Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


Obama Addresses Students – Oh no!

President Barack Obama Today, President Obama is going to give a “Back to School” address to students across America. The speech is intended to be about the importance of education and taking control of your own education… and the benefits that can result from that.

However, what should be a simple, straightforward address to students has been attacked and demonized by many who don’t want their children hearing the president speak… for various reasons. There have been claims that his speech is unprecedented (it isn’t) or that it will try to indoctrinate children into becoming little socialists (it won’t) or that it undermines parental authority (it doesn’t).

It was well known in advance that the speech was to focus on the importance of education, but the vociferous opponents of the president cried wolf yet again and spread their alarmist rhetoric, claiming that there was a conspiracy afoot and our children were in danger of being insta-brainwashed by a 15-minute speech.

As White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “I think we’ve reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can’t tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school.”

Here are some excerpts from the comments section of a Reuters article about the speech [sic].

“I would not want my children to grow up being inspired by Obama and furthering their interests by studying his ideals and adopting his mind set. Obama is no friend to America’s freedom nor is he a friend to our Constitution which he is sworn to defend with the BEST of his abilities.”

“I am not sure I would trust anything this president has to say to children.”

“He’s a very un-American President, maybe that’s why people don’t want him talking to their kids.”

“This is not about Obama telling our kids “work hard and stay in school”; this is about him being invasive and taking over, and promoting his socialist agenda.”

“we have taken god out of our schools lets take polictics out of it also”

Thankfully, most of the comments to the article were either in support of the speech or in support of clear thinking about the issue itself, something the opponents seem to be abundantly lacking.

I know a few people personally who oppose the speech and combining that with the tone and content of many of the comments I’ve read, there seem to be two common characteristics; very right-wing views and very religious views.

Perhaps the outrage comes from Obama’s public acknowledgement of religious views other than Christian ones. Perhaps the outrage is that, due to the incredible increase in the partisan divide that occurred over the past 8-12 years, many people can’t seem to see anything good coming from their political opponents. However, the dissent, hateful rhetoric, misinformation, and blind outrage seem to have reached a crescendo this year. Obama-haters see conspiracy around every corner. They rage about information received in bogus chain emails. They rant against anything, regardless of benefit, proposed by their enemies.

They fume and froth and sputter with righteous indignation over things like… like… the president giving a speech to students about the importance of education.

Here is a link to the text of the speech released by the White House. Here is a link to the Department of Education page about the speech. There’s nothing sinister here. There’s nothing controversial. Sorry… nothing that should be controversial. It’s just as announced… a speech about the importance of education and taking control of your own education. Study hard. Stay in school. Do your best. You can do it.

To oppose that is absurdity of the highest order.

Jon Stewart on Healthcare… LOL!

Despite Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central being an actual… well… comedy show, he tends to deliver more relevant and accurate commentary than many of the standard news analysts. He does it in the following clip about the healthcare town hall meetings and surrounding issues. I could comment more, but he pretty much covers it.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests
(thanks to The Invisible Pink Unicorn for the link)

Barney Frank does it right

Barney Frank Barney Frank refuses to play the game that angry right-wingers try to play at some of the town hall meetings that have been going on about the health care issues.

There should be more of this type of response when people are either blatantly ignorant, obnoxiously unruly, or simply rude and inconsiderate… which are things that seem to be disturbingly common at these meetings. People are shouting out outrageous accusations or asking questions based on incorrect information and then shouting down any attempts to correct their ignorance.

It’s rather sad.

(via Moltz)

Conspiracy Theories and Other Muddled Thinking

Illuminati and Conspiracy Theories Almost everyone laughs at Flat-Earthers, people who actually believe that the Earth is flat despite all evidence to the contrary. Most people also laugh at the Moon-Hoaxers, the folks who think that we never landed on the moon and that it’s all just a conspiracy with elaborately faked footage, photos, and reports. Conspiracy theorists in general provide a good laugh for most rational people, whether it’s talk of alien abductions, secret government programs with captured spaceships, crop circles, the Illuminati taking control of the world, or government mind control drugs in public water.

There’s a long history of conspiracy theory and one would think that that history would be just that… history… a thing of the past. Barring a few fringe groups, we don’t expect to see people outright denying scientifically proven facts or making accusations of secret, intricate, tangled webs of clockwork precision government cover-ups.

Yet we have just that… and not just among small “fringe” groups. Here’s a short list (in addition to the ones already mentioned).

  • 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists – claim that the US government caused the twin towers to collapse.
  • Lizard-People Conspiracy Theorists – claim that lizard-people are running the world (seriously).
  • AIDS Conspiracy Theorists – claim that AIDS is a man-made disease cooked up in a lab.
  • Obama Birthers – deny that Obama is a US citizen (or that it hasn’t been documented).
  • Global Warming Deniers – deny that global warming is occurring or is affected by human activity.
  • Creationism Proponents – deny that evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of life on Earth.
  • Holocaust Deniers – claim the Holocaust never happened.
  • Anti-Vaxxers – claim that vaccines cause autism.
  • 2012 Alarmists – claim that, since the Mayan calendar ends in December of 2012, the world will end.

