Monday, July 30, 2012

Population... implosion?

My state actually voted to allow gay marriage this year, and of course there is Chik-fil-A all over the news right now. Now, those opposed to gay marriage took out a petition, so it will now be put on the ballot. This fact reminded me of a clueless customer we had at work one day. There are times where I really wasn't required to smile and not disagree with customers, and this was one..

My boss and I were helping a customer, and politics came up. Well, one topic lead to another and he said this 'gem':

"Within ten generations we won't have any kids in this country, and our population will be so low any country will be able to just walk in and take us over if we let abortion and gay marriage be legal. We just won't be making any kids in this county." 

Seriously? Does this guy actually believe that? Lets just take a moment to actually think for a second and look at facts. Abortion is already legal, and guess what? The national population is still going up year after year. That's because those that want abortions get them, and those that don't, well... DON'T! Imagine that... Also let me share a little secret about gays. Unmarried gay partners have sex with their gay partner and don't have kids (although, there are the odd few that do go into 'fake' marriages to hide their 'gayness'). Likewise, a married gay couple would have gay sex with their gay partner, equaling the production of zero kids as well. So married or not, gays have gay sex and any change in the populous will be negligible.

So in review, abortion is legal and our population continues to grow. Also, we've established that allowing gays to marry would equate to almost no change in child production. The issue is legality, not required. Abortion is LEGAL, not REQUIRED. If gay marriage were LEGAL, it isn't REQUIRED.  It's so simple, I have to wonder if this guy thinks about any of this stuff or is just repeating something he was told. I have a request for those that are anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. Please, please, please tell people that say this kind of shit to shut up. They are not helping your cause at all, and are taking attention away from those that might have real, thought out points and arguments. I may or may not agree with what you have to say, but I can respect that as long as your argument is intelligible. I do the same with people that I actually agree with if their argument is a bad/illogical one.No matter how right/wrong someone may be, if you present and ignorant case, you won't be taken seriously, and rightfully so. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

Quick, ban everything!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is trying to get Buckyballs off the market. Buckyballs are small magnetic ball-bearings that can be sculpted into all manner of shapes. They're a desk toy for your office (and look pretty neat to boot), but unlike some desk toys that just have a magnet base and metal shapes, each individual Buckball is a magnet. Sounds cool to me, but where's the problem? Turns out that some children have been consuming them, and that doing so requires surgery to remove them. Cases run from the very young, to those that are certainly old enough to know better. So the CPSC is now pressuring retailers to stop selling Buckyballs, as well as filing suit against the makers of Buckyballs in order to force them to stop selling and recall them. The CPSC is calling them a "substantial product hazard" to children who may consume them. They also had this to say:

"Notwithstanding the labeling, warnings and efforts taken by (Maxfield and Oberton), ingestion incidents continued to rise because warnings are ineffective"

You see, Buckyballs are already labeled with a warning that reads:

WARNING - Keep away from children! Do not put in nose or mouth. Swallowed magnets can stick to intestines causing serious injury or death. Seek immediate medical attention if magnets are swallowed or inhaled.

Sounds like they have everything covered to me. The CPSC is complaining that kids are getting them, and that they are ingesting them. Well, the warning clearly states that they are not for children, not to consume them, and the serious danger that exist should you not head the warning. Yet, the CPSC is taking action against them anyway, stating that the warning isn't working. The whole point of a warning is to warn the consumer, and also free yourself from liability. But for some reason, the CPSC still feels that Buckyballs are at fault even though the warning is made very clear on the package, and the fact that they are marketed to adults and not children. What is the point of a warning if you are going to punish the product if the consumer decides to ignore it? Buckyballs are only dangerous when used for something it is explicitly not intended for. Actually, they directly tell you not to use them for these uses. How is the product maker in any way responsible for obvious misuse? Shall we ban kitchen knives as well? Sometimes people are careless and cut themselves. And sometimes people actually use a kitchen knife to stab or kill someone. Obviously that's not the intended use of a kitchen knife and warnings tell you it's sharp and not to use as a weapon. But guess what, people do it anyway. So according to the CPSC's argument, kitchen knives should be banned as well. What about over the counter headache pills? If I ignore the directions that say only to take two, and instead take the whole bottle, does that make the pill maker liable. No! ...or at least it shouldn't. In that hypothetical, it would be my actions that made a generally  benign product dangerous. In fact, every product would need to be banned. Warning or no warning, there are ways to use every product that could be harmful in some form or fashion. 

