Tag Archives: Obama

Religious Freedom By Popular Vote

Polls from Fox News and CNN indicate that around 60% to 70% of Americans disapprove of an Islamic community center being built in New York, blocks from Ground Zero.  A followup Gallup poll, though, shows 65% of Americans have only heard a fair amount, a little, or nothing at all about the issue.

Either way, I find it disturbing. The majority of Americans either think their petty sense of emotional outrage is more valuable than an unambiguous right of religious freedom, or they are opinionated on an issue they are not completely familiar with. The media has gleefully fanned the flames without clarifying the facts.

Yes,” I hear the critics of the Islamic community center say, “we all have religious freedom.”

But,” they add, “you should be polite enough not to use it when it offends us.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Religion

Secular Time Travelers

Leave a comment

Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Culture Warfare

Health Care CEO Misleads Using Numbers

Many opponents of health care reform are throwing numbers around, making it sound like the health care industry is barely profitable. They claim a 2-3% profit margin. It’s a half-truth –that 2-3% is, in fact, the percentage of total revenue, which is different from net return on investment. For example, CNN Business lists fortune 500 industries by profit margin of total revenue.

If I make $2 for every $100 I collect in revenue that’s 2%. But if I make $2 million for every $100 million I collect that also 2%.  If my operating costs are 20% of my gross profit (the insurance company average is about 17%), then in the former example my net profit is $1.60, a 400% return on my $0.40 investment. In the latter example it would be $1.6 million, also a 400% return. In both I keep 80% of the gross. In other words, the health care industry’s revenue is ginormous, and its operating costs are low. There’s tons of wiggle room for profit even with having to pay out medical claims.

No one would stay in any business with a 2-3% net return on investment when CD bank rates are 2.85% for a 5 year certificate. With those numbers a business might as well invest its money and do nothing. The real numbers show that the health care industry’s return on share holder equity is 16%. Not a bad return at all. But if you accept the profit margin lie, then the health care companies must be operating at a major loss, which we know isn’t true.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Obama’s An Illegal Alien – His Real Birth Certificate Finally Revealed

(Click Picture To Enlarge)

Here we go. Obama’s real birth certificate is finally revealed. He was born in a foreign land in a galaxy far, far, far, far away. That’s why he’s of superior intelligence –and why his uber-detractors appear moronic in comparison. But not even Obama is perfect; he was born to parents who were only moderately telepathic. See, it’s right there on the form, plain as day, near the top -01001001001. And check out his given, middle name -011101101010. Ha, ha, ha! It’s the same as the last name of an infamous inter-galactic gangster who’s wanted in three systems for spice smuggling. And it’s all certified by an android registrar, there at the bottom. And androids don’t lie.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Obama Kenyan Birth Certificate Forgery

The hard-core birthers –the ones who are mulishly clinging to the belief that Obama was born in Kenya– are now waving  about an obvious forgery of a Kenyan, birth certificate, as proof of their conspiracy theory. Take a look at the so-called document. This is perhaps the first birth certificate I’ve seen that fails to mention any details of the baby –no weight, or race, or time of birth.  Obama’s mother was Caucasian and his father was black, and that certainly would have been recorded, especially in the 1960’s. Thousands of white Europeans were living in Kenya  –a British colony back then. A birth to a mixed-racial couple surely would not have gone unrecorded. But no section for entering race is even provided on the form. And no section is provided for the doctor’s name, signature, or office address. What’s most suspicious is the size of the paper and all the wasted space. Would a birth certificate from that time period would be printed on a full 8.5″ x 11″ sheet? –the document in question is clearly of those dimensions. My own birth certificate is a third that size. The whole point of using small paper is that printed records are traditionally stored in filing cabinets, or boxes, or large books, which take up space. So, the smaller the better. In a single lifetime, or beyond, how many times is an official, government copy of  a birth certificate going to be accessed — once or twice, or never? Searching through a filing cabinet full of 8.5″ x 11″ papers –which are generally stored horizontally –is highly inefficient, unless Kenya’s civil servants are trained to hold their heads tilted to one side for extended periods of time.

P.S.  Every popular conspiracy theory appears to contain the same contradiction. According to the theorists, the powerful conspirators are resourceful enough to orchestrate a grand lie, but not so much when it comes to keeping it a secret. They always leave a trail for the amateurs to follow. Not a very likely scenario.

All the other flaws in this forgery are listed here.

