Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Gets Put To Death?

The death penalty was declared unconstitutional in the landmark 1972 Furman v. Georgia case largely because of how arbitrary it was. You could commit a murder in one place and get a maximum of life in prison, while in other places the exact same crime would have you be put to death (of course, it was later declared constitutional again after nothing had changed, but we decided we missed killing people).

Looking back at the past five years, it seems that death sentences are just as arbitrary as ever. In fact, over that span, a mere 10% of counties in the entire nation have been responsible for 100% of death sentences meted out.

Seeing it graphically only highlights the disparity:

Regardless of how you feel about capital punishment, you've got to be hard pressed to find a way this type of clearly unequal justice does not fall under the label of arbitrary...

Monday, December 27, 2010

I Am About To Waste Hours Of Your Time

The coolest new thing to dick around on the internet to waste you time? Google ngrams.

It searches through all books on Google books, going back into the 1800s. Somewhere I read that this data set accounts for 5% of all books ever published, but I can't find where I read that, so set your belief levels accordingly.

Anyway, the ngram program allows you to search for how often different terms were used throughout whatever period you choose. So, in theory, you could use it to look at changing social norms over time, or the historical varieties of the English language.

Or you could use it to compare stupid things and giggle at the results. Either one is a totally legit use. Here's some awesome charts to improve your life:

Which do we write about more often, food or sex?

Do we write more about dudes or chicks?

What about communism versus socialism?

And, of course, when have we written more about punches, kicks, and ninja chops?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is Brett Favre Acutally Jesus, Or Does He Just Act Like Him?

You may have noticed that Brett Favre pulled off another drama-filled start last night, even though he didn't finish it. While some could argue this was a dick move, as rookie Joe Webb had been slated to make his first ever professional start only to have it ripped away from him at the last minute by an attention-seeking fame whore, few actually argued this. In fact, to most commentators it was nothing short of miraculous.

And unfortunately they would not shut the fuck up about it. Courtesy of our good friends at Deadspin, here's a collection of quotes people actually said about Brett Favre starting a meaningless football game. I emphasize that it's A) only a football game and 2) one that doesn't even matter for Favre or his team, because you might think he cured cancer.

Anyway, these are all things people who are paid to speak came up with:

The Vikings had the early momentum, when Favre made a miraculous recovery from a shoulder injury and suited up.
Did he really have one of those miracle moments where he woke up and was feeling a lot better than he had been the day before?
Somewhat miraculous, considering he was 100% out as of Saturday.
Favre made some sort of miraculous recovery in the last 24 hours, another one of his miraculous recoveries.
Cold, snow, wind, Favre making a miraculous recovery.
A miracle, is what it was, only slightly less miraculous than what happened to Lazarus.

I particularly like that it was apparently only slightly less miraculous than when Jesus fucking raised a guy from the dead.

Some sort of local youngster must have been listening to all this hyperbolic bullshit and naturally came up with this:

We got it wrong -- Brett Favre isn't like Jesus, he is Jesus!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Your Friday Marching Band Video

Because, why not?

Watch below as the University of Hawaii marching band forms a giant, Voltron-like stick figure that then kicks and equally large ball. It demands the minute and 17 seconds of your life it will take...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Other News, Water Hes Been Found To Be Wet

Put this one in the file of scientific studies that simply confirm what everyone with a functioning brain stem could figure out -- watching Fox News actually makes you more stupid than you already were (which you already must have been a little bit if you were watching Fox News in the first place).

People who reported getting all or most of their news from Fox News scored off the charts in their misunderstandings of world events. For example, 63 percent of them believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear), despite the existence of this.

What's novel about this study, though, is that it not only demonstrates that the stupid are drawn to Fox, but that watching it actually makes you less likely to understand current politics and world events. Of course, this too comes as little surprise to those of us who understand that's the point of the network...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

News! News! News!

Big goings on in the world today -- first, apparently German scientists have cured some dude of AIDS. The upside? Potential cure for the worst disease the world has seen thus far. The downside? It involves stem cells, so even if a reliable cure is found, it will probably never be allowed in the US...

In other news, Michael Moore has put up the money for Julian Assange's bail. He also makes some good arguments in favor of the whole wikileaks thing, including the fact that former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time's 2002 co-Person of the Year, claims that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.

Curing AIDS and preventing 9/11. Now that's a news day...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Friday

As you prepare to throw off the shackles of the work week and enjoy the 48 hours of free time your laboring forefathers and foremothers earned for you, remember how this whole deal works:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What's This Wikileaks Thing All About Anyway?

With wikileaks being in the news constantly these days and wild over-reactions to it run from the media (who for reasons no one can explain to me hate someone who does their job for them) to politicians (who want to charge him for treason, even though he's not an American), it seems like time to step back and actually look at what this whole wikileaks deal is about.

