Thursday, May 26, 2005

Name my Dog Contest

My wife and I are getting another dog, probably in a few weeks. It's going to be a girl dog. I am having a hell of a time coming up with good names for girl dogs. My wife has already shot down Bozo (which would be a damn cool name for a girl dog) and Mayor McPoochy. So, I am looking for suggestions for a girl dog name. Post it under comments. If your name is chosen, I will give you a sporty Ryan the Angry Midget T-shirt. Make as many suggestions as you like to increase your chances of winning. A winner will be selected sometime in June, when we get the new puppy. Good luck.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Question of the Week

I'm staring a new feature to encourage people to post comments. As the site continues to grow, only a small number of people have elected to comment, so I am hoping this will encourage people to post their thoughts on particular issues. Look for this on Mondays.

Who is the best Presidential cadidate for the 2008 election for your political party?

Stem Cell Debate

Stem Cell research is not a foreign topic on this site or to many of our readers. The debate has come to the forefront again this week, as two bills in Congress circulate that would allow federal funding of stem cell research. President Bush has said that he will veto any efforts to allow federal funding for research involving stem cells.

As with many scientific issues that have become politicized for one reason or another, there is certainly room on either side of the debate for reasonable and educated people to disagree. A good source of information, if you're interested in learning more, is The National Institutes of Health (NIH) webpage on Stem Cell Research. It's important to have a solid understanding of what is involved in the process, particularly if a person is going to be opposed to said process.

Despite my pleas, President Bush and many opponents of stem cell research continue to spread half-truths and complete lies about how embryonic stem cells are acquired. The vast majority of embryonic stem cells in the existing lines that are available in the US to be used in research were obtained from left over embryos from the process of in vitro fertilization. If not used for stem cell research, these fertilized embryos are presently discarded after a set amount of time.

Opponents of stem cell research relate the process of developing embryonic stem cells to destroying the embryo and therefore, ending a potential human life. The problem with this logic, aside from the fact that it is not based in fact, is that these fertilized eggs would otherwise be thrown into the trash, if they weren't used for stem cell research. For some reason, we don't have a problem tossing these embryos in the trash, but we do have a problem utilizing their potential to treat serious diseases that kill thousands of people every year.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to have a moral objection to stem cell research, as long as you understand the process you're objecting to. For some reason, opponents of stem cell research have chosen not to object to in vitro fertilization or any of the other methods for creating pregnancies that fertilize multiple eggs in the hope that 1 might implant. There is no logic behind saying that you're saving a human life by opposing stem cell research, unless you also oppose in vitro fertilization for the same reason.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Worst Star Wars Review EVER!

For those of you living on the frozen planet of Hoth or the forest moon of Endor, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith opened last night around the country. Of course, every film critic has to post their opinion, as if I really give a damn about the opinion of some pretentious bastard who was jerking off to Barbarella when the original Star Wars came out in 1977. Which brings me to the thesis of this post: I hate film critics.

Let me first say that a frequent reader of this blog, Mister Bling, is an excellent reviewer of films. He has written several stellar reviews for different websites, and could make his own blog (hint, hint) where he reviewed films, and it would be 1) entertaining and 2) not completely full of crap. Mister Bling loves movies, and it's that passion that is lacking from today's film critics.

Take John Hartl's review of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (I'm sorry for including a link here). Hartl does what many film reviewers try too hard to do, which is to imply way too many things about a movie that were never intended. Hartl expects us to believe that the political themes in the film are meant to be a political allegory (he actually uses that word in his review) to present times. To me, this is like saying that Chet from Weird Science is really supposed to represent Rush Limbaugh because they're both disgusting pieces of crap, when it actually doesn't have to be that complicated.

Hartl goes on to say that the film is "uneven" (without any explanation as to why) "increasingly tired" (again, without justification) and complains that the climax to this much anticipated film seems "predetermined". No shit. You mean to tell me that since we've all seen the original Star Wars and already know the outcome of this film that the movie is predetermined? This guy should run the President with that sort of logic. Yes, John it is the very definition of predetermined when you see part IV before you see part III. Very good. Nice work John.

Our friend John, who writes a lot of mediocre film reviews for the Seattle Times, has forgotten the entire point of a film like Star Wars: to be entertaining. Although I haven't seen the film myself, I know it will at least be entertaining. His review of Episode III is a classic example of a film critic taking himself way too seriously. Like I'm less likely to see this film because you think it has little artistic merit. If I wanted artistic, I'll rent The Piano or Spy Kids 3 or one of the other movies John Hartl would undoubtedly jerk off to at a 4 pm showing. People don't care if Star Wars or Billy Madison or Dude, Where's My Car wins critical acclaim or Oscars. Star Wars was already seen by more people in one night than Hartl's favorite "The Russian Ark" will ever have. Because no one cares what John Hartl thinks of the movie or any movie for that matter.