When you get right down to it, this is not a failing of the company or a failing of the product. What it is is a failing or parenting. First, these are not toys for kids and should not be given to kids. Secondly, parents need to watch their kids. There is a chance that a child will still get a hold of them on their own, but an attentive parent will be there to keep the child from eating them. True, parents can't watch their children 24/7. But the latest generation of parents seem far to lax, and far too comfortable being absent for extended periods. In many cases, the parents/child will probably be at fault. With older 'victims', the fault will lie with the consumer. And in some cases accidents will happen that couldn't have been avoided. But in none of these cases are the Buckballs, or their maker to blame. If there was no warning and they were being explicitly marketed to kids, then there would be an argument there. But as the facts stand, Buckyballs are blameless, and the CPSC is doing nothing but blaming an innocent party, whilst propping up the notion that being an inattentive parent isn't a problem.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Graphicly anti-choice.

Well, I was greeted with an unwelcome surprise on the way home from work today. I'm sure we've all seen the anti-abortion signs before. First you're greeted with a photo of a stereotypically cute baby. Then this photo is followed by graphic picture, after bloody graphic picture. This is a rather disgusting tactic and one that is rather misleading.

First we'll look at some facts. Did you know that 50-70% of pregnancies are spontaneously aborted naturally by the body... most without the mother never having known she was pregnant? So by the numbers, planned abortions are well outnumbered by unplanned ones. But since that isn't really relevant to the signs I saw, I'll move on. The most obvious point is the images they are using. Bloody, dismembered, baby carcases. Are they graphic? Yes. Do they get your attention? Undoubtedly so. But are they accurate? Nope.

The images they feature are actually progressed past what is a legal 'age' to perform an abortion in most places. This is very misleading. They try to grab your attention and make you think that every abortion consists of tearing a bloody child from the womb. This is hardly the case. Most planned (legal) abortions are performed very early in the pregnancy and are a far cry from the images these sick people plaster by the roadside. If fact, a woman recently documented her abortion in secret. This documentation can be seen here:  As you can see, no bloody fully formed child... just a jar of liquid. I will agree with the anti-choice crowd that late abortions are something I'm not comfortable with (unless the mother's life is in peril, or the child will die anyway). But that's not something we need to worry about since such abortions are already illegal in my country. Yet, rather than remain intellectually honest, they choose to go for the shock factor and mislead those that may consider undergoing this sometimes necessary procedure.

Part of me wonders if these people are as 100% opposed as they seem to be. What of cases of incest and rape? What about when the mother's health is in danger, or if the unborn child is known to have a defect that will either cause death at birth or a horribly painful life? Would they be against that? And why are they against it? I can tell you that the ones I saw today made it very clear that they were anti-choice for religious reasons. That's fine. You are entitled to your opinion. What you aren't entitled to is trying to get your opinion enacted as law and forced upon everyone else.

 Funny that these people are typically saying they are against government getting into our lives, except for when they want the government telling people they have to do what THEY think. There's a very simple solution to this problem. If you don't like abortion, don't get one. It really is that simple. My wife says that she would never have an abortion, yet she agrees that the option has to be there for those that need it. That really is as simple as it is. So please stop trying to force your opinion on others. Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-baby killing. It doesn't mean abortion required. What it does mean is leaving that option open for those that need it, and assuring that safe and legal ways to obtain this service remain available. If you're pro-life (actually anti-choice), you're safe. You can have your baby. No one is going to force you to abort it. So live your life and make your decisions by you ideals, and let everyone else do the same.

