September 11

There were a number of factors involved in why 9/11 happened, but it cannot be denied that any single factor could potentially be eliminated with the same end result. That is, any single factor with the exception of faith. Faith – belief without evidence – allows for anything and everything and is an invalid methodology to come to anything resembling a consistent conclusion or type of conclusion on any matter.

Stop making inappropriate comparisons

Between Glenn Beck/FOX Noise comparing everyone to Nazis and the media saying Madison, Wisconsin is like Cairo, Egypt, I can’t take it. These comparisons are just offensive. And I don’t mean they’re offensive because they might undermine how horrible WW2 Germany was, or because they do a disservice to the struggles of people under a 30 year dictatorship. I mean they’re offensive because they’re so fucking stupid. Just fucking stupid. And on that note, I welcome Providence, RI into the fray:

Providence, Rhode Island Mayor Angel Taveras is sending layoff warnings to all 1,926 of the city’s teachers…

“This is beyond insane,” Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith told The Providence Journal’s Linda Borg. “Let’s create the most chaos and the highest level of anxiety in a district where teachers are already under unbelievable stress. Now I know how the United States State Department felt on Dec. 7, 1941.”

Yes, this is exactly like when the U.S. was attacked and entered a massive world war. I can’t see where there are any differences. Steve Smith really hit the nail on the head this time.

God damn it.

2010: FTSOS in review, October to December

This is the fourth and final installment in the 2010 review of FTSOS. See the other three here and here and here.

October:
The most important post I think I have ever made was the one about Tyler Clementi. He was the Rutgers student who was outed as gay by his roommate. As a result – and as a result of a bigoted society – he killed himself. His death was an unnecessary tragedy that ought to bring shame to anyone who has ever voted against civil rights for gays or anyone who has ever made one moment of a gay person’s life more difficult directly because that person was gay.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it was disconcerting to read that a few high school refs were being threatened with punishment for trying to support breast cancer research. They wore some pink whistles during football playoff games in order to raise awareness; they were later told they were in violation of some petty dress code and therefore may be facing suspension – including suspension of the pay they had planned to donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. After the blogosphere erupted, the organization that oversees refs in that area (Washington state) backed down.

I also went to some length to explain a few basic things about religion that conflict with science. Miracles, directed evolution, intercessory prayer, and the belief that faith is a virtue are all things which science rejects. It simply isn’t possible for someone to hold belief in any of those things and also logically claim he has no conflict with science.

November:
This was the month the board which oversees local quack Christopher Maloney agreed with me that by not referring to himself as a naturopathic doctor, he was creating confusion; people might think of him as a real doctor. Except for when he insists on putting himself in the spotlight or when there is a special occasion (such as this), I consider the issue he created to be done. He lost.

In this month I used the Socratic Method to explain our likely basis for morality. I largely pointed to our common ancestry and the obvious survival benefits that cooperation offers. I also talked about why we ought to act certain ways. We all use ultimately subjective reasoning, and that’s okay: Most of us share a number of values inherent in our nature. We use these values as our common basis for saying what is right or wrong. It’s sort of like a stand-in for objectivity. And we all have it.

I also used Edwin Hubble’s calculations for the age of the Universe to demonstrate a key point about science. One of the most enduring and annoying criticisms of science by people poorly versed in the sciences is that the practice has a history of being wrong. If it has been wrong about so many things in the past, why should anyone believe it now? Except science really doesn’t have the history everyone seems to think it does. The issue is with poor or limited data (such as what Hubble had). The scientific method actually has no limitations in and of itself. The limits come from our own minds.

I also discussed a paper from Nature which a number of creationists butchered. My focus was a particular creationist familiar to FTSOS readers, but a quick search at the time showed that a whole slew of creationists had fundamentally misunderstood the paper. This is understandable since it is unlikely any of them even read the paper (not that they would be able to understand most of it anyway), merely taking their cues from other creationists. In short, the paper was a study of how alleles become fixed in asexual populations versus sexually reproducing populations . In the former, alleles, if they are particularly advantageous, tend to spread through populations rapidly, quickly becoming fixed. But in drosophila, researchers found that for alleles to spread and become important, fixation was not necessarily required. Alleles act in much more complicated systems in sexually reproducing populations than in asexual organisms, so the way their frequency rises or falls is also more complicated.

December:
Since I mentioned FTSOS hitting the arbitrary number of 100,000 hits in an earlier installment of this review, I suppose I will also mention that it hit 200,000 hits in December. There isn’t much more to add to this, though, is there?

