Friday, May 15, 2009

Survey Says...What?

One of my favorite quotes of all times is one which is variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many others - is the saying There are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Surveys and their inherent statistics make their way into popular opinion and their very nature are flawed with questions which create further misconception. In other words, the narrative of the questionnaire is a set up. Often it depends on the expected conclusion of the entity conducting the survey. I want a result to support my conclusion...what questions can I ask to get it? A simple remedy to such a con-game is just think for yourselves folks. If the logical answer is not there among the choices and your BS detector starts to go off, look for your nearest exit.

Here is a clear example with such bias. In this case, bias is exposed as Darwin theory as there is no such thing. The creator of the survey reveals not only their bias, but their lack of grasp on the matter. That is like saying Einstein theory for gravity. Faraday theory for electromagnetism. Marconi theory for radio transmission. See the point? It is rather silly. These natural phenomena exist whether man is around or not to discover them. We as humans just relatively got around to discovering them. It would be a little arrogant on our part to suggest otherwise.

Instead, why not ask if one believes if organized, tax exempt religions/businesses are and have been inherently corrupt? Maybe ask if their patrons look to God instead of themselves as if he were some sort of concierge, for a fee - paid to the church? How exactly do you go from God to origin? Connecting God to organized and demonstratively corrupt religious business? Perhaps that in itself would be valid line of questions to explore. Rationality is not easy. It is far easier to throw the towel in and presume someone or something else other than yourself is in charge. Some call that faith.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grand New Party?

If the GoP is wondering what happened? Here are some ideas...

1) Get rid of the Fundys. They are not Republicans. They are Fundy's. They stole the party. They ruined it. Republicans believe in limited government. Teaching religion in public schools and having religion in the Oval Office the last eight years is not Republican nor Conservative.

2) Stop being hypocrites. Guess what former Presidents were former co-chairs of Planned Parenthood? Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush. Bush's nickname was Rubbers. It was a Cold Wold War tactic for population control. China, was pro-life, pro-population growth. Amazing how tides turn. About the same time Falwell started his influence peddling it is clear to see how positions managed to flip flop. Considering how China changed to 'one child' population control policy, it does not take much imagination to see the logic or motivation in a change of tactics, so let's get real here for a moment. President Richard Nixon declared in 1970 birth control a national priority and sought adequate family planning services [for] … all those who want them but cannot afford them.

3) The phrase, One Nation Under God, in the Pledge of Allegiance Yes. Another Cold War add in. Get over it. It did not exist prior to 1954. It simply was put in to give the middle finger to the Soviet Union. The original, written in 1892, penned by Francis Bellamy reads, I Pledge Allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

4) Same sex marriage, decriminalization of drugs, and whatever else. As a reformed or endangered conservative, I know anything not specifically in the Constitution is strictly left to the states to decide for themselves. Get over it. If you do not like, there is a mechanism to change it. Drugs? I suggest you read up on Prohibition and it's contribution to crime and loss in tax revenue.

Bottom line. If you want to save the party, appeal to the sensibilities in people. Appeal to intellect. Reject dogma. Seek diverse sources of information and do a little fact checking for crying out loud. So, either the Christian Right and their herd of followers believing in so called family values are being played for suckers, or it was merely a tactical move to counter political enemies in whatever hemisphere comes to mind.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The New Star Trek

We saw it last night. I was skeptical. Trek, all that we knew before, was tired. Beaten. The franchise was over. It was done. All the hype and publicity for this new movie seemed to be setting us up for a let down. Meaning, what if the studio spent most of the budget mostly on marketing and special effects at the expense of writing. Considering filming commenced during the writer's strike, there was zero room for margin. Could they pull it off? The movie was far better than I expected. It had a few loose ends, but to sum it up in one word: GREAT!

I do not want to give away too much. But, Let me say, it does give something to those familiar with Star Trek. Specifically, fans of Star Trek you will appreciate how this movie ties bits of original series, the second movie, and even a bit of the original pilot plus other written lore into this movie while keeping it fresh updating that same sense of humor that made most of the franchise great. The movie reaches out to whole new audience, okay you saw the pun coming - a whole new generation and even if the subtle references for the Trekkers are missed, the movie will be enjoyed for the newbies. Leave your expectations about the story line home. That is what makes a good Star Trek storyline great. It does appear a certain J.J. Abrams did save the franchise from the ruins of Rick Berman, a small price to pay, unless you are Vulcan. You will see.

Friday, May 8, 2009

An Empathetic Ear on the Supreme Court?

With the prospect of having a new Supreme Court Justice sitting on the bench next fall enjoying a life time appointment, it occurs to me that many people do not understand the basic tenants of the framework of our government. I sense this by the words often used by our leadership. The word empathy in specific comes to mind. A judge does not need empathy. Social workers need empathy. Judges need only be expert with the law, our constitution, and of course behave rational. This simply means they need to know their role when it comes to the law. This role is to evaluate the case being presented within court against established law. Law established by Congress.

This also means the Court, any court cannot create legislation, nor creatively interpret the law. This leads to horrible consequences such as Separate but Equal case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 only to be finally overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education, which itself was muddled until congress finally had enough and took action in 1964 with some creative motivation from the Executive branch (LBJ) and more recently, another egregious example - the eight years of the G.W. Bush administration.

