Thursday, May 23, 2013
The headline of this article says it all, Boy Scouts to allow gay members but ban on gay and atheist leaders continues. It's a step in the right direction, at least. As an Eagle Scout myself, I can attest to how important scouting was in my life. And I've mentioned before that I think it should be open to all boys who want to participate. It's absolutely wonderful that the organization has finally decided to allow openly gay boys to join. But the BSA still has a few spots left to address - gay leaders and atheists. I hope they can address those shortcomings soon.
Image Source: IndianasNewsCenter.com
The other day, I came across a logic/math problem I hadn't heard before, The Tuesday Birthday Problem. It goes like this:
I have two children, one of whom is a son born on a Tuesday. What is the probability that I have two boys?
This puzzle was apparently first presented at a convention for mathematicians, magicians and puzzle enthusiasts (yeah, that's a pretty specialized convention) by Gary Foshee. Immediately after giving the puzzle, he followed up with this.
The first thing you think is 'What has Tuesday got to do with it?' Well, it has everything to do with it.
I know my first inclination was to dismiss that extra fact. How could it have any effect on the probability of the sex of the other child. I first read this puzzle late at night when I was tired, so I didn't feel like putting too much thought into it. Instead, I just read the explanations of how that extra bit of information alters the odds. But I still wasn't ready to buy those explanations just yet. But rather than try to think through the explanation that night, I decided to tackle it from a different angle. Instead of trying to figure out the odds, I'd just program a simulation and see how it played out.
In fact, this is a very simple simulation. I didn't program it in the most efficient manner, but it got the job done. Here's what I did. I created a 4 x 10,000 element array. That is, 10,000 sets of kids, with four pieces of information to designate sex and birth day of the week for each kid (sex 1, day 1, sex 2, day 2). Then, I randomly assigned sex and birth day to each of the kids. Next, I created a couple variables that would be filled in in the next stage. First was a variable keeping track of the number of sets where at least one was a boy born on a Tuesday - that is, the number of sets where the father would have given his first statement. The other variable was the number of sets with a boy born on a Tuesday and another son - the sets fulfilling the second statement. With the array and variables in place, I went back and did some if statements to simulate the father's conditions, increasing the totals of those variables as appropriate. When that was done, I simple divided the number of sets with kids with a boy born on a Tuesday and another son by the number of sets with at least one boy born on a Tuesday.
After running this program a few times, I found a small problem. 10,000 sets wasn't enough. The fraction was varying by several percentage points each time I ran it. So, I added one more feature to allow the program to keep a running average every time it ran.
Oh, and just to be sure I was doing things properly, I added a similar set of calculations to calculate the probability for a simpler puzzle:
I have two children, one of whom is a son. What is the probability that I have two boys?
This is much easier to understand, so it was my control to make sure the algorithm was working properly.
Warning: Don't read on if you want to solve the problem on your own, first.
Well, guess what I found out. After running the simulation on 100,000,000 sets of kids, I got a probability of 0.4813391 for the Tuesday boy problem, and 0.3333046 for the simpler boy problem. Those are very close to the actual odds of 13/27 (0.481481481...) and 1/3 (0.33333333...). It's pretty counterintuitive, but I guess those eggheads know what they're talking about, after all.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Anyone interested in checking this out for themselves can download my program below:
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I'm sure everybody has heard of the tornado that hit Moore Oklahoma by now. But maybe you haven't done anything to help the victims, yet. If you haven't, here's a worthwhile way to donate to charities that will help out:
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The local university here in Wichita Falls is Midwestern State University. It's a pretty good university, actually. In 2007 (I think), it was named the #1 top value in public colleges and universities by Consumers Digest (source). It's a small university at only around 6500 students, but even at that size any organization is going to have some controversies. The most recent one for MSU was when they invited Dr. Ben Carson to give the commencement speech at this year's graduation, as detailed in this Times Record News article, MSU brings polemic to graduation. This little event even got noticed nationwide, such as Jerry Coyne's website, Why Evolution Is True, in the entry, Creationist neurosurgeon speaks at yet another commencement.
Just in case you don't recognize Carson's name, there are a few reasons his presence was controversial. The one aspect that didn't get as much attention, but which strikes a personal chord with me, is his rejection of evolution and embrace of creationism. Just read this quote from an interview with the Adventist Review.
And why did evolution divert in so many directions--birds, fish, elephants, apes, humans--if there is some force evolving to the maximum? Why isn't everything a human--a superior human?
That sounds an awful lot like an old canard that I covered in the entry, Local Church Misunderstands Evolution - Why Are There Still Apes?. There is no pinnacle of evolution. Organisms are constantly evolving to fit their particular environments. Why would even expect that all animals should evolve to resemble humans?