Oh, there was an additional bit of irony contained in their displays. Scattered amongst the many graphic images were signs that read "The pill kills". This one really calls for a facepalm, and for two reasons at that. Initially, the pill does not 'kill'. The birth control pill prevents the pregnancy. There is no fertilized egg growing and growing toward the end product of a child. There is nothing alive to kill. Well, unless they want to argue for the individual egg or sperm as 'alive'. But if they do try that, every menstrual cycle that doesn't result in pregnancy is murder, and all the millions and millions of sperm that don't fertilize an egg are victims of a genocide. I don't think anyone of sound mind would argue for that... but you never know. But the fact remains that 'the pill' does not kill a child in any stage of development, because there is no pregnancy to be in development.

The second point is a rather ironic one. They are denouncing the birth control pill. The vast majority of abortions are the result of unintended pregnancies. If these expectant parents had used birth control, they likely wouldn't have a pregnancy to worry about, and would never have been in the position of having to decide to abort or not. The people I saw today should be pro-birth control, not anti-birth control. Getting young adults to use proper birth control methods would slash teen pregnancy rates, but would also drastically reduce the number of abortions performed by the simple fact that the pregnancy was avoided. 

That said, if two consenting adults do take the proper precautions, and the birth control still fails, I feel they should be afforded the option to abort. They did everything to try an prevent the pregnancy, yet find themselves in that position anyway. I am against people using abortion as their only form of birth control though. That is a vast minority, but I feel that still needs to be stated. So, why the despise for birth control from the anti-choice crowd? They should be hugely in favor of it, as it would slash abortion numbers. Yet they oppose that as well. Curious, and highly illogical. The only answer I can draw is that they want to dictate your personal life in every aspect they can. That is something that is far from American, and closer to the theocracy that the founders sought to break away from.

So that's my take. That these sign bearers are crass individuals that have no logical argument, that rely of religious dogma to spread misleading 'information' and lies in order to try and control what you can and can't do at the whims of their personal opinion. What's your take?

-Brain Hulk

Please share, subscribe, comment and follow us on your favorite social networking sites!
facebook | google+ | twitter

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bruce Wayne 2012?

The other day conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh made this laughable comment on his radio show...

Have you heard this new movie, the Batman movie, what is it, The Dark Knight Lights Up or whatever the name is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises. Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in The Dark Knight Rises is named Bane, B-a-n-e. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time. The release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire breathing four eyed whatever it is villain in this movie is named Bane?

Do I think it's a coincidence? Yes, in fact I do! Actually, I'm pretty sure that anyone with two functioning brain cells or an ounce of common sense and intellectual honesty would come to the same conclusion that the similarity between the names is no more than a coincidence. But I'll get back to that in a second.

First I'd like to touch on how Limbaugh pretends to not know the name of the movie. Seriously? "The Dark Knight Lights Up"? "The Dark Knight Rises" has been one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, so I can only assume that he's pretending to not know the title for whatever reason. But, if he really didn't know what the name of the movie was, it just goes to show how out of touch Rush is. Lets assume he was pretending to not know though... What is there to gain in doing that. In my estimation, doing so leaves you looking only two ways. 1) Out of touch with the lives of everyday Americans, or 2) a sad man that is doing nothing more than crying out for attention. Newsflash Rush, pretending not to know the name of one of the biggest movies of the year does not make you look hip and cool.

