Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Gender Issues...

Keeping in line with the last post, I just read an article about researchers who claim to have found a gender difference in video game playing. Or have they? The article leaves a lot in the air. For one thing, what the heck game were they playing? The MRI apparently showed a greater amount of activity in the reward and addiction parts of the brain for the guys when they conquered more territory than for the girls. This is why, they claim, men are more attracted to video games than women. But is that really what they showed? Or have they just showed that a particular type of game is one that attracts more males than females? 

Video games are an interesting phenomenon in that we are really living at the start of this new entertainment that I wouldn't be surprised to find mirrors the developments in radio, movies, and TV (heck probably even the printed word).  But what I would really be surprised to find out is that there is actually something about video games as a medium that produces a division among the sexes. I have no doubt that some games will more likely draw male players and others will draw female players, but video games themselves mostly drawing males simply because they are video games and not because of the content? I'm skeptical. 

The Rational Moderate

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Let The Girl Play, Jerks

A twelve year old girl kicks a whole lot of butt in the game of basketball. Jamie Nared has  been playing with the boys team and is probably one of, in not the best player on their team. But for reasons that are ultimately stupid she's being kicked off the team. 

Neal Frazer, who is the head of this Hoops organization said, "...the problem was the boys were playing differently against her because she was a girl. They'd been taught to not push a girl, so they weren't fouling her hard, and the focus had shifted from playing basketball to noticing a girl was on the floor with them."

He should resign immediately and the parents who complained should be ashamed of themselves. If she is good enough to play with the boys then she should, end of story. She can't play with the girls her age because, well, in one game the score was 90-7. And she can't play with the older girls because, well, older girls talk about things that a twelve year old probably already talks about but shouldn't. 

I should also point out that the other boys who play with her seem fine with it. Only parents could be this stupid.

The Rational Moderate

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rachel Ray is Up With Jihads

via Crooks and Liars
Some people have a hard time realizing how absolutely insane other people are. The truth is there are a lot of really crazy people out there. But what's worse, there are a lot of people who seem perfectly sane but still believe in ridiculous things. I'll leave it to you to decide which of the two categories the people who believe the following fall into.

Sometime a cigar is just a cigar, a scarf is just a scarf, and a fantasy-prone personality is a fantasy-prone personality.

The Rational Moderate

Sunday, May 25, 2008

MLM and Skepticism

This post is a little break from the normal political shenanigans. I want to recommend that all of my readers (yes, all 2 of you) go and check out this article by Steve Novella at The Rogues Gallery blog on Multi-level marketing and nutritional supplements. Recently, one of our family members got involved with one of these schemes and I was flabbergasted that these types of business are still out there because they are just nonsense. Any job opportunity that requires you in order to make any money to get more people involved who are going to sell the exact same product as you to the same people is a job opportunity that goes against basic economics.

The companies work like this. They require you to recruit more people in order for you to make real money. But those people are also supposed to go out and recruit more people. All the while you are supposed to also be selling products. But those products are not where the real money comes from, it comes from recruiting more people. At some point you're just going to run out of people. 

Now when we questioned this family member about the soundness of this company, implying that it sounded like a pyramid scheme, he replied that it the company said it was not an illegal pyramid scheme. Of course it's not, it's a perfectly legal one. Since there is some product involved that acts as the medium to push the money upstream, it doesn't fall into the same legal problems as a typical pyramid scheme does. 

And their products always stink.

The Rational Moderate

Saturday, May 24, 2008

You're going to kill us all...

Stop expecting antibiotics for every little thing. If your kid has the sniffles they don't need amoxicillin, they need a tissue and some soap to wash their disgusting little hands. And not anti-bacterial soap. We need a ton of the bacteria that lives on us. It's good for us. Stop trying to get rid of them. They like you. You should like them too. 

The Rational Moderate

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do we own our lives?

What does it mean to own our lives? Often in discussions on euthanasia (or less weighty tattoos) the argument that we own our bodies and so we can do what we want with them is made. And, at least on the surface, it seems like a reasonable claim. I can do what I want with my body as long as it doesn't harm another just like I can use my comic books how I see fit right up to the point where I use them to give someone a thousand paper cuts and they bleed to death. But what about the facts about our lives? Do we own our address as our address? Or our age? Or our social security number? Bruce Schneier has an interesting commentary on the need for a personal data privacy law, but without a clear understanding of what we can actually own, I'm not sure what can be done. I'm going to chew on this one for a bit.

