Advice to bad lawyers and people who become Internet famous

Shortly after Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal mocked some shitty website for threatening to sue him for some silly reason, the lawyer for said site of shit, Charles Carreon, went on a rampage. He started saying all sorts of stupid stuff, like that he was going to sue a couple of charities because Inman was raising money for them out of spite for Carreon. This has naturally only given the Internet more reason to hate assholes. Now push has come to shove and a suit has actually been filed against Inman. He sums everything up in his opening statement:

Dear Charles Carreon,

You’re making things worse.

As someone who has had experience with attempts at intimidation via legal shenanigans, I am quite familiar with this line of thinking. I used to often write that my legal opponents, Christopher Maloney and his terrible lawyer Maeghan Maloney, could never make things better. The best they could ever do was not make things worse. By continuing to chirp, they would (and did) only make life all the shittier for themselves. I was entirely right. I think Charles Carreon would do well to understand that.

Thought of the day

Maine recently legalized fireworks. Given the fun it sounds like my neighbor is having and I am not, I’m not sure if I fully support this any longer.


As always, we got rousing coverage from the cable news networks:

The Supreme Court upheld the individual insurance mandate of President Obama’s “Affordable Health Care Act” in a 5-4 decision on Thursday, sending cable news and Twitter into a frenzy.

Moments after the 193-page ruling was released by the court, several media outlets–including CNN and Fox News–erroneously reported on-air that the mandate had been struck down.

“BREAKING NEWS: INDIVIDUAL MANDATE STRUCK DOWN,” CNN’s on-screen scroll blared. “Supreme Court finds measure unconstitutional.”..

CNN, though, was not alone in its rush to report the news.

“Fox News was so eager to see the healthcare mandate fail they forgot to read past the 1st page of the ruling,” Jason Keath wrote, pointing to a screengrab of the network’s breaking news stumble.

Michael Hartwell of Sentinel & Enterprise is a liar

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a liar.

I’ve written about Michael Hartwell in the past. My initial criticism of him was largely confined to the fact that he uses a poor writing style to avoid answering tough questions. That might be fine for a regular journalist, but Hartwell acts as little more than a common pundit who feigns a neutral position. As such, he has put himself in a place where the onus is on him to defend his writings. (Armchair Psychology Alert: I think he enjoys the respect that comes from making people think he’s fair-minded. He isn’t particularly interested in uncovering respect for actual ideas, in part, because doing so would expose the fact that he’s just another ideologue.) In short, he is not a reputable source for objective information, but I can see how he could appeal to a Republican audience – people like to have their biases confirmed.

Unfortunately, Michael Hartwell of Sentinel & Enterprise isn’t merely a bad journalist. He is also a liar. In a post about the Nazi-run economy of 1930’s and ’40’s Germany, Hartwell says this:

Over and over again I find myself clarifying that fascism and Nazism were sister movements to socialism and communism. This runs counter to the cheap political trick where modern capitalist-loving right wing movements are likened to Hitler and his followers.

Hartwell then spends more than the next 10 paragraphs describing how socialism was the mindset behind Nazism and the Nazi economy. Once done, he says this:

If younger generations fundamentally misunderstand the driving force behind evil mindsets like Nazism, then they will be completely vulnerable if it comes back again, striking not with mere hate but with false promises of prosperity.

In other words, he just hates those “cheap political tricks” where people try to tarnish something by associating it with Hitler and Nazis. But, oh yeah. Socialism is nothing but associated with Hitler and Nazis. Hell, it drove Nazism. (Sorry, racism and nationalism! Maybe next time!)

Of course, none of this is particularly notable as far as lies go. After all, in the words of Hartwell, it’s not much more than a cheap political trick. Perhaps we can just file this one under “Ironic rhetoric”? Except it gets better:

Fascism was indeed a form of socialism on a national scale instead of as an international movement…

Fascism economic policies that were put into place include the strict control of all businesses, such as telling them what to produce, and setting of prices. Those that violated these rules were nationalized. The execution of German invalids was defended as saving resources for the fit Germans. The amount of control over individuals daily lives was staggering.

Emphasis mine.

Either no one ever taught Hartwell about the importance of topic sentences or he was just overtly implying that socialism led to the murder of retarded individuals. Let’s just link his words together in way which perfectly and honestly reflects what he said: Fascism is a form of socialism that led to Germans executing “invalids”. (He even gets cute and uses the politically correct language for the 1930’s.)