Moving on, here's another quote from that article.
Also, there's the whole subject of irreducibly complex organisms--the idea that everything has to be there all at once for it to work. How could all the complex items evolve simultaneously--as in the eye, for example?
This is another one that I've covered before, only very briefly for this one, in the entry, Ray Comfort - Still Ignorant on Evolution. If you scroll about a third of the way down that page, you'll find some pictures of eyes. One is a full on camera type eye like we humans have. The other is a cup type eye from a patella snail. Snail eyes evolved independently of vertebrate eyes, but they show a clear analog to what an ancestral vertebrate eye was probably like. There's no reason to expect that all components of an eye had to evolve simultaneously - eyes work just fine with only some of the components that we have in ours.
And finally, here's one last excerpt from that interview.
So how could our incredibly organized universe come about as the result of a big bang? This flies in the face of the second law, which says it would be less organized as a result, not more! Scientists have to be consistent.
I have a previous entry that's somewhat related to this, Creation Museum/Creationist Rule of Thumb with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. That entry was more about creationists misapplying the 2nd Law to biological evolution, but it's just as applicable to the evolution of the universe. The 2nd Law does not mean what creationists so often naively interpret it to mean. And what type of arrogance does it take to think that you could have found such a glaringly obvious problem with cosmology when there are countless well educated and intelligent scientists who have devoted their careers to it? I know, that's hinting at being an argument of authority, but I see people so often who think they know more about fields than people who are actual experts, which I discussed in another entry, The Economy & Expertise.
Carson's knowledge of evolution is abysmal. And it's not as if biology is unrelated to medicine, even if you don't need a perfect understanding of biology to be a doctor. If I were the university administration, I'd be very hesitant to invite someone as ignorant as Carson to represent my university.
But enough about evolution, since that's not really what stirred the pot in this case. No, the big problem is Carson's bigotry against homosexuals and his opposition to marriage equality. Back in March, he made some pretty odious remarks on this front.
It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society, and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality -- it doesn't matter what they are -- they don't get to change the definition.
Now, some people (like commenters in that TRN article above) claim that Carson never directly compared gays to NAMBLA or practitioners of bestiality. But that's a pretty weasely argument. Carson is an educated man. He could have chosen any manner of saying that he didn't think marriage should adapt to changing times. And the manner he chose was to associate homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. I don't think this qualifies exactly as the type of propaganda known as 'poisoning the well', but it's awfully close.
For a bit of entertainment, and to hear Carson actually speak those words himself, you can watch this segment from the Daily Show below, and get John Stewart's take on it (along with his reaction to other opponents of marriage equality). Carson's bit comes near the end.
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Swing of the Hill|
Of course, after the outrage this caused, he issued the standard apologies. Well actually, his first apology was some mangled ramble about apples, oranges, and bananas (or watch it on The Daily Show). But he later issued a more reasonable apology, as detailed in the article, Ben Carson Apologizes to Johns Hopkins Community. Still, his original comments were offensive enough that after enough public pressure, he eventually stepped down from being the commencement speaker at his own university, Johns Hopkins. And he never did back down from his bigoted position against marriage equality - he just apologized for his word choice.
So, when some faculty found out that Carson was the speaker, they approached the MSU administration. When it was clear that Carson was going to remain as the commencement speaker, they decided to stage a mini, peaceful protest. Just before Carson was to speak, eleven faculty and two students stood up and walked out, waiting outside the auditorium until Carson's speech was over.
If you read the article in that TRN article above, you'll find several commenters upset with that reaction. But to me, it seems perfectly reasonable. Carson is ignorant of the most fundamental theory of biology, and he has expressed his bigotry against homosexuals with some pretty odious remarks. Those faculty and students who disapproved of his role in the graduation ceremony didn't shout anything. They didn't hold up protest signs. They didn't cause a major ruckus. They simply walked out silently.
So, that's the latest local controversy here in Wichita Falls. It's a bit disappointing that university officials saw fit to invite someone like Carson to begin with, but it's nice to see people who disapproved enough to stage this mini protest. And the TRN article also mentioned that many faculty and students were wearing rainbow ribbons pinned to their gowns. So there's hope even deeply conservative Wichita Falls.
Image Source: YMaryland.org
This didn't fit anywhere else into this blog entry, so let me just add it here. MSU has a Freethought Alliance that meets regularly. I even went to a discussion they put on this past Darwin Day.