5 Comments

Filed under Culture Warfare, Politics

When Economists Twist Biology

A site called KansasCity.com posts a column called Midwest Voices, and a professor emeritus of economics from the University of Notre Dame –Larry Marsh–has written an absurd piece insisting that if one accepts evolution then it follows that one must accept free-market economics, and therefore reject socialism; forget that the former is a science and the latter is a social policy.

Marsh begins with:

Is life fundamentally bottom-up and randomly designed or top-down and intentionally designed? Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? If you reject this dichotomy and instead view yourself as a socialist-evolutionist, how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?

The gist of his column is that he thinks living under the umbrella of a free-market economy naturally benefits all individuals, which he sees as analogous to individual ants benefiting from being part of a colony –which is actually organized from bottom up rather from the top down (i.e. government). As Marsh says, “The queen ant is not a commander ant. The colony just consists of individual ants instinctively following their nature”.

I suppose he’s saying it’s our nature to be capitalistic. And by following our nature we all profit. Oh, but what a magnificently lame philosophy it is. Invoking Adam Smith and Charles Darwin, as Marsh does, and setting them up against socialist Karl Marx and creationist William Paley may sound good on paper, while sitting in the comfy chair inside a professor’s air-conditioned office, but reality isn’t so pretty.

Hasn’t Marsh heard the estimate that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct? Or that historically the average rates of extinction and speciation have been about equal? (Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by David Raup) Or that most offspring in the wild don’t make it to adulthood? The female Clownfish (anemone fish), for example, lays up to 1000 eggs in a clutch, but predation, genetic misfortune, and physical mishaps will likely destroy all but a tiny fraction. Mother Nature may recycle, but she’s a wasteful and inefficient bitch.

Should our economy be run in this fashion? Do we want General Motors using this model? Say for every one car it produces 100 will be junked. Or for every profitable loan Bank Of America makes, 100 will be bad debt. How long would the economy last?

That ‘radical’ Richard Dawkins has often said evolution is not a template for society; he likes to quote Tennyson –“nature, red in tooth and claw”. But through Marsh’s naive non-biologist eyes, evolution is not just an explanation for the origin and diversification of new species, it’s an instructive manual on how to live one’s life.

Marsh sounds like he accepts evolution, and as an academic he may well think he’s performing a double-whammy service by conflating it with capitalism, but he’s only cherry picking the parts of evolution that fit in with his economic views.

1 Comment

Filed under Evolution, Politics

Iran, John McCain, and Ancient Rome

John McCain is a temporal anchor on American politics, and he’s dragging the rest of us back in time to the Vietnam era when black & white militaristic thinking got us bogged down in an unwinnable war. Oh, wait. I think I’m confusing him with the present day incarnation of John McCain who helped get us bogged down in Iraq. Perhaps, John McCain is Dr. Who, and enjoys sticking his big nose in other people’s business because he has a god complex. Ever since the US presidential election, I have to admit I can’t recognize the real John McCain. For example, does he support nation building or not?

Yes, why don’t we publicly take sides in Iran and further fan the flames of Islamic extremists? Then all we’ll need is a fatheaded congressman suggesting we send a team of advisers to Iran to help the protesters liberate the country. Apparently, someone in the US State Department already made a play and requested that Twitter delay its site maintenance so the Iranian people could still communicate their protest strategy.

I long for the day when politicians will sit twiddling their thumbs, not thinking about how to spread democracy around the world. Aren’t their domestic plates full enough?

Let’s gain some wisdom from the story of an ancient Roman politician named Cinna in his campaign for power:

They contributed money and military forces, and he was joined by many more people, including some of those who were influential at Rome, who found political stability not to their taste.

From The Civil Wars by Appian

Does an old, war dog like John McCain live for peace or conflict? I wonder.

3 Comments

Filed under Politics

Spin The Wheel Of Religion, Where She Stops No One Knows

One example of the inconsistency of religion

Trapped in the recesses of the web –like hardened chewing gum stuck for eternity in the cracks of a sidewalk– are religious forums and pseudo-news organizations with URL names beginning with “faith”, “belief”, or “answers”. They’re little worlds unto themselves, and that’s the way their readers like it. They don’t spurn reality, for they create their own; the same way Las Vegas casinos don’t cheat because they make up their own rules.