Okay, now back to the Bane v Bain matter. One thing that Limbaugh did get correct was that we've known that Summer 2012 would be the release date for "The Dark Knight  Rises". But there's a couple things we didn't know. First, when the release date was set, we didn't know that Mitt Romney would be the presidential nominee for the Republican party. Second, Bain Capital hasn't come to the forefront of the conversation until recent weeks. But there's so much more to it than that. By December 2008, Christoper Nolan had already drafted a rough outline of the plot. By February 2010 the screenplay was started and filming began in May 2011. By November 2011, the filming had concluded. Contrast that against Romney who didn't formally announce his candidacy until June 2011. Then further consider that for much or the early months, Mitt was overshadowed by Cain, Gingrich and Perry in the polling. In fact, well in to 2012, Romney was still in a close fight with Sontorum for the nod of the Republican party. Finally, in May of 2012, Mitt clinched the nomination... almost a full year after the movie began filming, and a half-year after filming had finished! But lets not forget that the gap of time to when the story was actually written was even greater than that. If they were trying to make this film an anti-Romney propaganda piece, not only were they taking a huge risk, but had amazing foresight as well. But any reasonable person can see that Rush is making much ado about nothing. All that information is available with less than five minutes of research if one wishes to remain intellectual honest. But I hardly think Rush is concerned with being intellectual or honest.

A further curiosity is the impression that Limbaugh seems to think that they just made up the Bane character for this 'grand scheme'. I'm far from a Batman fan, but even I know that Bane is not a new character. Heck, he was a villain featured in Batman: The Animated Series, which I watch in my childhood. The Bane character was also used in the 1997 film, "Batman & Robin". I wasn't even reader of the Batman comics, but even I knew that Bane was famous for breaking Batman's back in the Batman comic series.  But Bane goes back even further, as he was created by DC Comics way back in 1993. True, Romney and company started Bain Capital in 1984, but Mitt didn't enter political service until he won the Massachusetts Governor race in  2002... well after the 1993 creation of the Bane comic character. If DC comics saw Mitt running Bain, that he would do so with questionable practices, his running for governor, his winning, his running for president in 2012, that the character would be used in a movie that same year, and that Romney's history at Bain could harm his chances of winning all the way back from 1993, than that's shockingly amazing! That, or the folks at DC are the least ambitious and inept time travelers ever.

 So what is it? Super secret time travelers that like taking huge chances, or a simple coincidence? It's pretty clear to me, but I'll let you make the call.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The presumptuous Billy Graham

Sunday I was reading the local paper when I ran across the following Q&A column by Billy Graham.

Faith must be nurtured to thrive

Q: I was real excited when I gave my life to Jesus at a church camp last year, but now I'm not even sure what I believe. What happened to me? How did I lose my feelings of joy? -- A.B.

A: Let me assure you that God hasn't changed; He still loves you and still wants you to know that He is with you every moment of the day.

The key is to understand that when you gave your life to Jesus, you entered into a personal relationship -- a relationship with God Himself. But like any other relationship, our relationship with God needs to be safeguarded and nurtured. What would happen to your friendship with someone if you never spoke to them or spent time with them? Eventually that friendship would wither and die -- and the same is true of our relationship with God. Jesus said, "I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

Tell God that you know you need Him, and that you want your relationship with Him to grow and become strong. Then learn to walk with Him every day. How do you do that? First, take time to read a portion of His Word, the Bible, every day. Through it, you'll learn just how much He loves you, and how He wants you to live.

Then learn to pray about everything -- not just asking God for help, but thanking and praising Him for the good things He gives you. In addition, ask God to give you Christian friends who can encourage and help you. Don't rely on your feelings, for they will fade. Learn instead to rely on Jesus Christ, and on the truth God has given you in His Word.

It's no surprise that Graham's answer is worthless and presumptuous. Oh, your faith is fading? So it automatically must be your fault. A simply despicable assumption. This may be a shock to ol Billy boy, but you can lose your faith while still praying and trying to be true to that faith. I know, because that's what happened to me. I prayed, I went to church with my family, I read the Bible and yet I still lost faith. I was a believer, but no more. It didn't happen at once, but was a very gradual process. I was the type that would hear things that conflicted with my faith, and I would research to prove my faith true. But faith has one natural predator... facts. The more things I learned, the more I understood about the world, and the more I read the Bible (not part of the facts department), the less faith I had. So no, faith didn't fade from being lax or lazy. Faith can often fade due to being vigilant and committed to truth. But that's just one person, and admittedly, while my family did go to church, we didn't go every single week. But what about people I know personal who were studying to become priests. Yup, you guessed it! They no longer believe either. That type of study takes a lot of dedication, yet they lost their faith as well. That not high enough up the religious ladder for Mr. Graham? What about the clergy project? A place where actual clergy members can anonymously come clean about the fact that they no longer believe as well. These peoples jobs (and in many cases , their life) are to lead prayer, teach the faith and lead church services regularly. So Billy, how is it that these clergy members who regularly perform the tasks that you say are needed to nurture faith still managed to lose their faith? Simple. Faith being lost isn't a result of not babying that faith, but of the truth and reason finding it's way in. Religion being found out for what it is. A fantasy story, dressed up with promises, yet also riddled with nonsense and threats. So Mr. Graham, get off you soap box and try to actually look at facts for a change. People don't lose faith because there's something wrong with the people. Please lose faith because there is something wrong with the faith.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heaven: assumed