I'll also note that I found another good webpage that deals with one of the quotes I gave of Carson up above:
Afarensis - Stupid Creationist Quote of the Week: Ben Carson on Evolution
Monday, May 13, 2013
This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Well, I fell a little behind on this series, and posting to the blog in general. I've just been incredibly busy at work. I wasn't just working through my lunch breaks. Sometimes I even skipped eating entirely because there was so much to get done. Anyway, that project is now behind me, and I can get back to lunchbreak blogging (for a little while, at least - there's another deadline coming up in a few weeks, but after that, it should be back to normal).
The first ten chapters of 1 Samuel are mostly about their namesake, Samuel. Portions of the story are familiar, as I remember hearing them as readings growing up. These chapters also begin to tell the story of Saul, the first king of Israel in the Bible.
1 Samuel started with Elkanah, a man with two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah loved Hannah more, but she was barren, and Peninnah had given him children. Elkanah would treat Hannah more favorably, but Peninah gave her a hard time. So Hannah, in her despair, went to pray in the temple in one of the family's yearly visits to Shiloh, promising to give her first son to the Lord as a Nazirite if He would remember her. There was a slightly strange portion where at first, the priest, Eli, mistook her for being drunk, since she was praying by silently mouthing the words, but when confronted, she explained that she was indeed sober. Eli sent her on her way, and in due time, she did become pregnant and gave birth to a son, Samuel. When he was old enough to have been weaned, she took him to Shiloh, along with a bull to sacrifice and some flour and wine. She left him there as she said she would, under Eli's care, "given to the Lord".
The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) tells me that much of the Hebrew in this chapter and the coming chapters contains puns that are lost on an English reader. Mostly, these are references to Saul. For example, the wording used for petitioning the Lord sounds like Saul, and where it said 'he is given' in reference to Samuel, it could have been translated 'he is Saul to the Lord'. These puns have led some scholars to think that these stories were originally about Saul, not Samuel, but others think they're just allusions to Saul.
Chapter 2 started with the Song of Hannah. This was likely a later insertion into the book, and not originally about Hannah. It was general praise for God, the blessings he bestowed on Israel and his glory and power, along with defeating Israel's enemies.
Samuel grew up in Shiloh, "ministering before the Lord". His mother would take him a new robe every year, and she went on to have more children after him.
Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who the Bible described as "scoundrels". When people brought sacrifices to the Lord, they didn't follow the proper rules for what was to go to God and what they could keep for themselves, "they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt." Not just that, they would "lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting." So, God became angry, and sent a messenger to Eli to foretell the doom that awaited his family, "no one in your family shall ever live to old age," " all the members of your household shall die by the sword," "The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you--both of them shall die on the same day." And in a particularly sadistic turn, God was going to leave one of Eli's family alive just to torment them, "The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart".
There was also a mention that God was breaking a promise, though according to the NOAB, this promise didn't appear earlier in the Bible, "I promised that your family and the family of your ancestor should go in and out before me for ever."
Chapter 3 contained a story that I remember from my church-going days. Samuel slept in the Tent of Meeting, and one night, God called out to him, but Samuel mistook the voice for Eli. Twice he went to Eli asking him what he wanted, and Eli sent him back to bed saying that he hadn't called him. The third time, Eli realized what was going on, and told Samuel that it was the Lord who was trying to talk to him. When he heard the voice again, he said, "Speak, for your servant is listening," and God proceeded to tell Samuel of his plans for Eli and his family. The next morning, Eli convinced Samuel to relay his vision, and resigned himself to his fate.
The chapter closed with a few verses about how the Lord was with Samuel and how he became a "trustworthy prophet".
The Philistines launched a war against Israel. The Israelites lost the first battle, and so sent for the Ark of the Covenant to get the Lord on their side. Hophni and Phinehas went with the Ark. Unfortunately for them, just having the Ark wasn't enough. God didn't help the Israelites, and the Philistines beat them again, killing Eli's sons in the battle. Even worse for Israel, the Ark of the Covenant was captured. When news got back to Eli of what had happened, he fell backwards off his seat and broke his neck. When Phinehas's wife got news of the battle and Eli's subsequent death, she went into labor, but things went badly and she died of complications. But just before she died, the midwife told her, "Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son." It's not clear if she was supposed to be relieved that the baby was okay, or relieved because it was a boy. She named the boy Ichabod, which means "The glory has departed from Israel".
