Tuesday, August 30, 2011

David Silverman pisses off people on Fox Business

David Silverman rocks! It makes you wonder if Fox Business brought him on looking for a fight. And they got one. Though, many religious people will likely find that Silverman was "annoying," or "obnoxious," or "mocking," he did speak a lot of truth. When he denies a "spiritual life," he is criticized for expressing his "opinion." Well, frankly, there isn't adequate evidence for such a "spiritual life," so the correct thing to do is not believe in it until there is evidence. And I was glad to hear Silverman use the common analogy of drug use to address the "comfort" of religion.

***EDIT: Did I mention I got to eat dinner with Silverman in Des Moines?***

Sam Harris says (almost) everything I wanted to say eloquently!

(via pharyngula)

Apparently, Sam Harris has been taking some heat from his Libertarian fans from a post he made regarding the rich, and Harris recommended raising their taxes. I have been collecting notes for a post of my own on Libertarians and why their proposals won't work, but it seems Harris has covered many of the points I was planning to make.
Many of my critics imagine that they have no stake in the well-being of others. How could they possibly benefit from other people getting first-rate educations? How could they be harmed if the next generation is hurled into poverty and despair? Why should anyone care about other people’s children? It amazes me that such questions require answers.
This is something that I have encountered that bothers me everytime I see it. I once saw someone ask the question of why they should have to pay for other people's children to go to school when her and her husband were not planning to have kids. There are many examples of why they should, but the one I provided was that it was going to be other people's children taking care of her in a nursing home if and when she gets to that age. It's amazing how short-sighted people can be.
Why do we have laws in the first place? To prevent adults from behaving like dangerous children. All laws are coercive and take the following form: do this, and don’t do that, or else. Or else what? Or else men with guns will arrive at your door and take you away to prison. Yes, it would be wonderful if we did not need to be corralled and threatened in this way. And many uses of State power are both silly and harmful (the “war on drugs” being, perhaps, the ultimate instance). But the moment certain strictures are relaxed, people reliably go berserk. And we seem unable to motivate ourselves to make the kinds of investments we should make to create a future worth living in. Even the best of us tend to ignore some of the more obvious threats to our long term security.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Atheists dismissing Rick Perry/Christianity

About a week ago, Rick Perry had a discussion with a boy evolution and the age of the earth. A couple of atheists have chipped in on posts in The Washington Post.

Richard Dawkins first addressed Rick Perry and the Republican party.
There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.
Of course, he also had things to say about evolution:
Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.
The simplicity of Darwin’s idea, then, is a virtue for three reasons. First, and most important, it is the signature of its immense power as a theory, when compared with the mass of disparate facts that it explains - everything about life including our own existence. Second, it makes it easy for children to understand (in addition to the obvious virtue of being true!), which means that it could be taught in the early years of school. And finally, it makes it extremely beautiful, one of the most beautiful ideas anyone ever had as well as arguably the most powerful. To die in ignorance of its elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature, or a beautiful sunset.

Paula Kirby also addressed the issue. She strayed away from Rick Perry and focused more on evolution and it's impact to Christianity.
Evolution is a simple fact. We can choose to remain ignorant of it, we can stick our fingers in our ears and refuse to think about it, we can even rail against it and shout and scream that it is not allowed to be true. But facts are facts, and will not go away just because we don't like them. We don't get to vote for our preferred method of having come into existence as a species, any more than we can choose to have been delivered by stork rather than conceived and born in the usual way.

