Friday, July 30, 2010

The True Meaning of "Activist Judge"

The ongoing saga that is Arizona SB 1070. The local paper has an article called, Critics denounce 'activist judge'. I get a kick out of all the "Activist Judge" nonsense.  As best I can tell, the true meaning of an "Activist Judge" is any judge that rules against your desired outcome.

Poll Pharyngulation Part Two

Oh!  This is beautiful.  Eric Hovind is one of the top-shelf classic creationist nut jobs.  He decided to post a poll titled, "What do you believe about evolution?"  The choices are simple:
  1. It's a fact.
  2. It's a religion.
  3. It's a reasonable scientific theory.
So, PZ unleashes his fans to go and destroy the poll.  Well, obviously, the number for "It's a fact" soon skyrocket.  Then, the poll suddenly is unavailable and gets reposted, except the question has changed from "evolution" to "creation!"  So now, all the "It's a fact" votes now support creation. How is that for good Christian/Creationist dishonesty for you?

When the truth is your enemy and God is your ally, well, you'll get some pretty strange results.

Curtain Call for American Idol?

First Simon, then Ellen, and now Kara.  First, I've never watched American Idol.  I basically hate Karaoke and AI is nothing more than a televised Karaoke event to me.  I have no idea who Kara is or what she has done in her pre-Idol life.  With 3 of the 4 judges gone, isn't it time to put this thing to rest?  It won't affect anything I do, but it sure will clear up my Facebook news feed on nights that AI airs.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time for Rangel to Go

Rep. Charles Rangel need to go.  Bad.  He has had 13 ethics charges files against him from the House Ethics Committee.  Ever since I can remember, his name has been associated with ethics violations, even if they were never formally presented to an ethics committee.  I'm pretty sure he's had his wrist slapped by the ethics committee before.  A quick search on his Wiki page didn't really turn anything up, but his reputation as one of the most unethical member of the House is well known.

Email Etiquette Tip of the Day

When RSVPing (or not) to the sender of a get together that involves a large email list, the general practice, for years, has been to reply only to the sender of the email.  If you are a regular attendee of these functions, then you may send a note to the sender of the email that you will not be in attendance since your absence may be noted and everyone is going to ask, "Where's Joe?"  What you don't do, however, is Reply to All that says you are not going to be attending said event (of which you have not regularly attended for quite some time), and where you plan to be in lieu of attending said event.  Twice!  Unless you are planning on inviting all of us to these spectacular events that you are rubbing into our noses and are certainly far more entertaining than the planned get together, then learn to use either Reply (only) or Delete.  Thank you.

Poll Pharyngulation

One of the blogs I read regularly is PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog.  Lots of really good stuff.  His blog description is, "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal."  What's not to like?  Anyway, one of the fun things that PZ likes to do is Pharyngulate polls.  For example, the Livingston Parish School Board is fully intending to add Creationism to its science teaching as I posted earlier this week.

The Livingston Parish News web site decided to run a poll.  The question is, "Do you think Livingston Parish public schools should teach creationism?"  The poll results at the time PZ posted this were:

Yes, evolution is a lie 22%
Yes, so children can hear both sides 35%
No, religion has no place in science class 29%
No, we don't need to waste tax money on lawsuits 13%
Don't know 1%

After unleashing his Cephalopod Hounds, the poll results now look like this:

Yes, evolution is a lie 3%
Yes, so children can hear both sides 5%
No, religion has no place in science class 88%
No, we don't need to waste tax money on lawsuits 3%
Don't know 2%

This makes me giggle.  He he.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell Must Go

Another highly decorated member of the military has been thrown out of the service for being gay.  When is this nonsense going to stop.  As the talk of ending DADT heats up, there is talk of more and more active soldiers considering opting out through the Conscientious Objector clause if DADT is repealed.  These soldiers are bigots.  The gay men and women who have volunteered to serve this country, did so knowing that they are not welcome and that they could be outed at any time, and yet, they have served their country just as dutifully as any straight soldier has.  Anyone of these gay soldiers could have outed themselves and gotten out on their own at anytime.  All it took was a public acknowledgment of their orientation.  And yet, the straight soldiers are seeking to opt out because they are homophobic bigots.  The religious right assholes are all out in force using their typical inflammatory, highly bigoted language that only serve to make them look like the assholes they truly are.  I could link to several such stories, but I'm feeling lazy.

The gay members of our military are fighting for our freedoms and perhaps for freedoms that they themselves are not able to enjoy.  They have my full support.

