Saturday, April 26, 2008

Physicist humour

I can only describe this as a work of sheer genius.
I am the first to accept that this may say more about me than the picture.

via Mr Eugenidies and Mr Worstall

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"In the future, everything will be child abuse for 15 minutes" - UPDATED 

[With a respectful nod to the wonderful Beautiful Atrocities: "In the future, everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes", which is alas now defunct]

Cross country running "Cross-country running at school could be a form of physical abuse" - [source] 

"Is cycling with children a form of child abuse?" - [source]

Education (Religious)
"Inculcating...falsehoods of the major faiths into small children is a form of child abuse" - [source]

Education (Secular)
"This deprivation of the spiritual is a form of child abuse." - [source]

Education (Home schooling)
Home schooling parents, he said, “participate in what can be perceived as a form of child abuse.” - [source]

Education (American Public Schools)
"Is American public education a form of child abuse?" - [source]

Education (British Boarding Schools)
"Sending young children to boarding school may be considered a particularly British form of child abuse" - [source]

Education (Pretty much all of it, really)
"Education today is a form of child abuse " - [source]

"A Halifax teacher, Rosemary Wright, proposed that the conference view exams as 'another form of child abuse'." - [source]

Feeding children (too much)
"OVERFEEDING youngsters should be seen as a form of child abuse" - [source]

Feeding children (not enough)
"Should the involvement of children in a hunger strike be regarded as a legitimate form of political protest or does it constitute a form of child abuse?...Definitely not legitimate protest, but probably not child abuse either" - [source]

Feeding children (Fish)
"Feeding fish, whale and seal to children is a form of child abuse" - [source]

Feeding children (vegetables)
"Vegetarianism – a form of child abuse" - [source]

Feeding children (junk food)
"I believe that it is a form of child abuse to feed children junk food, where the adult offering it knows it to be so." - [source]

Feeding children (the Tam Fry edition) "Tam Fry, a member of the National Obesity Forum's board, will tell a conference that youngsters who are over-fed by their parents should be treated as victims of abuse, as happens with malnourished children." - [source]

Ignoring the Bishop of Stafford "People who fail to tackle climate change are acting like an Austrian man who locked his daughter in a cellar for 24 years, an Anglican bishop has said." - [source] [via Oliver Kamm]

Immigration Law
"deportations are a form of child abuse" - [source]

Raising children in suburbia
"Is raising children in suburbia a form of child abuse?" - [source]

Reality TV
"constitutes nothing less than child abuse" - [source]

SATs (UK) - The union's outgoing president, Bill Greenshields, said he was confident a boycott would be successful."We will end this child abuse," he said. [source]

"Cigarette smoking is a form of child abuse" - [source]

The policies of John McCain
"a colossal from [sic] of child abuse." - [source]

Vaccination (Not using) - People who do not have their children vaccinated should be prosecuted for domestic terrorism and child abuse. - [source]

"Oh, yes, I think that yelling is a form of child abuse." - [source]

Zoos (taking children to Chinese zoos)
"It's almost a form of child abuse" - [source]

It's a substantial list, for which additional contributions are solicited, either by the comments section or by email to a.political.scientist - at - gmail dot com.

However, it seems that child abuse will NOT be a "form of child abuse": it appears that watching children being abused on the internet will be "nothing to be ashamed of" and "courageous".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A defeat for common sense

and a victory for everyone who's ever been Oppressed by not checking swimming pool opening times! Well done, team!

Reminiscent of this:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Are single sex changing rooms "Gender Apartheid"?

As a member of the Indecent Right, I have a surprising amount of time for the Decent Left.

Harry's Place in particular is always worth reading, but I found these articles a bit strange:

This morning, my wife, five year old son and I thought it might be nice to go swimming in the newly re-opened local swimming pool, Clissold Leisure Centre. We got to the pool at 10.30, to be told that:

- the main pool was too deep to be safe for a five year old;
- the "training" pool was women only between 10.45 and 12.30 every Sunday;

I got angry. I nearly swore. I rarely get angry at people who are doing no more than implementing a policy, because it isn't fair on them. I apologised.

Not to worry, we thought. I'll go in the main pool. My wife and son will go to the training pool. However, that was not permitted. My son, being of the male gender, was not allowed in a women-only swimming session.


Fine, I said. And what would the policy be if a group of racists decided that "sensitivity" to their cultural preferences resulted in a whites only swimming session? Why should a public institution subsidise the expression, in a public place, of the gender apartheid practice mandated by a small religious minority at all?

Some of the comments underneath the posts are, to put in mildly, a trifle hyperbolic.
The logical conclusion of this, of course, is that single sex changing rooms are a "form of gender apartheid".

Don't get me wrong: I am a great fan of secularism, I have recently been pursuaded of the merits of disestablishment, and I seriously don't want to live in any sort of theocracy.

