Hugging A Monster: Why Our Talk About “Standing for what’s right” Means Nothing If Canadian Olympians Glorify A Man Who Is Objectively Wrong.
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower
When I was in high school, I was friends with this guy who was quite obviously a gay man. Though I don’t feel I was one of his tormentors, I was certainly present when some of that torment took place.
We called him “Princess“.
We made him feel, I’m sure, marginalized and unwelcome.
I was never the “ringleader” of these attacks. I was usually not even involved.
You see, I think that might be the problem. I wasn’t involved. I never stood up for him. I never told those people to stop. I never made an effort to show him that I cared enough to be his ally. In many cases, I didn’t just not do anything- I actively participated in perpetuating the culture that glorified his abusers. His tormentors were my friends, or they were people in groups that everyone looked up to- including me.
I chose not to be the person I should have been. I made choices that helped to hurt a human being.
So it is with that said that I’m reprinting, with permission, this article on the Twitter photo controversy started by the Canadian Olympic team. It reminds me that people who say that they are “for” equality can be actively working to undermine it. It reminds me that sometimes life isn’t all that different from High School, no matter how much we like to think otherwise. I’m reprinting it because it reminds me of what a horrible person I was when I thought I had principles but I couldn’t live up to them.
What kind of friends don’t actively try to make their friends lives better?
What kind of country are we if we tell people we stand beside them and then we glorify the people who hurt them?
I’m also reprinting this article because the author, Jeremy Forshew, is that friend I was talking about.
I failed him, and when our athletes- who are supposed to be uniting our whole country under one flag- choose to glorify a dictator bent on ruining the lives of and being complicit in the murder of human beings, they have failed us. They have failed to represent the principles I stand for- the principles I believe my country stands for. They have failed to live up to the standard I expect of my country and its representatives.
What good is representing Canadians if you refuse to stand up for the rights that define us as Canadians? When you hug a dictator, you tell his victims that they are not important enough to make you live your principles.
I regret the person I was when I refused to be a real friend to someone who needed one. I hope that one day these athletes can come to realize the damage they do when they embrace the people who hurt others.
Posted in: Commentary, on Feb 15, 2014 by Jeremy Foreshew
It’s time that I discuss my position on the Olympics.
Until yesterday, I loathed the fact that the IOC chose a morally and fiscally corrupt Russia to host their games but like many others, I empathized with our Canadian team. A group of dedicated athletes who poured hours of blood sweat and tears into the pursuit of their dream – Olympic gold.
So while I looked down on corporate sponsors and the Canadian Olympic Committee for maintaining silence about LGBTQ persecution (let’s call it what it is), I still endeared myself to the success of the individual. I didn’t watch the games as my personal stand against the corporate compliance toward unjust laws that perpetrate hate, violence and murder toward our LGBTQ family abroad BUT I did share in delight (quite literally on my social media) the personal success stories I saw – Canadian generosity, team spirit, brotherhood, and all the medals!
And then this:
[Shout out to CBC Manitoba’s social media intern – a memorable moment indeed!]
That is not the dream that I intended to support. Vladimir Putin is in full midst of a campaign to remove all living rights for the LGBTQ community in Russia. He’s so brash that his government passed a bill that prevents willing, loving, responsible queer parents adopt Russian orphans… DURING THE OLYMPICS.
So I’m sorry Canadian Olympic Team – I can’t support your dream of having Vladimir Putin be your valentine when gays, lesbians and transgender human beings fight for their very right to exist.
Suddenly, I don’t care about your athletic trinkets anymore.
Jeremy Foreshew is a lifestyle blogger, entrepreneur and fitness professional. He’s also the managing director of GET Out! Canada. Be mesmerized by his internal dialogue as it spills on to his twitter feed at @jeremyforeshew.
The short answer to that question is “We don’t.”
It seems like every single day I pour myself a cup of joe, sit down in front of my laptop, log onto Facebook and prepare myself to see something in my news feed about the travesty of government waste that is foreign aid.
This is not my Conservative, ultra-right, Teabagging loony friends either (though admittedly, this brand of ignorance knows no ideological bounds). No- it is my Liberal, progressive and Libertarian friends too.
