Bill does something right

Albert Snyder’s son, Matthew A. Snyder, was a marine who died in Iraq in a non-combat situation. When the family held Matthew’s funeral, they were ‘protested’ by the Westboro Baptist Church, complete with the most distasteful signs possible. This led to a lawsuit against the moronic church. Albert Snyder initially won $10 million (which was then reduced to $5 million). However, that decision was reversed on appeal, with the court citing free speech protections. As a result, Snyder was ordered to pay $16,500 in legal fees to the hatemongers he had sued. He’s going to appeal to the Supreme Court (which will hear the case in the fall), but until then Bill O’Reilly has actually done something decent.

O’Reilly had previously interviewed Snyder about the case, and in Tuesday’s edition of his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” the cable host announced that he would gladly pay Snyder’s debt. “I am not going to let this injustice stand,” O’Reilly declared. “It’s obvious [the Westboro protesters] were disturbing the peace by disrupting the funeral. They should have been arrested, but our system is so screwed up … that the loons are allowed to run wild.”

I’m glad to see O’Reilly using his money like this. There’s no need to strip Snyder of any more of his humanity.

Corrections, corrections

In my post about microsatellites and mitochondria there were a few errors. Fortunately, the author of the paper that formed the basis for a large portion of what I wrote also happens to be my professor. I petitioned him for review:

I stated that mtDNA is powerful as a tool for determining relations within a species. It should have read that mtDNA is useful for determining certain evolutionary patterns. There’s little excuse for this mistake.

I said genetic variation as determined by microsatellites is an indicator for population health. This may be true, but it isn’t possible to really be sure. If natural selection is acting upon these points, then populations with more variation may have better fitness.

I stated that populations are managed via arbitrary geographical lines. I actually meant political lines, but it’s unclear if that is true. This depends upon the level of coordination in management and conservation between the U.S. and Canada, and precisely where the borders fall. More on this later. Update: The political lines largely follow the geographical divides. There is some overlap, but it is minor.

I’ve also corrected some minor language here and there, as well as a citation (the paper I used was from 2004, not 2003). All the updates can be reviewed on the original post.

Thanks to Chris for his help.

Franks, please

Suzanne Franks doesn’t even realize the principles behind her caricature ideology. That’s the only reason she would say something like this.

March is women’s history month, but don’t let that circumscribe your fun. You can get together with a posse of your like-minded women friends and mock mansplainers anytime. Now, I know many of you have just recently learned that there even existed a name you could attach to this annoying behavior plaguing your existence. Believe me, I know how important naming experience is – that’s why I have a whole category assigned to the topic. But your joy need not begin and end with just knowing that the craptastic manifestations you’ve been subjected to are (1) not your fault, (2) part of a larger system of patriarchy, and (3) mocked by many, many, many women all over the place.

Feminism is a philosophy of consequence. Intention is largely ignored and emphasis is placed upon the results. For example, non-sexually based images are considered sexist in (caricature) feminism due to that number (2) Franks mentioned – “a larger system of patriarchy”. Let that sink in for a moment. Okay, now review (1), which I made bold. If Franks was consistent at all, she would consider her explanations of where blame lies to be useless. That is, if consequence is what matters, then the fact that caricature feminists are presenting their ‘case’ in a way that seems to fix blame on men should be disconcerting to them. The very thing against which they rail – negative consequences that make people feel guilty, ashamed, bad, etc – is what Franks has promoted.

Climatic facts

Oh, gee, weird. It turns out Phil Jones’ data wasn’t made up and the world is still warming directly due to human activity.

The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said they had seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming — two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

One [email] that attracted particular media attention was Jones’ reference to a “trick” that could be used to “hide the decline” of temperatures.

“Hide the decline” was not an attempt to conceal data but was scientific shorthand for discarding erroneous data, the committee concluded. Similarly, Jones intended “trick” to mean a neat way of handling evidence, rather than anything underhanded, the inquiry found.

I found this part to be the most frustrating. The term “trick” was explained over and over to people, but with such little success. The reason, of course, is 1) the intense desire conservatives have to allow corporations to pollute more and more and 2) the general hostility conservatives have towards science. Methinks they would be appalled to read an average scientific paper. “What?! They adjusted for sample size difference?! IT’S FAAAAAKE!”

Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg is the big honcho around WordPress. When my blog got shut down, I left him a message on his Facebook fan page informing him that he had been had by a stupid, dangerous man. I also cited his own complaints over censorship from several years earlier. I never did get a direct response, but my blog was quickly reinstated.

This left me with a taste of curiosity. Was it just coincidence that I got my site back shortly after sending the big guy a message? I had sent countless emails to “Mark“, so it was plausible that those combined with the big hubbub across the Interwebblings was what did the trick. But since I never got any response or notification, it was impossible to tell. Until now.

It does look like Mullenweg was the one who fixed everything. Look at February 22 on his fan page. There is one post there praising him for reinstating my blog. But what is not there is what’s more interesting. Notice there is no post from yours truly; there’s no point where I tell Mullenweg that he was had. There should also be two other posts telling him roughly the same thing from two other people. He clearly saw all the posts. This is certainly evidence that he was aware of my situation; this plus the timing of the reinstatement of FTSOS indicates to me that he was the one who fixed the error made by “Mark”.

Even though I appreciate his (silent) corrective action, I find little justification in his sanitizing of comments. Sure, we all get embarrassed from time to time, and criticism is occasionally unpleasant, but leave that sort of hide-your-follies-behind-the-delete-button-stuff to the quacks.

Fortunately, I have a blog where I can expose these minor embarrassments.

Gorilla becomes aware of own mortality

Dear Discovery Channel


Dear Facebook

Please stop spamming my email with new notifications about nothing. I’ve already told you I want nothing from you; don’t make me unsubscribe to every little thing because you hate your users, their privacy, and leaving people alone.

Thought of the day

For-profit health care is one of the major moral crimes in modern America.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 patents struck down

For years private companies have been putting patents on your genes. In fact, roughly 1/5 of human genes has been patented. This potentially has huge ramifications as it can restrict research abilities to one company or at least make others wary of future pursuits. Fortunately, a federal judge has struck down much of this practice.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet challenging whether anyone can hold patents on human genes was expected to have broad implications for the biotechnology industry and genetics-based medical research.

Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.

He rejected arguments that it was acceptable to grant patents on DNA sequences as long as they are claimed in the form of “isolated DNA.”

The specific genes this primarily affects are the BCRA1 and BRCA2 genes, both tumor suppressors. (That means damage to these genes can quickly lead to cancer.) These are highly important areas of research which women cannot afford to have restricted to one company. The ruling will surely be appealed, but it is encouraging to see the case go in this direction.