The primary role of the school is pretty straightforward: it is to educate. It is to give young people the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the world, on the basis of the very best knowledge we have. Education is about overcoming ignorance - so the idea of allowing ignorance to set the school curriculum and to perpetuate itself by continuing to teach generation after generation information that for the last 150 years we have known to be false, is a shameful betrayal: a betrayal of young people, who put their trust in us and who deserve better; and a betrayal of the very concept of education itself.
...Evolution means that the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are wrong. That's not how humans came into being, nor the cattle, nor the creeping things, nor the beasts of the earth, nor the fowl of the air. Evolution could not have produced a single mother and father of all future humans, so there was no Adam and no Eve. No Adam and Eve: no fall. No fall: no need for redemption. No need for redemption: no need for a redeemer. No need for a redeemer: no need for the crucifixion or the resurrection, and no need to believe in that redeemer in order to gain eternal life. And not the slightest reason to believe in eternal life in the first place.
She also point out that, "...Many Christians happily accept evolution: they see Genesis 1 as merely a metaphor, and declare that if God chose to create us using evolution..." So, while evolution doesn't instantly get rid of Christianity, it creates a weakened form. The following is such an example:
...when Christians realize God created the world to be free to grow and change, they do not fear evolution as “rampant secularism” but celebrate it as evidence of the astonishing power of an infinite God.
I'd really like to hear what she has to say about Jesus. I feel I can speculate a few things, though: I suspect that she finds Jesus to still be the "Son of God," but that he was sent to serve as a moral teacher and an example for us humans. I also suspect she does not believe in a torturous hell (I had an encounter on YouTube yesterday where the theist was claiming hell fire is part of a purification process, and that people don't stay in hell forever), though likely still believes in a heaven. I also suspect that she would have been raised in a family or culture that takes a more literal view of the Bible. This is good news for the next generation as long as atheist stay vocal. If she teaches her children that Jesus was just a good moral teacher sent by God, then pressure from atheists can get them to look at those teachings. They will find that those teachings are nothing special. They may still go about believing in a god, but at least they wouldn't be "the end is nigh!" type of Christians. It would be progress.


I'm days behind on this (as always), but something just screamed "Foul!" about this story. This picture to the right is the new Cy-Hawk Trophy, which is the trophy fought for in the annual University of Iowa vs. Iowa State University football game. The CEO of Iowa Corn, the organization sponsoring the trophy, had the following to say (emphasis mine):
“This is literally a work of art representing the people and characteristics that are uniquely Iowan.” said Craig Floss, CEO for Iowa Corn. “Just as the trophy reads, we are honest, hard working, family and community orientated people. Iowa’s corn farmers are proud to bring this work of art to the new Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series football game and we look forward to sharing it with the people of Iowa.”
That whole bit about family just shouts influence from anti-gay individuals. I get the feeling that there was a political agenda behind this. Though it could just be that I have become paranoid after last year's elections where three Iowa Supreme Court justices were voted out over the gay marriage debate. The good news is that people complained about the trophy having nothing to do with football and the trophy will be replaced!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Piers Morgan is rude to a guest, but it's not Christine O'Donnell!

Oy, I'm a few days behind on this post, but it's something ironic that I want to address...

Christine O'Donnell ended an interview by Piers Morgan when he pressed her on gay rights issues that she did not wish to discuss, calling Morgan "rude" before all was said and done. If she wanted to see Morgan be anything close to rude to a guest, she should have seen him interview Penn Jillette the night before.

Now, some may not actually think Morgan was rude, but it was much closer than anything he did to O'Donnell! The one thing Morgan did provide us with was a prime example of argumentum ad ignorantiam, as he is willing to accept an answer, even a potentially incorrect answer, over no answer at all. Perhaps the most ironic part of all of this, though, is that the non-believer "angers" Morgan, but it is O'Donnell, who I have no doubts has a sincere belief in a god, who is the one who ends the interview on a religious related topic (and don't try to tell me the gay marriage issue isn't tied to religion)! The sad part is that is the problem with belief — when religious people disagree on some "spiritual" topic, there is no rational way to resolve the conflict since, well, their god doesn't exist. And even if it did exist, it would seem to either be incompetent or uncaring about getting such messes cleared up. Yet, it is the non-believer who wants to have a rational discussion that "angers" Morgan.