I posted a week ago dismantling an ignorant rant on the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) that mentioned foreign aid as a bit of wasteful government spending. This was not posted by a right-wing ideologue. This was posted by a close high school friend who is only slightly more conservative than I am. This week I found this gem in my news feed, posted by one of my favorite bloggers and regular commenters on this blog, who could arguably be more left-leaning than I am on many issues:
There are several (almost) good points raised by this little message. We need to do more for the homeless. We could do much more for the mentally ill. We need a better social safety net- as good as our social safety net is (and I am more than proud of how much my government does) there is much room for improvement. There are a few things about this post that really bother me though, so I want to clarify some things before I get to the main topic, which- as the title suggests- is foreign aid.
- I think the author of this post (and anybody who posts it) should be ashamed of the sentiment that “pressing ‘1’ to speak English” is something worthy of complaining about. We live in a bilingual country- and even if we did not- it should be common decency (and prudent business) that companies and governments would offer services to large linguistic minorities. Anyone who agrees with this sentiment has never lived somewhere where they were a linguistic minority and is just displaying their privileged ignorance.
- I am relatively certain that the homeless in Canada do eat from time to time, so pedantically the statement “our homeless go without eating” is kind of an exaggeration. (and they are quite thankful that they are Canadian and therefor worthy of enough compassion for you to feel the need to feed them sometimes!)
- I am sure that some elderly people lack proper medical care. The fact that we have universal healthcare and a comprehensive drug benefit for seniors means that that problem is greatly mitigated.
- Some mentally ill people go without treatment. Again, to be pedantic- the claim that they, as a group, “go without treatment” is an exaggeration. Many do get treatment- and anyone who has worked or volunteered where they come in contact with the mentally ill will tell you that we can only dream of a world where diagnosis and treatment is near 100%, though admittedly we could do better.
- We do not “help others before helping our own”. That is a pernicious lie. We help others decidedly after helping our own. We have very comprehensive social programs that help all the groups listed in this post. We spend >97% of our annual budget on “helping our own”. That statement is the biggest crock of shit I have ever heard, and I have heard of Jenny McCarthy.
Foreign Aid: How Much is “Too Much”?
How many billions of dollars do you think Canada spent on foreign aid in 2011-2012?
Guess. Go ahead….
If you said “4.9 billion dollars” then you obviously have access to Google.
That is a lot of money! That’s, like, billions of dollars! That has to be too much, right?
Well, let’s think of it this way:
Foreign aid accounts for just 1.8% of the total budget.
Foreign aid accounts for 0.28% of GDP
Canada spends almost five times as much on both the military ($22.8B) and on health care transfers ($27.2B)
Three times as much goes to unemployed Canadians through Employment Insurance ($17.6B)
You remember those poor elderly people nobody was helping? They get eight times as much! ($38B)
So foreign aid is not a very big part of our budget. In fact, Canada spends more than 95% of it’s income on Canadians.
Here is an analogy for you: Dave makes $30,000 per year. 1.8% of his gross income is equal to $540. If he bought a Medium Tim Horton’s coffee every day, he would spend more of his income on coffee than Canada does on foreign aid. If he bought poutine three times a week, he would spend a larger percentage of his income than Canada spends on the rest of the world. If he bought Pizza Pizza twice a month, he spent more than Canada does feeding the friggin’ whole earth as a percentage of his total income.
If you broke down how much aid money each and every Canadian gives, it amounts to $142.11
If you broke down how much each Canadian taxpayer gives, it amounts to $194.24
If you broke down how much each person in a country receiving aid gets, it amounts to $ 0.84
If you want to get specific:
Ethiopia received $210,524,036 or $2.48 per person
Tanzania? $144,688,573 or $3.13
Ghana? $139,393,816 or $5.58
Pakistan? $129,737,061 or $0.73
Mali? $129,319,342 or $8.16
Mozambique? $125,247,658 or $5.23
Bangladesh? $120,642,458 or $0.80
So if you think that Canada cares more about foreigners than it does about Canadians- I really hope you think about these statistics.