Next came a series of short stories describing what happened in the Philistine cities that tried to house the Ark of the Covenenat. First it went to Ashdod, and was put in a temple dedicated to the god, Dagon. The morning after the first night it was there, the statue of Dagon was found fallen over face first in front of the Ark - as if Dagon was submitting to Yahweh. The people righted the statue, but the next day it was found in the same position, only now the hands and head had come off the statue and were on the threshold. This was apparently the reason that worshipers of Dagon don't step on thresholds when they enter the temple. It's also a bit odd to think of Gods acting out through statues, in ways that people could only see the next morning.
After the people of Ashdod began suffering from tumors, they sent the Ark away to a different city, Gath. But they were struck with tumors, as well, both young and old, in a typical indiscriminate punishment of the Old Testament. So they sent the Ark on to Ekron, where people were also plagued with tumors.
From the description of these tumors, especially in the next chapter, the NOAB says it's likely this was an outbreak of bubonic plague.
The Philistines made a plan to return the Ark of the Covenant. They were going to put it in a cart along with a guilt offering of "Five gold tumours and five gold mice". The cart was to be pulled by "two milch-cows that have never borne a yoke", with their calves taken away from them. The idea was that the cows would go searching after their calves, and if they went straight towards Israel, it was a sign that the plagues had been caused by Yahweh. And of course, that's exactly what the cows did, going to Beth-shemesh. And the people of Beth-shemesh promptly slaugtered the cows to off therm a a burnt-offering to the Lord.
The last few verses explained a few details without much backstory, "The descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-shemesh when they greeted the ark of the Lord; and he killed seventy men of them." So the people of Beth-shemesh wanted to be rid of the Ark since it was so dangerous, and called on the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim to come take it away from them.
The first few verses of chapter 7 closed out the Ark story, with the Ark staying in Kiriath-jearim for 20 years.
Next, Samuel told the Israelites that if they were finally ready to return to the Lord, they had to get rid of their foreign gods, "the Baals and the Astartes", which they did. Next, he had everyone gather at Mizpah, and the book very briefly described a purification ceremony. When the Philistines saw the Israelites gathering, they sent an army to attack them. But now that the Israelites were right with God again, they were able to defeat the Philistines in battle and win back their cities. And of course, there were animal sacrifices.
The chapter closed by describing that "Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life", and went on a circuit between three cities, judging from each of them for a year before moving on to the next.
When Samuel was old and his sons grew up enough to begin judging over Israel, they turned out to be immoral just like the sons of Eli, "they took bribes and perverted justice." The people of Israel were upset with the way Samuel's sons acted, and so asked for a king to rule over them.
These next several chapters and verses dealing with kings are a bit contradictory. At some points, it seems that God is very upset with the Israelites for wanting a king, because it goes against the plan he had for Israel. Other times, it seems like wanting a king is perfectly ordinary. Throughout, though, it certainly seems to be legendary. I can't imagine that a group of people would just come out and demand a king, rather than this happening through some tribal leader consolidating his power over other tribes. It very likely could have taken multiple generations, starting off with alliances, and later on centralizing power in one family.
So, in this chapter, God started off by agreeing to give Israel a king, but warning them of the repercussions, such as taxes and drafting sons into the army. But the people were unmoved by the warning and still wanted their king.
In chapter 9, we're finally introduced to Saul. He was a Benjaminite, son of Kish. "There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else." One day, some of Kish's donkeys went missing, so he sent Saul and a servant to go look for them. In their search, they came to the land of Zuph, and the servant knew there was "a man of God in this town", so they decided to go meet with him to see if he could tell them where the donkeys were. As it turned out, the seer ("for the one who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer") was Samuel. God had already told him that the future king of Israel would be meeting with him that day. So when Saul showed up, Samuel was expecting him, and after assuring him that the donkeys were safe, invited Saul to eat with him at the shrine, putting Saul and his servant at the head of the table and giving them the choicest meat. Samuel gave them a place to sleep that night. The next morning, as Saul and the servant were leaving, Samuel had the servant go on ahead so that he could have a private word with Saul.
Samuel pulled out a phial of oil to anoint Saul, and finally told him that he had been chosen by God to be the king of Israel. He gave him further instructions on where to go from there, and what he would see on his trip home. Everything turned out just as Samuel had predicted, and Saul ended up in Gibeah going into a "prophetic frenzy" with the other prophets there and issuing some prophecies of his own. This was the first explanation given in 1 Samuel about the origin of the phrase, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" A more demeaning explanation will be given in a later chapter, and apparently the difference is because the writer of this section supported Saul, while the writer of the later section supported David.
After the prophetic frenzy in Gibeah, Saul returned home. Saul's uncle (not his father) asked him what had happened, and Saul relayed most of the story except for the part about becoming king.
