It’s always fascinating to note how easily so many on the far left can alternate between calling companies, groups and individuals “good” and “evil,” while barely taking a breath in between. If a company puts hundreds of millions of dollars into things we like, they become a “good” company. But if we find out they did one thing we have deemed “evil.” well then, they become “evil” themselves, with everything else they have done.
Take Google, for example. There is little doubt that Google has done a lot of good as a corporation, overall. Their philanthropic arm has actually done some great things for a lot of people, and the company has been on the cutting edge of developing renewable energy technologies. They are also developing cutting edge broadband services with a promise of not only bringing blazing speed, but also preserving net neutrality, which is very important. If they create their own broadband, and promise to not monkey with it, no other ISP will have the nerve to mess with it, for fear of losing to Google, The company has also put itself in the forefront of the fight against child pornography, they have been at the forefront of disease mapping, which allows health officials to know where the outbreaks are, and gives doctors a chance to stop their spread. Google is also a the forefront of bringing the Internet to outlying areas, thus bringing educational opportunities to people with little hope before. The company also donates tens of millions of dollars to progressive charities, including millions in Silicon Valley and the other communities where they have offices and facilities. And they’ve done it all while trying to make the Internet more useful for everyone.
That’s not to say they’re perfect. There are questions about their approach to privacy, although given what they’re doing to try to make our devices more relevant to our lives, it’s a difficult balancing act, so some missteps are understandable. But the fact of the matter is, most of what the company is trying to do tends to fall on the side of good. And up until a few months ago. most far left progressives tended to accept them as a company that wasn’t evil.
That was before Google joined ALEC last year! You know ALEC; the epitome of evil! Tied with the Koch Brothers as the embodiment of evil for our time. By joining ALEC, apparently everything good they have ever done was wiped away clean. They were a good company, now they’re evil. Never mind that lobbyists represent the companies who pay them and not the other way around. Never mind that no one knows exactly what ALEC is doing for Google. ALEC is evil, and that makes Google evil by association.
This whole black-and-white way of thinking is becoming enormously tiresome, to be frank. There are bad companies out there, and we need to focus on exposing them. The difference between Walmart and Google is like night and day, but black-and-white thinking leads us to muddy the waters for voters, and make that less clear. If every company that does something we don’t understand or like is automatically labeled as “evil,” it becomes increasingly difficult for us to be taken seriously when we point out something truly horrific a company does against the American people.
The number one reason why Google aligned itself with ALEC was because they had little choice. As I pointed out in an earlier piece, right wing Republicans are in charge, and until we get serious about getting them out of there (like stop attacking Democrats who aren’t perfect), they may be there for a while. Companies like Google have to get legislation passed, so they need to know how to frame their issues in a way that appeals to Republicans.
But here’s another question I have, and have been asking for years. Where is the progressive ALEC? I ask about that sort of thing on a number of levels. We seem to have this idea that, if we don’t like rules that exist, we should ignore them, complain about them and act as if we’re above them. But really, if we really want to win elections and change all of these rules and laws that allow the right to cheat, we have to play by the rules in the meantime. If right wing groups like ALEC are writing legislation and regulations for Republicans to pass, why are we not doing the same for Democrats? Instead of complaining that ALEC is writing and Congress is passing laws that favor oil companies, why are we not using the same rules to write legislation that favors solar, wind and other renewable energy sources? If ALEC is writing legislation to submit to Republican-run state legislatures that do things businesses want, why are we not working to turn over more Republican state legislatures and writing legislation for Democratic state legislatures?
We have to stop whining about Citizens United and start using it to get good people elected, so that we can get rid of Citizens United. We have to stop whining about the Koch Brothers and instead play by the same rules until we can get rid of Republicans and change the law that allows this system of bribery. And rather than complain that ALEC is writing legislation for Republicans, why is a similar group NOT writing progressive legislation?