Backwards in the Bayou

It looks like a school district in Louisiana is poised to teach Creationism in the classroom the year after next and perhaps even looking to eliminate the teaching of evolution.  This is so idiotic.  First, from an economic standpoint, school district budgets are tight as it is, yet these school boards seem perfectly willing to accept the threat of lawsuits and eventual overturning of these policies.  Second, if there is one silver lining, they are blatantly calling it Creationism and not the Intelligent Design bullshit.  That failed miserably in Dover.  This will fail just as miserably at the expense at what is certainly a cash strapped school district.  Third, these students will be severely hampered should they choose to pursue any college level sciences.  Biology departments across the country will have to introduce remedial evolution classes for these students to take in order to rid their minds of the brainwashing.  Fourth, it is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution (Another post on the First Amendment.  I'd better write that post soon.).  Yet another case of the religious right claiming to support the Constitution as long as the Constitution supports their own beliefs.

Evolution is as real as gravity.  The facts in support of Evolution are overwhelming and to deny it is lacking understanding of the evidence.  Is there even one testable hypothesis with Creationism?  Quoting the Bible as the unerring word of God doesn't count because he can't even get his own Creation story straight and had to include two of them in Genesis that contradict one another.

Faith Healers = Criminal Child Abuse

It's this kind of bullshit that made me an atheist.  First, why has fictional God punished this child with whatever this affliction is?  Second, why doesn't fictional God speak to these idiots through some flaming bush or something to take their child to the hospital?  Third, why can't their church possibly recognize the fact that if God did indeed exist, that maybe medical professionals are indeed the answer to their utterly useless prayers?  Anointing with oil, laying of hands, and fasting.  Give me a break!  These parents have committed child abuse.  Pure and simple.

"I Over Repented"

More like you "over bent" too far during your massage.  Ted Haggard calls his gay affair his "crisis" and that it was a massage gone wrong.  I'm sure the meth was just part of the aromatherapy session as well.  He then compares himself to some very elite company indeed:
"Tiger Woods needs to golf. Michael Vick needs to be playing football. Ted Haggard needs to be leading a church."
Way to go Ted!  Compare yourself to a professional adulterer and a profession dog killer (although I understand they also play golf and football respectively).  He has founded a new church called St. James Church.  No word on whether James was his masseuse or not.  He is also boasting that he now cusses.  Congratulations Ted.  Fuck off.

Tennessee Lt. Gov: Religious Freedom May Not Count For Muslims

I'm saving up for a really nice blog post on the First Amendment and have been resisting posting things regarding that, but this fucking idiot crossed the line.  Ron Ramsey is candidate for governor of Tennessee.  He said,
"Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it."
Wow.  Just Wow.  Islam is only the 2nd largest religion in the world.  If you want to call it a cult, then you have to call the LDS church a cult or even any protestant denomination a cult.  Heck, Catholicism may be just as much of a cult as Islam is.  But wait, it gets better.
"Now, you know, I'm all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on.  But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee -- to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution."
No, no you are not about freedom of religion.  You are only about freedom for your religion.  You have no understanding of the First Amendment.  How is Sharia Law being applied in Tennessee?  Its not like your state would ever elect a Muslim to any state office.  And yes, they do live under out Constitution, just like you do.  That gives them the freedom to build their mosque in downtown Manhattan.  That gives them the freedom to pray to Allah, just as it gives you the freedom to pray to your God and be a complete and total asshole.

It is ironic that the religious right in this country is all about the Constitution, yet they want to impose their own Biblical law.  They couldn't see the hypocrisy even if God wrote it on some stone tablets and dropped it on their heads.

God in Dog's Image?

A priest at an Anglican church in Canada gave communion to a dog.  As the story goes, a new member of the church brought his dog with him because the church is animal friendly in that aspect.  From the story, there is no reason to believe otherwise.  The man was called up in person by the priest to receive communion and he brought his dog, Trapper, with him.  A great majority of the people in the church had no problem with this, except one.  He complained, and now the dog has been banned from getting communion.  That is the basic story.

Personally, I have no issues with this for obvious reason that I don't really care one way or another.  One issue I have is with the spokesperson of the church who said the following:
"Something happened that won't happen again. Something our interim priest did spontaneously.
This person went to the top and emailed our bishop to make a fuss and change things. But he misjudged our congregation."
"He misjudged our congregation."  Oh, did he?  I don't think the complainer misjudged anything because it "won't happen again."  What part of this makes sense?  If you are going to say that the complainer misjudged the congregation, then I would have expected the church to have defended the priest and told the complainer to loosen up, then I would have had a "Bring Your Pet to Communion Sunday" just to make the point .  Instead of siding with the majority, the church sided with the complainer and banned the practice.  The guy was a douche and he won.  Misjudged?  Not likely.

