Archive for category News

F is for “Effort”

Apparently there are some New England Schools publishing something the media has dubbed the “Effort Roll”. It’s a list of students who did not make the Honor Roll, but get a pat on the back anyway.

Now, I consider myself a relatively progressive individual, but I believe wholeheartedly and unequivocally that reason and common sense should win out over political affiliation without exception.

I am no parent, but my first real job out of college was teaching English in the good ‘ol American Public School system, and it just so happens I know a thing or two about child psychology.

I hope I don’t need to tell you that this “Effort Roll” is one of the worst fucking ideas I’ve ever heard. Listen up because other than my statement above about reason and common sense, the quote below is the most important thing this post offers:

Self-esteem cannot be given without adversity. It must be built through adversity.

As a blood-pumping human on this planet, one thing life has taught me since leaving the cradle is that I have gained more belief in myself through my failures and pushing past them than I have with the rare successes that just so happen to fall in my lap.

From what I’ve seen, this “Self-esteem as a handout” approach has been around a while and is profoundly effecting our youth in a negative way. That is not how the real world works. The world doesn’t hand you success. If it did, success wouldn’t be worth having in the first place.

Another example of this madness? Kindergarten Graduation Ceremonies. Fucking ridiculous. It’s god damn kindergarten. So, nice job for finding your Cubby every day without pushing Johnny and drawing a mountain with crayons. It must be rough for you parents who actually want to teach self-esteem through adversity.

In Denis Leary’s book Why We Suck, he talks about how there are way too many parents who want their kids to be geniuses, when they are not. His commentary, and I’m paraphrasing here (sorry Denis if I mangle this, I love your work), is you shouldn’t praise your kids for shit they’re supposed to be able to do:

“Look at him, 15 months old and he’s walkin!”

Of course he’s walking. He’s supposed to be walking at 15 months. That’s normal.

If you have a 4 year old who can come up with a convincing and original interpretation of Joyce’s Ulysses, well then, OK, maybe you have something there. Otherwise, if the kid falls within the normal range of performance, then you should accept the fact, that maybe, when it comes to that one thing, your kid might just be (SHOCKER!) . . . fucking NORMAL!

Building self-esteem and letting a child discover their own strengths and talents is a gradual, difficult, and ongoing process. There are very few child-geniuses out there, but everyone has moments of genius or talents that allow them to rise above the rest. But it’s almost always hard work, and one has to want that reward. The real-world makes you work for it, and you do kids a disservice by making them think it can all be handed to them for being normal. It makes them not want to try and whine about it when they don’t get it.

You learn more about yourself when you fail than when you succeed. I hope I don’t need to prove that. And I would purport that proper guidance for a child after failure, rather than just handing them success leads to a more well-adjusted individual.

If the world is really moving toward “Self-esteem (and therefore success) as handout”, then that would be just one more bit of proof that the human race really is doomed.

See you next time.

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The Subtle Art of BS Detection, Part 2: Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and the Media

Let’s take another type of BS I’ve heard of late. Statistics. For example, on someone’s Facebook status recently, they said:

“Dr. Oz says that 200+ orgasms a year leads to 15-20 added years to your life!”

Did you spot it? He really did mention the 200 orgasms, but 15-20 years? Really? If it sounds outlandish, it probably is. What he really said was:

“If you have more than 200 orgasms a year, you can reduce your physiologic age by six years.” (Source)

But, here’s the kicker, your BS detector should have gone off again. This one’s not so simple, however.

There is a new health fad out currently, called RealAge, whose website is created and maintained by the Hearst Corporation. And currently, the home page has an image of Dr. Oz and the “co-founder” of RealAge giving the thumbs up with a huge smile on their faces. Their claim is that scientific studies affirm this idea of Physiologic Age, and that there are ways of decreasing it.

This brings me to my next tips for good BS Detection:

  1. Anything that can be affirmed by common sense does not need expensive scientific studies to affirm. Common sense will tell you that living a healthy lifestyle is improved by eating a healthy diet and exercising. This “physiologic age,” most likely is an indicator of health. But it is nothing more than an indicator. How do I make my physiologic age lower? Eat right, exercise, and apparently have orgasms. Done. Move on people.
  2. One should be skeptical about any corporation that runs a website that claims to “help you”. They are in the  business of making money, and due to factor number one as above, take the advice they give out for free and move on with your life.

