Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why do people often vote against their own interests?

I have often wondered about this myself. This article goes a long way towards making sense of the issue. Possibly the most cogent point in the article comes from Thomas Frank.

"Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

"It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."

I have to disagree with the author's comment that "This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism." Somehow the party of big business has co-opted moral and patriotic authority as their domain, and branded the party of the working class and poor as morally bankrupt. How did they manage that? Could it be as simple as having more advertising dollars?

Why is CBS in Bed with the Religious Right on Super Bowl Sunday?

A thought provoking article in the Huffington Post.
I had never considered that there might be an overt bias toward one "Christian" view point versus another in an organization as large as CBS.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Scale again

Going back to this post will get you a nice view of the scale of the world, but this graphic is even better. The whole Universe down to the Planck Length.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The strawman to knock down all strawmen

Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, is a natural medicine practitioner. He recently got in a little scuffle on twitter concerning some silly internet award. When some of his votes were taken away because they were fraudulent and he started to lose in the health category to a real doctor he decided to write what up what he believes skeptics are. Free registration is required to read the entire article, but don't bother. The blog Dubito Ergo Sum has the whole thing with commentary.

Really, what else is there to do but laugh at this. Mike Adams is so deluded that just about everything that he states is demonstrably wrong.

Here's a few examples of what he believes skeptics to be.

...and that there is NO LIMIT to the number of vaccines a person can be safely given. So injecting all children with, for example, 900 vaccines all at the same time is believed to be perfectly safe and "good for your health."

Skeptics believe that the human body has no ability to defend itself against invading microorganism and that the only things that can save people from viral infections are vaccines.

Skeptics believe that DEAD foods have exactly the same nutritional properties as LIVING foods (hilarious!).

I don't even know what that last one means. I prefer not to eat live animals. The squeaking is really annoying when I'm trying to bite off their arms. Or does he mean plants? Some plants actually have more nutritional value if they are cooked. Cooking actually can release more nutrients for consumption than just eating the food raw.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cavemen: Part 2

Here's a follow up to this post concerning the Caveman diet.

Prehistoric life was not short. This is a blessed scientific lie.

We explain this in much more detail in the book, but here's the misunderstanding in a nutshell.

* There was high infant mortality in prehistory. (How this compares to infant mortality in Medeival Europe or modern India and China is an interesting question we look at in the book, but no space for it here.)
* There are technical difficulties in distinguishing age of death beyond the early 30s, when one's last teeth are fully erupted from the jaw bone.
* These two factors combined with sloppy thinking to create the wide-spread "fact" that "if you made it to 30 or so, you had done well."

But it's bullshit! Nobody was considered "old" at 30 in prehistory, just as 30 year-olds aren't considered "old" among modern day hunter-gatherers, or in the Old Testament, where humans were allotted 70 years (three score and ten). People who lived beyond childhood often–even typically–lived into their 60s and 70s in prehistory. The evidence for this is overwhelming, and well known to specialists in anthropology, primatology, and archaeology.

Friday, January 22, 2010

AiG in Haiti

Here's an odd post from Answers in Genesis concerning a missionary that is in Haiti. First, I was glad to see that their colleague is okay. But I was struck by the content of the post. Instead of information on how to help the stricken people of Haiti, or perhaps even an amazing story of survival against all odds, we get a listing of the various booklets that are available in Haiti. They seem to be putting the cart before the horse at AiG.

Support groups are still having a hard time getting proper medical supplies to where they are needed, so see my earlier post about how you can help.

EDIT: Mark Looy commented below that AiG is also soliciting donations for Food for the Hungry. It is good to see everyone pulling in the same direction whenever crisis strikes. However, I still think that my previous post stands. There are still many lives to save before anyone starts worrying about distributing literature.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

KY Ten Commandments

LEITCHFIELD, Ky. - The Rev. Chester Shartzer sang God's praises and talked of restoring his place in American government Monday as he hoisted a framed copy of the Ten Commandments back onto the wall of a Kentucky courthouse.

More than 200 people joined Shartzer and Grayson County officials in returning the commandments to the county courthouse, just days after a federal appeals court allowed the display, saying it wasn't religiously oriented.

I guess I really don't have a problem with a Ten Commandments display that is in conjunction with other historic documents, but the first two paragraphs of this article should be enough for anyone. The courts said that the display of the Ten Commandments were not religiously motivated. So when they put them back up in the court house of course it was accompanied by songs of praise to the Christian God.

Monday, January 18, 2010


If you haven't seen it yet, Richard Dawkins has organized a way for the secular people of the world to contribute to Haiti relief. this is good for a few reasons. First, Haiti is in bad shape and obviously every dollar count. Second, often times, the charged is level that religion is a requirement in the world because otherwise people wouldn't ever help anyone else and there would be no morality. I already gave to Doctor's Without Borders, which had offices in Haiti before the earthquake.

Coast to Coast Predictions

Here's an amusing list of predictions for 2010 from the listeners to Coast to Coast AM. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Amazon Kindle

Here's a follow up to our discussion at Saturday's meeting on the Amazon Kindle.