But now here’s the question: Will Hartwell own up to his claim? Take a wild guess:

No. I was demonstrating fascisms belief in central planning.

And of course the best way to do that is to point to the fact that 1) fascism is a form of socialism and 2) fascism led to the murder of “invalids”. What!? How is that dishonest!?

Give me a break.

If Michael Hartwell wants to blog up a storm of right-leaning tripe, that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me that he thinks a series a declarations and a handful of links makes an argument. However, it all becomes an issue when he runs away from points and even resorts to (overt) lying. Moreover, I think it’s an issue when his goal is to present his blog as a good source of journalism, something to which potential employers can look as a piece of his resume. That is why his (publicly listed) place of employment has been included in the title of this post. I think journalism in the United States is already quite awful. I’d rather not see it get any worse.

Evolution does not stop

One thing I often hear regarding evolution is the notion that it can end. That is, I hear people make the claim that in one way or another, a species can (or has) reached a point where it will no longer evolve. This idea is generally applied exclusively to humans, but perhaps advocates would extend their arguments. I’m not sure. At any rate, it’s a surprisingly popular claim. Geneticist Steve Jones even made a version of it. He was speaking more of rates than anything, and I’m likely to chalk up his statements to hyperbole, but he did title one of his talks, “Human Evolution is Over.” Unfortunately for him, he’s wrong.

Evolution at its most basic is the transmission of genes from one organism to another. That isn’t to say individuals can evolve – they can’t – but broken down to its constituent parts, evolution is the flow of alleles from one vehicle (individual organism) to another. So long as that is occurring, evolution is occurring. To put it another way:

Evolution happens every single time an organism reproduces.

Evolutionary rates – generation time, mutational rate, environmental pressures, frequency of drift, etc – will vary from species to species and over great swaths of time, but they can never reach zero for any given population unless that population ceases to exist. At the point where members of the group no longer produce offspring is when evolution stops. It is literally the only time it can stop.

The fact is, evolutionary theory is the most integral part of the field of biology. The famous Theodosius Dobzhansky paper and now phrase, ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’, couldn’t be any more true; from the moment the first replicator evolved into something more, evolution has not once taken a break. So long as there is life, there is evolution.

That darned science

Thought of the day

I sent off the check for my coming expedition up Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes. It was a good chunk of change, but I don’t think I’m going to miss it when I’m standing on top of the southern hemisphere.

Skip Bayless deserved this

Skip Bayless is one of the most clueless sportscasters on ESPN. He seeks to be an iconoclast, to diminish the great athletes for no other reason than that he wants to stir up controversy. Fortunately, after a mini-Twitter battle, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took Bayless to task:

This video, of course, isn’t solely about Bayless. Cuban also laments the vacuity with which so many analysts approach sports. I have to agree with him on that, but what I really like is the jabs at Bayless. There have been others, too:

I can’t wait until he gets fired.

Thought of the day

How I know you’re a complete chode: You pronounce words like “Chile” and “Latino” with an accent despite not otherwise having said accent.

Art in a Petri dish

Former microbiologist Zachary Copfer was mesmerized by what he was learning every day as an undergraduate seeking a degree in biology. However, shortly after graduation he found himself in a commercial lab setting and his romance with science began to wane. That’s when he turned to photograph:

Photography developed into my new method of inquiry. Everything that I had missed about science I rediscovered in photography. For me, the two seemingly disparate fields of study served the same purpose, a way to explore my connection to everything else around me. As a former microbiologist recently turned visual artist, I seek to create work that is less of an intersection of art and science and more of a genuine fusion of the two.

Here is some of what he has created:

Copfer explains the process:

The process is very similar to darkroom photography only the enlarger has been replaced by a radiation source and instead of photographic paper this process uses a petri dish coated with a living bacterial emulsion. I believe that great beauty and poetry reside within the theories woven by scientists. And that it is through the unification of art and science that these treasures can be fully explored and made accessible to the world at large.

He has a number of pieces of science-art on his website, including ones of a galactic nature. They are, of course, very nice, but I don’t think they are necessarily his best. However, I do really like the idea of them. He takes something like E. coli, part of a group of the smallest living things on Earth, and he uses them to emulate the grandest of scales:

It looks like most of the trivia of what Copfer is doing can be found by poking around his site, but for anyone wondering, Einstein is made from S. marcescens grown on nutrient agar. The other scientist plates look to be the same, but I don’t know what sort of media he used to grow the other pieces of art.