Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

AP's bogus nuclear diagram

AP just came out with a story claiming the diagram below was produced by Iranian computer scientists simulating a nuclear device.
The graph ostensibly plots energy and power vs time, in microseconds. However, power is just the time derivative of energy. So the power graph should just be the slope of the energy graph. Superficially, it looks like it is. But the maximum value of the slope is 4.3 X 108 kT/s, whereas the power graph shows the maximum power to be around 1.7 X 1013 kT/s, 40,000 times larger.

Whoever produced the graph couldn't pass freshman physics. Somehow I doubt that was an Iranian nuclear engineer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Washington Post-racial?

Conservatives have long joked that the definition of a 'racist' is a conservative who wins an argument with a liberal. It's a pretty accurate testimony to the evisceration of all meaning from a word that I took seriously when I was out demonstrating against apartheid. Once people started saying things like 'All whites are racist', the game was up. That's probably a great relief to organizations like the KKK, if they still exist.

Anyway, the WaPo editorial board narrowed it down a little over the weekend. Apparently to demonstrate someone is a racist, one needs to show he is not only white, but comes from one of the states formerly in rebellion. I happen to own a residence in one of the founding states of the Confederacy, so I guess it's time to face reality and look for a white sheet and a pointy hat. It's a shame my high-frequency hearing is shot. I just can't pick up the racist dog-whistles any more.

Meanwhile, James Clyburn, taking a tire-iron to a still functional part of the beleaguered English language, informs us that 'incompetent' is a racist code word for 'black'. It can't be. Barack Obama is not the first incompetent president, not by a long straw.

Biology is racist!

UNLHaters' most recent nugget of h8 is this tweet.
I don't know or care who the tweeter is, and gauging by his other effusions, he's a drunken little maggot. We should probably be thankful his habitual intoxication seems to be limiting his internet output. However, just for the heck of it, let's examine the offensiveness of the statement. First, is it true? Well, yes it is. Michelle Obama does look like an ape. She looks like an ape because she is an ape. Barack Obama is an ape. Mitt and Ann Romney are apes. Gary Johnson is an ape-Libertarian. Everyone who cast a vote in the election was an ape, including moi, though a few may have been dead or fictional apes, particularly in Chicago.

Biologists, after a long struggle, now universally accept that it makes no sense to classify humans as other than apes. Our nearest relatives, chimps and bonobos, split off from our ancestral line about 6 million years ago, and they are apes. Gorillas split off earlier, orang-utans earlier still, and all are apes. A concept called monophyly says that any biological taxon must have a common ancestor, and all descendants of that common ancestor must belong to that taxon. Thus there is no allowable classification that makes chimps, gorillas and orang-utans apes and humans something else.

I doubt either this larval Reichardt or the twit(s) who maintain UNL-haters have a clue about any of this, but in fact our best estimate is that, under the fairly unlikely assumptions that Michelle Obama is 100% of West-African ancestry and Reichardt's ancestors all hail from somewhere in Central Europe, we all shared a common ancestor no more than a couple of hundred thousand years ago, assuming Mr. Reichardt has no Neanderthal genes (and I hope he hasn't, because I rather like Neanderthals). That would say that we are all about 30 times more closely related to each other than to any other ape. Humans, according to biology, are actually not a very diverse species. If only there were some Neanderthals or Denisovians to give us a truly diverse perspective in our college classes!

In any case, most comparisons to other members of the Hominidae are a bit stretched.

You object, as a multiculturally-educated postmodernist, that African Americans have historically been denigrated (oops!) by comparison with apes, in the sense of non-human apes, and so it's racist to continue to make that comparison. Indeed they have. So have Darwinians, the Irish, Slavs, Jews, and probably if you look carefully enough, any group that fell afoul of any other group. We apes can be pretty nasty.

But isn't it pretty obvious Mr. Reichardt's intent was racist? Well, no, not if you don't possess mind-reading abilities. UNL-haters, like almost all of the left, inevitably end up having to make the claim they know what other people are thinking. They don't.

