Thursday, May 26, 2011

Podcast 007 is on the case and has a licence to...quill?

Direct download here by right clicking and "Saving As.." or on iTunes

This week:
- Everyone seems to have allergies ('cept Donna)
- Rover Spirit shuts down
- Corrections from last week
- New Regular Feature: Lightning Round of Topics
- UPdate to Young Conservatives of Texas and LGBT
- Oregon Passes a "No Faith Healing" Law
- Cognitive Dissonance and the Rapture
- Oprah's 25 years is over
- A discussion of the Conservative Right's anti-woman actions and sexism in general
- The dogs try their hand at building a dark energy intensifier to vreate better dog treats.

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So do you want a comparison between RFK and Charlie Brown? It might be possible. Anything's possible. From a certain point of view.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Towel Day!

Do you know where your towel is?

To quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

So there. Know where your towel is! Or more allegedly grammatically proper: know where is your towel! Or completely frapped: Towel your is where know!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Skeptic Wire Podcast 006 is served!

Get it here, directly or on iTunes!

This week:
- Theta Healing
- John Hagee's church inundated with protesters
- San Antonio playhouse has a gay Jesus play
- Florida bans sex with all animals
- More creationists considering science on the Texas State Board of Education
- Coffee is good for you!
- Morgellens Disease isn't one
- Sirhan Sirhan, Dr. Daniel Brown, and repressed memory therapy
- Tim Minchin is coming to Austin
And: the dogs warm up for an unrecorded aria.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fmr Senator Santorum: McCain doesn't understand torture

Last night I read about this and was truly flabbergasted. I mean, when Santorum was still in grammar school, John McCain was subjected to abuse at the hands of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. John McCain has been a strong advocate of proper and outlined doctrine regarding "traditional" interrogation. He also speaks virulently about how "enhanced" interrogation does not work. And if there is anyone who should know- its someone who has been subjected to these various techniques.

But oh no... not according to Santorum.

Despite what Leon Pannetta said and I mean, he's just a cabinet member.

Despite what the chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein has stated.

But Rick Santorum, knows that A leads to B which leads to C which led to the death of the most wanted man in the world.

According to Rick Santorum, "I mean, you break somebody, and after they're broken, they become cooperative. And that's when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that's how we ended up with bin Laden"

This makes it sound like Khalid Sheik Mohammed is a horse. I mean we break horses like this to make them do what we want, to make them more docile. But I shouldn't be surprised by this... (He does seem a little concerned about this man-animal connection)

In the end, I finally found someone who said everything that I was thinking... Rachel Maddow addressed this last night during her show. And she was apparently just as flabbergasted as I was by these statements.

Thank you Rachel!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The End of the World is Nigh?

This Article attempts to explain how the Family Radio guys figured out that this Saturday is Rapture Day. This group believes the Bible puzzle is a big puzzle that awaits solving. And Mr. Camping- the leader- thinks he has done that....again. The question I have, then, is which translation should you use?

Camping disagrees with the "established" literalist date of 4004 BC (via Bishop James Ussher and also Gaiman and Pratchett in Good Omens) and puts the creation at 11013 BC (I'd use BCE, but that doesn't really apply here, does it?). This is primarily because he doesn't believe all the "begats" indicate direct parentage, but rather familial ties, perhaps through grand or great-grandsons.

Thus, the Great Flood happened in 4990BC, as opposed to 1440BC...or 2000BC. This appears to be key to the calculations and timeline, as then you can count that a day to God is 1000 years, because that's a clue that's given in 2 Peter 3:8 and 7000 years from the flood is taken from Genesis 7:4 and Genesis 7:11.
Consequently, we have only 7000 years from the flood until the end of the world. And that, according to Camping, corresponds with 21May, 2011. At 6pm. When earthquakes are going to shake the world.

Or you couls use this explanation (from The Washington Post):
"The number 5, . . . equals "atonement." Ten is "completeness." Seventeen means "heaven." Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011. "Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he began. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years." Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year. Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500. Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500. Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared. "Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story," Camping said. "It's the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you're completely saved. "I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that," Camping said.