However, I honestly don't think having a couple of women-only swimming sessions in a week is going to usher in theocracy. No, really, it isn't.

It reminds me of the eccentric enthusiasm for opposing Nativity scenes on public land in the United States: tilting at windmills, whilst there are ogres on the horizon.

[Disclaimer 1: When I was an undergrad, the College gym had a couple of sessions a week that were women only. The sky failed to fall in.
Disclaimer 2: When I first moved to London, I lived in Dalston. I wouldn't trust Hackney Council to run a bath, let alone a swimming pool.]

Friday, April 11, 2008

Economist survey - An important caveat

We'll revisit the the Economist survey over the weekend: this time it's the turn of the "religion" questions. However in the mean time...

PJ, guru in all matters statistical, adds an important caveat:

"The errors on that survey must be pretty large - and splitting by political affiliation will end up nigh on meaningless. Not to mention the myriad other limitations of survey data. But at least they do the very minimum necessary to take a survey seriously - i.e. provide full questions and answers, and details of the sample. Didn't see a response rate though - but that is widely seen as the Achilles heel of survey data (making, for instance, the published confidence intervals meaningless)."

[Incidentally, if you haven't read PJ's brilliant series of blogs about the controversial Kirsch et al. meta-analysis on antidepressants, why on earth are you wasting time reading my blog? - go on, it's much more interesting, and much more important, than anything you'll find here.]
Feline Mystery - Solved!

Nick and Nora Charles - the intrepid solvers of mysteries - have solved my feline mystery. To summarise, my cat Nimrod went through a phase of presenting me with headless mice, and later presenting me with the mice heads marinaded in a vomit sauce. This was less endearing than might be supposed, and contrasted sharply with her utter refusal to eat Mr. Whiskers Finest Rabbit and Beef chunks. The Charles' hypothesis is that:

"Puss is probably not eating the mouseheads for herself but as part of preparing a delicacy to deliver to you in return for your provision of food she likes. Chewing off the head is simply getting rid of the only bit of a (living) mouse that can do any harm - to her at least."

which I must say sounds very plausible. Further evidence to support it lies in her new habit of biting the heads off without eating them. This is a much preferable state of affairs, although now trails of blood festoon the living room carpet, so swings and roundabouts...

Cats rule.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"SHOCK" - Polar bear behaves "like a wild animal"

I hesitate to accuse people of being beyond parody for fear of encouraging them to move even further beyond parody, but...

From the BBC environmental pages:

Germany's celebrity polar bear Knut has triggered a new controversy by fishing out 10 live carp from his moat and killing them in front of visitors.

Critics say Berlin Zoo should not have put live fish inside Knut's enclosure. But German media report that the carp were put there to eat up algae.

There is speculation that hand-reared Knut killed the carp just for fun.

There has been heated debate about whether cubs rejected by their mothers should be saved or whether nature should be allowed to run its course.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine news website reports that Knut "senselessly murdered [sic] the carp", fishing them out, playing with them and then leaving the remains.

Maintaining that a bear "murdered" the carp "just for fun", while suggesting "nature should... run its course" for the bear and algae, although not for the carp - what odd and mutually contradictory ideas people have about animals.

Via Tim Blair

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Economist Retracts

A correction in The Economist:
In our article on Anglo-Saxon attitudes (”Anglo-Saxon attitudes”, March 29th) we said that Americans and Britons felt much the same about the death penalty: they were broadly against it. They do feel strikingly similarly, but not as we said. Between a quarter and a fifth are opposed, the same proportion are in favour, and around half would support the death penalty in some circumstances. Apologies. The online version of the article has been corrected.
Thanks to Jim Manzi, who spotted it too, for passing this on.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Economist Survey - The Death Penalty UPDATED

This week I'll be blogging about The Economist's "Anglo-Saxon" attitudes survey. You can find the survey itself here. I was particularly struck by the throw-away comment:
[Americans and Britons] feel much the same about the death penalty: they are broadly against it. - [Source]
I thought this was surprising, as the survey appears to show nothing of the sort. From the survey itself (Question 4, page 9 of the pdf file):
Do you favour the death penalty for murder? (Yes, always; Yes, sometimes, depending on the circumstances; No, the death penalty is wrong; Don't know)

Britain USA
Yes, always 21 26
Yes, sometimes 53 50
No 24 20
Don't knows 2 5*
Now, it's clear that the respondents do feel broadly the same way about the death penalty: but they are in favour of it. 74% (UK) and 76% (US) favour it in some circumstances. Now, the survey only had just over 1000 respondents, and although there was a breakdown by political affiliation, income, and age, there was no breakdown by location etc, so one can argue about the significance and relevance of the survey: what one cannot argue is that this survey offers any evidence that American or Britons "are broadly against" the death penalty.

* NB: yes, the American data does add up to 101%: suspect either a rounding error or typo.

UPDATE: The Economist retracts; see next post.