The full interview can be watched between these clips here and here. (The second part gets more into politics, and that is the one area where I will get on Morgan's side. Damn Libertarian atheists! :) )

Because Anthony made me!

A friend at work shared this link about religious influences on epidemics. The idea seems to be that some religions encourage tending to the sick, thus putting more people, particularly those tending to the sick, at risk of infection. There are some transitional problems in the article that make it slightly difficult to follow. For example, one paragraph states that "between 800 B.C.E. and 200 B.C.E...several modern religions emerged." The next paragraph mentions Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, but, of those three, only Judaism emerged in that 800 - 200 B.C.E. time frame. (And Christianity and Islam were later derived from Judaism.)

Besides that, there were parts of the post that bothered me. First, it seemed to not only take a pro-Christianity slant, but neglected relevant information. Take this statement, for example (emphasis mine): "Helping the sick was one way to ensure a trip to Heaven, so risking death from a disease's spread was encouraged." If you read the New Testament, it seems quite obvious the early Christians believed that disease was caused by demon possession. One can also reasonably conclude that they didn't think demon possession was necessarily contagious. The problem with that statement, particularly the emphasized part, is that those early Christians didn't even realize they were putting themselves at risk! The article really seems to push a "look at those noble Christians risking their lives!" slant, but the truth is that their "nobility" was derived out of ignorance! These people would be like Don Quixote's -- absolutely clueless!

The article continues to discuss this influence in present-day Malawi, Africa.
...About 30% of the Christians regularly visit the sick, whereas only 7% of the Muslims do, Hughes reported. The survey also revealed that the prospect of getting help was enticing. In the past 5 years, about 400 of those responding have shifted religions, many of them moving to Pentecostal or the African Independent Churches, places where the promise of receiving care is greater and the stigma of having AIDS is less, Hughes noted.
I do not know a lot about the African Independent Churches, but I can tell you the Pentecostals are big on demon possession. Even here in the USA, many Pentecostal groups ban watching TV or listening to non-church-approved music because demons may use those as media (plural of "medium") to enter a body. I wish I were kidding! (I don't know where in this podcast the discussion is, but I'm quite sure this is the correct one. The whole thing is worth checking out, though.)

Austin Cline, who seems to write most, if not all, of the atheist related articles on about.com, says this about Pentecostalism in Africa: "The adoption of superstitions in Africa is also not harmless. Belief in witches has led to violent witch hunts in which women and children have been brutally slaughtered. Belief in demons causing illnesses will prevent people form seeking real medicine that might actually help them."

With that in mind, I find there is a valid point made in the subject article that religious belief may help the spread of disease, as people will not seek proper treatment, as pointed out in the about.com article. However, where the subject article goes wrong (and where it really annoyed me) is that it states that Christian beliefs encourage "extreme altruism," which is then implied to be the cause of the additional spread of disease. But I do not see how that word, altruism, which is the opposite of selfishness, can be used. I understand how these acts of helping the sick can be perceived as altruistic, but the fact is that these acts are derived out of ignorant beliefs. When Don Quixote goes about attacking windmills, is this altruistic? Likewise, when Christians go about fighting off demons, is this altruistic? Much like I would not call Don Quixote altruistic, neither will I apply that adjective to these religious bafoons fighting off demons that don't exist.

The other issue I have is that my view of altruism involves doing something good without reward, but the Christians are doing this for reward! I've already pointed this out with the quote about ensuring a trip to heaven above. So, even if Christians do realize they are putting themselves at risk, that risk evaluation is going to be different from the perspective of someone who believes in an afterlife than from someone who does not. If you are someone who honestly believes in an afterlife, then death isn't much more than a minor inconvenience. It should go without saying that the perspective becomes different if you don't or are hightly doubtful. If I haven't made it clear, let me state it dirrectly: If persons A and B are doing the same good deed, but person A thinks they will be rewarded and person B does not, person B is the altruist and person A is not. This is independent of whether or not a reward exists. In conclusion, we cannot call these Christians altruistic when they think they are working for a reward, even though that reward does not actually exist.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gardening update

Here are some gardening updates. The first three pictures are from August 4th.