While accusations that Assange is a terrorist are a little hyperbolic, they're actually not that far off in terms of his strategy. Here's a great dissection of what wikileaks is trying to do with the information they release.

Essentially, the point is that governments that operate behind close doors (such as one might be able to accuse the U.S. of doing) rely strongly on information -- on their ability to trust it (to make decisions), to protect it (to operate in private), and to selectively release it (to gain support for themselves or to punish others, a la Valerie Plame). As such, by breaking down the walls of secrecy and releasing confidential information, you cut off the power source for those operating in secrecy.

That's why these latest leaks are important, even though they don't contain much information. Both our Defense Secretary and his British counterpart have said there's really nothing in there (and especially nothing in there that could put people in harm's way). In fact, if you follow politics closely, there's really not much at all in these documents that's even surprising. Mostly it's just embarrassing to some highly placed officials. But beyond that, there's really nothing in there we didn't already know (or at least strongly suspect).

But that's the entire point -- it's not about the information released, it's about making the machine that relies on this information unable to rely on its information or its inability to control said information, thus making it unable to operate in secrecy.

And forcing Democratic governments to stop acting in secret and start operating in the open is exactly what wikileaks is trying to do...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Taming the National Debt

The national debt, and what we can do to lessen it, seems to always be a part of political conversations. But like so many staples of political conversations (healthcare, unemployment, war, etc.), rarely do discussions about it make any sense or have even a tangential connection to facts.

A great example is the graph on the right, put together by Chuck Spinney, a Pentagon budget analyst. As you can see, the deficit has grown the most during hard-line right-wing Presidencies, while declining (often quite precipitously) amongst more moderate and left-wing leadership. This of course flies in the fact of the conventional wisdom that right-wingers are concerned about fiscal solvency and limited spending while left-wingers spend our taxes like drunken sailors. This is not necessarily to laud more moderate/left leaders or say they have some sort of fundamental grasp on how to manage the federal deficit, but just to point out another great example of how what's actually going on is the exact opposite of what is widely believed to be true.

And it's not too hard to figure out the culprit, either -- military spending. Even though we outspend the rest of the world combined on our military, it's become a sacred cow that can never be trimmed. So even though we're discussing raising the retirement age and slashing social security to make ends meet, you can't even raise the idea that we don't need to outspend the rest of the world combined on our military without looking like a lunatic.

But hey, at least that spending is paying off, right? It's not like a dozen guys with box cutters could launch the most devastating terror attack on our soil in decades, prompting us to illegally invade two nations who have not attacked us and miring us in a never-ending war against a vague notion which has already outlasted both World Wars combined in terms of duration with no tangible benefits, right? Right?

Good. Budget busting spending justified.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Best Name Change Since Max Powers

An unemployed cabinet installer in Eugene, Oregon has legally changed his name to "Captain Awesome," after he was inspired by a t.v. show in which a character got that nickname.

Though he apparently had to sit through some serious grilling, the judge eventually not only granted his request for the legal name change, but also allowed him to sign his name as right arrow-smiley face-left arrow.

Truly a hero for our times...

Here is the actual form, complete with signature

Monday, December 06, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

What To Say?

This is apparently an ad for Absolut that ran in Mexico, showing a world where the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo never existed and half of 'merica was in the hands of illegals.

There's so many ways to comment on this ad -- for one, how companies advertise to different populations. Much like seemingly every company in existence has a gay version of their ads for pride events (and then make every effort to hide these ads from the larger public), I'm guessing Absolut never really wanted Americans to see this ad.

Or outside of advertising, it's a great visual of how ridiculous the argument over "illegal" immigration is, showing how much of our country was actually Mexican territory only a short while ago.

In any event, no one tell Lou Dobbs about this ad...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What New Not-Word Should Become An Official Not-Word?

The fine folks over at Urban Dictionary have put together the ballot for the 2010 word of the year (though they're more phrases than words), a competition was better than that stupid OED one.

For now you can go vote on your favorites from the 10 finalists -- I'm torn between "that's what BP said" (to be said after referring to massively screwed up things, in the vein of "that's what she said") and "Leno giver" (referring to someone who gives something only to demand it back shortly).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

And Now For Your NFL and Pornography Update

And this post doesn't even feature Brett Favre's alleged penis...

Rather, some porn site has put together numbers tracking its viewership in football markets on Sundays for days the team plays versus bye weeks. Not too surprisingly, their numbers shoot up quite a bit when the local team isn't on t.v. (link is to Deadspin article, so no need to fear clicking on it)

I'm tempted to make some stupid joke about the only things guys do with their time, but instead I'll just let the sad, sad facts speak for themselves...