Dr. Oz’s quote was based on a Duke University study. For the life of me, I cannot find this study. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but I don’t believe any “scientific study” unless I can read it.

I should tell you about any “study” that claims to be “scientific”.

The world of true science is a public one. Mere mortals like you and me have access to these studies through scientific journals. I don’t give any credence to scientific studies that are (a) extremely difficult to find on the internet, and/or (b) have not been rigorously peer reviewed.

In fact, you should be skeptical of any media outlet that covers a “new scientific study”. The key word is “new”. “New” scientific studies have not been peer reviewed by the scientific community.

The problem is, there is no rule that any cockamamie “scientist” can’t release their “findings” to the public without it being peer reviewed. That’s when the media gets a hold of it, and by the time the study is debunked, does the media do the responsible thing and retract it? Nope. They’re off to the next new “scientific study”.

And we wonder why no one trusts scientists.

Why does the media do this? Well, because the media is no longer responsible for journalism, as it’s become diluted by corporations.

I recently read the book True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. One of the topics mentioned in the book are VNR’s (Video News Releases). VNR’s are “news stories” developed by marketing firms that have subtle advertising (or sometimes, not so subtle). Go to YouTube and type in “Video News Release” and you’ll see countless examples. According to a 2005 Public Notice, the FCC requires a disclosing of the source of the VNR, but for whatever reason, this is not happening in many cases.

Have you ever been watching the News and thought to yourself “How the Hell does this qualify as news?” The most likely answer? VNR’s.

Someone somewhere wants you to buy something. Think for yourself.

And yes, the above sounds conspiratorial, and after reading my first post on BS Detection and Conspiracy Theories, I find that comparing Parts 1 and 2, this one’s dripping with irony.

You can decide for yourself if I am full of BS.

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The Subtle Art of BS Detection, Part 1: Conspiracy Theories

It is better to be too skeptical than too credulous.

- Carl Sagan

I was fortunate, in my formative years, to have developed what I call a BS Detector. Carl Sagan (quoted above), who is one of my all-time greatest heroes, calls it a “Baloney Detection Kit.” Mine was mostly developed in college I’d say, but started in high school while listening to, of all things, heavy metal music. I fashioned myself a bit of a rebel, as it were. “Question Authority” and all that. The beauty of the BS Detector is that we all have one, and it’s easy to use. The results of using it, however, can be hard for some people to deal with.

It should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that you should never believe everything you read, see, or hear. Well, with the exception of what you’re reading now, of course. But of late, my BS Detector has been working overtime. The conspiracy theories, the misinformation, the outlandish statistics, and the outright lies are just getting really out of hand. So bad, in fact, I have to distract my mind with rainbows, kittens, and puppies just to stop myself from becoming a complete misanthrope.

It’s no mystery that the media has changed over the past 30 years. Gone are the Walter Cronkites, and the Edward R. Murrows. They’ve been replaced by pundits, blogs, and partisan-backed media channels. I really want to avoid politics in this post; so please don’t jump to any conclusions about my slant. There are lies spewing out from the entire political spectrum. I am an equal opportunity blogger: I’m criticizing everyone.

I want to talk specifically about Conspiracy Theories in this post. Part 2 will be about statistics in the media, and Part 3 will be some final thoughts and I’ll give some pointers abut freethinking and using your BS Detector without pissing people off.

So let’s start with a real-life example. Last week, I had a guy approach me and start a sentence with a very nonchalant, “So, when they shut down the internet . . .”

Shut down the internet?

When someone says something so mind-numbingly ridiculous, there is a point where my BS Detector pegs the needle so hard, my brain actually shuts down for a second, probably out of the need for self-preservation.

Anyway, once I recovered, I had this man explain. I’ll spare you the details, but apparently, he believes that, “the Obama administration is looking to install an internet control system like they have in North Korea and will shut down the internet on anyone who violates the controls.”

Dear reader, we share the planet with people like this. I see this guy every day.