Cory Doctorow, of Boing Boing fame, points out that according to Amazon's End User License Agreement (EULA) when a person purchase a Kindle book, they are not actually purchasing a book, they are purchasing a license to read that book. Of course when it comes to marketing they change their tune a bit making it sound as if they are selling books, not just permission to read those books. Follow the link for the full write up.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Has anyone else heard of this subculture who try to replicate some aspect of living like a caveman for better health?

It seems highly misguided to me. The idea is that modern man is weak when compared to our primitive ancestors. While that may be true, our ancestors were lucky to live past what we now call middle age. I also find it funny that the practitioners have no problem partaking in modern medicine while thumbing their nose at eating vegetables.

I'd call this a fake, except the world is a strange place and I don't doubt that people would attempt something like this. Still it could be a nice little hoax.

Friday, January 8, 2010

10 Minute Free For All

Come out to Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge from 10AM to Noon tomorrow and be prepared for a variety of topics to be discussed. This is usually a very fun meeting and a good chance to inject your point of view into the discussion.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Local Psychic

Awesome, a local psychic, Psychic Jill, has predicted what 2010 will be like.

On the topic of the overall state of the world: "I have a much better feel for 2010," she said. "It seems we've been in gloom and doom for so long, I see the sun coming up for the whole world. It's a much happier year. There are new beginnings and new romances - people who never thought they would find love will do so. I feel like there will be a spiritual awakening this year. I also see that the Pope will get ill, with potential heart problems, and there will be an engagement in the Royal Family."

Ok, so a general feel on 2010. After 2009 I think it is pretty easy to guess that 2010 will be better. I think most people will tell you that 2010 will be better as 2009 was not a banner year. She's not really going out on any limbs here.

Then we get some general garbage about lots of people finding first love. Gee, do ya think? People have only been doing that every year since the beginning of the human species. I'd even venture to say that it has happened already in 2010.

Next some stuff about the pope having heart problems, again not really something that would be surprising as he is an older man who is in the prime demographic to get heart problems. At least this is a falsifiable prediction unlike the first two.

And then an engagement in the Royal Family. Ok, which Royal Family? She remains vague on this. If she means the British Royal family, then not much a prediction as Harry and William are both at a prime age for getting engaged. but she doesn't specify, so any royal family across the world will do. I suppose she could even point to someone with the last name of Royal who gets engages this year. not that she'll ever have to defend these predictions if they don't come to pass as everyone will have forgotten them at the end of this year.

The economy: "Money situations are going to become easier," she said. "It will all lighten up. Job-wise, the economy is going to open up."

Well, as most economists will tell you, that is how 2010 will be. Anyone could have made this statement by listening to the news and not being psychic at all. So being right here wouldn't prove anything. There's nothing terribly specific here, either.

President Obama: "The man is under such a microscope, and I feel like that will not let up," she said. "I feel like he bit off more than he could chew. People thought things would be wonderful, and they still won't be in this upcoming year. I feel like he is a great man, but it will take at least another year before things seem to go his way."

The first half is a lot of nothing. Lots of political commentators are saying the same things about Obama being far too ambitious, and many people are already becoming cynical about Obama. This business about it taking another year before things start to go his way is very vague. It could mean that in 2010 things will 'go his way', or it could mean it might not be until 2011 before things 'go his way'. In the end though, she doesn't define what 'go his way' means. So this prediction isn't much of a prediction at all.

America at war: "I don't see an end to the wars," she said. "Possibly in two years, but not in the upcoming year."

Most people might guess this very thing, no psychic ability required. But of course, she still has an out in her prediction as she qualifies it with 'Possibly'. Here's a prediction from me, 'A cockroach will eat Cincinnati, possibly.' See? That's easy.

The Reds this season: "They are going to start off very slow, so much so that people lose interest," she said. "Then, in mid-season, they are going to pull a rabbit out of their hat and they will turn things around. Still, I don't see them as a playoff team."

More mediocrity from the Reds? Sigh. They've been bad so many years, couldn't you get a divine favor for us starved baseball fans, Psychic Jill? I will be generous and say that this means that the Reds will be bad before the All-Star Break and people will write them off, but they will make a run for a playoff spot, just missing. Still not a very specific prediction, but it could be falsifiable.

The myth that 2012 will bring about the end of the world: "I don't buy it," she said. "I see my grandbaby - who is 3 - getting married and having children. I see a lot of joy there. People are getting scared for no reason."

Right answer, wrong reason. The world will not end in 2012, but I don't need to see into the future to know that.

"I feel good about the upcoming year," Psychic Jill said. "If we hang in there, together, and we pray to God and put our faith in God, we can get back to the way things used to be."

Why should we worry about hanging together and putting our faith in God, Jill? You already told us things will be A-OK.

I really wish the media would look at the articles that it prints. This story is nothing but uncritical fluff. Not once does the writer turn a skeptical eye towards the predictions or even suggest that she's a fraud, scam artist, or just deluded. At least the comments at the bottom of the article are appropriately cynical.

Unfortunately this is the last we will hear of these predictions. There won't be a follow-up on December 31st 2010 pointing out all the problems with her predictions. This article amounts to a free advertisement for Psychic Jill as the last line tells the reader how to setup an appointment with her.