Here's an odd specimen I found in the yard on August 20th:

And here are some more pics from the 20th:
I'm not really sure what is supposed to happen with that broccoli, but the plant seems to be quite large. That's a positive sign, right? (Honestly, a lot of my plants struggled during the month of July, as we had above-normal temperatures much of the month as well as little rain.)

I also received my GARBY cart today. No more worrys about bags or garbage can covers blowing out onto the street! This is good.

Good education wins in 9th Circuit

(via pharyngula)

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a high school history teacher who was critical of creationist arguments in his class. The concern in this case was that the teacher may have been violating the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Here are some of the teachers remarks:
“Aristotle … argued, you know, there sort of has to be a God. Of course that’s nonsense,” Corbett said according to a transcript of his lecture. “I mean, that’s what you call deductive reasoning, you know. And you hear it all the time with people who say, ‘Well, if all this stuff that makes up the universe is here, something must have created it.’ Faulty logic. Very faulty logic.”

He continued: “The other possibility is, it’s always been there.… Your call as to which one of those notions is scientific and which one is magic.”

“All I’m saying is that, you know, the people who want to make the argument that God did it, there is as much evidence that God did it as there is that there is a giant spaghetti monster living behind the moon who did it,” the transcript says.

Corbett told his students that “real” scientists try to disprove the theory of evolution. “Contrast that with creationists,” he told his students. “They never try to disprove creationism. They’re all running around trying to prove it. That’s deduction. It’s not science. Scientifically, it’s nonsense.”
That sounds reasonable to me, as this is a critique of the problems with creationist arguments and not a flat out rejection of creationism. In other words, if this teacher would have just said that creationism is nonsense without providing the reasons why it is nonsense, then it would be an issue.

Judge Raymond Fisher, who wrote for the court, said the following:
“But teachers must also be given leeway to challenge students to foster critical thinking skills and develop their analytical abilities,” he said. “This balance is hard to achieve, and we must be careful not to curb intellectual freedom by imposing dogmatic restrictions.”
Being critical of creationist logic should help foster those critical thinking skills, and that is why I support this teacher's actions.

Unfortunately, the coverage on TYT, a favorite liberal biased show of mine, was disappointing.

If you can't criticize bad ideas in the educational system, then we will keep falling further behind the rest of the modern world in education.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best New Thing

(via Pharyngula)

Apparently this video was shown at this year's World Humanist Congress. Maybe it's because I'm a nerd, but I'm really digging the tune!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Obama followup and After the S&P Downgrade

One thing I want to add to my last post is that Obama is still failing on his story telling. I recall from the tapes on his recent speeches him saying something about trying to fix things instead of demonizing his opponents. The problems are that he has NOT been fixing things and that sometimes you have to call a spade a spade! Call out the Tea Party Republicans for being the cause of the S&P downgrade. Though no fingers were directly pointed, "S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default, Mukherji said. That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable, he added."

The problem is that some conservatives are trying to point the finger at Obama's administration, claiming those in the administration were the ones saying how not raising the debt ceiling would lead to disaster (default), while the Tea Party was saying default would not happen if the debt ceiling were not raised. See? The Tea Party wasn't talking about default because they were saying the treasury would just have to make cuts elsewhere in order to keep paying off the debt. So, this S&P rep couldn't be talking about them.

Now, most reasonable people recognize this for the absurdity it is. While the Tea Party may be correct, to even suggest putting the treasury in a pick-and-choose situation really isn't much better than suggesting default. To use an analogy, the Tea Party was suggesting we test the edge of the metaphorical cliff, whereas the Obama administration was wanting to steer far and clear from such a posibility. So how is it that the S&P rep was talking about the Obama administration and not the Tea Party?