Why are some people so willing to believe such nonsense? How do they live like that? My theory is that we humans have a need for things to be far more interesting than they really are. It would be so much more interesting if Elvis really did live. It would be so much more interesting if the government really did cover up an alien crash landing in Roswell in 1947. Additionally, we all have what’s called a confirmation bias that keeps us believing what we want to believe. This confirmation bias, by the way, is the antithesis to the BS Detector. You need to keep that tendency to a minimum.

Take a look now at conspiracy whack-job Alex Jones, who pretty much comes up with a new conspiracy theory every week. He has an “underground” radio show and two websites. I refuse to link them due to the whack-job factor, but if you want to check him out, use Google to your advantage. You’ll know his websites when you see them, and to be on the safe side, I wouldn’t visit them at work. You’ve been warned.

And before you go crying “foul” on me, yes, he’s been characterized as a “Right Wing” conspiracy theorist, but due to his history, I don’t think he cares who’s in Office. No one is safe from his theorizing. Thus, he’s just a straight whack-job in general to me. So, in my mind, he’s free game to use as an example here.

His list of conspiracy theories include:

  • 9/11 was an inside job.
  • Government-based Health Care death panels.
  • The aforementioned “Obama’s shutting down the internet” conspiracy.
  • FEMA’s secret building of concentration camps.
  • Man-made Global Warming is a hoax.
  • His take on the “New World Order” conspiracy.
  • And, get this, a conspiracy theory about the “World Government” suppression of conspiracy theories. (Youtube link)

. . . And the list goes on.

These types of people used to be written off as part of the “lunatic fringe”. But these people now get air time on “more conventional” (emphasis on the quotes) news media outlets and people like Jones’ faux “documentation” to “prove” their theories, dupe otherwise ordinary people into entertaining his complete bullshit.

Two facts about career conspiracy theorists (Alex Jones is not the first, nor the only), are as follows:

  1. The conspiracy theory is usually impossible to disprove (though keep in mind there is no real evidence for it either). Conspiracy theorists go by the “Since no one can disprove it, it must be true” fallacy.
  2. If the conspiracy theory is disproved, they are already off on another one for the masses to buy into.

People like this are well-aware of these facts, and they get a lot of notoriety and make a lot of money doing it.

Debunking conspiracy theories:

  1. Consider the source. If they have something to gain from it, such as a Political Agenda, money, ego-feeding followers, or all three, it’s a count against the theory.
  2. If it sounds outlandish, it probably is.
  3. All propaganda starts with a kernel of truth. There is a Bill in Congress that is looking to put in place the ability to shut down parts of the North American internet infrastructure in case of a Cyber Terrorist attack. Reading the language of the relevant part of the bill though, I hardly see it as a conspiracy since there is no language indicating a  “North Korea”-like control system.
  4. Be wary of phrases like “we know better.” For example, if they say something like, “Congress is debating over a bill now that would give The President power to shut down the internet in case of a cyber terrorist attack, but we know better. It’s really about the government taking away your freedom!” That becomes pure speculation.
  5. Be wary of phrases like, “don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise, they’re probably part of it,” which is proof positive that they don’t want you checking into the details.
  6. Beware of the slippery slope and/or “the piggy-back”. I will spare you the details, but if the “news story” starts with something innocuous and then graduates into something larger and unrelated, the presenter in question has an agenda. For example, the news story about the PA School board giving out laptops that could spy on students was graduated into Google spying on us in some circles, which is patently false.
  7. Check the facts. Most Conspiracy Theories don’t stand a chance against a good 5 minute search on the internet. But be aware that not all internet sources can be trusted either. All of the links I have used in this blog post have been as unbiased as possible. Stay away from sites that are too left or too right wing. They are just as untrustworthy. You will know them when you see them.
  8. If the information to debunk the theory is too hard to find, then there is no evidence for it and you should suspend judgment. As said before, conspiracy theorists go by the mantra, “Since it can’t be disproved, then it is true.” Don’t follow their logic.

On to Part 2: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

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We Are Moving!

Update: We moved!  The move went rather smoothly, and I’m extremely happy to be with our new host.  I’m impressed with the speed as well.  I think I’m going to move more of my sites over to ZeHosting for sure.  Thanks to Pierre-Luc for putting up with all of my questions ahead of the move, too!