So now, our President wants an empathic ear on the Supreme Court. Do we truly want this? I know I do not. I know I do not want someone who swings a like a sheet in a breeze on a clothes line based on the public popular opinion of the day, unless that opinion is expressed by a law passed by any elected official legislative body. What does this mean? I believe it important to remember the purpose of the Court is to be the Court. That is, to check and balance the enforcement of the Executive branch of our government. We cannot have one single branch deciding for itself to do more than it was intended outside the constitutional boundaries without expecting unfortunate consequences. If you want to change the law, there is a mechanism to do this. It is called the Legislative branch. Every so often, we the people have an opportunity, a responsibility to vote and elect our representative government. The men and women in black robes on the Supreme Court? Nope, they are there with only a hearing. Once there, they hold much power - forever. For a lifetime. Five individuals should not be allowed to undermine the legislative process. There are three branches of our federal system, for a reason. Why do we forget this? The last eight years, we lacked the checks and balances built into system of government. I think we deserve those back. That was the change I voted for.

Vaccines...Enemy #1?

This was just too funny...

Seems Google's Smart Ads do not work all the time. Maybe they suspect there is an attraction by the paranoid, the conspiracy minded? There is a word for such belief and type of person, but not now...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oprah, Jenny, Jimmy, Swine, Austism, False Prophets, and Reality

With the Swine Flu on every one's mind, one would think the Oprah, Jenny and her ilk would pause to speak. Pause to think. Pause to consider. The attachment to a belief system is dangerous when it becomes so entangled in emotion. When belief allows zero room for evidence, refutes consensus, or when belief disregards the greater good not because of observation or any particular understanding, but because of rigid belief. Throughout history individuals who cling to rigid positions have demonstrated how dangerous they can be. Indeed, when you have someone committed to an idea, you cannot convince them of an alternative based on logic or reason. You cannot suggest examples. You cannot ask for evidence. However, that does not mean a reasonable person is compelled to provide an audience.

Case in point from Slate:

Her boyfriend, actor Jim Carrey, is even more clueless. At the rally last year, I asked Carrey to give an example of a childhood vaccine we could dispense with. Tetanus, he said. That answer did not reflect a strong—or any, really—grasp of infectious diseases. Children who get tetanus—fortunately, it has been extremely rare in the United States since tetanus vaccination began in the 1920s—suffer horrendous pain, arch their backs, and go into terrible spasms before dying. It's a very natural disease, to be sure, because the germ causing tetanus lives in dirt. It's a germ that will be with us forever, and the only way to prevent it is through vaccination.

Slate, goes on to offer a healthy dose of reason:
McCarthy's popularity has created a lot of anger and disbelief in that tiny sliver of society that believes in evidence-based medicine. One person who's feeling particularly frustrated is David T. Tayloe, president of the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatricians. (Remember them? A pediatrician is a person with a medical degree who takes care of children. Some of them are said to trust science more than celebrities when it comes to health care.)"I think show business crosses the line when they give contracts to people like Jenny McCarthy," Tayloe says. "If you give her a bully pulpit, McCarthy is going to make people hesitate to vaccinate their children. She has no medical or scientific credentials. It disturbs us that she's given all these opportunities to make her pitch about vaccines on Oprah or Larry King or U.S. News or whatever. We have to scramble to get equal time—and who wants to see a gray-haired pediatrician talking about a serious topic like childhood vaccines when she's out there blasting the academy and blasting the federal government?"

Hurrah! for the dumbing down of America. Oh, and thanks Oprah for giving a platform to ignorance.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sometimes the Bad Guy Does Lose

When responding to a colleague's request to be Linked-In, a popular social networking site, I saw a 'pop up' for a vice president who would one day be become the president of my former employer and who would claim to be the CEO, but he spelled it ceo. I did read the snippet that he did boast this as factual. So I clicked the link and read his profile. The spelling errors were quite funny. Ironic. Sad. It was indicative of leadership quality, capabilities, and predictive of ability to endure. After reading, I had to consider after knowing this man firsthand and understanding his ability to exaggerate, my mind wondered to areas speculating about the exact nature of the office of the internship of Senator Kennedy. Perhaps he meant, at the same office complex? The first hint? The use of lower case word office. It is the Office of Senator Kennedy. Pawling-Trinity is a preparatory school but he must have skipped through English and that editor of the paper gig unless there is some sort of cranial injury to explain the result of the most recent decade of his work life. You cannot help but feel a little for such a person. This guy combines incompetence with arrogance. This is the guy you can size up within 30 seconds. You do not know whether to have pity or anger. Sometimes both is reasonable. Often bewilderment was the emotion I experienced.

This profile, most likely, lifted from his resume. Formatting slightly changed for emphasis.

Whitman College BS, polictical Science 1980 – 1984
American University; Poltical Science Internship, office of Senator Kennedy Trinity Pawling Prep Activities and Societies: Phi Delta Theta, Debate Team, Varisty Basketball,
Editor in Chief School Paper

Original from Linked In:

Whitman College
BS, polictical Science
1980 – 1984
American University; Poltical Science Internship, office of Senator KennedyTrinity Pawling Prep
Activities and Societies: Phi Delta Theta, Debate Team, Varisty Basketball, Editor in Chief School Paper

The bottom line:

If you know the person can lie about the mundane, they will lie about anything.