Thursday, April 28, 2011

Skeptic Wire Podcast Episode 003 is Live

Get it here or on iTunes by searching for Skeptic Wire.

This week we start with a special dramatization of an exchange between Texas State Representatives on what exactly would be covered in a course on "Western Civilization".
Real Water;
Praying for Rain;
Dodger and Healers;
More on Birthers;
and Dr. Novella versus the Wizzard of Oz.
Plus the continuation of the "Dogs Barking in the Background Concerto". Written for two dogs.

Leave comments here and please leave feedback on iTunes.

Look for a special episode of outtakes and an entire discussion that was cut, as we kind of ran over this week. We do like to talk....

iToons! We haz them!

And I am ashamed I used lolspeak. Very ashamed. I shall flagellate myself later.

We are now on iTunes...just in time for a new Episode! Although this time, as I still need to edit and upload the thing. It WILL be up in a couple of hours, though. What?! I had stuff needing doing all day. Yes!: ALL DAY! And I'm still needing the doing-age doing!

In the meantime, you can download- straight into your itunesy thingamabobs (or thingamajigs as you prefer...but NOT thingymagobs!...ok those too)- our first two Episodes. The third one is fanTAStic! You just won't believe the shenanigans we get up to this week.

Just search "skeptic wire" and all shall be revealed.

I need a short break, I think.

Rick Santorum: Sharia Compliant Banking

Today, while speaking with National Press Club, Chris Moody from the Daily Caller asked Rick Santorum this question:

You mentioned that Sharia law is an existential threat to the United States and there seems to be some general confusion among the general public on how to define Sharia law. How do define Sharia law and can you point to some instances with the United States that its taking over in a way or...

**Transcript follows below. Give it just a second. C-Span's embedder didn't like me very much!**

Here is what Rick Santorum had to say:

Well, if you're looking at instances where it has taken over, we have in the financial sector, sharia compliant finance where funds and people who are doing investments are deferring to people put by groups some of which, lets put it this way, suspect as to authority of what these funds can be invested in a sharia compliant way. Investment houses and others and banks are paying less than reputable people a lot of money to give their blessing for their types of investments. That's a problem. Its a way of, depending on what their investing in and who they are paying to give their blessing could be ways in which resources go to places that I'm not too sure are necessarily in our national security interests. You also have situations where you have movements in this country where you try to cordon off and create family courts or other types of laws where Muslims are only held account to religious law as opposed to the civil laws in this country. That has gone on extensively in Europe but its coming here and its being advocated for in this country. There are concrete examples of how that is occuring in America today and I would argue clearly, I'm not making the argument that America is by any way in the lead on this. The bigger problems and the more notable cases are clearly in places where the higher concentration of Muslims exist and thats primarily in Western Europe and not here.

Sharia is a code of, a civil code of both how the government is to operate, to things as mundane as personal hygeine. Religious practices, it is made up of all various texts, not just the Qu'ran but of various texts that is a code by which Muslims have to live.

Oklahoma: The First State

to have an official gospel song

Really people, think of the Establishment Clause!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

OMG!!! WTFF & JREF are BFFs!

Skeptic Wire would like to congratulate friend of the podcast Elyse Anders. Elyse is president of the Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF) which has announced that they are partnering with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) in a new effort to understand and combat the media misinformation on vaccination.

Announced Monday April 25th, the beginning of National Infant Immunization Week , the two organizations are going to survey hundreds (hopefully thousands?) of parents with young children in order to get a handle on what people think, what they hear, and where they get their information from. They'll freely share the data with public health advocates so that we can figure out how to effectively get the message across that immunizations save lives and are safe.

Way to go Elyse! Read the official announcement here.

(PS: Hello to Brian, Moose, & Bug!)

Rock Beyond Belief: Resubmitted

SPC Justin Griffith and the entire staff behind Rock Beyond Belief have resubmitted their paperwork to put the event on at Ft. Bragg.

A little background on the story: A while ago, Ft. Bragg helped sponsor an event by an evangelical Christian group, The Billy Graham Evangelical Association. The event was held at the largest venue on the post and attracted several thousand participants (estimates are at 45,000 attendees). Many of the military members stationed at Fr. Bragg were either strongly encouraged to attend or were flat out "volun-told" to attend. SPC Griffith was told that if any other group would or could organize a secular event of this magnitude, they would be entitled to the same venues and opportunities that Rock The Fort received.