What Has Foreign Aid Ever Done For Anybody?
You remember Polio?
It is all but eradicated thanks in part to foreign aid. This has widely been considered a success by everyone, save iron lung manufacturers. And people who make crutches.
You remember Smallpox?
Totally gone! No reported cases of a disease that has killed millions and millions of people over human history. Zero dead people in the last 35 years. Zero. None. Guess what helped pay for that?
Hey, you remember when the global economy crashed in the late 1990’s and again in the early 2000’s- causing South Americans and then Asians to fall back into Third World status instead of continuing as emerging economies? Neither do I.
Do you remember when a desperate Russia crumbled under the weight of communism and untold masses of nuclear weapons fell into the hands of terrorists? Thankfully, neither do I.
Millions of lives have been saved with food aid.
Millions of lives have been saved with medical aid.
Afghan girls go to school, Africans don’t starve in greater numbers, we create the backbone of emerging economies with foreign aid.
Could more be done? Sure! Will more get done (or done better) if we tell the rest of the world to go it alone? I don’t think so, and you are welcome to argue that in the comments.
Just because all the worlds problems haven’t been fixed in the fifty some-odd years we have had a focused foreign aid policy is no reason to say “Screw it” and give up. If that was the case, we might as well have no Canadian welfare system, since poverty still exists. We might as well stop funding to the mentally ill, since we pour billions into programs and still have people untreated.
Foreign aid is a geopolitical necessity- unless we want to ignore human suffering or be more interventionist (I’m talking military here). Since I seem to like having a conscience and I’m under the impression that military occupations cost a fair amount of money (see Afghanistan), foreign aid- at least to the degree that we give- seems to be the least we could do. When I say “the least”- I mean that in almost a literal sense. We do very little.
So Do We Really Put Foreigners First?
As I already mentioned, the dirty, worthless foreigner who steals the most of our money is Joe Afghan. He is going to pilfer $10.41 of your hard earned money.
Poor You, you only got $7650.
So you could keep enough of your hard earned tax dollars to buy the new Dan Brown book in softcover- or hundreds of Afghani girls could go to school.
If we just stopped giving foreign aid altogether, you could buy groceries for a family of four for about a week and a half with your $195 savings- and millions of human beings could suffer just a little bit more. But hey, that’s like getting free groceries, right?
If giving every Canadian $7650 per year and every aid recipient $0.84 per year is “putting Canadians second”, you have some pretty questionable math skills. Maybe that $4.9B needs to get spent on mathematics tutors.
In my opinion, the idea that we “spend too much foreign aid” comes from exactly the same place as the argument that English Canadians are hard done by because they need to press “1” to get an English operator. It isn’t enough to have it better than someone else and give the least of concessions- those people need to feel grateful that we let them breath the same air.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 21 so far )
Tahitian Noni International is a large Multi Level Marketing(MLM) company based out of Provo, Utah. I’m not going to claim that MLM companies are a scam in and of themselves- though there are several practices common to almost all MLM companies that make it virtually impossible to build a successful business as an independent MLM contractor.1 There are some that are better than others. Certainly anecdotally I can attest- based on my monthly credit card bill- that there is at least one company in Canada that sells enough retail product to my wife to put a quiverfull through college. I don’t begrudge the MLM structure, if set up correctly, it can give some motivated people a decent supplement to their income. The problem is that many Multi-Level Marketing companies have a structure that dooms the vast majority of their consultants to almost certain failure- regardless of how they market the “opportunity” as being otherwise.2
Contrary to what some MLM advocates will tell you- there are serious differences between the structure of their business model and other business models. I have read more than once over the last few days- leading up to this post on TNI- that “every business is a MLM business”.3 This is absurd. There are certain attributes that define an MLM company, and many of them are entirely unique to the MLM business model. Before I go on to discuss Noni, and TNI specifically, I would like to first explain the differences between Multi-Level Marketing and traditionally based business models. This is important when discussing the impressive claims made by TNI and their independent contractors- and will help people interested in TNI and other MLM businesses to weigh the facts against the hype.
- MLM companies have a relatively small infrastructure of corporate employees. There are hundreds or thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of independent contractors who are expected to sell the end product.