Samuel called together the people at Mizpah again, and cast lots to determine the king. The lots eventually fell to Saul, but he was hiding among the baggage. The people went and found him and appointed him as king. According to the NOAB, this may be a blending of two different traditions for how Saul became king. Afterwards, Samuel instructed the in "the rights and duties of the kingship", putting it all down in a book. Then everyone returned home. A few warriors "whose hearts God had touched" went with Saul, but "some worthless fellows" didn't accept his kingship and didn't take him a present.
The last few verses are really the start of the story that comes in the next chapter. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been oppressing the Gadites and Reubenites, and had even gone so far as to gouge out the right eye of all of them. Seven thousand of the Gadites and Reubenites had escaped, but the rest of the telling of the story will have to wait until next week.
So, it is kind of nice to be back in a book telling a narrative, and one that actually goes a little more in depth into character development than previous books. It's a much more coherent approach, even if there still are signs that it's a blending of multiple traditions.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
With the end of another month, it's that time again when I look at the server logs to see what 10 pages were most popular on this site in the last month. This month, there was a bit of a shake up. While the top few spots were no surprise, several of the pages had never made the list before - VW XL1 + E-mail Debunking - China's New "Little Car", Response to Rabbi Steven Pruzansky - Why Romney Didn't Get Enough Votes to Win, and Friday Bible Blogging - Joshua 1 to Joshua 10, and one of the pages had only made the list once before - Email Debunking - 1895 8th Grade Final Exam. Five of the top ten were from 2012 or 2013 - the four listed above plus Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber. Not just that, but the next two most popular pages that just barely missed the top 10 were also from 2013, Response to E-mail: One Nation Under Wal-Mart? and The Bible on The History Channel - A Disappointing Adaptation. In fact, many of the next most popular ages are from 2013 - they just weren't quite so close to making the top 10 list.
As far as overall traffic, like I mentioned last month, it depends on what stats I look at. With AWStat's Unique Visitors value, I'm on par with what I've been for a while, now, which is just a bit lower than a short term peak I had a couple years ago. But the number of pages viewed is the second highest count I've ever had, and the bandwidth is the highest I've ever had.
Here were the top 10 most popular pages on this site last month.
Top 10 for April 2013
- Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
- Autogyro History & Theory
- Blog - Texas Board of Education - Bad Results for Science Standards
- Blog - Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
- Blog - Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
- Blog - VW XL1 + E-mail Debunking - China's New "Little Car"
- Blog - Email Debunking - 1895 8th Grade Final Exam
- Blog - Response to Rabbi Steven Pruzansky - Why Romney Didn't Get Enough Votes to Win
- Blog - Email Debunking - Tips on Pumping Gas
- Blog - Friday Bible Blogging - Joshua 1 to Joshua 10
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
You know those types of people who doubt evolution and are always trying to get alternative viewpoints put into schools? They'll say to Teach the controversy, or to examine "all sides of scientific evidence". Well, in my recent research into the manufactured CSCOPE controversy, I came across this page:
The writer highlighted a couple sections from a CSCOPE lesson plan.
DOES THE RIGHT BELONG TO THE INDIVIDUAL OR TO THE PEOPLE AS A GROUP (A COLLECTIVE RIGHT)?
The collective right's advocates believed that the Second Amendment did not apply to individuals; rather it recognized the right of a state to arm its militia. It recognized limited individual rights only when it was excercised by members of a functioning, organized militia while actively participating in the militia's activities.
The CSCOPE plan went on to explain the point of view of the proponents of individual's rights, and pointed out that the most recent Supreme Court decisions on the issue have favored the individual's rights interpretation. In fact, this is a pretty well balanced lesson. The debate of individual vs. collective interpretation of the Second Amendment is an old one. Just go read the Wikipedia article. It discusses older cases brought before the Supreme Court, such as United States v. Cruikshank, Presser v. Illinois, and Miller v. Texas, which interpreted the Second Amendment more as a collective right, and allowed state governments to restrict gun ownership. It wasn't until relatively recently, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Supreme Court finally and explicitly interpreted the Second Amendment as an individual right.
But apparently, even discussing this ongoing national debate is crossing the line.
In a High School lesson the kids are instructed to discuss whether the 2nd Amendment should be a collective or individual right. In TEXAS you may ask???? (UNFORTUNATELY YES) I call this INDOCTRINATION!
I know it's not terribly surprising, but just keep this in mind the next time you hear someone calling for debating all sides of the evolution debate. And also keep it in mind when you hear someone deriding CSCOPE for being some conspiracy to indoctrinate our children.