I’m sure there are many more. Some of the ideas are absurd because of historical evidence, some because of scientific evidence, and some because of their sheer implausibility (backed up by no evidence). Some are combinations.

A common thread, however, is that each of them ignores or denies actual evidence contradictory to its premise. In some cases, their proponents will fabricate evidence, making scientific or historical claims that are patently false in an attempt to bolster their case. Using outdated, no-longer-relevant data is also a common tactic, whether through ignorance or malicious intent.

What is the motivation for people to believe and perpetuate these absurd claims? Sometimes it’s politics. Sometimes it’s religion. Sometimes it’s an overactive imagination. There are plenty of other psychological reasons proposed.

sleestack01 Is this a big deal? Are conspiracy theories just good fun or are they harmful or dangerous? In some cases, like the lizard-people idea, they’re harmlessly silly and don’t gain enough traction in popular culture to cause anything other than snickering and pretend horror. In other cases, such as Holocaust deniers and 9/11 conspiracy theorists, they can cause emotional pain for those who are close to the event in question. In the worse cases, the conspiracy theories can gain enough traction to cause political turmoil, educational degradation, and even health risks. Global warming deniers, creationists, and anti-vaxxers are perfect examples of these.

Potentially dangerous effects aside, these conspiracy theories show a lack of critical thinking skills and/or a lack of understanding of science. Perhaps they demonstrate an innate distrust for any authority figure… to the point of automatically assuming that anything said by an authority figure is innately false or misleading (regardless of whether or not the figure in question has anything to gain by misleading the public). Perhaps they simply indicate a complete lack of curiosity, their proponents believing everything they hear without any skepticism at all. Politics and religion can also entrench someone firmly in a position that is rationally indefensible.

It’s the groups whose ideas have a tangible, negative effect on society that concern me the most. Folks who believe that lizard-people are controlling the Earth are relatively harmless and somewhat amusing. It’s the people who think that our activities don’t have an affect on our planet’s warming and who want to block any action we could take to limit that affect… or it’s those who feel that it’s okay to teach our children that our world was created by magic, corrupting science education, instead of teaching them the real science behind the wondrous way in which life evolved on our planet… or it’s the people who publicly mislead doting parents with bogus claims that childhood vaccines cause autism, leading those parents to forgo protecting their children which, in turn, leads to everyone else’s health being put in danger.

Those are the conspiracy theorists that I have a problem with. Those are the people who have a detrimental effect on society. Those are the people whose blindness to rationality, evidence, and critical thinking cause harm to the rest of the world. They cheapen our existence, mislead our children, endanger our health, corrupt our national discourse, and create hostile divisions where there should be none… and they will defend their absurd positions with a ferocious certainty that is completely unwarranted by evidence.

What’s the solution? In my opinion… education. Starting in grade school, children need to be taught how to think, not what to think. Critical thinking skills are… well… critical. The scientific method needs to be understood… not just science facts, but the why and how of the facts. And these skills need to be taught, not just to school children, but to adults.

As for those adults who refuse to accept evidence and continue to scream their absurdities from the rooftops, they need to be countered… loudly, frequently, and eloquently. We cannot silence them by removing their right to free speech, but we can do everything in our power to point out their muddled thinking, debunk their bogus conclusions, and reveal them for the charlatans they are. They should be embarrassed by their own silliness and we need to hold up a mirror to them, giving them a perfect view of their intellectual ugliness. They will complain, accuse, deny, quite possibly lie… and they will be loud.

We need to be louder.

Note: Cross posted from Rationality Now.

Palin’s popularity is declining

Sarah Palin According to an MSNBC article, Sarah Palin’s "favorability" is dropping a bit as she prepares to leave her position as governor of Alaska. A Washington Post-ABC poll showed that 53% of Americans view her negatively, while only 40% see her in a positive light, which is her lowest positive rating since she was first chosen to be John McCain’s running mate (and became a subject of polls such as this).

Not surprisingly, Republicans still hold her in high regard… as many as 70% view her favorably and rank her among the top three contenders for a presidential candidacy in 2012. White evangelical protestants are her most avid supporters, but even their view of her hasn’t remained untarnished.

Here’s a quote from the article summarizing the poll (emphasis mine).

As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin prepares for the next stage of her political career, a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of her, and there is broad public doubt about her leadership skills and understanding of complex issues […]

I had to pause when reading that because, as usual, I’m constantly amazed that anyone ever thought she did have an understanding of complex issues… or that they thought she did have leadership skills suitable for a vice presidency.

In the 2008 election, I had been wavering between Obama and McCain. I was leaning toward McCain because he seemed like he was going to maintain fiscal conservatism without going all theological on the country the way Bush had done. I was leaning away from Obama because of typical "Democrat" things like union support, crazy spending, and bigger government.

Then McCain picked Palin (or was directed to pick her… I don’t know) and after I learned about her and heard her speak, my decision was made. Palin was not (and still is not) vice presidential material, much less presidential material, and she repeatedly showed it every time she took the microphone or granted an interview. The media wasn’t hard on her. They tossed softballs. Katie Couric wasn’t even hard on her, but Palin came across looking like a uneducated bible thumper in nice clothes. She couldn’t answer simple questions. She got defensive when Couric pressed her for an answer to a reasonable question about what news sources she reads. She conveyed what I consider to be some reprehensible moral positions.

