Annotated News


In this article from the NY Times, Anthropologist Scott Atran argues that humans are hardwired to believe in the supernatural–a contention I agree with, despite the fact that I’m an atheist myself. But here’s an anecdote Atran cites as proof:

[Atran's] research interests include cognitive science and evolutionary biology, and sometimes he presents students with a wooden box that he pretends is an African relic."If you have negative sentiments toward religion," he tells them, "the box will destroy whatever you put inside it." Many of his students say they doubt the existence of God, but in this demonstration they act as if they believe in something. Put your pencil into the magic box, he tells them, and the nonbelievers do so blithely. Put in your driver's license, he says, and most do, but only after significant hesitation. And when he tells them to put in their hands, few will.

If they don't believe in God, what exactly are they afraid of?

It seems pretty obvious to me what they are afraid of: a painful electric shock and the sudden appearance of Ashton Kutcher bellowing “YOU GOT RELIC’D!!”

Under these circumstances, I, too, would be be wary of the professor’s convoluted reassurances as to the safety of the box. That’s called skepticism, not faith.


The 2008 presidential race is as engrossing as “Mile two” of the Boston Marathon. “Oh my goodness, Giuliani has pulled within 30 feet of McCain. With only 24.1 miles to go, this has turned into a real nail-biter!”

Presidential campaigns are always ridiculous, but, nearly two years before the actual election, this one has already taken absurdity to a whole dumber level. The latest fashion in manufactured outrage is Candidate A demanding that Candidate B apologize for remarks made by Idiot C.

It’s a trap, of course. If Obama apologizes for one of his donor’s remarks, then he’ll have to apologize for the remarks of all of them. If Romney denounces Coulter’s latest comment, he is, in effect, saying “Coulter speaks for me, except in this isolated incident.”

Several prominent bloggers, on both the left and the right, have made careers of reprinting the stupidest thing ever written by someone on the other side (usually the 113th comment, by someone named “TrueAmericanPatriot71,” in a thread on or and saying “OMG this is what everyone who disagrees with us believes!!!” This practice appears to have percolated upward.

People said that blogging would transform politics. That prediction looks to be coming true.


I was going to write a Sternly-Worded Email to NPR over a news story they ran last Thursday, but I can’t seem to scare up the audio on their website (apparently “Top of the Hour” newscasts aren’t publicly archived), which means that I have to recreate the offending passage from memory. And as my memory has more holes that 80’s-era acid-washed jeans, my letter would basically come down to “I’d like to call your attention to piece of NPR reporting I have largely fabricated that MADE ME SO ANGRY!!”

Fortunately, I have a place for my wildly inaccurate and unreasonable screeds. It’s called a “weblog,” or, for short, my “eblo.”

Anyway, on a story on the fired attorneys, the reporter said (something to the effect of):

Administration officials claim that that the attorneys were all dismissed for performance-related reasons; Democrats in Congress, however, say that six of the eight fired attorneys had recently received favorable evaluations."

Nnnnnrrrrgh! This drives me crazy!

Dear NPR: Did six of the eight fired attorneys recently receive favorable evaluations, or is this just something the Democrats in Congress "say"? If you don't know, why not do a little research and find out? If you know this to be true, (and you do, if you read the New York Times), why not state this as a fact?

I understand your desire to come across as balanced, but if one side in a debate makes a contention ("they were dismissed for performance-related reasons") and there is evidence that refutes the claim, you can't just ascribe it as an opinion of the other side and call the piece "objective." "Objectivity" doesn't mean "bending over backwards to accommodate both sides," it means "bending over backwards to accommodate reality."



Matthew Baldwin
Professional Ebloer


Well, nothing new there.

Ohhh, Hillary Clinton …

Headline News


Nowak ordered to remain on Earth until arraignment

Sorry, one-liners are about all I have time, right now. Expect no updates for the remainder of the week frowny-face-emoticon.

Headline News

Pluto Vows To Run As An Independant

Rocky, barren mass, having lost “major planet” status by a narrow vote in the International Astronomical Union, fends off charges that its orbit is “erratic” and slams rival UB313 for being “on the fringe of the solar system.”


BEACONSFIELD, Australia (CNN) -- Rescuers have freed two Australian gold miners who had been trapped underground in a steel cage since April 25, when a small earthquake triggered a rock fall in the Tasmanian gold mine where they worked. They have been getting oxygen, food, water and items such as magazines and iPods through a plastic pipe since they were found April 30 ...

Oh, man. You know whichever brainiac in Apple’s marketing department engineered that product placement was rewarded with pay raises and blowjobs today. I think every report on the story for the last two weeks has mentioned the thing at least twice. They’re all, like:


"We're Running Out Of Time!"
Says Rescue Foreman Jon Sarno.
"Those iPod Batteries Only Last
Three Or Four Days, Total!"

