Archive for August, 2014

Why the #IceBucketChallenge for ALS is totally worthless

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

The ALS Association has very high reviews from CharityNavigator which looks for ripoff charities…of which ALS Association definitely is NOT. Wonderful they are getting donations.

HOWEVER……
The REASON for the ice bucket challenge is to make up for the dollars lost in funding when the Sequester went into effect. $1.6Billion was given in grants to disease research of this type….I SAID WAS as it was cut from the NIH budget by the Sequester. Directors of centers focusing on this research say the Sequester has set us back a generation in research…one research center had over $60Million cut…THAT WAS ONE CENTER. Tens of thousands of researchers are now…not working. ALS reports all of this media coverage has resulted in only $15Million being collected…nearly 10 times their normal amount…which means their donations are headed down steeply once America’s entertainment eye goes elsewhere. This is not seen as a longterm thing at all….this funding or this PR move. $15Millioncollected from rampant internet advertising and promotion…as opposed to $1.6Billion in prior normal funding.

SO…..
As opposed to funding these disease projects…the alternative is to pour ice on your head….and as a result raise less than 1/1000th of the amount they had previous….which was a bare bones budget to begin with. And to boot many of the supporters of this had family members die from ALS and a myriad of diseases. Now they do not have the one bit of solace that the scientific effort to stop this horrible disease might stop others from their horror…that solace is now not funded and derailed a generation of research. And after the loss of family members and loved ones….their alternative is to pour ice on their head and collect LESS than pennies on the dollar for their effort and loss. Your family member died from this disease….now to fund research to fund it for a penny….pour a bucket of ice water on your head instead of it just getting funded.

omg……………. America is truly THE HUNGER GAMES.
And “GUESS WHO” wanted much much deeper Sequester cuts???????? This cut made us closer to a balanced budget…great huh?

How about voting for lawmakers who didn’t want to cut funding in the first place so you don’t have to pour ice on your head? Nah….

 

 

 

 
Story is located here
Bill Gates, Lebron James, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker don’t ostensibly have much in common. But they’ve all recently poured buckets of ice on their head in support of ALS research. Yes, members of this motley crew — alongside hundreds of your Facebook friends — have posted viral videos of themselves shivering gleefully in order to raise money for a good cause. And while their videos have been unquestionably successful in terms of raising awareness (1.2 million videos uploaded) and funds ($13.3 million contributed) on behalf of an intractable disease, they have overlooked the most important message of all: vote.
According to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, his agency has lost 25 percent of its purchasing power over the last decade due to draconian federal budget cuts coupled with inflation. Why does this affect ALS? Because according to the ALS Association, the NIH is the single largest source of ALS research funding in the world. But in 2014, the NIH has seen their funding slashed 5.1 percent, and their total budget is now $30.15 billion, down from $31.2 billion in 2010.
Let’s put this another way: A month-long viral social media campaign consisting of billionaires, media moguls, and celebrities alike has raised $13 million, while a seemingly trivial percent cut in NIH funding means billions of dollars.
“We are throwing away probably half of the innovative, talented research proposals that the nation’s finest biomedical community has produced,” Dr. Collins told the USA Today. “Particularly for young scientists, they are now beginning to wonder if they are in the wrong field. We have a serious risk of losing the most important resource that we have, which is this brain trust, the talent and the creative energies of this generation of scientists.”

So what should celebrities, billionaires, and your Facebook friends really start banding together around? Voting out politicians who cut funding for medical research…

You can start by registering to vote at OurTime.org.

 

House panel: No administration wrongdoing in Benghazi attack

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Story is located here

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, the second-ranking Democrat on the committee.

The panel voted Thursday to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.

Thompson said the report “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

That conflicts with accusations of administration wrongdoing voiced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County), whose House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has held hearings on the Benghazi attack.

Stevens, who grew up in Piedmont, and the other Americans died when Libyans attacked the consulate on Sept. 11, 2012. Among the Intelligence Committee’s findings, according to Thompson:

— Intelligence agencies were “warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened.”

