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busy, busy, busy

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Note to Religion Editors: Public Doubts Darwin, Evolution, Poll Finds
As the press considers increasing its "faith-based" reporting, one thing journalists should keep in mind is that, contrary to most assumptions, large numbers of American remain wary of evolution and continue to see God's hand fully directing the origin of the species.

"Public acceptance of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is well below the 50% mark, a fact of considerable concern to many scientists," Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup Poll, observed today. He noted that given three alternatives, only 35% say that evolution is well-supported by evidence. The same number say evolution is one of many theories and not well supported by evidence. Another 29% say they don't know enough about it to say.

Almost half of Americans (45%) believe that human beings "were created by God essentially as they are today (that is, without evolving) about 10,000 years ago," acccording to Gallup's poll.

Newport, in his weekly report, cited two possible reasons for these findings: Most Americans have not been regularly exposed to scientific study on these matters; or many Americans know about Darwin's theory, but feel it contradicts a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. "Indeed, about a third of Americans are biblical literalists," he writes.
"Most Americans have not been regularly exposed to scientific study on these matters." No shit? I would argue that most Americans have not been "regularly exposed" to any scientific study on any matters.

Monday, November 29, 2004

"Why you lookin' at them books for, you get enough of that when you at school."

I overheard a man say that to his four or five year old daughter tonight at Target. He pulled the book out of her hand and dropped it on the floor as he pulled her away from the display of those evil words on paper. I decided to walk over and put the book back on the shelf. It was a children's picture bible.

A short while later I watched the man stare blankly at a video game demo. He wasn't playing the game, he was just watching a screen which featured a ten second loop of huge-breasted and scantily-clad video game chicks beating the crap out of each other. For about five minutes. The little girl was behind him, across the aisle, sitting on the floor. Reading a book.

There is always hope, however bleak it seems.

Currently reading: The Hacker and the Ants, version 2.0 by Rudy Rucker

Saturday, November 13, 2004

American Fundamentalists (Christ's Entry into Washington in 2008)

A pretty chilling representation of American fundmentalism, and, now, one that looks pretty fucking inevitable. Praise! Along with the featured work of art, which itself is too much to take in in one sitting (I just blew over an hour looking at it), check out the artist's essays on fundamentalism, guaranteed to turn your blue sky black. If you're really daring, he also has bios of most of the vile characters in the painting.

Needless to say, a print of this is going to be hanging on my wall in the foreseeable future.

A bright spot: Through this website I found that the elusive Steve Erickson is really not all that elusive; the artist links to 'George Bush and the Treacherous Country', an article by the bad-ass author who apparently has published a couple of non-fiction book on politics on culture. Who knew?

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Very Old Story

I know it's been less than a week, but this is the single best piece I have read regarding the election and the ensuing debate over the politico-cultural landscape of the United States.
The "liberal elites" will no doubt be making more compromises in the direction of heartland values for pragmatic reasons. But, judging by history, it won't change a thing. Neither will Republican political dominance. So, maybe it's time for the heartland to take a good hard look at itself and ask when they are going to adopt the culture of responsibility they profess with such fervor. It sure looks to me as if they've been nursing a case of historical pique for more than 200 years and that resentment no longer has any more meaning than a somewhat self-destructive insistence on maintaining a cultural identity that's really defined by it's anger toward the rest of the country. They are talking themselves into a theocratic police state in order to "crack the whip over the heads of the northern men" and it's not likely to work out for them any better this time than it did the first time. The real elites in the church, the government and the corporations will take them down right along with us when that comes to pass.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Square miles don't vote, people do, or, Geography 101

Most people have no clue how to read maps, let alone make them. The result, unfortunately, is that this complete lack of simple knowledge leads people to accept just about anything presented in map form, no matter how inaccurate or misleading, as long as it's presented with some degree of authority. The situation is made worse by people or organizations who either 1) don't have a firm grasp on map-making, or 2) deliberately create misleading maps. It's easy to throw some colors on a blank map and argue that it says something or proves a valid point when the vast majority of the intended audience simply doesn't possess the critical skills required to make sense of maps.

In short, there is an extremely fine line between a useful map and outright propaganda, and it's incredibly easy to take advantage of the ingorance of others.

This was quite literally the first thing I learned in Geography 101, and it was repeated ad nauseum in every geography course I took over the next three years. One map produced after the 2000 presidential election was used as a practical example of this basic principle: it was ineptly constructed, provided no real information, the little information it did present was done so incorrectly, and any conclusions that could have been drawn from the map would have been seriously flawed. At the time, the map was being used by supporters of Bush to show that, despite the actual results of the election, he had a great amount of support from the majority of the country.

Here is the map. Look familar? (see my last post)

Both the 2000 and 2004 maps are meaningless and misleading because they inexplicably omit the only aspect of elections that matter: people. They might mean something if the population was evenly spread over every square mile of land in this country, but it's not; the majority of the "red" area west of the Mississippi is sparsely or not populated. No conclusions can be drawn from these maps because they don't include useful--or even proper--information. Counties don't vote. Miles don't vote. Land doesn't matter. People do.

If these maps had included demographic instead of geographic data, however, they would still be misleading because there are no values associated with the presentation. There is only Red and Blue, no explanation of how red the Red areas are and how blue the Blue areas are. Without any values, such as the number of votes for each candidate or the margin of victory for the winner, the maps mean nothing. The only thing a reader can reasonably (and probably incorrectly) assume from the little information presented is that red areas are overwhelmingly Red and likewise for for Blue.

None of this would matter all outside of a cartography course if both maps, and most especially the 2004 map, weren't being used by Bush supporters to claim a crushing amount of support for the president (sadly, I can no longer say "p"resident) and, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, that the country is not bitterly divided. Of the population who voted, 49% opposed the reelection of Bush. Those are the real numbers, and any map constructed to illustrate the election results should clearly show that. The USA Today map does not, and that should raise everyone's eyebrows.

Good news, though: there are plenty of good, accurate maps out there. BOPNews has a repository of these maps, and I urge you to check them out to understand the real picture of this election. Here are a few I particularly like:

Proportional U.S. Electoral Vote - This a proportional map based on the number of electoral votes held by each state. This really only valuable as a guide to how each state influences an election in relation to others. Obviously the majority of the most populous states went Blue, and this is indeed an evenly split country, but one still can't draw too much from this map. But, I really like proportional maps, so here it is.

Popular Vote by Population Density
- This is really the best map to indicate the extreme flaws in the USA Today maps. People vote, and this best represents how they voted and where they are. It also gives a pretty clear picture of how unpopulated much of this country happens to be.

Popular Vote by State, Shaded - This one uses the amount of votes for each candidate and shades the state accordingly, on a scale from blue to red, 100% Kerry to 100% Bush. Most of the country consists of various shades of purple, pretty accurately reflecting the 51/49 split. A divided country? Yes.

Three-dimensional, margin of victory by county - This one is everything the USA Today map isn't. Two maps, each showing the margin of victory for each candidate in every county. The urban/rural divide is quite staggering.

See, maps are fun! That's your geography lesson for today.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

So lonely...

See those two blue dots in the middle of a sea of red (smack in the center of the map)? The one on the right--Jackson County, MO--is where I was born and raised, and the one on the left--Douglas County, KS--is where I currently make my home. Neat, huh?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Monday, November 01, 2004

NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate

It's obviously a miniature hydraulic device that Bush's handlers use to remotely pull his head out of his ass.

And for those you who just don't care, here's something to think about.

R Kelly maced by Jay-Z aide

I find it even more mind-boggling that Jay-Z actually has an "aide".