I love math. I wonder if he used any Greek letters for the variables or if he drew little icons?
So we have until 6pm on 21May. But 6pm in which time zone? Is it going to travel around the world via GMT? Or perhaps from Bethlehem? Regardless, this is definitely the most publicized End of the World scenario in a long while. And what a waste of money it's been, especially as Camping believes that there is nothing to be done about it, and only God's Grace will save: and not just being a believer.
Therefore, as Edward Current says: I am converting to all religions...just in case.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

And in crazy as bat guano news...

Just how crazy do you have to be to have the Ku Klux Klan repudiate your actions? Apparently, the Westboro Baptist Church is too crazy for even the Klan to get behind... These are the same people who are so radically "conservative" that they call the Tea Party a bunch of whiny socialists. Okay, the whiny was an extrapolation on my part but still, they did call them socialists.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I'll have a side of hashish with my enchilada, thank you

One would think that a company that manufactures drug tests for law enforcement would put a warning label on their test that said something like "This test cannot tell the difference between heroin and cheese" or "This test doesn't work that well, might want to use something else- this is what you get for going with the lowest bidder"...

But no! That isn't what the test manufacturer did. And so a man had to spend 4 days in jail because apparently the enzymes in cheese set a field test off.

That sound you hear.... yeah, thats me banging my head against my desk.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Episode 005 goes live in 3...2...[silent count]

Get it from iTunes (Skeptic Wire) or right-click and downLinkload directly from here.

This Week:
- National Day of Prayer
- San Antonio has ghosts and ghost hunters!
- The coming apocalypse(s)/ Rapture(s)
- Mike Adams' The Gullible Mind Explained
- The unpronounceable Koch brothers hire some faculty in Florida
- Unskeptical local paper pushes ghost kids, bigfoot, nostril breathing
And a lesser- but not unentertaining- shadow show by The Resident Canines.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Afternoon at the National Day of Prayer

A few days ago I joined hundreds of worshipers at the courthouse in San Antonio who were observing the National Day of Prayer. From the courthouse door, fervent prayers and holy praise filled the air of the the lawn below where hundreds shouted, sang, waved their arms in the air and wept. I stood below and to side of the entrance holding my handmade sign where it could not be missed by anyone watching the observance. It read "Keep Government and Religion Separate".

The sign is one that I made last year for the same event. At the time I considered whether I should keep it. After all, the National Day of Prayer had just been declared unconstitutional by a federal court. The Mayor could go ahead and read his 2010 proclamation, but that would be the last. I decided to keep it, so it was still tucked away in my closet when I found out a few weeks ago that a federal court had overturned the ruling and that this year's National Day of Prayer was a go.

To be clear, I had no intent to protest the scene I've just described. Preaching and expressions of faith, even on the courthouse steps, is protected by the same amendment that protects the public from religious laws. (Other protesters take note!) I was there to remind people, and city officials that government proclamations of a religious nature are unconstitutional and otherwise generally a bad idea.

After reading both decisions, [Judge Barbara Crabb's here, Seventh Circuit's here] a couple of things are clear to me. One, the law requiring the proclamation is unconstitutional. And two, the seventh circuit made a cowardly decision to sidestep the issue.

It's a curious situation that the government can, in principle and in fact, carry out unconstitutional actions without conequence under a system that requires that personal harm to the plaintifs be demonstrated. It doesn't seem to offer remedies for the more 'big picture' societal harm that mixing religion and government can cause.

The Seventh Circuit said they can't understand why anyone would be offended by the proclamation. It reminded me of an interview I gave atlast year's National Day of Prayer event. The Christion radio announcer asked me, mockingly "Oh, are you buuurrdened by this? Do you feel buuurrdened?". "No." I told him. "I'm just here to remind people that we have separation of church and state in this country." So my sign sits in my closet, waiting for another day.

David Harcourt

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Podcast Episode 4 is a GO! GO! GO!

Get it here
Or subscribe on iTunes.

