog Polishing, are now unable to find “suitable work,” and are protesting to have others (taxpayers, the productive, people who made better life decisions than they) pick up their tab.

With a crap degree one may expect to have a crap career.  As stated a thousand or more time in these pages, it is not the legitimate role of government to protect people from the consequences of bad decisions.

With that said, it is bordering on fraud for universities – which are taxpayer-supported – to offer crap degrees.  The several States should take steps to correct this.

Rule Five Friday

2014_06_27_Rule Five Friday (1)This is something that has been much on our minds of late.  Read Mental Illness And Crime: What The Legacy Of Dorothea Dix Hath Wrought.  Excerpt:

In the 1830s, jails were an all-purpose solution for a lot of issues. Inmates lived in squalor and people truly did not want to be there so there was a lot less crime. The downside was that nobody really cared about the people who did not belong there, like those with ‘retardation’ who had been abandoned, or people who were mentally ill but not criminals.

Dorothea Dix was the activist whose efforts led to the first generation of American mental asylums. At the age of 39, she happened to visit a local jail to do a Sunday school sermon for female inmates. She found that 2014_06_27_Rule Five Friday (2)criminals, retarded people and the mentally ill all lived together in terrible, unheated conditions. When she asked why, she was told  “the insane do not feel heat or cold”(Viney&Zorich, 1982). Not exactly evidence-based.

No, but here is something that is evidence-based:  All of the high-profile multiple murders committed in this country in recent years have a common thread, that being under-treated or untreated mental illness.  Adam Lanza should have been in an asylum; ditto for James Holmes.  (Islamist murderers fall into another category and belong not in asylums, but in graves.)

2014_06_27_Rule Five Friday (3)Too many people are walking around that shouldn’t be.  (Much of Congress and the Executive Branch may well belong in asylums, but that’s a discussion for another day.)  Upon a time these people would have been locked up – perhaps cruelly and in lousy conditions, but locked up.

Surely we can do better now?

Why do we not have a new breed of mental institution, where the conditions are humane, where the treatable can be treated and the untreatable maintained away from peaceable society?

The Science 2.0 article linked here concludes:

We have so many more mental patients in jails not because we have returned to the America of the 1830s, where the mentally ill are just thrown in jail so we don’t have to think about them, but because mental illness has been turned into a scientifically subjective loophole and therefore part of a cultural agenda.

2014_06_27_Rule Five Friday (4)The author is missing a cogent point.  We have more mental patients in jail because we do not attempt to remove potentially harmful people from society until they have already committed a crime.  Adam Lanza was known to be potentially dangerous.  So was James Holmes.  Why were they running around loose?

I make my living in large part by teaching high-tech companies how to do root cause analysis.  One of the ways you find a root cause is to look for commonalities in the circumstances of repeated events.  As noted, the common thread in the high-profile multiple murders we have seen lately is untreated or undertreated mental illness.

Until we address that, nothing else we as a society do will prevent another Adam Lanza or James Holmes from running amok.

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