Condom Ban Hoax

A story broke that Mike Pence, Vice presidential candidate, wanted to ban condoms. It spread like wild-fire. The quote used was, “If you want to risk ruining your life before it’s started, go ahead, gamble with condoms. But I say we need to ban them and make the right decision for those who clearly aren’t capable of making it themselves”. This quote is not true – a shameless quote out of context. The source (Newslo, Politicalo, and Religionlo) were bad sites and have done this for clicks. The investigative work was done by Kim LaCapria at snopes.com. Despite what you think about the candidates, a skeptical reader should be at least slightly pleased that the truth is shown. And one may feel a slight relief that Mr. Pence (I call him Pence the Credulous) does not actually think we should ban condoms.

If one digs, a controversal quote from 2002 does point to the idea, but in fairness the Mr. Credulous, he does not really suggest we need to ban condoms – he simply wants to promote abstinence in a not-so-subtle Christian plug:

“I mean, at the end of the day, what condoms actually do is they give our kids a false sense of security, they’re actually tricking them into thinking they’re having safe sex, when in fact, very often, those intercourses result in unwanted teen pregnancies. And the reason why that’s happening is because condoms are designed to be hip, to be modern, to be practical and what not, and the truth is that that’s a lie. The only way to stay safe from premature pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases is to practice abstinence and pray to God, that’s the only real way to stay safe,” Pence argued. “At the end of the day, it’s the unjustified trust in condoms that plays a huge part in abortion rates going through the roof…”

And here is where the misquote comes in:

“If you want to risk ruining your life before it’s even started, go ahead, gamble with condoms. But I say we need to ban them and make the right decision for those who clearly aren’t capable of making it themselves. What we don’t need are condoms that are unsafe; what we DO need are smarter kids”

This quote seems to have been buried in time – only to be brought back to life by shameless lies brought to you by Newslo. Now, with that cleared, we must not forget who really desired the condom banned: The Catholic Church. As if it is a bundled package, the Catholic Church provides healthcare along with its charity. unfortunately, that means no condoms. Any working brain can imagine what has happened when people are denied condoms as well as AIDS education: people die. Millions die. The workings of the Catholic church has brought suffering to those in Calcutta and greater India, in Kenya, in Rwanda, and missions around the world.

As Christopher Hitchens said in a debate against Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, and the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe:

“I say it, I say it in the presence of his grace, and I say it to his face the preachings of his church are responsible for the death and suffering and misery of millions of his brother and sister Africans, and he should apologize for it”

With that said, be on the look out for these irrational beings who have deemed the condom banned. If they be in a position of power – defy them! No doubt, brain rot like condom bans are just the tip of the gullible irrational iceberg.

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The Mind of the Market: Book Review

The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives

As I was finishing The Mind of the Market by Michael Shermer (of which I have a signed copy), I was having a discussion with a fellow business major. This hard-headed, toddler-like buffoon was no stranger to less and critical thinking – but since he asked about the book I was reading, I told him. It covers how humans have developed our business morals and markets from our evolutionary past. Then he surprised me with the most arrogant thing he has ever said, “our world today has no bearing on our past”. Don’t be like this presumptuous fool! Let me rely on Mr. Shermer to prove otherwise.

                                                                   (here is my signed copy)

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The Mind of the Market uses plenty of enjoyable tales, studious studies, and interesting historical facts to show how we have developed our market since the infancy of our species. The tribal instinct used thousands of years ago have stayed with us and even guided how we created our market. Think of it like the “invisible hand” that Adam Smith suggested in The Wealth of Nations.

If you know Michael Shermer, you know he writes in an entertaining way that keeps you reading as well as learning. He is the founder of the Skeptic Society so there are numerous studies to clearly define where he is getting his information. But, since there are so many studies within the book (which I strongly recommend you getting) I will instead focus on his main points in the book.

There are many aspects of numbers and probability that we still have trouble understanding – all from our primitive upbringing. In Accounting, there is a term called “sunk costs” which are expenses put into a project or asset that cannot be returned. When approached with the problem of whether or not the project or asset should be kept even though it is unlikely to be successful, people are far more likely to stick with the project. It is like gambling. When facing losses, one is more likely to stay with it to try to recoup losses. But this is completely illogical and hard to get away from. I was even taught this in college.