- Perhaps the single most definitive characteristic is that MLM companies depend on their independent contractors to expand their distribution network. I’m not aware of many non-MLM models that compensate an independent contractor for recruiting people to do the exact same job.
- MLM companies create a pay structure that rewards both end-user sales as well as the end-user sales of the contractors who have been recruited by the independent contractor.
- MLM’s almost always requires the contractor to purchase the product with their own money and rarely to never compensate the contractor for surplus product.
- Many MLM’s require the prospective contractor to attend or complete a training program that is paid for by the contractor, is non refundable, and required regardless of previous education.
- There is no guarantee of success or income. Contractors are compensated by commission only, and the company at no time assumes any risk in either recruiting, training, or compensating employees.
Here is a list, from a well respected site on MLM, of the five criteria that make an MLM unique (the first four criteria are shared by every business that is colloquially called a “Pyramid Scheme” ):
1. Recruiting of participants is unlimited in an endless chain of empowered and motivated recruiters recruiting recruiters – ad infinitum.
2. Advancement in a hierarchy of multiple levels of “distributors” is achieved by recruitment, rather than by appointment.
3.”Pay to play” requirements are satisfied by ongoing “incentivized purchases**.”
4. Company payout per sale for the person actually selling the product is less than the total of all upline participants , creating inadequate incentive to retail and excessive incentive to recruit – and an extreme concentration of income at the top.
5. The company pays commissions and/or bonuses to more than five levels of “distributors.”
** purchase requirements may be disguised investments in a product-based pyramid scheme, or a clever system of laundering pyramid investments in the form of product purchases. Few make sufficient commissions to cover the cost of these expenses, to say nothing of significant operating expenses necessary to conduct a successful recruitment campaign.
Each of these criterion-save criteria #1- in and of themselves, are not poor business practice. There is nothing by nature inherently wrong with MLM businesses, other than the fact that they assume little to no risk in recruiting or maintaining their human capital. That is an enviable position for most corporations- the risk is almost entirely borne by contractors and not by the corporation proper. This important fact leads to the number one thing anybody involved in an MLM structure should know: It makes no difference how successful the parent company is. You could be working for a multi-billion dollar MLM- the largest MLM in the world even- and you will still most likely fail. You will pack up your business having lost more than you made- or not made enough to survive- with almost 100% certainty. Am I exaggerating? Let me say it again boldly with a link to a very plain explanation of your odds of success:
It makes no difference how successful the parent company is. You could be working for a multi-billion dollar MLM- the largest MLM in the world even- and you will still most likely fail. You will pack up your business having lost more than you made- or not made enough to survive- with almost 100% certainty.
Extensive research shows that the odds of making money in Multi-Level Marketing are worse than winning money gambling in Las Vegas.4 99% of recruits fail. That figure is actually cautiously optimistic, and people who work with MLM contractors- people with a vested interest in making those odds seem better- admit similar statistics.5
These statistics certainly point to the conclusion that the overall success of the parent company- and the anecdotal successes of the 1% of contractors who are financially rewarded for their efforts- are neither indicative of the quality of the product offered or the likelihood of personal success as a contractor. Virtually every MLM company can boast tidy profits. Every MLM can point to people who have made a boatload of money as independent contractors. Neither of these statistics mean anything.
It should be noted that any company that can boast billions of dollars in gross sales ought to have a better than 50% success rate for independent distributors- otherwise the odds that gross sales lead to a better income opportunity are moot.
It should also bear reminding that the bulk of the money that MLMs claim as income is borne by the investment of thousands of failed distributors and not from the mass market success of their product.6 If it is true that thousands of downline distributors drop out every year, then certainly the money they invested in product and marketing tools is counted as income by the parent company. I don’t think anyone should be impressed with 2 billion dollars in gross sales if the bulk of the product is consumed or stockpiled by the distributor- and this seems to be overwhelmingly the case with MLM products.