Previous CSCOPE Entries:
Monday, April 29, 2013
A few weeks ago, I mentioned the brewing CSCOPE controversy in an entry, CSCOPE Conspiracy?. For a bit of background, CSCOPE describes itself as "a customizable, online curriculum management system aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)." It basically consists of material to help teachers cover the required curriculum. But since everything seems to be politicized these days, CSCOPE is now getting pulled into the culture wars. Right wing critics of CSCOPE are leveling all sorts of charges against the system, such as claiming that it criticizes Christianity and that it promotes communism.
Since my post a few weeks ago, I've begun noticing these signs popping up all over Wichita Falls.
So, I decided to take another look at this story. In my last entry, I examined one claim against CSCOPE - that it was denigrating Christianity by calling it a cult and claiming that early Christians participated in cannibalism and incest. Needless to say, reality didn't match up with the right wing claim.
Today, I typed CSCOPE into my google search box and followed a link to see another claimed criticism of the system. This time, the link was this one.
The Blaze - Want to See What CSCOPE and Common Core (Even Homeschooling) Lessons Look Like? These Parents Opened Up to TheBlaze
The writer of this article seemed mostly concerned with how CSCOPE discussed China, and supposedly promoted communism over capitalism. Here's a claim from that article.
"They make kids watch a video that makes capitalism look bad and Communist China look good. It's absolutely unbelievable."
Below are several screenshots of the program, "China Rises," along with a video that Card was able to record and save for his own records.
So, what does the screenshot say in support of Communism?
In 25 years, China has achieved the most rapid economic advance in such a short time of any nation in history. How? By scrapping its devotion to collectivism and embracing private enterprise with the zeal of 19th-century robber barons. But is China's success riding on the backs of the poor?
That's a pretty strange endorsement of communism. Here's an excerpt from another screenshot on that page.
Yet economic reform continued in China and continues today. The communist concept of sharing the work and the wealth - collectivism - has fallen by the wayside, and private enterprise has taken the helm of China's economy.
The actual screenshots from CSCOPE in the article are contradicting the text within the article. The CSCOPE lesson is claiming that China's switch to free market capitalism is what's fueling its economic growth.
The next complaint in the article was about 'cruelties' under capitalism.
Card notes that the video preview made available under the "Getting Rich" sub-section of the site talks about capitalism's "cruelties" as it shows a man whose [sic] lost his hand in a machine.
I haven't yet watched the video, but this doesn't sound like an indictment of capitalism. Given the mention of 'robber barons' in the one excerpt, it sounds like a look at how China is transitioning to capitalism, going through some of the same birth pangs as the rest of the world during the Industrial Revolution, when lack of regulations led to bad working environments and actual armed uprisings like the Ludlow Massacre.
So, that's another criticism of CSCOPE examined and found wanting. If I have the time and motivation, I may try looking into more of these criticisms in follow-up entries.
- TFN Insider - Category Archives for CSCOPE
- Millard Fillmore's Bathtub - CSCOPE Archives
- Times Record News - CSCOPE stirs protest: Foes of lesson system force spotlight on issue
*Note that the article on that RedHotConservative.com site is a verbatim copy of the article on Times Record News without even citing it.
Friday, April 26, 2013
This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Ruth is by far the shortest of the Biblical books that I've read so far - just 4 chapters long. It's also the shortest of the Historical Books, but not the shortest book of the Bible, or even of the Old Testament.
In a time of famine, Elimelech left Bethlehem in Judah to go live in Moab. He took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons. After a time, Elimelech died, and his sons married Moabites. But after about 10 years, the sons died, too, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, on their own. After hearing that the famine in Israel had ended, Naomi decided to return, but first she tried to send Orpah and Ruth back to their own mothers. Orpah left, but Ruth refused to leave her. There's a fairly well known passage from this section with a nice sentiment, where Ruth expressed her loyalty to Naomi.
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
17 Where you die, I will die--
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!'
Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, "the whole town was stirred because of them". Naomi asked the people to begin calling her Mara, instead - meaning 'bitter', as opposed to her previous name which means 'pleasant'.
To feed themselves, Ruth went to glean from the fields - gathering some of the grain left behind by the reapers. She just happened to go to the field that belonged to Boaz, a relative of Ruth's. She caught Boaz's eye, and he told her to stay in his fields with his young women, while at the same time he told his servants to keep an eye on her and provide her with extra grain. He even invited her to eat lunch with him. At the end of the day, she returned to Naomi with plenty of food and told her of the day's goings on.