While I’ll no doubt be accused of being an ALEC sympathizer, I don’t care. Our system of legalized bribery disgusts me and needs massive change, although I lean more toward contribution limits and not public financing. But the thing is, nothing is going to change as long as Republicans keep winning state and federal elections. We have to start championing Democrats, and then working to get them to change the rules. But we can’t do that, as long as there is a significant and very loud segment of the progressive movement that sees everything in terms of “good/evil,” or “black/white.” Nothing in the world is that cut-and-dried. Everything in the world is made up of various shades of grey.
We expect this simple-minded black/white, good/evil binary style of thought from the right wing. One reason their policy decisions are generally so bad is because the rank-and-file Republican “base” is largely incapable of thinking in shades of gray. Why do so many on our side fall for the same simplistic model when we discuss issues? More importantly, why do these folks insist on applying it to their political strategy, especially since we’ve been losing for 40 years? The inherently negative sound of black-and-white binary thinking is politically ruinous for us. The vast majority of voters are rational, and see almost nothing in the world as either all bad or all good, especially when it comes to political positions inside the United States. Let’s be real here; there is nothing going on inside this country that even comes close to what happened to Malala Yousafzai, or many women in other countries. We don’t have the level of poverty of many countries, and people are not being rounded up into refugee and internment camps. In other words, the things we complain about as “evil” are relative, and often make us sound like whiners. That is especially the case when you consider we all have the vote, and therefore the ability to change all of it.
It is this kind of negativity that entrenches the Republican Party, a minority party, because they are able to use the negative energy generated by black-and-white progressive thinking to drive down turnout, giving them a better chance to win. It’s simply not possible for binary thinking to translate to a political win for us, because it’s irrational, and we’re the ideology that’s supposed to be rational.
One excellent example is the far left’s hatred of “Blue Dogs.” I know many people think I like Blue Dogs, but it depends on where they happen to be. I wouldn’t like a Blue Dog to represent an obviously progressive district, for example. If Maxine Waters was a Blue Dog, that would be wrong and I’d work to defeat her. But you bet your ass I’m ecstatic when a Blue Dogs nabs a Nebraska or Texas Senate seat. or wins a majority Republican district. Got that? In a district that is 53% Republican, getting someone who votes with Democrats 80% of the time should make you giddy, whereas, someone from a 65% Democratic district who votes with Democrats 80% should be ousted.
See what I mean? It’s not black and white. Blue Dogs can be bad or good, depending on what district or state they represent. You’re not getting a Russ Feingold elected in Montana. On the other hand, if a Senator elected in Maryland turns out to be like Max Baucus, he needs to go.
But make no mistake; it’s not possible to have a Democratic majority without Blue Dogs. There are 73 members of the House Progressive Caucus, which is not only not a majority of the House, it’s not even a majority of the Democratic caucus. Dismissing Blue Dogs as “evil” because they aren’t perfect enough to be the kind of Democrat you want is completely irrational, because no one is doing the legwork necessary to see to it that we have a majority of progressives in office. That means the loudest progressives in the debate are demanding things they’re not willing to work for.
Again, get real, folks. Adding 5-6 more progressives every election cycle is a feel good move, but it would take 20 election cycles to even get close to a progressive majority, and within 5-10 election cycles, the original progressves you elected are starting to retire. There’s a reason why the Progressive Caucus started with 72 members in 1991, and they have 73 now. We need to turn our attention to getting Democrats — ALL DEMOCRATS — elected first. Then, once we have 300 Democratic seats, we can start primarying some Democats and replacing them with progressives. But until then, we’re just hurting ourselves. If you’re successful at trashing Blue Dogs, in most cases, the replacement will be a Republican, which makes everyone’s job more difficult.
And please stop quoting Truman about Republicans and Democrats, because this is not 1948. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the current GOP is nothing like the GOP of Eisenhower, Nixon or Goldwater. Hell, it would be difficult for Saint Reagan to be a Republican these days.