More to the point, what is most important to the success of a contractor, and what is the best guarantee of potential success, is the statistics of Point Of Sale (POS) transactions- and this is what is so worrisome for people interested in MLM opportunities. My background in commissioned sales and understanding of economics tells me that their will be a correlation between POS transactions and the retention rate of distributors in a commissioned workplace. It stands to reason that a product that is easy to sell will have a better than average amount of successful distributors, while a product that is difficult to sell will have a high turnover rate among distributors. This is true regardless of the gross sales of the parent company- since they count their sales to distributors as “gross sales” when the product has yet to actually be sold.
Any person considering a MLM business opportunity ought to consider the claims of gross sales of the company against the actual number of people they know to be currently using the product who are not distributors themselves.
It stands to reason that your income potential is ultimately tied to the end-user demand for the product. If the only people who are consuming the product are themselves distributors, there is zero demand for the product, and you will find that creating stable downlines is impossible- especially if monthly minimum orders and expeses exceed the normal consumption habits of a single family- a situation all too common in MLM contracts.7 In order to be successful as an MLM distributor the end product must be highly liquid (It must be quite easy to sell at or near the cost of purchase- preferably at the suggested premium). Even if you are successful at creating downlines, you will constantly be facing an uphill battle for downline stability if your team is unable to market the hard product at a net gain.
You might honestly believe that you can ” be the 1%”, but what are the odds that a good portion of your downline will, too?
Most if not all MLM products are not positioned competitively in the open market. This stands to reason- as a potential infinite upline of commissioned distributors means that the distribution costs are potentially infinite. As such, many Multi-Level Marketing products are sold at a large premium compared to their mass market competition.8
Many MLM companies, including TNI, claim that their products are superior in quality to their mass market alternatives. They claim to have “patented technology” or “scientific evaluations” that prove that their product outperforms all competitors at a given function. In the case of TNI, they specifically claim that they hold “52 scientifically validated patents”9- which is to say that they hold patents for processes that do what they say. This does not indicate that they do better than other processes- only that they are effective. A scientifically vindicated patent merely means that, for example, if the patent is for increasing the shelf-life of Noni juice- then the technology increases the shelf-life of Noni juice. Not that it does so better than other methods- merely that it does what it says. Similarly, the scientific evaluations usually do not make any mention of a comparison to other products- but merely speak to the specific effectiveness of their product. TNI claims to “back their claims with science”, which in a roundabout way they do- though the results are ambiguous, not very impressive, and in some cases founded on unscientific protocols.10 In a bubble, the findings seem impressive- when viewed beside other studies, they seem positively boring. See my post on Tahitian Noni for examples.
This is not to say that the products marketed by Multi-Level Marketing companies are useless. Many are beneficial, do some of what they say they do, and are quality products. When I can purchase a virtually identical product at a fraction of the price- quality is not the issue. Value is. I see no reason to believe that most MLM products are a good value next to their mass market alternatives- and no reason to believe that they ought to be.
Value statements ought to be based on hard value to the end user. Claims like “Has a two year shelf life” mean nothing if products are easily sold and consumed quickly. “Has twice as much ingredient X” means nothing if the product is four times as expensive.11 “180 studies into the efficacy of Tahitian Noni” mean nothing if other products have the same or similar ingredients. Value is quantifiable- if anyone bothers to quantify it.
Morinda (TNI) either is a Multi-Level Marketing company, or it is not. If it is- and research shows it is- then any claims about gross sales, company income, and distributor success are moot. As with all other MLMs, better than 99% of all participants fail to realize any income. Could you imagine working for a company that gave you not just a 1% chance of being successful, but a 1% chance of actually not losing money?
Evidence from research show that tax preparers, in almost 100% harmony, have never seen someone claim to profit from MLM during a tax year.12 Morinda gives no indication that they are any different in this respect. Hopefully this helps to dispel the idea that TNI offers income potential to new recruits.
I will leave it to distributors of Morinda products to dispel any misconceptions I have- but it appears almost impossible given the business structure of TNI to profit in any significant way given the meager sales figures and commission as a distributor with no downline. If this is the case, then it becomes an impossible business model for the majority of participants. If a downline is necessary to make a livelihood, then the perpetual recruitment of downline participants creates more distributors fighting for market share. Sales decrease on a per representative basis. Downlines become even more important. The distributor to consumer ratio increases. The company profits enormously from the investment of those who were destined to failure from the beginning. This continues ad infinitum. In other words, the company model makes it irresistibly beneficial to the parent company and the early recruiters- and literally theft to those who enter late. This is the cycle that makes any claims about the profitability of a company less than impressive- but literally depressing.