We also base decisions about a whole population on small numbers of data. These mistakes are apparent in daily stock traders and even politicians. The example Shermer used was picking red and white marbles out of two bags. If the bags were split 1/3 and 1/3 of each color in each bag – pulling out 5 marbles would usually satisfy our curiosity. We would draw the conclusion of the marbles in each bag based on our findings. This again, is not always correct.

There is also the “framing effect” where we base decisions on how the offer is framed. Here is the example from the book:

  1. Phones-are-Us offers the new DgiMusicCam cell phone for $100; five blocks away FactoryPhones has the same model half off for $50. Do you make the trip to save $50?
  2. Laptops-are-Us offers the new carbon fiber computer for $1000; five blocks away CompuBlessings has the same model discounted to $950. Do you make the trip to save $50?

Most would make the trip for the first one, but very few would make the trip for the other one even though you are saving $5o each time. Shermer calls this “mental accounting” where we compute the reward versus the effort. This framing is used everywhere but especially in commercials or in sales pitches.

Other tribal-like characteristics like this include:

Best sellers – We trust best seller lists because others have deemed the product good so we value that. Just like if a tribe of humans are all eating something, we conclude that the food is good.

Trusting celebrities – Just like we used to trust tribal leaders, we trust celebrities today to show us quality products and because they use it too, we find the product worthy.

Trusting people like us – Because it was wise to only trust your kin and tribe, we have a deep sense of trust for people like ourselves. Some scientists think this may be where our racist tendencies comes from. Luckily, we are now smart enough to resist racism (well, the more intelligent of our species).

Moral fairness – We come from a long history of banding together and sharing our hard work. Even today, we desperately want people to work and put something into the system. We hate freeloaders! Similarly, we desire those who are more wealthy to share more with us – even though they earned it.

I think the most profound point in The Mind of the Market is the necessity of the freedom of trade. The freer the market, the freer the people. In every culture, the liberation of the markets have freed the people and even saved nations. The comparison is made, that just like evolution is bottom up design, the market is bottom up and determined by the people. In totalitarian societies, so much effort is to determining the market value of products. Free societies have no such problem. And unlike its totolitarian partner, free capitalist societies are controlled and upheld by the people. In doing this, the markets are free to grow and because it is built into its structure, the free market has incentives to grow.

Shermer uses a quote from one of my favorite Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson to stress this point, “Freedom is the right to choose, the right to create for oneself the alternative choice. Without the possibility of choice, and the exercise of creation, a man is not a man, but a member, an instrument, a thing.”

And finally, the most important aspect of free trade – the global market. As mentioned above, we have a deep sense of tribe-like loyalty. We want to take care of ourselves, our familys, our countrymen first. Because it is a deep instinct of ours, it is understandable and in the worst financial downturns, countries always pull back. We turn away from the global market. This is not wise. Take for instance, the creation of the European Union (I may have lost my conservative reader here). Post World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union ruled all. It wasn’t untill the 1980’s and 90’s did the European countries begin to shine because they banded together. By combining their economies, the whole continent prospered to above even the United States. The people prospered and the region prospered. They are now one of the biggest economies – even with sich a small area and few resources (compared to the US).

If there is one lesson from this book, it is that we are a product of evolution – and our market is a product of evolusion. There must be freedom to choose, “we must choose freedom, then create the circumstances in which it can be realized, and then defend it.”

Get your copy here!
The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives

 

 

Epipen Epidemic

I spent a good amount of time honestly trying to find a reason why the lifesaving EpiPen’s price was increased so dramatically. I am somewhat versed in business and thought there must be some reason for such an outragous price increase – I found nothing. It seems that Heather Bresch is the new pharmaceutical villain and – as of now – had no reason fro the price increase.

Now, someone who arbitrarily increased a life saving drug’s price must have a record that at least points to such morals in the past. Heather Bresch is the chief executive of the EpiPen company, Mylan. Increasing the EpiPen from around $100 to $600 is just scratching the surface. Bresch has a long history of wrong doing and irresponsible business handlings.