Back to the original point, Obama needs to drop this idea that he needs to avoid demonizing his political opponents. First, there is nothing wrong with TELLING THE TRUTH about who the villian is in the story (as pointed out in the Westen piece). Second, even if he tries to portray himself as the "adult," his opponents are going to keep acting like children. I think most parents (which I am not) realize that acting like an adult around children does nothing to stop them from acting like children. Yet, this seems to be the approach Obama has been taking and will continue to take.

"What Happened to Obama?"

This is on the opinion piece in the New York Times by Drew Westen. I actually read this one week ago today, but am only now getting it into a blog post.

I don't have a lot to say on it, other than I found it to be a very good piece, and I recommend everyone read it. Cenk Uygur covers much of the important parts, so instead of taking a bunch of time writing myself, I'll direct you to his video instead, which you can see at the bottom of the post.

The one thing I will actually write on are the two parts that I have personally found most disappointing with the president.
  1. "Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements”...with “entitlement cuts”... But the law he just signed includes only the cuts. This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling."
  2. "The president is fond of referring to “the arc of history,” paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time — he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation."
In short, it has become hard to know what Obama stands for because he doesn't seem to stand for anything! Just like on this debt ceiling issue--he said he wanted revenue increases, but then accepted a "deal" (in which Republican John Boehner "got 98% of what [he] wanted") without those increases. So does he really want revenue increases or not? Now he's been out around Iowa on this recess telling union workers that they need to sacrifice one minute (as if they haven't already sacrificed), and then saying (after Warren Buffet asked for his taxes to be increased) that the rich need to share in the sacrifice. Yet, we have failed to see the rich sacrifice. It's been the middle class and poor (groups that contain union workers) that have seen all the sacrifice. Mr. Obama, if you're going to say that the rich need to sacrifice, prove it by fighting to increase their taxes!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Megyn Kelly is now a socialist?!?

Megyn Kelly, who is a conservative pundit on Fox News, has recently returned from maternity leave. While she was gone, some radio show host criticized her for being away on maternity leave. She tore him a new one on her show. I first heard about this on TYT (video at bottom), but a commenter pointed out that Jon Stewart had also addressed the issue. John Stewart did a good job pointing out the hypocrisy of her support for a socialist program like FMLA, for those who may have been unaware.

I agree with Stewart. It will pass. But those are some bizarre statements from Kelly!
  1. The United States is the only advanced country that doesn't require paid [maternity] leave.
  2. If anything, the United States is in the Dark Ages when it comes to maternity leave.
Holy shit!!! This is stuff you hear out of people who wish this country was more socialist. I know because I'm one of those people!!! But to hear it from a Fox News personality?!? This is going to sound sexist, but maybe it's hormonal?

Anyway, here is the TYT video in which Cenk Uygur primarily makes fun of the radio show host for bowing down to the mighty Megyn Kelly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Very good video from DarkMatter2525

DarkMatter2525 has released a video discussing why some theists have a dislike for atheists, which has been displayed in recent news, which I made mention of in my prior post. Watch it; it is very good!

There is research to back up DarkMatter2525's claims, too. Nicholas Epley has conducted a study to show that people's personal beliefs tend to match that of what they think is their god's beliefs, even after their own beliefs have been changed through manipulation. In other words, after the subjects had their beliefs changed, their opinion of what their god would believe also changed. (In other words, "Gloria is Theresa.") As the previous link only goes to an abstract, click here for a more thorough breakdown.

What the fuck, Stewart?