This Week:
-  New member of the Holistic Chamber of Commerce
- Update on the Young Conservatives and Wayne Christian
- Texas Political Redistricting
- Ear Candle lawsuit
- Power Bands changes it's tune
- Osama Bin Laden is killed or not, says Alex Jones
- Interview with Berry Lynn from the 1st Amendment Rally in San Antonio
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Today in First Amendment News

I actually have a lot to say today but unfortunately, I have no time to say it. I'll just leave you with this that is making its way around the intertubes this morning. ACLU-TN has filed a suit against Sumner County Board of Education for violations of the Establishment clause. The ACLU has filed on behalf of four families who allege the following:

Teachers displaying crosses in classrooms

The dissemination of Gideon bibles during the school day

Prayers being broadcast over the loudspeaker

Allowing youth ministers to come in during lunch hours to eat with students and discuss his church's activities.

Student musical programs where the majority of music sung by children were hymnal/gospel in nature

The Sumner county school board has said that "We are aware of the allegations and we are prepared to defend the allegations,” said attorney Wesley Southerland with the American Center for Law and Justice, hired by the school district last week. We are taking all precautions to make sure the school system is solely proceeding in a manner consistent with the Constitution.”

If these allegations are true, I hope that the Sumner County Schools gets their asses handed to them and are writing a rather large check at the end of the day. More importantly, I hope that these allegations are not true. Somehow, I don't think that I will get my wish in that regards.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Power Balance website is so boring nowadays

A visit to the Power Balance website isn't as fun as it used to be. You used to be able to find such creative pseudo-sciency gems as this...

"Unlike many other ionic electro-magnetic devices, the Power Balance™ Holographic disks begin to work almost instantly, restoring optimal electro-magnetic balance and promoting free flowing energy pathways...NO PROMISES, JUST RESULTS"

"The high density Disk acts much like a switch, resonating within your system and turning on your energy field while it clears the pathways so the electro-chemical exchange function like the well tuned generator it was designed to be."

"When the static Power Balance™ Hologram comes in contact with your body's energy field, it begins to resonate in accordance with each individual's biological[sic], creating harmonic loop that optimizes your energy field and maintains maximum energy flow while clearing the pathways so the electro-chemical exchange functions like the well tuned generator it was designed to be."

That's hard to beat for creative woo energy speak. We here at the Skeptic Wire love this kind of thing. What can you find on their website today? The claims aren’t what they used to be. Their new neoprene wristbands have "extra softness"; their pendants are "built to last", and the flagship silicon bands are "sporty" and "fun". Nothing about balance, faster synaptic responses, increased stamina, electro-chemical exchanges or harmonic loops. In fact, I can't find the words "energy" or "harmonics" anywhere. How do these things work then? Well, go to the FAQ and you can see that

"The thin polyester film hologram is programmed through a proprietary process, which is designed to mimic Eastern philosophies that have been around for hundreds of years."

Wow, hundreds of years. That's impressive. And what does it do?

"Power Balance™ contains a thin polyester film hologram, which reacts differently for each person. Give it a try and see what it does for you."

I get it. It's like those video game mystery power-ups. Will it make me invisible? Will it make me able to shoot laser beams out my eyes? Who knows? Try it and see!

Of course, this comes after a series of legal losses in Australia, Italy and, most recently a class action lawsuit in California, that targeted their bogus claims forcing them to pay fines, provide rebates, and make their websites really boring for skeptics.

But can Power Balance survive as a mystery power-up company? Probably. There's one thing they can't make them take down from the web site, Shaquille O’Neal’s smiling mug.


A new conspiracy theory!

Is Obama bin Laden dead or not? Was he killed in December 2001 or May 2011? Is the picture being released a fake (well...yes it is: see below).

There was a picture released by a Pakistani newspaper that definitely is a fake, but it was picked up by many of the more fantastical and uncritical news outlets, and so has legs, but it appears it may quickly be quashed. However, there will be those people who will consider the picture to be an official document and create an entire straw man conspiracy around it.

The other thing is that they "buried" the body at sea almost immediately. [sigh] There is no getting around this one. Apparently the powers that be did get rid of the body. The thinking behind the action makes sense: they don't want a shrine being built, not that it will stop people from making the entire stinking body of water a shrine, if they find it necessary to perpetuate their dogmas. But to rid themselves of the evidence so quickly will always be construed as suspicious. On the other hand, it is very doubtful that anything could be done that wouldn't result in a conspiracy popping up.

On the plus side if bin Laden is still alive, considered dead: he can finally have that bacon cheese burger he's been craving for so long. Maybe he, Elvis, and Big Foot can finally release an album.