What point am I trying to make here? First, that even things that are 'obviously' racist often don't hold up under any sort of objective analysis. And second, being 'racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic' isn't the only or even the worst way to be obnoxious.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"only a general description"

The Lincoln Journal Star is now telling outright lies in its attempts the whitewash local crime reports.
Three young men tried to rob a 17-year-old walking near 28th and Starr streets at 8:20 Sunday night -- just two blocks from the Holdrege police station. ...Police had only a general description of the three men, who were believed to be in their early 20s.
Let's see what one of the local TV stations reported...
The suspects are described as three light skinned black or Hispanic men, in their 20's, 5'8" and 180 pounds.
Yeah, that's 'only a general description'. What fraction of the Lincoln, NE population would you say is hispanic or light-skinned black, male, 20's, and around 5' 8" and 180 pounds?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Islamist lunacy in the Daily Nebraskan

A Tunisian graduate student in history, writing for the Daily Nebraskan says Israel wants "to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages". One wonders why they would waste their time, given the wonderful job Hamas has already done. This is his explanation for Israeli strikes on Gaza; he manages to completely ignore over a thousand missiles Hamas has lobbed at Israel from Gaza.

Why is the DN employing this lunatic as a columnist? Shouldn't opinion pieces have some minimal standard for balance?

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Obama has changed America

Outstanding piece by John Goodman on Forbes.com. He points out
  1. A large number of employers are switching to part-timers to do low-paying jobs, to avoid the Obamacare mandate. This, of course, was as predictable a consequence as one can possibly imagine.
  2. About half the precipitous decline in labor-force participation since 2007 is a result of easier eligibility rules for unemployment insurance, food stamps and housing aid. When Romney spoke of the 47%, he may have been optimistic.
In other words, at a time full time, low-income workers just became much more expensive to employ, the government reduced the incentive for people to take low-income jobs. We are well on the way to become the U.K., with a class of able but permanently unemployed adults living on the government dole.

Friday, November 9, 2012

UNL thought-police jump the shark

UNL haters launched as a tumblr blog a couple of months ago, largely to accolades from the local media and clueless political science professors. Their goal was to retweet 'hateful' tweets by UNL students, with scolding labels affixed (racist, homophobic, etc.).Indeed, they did a small service in drawing notice to a surprising amount of overt anti-Asian nastiness on campus, although some of these posts, while somewhat racist, are quite funny and even self-deprecating. Then, it appears, it all went to their heads. It became 'homophobic' to object even to the idea of a GLBT-whatever history month, or express religious objection to homosexuality. They decided to go after the most conspicuous conservative professor on campus (moi, of course). I've said what I think about this here. More recently, they've taken to policing the vocabulary of their fellow students. The word 'sissified' is evidently strenglich verboten, as is the modern usage of 'raped' to mean 'despoiled or destroyed'. When I challenged them on this, noting that to rape originally meant 'to seize by force', and pointing out that Alexander Pope's 'The Rape of the Lock' certainly didn't involve ejaculating on someone's hair, they claimed that Pope was being hyperbolically ironic. Well, yes, duh, but not with sexual outrage in mind, and besides, the modern use of rape = despoil is also hyperbolically ironic. (They've since deleted that tweet, though they refuse to honor other people's deletions). Then they claimed to know what the student had in mind when he said 'raped'. In other words, they're thought police.

This exemplifies two of the worst vices of the contemporary left. First, they're control freaks. They want to control the words you use and even what you think. Not an original observation, of course; George Orwell had something to say about it. But also, note the mission creep, born of their essential totalitarianism. Exposing racial animosity was, I suppose, a good thing, though finding out why that animosity exists would be a better thing. But it wasn't enough; they had to use their new toy as a weapon against conservatism (I'm 'transphobic' because I made fun of a man who pretended to be a woman in order to slime a female Senate candidate by comparing her to a porn actress). And now they're constructing an index prohibitorum of words you can't use, and even words whose usage is limited to the contexts they choose.

The way to deal with these little kommissar-wannabes is mockery, and I encourage fellow members of the UNL community, and others, to mock them at every opportunity. Run your language by them to see if it's halal (oops!). Lampoon their most egregious overreaches. Give them good old Nebraska heck!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bob Kerrey laugh of the day

Bob Kerrey, who in the last month of campaign ran almost exclusively negative ads misrepresenting a lawsuit by Deb Fischer, said to AP.
Hatred is a dangerous thing
Indeed. And for three months a strange transvestite Democrat with the handle DebbieDoesNE (conflating Senator Fischer with a pornstar) posted hateful parody tweets on the #NESEN hashtag, without a single objection from Bob Kerrey, or any of his supporters, including those whining how Republicans are at 'war with women'.

Lovely people. Go back to New York, Bob. You're no longer even of comic interest.