It is rare, but every now and then, Jon Stewart disappoints me. The surprise was when he said, "By the way, atheists, why do you give a shit?" It's one thing to hear that from the religious, because they usually say it to discourage atheists from speaking out against their mythology, but hearing it from people who are not only non-religious but likely atheists as well is quite frustrating. Imagine a extreme scenario, just to make a clear point--what if there was a group of people living in, say, 1930's Germany who found comfort in a cross that remained from a building that burned down, killing a bunch of Jews inside. The comfort, of course, was from the feeling that their god was giving them a sign assuring them that they need to purify their culture. Need I explain how they would go about doing that? Might that be something worth caring about for someone like Stewart?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Either way, Christianity shoots itself in the foot...in the face of nonbelievers

One of my wife's atheist friends posted this article on his Facebook page. It's...not a good read from the perspective of a nonbeliever. Let's first go through Mr. Lose's points.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I know who WON'T be running for President amongst the Republicans

Chris Christie is done. He has no hope for a 2012 Presidential bid. Not that it appeared he was actually going to run, but I cannot know what goes on in his head. Even if he had been considering it, it is not going to happen now. He nominated a Muslim *gasp* to the New Jersey Superior Court. And then he had the nerve to defend his nomination by criticizing the people who bring up Sharia as being crazy (not necessarily clinically crazy, but crazy on this particular issue).

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It was a bit funny considering how the Republicans pray on the crazy and ignorant (there was a point where he said something about ignorance was behind the objections). Christie does it himself, pushing the idea that tax breaks drives job creation. [Cringes at the fact I have not yet posted as to why this does not work.] Though, I have been reminded that New Jersey has a fairly large Muslim population. Coincidence that he would be nominating and defending a Muslim judge?

(It should go without saying that I have nothing against this nomination. I'm not too concerned about the qualifications of this judge. No more than I would have with any judge nominated by a Republican.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Almost forgot about Rick Perry! :S

Oh, I had wanted to share this video before today. It basically goes over Rick Perry's incompetence as Texas governor.

Apparently, a number of people did actually show up for his prayer rally. Let's see if it does any good. Like, maybe the stock market will magically go back up next week. And, more importantly, will he throw his hat into the presidential election ring? I thought he would announce it at his rally, but apparently he has not done so yet.

It's broken because they want it broken

In an earlier post, I discussed right-wing pundits complaining about liberals throwing money at problems and how what they really mean when they say that is they have no desire to fix the problem.

Another such area is public education. I often hear from the right-wing how our public education system is "broken." So, what is their solution? Voucher programs! These do at least 3 things that conservatives like:
  1. Saves the wealthy money. Many wealthy people already send their children to private schools. Voucher programs will put money back into their pockets.
  2. Promotes private business. As the vouchers would be used to send children to private schools, those schools would stand to increase their profits off of such a program. This is good for anyone invested in the school.
  3. Promotes Christianity. To weasel out of any 1st Amendment violations, it is a parent's choice for which private school to send their children to. However, there currently are a lot of private religious schools. There may not really be a viable choice between a religious and non-religious schools. (And many conservatives probably want it to stay that way.)
    Note to conservatives: Realize that if you are going to allow vouchers to be used in Christian schools, they can also be used in Islamic schools. I know how many of you freak out over Islam. Or are you trying to push your holy war agenda even further?

The scary part that people need to be aware is that conservatives are intentionally trying to undermine the public education system to push their agenda. There approach is really only a three-step process:
  1. Pin/focus the blame on some factor outside of political control.
  2. Defund public education while focus is shifted.
  3. Repeat.
For step one, they are putting the blame on teachers. Other factors, as Lawrence O'Donnell discusses in the video below, includes home learning environment, the student's personal expectations, the student's parents expectations, class size, class environment, etc, etc, etc. O'Donnell blames it on an anti-union agenda, which could certainly be part of it, but I certainly think it is also part of their pro-voucher agenda.

I grant that there are some poor teachers out there. But has it occurred to people that we may have a large number of poor teachers (assuming that we do for the sake of argument) because those who could be good teachers that would like to teach don't because they can get a better paying job elsewhere? And that this also leaves open teaching jobs to people who would not do well in private industry? Some probably have, but unfortunately, teachers have been demonized as greedy and their low pay has been justified by the crappy argument that they only work 9 months out of the year...as if they don't have mortgages, utility bills, etc. to worry about those other 3 months and as if they don't deserve to be paid well for bearing the responsibility of educating the next generation!