So, what rule changed?  For all but one member of that congregation, their image of their God is a being that would have taken some measure of joy in seeing the dog receive communion, or at the very least could care less.  However, Mr. Complainer's image of God saw this as a travesty, so he complained.  The archbishop agreed.  What part of Anglican Biblical canon changed?  Surely, the priest, taught in the ways of his God, would have known such an action would have displeased his God?  Certainly the priest's image of his God didn't have an issue with it, nor did the image of the old woman's God sitting in the front row beaming when this all took place.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

God in Man's Image

First, excuse the gender bias.  I could have said, "God in People's Image."   Anyway...

I read an article that said Bishop Desmond Tutu was going to retire from public life at the age of 79.  I started going through my memory banks to recall if Tutu had turned up any crazy Christian ideas and I couldn't really think of anything.  I did some searching through some of the atheist blog network and didn't find anything negative about him.
Here is obviously a deeply religious person that, quite frankly, has gone relatively unscathed in the atheist/agnostic blogosphere.  This really got me thinking about the concept of a personal God and the image of God.  Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him."  As an atheist, I don't believe this, obviously.  Instead, I subscribe to man created God in his image, and that image varies greatly according to the man (or woman).

It is striking that someone such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, who, by all accounts that I can find, is a highly respected man, even in the agnostic/atheist community.  His efforts to end Apartheid in South Africa and his outspoken criticisms of many African leaders for their idiotic stances on AIDS are legendary and worthy of praise.  So, how can the God of this man be the same as the God of someone like Fred Phelps or Jerry Falwell (who declared Tutu a phony for his stance against Apartheid)?

To me, the answer is simple.  Man has created God in his own image and that image of God tells a lot about the man.  Susan B. Anthony once said, "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."  I think this quote speaks volumes for the God in man's image theory.  Carl Sagan summed it up thus, "It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men."

I have a lot of Christian friends.  Most atheists do for the simple fact that Christians are everywhere.  These friends of mine are all good, loving, caring people.  While they may disagree with my opinion that they have created their own image of God based on the type of person they are, I think it is very telling.

There are literally dozens of "mainstream" Christian denominations.  They can't all be right, but they happily (mostly) coexist because the core beliefs are common.  I believe that people will gravitate to the denomination that best suits their image of God in their own mind.  There are certainly many others that do disagree greatly with the denomination they are in, perhaps as a product of how they were raised, yet they, to some degree, reject those teachings in favor of what their conscious tells them.

So, while I may disagree with you on your belief in your personal God, it is ultimately the kind of person you are that is going to dictate how you are perceived.  Not only by me, but by your friends as well, even if they don't share your choice of denomination.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Piece of Dishonest Journalism from Fox News

I'm going to take the easy way out on this one and just link you to Ed Brayton's blog where he dishes up a dose of criticism to all parties involved, and deservedly so.

The Expendable Red Shirt Guy

It was embarrassingly brought to my attention at work yesterday that I was wearing a red shirt whose style was very similar to two others who also wore their shirts yesterday.  I was then informed that a fourth person has a similar shirt.  So, I felt it necessary to send an email to the possible red shirt wearers to sign up for a day of the week so we can avoid any future embarrassing situations.

At one point, the three of us ended up in the same office for unrelated reasons.  It was not a pretty sight.

The fourth guy wore his today because he figured it was pretty safe.

I'm just hoping the expendable part never comes to fruition.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mr. Deity Rocks

The Way of the Mister.  Good stuff.  The recommendations are priceless.  I have to agree.  After "Beautiful Noise," the greatest singer/songwriter of all-time did tend to go downhill from there.

Westboro Baptist Church = Explosive Elephant Diarrhea

The Westboro Baptist Church is quite possibly one of the most vile examples of hatred I have ever seen.  At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, I think that Fred Phelps would be far worse than Hitler if given the opportunity.  You've heard of these folks, even if  you don't remember.  These are the asshats who picket military funerals, blaming dead soldiers for protecting gays (They refer to them as fags).  All of their picket signs use the word "hate."  Just to show how crazy they are, they even picketed the funeral of Jerry Falwell!  To take it one step further, the KKK actual put out a press release that they have no affiliation with Westboro, nor will they ever!  You've got to be seriously fucked up to get dissed by the KKK.