We've all come home to find religious materials stuffed in our front door or tucked next to the mailbox. Typically it's the usual Watchtower magazine or flyer. Well, now a semi-local evangelical Baptist church has gotten in on the act. Usually I just toss them in the pile of things to put in the recycling bin, but this one caught my eye. It wasn't the quality on the tract. Unlike the Watchtower books that are professionally printed, this one was a cheap photocopy on colored paper. It was much less wordy than the Watchtower books, so I actually did bother to read it in it's brief entirety. I did take notice of it's claim that it was making with loud certainty... and more importantly the address listed right on the back. So I decided to partake in the likely pointless activity of writing the pastor a letter in response. The following is that letter...

Pastor Jeff,

I returned home from a long day of work Thursday to find one of your churches small blue fliers stuck in my door. I really wish your congregation didn’t blanket the area with these pamphlets, as the vast majority likely wind up in the rubbish bin. I can only hope that some were put in with the recycling collection like mine. But that isn’t the reason for this note. You see, the distributed paper included the wording “HOW TO KNOW 100% FOR SURE, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THAT YOU WOULD GO TO HEAVEN.” (Emphasis, yours.) However, there’s a problem with this claim. You claim that people can know “100% for sure”, yet is this really true? This claim is actually based on a few base assumptions, so you actually can’t be “100% sure”. Allow me to elaborate…

Assumption 1) First you must assume that there is some sort of heaven or afterlife to even go to. Granted, only those who already believe in an afterlife will be interested in the information within your distributed pamphlet. Yet you must still assume that there is a heaven, as one has not been proven to exist, nor is there even evidence to exist that it does.

Assumption 2) Next you must assume that some sort of god exists. Just as with the assumption of heaven, you are forced to assume that there is a deity in control of this place and it’s rules for entry. Again, as with the afterlife, this has yet to be proven as true.

Assumption 3) After you assume that some sort of deity exists, you are left assuming that the god that you believe in is the correct god. Remember, there have been thousands of gods through the centuries. Deistic, monotheistic, polytheistic? Statistically, it is much more likely that you have chosen the wrong god (should one exist), since none have had their existence verified and proven.

Assumption 4) Now that you have your god picked out, you need to assume that the holly text attributed to him/her is an accurate representation of his/her true nature and requirements for entry into heaven. If the holly book is not an accurate representation, then quoting verses is of no use. Especially if the verses are inaccurate in their claimed desires of said god.

Assumption 5) Assuming that the text is accurate, you must assume that your interpretation is the correct interpretation as well. Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Evangelical, and many, many more. Even if we focus on Christianity, there are several different sects that differ enough in their interpretation of the Bible that they deem it necessary to separate themselves from the others.

So as you see, you can’t truly claim that people can know “100% for sure” if they will go to heaven. In order for this claim to be true, you must assume that there is a heaven, that there is a god, that you’ve selected the correct one, that his holly text is an accurate representation of his will, and that you’ve interpreted the text correctly. Far too many assumptions for anyone to claim 100% certainty.