Naomi instructed Ruth to clean herself up, put on her best clothes, and approach Boaz at the threshing floor, but only after he'd eaten and drank. When he went to lie down, she was to "go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do." Now, there's a little bit of a question as to what that's supposed to mean. 'Feet' was sometimes used as a euphemism for 'genitals' in the Bible, so some people might interpret those instructions in a sexual light. However, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), at least, these words were to be taken at face value, since Ruth and Boaz followed all the appropriate customs in the rest of the book and wouldn't have committed such a sin here. Anyway, Ruth followed Naomi's advice, and when Boaz took notice, she asked him to "spread your cloak over your servant", an expression of marriage. Boaz agreed, but there was a closer next-of-kin who he would have to talk to, first.
The next day, Boaz met the other next-of-kin at the town gate to discuss the matter. The other next-of-kin was unwilling to marry Ruth, because "I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it."
Next came a passage that reminded me a bit of Grandpa Simpson telling a story.
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, 'Acquire it for yourself', he took off his sandal.
So, Boaz and Ruth were married and had a son, Obed (though following custom, the son was given the name of Ruth's dead husband). The final few verses were genealogy, from Perez through a few generations to Obed, and then to Jesse, and then to David. I've read that these last few verses were probably tacked on, possibly in an attempt to legitimize David's claim to kingship (whose story will be told in upcoming books).
There's really not much to write about the book of Ruth. It was a short story about only a few characters. It's most likely allegorical, as the names of almost all the characters translate to something meaningful for the story (Elimelech - "My God is King", Naomi - "Pleasing", Mahlon - "Sickness", Chilion - "Wasting", Mara - "Bitter"). Perhaps the most significant lesson taken from it is that non-Jews can convert to Judaism and become full standing members of the community.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I need to quit taking the bait so easily. Somebody sent me another political e-mail that I couldn't resist responding to. This one wasn't nearly as high brow as the typical right wing rant. It consisted of 3 strips of the comic, Libtards (the name in and of itself lets you know the level of discourse to expect). This comic rips off the Peanuts, and in the strips I saw, at least, consisted of political conversations between Linus and Lucy, with Lucy representing the liberal and Linus representing the conservative. I'm not going to repost the comics here, but I will provide links if you want to read them for yourself.
Libtards Strip 1
The first strip started with Lucy saying, "I voted for Obama because he's black," followed by Linus listing all the supposed problems caused by Obama.
|Voted for Obama because he's black||Only a small minority of people voted for Obama strictly because he's black - probably about the same number of people who voted for McCain/Romney strictly because they're white.|
|Deficit||Obama took office during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Deficit spending is exactly what the government's supposed to do in that situation to stimulate the economy and get things back on track. So, you can't have it both ways. Either the economy is recovered and we can stop deficit spending, or the economy is still hurting and requires deficit spending from the government.
NY Times - Judging Stimulus by Job Data Reveals Success
Let's also not forget that government spending as a percentage of GDP has been steadily decreasing since Obama's first year in office.
(In my opinion, this is a fault with the Obama administration - stimulus spending has been too small, explaining the slower than hoped recovery. The current sequestration is going to hurt the recovery even more.)
|Unemployment||Unemployment has been improving since the worst of the Recession.
|Benghazi||I agree that this is a problem, but also one that's been blown out of proportion.
Think Progress - What Everyone Should Know About The Benghazi Attack
|Gas prices||Gas prices showed a fairly steady rise from 2003 to 2008 under Bush. Then there was a sudden drop, after which prices relatively quickly rebounded to what they'd been previously, but have held fairly steady for the past two years without further increase. So, even assuming any president had much control over gas prices, I don't see where Obama's done a bad job.
|Immigration crisis||Illegal immigration peaked in 2007 and has been decreasing since then.
CBS News - Illegal immigration to U.S. drops after rising for decade
|Solyndra||What about it? There were nearly 40 projects in that loan guarantee program. Most of the projects were successful. Solyndra wasn't. I wouldn't expect every project in such a program to be successful.
Think Progress - Five Things You Should Know About Solyndra During The 2012 Campaign
|National credit rating||Maybe you could blame Obama for not showing enough leadership here, but the downgrade was clearly due to the GOP in congress, and the way they played chicken with our country's economy and reputation.
Think Progress - The Downgrade Trifecta: S&P Slams Third GOP Debt Stance For Jeopardizing U.S. Credit
Libtards Strip 2
The second strip started with Lucy saying, "I am pro-choice!", followed by Linus listing all the things our tyrannical government prohibits.
|Can I choose to smoke?||Yes. Cigarettes are still legal.|
|Can I choose a large soda?||Other than one local government (NYC), everyone has always been able to buy large sodas.|
|Can I choose to own a gun?||Yes. Even the recently failed gun control laws were only trying to institute universal background checks, limit clip capacity, and limit one particular type of firearm (assault rifles). A few years ago, Obama even signed into law a bill that allows people to take firearms into national parks.