There is no manner of logic or reason that could ever deal with people such as this.  The only appropriate response is pure, unadulterated ridicule.  I'm trying to think of some appropriate analogy for these people.  I am somewhat inspired by this blog talking about shit bubbles, but I think that is far to nice for them.  I think a slightly edited quote from Ben Kenobi is appropriate, "Westboro Baptist Church: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."  Nah.  Not nearly good enough.

I'm thinking something along the lines of seeing them standing behind a herd of elephants with explosive diarrhea.  But I think that is even far to nice for the likes of these folks.  I think it is insulting to the elephants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Roman Catholic Church = Epic Fail

I'm kind of tired of picking on the Roman Catholic Church, but they are so incredibly incompetent that it is really unavoidable.

Last week, the RCC issued some revised rules on abuse.  Epic Fail.  The changes include the following:

  • Speeding up the process of "laicization," or formal removal from the priesthood;
This is good.  What now takes an eternity will only take a lifetime.
  • Allowing laity to serve as judges and lawyers on church tribunals in sex abuse cases, and waiving the requirement of a doctorate in canon law;
Church tribunals?  What about Courts of Law?  Why don't you turn these bastards into the proper authorities?
  • Extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases from ten to twenty years, with the possibility still in force to waive it altogether on a case-by-case basis;
Um, big deal.  What is 10 or 20 years when you ignore it altogether to begin with.
  • Adding the acquisition, possession or distribution of child pornography as a "grave crime" under church law;
Wow!  Welcome to the 20th Century RCC.
  • Specifying that the same penalties for the sexual abuse of minors also apply to developmentally disabled adults;
 But abusing adults is OK?
  • Clarifying that even "cardinals, patriarchs, legates of the Apostolic See and bishops" are subject to the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal office, on matters related to sexual abuse.
Yes, so we can be sure and sweep your crimes under the carpet as well.

What a pile of warm steaming bullshit that was.

They're not done.  They decided to add one more turd on the pile.

Unrelated to the sexual abuse crisis, the revisions also add several other offenses to the list of "grave crimes" subject to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and thus to the expedited penalties the congregation can hand out). They include crimes against the faith, such as heresy, apostasy and schism; recording or broadcast of the sacrament of confession; and the attempted ordination of women.
Yes.  To attempt to ordain women is just as grave a crime as the sexual abuse of a minor.

I sincerely hope that I will see the day that the RCC fails as an institution.  They certainly fail on morality.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Copenhagen Declaration - Irish Edition

Last week, I posted about the Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life.  Atheist Ireland has taken that document and simplified it a bit here.  I like the new format and categorization of main points.  I also wish I could have been at the party when they worked this version out!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gee, I Wonder Why?

The Vatican's report on Children's Rights as part of the a 1989 Convention on Rights of the Child that is required by all signing entities is 13 years overdue!

It is being "finalized as we speak."

I wonder which of the rapists/abusers was responsible for this report?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life

One of the common misconceptions about atheists is that we are anarchists and have no respect for life.  I thought this declaration is a pretty good window into what most atheists think.  Reposted from here.  As with any thing produced via skepticism and reasoning, there is a healthy debate on some of the items listed.  I have yet to read through all of the posted comments.

The recent Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen adopted the following Declaration on Religion in Public Life. The conference was the first European event of Atheist Alliance International, and was co-hosted by AAI and the Danish Atheist Society.
We, at the World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:
  • We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
  • We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
  • We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
  • We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
  • We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
  • We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.
  • We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.
  • We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.
  • We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths.  We oppose state funding for faith schools.
  • We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.
Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.
Please circulate this as widely as you can among people and groups who advocate a secular society.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hmmm. Not the Google Results I Expected

I am remodeling my bathroom and someone suggested I decorate it with an Arizona State theme.  Maroon and gold paint, towels, some signs, etc.  I didn't want to reuse the old medicine cabinet/mirror because it is big and ugly.  I decided to do a search for a mirror that may have an ASU theme to it, so I put "Arizona State mirror" into Google.  It's not that I expected the first hit to be what I was looking for, but I sure didn't expect what I got.  The returned results were page after page of news articles about how "the state of (insert state name here)" wants to "mirror" the Arizona immigration law known as SB1070.  Sigh.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Religion as an Absolute Moral Authority

Here is a recent update to the news story from Iran about a women being reprieved from being stoned but it is likely she will die another way.  And then this story out of India about a couple that wed outside of their gotra or clan.  Their choice?  Divorce or die.  They fled instead.