The profits Morinda claims every year have less to do with Noni and more to do with broken financial dreams. Making a tidy profit has nothing to do with a good product- it has to do with selling the pipe dream of easy money to thousands of rubes every year. So can anyone honestly call a company like this “reputable”?
My detractors will almost certainly point to the product itself- and its purported benefits- as the most positive thing about Morinda(TNI). Certainly, they would say, a product as healthy and beneficial as Noni Juice outweighs the failure of a few unmotivated distributors. See my in-depth review of M. citriflora (aka Noni) as a health food for my response. If you want a distillation of my findings, here you go:
Tahitian Noni is an overpriced health supplement that is no better for you than other fruits that are available at a fraction of the cost. The scientific studies used to support it are either unconvincing, underwhelming, unextraordinary, or unfounded.
The claim that Tahitian Noni is a valuable product would be akin to me selling you 100% pure cranberry juice for $150/litre. I’m benefiting my wallet more than your health.13
I’m sure that others will bring up the fact that Morinda is a great company when compared to other MLMs, or are better than the industry standard. After all, they might say, how bad can a company be if it has a B+ rating (though is not registered) with the Better Business Bureau(BBB)?14 Doesn’t this give a company some legitimacy? There are certain things that must be remembered when looking at the BBB rankings. First, BBB complaints are primarily filed by end-user customers, not employees and contractors. There are specific limitations to the scope of the BBB.
That said, I welcome those people interested in investigating the claim that Morinda is a better than average company to look at the following two tables. The first compares TNI to other distributors of health and beauty products in Utah by complaints lodged over a three year period. You might note that TNI is the only company out of the nine companies listed that has any complaints to the BBB.
What is that you say? That isn’t good enough? What if I took that statistic and plugged it into the statistics for Multi-Level Marketing firms in Utah? Based on this comparison, Morinda sits in the bottom 11 out of 59 companies. Hardly a glowing endorsement when you are well into the bottom 25% of a group of notoriously faulty businesses.
Since Tahitian Noni International (Morinda) profits do not seem to indicate the quality of the product they sell, or the potential for someone to be successful as a contractor, their profits say little if anything about the company generally- other than the owners are wealthy on the backs of thousands of hopeful Americans. There seems to be no reason to think that Morinda is a better choice for someone looking to invest in MLM. They have a worse than average reputation as both a Health and Beauty company and as a Multi-Level Marketing firm. The claims they make about their product do not live up to claims made by representatives, testimonials, and contractors. What benefit is offered by their product can be offered by grocery store products at a fraction of the price.15
I find it hard to understand how anyone would endorse either TNI as a company or Tahitian Noni as a product. Given these facts, it is clear that a certain level of ignorance or self-deception is necessary in order to say anything wholly positive about Morinda or their claims and products.
1.Study of Ten Major MLMs and Amway/Quixtar Show Huge Consumer Losses and Pyramid Recruitment
3.Google “Every business is an mlm” or “every business mlm” or “all businesses are mlm”
4.Shocking MLM Statistics. Ibid.
11. Or more expensive- See Getting Skeptical About Woo Juice Part 3: M. citriflora (Noni)-Better For Your Body Than Your Wallet
13. This claim is discussed in Part 3 of my series. (TNI claims that iridoids are the “Primary Bioactive”, and I can find no claim made of iridoids that separates them from similar “bioactives”, other than bioavailability after processing. Specifically, antioxidants meet every single claim made of iridoids, are better researched, and are available in more foods at a far lower price.
14. Better Business Bureau -Rating, comparisons valid as of Sept. 14th, 2011. Complaints can be compared by industry in the same State (Utah). Morinda is registered as a Health and Beauty Distributor (but flagged as an MLM)-Comparison of MLMs is accomplished by plugging complaints and business size into the comparison of Utah-based MLMs on the BBB website.