This is the sort of thing that's akin to criticizing the cinematography of Bowling for Columbine or the Paris Hilton Sex Video, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference. How would you like your job to be completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things? Like we need some blowhard to tell us the artistic value of Star Wars. Thanks for your opinion John, I'm going to see Star Wars.

Movie critics seem to me to be people that don't have enough creativity to write about their own opinions or ideas, they have to summarize and judge the artistic merit of other people's ideas without any skills aside from being able to summarize a plot. Do we truly need this sort of thing? I know I don't, unless Mister Bling is planning to start his own film review site, I'll stick to making up my own mind.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Readers, I'm concerned about your drinking....

We need to talk. I've known most of you for 6 months, some of you, I've known a little longer. Lately, I have been concerned that you've all been drinking too much alcohol. Don't deny it. What brings me to this conclusion? posted a short survey entitled Do you have a drinking problem? I would encourage everyone to take this survey, because I'm concerned about the amount of alcohol you've all been consuming lately.

The questions on the survey are classic. Do you ever need a drink to get started in the morning, or to stop shaking? Yeah, so what? I'm sorry but if you need a drink to stop shaking, you don't need a survey to tell you that you have a drinking problem. You need a helmet, and an insurance company with excellent legal representation.

Do you have “blackouts”? All the time. Again, if you're blacking out, or what comedian Dave Attell refers to as "time travel", I think it's time to accept that you have a drinking problem. The shaking and blacking out are not ambiguous signs of a drinking problem. This is like asking a kid in the oncology ward of your local hospital to take a survey to see if they have a cancer problem. If you're to that point, it's already a little too late.

Furthermore, if a person has these issues and they don't already realize that all the wetting the bed (referred to in the survey as "trouble at home"), parking the car in the neighbor's bushes (also "trouble at home") and 12 weekends with consecutive DUIs (Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?) may be a sign of a problem, a survey on is not about to make this more clear.

Most people with drug and alcohol problems know and understand that they have a problem. Some are even proud of this fact. Those that don't know they have a problem are in denial, and would answer no to Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking -- stop telling you what to do? A lot of alcoholics I know, my family is full of them, don't care what other people think of their drinking, even when they're passed out on the front lawn in their tighty-whiteys as people are arriving for Christmas dinner. You don't reach that point by caring about other people and what they think of your drinking. In fact, it's quite a selfish problem really.

Crime surveys are the same way. Asking people about drug use or other illegal things that they do, and then pretending that the information provided is valid is the very definition of delusional. People who are breaking the law aren't going to report it on a survey, even an anonymous one, and people who aren't breaking the law will either blow it off or lie to make the survey more interesting because they know they're innocent. It's a load of crap.

So, if you failed the survey, don't worry. It will either validate what you already know or provide information that you don't care about. That's what I call a great survey.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Quote of the Year

For the weekend, I thought I would leave you with something stellar that I read this week. The NY Times, every Tuesday, has their Science Times feature section. If you like science at all, it's worth picking it up, or dropping by their website, because it's well-written and informative, to say the least. About 90% of the assorted science trivia that I am aware of comes from this section of the NY Times.

This last Tuesday, May 10, the Science Times had a feature article with Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, a neuroscientist and bioethicist from Dartmouth. Dr. Gazzaniga is nationally renowned for his research, much of which is discussed in the article.

During the article, Dr. Gazzaniga provides of the best analogies for refuting abortion advocates and those who oppose stem cell research when they talk about destroying "potential" human beings:
"Dr. Gazzaniga argues that it is meaningless to call a fertilized egg a potential human being. "There's potential for 30 homes inside a Home Depot, but if the Home Depot burns down, the headline isn't '30 homes burn down.' It's 'Home Depot burns down.'
It's not a revolutionary concept we're dealing with here, but I know I have struggled with ways to counter the pervasive and emotional arguments of those who wish to limit stem cell research. When confronted by another researcher who was amazed by the way the cells replicate to create life, Gazzaniga responded that cancer has the same "beautiful replication" that the other researcher admonished so much. Should we not interfere with cancer's development, because we would be interfering with God's master plan for our liver?