You may see some strangeness from our site (more than usual) over the next few days.  Do not panic, we are simply moving to a new hosting site.  It may cause some strange things and the site may appear broken, in pieces, or not there at all.  It should all be good by the end of the weekend, and we will be back in full force thereafter.

Thanks for coming by, and we will hopefully see you soon.

The Guys

Jon Stewart is a God Among Men

I’ll let this video speak for itself:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Anchor Management
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Reform

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-3-2010/anchor-management

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Rant Alert: If You are Not an Expert, Then Shut Your Cake Hole

I am working my way through How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities (Audiobook) on my iPod. As I listen to it I can’t help but think about the News “experts” who claim to know how to fix the economy. Most of them haven’t even taken so much as an Econ 101 class and they make mind-numbing statements such as, “All we have to do is cut taxes and that will fix our economy.” And, they usually say it in this condescending tone like we’re all idiots for not coming to the same conclusion.

I will be the first to admit that I am no Economist, but one thing the aforementioned book has taught me is the basics of what Economists have to consider as part of their research, and it is mind-boggling. I have concluded, as a result, that if you don’t have your PhD in economics, you have no fucking idea what you are talking about and should shut your fat cake-hole.

But it’s not just on the News, it’s in everyday conversation, and it’s not just the economy, it’s everything else too. Health Care, Global Warming, and the “big whammy”. . . The Bible.

Yes, I went there. Pause for awkward silence.

If you’re a fat guy and you find yourself saying something like, “All we have to do to fix Health Care is . . .” – Stop right there, and start by getting on a treadmill every once in a while, you fat fuck. One main reason Health Care is broken is because assholes like you eat enough Cheesy Chili Curly Fries throughout your life to kill a small village and then wonder why the fuck you have sleep apnea and colon cancer.

Another example of pure idiocy: There was a “Doctor” on Fox News who said, “Exercising Makes You Fat.” I’m not kidding. His “reasoning” was because a new “study” had “proven” that people get hungry after they exercise. That may very well be true, but, Doctor Asshole, don’t forget that exercising speeds up metabolism and most people smart enough to exercise are also smart enough to eat a banana instead of downing an entire fucking bundt cake.

His advice? Don’t exercise. Just keep sitting on your ass watching Fox News so you can mainline their right-wing propaganda. And for the record, I don’t watch the left-leaning MSNBC either for the same reason. I will think for myself, thank you very much.

So you think man-made Global Warming is a conspiratorial hoax, huh? If you really believe that, then that only means one thing: you don’t trust scientists. If you don’t trust scientists, do me a favor – turn off your computer, sell your mp3 player, sell your car, sell your TV, and cancel all your utilities. You are hereby banned from using anything science has created for the rest of us rational human beings. Have fun reading about those right-wing conspiracies by candlelight, asshole.

Another set of “experts” are preachers who attempt to interpret The Bible by going back to the “original greek.” I am not sure when this practice started, but I’ll bet some asshole preacher somewhere along the line said, “Hey, we’re really getting killed on all these contradictions in The Bible, why don’t we just tell people when they call us on it that ‘if you go back to the original greek, that’s not really what it means’.” And now every evangelist and down home preacher spends their sermons attempting to “translate” Greek Biblical phrases to their audience. And you idiots eat it up like those aforementioned Curly Fries.

Suckers.

It’s kind of ingenious in a way, but still, nonetheless deceptive.

Do you know how long Biblical scholars spend on learning these languages and matching them up with historical occurrences? Do you know how many painstaking hours people like Bart Ehrman spend on trying to figure this shit out? A lot more than those preachers spend on those damn pamphlets from some church organization that “translates” “original” Biblical texts.

And I’ll break it down for you, Biblical Criticism suffers from the same downfall in “proof” that Literary Criticism has – you can make a case for downright anything and fool idiots into thinking it’s true. You can make a “translation” from some Greek word and have it mean just about anything.

That’s why they do it, dear Christians.

It’s getting hard these days for a freethinker like myself to trust anything I read or hear with all these “experts” spouting their shit. I sometimes lock myself into my house, pour myself a glass of my finest scotch, light up an Ashton ESG, and educate myself.

Some of the aforementioned “experts” should do the same.

The world would be a better place.

