WikiLeaks: Free Speech and Private Speech

I have a problem with nearly anything being connected to skepticism.  I admit readily that it’s kind of a knee-jerk thing, but from values to beliefs, I don’t want to be told that really anything is required to be a part of skepticism.  That said, I do feel that the one value skeptics do need to defend is the right to free speech.  When we are saying “no” to the status quo, we need to be able to do that without being imprisoned or sued by the nation.  All that said, I’ve been having some issues with the recent WikiLeaks exposure of hundreds (so far) of private documents written by diplomats and government officials within the US. … continue reading this entry.

Climategate 2… well, we might actually be at a higher number by now

An approximation of the "hockey stick graph" (which is under copyright)

Adding to the non-stop scientific controversy surrounding global warming research, the guy in charge of investigating the quality of the other guy’s work is now being investigated for the quality of his work. Confused? Why would that be?

The work of Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley et al. that produced the now epic figure depicting that global temperature has risen dramatically in the second half of the 20th century (dubbed the “hockey stick graph” because of the shape of the data) has been under fire since its publication in its first incarnation in Nature in 1998.[1] Some statisticians questioned the techniques used by the hockey stick researchers (I’m sure if Mann and Bradley ever had any interest in the sport it has now been smashed) to estimate early temperatures and called into question the conclusions drawn in the original paper.[2] … continue reading this entry.

Guardian Article Lists Same Old Movement Problems

Beat me, Alom! Beat me!

This morning, Page sent me an article from “The Guardian” where Alom Shaha complains about certain activities perpetrated by skeptics.  Alom spends the first third of his article making obvious strawmen about skeptics, attempting to get you and I pissed off before telling us that’s what he’s doing and actually starting to put together some sort of argument.  I have no idea if he actually means anything said in the first third of the essay or not so I’m going to do the adult thing here and leave it be.  For the rest of Alom’s essay, he goes into what he sees as failings of the skeptical movement, and some are valid points, but I can’t help but feel there is an unintended irony to the whole article.  Alom’s article points out a number of areas that skeptics like to talk about as problems without often posing solutions, and Alom winds up positing not a single viable solution. … continue reading this entry.

Why Skepticism is Important

"Nah, Mr. President. We're sure we can solve this problem in a matter of days." "Awesome. I was a bit worried about that one."

Hey, do you guys remember when there was a bit of an oil leak down south?  You know, there was an explosion on an oil platform, the deep water horizon station suffered a catastrophic failure and spewed a massive quantity of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for months with little hope of stopping the deadly flow.  It was sort of a big deal at the time.  Well, a new report out states that as we all could have guessed, the administration drastically underestimated the amount of oil spilling out of the ground.  It sucks that they got the numbers so wrong, because not understanding how much oil was coming out of the ground meant that they could try a lot of solutions based on faulty evidence and that it slowed down the proper environmental response to the disaster.  But you know what the nice side of this whole problem is?  It gives us a great talking point on why skepticism is important. … continue reading this entry.

A Skeptic Examines the Death Penalty – Happy Independence Day!

These Americans were all wrongly convicted to die.

These Americans were all wrongly convicted to die.

The day you’re reading this is the fifth of July, and our great country is doing one of the things it does best, celebrating a holiday after the holiday’s happened because we want a day off.  So I figured I’d do my best to write about another quintessentially American pastime, the death penalty.

Your initial thought may be that when it comes to something like the death penalty, we’re talking about a political issue, and therefore something that this blog shouldn’t be touching.  I would disagree whole-heartedly. The death penalty may be an issue which is political but that doesn’t mean that skepticism can’t inform us on the subject. … continue reading this entry.

Penn and Teller Sometimes Argue Really Badly

Warning: This logo does not always mean skepticism is ahead.

Warning: This logo does not always mean skepticism is ahead.