It also relates to the discussion we had earlier in the week regarding science and religion. I think the comments under that post were incredible, if you haven't had time to check them out. Nothing inherent about religion or science requires there to be a conflict between the two. There are literally tons of people who are educated scientists who also consider themselves to be religious people.

Where the problems begin is when one group, typically the devoutly religious, oversteps its bounds and mischaracterizes the other. Organized religions and their followers tend to grossly pervert and misrepresent science, probably due mostly in part to ignorance. Scientists, on the other hand, tend to stay out of religious issues as much as possible.

The stem cell debate is another in a long history of examples of religious groups creating half-truths and in some cases, all out lies, about science. For example, stem cell research is not completed on cells that would ever be a human being on their own, despite the fact that you hear this from its detractors all the time.

Evolution is another excellent example. People who understand evolution know that Darwin, nor any of his scientific followers has ever suggested that we evolved from apes. Yet, this idea is constantly used by many who lack a complete understanding of the issue.

And there will be other issues in the future that are just like this. The best way to fight these sorts of issues is to be educated about science. It's not difficult to get information about science, even if you're not a scientist. Religious zealots are attempting to dictate every aspect of our lives from what we can see at the movie theatre to what our kids will be learning in public school science class. Information is the one tool that we have that they do not. We should use that to our advantage or prepare for the worst.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Apprentice Primer

Those of you who know this site, know that I have a pretty rotten attitude about reality TV, despite the fact that I often find myself watching it for hours on end. The live season finale of the third season of Donald Trump's The Apprentice (website) is coming up. I can't tell if it will be tonight or if tonight is just the last episode before the season finale. They do this so I will watch to find out. And the saddest part is that unlike most of the contestants from this show, it works.

This season, if you have enough of a life where you're doing something productive on Thursday nights, pits successful people in business who went to college (Book Smarts) versus those with only a high school education (Street Smarts), in an attempt to settle the age old argument about whether or not it's truly worth it to go to college. At least, that's what I can come up with.

Watching the contestants from both teams makes me glad that 1) I didn't major in business management or accounting 2) I went to college. Aside from the attorneys, the college contestants are completely obnoxious, and frequently stupid. All of the contestants from the Street Smarts team are equally obnoxious with a dash of white trash thrown in for good measure. Both believe in the superiority of their own path to business success. The Street Smarts team called their team Net Worth, because they're all apparently worth millions of dollars.

This raises an interesting point about business, in general: you don't have to go to college to succeed in business, but it makes you behave a lot less like white trash if you do. I have heard people talk about this season, as though it's theme could be generalized to all professions. Frankly, I don't want my neurosurgeon or even my kid's kindergarten teacher to be someone who didn't go to college, but who people generally thinks has "street smarts".

The whole concept of "street smarts" is baffling to me. It's like saying "You're not smart in a conventional way, but damn Pete, when it comes to knowing how to panhandle for crack, you've got it all figured out." Street smarts are a bunch of crap, in my opinion. I discussed this with a street smart person the other day, and he made the point we've all heard a thousand times, which is that a lot of people who go to college are book smart, but dumb in the ways of the world.

My personal opinion is that this is a contrived idea, used to make uneducated people feel superior in some small way. This is not a rip on people who didn't go to college. I don't believe that you have to go to college to be intelligent or to be successful in this world. Thanks to the Bush Administration's cuts into federal student loans and grant programs, a whole lot of very intelligent people are not going to be able to afford to go to college. But, I do think that saying you have street smarts is a different way of saying that you're the guy that knows the difference between powder and black tar heroin, and you're proud of that fact.

Next season, I want to see an Apprentice with midgets versus people of average size. Or how about fast food employees versus Ivy League Grads? Any ideas for NBC?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Science Lesson from an Angry Midget

A common theme in our discussions as of late has been the increasing influence of the religious right on our every day lives. Even those who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics are seeing the influence of Christian fundamentalists creep into places like public schools and town hall meetings. Currently, a panel appointed by the Kansas State Board of Education is holding hearings about new scientific standards for teaching evolution, which would require schools to teach students that evolution is a controversial theory and not scientific fact. Representatives from the American Academy of Sciences and others in the scientific community have declined to participate in these discussions.

The diversity of groups involved in this movement to qualify the teaching of evolution is truly fascinating. The Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, has been heavily involved for quite some time in promoting alternative views to Darwinian evolution. The Discovery Institute feels that science curricula should highlight many of the scientifically-based criticisms of Darwin's theory of evolution. The Institute stops short of endorsing Intelligent Design, which is the religious right's new way of attempting to pass literal interpretation of Genesis as a scientific theory. In fact, the Discovery Institute makes a strong point that it does not endorse intelligent design.