Firstly, let no one forget, that Ms. Bresch never got her business degree from West Virginia University – untill 10 years after she attended school. She only completed about half of her degrees course work. Why 10 years later? Please don’t assume someone like her would go back. She got it back in the same manner she is accustom to: through dirty dealings. Her father was the state governor Joe Manchin who was able to work things out. The University came out later and revealed that the degree was wrongly awarded.

After her rise to power, her company relocated to the Netherlands to avoid federal taxation. Maybe her ties to the Democratic party tried to stop her. Clinton, after all, is against companies leaving the country to avoid taxation. But the DNC seems to have turned a blind eye.

Her political ties are something to be investigated too. Her father, now a Democratic Representative, keeps her and her company in the loop with the government and even Hillary Clinton. Bresch was able to influence and pass drug laws – even from Europe!

Not only does Bresch owe Americans an explanation, so does Mr. Manchin and leading Democrats. This price increase is just another scheme in her history of backroom dealings. The public must keep the pressure to make this pip squeak. People want an example of crony capitalism – This is it!

Speaking of military coups

There has been a failed coup in Turkey as you know – but do you remember the failed Soviet coup of 1991? Many people don’t – and it is the 25th anniversary of the coup!

The Soviet coup was a complete surprise to the US, the western government, as well as the Russians themselves. It all started when Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and started to release the Russians from the Soviet grip.

In 1985, the country was economically in the exact same condition it was in 10 years ago in 1975 – no growth and the country could not produce enough goods for it’s population. Gorbachev most notably started the “Perestroika” which is what the political movement reformation within the Communist party which implemented the Glasnost (meaning “openness”) policy giving more market-like freedoms to Russia and its various states (Ukraine, Belarus, etc). Most notable, the act provided more free speech and independent news stations to open the door for more democratic actions.

Come 1989, the Berlin wall suddenly fell with U.S. pressure and further readied Russia for the inevitable political shift. In 1990, Gorbachev actually took huge steps in cutting back on their military budget and lowered the amount of nuclear arms in Soviet possession. He even won a Noble Peace Prize for that!

All these actions, radical for a Soviet leader, lead to the break away of soviet states including Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and others. Not exactly the reaction Gorbachev expected but he did nothing to stop it and instead attempted to strengthen ties to the new states – which worried the other senior Soviet leaders. The Soviets finally lost their patience when Gorbachev and other leaders drafted a new and more free USSR. It was in August 1991 that the conservative Soviets launched a coup to stop the referendum and restore the old Soviet ways.

Here is where the coup gets really interesting. The Soviet coup was mainly in Moscow and was mostly military forces including tanks. The coup was cut short by local civil resistance. The people actually wanted freedom so much, they went up against the military forces and beat it!

Let this be a reminder to all those who attempt a coup against the totalitarian forces of evil. The ingredients for freedom in the face of oppression: people and spirit. The rest will take care of itself.

 

The Power of Prayer

I have heard a lot about the results of multiple prayer studies. It is well-known that they failed, but I decided to research it myself. Please feel free to use the results as a reference.

Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people – in fact – the study shows that patients are worse off for prayers. Their have been multiple studies regarding the power of prayer, mainly by the Templeton Foundation, The American Heart Journal, and numerous doctors; most notably Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Charles Bethea (1).

The study used over 1800 patients, which – if you are familiar with statistics – is far above the amount necessary to gather results. The final study cost over $2.4 million dollars from religious organizations with additional subsidies from the government. The U.S. government has invested $2.3 million since 2000 (2).

In the study, the patients were divided into three groups – 2 were prayed for and one was not. One of the two prayed for were told they were being prayed for, the other was not aware.

The results shown that

Those who know they were being prayed for suffered more complications after treatment (59% compared to 51%)

Those who were prayed for suffered from more “major complications” than the group that was not prayed for (18% compared to 13%)(3)

It should be noted that the study was largely done with a strong religious bias. Remember, it was funded by the Templeton Foundation (those guys who put Bibles in hotels) and conducted by two christian doctors working at the Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. All leaders in the study said it was inconclusive.