Black-and-white thinking should be a right wing thing, and most progressives understand there are actually millions of shades of gray, and that there is no absolute when it comes to “right” or “wrong.” When we act like right wingers, we lose.
Aren’t you tired of losing?
Apparently, Martin Cothran believes that there is no life elsewhere in the universe, and that this unimaginably vast emptiness is evidence that a god created us. I don’t understand the logic, but then I don’t understand most of his weird leaps in this post on how life on other planets is like believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
First, there is the naive scientific oversimplification.
We are told by many New Atheist scientists in particular (who like to mark their territory) that a belief can only be scientific if it is falsifiable. This is their demarcation criterion of choice and they use it to ruthlessly guard the borders of science. This is one of the reasons, they say, we must reject Intelligent Design. This idea comes generally from Karl Popper, a philosopher, who said that a theory cannot be considered scientific merely because it admits of possible verification, but only if it admits of possible falsification.
Oh, go away, Karl Popper. He seems to be the only philosopher of science the creationists have heard of. Falsification is one criterion; it’s part of a general effort to solve the demarcation problem, a problem I don’t think can be solved because the boundary between science and non-science is a grey murky haze. Personally, I think observation and evidence are more central to science than falsification.
How can a creationist even talk about applying falsification to science, though? They believe in so many things that have been falsified.
They don’t even get our jokes.
It is this general idea that is behind Richard Dawkin’s "Flying Spaghetti Monster." The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists just outside the range of the most powerful telescopes and the more powerful the telescopes, the further away the monster gets so that we are never able to actually detect him. There is therefore, no way in which belief in him may be disproven.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is Dawkin’s send-up of the belief in a theistic God, belief in Whom has the same status as his imaginary monster: there is no evidence that can possibly count against his existence. God can never be disproven.
Dawkins didn’t invent it. Bobby Henderson did.
The flying spaghetti monster is a collection of absurdities intended to mock religious goofballs like Martin Cothran, so I guess it’s unsurprising that he doesn’t get it. It was clearly made up out of whole cloth, so it lacks any supporting evidence — just like religion. It makes ridiculous claims, like that pirates prevent global warming, with no mechanistic relationship and that are clearly false — just like religion. It makes untestable promises of an afterlife — just like religion. You can’t distinguish pastafarianism from Christianity on any criterion, not just the Popperian one, so Cothran’s single-minded focus on falsification is inappropriate.
But come on, let’s get to the claims about life in outer space.
Okay, now take the belief that life exists somewhere else in the universe. This is a common belief among atheist scientists. In fact, Dawkin’s himself conjectured that life on earth may have come from other planets. But how can that belief possibly be falsified?
There is a possibility that, if true, it can be proven true simply by finding it somewhere in our outside our own solar system. But if it is false, how could we ever know that it was false? If it was false and the universe were infinite, as many scientists believe, then would could never know it to be false even theoretically. And if it was false but the universe was finite, there is no practical way we could ever know it to be false even though it is theoretically possible–although there is some question whether it is even theoretically possible for humans to investigate a universe as massive as we know ours to be.
Once again, Cothran fails to grasp the argument or understand the science.
Here’s the key point: the hypothesis that life exists on other worlds is not about astronomy. It’s about life. It’s a religious premise that the purpose of the universe is all about us, and you’ll find that the most fervent opponents of the idea of life beyond earth are religious people who dislike anything that detracts from their geocentric view of the universe. That’s unscientific. To be fair, you’ll also find many science-fictiony types who populate the universe with aliens because they can’t write a drama that doesn’t involve interactions between sentient beings. That’s understandable, but also unscientific.
But no one came up with a scientific hypothesis of extraplanetary life because they looked outward and saw signs. The primary evidence for that derives from the study of biology. Life is just chemistry. There is no clear sharp boundary between what is alive and what is a chemical reaction. Chemistry is a ubiquitous property of the universe; it’s really just a subset of physics. So if you want to say no life exists elsewhere, you have to argue that there is something unique about Earth to only allow that chemistry to occur here.