Step 2 should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. Many schools are now rated on how their students do on standardized tests. If the students do poorly, funding for the school is cut. How is cutting funding supposed to help these schools do better? Well, go back to Step 1, and the problem (supposedly) is teachers...or even the school's administration. That's what the schools are supposed to fix...because there is no way that class size, etc, etc, etc. has anything to do with it!

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Please don't fall for the conservative tricks. The public education is only flawed because people with political agendas have made it flawed!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The fertility fears of the religious right

First, I must correct Ana. The USA is right at the replacement rate, and may actually be slightly under at 2.06. The population has grown largely due to immigration (which also includes all those South Korean, African, etc. babies people like to adopt, by the way). I added the above video to mainly focus on Steve King, particularly the part about a "dying civilization." At the end of the video, Sam suggests that this "part of a Sharia law...campaign." That is much of what it is. Part of it is likely also part of a pro-white campaign as well. The fertility rate of white people in this country is below the replacement rate. To better understand what King is saying, I present the following video:

This is the type of fear mongering that the right likes to spread. I think ideas like this are even worse in Europe, but we are starting to see more of it here in the USA as well. The video does a good job of mixing fact with fiction. It is true that the replacement rate is around 2.11. However, we start seeing fiction shortly after when the video says that a rate of 1.3 is "impossible to reverse," but then immediately goes on to say "because it would take 80-100 years to correct itself." Well, if it can correct itself, then it's not impossible to reverse, is it? "Impossible," then, is a buzz-word that attempts to exaggerate the seriousness of such a birthrate and feed fear. After that, we are told, "There is no economic model that can sustain a culture during that time." Well, they I suggest we get some economists on that and figure out a solution!

The video then goes over the birth rates across Europe. Some of those countries actually have higher birth rates. Spain is closer to 1.5, for example. However, I suspect they are looking at the non-Muslim population, since Spain has a high Muslim population. Because the next things they do is show how many Muslims are emigrating into Europe and look how they are breeding like rabbits!

Now, I grant I do have concerns myself. I do worry about the numbers of people who hold ridiculous religious beliefs possibly being on the rise, but I don't care about the religion. Fundamental Islam is just as much of a threat to humanity as fundamental Christianity. So, unlike these people on the religious right, the way to tackle this problem that I propose is to be critical of religious beliefs. In fact, let's be critical of any belief that is not founded on evidence. [Cringes at the fact I have not written a post on skepticism.] I have heard it said that the next generation of immigrants usually integrate into their society quite well. So, even if you have immigrants who are radical Muslims, their children could end up being quite different from their parents if the culture is not composed of radical Muslims. And that is why I think encouraging skeptical and critical thinking is the best solution. I don't give a crap if they are not white. People are people. Or I should say humans are humans. That, and skin color is skin deep.

I am also disappointed with the fertility rates of Muslims, like those on the right, but not because they are Muslims. Rather, I'm not happy that they are not helping to keep the world population down!

Also, where is the concern for eastern Asia? China - 1.54 fertility rate. (By the way, their economy has been doing OK thus far.) Japan - 1.21!!! If that doesn't send a strong message that this is all about fear mongering to stir up white Christians, I don't know what will.

At any rate, this is the sort of fear that drives the comments of those like Steve King. And it's the sort of fear that drove people like Anders Behring Breivik. The part that scares me is that this man does not appear to be the fundamentalist* Christian he was reported to be. He was sympathetic with Christian culture and knew some Bible verses, but he admittedly did not practice much. But what if he had actually been a fundamental Christian?
* It may be that he could be considered a fundamentalist Christian based on Norway's standards, as they are not a very religious nation. He would not have been a fundamentalist by American standards.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best new thing

One of my friends had a great Facebook status update today. For those who cannot access Facebook, the status read as follows:
A man & his wife were sitting in the livingroom & he said to her, "Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine & fluids from a bottle. If that happens, just pull the plug." So his wife unplugged the TV & threw out all his beer.
I think she went a step too far in throwing out the beer. He only ordered her to "pull the plug"! :)

"Liberals always want to throw money at a problem to fix it!"