The Rational Moderate

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hypocrites part 2

via EFF
Actually, with politicians it could be about part x (x being a number that is so large I couldn't actually write it out in my lifetime) with no end in sight. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner just won a big case against Rep. Jim McDermott for an illegal wiretap. Of course, Boehner is also big on letting the telecommunications companies off the hook for all of their illegal wiretapping. Wiretap everyone else, just not me. 

Now, as I posted before, this blatant hypocrisy doesn't make hi argument for the telecom immunity wrong (though I agree it makes him a jerk). What makes his argument wrong is because we don't want the precedent set that when someone in the government (specifically any branch that isn't the judicial) tells a company or an individual to do something that is known to be illegal that the person or company feels like they can't tell them to politely piss off. 

The Rational Moderate

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Cool is This...

via Mental Floss
The biggest problem facing many parts of the world is not war, or HIV, or Bush invading. It's a lack of clean drinking water. I'm not going to list the nasty things that people can pick up through the water, but just about any disease you can think of is in it.
This seems like the best solution I've seen. This Lifestraw filters out just about any nasty thing you could suck up (except a couple parasites - but their working on it). Fantastic. 

It costs about 3 bucks which is too much for many of the people in nations who need it, but that seems to me to be the right price point for donations. One trip to the ATM can give 5 people clean drinking water for a year. Keep your eyes on this. 

The Rational Moderate

Saturday, May 17, 2008

John McCain and the Hypocrite Fallacy

So, John McCain is a hypocrite. No surprise, after all he is a politician. The problem is, this isn't a problem for his current argument that we should not negotiate with Hamas. This falls under what I call the hypocrite fallacy. Just because someone says one thing and then does another (that would include saying the opposite) this does not make their current argument wrong. 

For example. You and I are taking a math class and failing miserably because we both spend too much time on fine web sites like Skeptics & Politics. After getting back our last exam (F's for us both) I turn to you and say, "You should really study more." Your typical first reaction is likely, "Yeah, look at your grade you jerk." And of course you are right. I am a jerk. I am not, however, wrong. You should study more. 

The same fallacy applies here in saying that McCain is a hypocrite. Sure he is, but that doesn't make his argument wrong. It's wrong for a thousand other reasons, such as Obama never claiming he would talk with Hamas, but McCain having claimed differently in the past is not one of them.

The Rational Moderate

Friday, May 16, 2008

Good Thing/Bad Thing - Mayor of Muskogee

Muskogee Oklahoma has a new mayor. 19 year old John Tyler Hammons beat out his 70 year old opponent to head the city of 38,000. Let's examine the good and the bad:

1 good- His first order of business is to set up an independent ethics commission and establish campaign finance reporting requirements.
1 bad- This always seems to be the "first order of business" the politicians claim they'll do to get elected. Will he actually do it? And who would actually serve on such a commission? Enquiring ethicists want to know. 
2 good- He was president of both the Young Republicans and Young Democrats club in his High School. 
2 bad- I actually think the proper place is to be pissing off both the Young Republicans and Young Democrats, but still...
3 good- This quote: "Politics stop at the door. If someone wants to talk politics I will literally leave the office and leave the building if I have to."
3 bad- Plugging up your ears and singing "la la la la la" is not the way to handle people who are telling you things you don't want to hear. Especially in your office where, you know, you're in charge. 

Overall, I think the bad is more snarky than worrisome. So, here's to a good run Mayor Hammons.

The Rational Moderate 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Video Game Violence

How to approach this topic?

It's always hard to confront someone who has had a deep tragedy. While it may be alright for them to vent as they need, it is not alright for us to accept whatever they say just because they are appropriately grieving. 

Ann Oakes-Odger testified at a British government commission on violence in cities that she believed that there is a direct connection between violence and video games in much the same way that there is a connection between subliminal messages on TV and our thoughts. And she's right. Only not in the way she thinks. There isn't any reason to believe that subliminal messages work either. 

There simply is no link between video games and violence. 

Another point she makes is through TV and video games, children become unable to tell the difference between reality and fiction. This seems like a compelling point right up until you spend any time with children and realize that not being able to tell the difference between reality and fiction is just how kids are. 

The Rational Moderate

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Photography is not a crime

For some reason photography is the new skateboarding. Time and again photographers are getting harassed by police and security guards in the name of homeland security for doing what is perfectly legal. Only it's not really homeland security, it's the opposite. What it really does is waste the time of the FBI to track down these photographers just to appease Bubba the security guard who thinks he's hit upon the next conspiracy of dem der radical terrorists and, mercy me, only he can put a stop to it. I blame all of the ridiculous signs that state "Report Suspicious Behavior" without realizing that for most people thinking is a suspicious behavior.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


That's the number from the latest survey about how many americans think there should be a science debate. It might be too late for the primaries but is it too much to hope for the general election? 