The creationists are actually on the right track when they try to claim that life is a historical product of a design intervention; that would be a kind of event that could be restricted to a tiny subset of worlds. Unfortunately, their work to date has consisted of shouting assertions (COMPLEXITY ONLY ARISES FROM DESIGN!) that have been falsified (oops, hoist by your own petard, Cothran), or that rely on vague and poorly stated premises (what the heck is specified complexity?) or require distorting and lying about the actual evidence.
Biology has not found anything unique, supernatural, or exclusively dependent on exceptional properties present only on this one planet. Absent a restriction, the null hypothesis is that other worlds with similar physical properties are also likely to contain self-propagating, energy utilizing chemical processes. If creationists want to claim otherwise, that Earth is unique, they are obligated to provide the specific and unique property of life that confines its origin to one planet.
They have to make the falsifiable claim, not us.
This doesn’t count. It’s just stupid.
Even in this latter case of a finite universe theism would be less problematic since a theist could simply say "Well, we will find out after we die." And since everyone will certainly die, at least he has that to go on.
So there you have it. Belief in extra-terrestrial life. The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Theoretically indistinguishable. And taking this into consideration, how is believing in God any more or less scientific that believing there is life on other planets?
Again, the expectation of extraterrestrial life is based on studying life on earth and knowing its properties. No one has studied any gods, including the flying spaghetti monster, in any scientific way. That makes the claims trivially distinguishable.
So theism is a more scientific idea because it’s falsifiable, and it’s criterion for falsification requires testing it by dying? By ceasing to exist?
That violates another criterion for science. How will you publish?
Every once in awhile, I get a nice email (and this time a comic, too):
Hi. I really like your Tumblr, and wanted to share with you this comic I made about my experiences with religion as I began to deal with depression. Sites like yours really help me get to the place where I can speak out about this sort of junk. Thanks! – Admiral Wonderboat
(For a related post, click here http://christiannightmares.tumblr.com/post/62528804814/every-once-in-awhile-i-get-a-nice-email-ive)
Real actors read a message from a Christian forum and it’s hilarious (Found at Friendly Atheist; For a related video, click here http://christiannightmares.tumblr.com/post/32197287247/awkward-and-idiotic-christian-sex-talk-involving)
Via Bits and Pieces.
Questions answered in this episode:[More]
Also known as “markets in everything”:
Wealthy Chinese are hiring American women to serve as surrogates for their children, creating a small but growing business in $120,000 “designer” American babies for China’s elite.
Surrogacy agencies in China and the United States are catering to wealthy Chinese who want a baby outside the country’s restrictive family planning policies, who are unable to conceive themselves, or who are seeking U.S. citizenship for their children.
Emigration as a family is another draw – U.S. citizens may apply for Green Cards for their parents when they turn 21.
The story is here, and for the pointer I thank Fred Smalkin.
When should vaccinations be mandatory?
This question pops up every now and again, and it’s in the news again: 750 students face suspension in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system in North Carolina for not having their TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) booster. Students must have up-to-date vaccinations or face suspension by state law. I’ll note there is no real financial burden on the families here; the county provides free vaccinations.
And there are a hundred reasons to make sure those students are vaccinated. Literally: According to the Winston-Salem Journal, there have been 98 cases of pertussis in Forsyth county this year, including six infants. Pertussis (whooping cough) is particularly dangerous in very young children; it can kill them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of infants under one year old have to be hospitalized if they get pertussis, and 1-2 percent die from it.
When it comes to decisions about personal matters, I tend to lean libertarian; your body, your choice. This gets stickier when that choice affects other people, and the situation can be complicated further when other choices are involved; for example, choice of career. Specifically, and on point for this topic, the decision whether or not to vaccinate when you know you will be in contact with children.
This comes up most clearly when health care professionals get in trouble for not wanting to get vaccinated, claiming personal (or religious) choice. However, I’m not buying it. Smoking is a choice; would you let your OB/GYN blow cigarette smoke in your infant’s face?
