Tuesday, November 28, 2006

God Damn It

The mainstream media is at it again. A study shows short-term effects on brain activity when playing video games, and that these short-term effects are different depending on whether the game is violent or not.
"Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing a nonviolent, but exciting, game... What we showed is there is an increase in emotional arousal. The fight or flight response is activated after playing a violent video game," Mathews said.

No real surprise there, if you ask me.
Mathews said he hopes to conduct additional studies on the long-term effects on brain function of exposure to violent video games.

So what is CNN.com's headline on this story about (rather unsurprising) short-term effects, in which the researcher explicitly makes it clear that the results say nothing about long-term effects? Why, naturally, the headline summarizes the story thusly: "Study: Violent video game effects linger in brain"

Why, yes, that does seem to be precisely the opposite of what the study actually examined, thank you for asking.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

If you've been reading this blog for a long time (and really, why would you?), you may remember that back in January of last year, I proposed a Constitutional amendment so that, upon re-election, any returning incumbent president would be required to append to the normal oath of office, after promising (again) to protect and defend the Constitution, etc., the new phrase, "And this time, I mean it."

I would now like to propose another amendment:
(1) Any law passed by Congress shall expire on a date five (5) years after the date on which the law takes effect. Once expired, the law shall be null and void, exactly as if it had been repealed by act of Congress.
(2) For all laws currently in effect at the time this amendment is ratified, the expiration date shall be the month and day of the original effective date of the law, with the year of expiration to be determined by the rightmost digit of the statute's number: Add that number to the year in which this amendment is ratified to determine the year in which that section of the US Code will expire.

Basically, by adding an expiration date to all laws passed by Congress, you give them something important to do. My psychological theory is, Congress needs to Do Stuff in order to feel important. If they spent an entire session just sitting around and not passing any laws, Congresspeople would feel useless and unimportant, and that's not why they went into politics.

With my proposed amendment, Congress can keep itself busy passing laws, without actually adding new laws, or at least without adding pointless or even downright destructive new laws, since they'll be able to congratulate themselves for at least keeping murder and treason illegal. And the more time they spend on actual important stuff like that, the less time they'll have to get... meddlesome.

EDIT: One other point: By setting the expiration date at 5 years, it deliberately does not match the terms of office for Senators and Representatives. This increases the likelihood that a "different" Congress (i.e., with a different balance of power) will be re-examining the law as it approaches expiration.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Movie-Film Review

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: Funniest movie of the year, certainly. I would rank this as being in the same league of funny as South Park, Team America, and Bad Santa.

I've seen some reactions that, I think, miss the point slightly. I don't think Borat is ultimately about exposing the "bigotry and ugliness" running rampant in America, though that is one element of it. I think Christopher Hitchens got it right: It's fundamentally about politeness.

We want to be polite to people, at least people as seemingly innocent and charming as Borat comes across, and to be tolerant of people from different cultural backgrounds. But the Borat character presents people with an insolvable dilemma: We want to be tolerant of other cultures, yet Borat apparently comes from a culture that is itself so bigoted and intolerant as to be, well, intolerable. You can see the tension in people dealing with this paradox, between the urge to be polite and accepting, and the urge to confront him. Frankly, I have more respect for the people who do confront him, and refuse to put up with his bigotry just because it comes packaged in a pleasantly innocent Latka-esque character. It's the folks who try to get along with him that end up pining for the return of slavery.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Best Headline Ever

Duct tape no substitute for a babysitter, police say

Kerry's Big Faux Pas

GOP slams Kerry for telling students to study or "get stuck in Iraq"

It appears that we have now arrived at a point where American politics is conducted entirely by outrage: Political discourse now consists exclusively of being offended by some remark made by someone on the other side. And don't mistake this as a dig at the Republicans, just because they're the ones whose turn it is currently to be offended. The Democrats are just as guilty.