I don’t like Showtime very much.  It’s a personal thing… I used to work for them, well I worked for a company that was partnered with them, the whole thing collapsed on us and now I find it very easy to see what’s bad about the company’s programming.  Here’s my typical line about a Showtime program: “I do something bad.  But I do it for good reasons.”  Hey look!  It’s “Weeds!”  Sure, Nancy sells pot, but she does it because her family needs it!  Look!  It’s “Californication!”  And Hank may be a real womanizer, but don’t you see how much he loves his daughter?  And hey!  “Dexter!”  He may be a serial killer, but he only kills bad people.  “Nurse Jackie!”  It’s time to flip the formula and make it about a person who’s kind of bad, but she’s doing something good!  How original.  But anyway, off that tangent – the one show on Showtime that I have always been able to unambiguously support is Penn and Teller’s show, “Bullshit.”  For eight years, these guys have been managing to put out a show that, when it talks about a subject with scientifically verifiable information, takes a hard-core skeptical view, and does it in an entertaining fashion.

And now that I’ve praised them a little… I have to make a complaint.  I recently watched the first two episodes of this new season (their eighth) and I really thought the arguments they were using were pretty weak.  … continue reading this entry.

Does the Constitution protect huckster freedom?

Did you know that the U.S. Constitution protects fraud? I sure didn’t. But that’s the conclusion of Maryland’s highest court, which recently ruled against Montgomery County’s effort to ban paid fortune-telling services.

This all began last year when a man named Nick Nefedro fought the county law banning fortune-telling because he claimed it discriminated against his Gypsy heritage:

Like his father, who had been a fortuneteller in the District in the 1980s, Nefedro turned the practice into a business. With family members, he has owned and operated a half-dozen fortunetelling businesses in the Los Angeles area and in Key West, Fla.

… continue reading this entry.

Mike Adams is not a legal expert either

Professional quack Mike Adams posted a rather interesting blog recently where he asserted that water fluoridation is illegal. According to him, the fact that medical experts claim that water fluoridation “prevents cavities” (scare quotes his), that means it’s a medical claim, according to the FDA (well duh!). Now so far I’m with him. But it’s what he says next that applies a sledge hammer to all logic:

And as such, making this claim instantly and automatically transforms fluoride into a “drug” under currently FDA regulations.

This means that cities and towns all across America are now practicing medicine without a license by dripping liquid medication into the public water supply without the consent of those who are swallowing the medication. … continue reading this entry.

Why Health Freedom and Anti-Vaccine don’t mix

Can your kid get measles so I can pretend I didn't give mine autism?

"Can your kid get measles so I can feel like I'm fighting the phantom I'm blaming for my child's autism?"

The recent AutismOne conference in Chicago is something I’d like to consider a new low in the American health system.  I’d like to consider it a new low because it would mean that this autism/vaccine nonsense hadn’t been going on now for over a decade.  Unfortunately, it has, and why AutismOne hasn’t faded against the blaring horn of stupidity constantly playing at us from sources like Generation Rescue, Autism Speaks, and the omni-dreadful Age of Autism is inconceivable.  It would have missed my radar completely – I tend to avoid the autism people thanks to a family history of high blood pressure – had the most recent AutismOne conference not attracted the attention of a completely separate group of health ingrates, the “Health Freedom” movement. … continue reading this entry.

America is a Judeo-Christian nation. (And Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist….)

Title page from Thomas Jefferson's cut-and-paste version of the New Testament.

Title page from Thomas Jefferson's cut-and-paste version of the New Testament.

On the one hand, I find it hard to truly hate Sarah Palin. She has been a bottomless source of entertainment for comedy aficionados and connoisseurs of the obscene. Politics aside, I can’t help but feel a perverse affection for someone who has added so much unalloyed mirth to my life.

On the other hand, once I stop laughing, I generally start gnashing my teeth. This rictus-grinned, addlepated Stepford wife has spewed forth more platitudinous balloon juice than any politico on the contemporary scene, and has done so with the kind of smug certainty which distinguishes the truly stupid. It’s as difficult to imagine Sarah Palin having an introspective or self-questioning moment as it is to imagine a spaniel solving Fermat’s Last Theorem. … continue reading this entry.

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