SPC Griffith managed to pull together an organized event in record time to include many guest speakers will to waive their normal speaking fees to support such an event. At the last minute, the garrison commander concluded (against the strong recommendations of the Staff Judge Advocate's office) that this event would be moved to the Main Post Theater (seating approx 700) from the Main Parade Field. In addition, Rock the Post received over $50,000 to provide transportation, meals and lodging for the performers/speakers while Rock Beyond Belief would maintain all responsibility for speaker/performers lodging, meals and transportation. This essentially castrated Rock Beyond Belief to the point where they had to cancel the event.

Now, SPC Griffith is trying again to ensure that this event happens. He says that "I can't, I won't and I don't stop."

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Newest Campaigner

Kimberly Daniels is running for City Council in Jacksonville FL. If this name sounds familiar, you are probably remembering these gems:

I do not buy candy during the Halloween season, curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door-to-door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons can’t tell the difference
Daniels to Charisma magazine on October 27, 2009.

We have experienced much success in one-session deliverances, however, there have been times when I have personally walked homosexuals, ex-witches, and drug addicts through sessions that took place over a couple of years
Daniels from her own book, Clean House, Strong House

I thank God for slavery. Mmm. I thank God for the crack house. If it wasn't for the crack house, come on somebody, God wouldn't a never been able to use me how he can use me know. And if it wasn't for slavery I might be somewhere in Africa worshiping a tree!
Kimberly Daniels, October 2008, Solid Rock Church, Monroe, Ohio

And to think that laws are still on the books outlawing atheists from running for public office. If you want to read more of Ms. Daniels' quotes, please go here

This Rant Sucks...

One of the missions of people in skepticism movement is consumer protection: “Don’t waste money on Power Balance wristbands, they do nothing.” “Homeopathy will NOT protect you from malaria.” “Stop buying fake bomb detectors for the Iraqi army.” All of that is fairly straight forward. These products simply DO NOT WORK.

The problem comes with all the stuff in between. Stuff that’s good most of the time, but to be intellectually honest we have to include footnotes and various caveats. We end up sounding like John Kerry trying to summarize the winding plot of The Lord of The Rings books. Vaccines are safe and effective… yes there are some rare side effects… yes sometimes drugs are released that haven’t been as rigorously tested as we want them to… we can say with “reasonable” certainty that vaccines don’t cause autism. It’s tiring for us, think about the people we’re lecturing to!

As I write this I’m comparison shopping a new vacuum for my house (just got a dog and whoa nelly, do I need a better vacuum). Which one to choose? What about dependable old names? What about the new fad brand with the euphemistically advertised “proper amount of suction?” How about something that looks more industrial and professional? How much weight should I REALLY put into the online reviews? Are all the 1 star or 5 star reviews to be believed, or should I disregard them? Do I weight the fact that 75% of the reviews are in the 3-5 star category. I mean they’re only anecdotes after all. EVERY vacuum out there has rave reviews and crappy reviews. No one builds anything to last anymore, so you have cheap plastic housing, one ¼ inch screw holding an entire mechanism together, major design flaws that are only compensated by the different major design flaws on all the other brands. I consider myself a fairly educated person, but I feel like I have to decide between a scat sandwich, a guano gyro, and a cow-pie club.

What I’m saying is that shopping for a vacuum really sucks.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dr. Steven Novella to be on the Dr. Oz Show Tuesday

On the show titled "Why Your Doctor is Afraid of Alternative Medicines"
LinkWhat's great about the above clip is they then go into a segment where they ask "What's real and what's a lie?" as far as endorsements. What: they can't ask the same question in regards to "alternative medicine"? Ah: they assume that Oz has already done the required research he claims he has done.
Another fun quick- cut is Dr. Novella's eyes looking a bit shocked and angry, ostensibly at something Dr. Oz has said. So I bet it's going to be a fair treatment, don't you?