The quote in the Title is near the end of the video. It was said by Margaret Hoover. The implication here is that it is bad to throw money at a problem, and this almost makes me wonder what kind of world these people live in. Seriously, in what world does fixing problems come without some type of cost? The reality is there is always some cost to fixing problems. Every problem, at minimum, takes time to fix, and, as the cliche goes, time is money. When I fix a problem at work, it takes time, time which I get paid for and time that I use up when I could have been doing something else...perhaps designing, for example. (Though, as an engineer, much of my job involves fixing problems. Fixing problems comes with the territory.) Even when I donate my time to an organization, there is some monetary consequence. (Yes, I'm considering volunteering as fixing problems for the sake of this argument. Consider it fixing societal problems.) When I donated my time on the United Way Day of Caring, my place of employment still payed me for the day, as they are a sponsor for the event. They incurred a cost even while I was gone volunteering and not doing the type of work I was hired for. Even when I volunteer on my own time, that is time I could be doing things to save myself money or maybe working a second job or even putting extra hours at my current job, which I can then use as a case for getting a bigger raise. In short, fixing problems costs money, so this implication that you don't need to throw money at a problem to fix it is absurd.

What could be seen as the more baffling part of this whole story is that this is in regards to this recommendation that birth control be freely available to the public in which there is the claim that the cost of preventing unwanted pregnancies will be much smaller than the cost of carrying out an unwanted pregnancy. In the end, money is saved, yet, these conservatives still complain.

This should lead people to the conclusion that there is something else going on here. I find that something else to actually be quite simple: They (the conservatives) don't want to have to pay anything at all, ever...which really boils down to selfishness. (Frankly, a lot of conservative ideas boil down to selfishness.) In other words, they are looking out for #1. For this case, O'Reilly and Hoover are likely thinking along the lines of "I'm a responsible person and never had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Why should I pay for someone else's irresponsibility?" When they complain about liberals throwing money at a problem, it is not because they live in some strange reality where fixing problems is cost free, as I suggested in the first paragraph, but rather because they had no interest in fixing the problem in the first place. When they disregard the fact that preventative measures can actually save money in the long term, it is because, once again, that they have no interest in the problem. Any cost in fixing a problem that is of no concern to them is too high of a cost.
Also note that earlier in the video, O'Reilly claimed that "Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex..." This is setting up the idea that unwanted pregnancies are always a result of irresponsible behavior, thus reducing sympothy for the pregnant woman. Amanda Marcotte at pandagon.net has a fitting response.
O'Reilly is framing unwanted pregnancy as a woman's just punishment for being a dirty, drunken slut. He doesn't, however, explain why he thinks it's such a great idea to have women he considers irresponsible, slutty drunks put in charge of raising the next generation. This is typical anti-choice thinking---putting punishing "dirty girls" above all other concerns, including the well-being of children.


O'Reilly clearly doesn't understand how the birth control pill works. His statement only makes sense if you assume that the pill works by a woman taking it right before or during sex to prevent conception, which is why being drunk might make you forget it. But in reality, that's not how the pill works at all, as roughly everyone in the world over 10 years old that isn't Bill O'Reilly understands. You just take it during the day and it covers you for having sex roughly whenever, as long as you're up on your pills. If you haven't been taking your pills and you take one right before sex, it doesn't offer any protection.
There is another issue at large in this discussion. Many conservatives are also moderate or fundamentalist Christians, the type of Christians that demonize the use of birth control. Even if freely available birth control makes sense (and it does), they will fight it as it goes against their religious dogma.