Of course now that Apple has pioneered the disaster-related product placement (or “iProd,” I as I like to call it), I’m sure all the other major companies will follow suit. Lucky for them there’s a mine-related catastrophy every fortnight or so.


"We Serve To Miners,"
Jokes PepsiCo President Indra Nooyi,
Giving The Thumbs Up.

17 trapped workers presumed drowned.

In other news, Bush nominated Mike Hayden as the new CIA chief, describing him as “supremely qualified” and “a consumer of intelligence.” Huh. Maybe that’s what happened to Bush’s intelligence.

Update: Piers Morgan spectulates as to the iPod playlist in the comments:

  • Deeper Underground – Jamiroquai
  • Final Shakedown – Groove Armada
  • Bring The Boys Back Home – Pink Floyd
  • Avalanche Rock – The Avalanches
  • Lucky – Radiohead
  • Cause A Rockslide – Badly Drawn Boy
  • Waiting For The Worms – Pink Floyd
  • Survival – Nightmares On Wax
  • Alive And Kicking – Simple Minds
  • From The Ritz To The Rubble – Arctic Monkeys
  • Down In It – Tiga
  • Rock Box – Run DMC
  • Very, Very Hungry – Brian Eno & David Byrne
  • Trapped – Colonel Abrams
  • Disasters Are OK – Letting Up Despite Great Faults

Sark Defends Port Deal

Sark today sought to quell the growing controversy over his decision to grant the MCP control of several major ports throughout the region.

"I believe that this arrangement with the Master Control Program should go forward," Sark told reporters aboard Solar Sailer One. He emphasized that security would continued to be handled by Tank and Recognizer programs, with the MCP only be in charge of port operations.

But Dumont, guardian of the I/O towers, voiced skepticism. "I could understand ceding authority over ports 21 and 80," said Dumont. "But port 443? That's supposed to be secure!"

The public's reaction to the plan has also been overwhelmingly negative. "No no no," said a bit upon hearing the news. "No no no no." Others were more blunt. "Sark should be de-rezzed for even proposing this," said Ram, a financial program.

Sark, who has repeatedly denied having ties to the MCP, has insisted that the hand-over go through, and says that he will vigorously resist any effort to block it. But programs such as Yori are equally adamant that the deal be scuttled. "My User," she said, "have we already forgotten the lessons of 1000212400?"

Fairyland Headline News

Bodies of field mice found in forest
D.A. may seek goon penalty

"Marriage is between a dish and a spoon," says monarch

Baffling code, in which letters are replaced by claps,
has confounded linguists for centuries
"We're pretty sure it's 'Bongo'," says expert

Roberts Continues To Stonewall On Logan v. Wayne

Judge John Roberts weathered another round of questioning today as his confirmation hearing entered its second day, but the controversal pick for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court left many senators frustrated and angry as he repeatedly declined to explicate his position on Logan v. Wayne.

Though he remained calm and composed while addressing members of the Senate judiciary committee, Mr Roberts refused to provide unambiguous answers when asked about the one of the most controversial questions even pondered by Congress.

Proceedings quickly became acrimonious Tuesday morning, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) openly challenged Robert's claim that he "had not made up his mind" on Logan v. Wayne. "With all due respect, I find it frankly unbelievable that, in 30 years of public service, you could not have formed an opinion on this matter," Kennedy said. "So I would again ask that you simply answer the question: who would win in a fight, Wolverine or Batman?"

Seemingly nonplussed, Roberts demurred, saying, "while I

Bush Appoints Bolton To UN

In a move that critics decried as "a slap in the face to a venerable institution," President George Bush today bypassed Congress and appointed Michael Bolton as ambassador to the UN. "As the winner of two Grammies and six American Music Awards, and as an artist who has sold over 52 million albums and singles worldwide, Michael Bolton is unique qualified to represent America's interests in the United Nations" Bush said during a public appearance with the aging "easy listening" maven. "He'll be more than just a reformer, he will also serve as the UN's 'Soul Provider'."

Wasting no time, Bolton spent his first day on the job today, where he addressed weakening ties between the US and Europe by singing "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?," gave tribute to a former USSR territory with "Georgia On My Mind," and inexplicably interupted a spirited debate on debt relief with a soulful rendition of "Can I Touch You ... There?"*

Bolton's nomination had been stalled for months, as Democrats threatened filibuster unless the White House blocked release of the upcoming "Best of the Bolton" album. Upon hearing the news, Senate Minority Leader Henry Reid blasted Bush's use of a recess appointment as "an outragous abuse of power" and derided Bolton as "a no-talent assclown."