Thought of the day

My love/hate relationship with Facebook has been very much trending towards the “hate” side lately. I would be fine with having a Facebook within my Facebook so I can Facebook while I Facebook, but don’t take away my friggin’ option to toggle between top stories and recent stories. I don’t need Facebook arbitrarily telling me what is relevant in my feed.

Yo dawg

Thought of the day

What the Republicans should do now that their bill got voted out in the House is double-down. Stick to their guns, utterly failing to even think about compromise. What we need is another last-minute prevention of a government shutdown so that we can get another credit downgrade.

When I know I’ve beat you

By far and away the most common emotionally-based rhetorical tactic I see employed is reflection. It’s a perfectly valid rhetorical tool when used the right way, but most people tend to use it in more of a “Nuh-uh! I am rubber and you are glue!” sort of way. Let me explain.

Think back to when John Kerry said he voted for a bill before he voted against it. It was a political flub that rhetorically made him look awful. Even if he could have logically justified his voting record through simple distinctions or nuanced discussion, it didn’t matter. (Please don’t discuss the specifics of his votes.) The Bush campaign and other Republicans picked up on the phrasing, mocking it endlessly. It was effective. That is the best way to use reflection.

Now take the comment section of this post from back in my May. The person I was ‘debating’ constantly used my language, either using my phrases or emphasized words. I believe I referred to what he was doing as projection, but reflection is the more accurate term. (See my breakdown of his reflection here.) And he was doing it wrong. He wasn’t trying to mock me, but rather he just wanted to use my vocabulary and rhetoric. What that says to me – and what it always says to me whenever someone does it – is that I’ve gotten my points across in a way that grinds at his argument. As I discussed with a psychology grad student friend of mine, this is almost certainly due to some sort of bitterness. It’s sort of like when something embarrassing happens to a kid in grade school who in turn tries and do something more embarrassing to someone else. Or, equally, when a kid drops his ice cream on the ground, so he goes and knocks his brothers’ ice cream down too. Something negative happened to a person and that person wants to reflect that negative thing onto someone else in order to make himself feel better.

Now let’s turn to a more current example. In the comment section of PZ’s post about the Elevatorgate USA Today article, I jumped in and made the same point I made in my recent post: PZ is lying when he says it isn’t his side that caused this nothing-story to be a big fuss. Now before I get to the reflection that quickly took hold in the responses, I want to note something PZ said in his original post:

I had no idea we had such power [to blacklist people], and I don’t recall ever posting a list of people we should not invite to meetings…whereas the other side has been positively shrill in demanding the immediate excommunication of “radical feminists”.

Emphasis mine.

PZ knows this is a gendered word and he knows if a man used it to describe any woman, whether it was accurate or not, a shit storm would pursue. He has intentionally used the rhetoric of the other side because it makes him feel better.

But now to the comment section. Remember, I called PZ a liar here (the only time I am likely to do so). Now let’s take a look at some of the comments:

If your contention is true, you can surely cite and/or quote repeated instances of this.

(Go to it, or let it stand that you’re a bold-faced liar)

Michael Hawkins, you’re worse than wrong, you’re a liar who is wrong.

Look what a lying fuckwitted liar just said.

(The first two quotes are from John Morales. The third is from Nerd of Redhead.)

The entire point of calling me a liar is because I have upset these two users by first calling PZ a liar. That is a negative thing which has happened to someone they like, so they have sought to have that same negative thing happen to the person who initially caused it. But that childishness isn’t the best part. No, even better than that is the fact that John Morales is calling me a liar on the basis that I’m just making up PZ’s claim that the Watsonites have been the calm ones. Not only is that the wrong argument to take since it shouldn’t even be in the least bit of dispute (he should be arguing that PZ’s side has been the calm ones, or at least that PZ really believes what he has said), but the guy even went so far as to dig up an old post giving explicit credence to my claim. So apparently I’m a liar, even though John Morales has found direct evidence to support what I said. I would mockingly call him a liar (thus using this piece of rhetoric correctly), but I just think he’s stupid.

Watch for rhetoric like this, though. I used to see it a lot from a few conservatives on my friends list, and that’s when I knew I had basically won the argument. (Whether or not I was right is a different issue.) Of course, it isn’t particular to any ideology – my focus in this very post comes from a liberal blog – but it is almost always telling. If the person isn’t using this rhetoric correctly, he is using it because he wants to make himself feel better for having his argument/position verbally tossed around.

The mayhem!

It has been complete anarchy in the streets now for nearly 24 hours. Millions have been displaced, thousands injured, hundreds dead. The chaos and destruction would be unimaginable if every American family wasn’t feeling the same exact pain right now. How such terror could happen on American soil is insane, something seemingly only meant for science fiction movies until today. What sort of devil would bring such evil upon us all?

The U.S. military passed a historic milestone Tuesday with the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in uniform, ending a prohibition that President Barack Obama said had forced gay and lesbian service members to “lie about who they are.”

I just wish I had built my bunker earlier.

Thought of the day

Banned spam-troll Jason Tannery is attempting to post about Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design now. Who knew we had such an expert in our midst.

The lying has got to stop

That “Elevatorgate” bullshit got an article in USA Today recently. The actual content was a dead non-topic from the get-go because as Richard Dawkins said, “zero bad happened”, so I don’t care to rehash something the Watsonites lost long ago. What I want to talk about is this from PZ:

What this one incident did was expose a small, fringe group of obsessive sexists who suddenly had the privileges they took for granted questioned…and oh, how they did squeal, and continue to squeal.