In that case, the situation is relatively simple: Health care workers need to be vaccinated. Infants too young to be vaccinated rely on herd immunity, and a health care worker should not under any circumstances be putting their patients at unnecessary risk. If they don’t want to be vaccinated, that’s their mistake to make, but then they should find another job where their (erroneous) beliefs don’t jeopardize the lives of babies.
Governments certify health care workers and providers, and it’s in the interest of the public that they do so. Mandating vaccinations in this case makes sense.
But what of schools? In some areas, public school authorities have mandated that students be vaccinated for various diseases, and that of course can run afoul of parents’ beliefs. I’ve wrestled with this problem for a while, and I eventually came to the conclusion that a parent does not have the right to have their child in a public school if that child is unvaccinated, and for the same reason health care workers should not be unvaccinated. It all comes down to a very simple reality: It puts other children at risk.
If you want to rely on the public trust then you have an obligation to the public trust as well, and part of that obligation is not sending your child to a place with other children if they aren’t immunized against preventable, communicable diseases.
I imagine the anti-vaccination movement will be up in arms about this, but here’s the thing: They’re wrong. They’ve been trying to tie vaccines to autism for years, and they’re wrong. They’ve been saying vaccines have dangerous levels of toxins in them, but they’re wrong. They say vaccines overtax a baby’s immune system, but they’re wrong. They say these diseases aren’t that bad, but they’re very wrong. They say lots of things, but the one thing you can count on is that they’re wrong.
I have a daughter. I know what it’s like as a new (and terrified) parent to make profound decisions on behalf of my child, because I’ve done it. When it came to vaccines, my wife and I did the research, we talked to doctors, and in the end we got her the vaccinations she needed. I also get my shots, from the seasonal flu shot to the TDaP.
2013 year is on track to be the worst for cases of measles in the United States since vaccinations eliminated them natively back in 2000—there have been 159 cases this year up to August 24, many due to travelers bringing it back with them from abroad to a population where herd immunity is low.
It’s hard to pin this on vaccine deniers, but they have certainly played their role. Don’t listen to them. Or rather, do your research, but then talk to a doctor. A real one, a board-certified one. Make sure you have the facts before making your decision. The most basic fact is also a very simple one: Vaccines save lives.
More posts about vaccinations:
1. Go to Youtube and select a video. This one is perfect.
2. Pause the video.
3. Click outside the video area and type 1980.
Today, in a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the ACLU and United Sikhs called on state officials to investigate the harassment of a Sikh commercial truck driver pulled over early this year for a flat tire. After detaining Mr. Jageet Singh in January as he passed through Mississippi, the officers called him a "terrorist" and harassed and humiliated him because of his appearance and religious beliefs. As a devout Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban and carries a kirpan. A kirpan is a small, spiritual sword that is sheathed and sewn to the waistband. It is designed and worn as an article of faith, much as a cross is worn by devout Christians.
Contending, wrongly, that his kirpan was illegal, the officers demanded that Mr. Singh remove it. When Mr. Singh explained that he was a Sikh and that the kirpan was a sacred religious article, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs. One officer declared that all Sikhs are "depraved" and "terrorists." They continued to taunt him, and forced Mr. Singh to circle his truck with his hands on his turban while they searched the vehicle. Finally, not content with this humiliation, they arrested him, claiming that Mr. Singh had refused to obey an officer's lawful command.
Mr. Singh's ordeal did not end with the MDOT. When he returned to Mississippi on March 26, 2013, for his court date at the Pike County Justice Court, he once again suffered humiliation, harassment, and discrimination because of his religious beliefs. Waiting for his attorney in the back of the courtroom, he was stunned when four Highway Patrol officers approached him and ordered him to leave the courtroom. The officers stated that Judge Aubrey Rimes had ordered them to eject Mr. Singh from the courtroom because he did not like Mr. Singh's turban. Moreover, they told Mr. Singh that Judge Rimes would punish him if he failed to remove his headdress.