The Good Book Song

In my last post, I mentioned the "Good Book."  That just reminded of this song.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bible Study

I didn't read the Bible when I was a kid.  I sat quietly through the various scripture readings in church and listened to the stories in Sunday School, etc.  I did do some studying of the Bible when I was in my early teens because I had achieved the rank of Life in Boy Scouts (before I really knew what they meant by morally straight in the oath) and had no real interest in becoming an Eagle.  Instead, I did one of the "side" awards called God and Country.  I don't remember that much about it except that I spent quite a few afternoon working with our youth minister discussing various parables, etc.  The youth minister was actually a really cool guy.  The stuff I had to study was pretty much run of the mill morality tales.  After I had achieved that award and left the Boy Scouts, I pretty much moved on from anything religious.

The irony is that now that I am an outspoken atheist, I find myself reading the Bible.  I think it is important that when you engage a Christian in debate that you have some understanding of their arguments.  This could almost be a Part 3 of "Am I an Angry Athiest?" because  the more I look into various Bible verses and stories, it only strengthens my resolve that there is really nothing of value that religion can offer in today's society and I am in utter shock at the denial that many Christians have of the what is in their "Good" book.  I'm sure I will have more on that later.

I will probably delve a bit more into some Biblical verses in future blogs that seem relevant based on current events.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hawaiian Governor Vetoes Same-Sex Civil Union Bill

Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii has vetoed a bill that would have permitted same-sex civil unions.  Why is it so hard for some people to understand that two people can love each other?  Even if they are the same gender?  What is the threat to the institution of marriage?  Last I heard, the divorce rate among heterosexual marriages is something like 50% for first marriages and even higher for second marriages.  How can something that no longer exists be threatened?

Does "til death do us part" have any real meaning anymore?  Even among the failthful, the rate of divorce is still over 25% for those that attend church several times a week.  Exactly what institution are you still trying to defend?

If God is so perfect, you'd think it could get the balance of hormones right in the womb.  I sure hope that in 15 or 20 years, we look back at this time and shake our heads at how silly it all was to believe this way.  I sure hope that it doesn't take 15 or 20 years to understand that human beings are human beings regardless of your sexual orientation and that human rights apply to all humans.

Fox News Falsely Accuses School Board of Banning Pledge of Allegiance

Fox News is at it again.  They are reporting that the school board in Arlington, Massachusetts has banned the Pledge of Allegiance in its schools.  If you look up the definition of banned, it says " To prohibit, especially by official decree."  To ban something is very different from not requiring.  As a result of this news story, the school board had to send out its own press release to clarify the matter.  Is it really so hard to check your facts, or at least a dictionary?

Personally, I remember having to recite the pledge every morning in elementary school and junior high.  I don't really remember doing it in high school however.  It is monotonous.  It becomes rote.  Therefore, it loses its real meaning.  It should be voluntary.  It should be a personal expression of your own patriotism.  There is a time and place for it.  But every day in school seems to lessen its real meaning.

Since I'm talking about the Pledge, I should take this opportunity to campaign for the removal of "under God" from the Pledge.  It is, in my opinion, a clear violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.  The government is clearing establishing a religious position that I do not agree with.  I am also a realist and know that this has about as much chance of being rescinded as does getting "In God We Trust" off of our money.

There are more important First Amendment issues to fight for.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Great Britain Continues to Rule Against Pseudoscience

I am not a medical doctor.  I have no medical training whatsoever.  I also did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.  That is my disclaimer.  If I am going to blog about medical related things, even in the wacky world of medical pseudoscience (often referred to as "woo."), then I must make this disclaimer.

Yeah for the British!  They have been making a lot of sense lately.  Back in May, the General Medical Council stripped Andrew Wakefield of his medical license.  For those of you that don't know that name, he was the principal author in a paper published in 1998 that linked the MMR vaccine to autism.  Since the paper was released, there has been mass hysteria over the conclusions.  One of the key paragraphs in the ruling stripping him of his license is the following:

In reaching its decision, the Panel notes that the project reported in the Lancet paper was established with the purpose to investigate a postulated new syndrome and yet the Lancet paper did not describe this fact at all. Because you drafted and wrote the final version of the paper, and omitted correct information about the purpose of the study or the patient population, the Panel is satisfied that your conduct was irresponsible and dishonest.
Unfortunately, he has moved to the United States and is taking up the anti-vaccine fight here.  Here is a bit more of the findings of the General Medical Council.