I was disappointed because, even though I had (mostly) liked McCain, I couldn’t support him as president after making a choice like Palin for his vice president. So I was stuck with Obama, who I admired for some things, but who didn’t quite represent what I wanted. I liked (and still do) his international stance, his speaking ability, his education, some of his ideas… but I didn’t like some fiscal positions and union support.

Palin was a deal-breaker because she was clearly unqualified on multiple fronts… yet Republicans and evangelicals just loved her to death. Maybe it’s just a religious thing… a carryover from Bush’s eight years of mobilizing and empowering the religious right to commandeer the Republican party. Maybe it all has to do with Palin making claims of God-inspired wars and praying that the country is following God’s plan. Maybe they liked her because, not only was she overtly religious, invoking God and faith on a regular basis, but she also winked at them and said, "You betcha!"

It certainly can’t be her professional qualifications.

This doesn’t surprise me

President Barack Obama According to a new Pew Research Survey of twenty-five countries, the image of the United States has improved dramatically since President Obama took office. In many cases, favorable views have reached or exceeded their levels from the year 2000.

Not that there was really anywhere to go but up. International approval of the United States had made huge drops during the Bush administration, no doubt in large part due to his bull-headed, aggressive statements, his antagonistic superior attitude paired with seeming ignorance, and his perceived warmongering. Add that to his religious fervor, declaring the war on terrorism to be a "crusade" and claiming his actions were due to God’s instructions, and you’ve got a recipe for international derision.

Quotes such as…

God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.


I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe — I believe what I believe is right.


We’re now interested in finding those who may attack America and arrest them before they do. We’ve had over nearly a thousand people have been detained in America and questioned about their motives and their intentions.

…don’t foster confidence or benevolent feelings or pride in rational people.

Obama’s gentler tone and apparent willingness to speak to other countries without a self-aggrandizing air of superiority creates a much better atmosphere for productive conversations and beneficial outcomes. Rather than pronouncing that "We are America and what we say goes," he says, "Let’s talk about it and see what we can come up with together."

It’s refreshing, smart, and despite what the right-wingers say, it’s going to make this country a lot safer.

More Rush stupidity.

I can’t accuse Limbaugh of ignorance on this one because that implies that he just doesn’t have the information. This time, it’s just a case of stupid.

I found this article from Metavirus over on Library Grape about Governor Sanford’s affair and what the cause was. Jimmy Kimmel had some humor (I’m assuming), but Rush took the cake with this

Rush Limbaugh, without a hint of humor, argued that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) cheated on his wife, betrayed his family, and abandoned his professional responsibilities to fly off to Argentina … and it’s President Obama’s fault.

“This is almost like, ‘I don’t give a damn, the country’s going to Hell in a handbasket, I just want out of here,'” Limbaugh said. “[Sanford] had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn’t want any part of it; he lost the battle. He said, ‘What the hell. I mean, the federal government’s taking over — what the hell, I want to enjoy life.'”

Limbaugh added, “The point is, there are a lot of people whose spirit is just — they’re fed up, saying, ‘To hell with it, I don’t even want to fight this anymore, I just want to get away from it.'”

A listener apparently sent Limbaugh an email during the program, asking if he was kidding about the White House’s economic policies being responsible for Sanford’s affair. “No!” he said, adding that the governor may have realized, “The Democrats are destroying the country; we can’t do anything to stop it.”

As a general rule, I try to avoid name-calling… though I’m having a tough time refraining in this case because it seems to be somewhat warranted.

Metavirus sums it up thusly…

Remember when conservatives used to say that liberals were opposed to people taking responsibility for their own actions? Good times, good times.

Or, if you’d rather go with lolspeak…

Teh stoopid! It burnzz!!

Seriously? The best health care system?

Senator Richard Shelby

Republican Senator Richard Shelby said on Sunday that President Obama’s proposed health care reform plan is “first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known.”

Are we talking about the least expensive health care system? No. Are we talking about the most effective health care system? It seems not. Are we talking about the health care system that covers the most people in the country? It’s not that, either.

I wonder, then, what criteria Senator Shelby is using when he makes his statement because using the criteria that I think most people would use to judge the quality of the health care system, his statement can be considered nothing more than political grandstanding.

While I don’t necessarily know what the best way is to improve our health care system, I certainly don’t think that the solution is to spew partisan hyperbole or to repeatedly parrot the party-line talking points.

…especially when those talking points have no basis in reality.

I love this quote…

I saw this posted by Megavirus over at Library Grape and thought his comment on the quote was terrific!

Obama said:

I’m not going to make any excuses. If stuff hasn’t worked and people don’t feel like I’ve led the country in the right direction, then you’ll have a new president.

Metavirus’s comment about the quote is:

This must be what it feels like to have an adult running the country.

I LOL’d, but it’s so true.

SOOO Refreshing!

A nice LOL from Pundit Kitchen

Obama - Thoughts