When Mr. Singh's attorney went to Judge Rimes's chambers to inquire about the matter, he readily confirmed that he had expelled Mr. Singh from the courtroom because of his turban. He further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed "that rag" from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress.
As an observant Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban at all times as a reminder and public declaration of his connection to God. For him, the turban is an inseparable part of his Sikh religious identity: Like all Sikhs, Mr. Singh believes that a man cannot be considered a Sikh if he does not wear the turban and that unwrapping his turban and exposing his "naked" head in public is sacrilegious and shameful.
Mr. Singh respectfully declined to remove his turban. As threatened, Judge Rimes forced Mr. Singh and his attorney to wait for several hours until every other litigant had been heard before allowing him into the courtroom.
The Pike County Board of Supervisors recently recognized that Judge Rimes's harassment of Mr. Singh was unacceptable. In response to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Board revised the County's harassment and non-discrimination policy to explain that religious discrimination includes "requiring an individual to remove a head covering or denying that individual access to a County office, building, program or activity because they are wearing a head covering, if that head covering is worn for religious reasons."
But Judge Rimes should not have needed a DOJ investigation or county policy to know that his conduct was impertinent and inappropriate. Our justice system is founded on the principle that every person entering a courthouse is equal before the law and is entitled to respect. Judge Rimes's treatment of Mr. Singh – in particular his use of the slur "rag" and his effort to intimidate and embarrass Mr. Singh because of his minority faith – flouted his responsibility under the Mississippi Judicial Code of Conduct to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.
The ACLU and United Sikhs also plan to file a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission, asking officials to investigate Judge Rimes's conduct and impose appropriate sanctions.
The letter sent today to MDOT officials demands that they provide public documents relating to Mr. Singh's detainment and arrest and urges them to implement an ongoing training program to educate officers about their responsibility to treat every person with dignity and to remain respectful of religious diversity.
Well, this is too bad. Guido Barilla, head of the world's biggest pasta brand, went on an anti-gay rant on Italian radio yesterday, proclaiming that he would never OK a commercial depicting a gay family and that if gays don't like his views "they can eat another pasta."
Warhol Reject posted a photo:
I think dogs vary much more.
boromir’s in too deep
We often cover abusive arrests and conduct by police officers. The fact is that the good work of officers goes without notice because it is neither news or the subject of a case. Yet, most officers conduct themselves in a professional and civil manner despite the dangers and stresses of their jobs. So we can finally take note of a story where an officer set a record of complaints in a good way. L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Elton Simmons has written over 20,000 tickets as a traffic cop over 20 years and he has never been the subject of a complaint. Not one.
Capt. Pat Maxwell said he was shocked in the review of Simmons to find no complaint ever lodged against him. While this story first aired last year, I was just sent the video below and thought it worth posting with a belated congratulations to Deputy Sheriff Simmons.
Kudos: Joseph Piazza
Anyone who's ever played with a set of Zen Magnets, or a pair of rattlesnake eggs, knows how mesmerizing magnets can be. What if you could have a set of awesome magnets that was also a pen...that was also a stylus?
Well, say hello to the Polar Pen by Canadian designer Andrew Gardner. Gardner often used to pull apart his pens (who didn't?), and he loves magnets, so he decided to put the two together. The ink cartridge sits inside a series of small, tubular rare-earth magnets that click together to form the barrel of the pen. If you want to get super fancy, you can also get a stylus tip that sits over the pen's nib.
So, what's the point of a pen made of powerful magnets? Well, sometimes the mind just needs to relax and have a play. "From tool to toy, it will inspire you at work, school, or home," Gardner says on the product's Kickstarter page. "If you enjoy tinkering with things or are fascinated with the power of magnets, then this product is for you. We have found many fun and functional ways of using the Polar Pen, and we are really excited to see what you will come up with."