The verdict, read out by panel chairman Dr Surendra Kumar, criticised Dr Wakefield for the invasive tests, such as spinal taps, that were carried out on children and which were found to be against their best clinical interests.
The panel said Dr Wakefield, who was working at London's Royal Free Hospital as a gastroenterologist at the time, did not have the ethical approval or relevant qualifications for such tests.
The GMC also took exception with the way he gathered blood samples. Dr Wakefield paid children £5 for the samples at his son's birthday party.
Dr Kumar said he had acted with "callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer".
He also said Dr Wakefield should have disclosed the fact that he had been paid to advise solicitors acting for parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR.
In short, Andrew Wakefield has done more harm to public health than anything in the last 50 years.  Brian Deer is an investigative journalist that brought all of Wakefield's dishonesty to a head.  As a result of this study, vaccines and the vaccine schedule itself is probably one of the most heavily studied medical items in the last 12 years.  None of these studies have shown any results to even come close to conclusions in Wakefield's paper and study after study has shown absolutely no increase in autism as it relates to vaccinations.

But England isn't done yet.  Back in February, the Science and Technology Select Committee called Homeopathy useless and unethical.  This is a great video about homeopathy.  But seriously, here is a wonderful cartoon that explains how homeopathy is supposed to work.

Just recently, the British Medical Association has come out and said that gay conversion therapy is harmful and should be discredited.  It is also referred to as reparative therapy.  The idea basically stems from the biblical "fact" that since you cannot be born gay, then you choose to be gay, and this therapy will help convert you back to your proper hetero self.  There are quite a few of these reparative clinics in the United States.  Usually run by far right-wing religious fanatics with degrees in psychology.  How scary is that?  Obviously God is perfect and could never make a mistake about the gender of a fetus.

Hopefully the American medical associations, societies, and governmental agencies will wake up and smell the coffee and do something about getting rid of these modern day snake oil salesmen in the United States as well.

Update #1:

How can I forget that British science writer Simon Singh also won an appeal in Britain's notoriously difficult morass of libel laws.  He wrote an opinion that the British Chiropractic Association promoted bogus treatments.  Singh had the nerve to say that the BCA's Spinal Manipulative Therapy did not reduce the symptoms of Asthma as was claimed by the BCA.  There is now strong support in British Parliament to look at overhauling the countries horrendous libel laws.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fox News Falsely Accuses Obama of Giving Part of Arizona to Mexicans

A week or so ago, a friend of mine on Facebook posted the following video:
Obama Gives Part of Arizona to Mexicans

There were two things that made me watch this video.  The first was its title:  "Obama Gives Part of Arizona to Mexicans," the second was that it was about Arizona.  Being a Fox News clip also made me seriously doubt the validity of it.

First, in fairness to my friend that posted this, her concern, and rightly so, was the fact that the U.S. Government has indeed posted warnings to its citizens not to enter this particular stretch of U.S. territory because of the ongoing border violence.  With that being said, there are some facts that need to be clarified about the video content.

"A massive stretch of Arizona now off limits to Americans," is the first statement by the newscaster.  I take issue with the "now" part of that comment.  The stretch of land in question is part of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in the southeastern corner of Arizona.  A press release from the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service indicates that a 3/4 mile wide stretch of the Refuge along the border of Mexico is indeed off limits to American citizens.  This was done nearly five years ago!  I guess from Fox's viewpoint, that is close enough to "now."

The graphic presented in the newscast shows the whole Refuge area along with the closed off portion of the refuge.  This image, certainly appears to be accurate.  However, Fox News can't stop there.

They go on to interview Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County.  If you look at a map of Arizona you will see that Pinal County does not border Mexico in any way.   Babeu goes on to say how out of control the violence has been in the last four months, blah, blah, blah.  While he is talking, they are showing surveillance video of illegals climbing over what looks to be a pretty good sized fence along the border.  Presumably in an effort to reinforce how out of control things are.  Well, if you look at the date on the video surveillance, it is dated December 14th, 2006.  He goes on to say that this problem is 80 miles deep into Arizona and that he is unable to patrol parts of his county as a result of this problem.  Again, I will refer back to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife press release that states the only closure is a 3/4 mile wide stretch at the border.  The rest of the Refuge is open.  I was not able to read the contents of the sign in the video or determine its location, so it may very well be posted at the northern entrance of the Refuge in Pinal County.  I live in this state.  Pinal county is one county over from me.  There have been no stories on this in the local paper.  In fact, Babeu is pretty much considered a political hack and most of this is more than likely a publicity stunt on his part.