So it will be interesting to see how they are going to cut it: Oprah and her off-shoots have never been worried or honest in their cutting a show together to promote their woo-ish beliefs. Dr. Novella is going to have to be pithy in his replies so they cannot splice and quote-mine his side of the "conversation". I hope Dr. Novella can get a full copy of the pre-cut show, but I would imagine that is bad business practice for the O.W.N.

And hopefully, they'll put the thing online so those of us without a TV can watch it while sipping our Mountain Dews and gnawing on our Cheetos*.

* I believe these are required nutritional assistants when viewing LCD screens. They counter-act the radiation, or something.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mr Wakefield I Presume?

There's a great new article from the The New York Times summarizing "The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru". The author Susan Dominus follows Wakefield from a Tomball, TX speech (seemingly to all true believers) to his home in Austin Texas. A good summary of what Wakefield has done to promote vaccine fears, the evidence against him, responses from the medical community and Wakefield's persecution complex.

I love the author's comment at the end:
It seems very unlikely that any study, no matter how carefully conducted, will assure Wakefield of the safety of M.M.R. at this point
Good primer for anyone who hasn't heard of Wakefield.

Prayers for rain

Today, the governor of the state of Texas, Rick "The Hair" Perry issued the following proclamation:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas.

Read the entire proclamation here.

Somehow, I don't think this is going to work!

Skeptic Wire Episode #2 is here!

It's better than that other "Episode 2" with the exceptions that THIS Episode 2 has 99.9% fewer light sabers and Jedi, and no score by John Williams. Plus, it doesn't cost you $8 and an afternoon of standing in line, in the heat, next to some six foot high 40 year old dressed as Yoda who is muttering "See it, I will...yeeesssss. Munchies will I have: movies lead to popcorn, popcorn needs soda, soda leads to baaaaaathrooom." While the 4 foot 8 Wookie next to him keeps gurgling loudly due to an unrepentant run-in with Taco Bell.

This week:
Charles Manson on Global Warming;
Kate Hudson is a WITCH!;
Non-Fiction books lie;
Psychic gets a hit;
Technology hurts our BRAAAINNSSS!;
Sex phone lines get 800 numbers;
Exorcism gone bad;
Atheists die first?;
Anti-religion (Sharia) Law in Texas;
Holistic Chamber of Commerce;
and, of course, dogs barking in the background

But why aren't we on iTunes yet?!
Apparently, I have to write an XML RSS feed file for iTunes, so that should happen next week.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Liars Or Just Plain Lazy?

When Senator Jon Kyl and his staff opened up their “not intended to be a factual statement” can of worms last week we caught a glimpse behind the curtain of politics. We all know the old joke: “How do you know a politician is lying? When they’ve opened their mouth.” But the real problem with these non-factual statements aren’t really that they’re lies, it’s that they’re so easily disproven. It would have taken 30 seconds to get a real number off of Google. Given how amazingly wrong Kyl’s number was, there is *NO* way that Kyl and his staff could have possibly looked for a real number. What we have here is a politician who wants to rant about something he doesn’t like, so he just makes something up. That doesn’t make him a liar, just lazy.

As far as I’m concerned that makes him a worse lawmaker than if he had lied.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Not a factual statement"

Senator Jon Kyl made a small misrepresentation about how much of Planned Parenthood's business is related to abortion...well 90% versus the closer-to-actual 3%. We must remember that 87% of statistics are made up, and 44% of those don't even make sense in the context in which they are used. Don't just accept the assertions of people, especially who are in positions of authority. In fact, make sure you check what they say. As we have seen, some are depending on the implicit trust of their position to carry their argument forward.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

First Skeptic Wire Podcast is Live!

Skeptic Wire Episode 001 for 13Apr2011

We've done some prior recordings to get the format into a semi-reasonable and editable style, but this is the first one we are releasing into the wild and see if it can hunt on its own. Or something like that. Actually: nothing like that. Podcasts don't need to hunt. That's just silly.

Topics this week include:
- the FBI putting up a searchable database at they have a section labelled "Unexplained Phenomenon" for UFO things
- a UFO-caused Crop circle in Texas...and other UFO-y quickies
- the Templeton Prize being given to Martin J. Rees
- JREF Pigasus Awards
- Texas Legislature bills