15. For example, 100% Cranberry Juice (unsweetened) is available in the “Whole Foods” section of my local grocer for $4.99/L- if Noni was comparably priced based on benefit analysis, it would cost $3.75 per bottle of Tahitian Noni Original 750ml.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 12 so far )
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“I am going to pray for you that Jesus will bring happiness into your life!” Um, hard as it is to accept, it IS possible to be happy without Jesus. Tell me was your life destroyed after you found out Santa wasn’t real? No, not for long. Nothing really changed, did it? You still got presents, you just got them with different ‘from’ tags. Same with Jesus.
My good friend Ahab has a post up at his blog that should make you furious and frightened all at once. I want you to go to his blog, Republic of Gilead, and read the post in it’s entirety, so I will offer the following taste of absolute inanity to tempt you over to his site:
This basis of this conversation comes directly from a U.S. Government funded abstinence program…..
“Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.” (Choosing the Best, Inc., Choosing the Best Soulmate, 2003, p. 51)
via: Republic of Gilead
Republic of Gilead is a must-bookmark for anyone curious about what the Organized Right is up to. Be sure to support his blog!
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Note: This post is a re-post of the post I made yesterday, with changes I think make my point a little clearer: I have not convicted Assange in the “court of public opinion”, but I worry some have done the opposite. As before, this post uses strong language and opinions-if you don’t like one of those two things, then stop reading now….
I love Wikileaks. Watching governments scramble to spin information that was never supposed to be fodder for water cooler conversation fuels my two greatest loves, politics and Schadenfreude. I enjoy feeling like I am doing my part in “sticking it to the man” every time I come across an embarrassing revelation that diplomats are far from diplomatic, that the arrogant and power drunk world Governments are powerless to being brought down a notch by the changing dynamics of the information age. We all love a good David and Goliath story. I am heartened to know that the web of conspiracy I regularly envision going on in the smokey backrooms of government is real and my tin foil hat just became a little more fashionable.
These leaked memos are not what I want to talk about though. Nor do I want to talk about the apparent Shakespearean flaw that allows Governments to condemn Wikileaks for disseminating information that was apparently easier to access than a Twelfth Grade Math class pop quiz. Those subjects are better described by other media sources and bloggers.
I want to talk instead about the sexual assault allegations being levelled at Julian Assange, the public face of Wikileaks and the current poster boy for martyrdom in the cult of personality. If you want to read some background on these allegations as well as a leveled insight into the facts at hand, I suggest these two posts by my friends Stephanie and Jason. I won’t be quite as diplomatic as them, but I think that my analysis is fair and accurate none the less. (more…)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
Welcome Planet Atheism Readers!
After a few weeks away from my blog and the internet, I come back to find out that I have finally been included in the Planet Atheism blogroll! I am overjoyed and honored at the prospect of reaching a much larger audience.
For those of you who are reading this blog for the first time, Misplaced Grace is the blog of George W., a part time blogger from Northern Ontario, Canada. Expect to see a focus on atheism, skepticism, and science treated both seriously and lightly. I also regularly blog about whatever else piques my interest; politics, social justice issues, philosophy, Canadiana, and nerd-crack. In fact, if you are an American reading this, you may want to completely ignore my posts during a Canadian election cycle unless you really have an interest in Canadian politics.
Happy Holidays Everyone!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 17 so far )
Note from George: I have been having a conversation with a creationist named Grant over at Tim Cooley’s blog. I am starting to understand Tim’s habit of just responding “Wow.” every time a creationist posts a dumb-ass response to one of his posts. It is so much easier to show them that you acknowledge their comment but know it to be worthless. I’m sure Tim is getting tired of me beating Grant up on his blog, so I’ll lay out my case here as well.
For the full context of my letter read the comment section of “Evolution is Wrong, because…” over at Tim Cooley’s Atheism.
I know you don’t want to admit that you were wrong to improperly attribute a quote to George Wald when it was clearly creationist propaganda. I know you would like to forget that you were absolutely wrong about beneficial human genetic mutations. I understand that you would like to avoid discussing why your probability calculations are fatally flawed or how you are entirely ignorant of the basics of evolutionary theory.