NBC News - New law allows loaded guns in national parks
|Can I choose an incandescent bulb?||First of all, it depends. Some states are phasing out incandescent bulbs. Federal laws are only mandating new efficiency standards (albeit, ones that will be hard for current incandescent bulbs to meet).
Wikipedia - Phase-out of incandescent light bulbs: United States
But more importantly, Lucy was right in this comic. Our energy use is too high. Global warming is a real threat that we must face, and switching to more efficient light bulbs seems like a small price to pay to help reduce our carbon output.
|Can I choose low-cost coal?||Again, Lucy is right. According to Wikipedia, "Although coal power only accounted for 49% of the U.S. electricity production in 2006, it was responsible for 83% of CO2 emissions caused by electricity generation that year..." How selfish do you have to be to want to continue using so much coal simply because it gives you a little cheaper electricity, when you're passing off all the problems of global warming to future generations? Our nation should be transitioning to cleaner power sources.
Wikipedia - Coal power in the United States
|Can I choose to honor God?||Yes. You just can't use tax-payer money to do so. Granted, there are mostly local cases where someone doesn't understand the law, but no widespread attempt at suppressing religion. In fact, the problem's mostly the opposite - people abusing their positions to use taxpayer money to push sectarian beliefs and not respecting the Establishment Clause. (When's the last time you heard a politician end a speech without saying "and God bless America"?)
ACLU - ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression
Oh, just for the hell of it, let's turn this around and ask a few hypothetical questions to Republicans.
|Can I burn an inanimate object like a flag?||Not if we had our way. Even though it causes no actual harm to anybody, it seems disrespectful.
Fox News - Houses Passes Ban on U.S. Flag-Burning
|Can I marry whoever I want?||No. Even though marriage has been an ever changing institution, from polygamy (even in the Bible) to arranged marriages to no inter-racial marriages just a few decades ago, we're going to pretend that 'traditional marriage' is something real and outlaw the marriages we don't agree with. And we'll even try to get an amendment passed to the Constitution that takes away freedom.
Star Tribune - Marriage Amendment
|What about in my heterosexual marriage? Can we do things a little 'wild and crazy' in the bedroom?||Nope. Missionary style only - at least in 13 states.
Huffington Post - Why Do Virginia, 13 Other States Want To Keep Their Anti-Sodomy Laws A Decade After SCOTUS Ban?
|Can I hook up with a girl from a bar? Shack up with my long term girlfriend?||Not in Virginia.
Sodomy.org - Virginia's Sodomy Law
|Can I smoke a little pot?||No. Drugs are immoral (even if marijuana and several other illicit drugs are less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol).
Wikipedia - Substance abuse
|Can I buy a bottle of fine scotch whiskey on a Sunday afternoon?||No. And you can't go car-shopping, either.
Wikipedia - Blue law
|Can I vote?||Going against 200 years of tradition - not unless you have a driver's license, even though voter fraud is a non-existent problem.
Mother Jones - UFO Sightings Are More Common Than Voter Fraud
And if we think you're going to vote against us, we'll do what we can to make it harder for you to vote.
Think Progress - Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Was The Goal Of New Election Laws
CommonDreams.org - Land of the Free? Home of the Brave? Only When It's Convenient
Libtards Strip 3
Here's the third and final strip from the e-mail. This one began with Lucy claiming, "Republicans are racist, sexist, homophobic, gun-toting religious fanatics," with Linus pointing out that liberals support Muslims who share all those same traits.
Okay, he has a bit of a point, there. Too many liberals, going too far in trying to be tolerant and multicultural, accept the negative aspects of some cultures.
SamHarris.org - Dear Fellow Liberal: An Exchange with Glenn Greenwald
But it's important to remember that there's a lot of diversity among Muslims just like Christians. Just like you shouldn't try to tar all of Christianity because of the KKK, Hutaree, the Army of God, modern day witch hunts, or the like, you shouldn't try to tar all of Islam because of Muslim extremists. In fact, this is a large part of the reason why many liberals are so quick to defend Muslims - because there is real discrimination against them.
Wikipedia - Christian terrorism
Wikipedia - Army of God (United States)
Guardian - Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt
Think Progress - Fox News Reignites Islamophobic Campaign Against The 'Ground Zero Mosque'
So, this was just more of the same that I've come to expect from right-wing e-mail forwards - straw men and distortions of the truth, though in a much cruder format than I'm used to seeing.