— “A mixed group of individuals, including those associated with al Qaeda, (Moammar) Khadafy loyalists and other Libyan militias, participated in the attack.”

— “There was no ‘stand-down order’ given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, no illegal activity or illegal arms transfers occurring by U.S. personnel in Benghazi, and no American was left behind.”

— The administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.”

Those talking points included assertions that those who attacked the compound were angered by an obscure anti-Muhammad video posted to YouTube in the U.S. There is disagreement to this day about whether that was the case.

Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Story is located here

A new study from Princeton spells bad news for American democracy—namely, that it no longer exists.

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What It Means

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month’s ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

50,000,000 people in America are poor

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.

Story is located here

10 Questions for Atheists

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Originally posted here

 

10 Questions For Atheists

On the internet there are many challenges posed by Christians to Atheists. Some are genuinely curious while others are unintelligent and offensive (take that stupid atheists!). Most are questions that Christians genuinely can’t see how Atheists can answer and are meant to open a debate or even attempt a conversion (some examples here, here, hereand here). So I decided to collect some of the better questions and answer them here. I have deliberatively omitted the worst questions (why are atheists evil? Is it because you worship the devil? If we came from monkeys why are there still monkeys?) In case you think I’m making that up there are some examples here and here. A downright offensive one here and a parody here . I have paraphrased the questions to make them as strong as possible. Interestingly, I have noticed that most questions are usually about evolution, implying their argument is with science not Atheism. I’m not going to repeat those questions here because evolution is a scientifically recognised fact beyond question and it only discredits Christians (most European ones have accepted evolution).  

 1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

This is usually a question out of curiosity rather than a challenge or a debate. Like most people in Ireland, I was raised a Catholic (not that I had a choice in the matter). I was an altar boy and I even went through a religious phase when I was about 13 where I would say a decade of the rosary every night before bed. Gradually I began to see Mass as a waste of time. It was boring and never seemed to have any relevance to anything. Also the Catholic Church is one of the most disreputable institutions in Ireland. It caused enormous damage to the country, promoted narrow minded sectarian stagnation and committed horrendous abuse. I stopped going to Mass when I was 16.

It was until I was 20 that I became an Atheist. Essentially, I set myself a logical challenge based on the problem of evil, lack of revelation and the absence of proof. I then decided that the only logical explanation was that there was no God. (This is a very short version. I discuss my loss of faith in full in another post, How I Became An Atheist).

2.       What happens when we die?

Nothing. That’s the short answer. This shouldn’t be shocking or disturbing, after all everything must end. Even the best book or film has an ending. Nothing can last forever, that’s what makes life so special. If it was eternal it would become meaningless and dull. When we die, that’s the end, we don’t feel or think anything. That’s why we cry at funerals.

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven?

Well then I’ll feel pretty stupid. Then again what if a Catholic dies and finds themselves in Lutheran heaven? Or Muslim heaven? Or finds that any one of the thousands of other religions that have existed is actually the correct one?

Honestly I’d also be pissed off and have a few words to say to God or Saint Peter. Why all the secrecy? Why did he hide? If he wanted to believe why didn’t he put any effort in it? Why did he not provide any evidence? Are you telling me the creator of the universe couldn’t do any better than a 2,000 year old book that is full of contradictory nonsense as well as violence, brutality and injustice? Was the Catholic Church really the best spokesmen for him? Imagine if I was to find out that God could have stopped the Holocaust or famine but didn’t? (This is basically Pascals Wager which I discuss here)

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

The same place everyone gets it from, their family, friends and society in general. No one actually gets their morality from the Bible. After all, the Bible says that homosexuals should be stoned to death. But not even the worse homophobe would argue that. Why not? If the Bible is the source of morality, then if the Bible says something it must be right. What about stoning adulters to death? Or executing a man because he collected sticks on the Sabbath? As an Atheist, I think all of these things are wrong and unjust, but if I took my morals from the Bible I must conclude that they were right and just. Clearly no one actually bases their morals on the Bible.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

This question suggests that the only reason you don’t murder and rape is because God is watching you, but if he turned his back you would do it. This implies you have little morals or conscience. I once heard that character is what you do when no one is looking. If the only reason you don’t steal is because you’re afraid of punishment, then you’re little better than an actual thief. Likewise if you only do good because you want to be rewarded then you are fake. Being a good person means doing the right thing not because you will be rewarded, but because it is the right thing.