On the same side of the issue, neo-conservatives and the religious right are pushing the same agenda, but for a completely different reason. While many of them would cheer any scientific evidence that would refute Darwin's theory of evolution, it's doubtful that any of them have taken the time to read up on it. For some reason, there are still people who feel that the public schools need to be an extension of their church. The irony about the union of these unlikely bedfellows is that one group wants a more complete scientific representation of Darwin's theories, and the other wants to avoid scientific discussions about the origins of our species entirely.

I have no problem with the constant process of scientific debate and discovery. I believe that evolution did occur, although maybe not in the exact way outlined by Charles Darwin. When one considers the timeline of scientific discovery that Darwin was working in, his theory of evolution is pretty damned impressive. Darwin didn't know anything about DNA, genetics, the human genome, just to name a few. Reasonable people have different ideas about this, and because it's science, that's perfectly acceptable. As long as people have some opinion about what is going on scientifically.

There are numerous scientific theories that used to be taken as truth, that have since been shown to be inadequate to explain certain phenomena or even completely wrong. The wonderful thing about science is that there really isn't a right or wrong answer. Science is a process, and during the process of scientific investigation, we more often than not, find out we were wrong about our assumptions. Being wrong about things is actually parting of the driving force behind science, and most scientists have no problem admitting that they were wrong about something, since it often teaches them something important about what they're examining. Proving our assumptions to be false is how some of the greatest revolutions in scientific thought came to be.

Religion, however, is something completely different. The fundamentalist and Evangelical viewpoint on religion is that every other explanation is wrong. The problem with this approach, particularly when it comes to examining science, is that you never experience progress or learn anything new. Anything short of God physically creating the universe is unacceptable. Evangelicals dismiss anything that doesn't fit into their incredibly narrow worldview. This type of thinking is not adequate to stand up to be taught as science in our public schools.

If you want to teach your kids that David Hasselhoff created the entire world in the privacy of your own home, I don't give a rat's ass. Attempting to disguise your religious beliefs as a scientific theory, in order to get some attention and exert a little influence over your school's curriculum is bogus. Our public schools are not extensions of your political and/or religious agendas. If you want your children to lack critical thinking skills to evaluate theories, scientific or otherwise, I don't care. But, don't screw up everyone else's free and public education in the process.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Hate Mail Review

I have received a number of requests to post hate mail again. It's been a quiet few months in the hate mail department. Aside from a few of the usual dissenting voices, who refuse to post their tirades under comments, most of the email I have been receiving is pretty tame, which is why I haven't posted it in a long while. The number of people visiting the site continues to grow slowly, but I think the quality of the dialogue has improved vastly from those early "You suck so much cock!" days.

Nonetheless, there were a few people who sent me messages that were noteworthy.

Angry Midget, about 90% of what you write on your website is left wing bullshit. You liberals need to leave good people like Tom Delay alone and focus on making this country a better place, instead of always tearing people down. If you were half the man and had half the integrity of Tom Delay or President Bush, your site might actually be worth reading.
I think that last part actually qualifies as a math problem. Let's see half the man with half the integrity would make me an incredibly unethical hermaphrodite? The thing I love about this type of email is that they almost always point out the my site sucks, my opinions suck, my research sucks, and then they a) take the time to read my shit every day and b) take the time to write an email, because they think I care. If you think Tom DeLay is a "good" and ethical person, your problems extend far beyond the kind of support I can offer through this site. Try inpatient mental health treatment.

Another reader raises an excellent point:
Ryan, I read your site from time to time, but lately I have been frustrated by the amount of partisanship you've composed, particularly about the issues of eliminating the Senate filibuster and Bush's judicial nominations. You criticize the Republicans for being partisan, but isn't that sort of grouping, in and of itself, a partisan statement? Try harder to be a little bit more objective.
First of all, go back and read the initial series of postings on this issue, and you will see that I have praised Republicans, like Chuck Hagel and John McCain, who have not given in to the pressure their party puts on them to consider the nuclear option. Additionally, the purpose of this site is not journalism or reporting or anything else that should be confused with objectivity. If you're coming here for news, we've got bigger problems than my lack of objectivity. Can I recommend MSNBC or CNN for those of you who need fake objectivity?