Dr. Charles Bethea remarked “One conclusion from this is that the role of awareness of prayer should be studied further”

Even the doctor from the secular Mayo Clinic said, “the study said nothing about the power of personal prayer or about prayers for family members and friends” (1)

With a sample group of over 1800, the differences between the two groups is substantial. One would think the results would be completely clear in favor of the prayer groups. And yet the results is not even equal – it shows that prayer is actually harmful in recovery.

There has been numerous studies like this – just not one so thorough and large. Christian groups actually recognizes the results but blame those who prayed. Christianity Today said, “too few patients; unblinded researchers or subjects; invalid outcome measures; inappropriate statistical methods; randomization problems; and suspected outright fraud” (5)

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center said it right, “Science is not designed to study the supernatural”. (6)

References
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(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?_r=0

(2) (6) http://www.nbcnews.com/id/12082681/ns/health-heart_health/t/power-prayer-flunks-unusual-test/#.V79unZgrLtQ

(3) (4) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2009/05/15/study-concludes-intercessory-prayer-doesnt-work-christians-twist-the-results/

(5) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/may/27.43.html

Glen Beck Called Out: Update

I published a post last week about Glenn Beck accusing a man cleared by the government of funding the Boston Bombing. He alleged that the government had labelled 20-year-old Abdulrahman Alharbi as a “proven terrorist” who funded the operation. As Skeptical as I hope the reader is, one must ask “how does he know this fact that has eluded government officials and media outlets?” That’s a good question and one’s assumption will prove correct: He has no idea what he is talking about.

Thankfully, U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris is just as skeptical and demanded Glenn Beck to provide proof or for him to reveal his source. This demand is reasonable. If Beck’s assertion is correct, then Abdulrahman Alharbi can be brought to justice – if the assertion is a blatant lie, Beck can be found to be in contempt of the court.

To be honest, Glenn Becks irresponsible cry for attention should really be charged for sander and or libel against Alharbi. And today, Glenn Beck finally responded to the court saying  they “were unwilling to be identified,” even though Judge Saris said she would keep their names out of the record. Now why, if Beck is so set on the fact that Alharbi is a terrorist-funding criminal, wouldn’t he comply? Doesn’t he want this suspected terrorist in jail?
Of course he doesn’t because he knows Alharbi is innocent. Beck needs nothing short of a miracle to bail him out of this lie. Maybe he should start fasting?

 

Target Bows to demands – It’s still not enough!

The Target fiasco has been drawn out with embarrassing Target videos of people yelling at Target employees. It all started when Target took a seemingly harmless and common sense action to make their stores more comfortable for their Trans-Gender customers. It was met by the most brutal and unneccessary protests of their stores. In recent days, the Target bathroom policy seems to have died down… Untill now!

The main force against Target is the American Family Association, whose boycott of Target is still active. Wanting to find common ground, Target asked for a solution. The American Family Association demands are:

One solution is a common-sense approach and a reasonable solution to the issue of transgendered customers: a unisex bathroom. Target should keep separate facilities for men and women, but for the trans community and for those who simply like using the bathroom alone, a single occupancy unisex option should be provided.

Installing private bathrooms would cost Target $20 Million to complete…but guess what? They Agreed! Yes! Target is hoping to put this bathroom issue behind them by installing private bathrooms – a multi million dollar program to make everyone happy and comfortable. Even though Target met 100% of the American Family Association, they still don’t accept it!

The afternoon following the peace deal, The American Family Association sent out an email stating:

Last week, Target announced a $20 million public relations diversionary tactic to make you believe the company has changed its bathroom policy.

Don’t fall for it. Target has not changed its policy

While it is true the company is adding single-stall, lockable bathrooms to all store locations, Target says it will continue to allow men to use women’s restrooms and fitting rooms inside their stores

As if the regressive didn’t sound illogical enough, we – and Target –  now know when they make any demands, they don’t mean them. Target, however, has yet again taken the high ground and is simply trying to make their customers more comfortable. Remember this when The American Family Association demand anything: they cannot be trusted.