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

Since when was God the only reason for living? What sort of miserable empty life do you have if God is the only meaning in your life? What about your family, friends, career, hobbies? If God is the only meaning for existence then shouldn’t we all become monks and spend our lives living in a cave and praying the God? (I can’t possibly imagine a worse life)

What’s my meaning in life? Be a good person, enjoy myself and help others. These may not be the most amazing reasons, but I can hardly be blamed for not knowing the meaning of life. One thing I am sure of, the reason for life lies in other people.

7.       Where did the universe come from?

This is one of the most common Christian arguments, but proves very little. All they are saying really is “I don’t know what created the universe, so I’m going to presume it’s God.” At least scientists are trying to find an answer by doing tests and experiments, whereas religious people base their argument on ignorance of facts and winning by default.

Even if God created the universe, this proves incredibly little. It doesn’t mean the God of your religion is real nor that he can hear your prayers. It doesn’t prove that there is an afterlife. It doesn’t even prove God’s existence, because he could have created the universe and then died. (I discuss this in full in God and the Creation of the Universe).

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

What about those who claim to have seen ghosts or aliens? We don’t take these people seriously so why should we take those who claim to have witnessed miracles. Why are so many magicians Atheists? Because they know how easy it is to trick people into thinking they saw things that didn’t happen. Tricks of the light and the power of suggestion can make people believe in magic. Likewise with miracles. Ever noticed that appearances of saints were very common up until the invention of the camera, whereupon they died out? Or that miracles always happen among uneducated religious people? Why do they always appear to the converted? How come Muhammad has never appeared before Catholics and Mary never shows herself to Protestants? Isn’t it awful convenient that Hindu Gods only appear before Hindus?

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

Christians seem to think that these guys are the holy trinity of Atheism and that we all love them. Honestly, I think they get more attention than they deserve. Sure they’re good, but they’re not that great and I leave the hero worship to religions. I became an Atheist before I even read anything by these three (though I did watch a lot of Hitchens videos). When I did I wasn’t hugely impressed. Hitchens is my favourite and a great debater, but he’s more of scrapper, better at crushing an opponents argument than convincing them. Dawkins is very intelligent and the God Delusion is probably the best thought out of the three, but he can often come across as arrogant and condescending. I found Harris quite poor and The End Of Faith frankly dreadful. It lacked focus and was prone to obscure philosophical digressions and lumped all religious people together as though they were all the Taliban.

I leave the uncritical devotion to religion.

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Religion served an original purpose. Thousands of years ago, scientific knowledge was non-existent. People longed for answers about the world and so they created religion. To every hard question religion was the answer. Where does thunder come from? Why do the crops grow sometimes of the year but not others? Why do people get sick? God(s), angels and demons became the answer. As science advances and finds the real reasons for this things, religion has declined.

Religion provides a second service, that of comfort. People grieve at funerals and religion provides comfort that the deceased aren’t suffering or in pain, but actually enjoying themselves. Likewise, there are many dangers in the world and religion provides the comfort in the belief that you and your loved ones will be protected from harm. Parents always pray that their children will be safe.

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So those are my 10 Atheist questions and my answers. What do you think of them? Too soft , too hard? Were they good challenges? What other questions have you been asked? What are your answers? If any Christians read this, what questions would you ask an Atheist? Seeing as I answered questions today, I think I’ll follow up with 10 Questions For Christians.

Update: A Christian website has reposted these questions but without any of the answers and claiming that Atheists cannot answer them (despite the fact that I have). There is a good Reddit discussion where dozens of Atheists give their answers to the questions.