The bottom line is that this site was never intended to be objective. It's a place for me and others to share their opinions. We can debate the issue of objectivity in the media all day long, I personally think it's just as lacking from most major news outlets, but of the very few rules on this website that truly exist, one is that I promise not to be objective. I promise to be biased as hell towards whatever I think is right. Political discussions involving objectivity are complete and total bullshit, because no one feels passionately enough to have an opinion. Either be a brave enough person to share your opinion or go to another website, like this one, which is definitely cooler than Pat Sajak's website, and might even be more objective than this one.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

6 months and counting....

This week makes it official: Ryan the Angry Midget blog has been going for 6 months. I wasn't sure initially if I would keep it going this long, and who knows if I will make it to a year in November. I am going to keep writing as long as people continue to come to the site, and as long as I still have something to write about. If I reach a point where I feel like I can't keep updating on a regular basis with quality posts, I will probably stop. No sense in trying to be like Motley Crue, and just keep churning out crap for the sake of having something to do.

Here are some statistics for the site that I compiled:

Average number of unique hits per week (November 2004) - 15
Average number of unique hits per week (April 2005) - 150

Most common search term (that people enter into a search engine and end up here either on purpose or by accident): angry midget
Second most common search term: midget porn

Average number of emails received daily (November 2004) - 3
Average number of emails received daily (April 2004)- 20

Number of posts since November 1, 2004 (including this one) - 110
Number of comments since November 1, 2004 - 350
Number of unique visitors since November 1, 2004 - 4,000

We have had at least 5 visitors from every time zone on earth. The most common time zone is Central Time US, followed by Pacific, Eastern and Mountain. The most common non-American time zone is whatever covers England.

Most of you (97%) use a Windows Operating System and Internet Explorer to view this page.

The average length of time a person spends on this page is 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

Thanks for making this site more popular and interactive than I could have ever hoped. Raise a glass to the next 6 months, and maybe even beyond.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Conclusion: Implications for 2006/2008 Elections

Finally, I wanted to discuss what impact the Republican President and Congress have had on their own prospects for retaining their political advantage in 2006 Midterm Elections and the 2008 Race for the White House. In earlier posts, I discussed how the Republicans have squandered a key political opportunity on a variety of issues and how the Democratic minority should be proud of what they have accomplished in terms of opposition, particularly since a united Republican party could have changed the entire face of the country. Now, the question remains, what impact will the lack of achievement by the Republicans have on their prospects for re-election.

First of all, I think it's important to say that 2006 will not bring about gigantic shifts in the composition of Congress. I do predict that based on events of ethical concern with Tom DeLay, Congresses involvement in the judicial process of Terri Schaivo, and a lack of action on key issues like Social Security and Abortion, neither party is on safe ground. While Republicans continue to spend like drunken sailors and circumvent judicial authority, Democrats have done little in terms of progressive cooperation. Both parties could have seriously pissed off their respective bases and I think 2006 will be as interesting of a Midterm Election as we've had since 1994.

The Presidential Election in 2008 is where I think Republicans could run into some trouble, based on the actions of the past 6 months. President Bush won't be running again, which means Republicans have to find someone who can appease the growing number of hardliners from the religious right, and still capture a large portion of party moderates. Republicans are quickly losing credibility on issues like abortion, as they have had the political power for some time to make it completely illegal, but have yet to do so. From a policy standpoint, Republicans have done very little to push forward the agenda of the far right, and that segment of the Republican party is hungry for power.

According to The Polling Report among registered voters who identify themselves as being either Democrat or Republican, each party's leading candidates are Hillary Clinton and John Kerry for the Democrats and John McCain and Rudy Guiliani for the Republicans. Neither McCain nor Guiliani really represents the far right. Both are moderate Republicans, which might be why a populist survey puts them at the forefront.

Republicans have some difficult choices to make when it comes to selecting a Presidential candidate in 2008. Picking someone close to the middle may provide a party victory, but may alienate Evangelical Christians and those who want a President who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior. 2008 will give us a chance to see if Evangelicals put their money where their mouths are politically. If you eliminate our born-again President from the equation, neither Democrats or Republicans offer a moral base that Evangelicals can stand behind with their black and white perceptions of moral issues.

If Evangelical Christians support Guiliani or McCain, they're truly political sell-outs with no true political agenda. What I predict may actually occur, and what I hope will occur for the sake of the few reasonable Republican friends that I have, is that Evangelical Christians will break away from the Republican party, and form their own fundamentalist party, instead of using Republican power to push their minority agenda on the rest of us. I've said all along that Evangelical Christians are political whores in the truest sense of the word, but it would benefit Republicans to drop this baggage or be forced to share responsibility for the world's next fascist regime.