There are two points to be taken from this. First, it is a blatant, bald lie to say it has been those who disagree with Watson and PZ that have been making this into a big deal. Who watches Rebecca Watson videos? Who re-blogs those videos (prior to controversy)? It certainly isn’t all those “obsessive sexists”. No, it is people who are fans of Watson, those who support her, those who wanted to make this into a big deal. How anyone can say it is the other side that has made this into something it isn’t – and PZ has said so at least twice – astounds me. It is obviously the fault of Watson’s side – especially the guy with a blog that regularly cracks the top 100 blogs on the Internet – that anyone beyond a few dozen people even know about this.

Second, “obsessive sexists”? Really? PZ obviously means those who have been vocal about disagreeing that anything bad happened here. After all, that is the majority of the dissent – not those who say disgusting things or make it a point to publicly comment on Watson’s appearance or gender. And who else is included in that majority dissent? Why, Richard Dawkins, of course. Has PZ called him an “obsessive sexist”? Nope. In fact, he has explicitly said he doesn’t think Dawkins is sexist. (PZ instead condescendingly said Dawkins was just removed from the situation, as if that wasn’t the case for every fucking person on the planet except two.) Weird, huh? It’s almost like a certain someone isn’t able to stand back and be objective when it comes to sex and gender issues.

Thought of the day

Why, hello fall. You’re a bit early, but come on in anyway.

Also, this is the picture that is currently the background image:


Dr. Oz is a piece of shit

As long-time readers know, I despise people who knowingly put out false medical information. (Search “Maloney” or “Moritz” for examples of my fact-filled anger.) It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s stupid. With the Republican War on Science, the American education system, and wide-spread religious belief, scientific facts don’t need more bullshit artists out there. To do away with alternative and integrative ‘medicine’ practitioners would be nothing short of wonderful. These people promote unproven procedures and drugs that do nothing beyond the placebo effect. It’s awful and they all ought to be ashamed.

Unfortunately, shame isn’t something TV personality Dr. Oz feels easily. He recently tested grocery store apple juices for arsenic levels and determined that there was a dangerous level present. School districts have already taken apple juice off school menus. Parents are alarmed and others are concerned. “Arsenic! Why, that sounds awful! Destroy all the apples!” Except Dr. Oz, a promoter of quackery, failed to distinguish between organic and inorganic arsenic. The former is considered safe at relatively high levels whereas the latter is not. Oz just found the sum total and reported that figure (and, as it turns out, inaccurately anyway). Doctors around the country are calling on Oz to correct his fundamental error. In fact, the FDA sent him this letter before the infamous episode aired:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware that EMSL Analytical, Inc. has obtained and tested 50 samples of retail apple juice for total arsenic content on behalf of Zoco Productions. It is our understanding that, based on these test results, you will assert during an upcoming episode of The Dr. Oz Show that apple juice is unsafe because of the amounts of total arsenic found in the samples.

We appreciate that you have made the results of these tests available to us. As we have previously advised you, the results from total arsenic tests CANNOT be used to determine whether a food is unsafe because of its arsenic content. We have explained to you that arsenic occurs naturally in many foods in both inorganic and organic forms and that only the inorganic forms of arsenic are toxic, depending on the amount. We have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic.

The FDA has been aware of the potential for elevated levels of arsenic in fruit juices for many years and has been testing fruit juices for arsenic and other elemental contaminants as part of FDA’s toxic elements in foods program. The FDA typically tests juice samples for total arsenic first, because this test is rapid, accurate and cost effective. When total arsenic testing shows that a fruit juice sample has total arsenic in an amount greater than 23 parts per billion (ppb), we re-test the sample for its inorganic arsenic content. The vast majority of samples we have tested for total arsenic have less than 23 ppb. We consider the test results for inorganic arsenic on a case-by-case basis and take regulatory action as appropriate.

The analytical method for inorganic arsenic is much more complicated than the method for total arsenic. You can find the method that FDA uses to test for inorganic arsenic at this web address:

The FDA believes that it would be irresponsible and misleading for The Dr. Oz Show to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based solely on tests for total arsenic. Should The Dr. Oz Show choose to suggest that apple juice is unsafe because of the amounts of total arsenic found by EMSL Analytical, Inc.’s testing, the FDA will post this letter on its website.

People tried to prevent this information from being released. A number of independent labs have confirmed the safety of the apple juice Americans are buying, including the batch tested by Oz. Doctors are calling on Oz to retract his statements. At no point has it been unclear that misinformation and fear is all this quack is spreading. But has that caused Oz to correct his horribly flawed report? Nope:

Tim Sullivan, a spokesman for Oz’s show, said in an interview: “We don’t think the show is irresponsible. We think the public has a right to know what’s in their foods.”

“The position of the show is that the total arsenic needs to be lower,” he said. “We did the tests. We stand by the results and we think the standards should be different.”

What a load of horseshit. The show is obviously irresponsible. It just wants to create a stir because it knows its audience consists of many mothers with young children or grandchildren, many of whom drink apple juice. This is about ratings, pure and simple. Oz’s test was flawed because he did not understand the difference between arsenic types. He should have known that prior to even thinking about doing any tests, he was told as much by the FDA, and now every doctor and lab in the country is telling him again. The fact that he would stand by the horseshit claim that he’s just looking out for the public makes him a piece of shit.