Now normally this might fall into the category of the statistical fallacy (aka argumentum ad populum or "appeal to the people" which states that just because a large number of people think something is right doesn't make it so) but I think what this stat really shows is that people would take science issues into account when voting. Maybe that's why the candidates aren't doing it.

The Rational Moderate

Monday, May 12, 2008

Video Game Ratings

One of the big issues that politicians, such as Reps. Lee Terry (R-NE) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), like to talk about is the access of mature rated video games bought by minors. A new study released by the FTC shows that minors were only able to buy mature rated video games 20% of the time compared to 42% last year. Despite this improvement, legislators are still looking for ways to get the government directly involved. Gee, you think there might be better things to worry about with the world right now?

The Rational Moderate

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Positive Maryland Note

Lately, it seems like nothing good is coming out of the government in Maryland (according to those I talk to who live there.) Well, here is something to be proud of. It seems that a man tried to get out of the proper divorce proceedings by initiating a talaq. This ritual, where a man simply says "I divorce thee" three times, seems to be enough to count in certain Muslim regions. Thankfully, Maryland is not one of them. I can't wait for the oncoming cries of "lousy activist judges."

The Rational Moderate

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's not like they have a computer in those caves...

Apparently, due to budget cutbacks, we have lost one of our better analysts of al-Qaeda's use of media and internet, Daniel Kimmage. Heck, even if he stunk, to lose anyone who can read arabic and is actually sure that the web sites he was ogling were al-Qaeda's and not Obama's is a travesty. Here is one more wake up call for anyone who still believes we were ever in Iraq fighting terrorism, though they'll probably just hit the snooze button again.  

The Rational Moderate

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Obama vs McCain

I missed a lot of excitement recently. It looks like after the most recent democratic elections Clinton is done. But like a true politician, why let math get in your way?

Listening to some past podcasts of Bill Maher's show Real Time, I liked his view of the Democratic primary. He basically argued that there is nothing wrong with Hillary staying in the running even if it looks like she is not going to win because that is the way it should work. The point is to pick the best person to run, and if she thinks she is it, then she should stay. 

Most likely two things will occur when she finally drops out: 
1) The democrats will support Obama despite what they are saying now because their other option is McCan't do something different from Bush. 
2) It will make Obama stronger because he will already be used to the type of crap he's had to deal with against someone who is ultimately going to be on his side. When he goes against McCain, it's going to get ugly. He might as well be used to it now.

The Rational Moderate

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Bats and the Bees

I was just starting to feel better about the bee issue when this came up. Apparently there is a mysterious illness that is wiping out bats in the Northeast. I know it's not politics, but bats are cool. Issues like these are why we need that Science debate. If for nothing else than to weed out the candidate that doesn't think bats and bees are cool. 

The Rational Moderate

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Gas Fun

So Hillary is running ads that say the gas tax cut will save families $8 billion dollars. I would love to know the person who believes this is a good idea, or that it would actually save them or their family a significant amount of money. Again, it is only 18.4¢ a gallon. But $8 billion for research into a way out of this? Maybe not as much money as I'd hoped, but it has to be better than what we're doing now.

The Rational Moderate

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gas Tax Cuts

So Hillary has joined McCain in calling for a suspension of federal gas taxes for the summer, which amounts to about 18.4 cents per gallon. 

Seriously? They really think this is going to help? Gas is heading in the direction of $5 a gallon. Cutting 18 cents isn't going to make a difference to the individuals who have to drive places such as, I don't know, to their jobs! What happens here is that the government, where 18.4 cents per gallon adds up to a lot of money overall, is going to lose out on that revenue. Now, I don't think I need be the one to point out that we are have a substantial national debt, nor that the money that we are getting from Bush this tax season was borrowed money from China adding to that debt, nor the trillions we are poring into Iraq, but since 18 cents isn't going to help us individually, couldn't that money be put towards something that will?

How about taking all of the federal gas tax money for that same period of time and invest that into a solution to getting us out of this gas crisis? How about incentives for alternate fuel sources? Or incentives for more fuel efficient vehicles? Or something from all those people out there who are smarter than me and are clearly smarter than the candidates we have in office and who are running for office?

The Rational Moderate