So, you can rightly get mad that our government has chosen to close off this one part of the Refuge.  What you can not do is blame the Obama Administration for giving back part of Arizona to the Mexicans as both the YouTube poster and the newscaster implies with the use of "now."  The closure was done under the Bush Administration.  Also, prior to this video, I had never heard of Paul Babeu.  He hasn't made much of an impression in what is certainly considered a red state.

The quality of reporting on this piece is terrible and the finger pointing at the Obama Administration as it pertains to the "facts" they are presenting are flat out wrong.

Obviously, Arizona has been in the national spotlight regarding its recent immigration law.  The issues faced on the border are complex not only as it pertains to illegal immigration, but the drug violence being carried out in Mexico among the cartels certainly hinders efforts to get control of the situation.

Oh, yeah, you gotta love the "This is a family show, so I'll put it this way.  What the heck is going on down there?"  Nice.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Carter Emmart Demos a 3D Atlas of the Universe | Video on

I've really enjoyed picking through all the various videos at This is a new one posted this evening that should give us all a real sense of the world we live in and the universe we live in. Take the time to browse through the themes and speakers. You will be surprised at what you may find.

Carter Emmart demos a 3D atlas of the universe | Video on

Republican Chairman Steele is an Idiot

Michael Steele, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, called the war in Afghanistan, a "war of Obama's choosing."

If my memory serves me, we are about nine years removed from one of the most heinous acts of terrorism every conceived, 9/11. The man responsible for that act was being protected by the Taliban regime that was the government of Afghanistan at the time. There is practically no country in the world that had any issues with the United States engaging in that war. It was justifiable, and in fact, many countries were more than willing to help the United States fight that war.

If any war was a "war of choosing," it was the Iraq war at the choosing of President Bush. That was the war the United Stated did not need to be pursuing. Had the United States fully committed itself to the Afghan war with the sole intention of finding Osama Bin Laden, then I think we would have been out Afghanistan years ago and Bin Laden would be dead today.

Am I an Angry Atheist? Part 2

So, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I was passively watching the TV while doing some other stuff and there was a breaking story on a child abduction in Florida or maybe Georgia.  Something you always hate to hear about.  My second reaction in those situations is to cringe at the thought of having see Nancy Grace’s face plastered on CNN more than it needs to be.  Shortly thereafter, there was a follow up to a case where a mother in Texas had drowned several of her children in the bathtub.  Something snapped in my mind.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of a person committing such crimes against a child.  A child is an innocent creature in the world of crazy adults and how can an all powerful, all knowing God that is said to be “in all of us” allow such a person to commit such an act.  Then it turned to how can such a God not protect the child.  Then I realized there is no such protection, because there is no such being to do that.  The generalization then became, “How can God allow such heinous crimes be committed against his most innocent creatures on this planet?”  This was further extended to young children stricken with cancer.  Extended farther, it became a question of birth defects.  If God is indeed the creator and intelligent designer of human beings, than I’d have to conclude that he did a pretty crappy job.  Not so all powerful and all knowing.

So, that was the straw.  Crimes against children.  It just didn’t make sense to me and I could no longer ignore the evidence in my mind against the existence of a god, in any form or description.  Certainly not the God that is so often associated with Christianity.  I decided that agnosticism was not the right choice for me, but atheism was.  It fit nicely with many other thoughts I had surrounding science and reason.  Once free of that shackle, my eyes opened up to many other issues surrounding religion, science, and politics.  Religion feels the need to directly affect science and politics.  Science is perfectly happy to ignore religion if not for religion’s influence in the political debate that directly affects science.  The Republican Party is directly and heavily influenced by religious doctrine.  I think a majority of scientists lean toward the Democratic Party as they are more attracted to the social liberalism.

I’m sure that I will address more specific issue regarding the crossroads of religion, science, and politics within this blog.

One of the reasons I called the blog “Rubicon” is not because I am a huge Jeep fan, but because of “Crossing the Rubicon” or “Across the Rubicon” has a modern interpretation of “point of no return.”  I have crossed the Rubicon with respect to my beliefs or dis-beliefs in God, or any other deity for that matter.

Am I an Angry Atheist?

A friend referred to me as an "angry atheist" the other day. My first reaction was defensive. I don't consider myself to be an angry person. But then I thought about for a few minutes and concluded that I am.

I guess to understand why I am angry; you must first understand why I am an atheist. So, I guess I should enlighten all of you with my deconversion story. Almost all atheists have a deconversion story. Granted, mine is not nearly as dramatic, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle for myself in understanding why I feel the way I do today.