At Belief.Net a dude named David Klinghoffer has chronicled his Dialogue with Atheists. He challenged atheists to explain how life can have meaning or morality without a supernatural being bestowing them upon us. Klinghoffer stretched his argument to the extreme, though, by comparing atheists to the Joker, the supreme nihilist. He forgets, though, that the Joker also loves to expose hypocrisy.

As an atheist, I’m left wondering where religious folk find their meaning and morality. Surely it’s not in any religious text; for bestsellers like the Bible and the Quran are morally ambiguous at best. They’re all things to all people. Prohibitionists, for example, used the bible to speak against the evils of alcohol; and we know how that ended. And according to which Christians of the 19th century you consult, the Bible both supports and condemned slavery. Today, if you compare the King James version of the Ten Commandments to more modern translations here’s a hint of what you’ll find: The former says Thou shall not kill; the latter say Thou shall no commit murder. How Orwellian.

Religions are not wells of meaning and morality; they’re justifications for capricious humans. Give me reason over faith any day.

2 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Religion

Torture Gets Us What We Want

Supporters of waterboarding, or “enhanced interrogation”, or plain old, let’s-get-medieval-on-your-ass torture –if they’re willing to call it what it is– often put forth the argument that causing pain and discomfort to a terrorist will save lives by preventing an imminent attack. They might say something along the lines of “What if a terrorist knew the location of a soon-to-be-detonated dirty bomb. Wouldn’t torture be OK then?” But while they may be sincere in their belief, their little scenario is self-serving and false in the extreme.

The proponent here presumes to know what the suspect knows before the torture has even commenced. Well, they don’t know the mind of the suspect; he may, in fact, be completely innocent. This hardened thinking reminds me of Bill O’Reilly when he said all the prisoners at Guantanamo should have been shot. Did he mean to include the ones that were eventually released?

Terrorists also tend to work in groups. I don’t know about you, but if I were a terrorist, my planned attack would be postponed if one of my brethren suddenly went missing or were captured by the authorities. And I’d hit the road and look for a new headquarters. The CIA has already admitted that none of the information gained by torture thwarted an actual attack. Most of it was about the structure of Al-Qaeda’s as an organization.

Life isn’t a TV melodrama. Jack Bauer isn’t going to save the day by beating the crap out of Nina, no matter how much we despise her. Presuming to know the mind of a suspect only leads to repeatedly asking the suspect the same question, over and over again, and torturing them for the “correct” answer, whatever that may be.

In the 1990’s there was an infamous case in California of a teenage boy who was questioned for hours by police in the murder of his sister. He confessed and was convicted, even though it was later determined with compelling DNA evidence that a stranger had committed the horrible crime. Pressuring a person for the answer you want usually gets you what you want; it doesn’t get you what you need.

The ambiguities of real life make torture seem cartoonish and black-and-white, and part of a worldview credulous conservatives can get behind.

6 Comments

Filed under Politics

Stop Torturing Me With American Stupidity

Only a cold heart wouldn’t admire Christopher Hitchens for his willingness to experience water-boarding firsthand. He broke quickly, but who the hell wants to endure drowning, “simulated” or otherwise?

The past week has left me feeling sick to my stomach. It’s when many of my fellow Americans abandoned their warmbloodness by adamantly defining water-boarding as not torture, but as an acceptable method of “enhanced interrogation”. Forget that there’s a long legal and moral precedent calling it torture.

But there are two points on this subject that I haven’t yet heard anyone bring up. First off, if water-boarding is not to be called torture, then we’re creating a ready-made legal defense for those who water-board. An American citizen held in any foreign land could be treated to this method of interrogation, and we could not stand on any moral, or legal, high ground because we deprived ourselves of that privilege. And our own law enforcement (police, FBI, DEA, etc.) could not be held fully accountable if they chose to water-board prisoners. A defense lawyer could easily argue that the venue of the interrogation makes no difference to the definition of water-boarding. If it’s not torture in the military, it’s not torture in civilian life. Perhaps it’s simply a form of assault. Criminals of all sorts would certainly find a new legal definition advantageous.

The second point is that not calling water-boarding torture shifts the whole scale. equally unpleasant techniques could be redefined, too. Water-boarding deprives a person of oxygen and is called simulated drowning. So, should choking or dunking a person under water or placing a plastic bag over someone’s head for a prolonged period not to be called torture? They’re all as dangerous and as horrible as water-boarding. One could make the case.

This discussion makes me feel like I ‘ve been dragged back in time to a more morally ambiguous era.

46 Comments

Filed under Politics