In a more significant post, I pointed out that the Catholic Church thinks (probably without realizing it) that Double Effect is wrong. The Church stripped a hospital in Arizona of its affiliation because the hospital made the correct choice to save a woman’s life at the expense of the not-a-human-being fetus she was carrying. This is pretty much the example textbooks give in order to illustrate the very concept of Double Effect.

I also wrote about a local (real) doctor who supports some quackery. Dustin Sulak is from Hallowell, Maine and he has been making a living making out marijuana prescriptions. That’s all fine and dandy (and I’m sure he is being responsible with his power), but he also supports Reiki. That whole ‘field’ is just a bunch of malarkey that has no place in medicine. I find it unfortunate that a perfectly qualified medical professional would lend credence to something so obviously made-up like that.

Finally, I lamented the fact that Republicans were holding up three extremely important bills this month. All three – the repeal of DADT, the New START treaty, and the 9/11 First Responders health care bill – were eventually passed or ratified. The whole hub-bub was a political creation: the Republicans want to embarrass the President, not get anything done. I don’t think the Democrats are by any means wonderful, but at least they tend to be at least half-way pragmatic. And they want 9/11 First Responders to have fucking health care.

So this concludes my review of FTSOS for 2010. Hopefully the next dozen months will be even better.

Jon Stewart passes 9/11 First Responders bill

Because let’s be honest, it was Jon Stewart who got everyone’s ass in gear.

The 9/11 legislation provides money for monitoring and treating illnesses related to Ground Zero and reopens a victims’ compensation fund for another five years to cover wage and other economic losses of sickened workers and nearby residents. Schumer and Gillibrand had sought $6.2 billion and keeping the compensation fund open for 10 years.

They ended up getting $4.2 billion. Good for them and even better for the 9/11 First Responders. I’m glad the Republicans backed down on their opposition to giving health care to anyone.

In other great news, the bill repealing DADT has been signed by President Obama.

Okay, now the rich have their money

Great, wonderful, magical. The rich have avoided a marginal tax increase so they can keep money that will not find its way to those at the other end of the massive, Republican-caused income gap. (Trickle down economics. Lol.) So can Congress do something that matters?

  • Maybe they can approve the START treaty. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust Russia, whether in its agenda or its infrastructure and ability to maintain its nuclear arsenal in any manner (such as, I don’t know, keeping track of it). Oh, and Ronald Reagan supported arms reduction. That isn’t a reason for my support. I’m just mentioning it because Dick Morris said exactly the opposite on a radio show last night. He’s a moron.
  • Or maybe they could allow gays to help make us safer. I know, I know. All the right-wing conservative bigots (apologies for redundancy) are going to throw a fit over this – just like they did in response to racially integrating…well, anything. But this is the right thing to do, it will make our 20th century-style military more effective, and there is no rational reason that says we shouldn’t do it. And oh, c’mon. Let’s be honest. We all know what the slime-bag bigots (like McCain) are thinking, and no. No, gay people do not fuck everything that moves. Grow up.
  • Or maybe they could give health care to 9/11 First Responders. I’m grammatically uncomfortable with capitalizing “First Responders”, but I’m more than morally okay with it. I’m just not sure if the Republican’ts are comfortable giving health care to anyone. When Jon Stewart showed his anger over the lack of action on this bill, I figured it really just came down to the Republican’ts sticking together on their crappy do-nothing pledge until the billionaires got their tax breaks. But it looks like it’s going to be tough to scrape together the 60 votes needed to pass this thing. Does it make me a name-caller if I say this group is really fucking scummy? Because I might have to argue that I’m making a descriptive, not a normative, claim.

That silly mosque

In all the coverage I’ve seen on the proposed New York City mosque (and that’s virtually all that’s been covered lately it seems), what sticks out to me the most is the religious-fueled xenophobia. Worst of all, it can’t merely be chalked up to politics. Of course, the Republicans only care about the ‘issue’ for political reasons, but much of the country has bought straight into the political fear-mongering (a classic tool of Republican…well, tools).

The real issue here isn’t that Muslims are going to be allowed to build a place of worship. It’s that any religious group is being allowed to build a place that is tax-free. Aside from being plainly unconstitutional (despite its wide-spread and even welcomed acceptance), not taxing religions implies, perhaps outright says, that religion has something worthwhile to offer society. Given that religion is entirely impotent to inform us anything about the world (if not, then what has it ever said that was not trivial?), society would be better served taxing religious institutions and investing that money into education, infrastructure, and bringing people out of poverty.

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