For most people, their religious beliefs are instilled in them as a child. My mother was raised southern Baptist and my father was raised, as best I can tell, in a fairly agnostic environment. When my father moved to his job, they somehow settled on Presbyterian. Well, not somehow. The truth is, when you move away from home for the first time, finding a sense of community is important and many of my father's colleagues went to a local Presbyterian church. Honestly, I think that was the extent of it aside from the fact that my mother needed something; this seemed like a good compromise. Honestly, I'm not sure I can tell you how Presbyterianism differs from Lutheran or Methodist denominations. Either way, I don't really care about the details.

I went to church as a child and I was shuffled out of the main service for the "kid" service just prior to the sermon because most kids can't sit quietly through those 20 minutes or so. We had our little songs and bible stories, and then we would get dismissed with the rest of the congregation and run around while the parents drank coffee and talked about the weather. I eventually grew out of the "kid" service and sat through the sermons. I'm not really sure I was ever convinced of what I was being told, nor did I readily dismiss it. It was just something that I had to do on most Sunday mornings. As I got older, I participated in the youth groups and choirs. They had their moments of enjoyment here and there.

I warned you that the deconversion story was not so exciting. There wasn't a single epiphany moment for me as to when I stopped believing. What I think first happened was I started to dislike the idea of religion itself and the controlling mechanism that it was. So, where did that come from? Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I honestly think that I can look back on something I saw when I was 10 years old. What started me down the path was Carl Sagan's Cosmos miniseries on PBS. I was fascinated by it. Not just by the beautiful pictures of galaxies and supernovas, but by the presentation of the material, how it was all tied to science, and how all of that was tied to history. Looking back now (I downloaded Cosmos on iTunes), the astronomy parts are a bit dated as the science in that area has progressed a great deal in the last 30 years. But that is not what struck me, it was the historical re-enactments that I found fascinating. A trip through the ancient library of Alexandria, the struggles of Johan Kepler in trying to identify the nature of the orbits of our planet, etc. A quickly discovered an appetite for the history of science and I would go to the school library and look for more information. I didn’t find much, partly because I didn’t know what I was looking for and partly because it was a school library. At any rate, my interest continued and then I discovered a hole in the timeline where pretty much nothing of scientific interest happened. In fact, it seems that science regressed. These were the Dark Ages. That period of history where the Catholic Church indirectly ruled over much of Europe by telling all the royals what was right and wrong. I came to resent religion for its repression of not only science, but the arts as well.

Eventually I moved on with a strong interest in engineering (a bit more tangible to me than science) and the whole thing sort of passed on in a way. Religion simply existed and I was only moderately aware of some of the conflict with religion and politics on the periphery. I had stopped going to church, as had my parents for the most part. Eventually the story moves along to the point where I was married and had a child. My wife (now ex) and her parents were, as best I can tell, simply people of faith. My ex-father-in-law was/is a Catholic and my ex-mother-in-law played piano and organ for several churches at some point. Church never really came up and I guess my ex would describe herself simply as spiritual. None of that is really relevant to the later story except that our lack of church going seemed to have an impact on my Grandmother who questioned whether we were going to raise our children in a Christian home or not. Well, gee, I guess so, I thought. We are decent, moral people who obey the laws, read to our children each night, don’t let them play with toy guns, etc. So, yeah, I guess. The question got asked again and again, and then videos started showing up at the house, etc. I’d had enough. This, among many other things not related to the religious upbringing of my children, led to a significant rift between my family and I and I have since moved on.

All pretty bland so far, huh?

Anyway, I started to identify myself with agnosticism. I didn’t really believe that God existed, but I didn’t really put forth any effort to look for proof (or disproof) either. I just really didn’t care. Did it really matter to me? If God existed and I lived a good life, surely a benevolent God would take pity on me if he really existed. Plus, since I didn’t consider myself an expert on religion, I didn’t really consider myself qualified to state explicitly that I did not believe in God and declare myself an atheist. I also think I tried to hold onto a some sort of “spiritual” or “lifeforce” kind of idea.

My ex is out of state with my kids and as I started to recreate a new life for myself, I started going back to the history of science interest I had when I was a kid. Now that I knew what to look for, I found books to read, and statements that questioned my agnostic indifference. As I sought out more information with the use of the Internet, I found more resources available to me and a whole bunch of people that had ideas that I had, but people that were far better at expressing them than I. I still wasn’t ready to declare myself an atheist quite yet, but I was close.

What was the straw that broke the camel's back?

Look for part two soon.