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What Would it Take For You?

I come from the metro-Philly area and a dilemma has befallen our area – Ron Mexico, I mean, Michael Vick.  He has split the fan base with a  little more than a 50% margin against his signing.  Those who call in to sports radio talk shows and claim to “bleed true green” are on board, and call those not on the Vick train “not true fans” and “bandwagon jumpers.”

So as I sit here, the proud owner of several dogs (most have been rescues) over the course of my life, what am I to do?  I got my first dog at age 3 so I’ve been a dog fan longer than an Eagle fan, but I do love football an awful lot…

I’m not against Vick playing for another NFL team – let the Cowgirls have him, it’ll give me that much more reason to hate them.  Let Vick play, just not here,  just not for my team.

Based on these factors, I made a rash decision last week to renounce my fanhood until Mike Vick is no longer on the team.
I admit, I’ve wavered,  I kinda still want to see them do well.   I like #5, DeSean, B-West and most of the Birds and I will miss them this year (next?).  But as someone pointed out on EaglesFanCast, in the comments of the latest post, it’s the name on the front of the jersey we should root for not those on the back.

Thanks for solidifying my resolve – the name on the front of the jersey consistently puts enough talent out there to win, just not win it all.  The name on the front of the jersey let all-time Eagle Brian Dawkins walk away.  The name on the front of the jersey was supposed to stand for character, not the gutter.

I cannot root for an organization that claims to be the gold standard of Professional Football yet owes the city it plays in millions of dollars while libraries are closing, where the coach offers fans no explanations even after we know the truth because he has control issues, where they let a future Hall Of Famer walk away without even a real shot at re-signing, where the blowhard President Joe Banner proclaims to have the most talented roster in football then goes and signs the most notorious player available to add more talent.

What would it take for you to renounce your fanship (or at least put it on hold)?  Michael Vick apparently was my tipping point.  As far I am concerned, while Senor Mexico is in town I will consider myself an Eagles fan in exile.

I don’t expect you to agree, this is a personal choice  about a personal topic, just judge me fairly.  Let me know what you think.

By the way, here is some information on dog fighting on the Humane Society’s site for you to read.

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Death and the Joke(s) that Follow(s)…

Originally I intended to write a poignant piece about the death of a grade school class mate. It would have been a touching story that would have reduced you all to tears, but as I sat down to put my thoughts to the keys the media coverage of a certain entertainer’s death has overwhelmed me.View Image

I’ve had enough. Enough with the Michael Jackson shit. He was talented, he was a freak and now he’s dead. Get over it.

Don’t give me how much you loved Beat It or Billie Jean.   I remember watching the long version of Thriller every 30 minutes on MTV, and the Grammies where he did the moonwalk too. I remember the Thriller Trapper Keeper that Beth Fisher had in eighth grade like it was yesterday, but let’s be real – that was 20+ years ago.

When was the last time he was relevant for something other than being in debt or doing his best impersonation of a Roman Catholic priest at an altar boy convention?

I’m just tired of the way we as a society overlook things sometimes.  People – he was accused of molesting young boys…just like OJ was accused of murder.  No matter how talented he was as an artist he was an abomination of a human being.

John Wayne Gacy painted pretty darn good clown pictures, when he died did we celebrate his artistry? I think not.

Dare I bring OJ and his athletic achievements into the discussion again?   What’s the difference? OK two bloody corpses (DAMN technicalities…)

I heard one of the remaining Jackson Four speaking at his memorial the other night talking about seeing him in heaven someday… Hold On… I’m not much for the religion thing (12 years of Catholic school cured my of that vice) but should I die and should I somehow make it to the Big Dance in the sky and I see that freak there, I won’t want to stay because that’s just fucked up.

On a side note, we all know Michael’s burial location is top secret but since he had so much plastic in him, was his family was able to just leave him in the blue bin by the curb on recycling day?  Maybe they were able to just melt him down and make him into Lego blocks so little kids could play with him for a change.

I also heard that food poisoning may have been a contributing factor to his death. Apparently they found traces of twelve year old nuts in his mouth…

So anyway, Michael Jackson – talented, rich, skin bleaching, nose-falling-off freak is dead. Long live the next freak so TMZ can stay on the air!

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