-A friendly neighborhood atheist

Now, I understand that writing this church a letter and pointing out the obvious was likely a waste of time that will result in nothing. But it did allow me to vent a little after a frustrating day, as well as letting the pastor know that his flyers aren't welcome and that not all blindly accept what he's selling. Some may respond to say that science doesn't provide 100% certainty either, and admittedly they would be correct. However there is a wide gulf between what science can tell us and what religion tells us. Whereas religious faith just makes a baseless claim and asserts it as unquestionable fact, scientific knowledge is based on tests and evidence. Science may not be able to say that a thing is 100% the truth, but it can say that all the evidence and tests run point toward the conclusion that the conclusion in question is the truth. It never says that something is 100% unquestionably true, but leaves even the strongest conclusion open to revision should new evidence arise. It's all about the expansion of knowledge and deeply caring that what we believe, or hold to be true is as accurate a portrayal of reality as the facts at hand can tell us. That is a wonderful thing that no assumed paradise can overcome.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Everything's bigger in Texas... except education.

Recently, the Texas GOP published it's official political platform. In it they stated...

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Seriously? They just came right out and said that they are opposed to critical thinking (and thinking for yourself in general)! It doesn't take a genius to guess why they are making this statement, though. It's partly about keeping Texans 'in-line' and partly about attempting to wedge religion and GOP ideals into school wherever they can. It's likely that the GOP would like to cry foul that the teaching of evolution is challenging fixed beliefs. Never mind the fact that evolution is supported by mountains of evidence... If little Billy believes in creation, they don't want that challenged. But I must ask. What is bad about having your fixed beliefs challenged? If your beliefs are true, then the challenge should be no worry. If fact the passing of the challenge would actually make your beliefs stronger. And if your beliefs don't stand up to the test, why would you want to believe something that's not correct? Yes Texas GOP, lets just assume that everyone shares your fixed beliefs like you seem to be doing. It looks like they certainly assumed this, because their own platform would 'protect' things that I'm sure they would also be against. What if a student doesn't believe that the Holocaust ever took place? Under the GOP platform, we shouldn't inform them otherwise. What if a student believes in a geocentric flat Earth? Nope, can't correct them! What if a student thinks Allah created everything? You okay with that GOP? Because your platform says that you can't challenge that belief either. But much like the Louisiana religious voucher situation, they didn't think things through. (Which is rather appropriate since they are opposing thinking skills.) The intent is to shoehorn in THEIR beliefs and weed out anything that could challenge them. But, the way the platform statement is listed, it would actually protect ALL views and beliefs from scrutiny. In my opinion, that is a very bad thing. We go to school for the purpose of learning. If we start right out by protecting the students beliefs and knowledge from being challenged or expanded, then you've effectively removed the very purpose of the education system. We go to school to learn. History, math, science, literature, writing, art, etc... We start out a mostly blank slate, and learn facts along to way that expand our knowledge and view of the world around us. Furthermore, if we learn to think for ourselves and use the lessons we were taught...  That is a beautiful thing. But unsurprisingly, the Texas GOP would like to attack education again, by forcing in a political ideology, at the cost of actual facts and education. Now THAT is a travesty.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Oh, Candada?

After the ruling by the US Supreme Court, that the Obama healthcare mandate was constitutional, there was one part of the fallout that I found rather amusing. The particular aspect I'm referring to, are those that opposed the decision and immediately cried that they are done with the US and are moving to Canada because of this ruling. Now, were these threats of picking up and moving to another country sincere? Likely not. Granted, I am tired of hearing from Republicans and Democrats alike that they are going to move to Canada when or if an election or ruling doesn't go their way. Of course, that's not the part I found amusing. That part was due to where they said they were moving in response to this particular ruling. These people were opposed to the mandate and the state getting involved in healthcare in general. Fair enough. However, it's the Canada bit that shows they aren't paying attention. If they don't like 'Obamacare', as it's been labeled, then they're really going to hate the Canadian healthcare system. While the US Supreme Court has upheld the Obama administration's healthcare reform, Canada's system means that the vast majority of citizens are covered under state run health coverage rather than private coverage like is found in the US. Talk about not paying attention to the facts before opening one's mouth.