Just hear me out.
You do not need to cling to poor information when you have ample proof that it is wrong. The information available to you could all be wrong and you still might get the right conclusion from it. Good conclusions are aided by good evidence, but they are not dependent on it. It really does help make your case though. What does not help make your case is when you are clearly shown that your “facts” are wrong and you stick to them to the point of being made to look silly.
The quote you attributed to Wald is not in the text of either article it claims to be cited from. I have shown that there are no groupings of 5 consecutive words in common between your quote and the text of the article. You have been given multiple opportunities to show otherwise and you continue to “duck and weave”. Your quote contains 100 words and I’m only asking you to find 5 words in common, just 5%. If you can do this then I will drop the whole issue.
I think that I am being benevolent, given that there are so many other things wrong with the quote. It appears to be fabricated 25 years after the article was written with no attention paid to the glaring problem of two divergent dates used. 1860 was mentioned by Wald in the article as the date that Pasteur did his spontaneous generation experiments; 94 years before the article was written. Your fabricated quote says 120 years and clearly points to this quote being made around 1980. You are claiming that Wald gave the exact year of the experiment and then overshot the time elapsed by 26 years in the same article. You are doing this while not even pointing to where in his text he says it was 120 years. This makes you look particularly stupid.
(Edit: I found citeings of the same quote with the date changed to 100 years. Perhaps Grant could start changing that too.)
The quote itself conflates spontaneous generation and abiogenesis, which has been explained on numerous occasions to be incorrect. I let that error stand because it is clearly a conflation made by Wald in the original text, based on information and terminology available to a scientist more than 55 years ago. Spontaneous generation is not abiogenesis. Pasteur’s experiment did nothing to disprove abiogenesis, although that may not have been apparent to a biologist almost 60 years ago. There are many assumptions that were made more than half a century ago that have not stood the test of time. The great thing about science is it is self correcting, new discoveries and evidence discard old theories or take them from conjecture to fact. That of course is a weakness to creationists, but it is what makes science increasingly more relevant to informed people than your ancient holy book.
You have decided to pick one sentence from the link I provided you and disregard everything that is said after it because that one sentence removed of it’s context appears to vindicate you. As a homework project, perhaps you would like to address the other sentences in that link to show that you have reading comprehension.
When you brought up genetic mutations you claimed that sickle cell anemia was the only mildly positive genetic mutation in humans. When I offered you three other genetic mutations that had a far more positive effect in humans you ignored me. I have references for each of those studies. I want you to respond as to why they are not positive genetic mutations or admit that you were misinformed on that subject. It makes you look bad to make a claim that is proven wrong and refuse to address it. Here are the references for my three examples; lactose tolerance, atherosclerosis resistance, and HIV immunity:
1.Durham, William H. 1992. Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
2. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 1998 Apr;18(4):562-567. “PAI-1 plasma levels in a general population without clinical evidence of atherosclerosis: relation to environmental and genetic determinants,” by Margaglione M, Cappucci G, d’Addedda M, Colaizzo D, Giuliani N, Vecchione G, Mascolo G, Grandone E, Di Minno G; Unita’ di Trombosi e Aterosclerosi, IRCCS Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), Italy.
3. American Journal of Human Genetics, 1998 Jun;62(6):1507-15. by JC Stephens et al.
On the subject of probability, I explained to you how attributing the creation of known proteins to chance was wrong. Evolution works by building upon existing forms. Just like in my Yatzee analogy, even if you required 1,000,000 dice to be 6’s to call a yatzee, with a near infinite amount of rolls at your disposal you will eventually get there. Even if you started with not one 6 in your first roll. Abiogenesis, let’s imagine it as 50 sixes in one roll, will eventually happen, and evolution allows you to build upon that over and over again. Your probability calculations are for a known protein, and this need not be the case. Science doesn’t even accept that as the case. Yet you attribute it as part of scientific dogma, then smack it down. That is what we call a “strawman”.
Your original tact was to take a poor metaphor and insist that it is proof of evolution. I hope I was able to convey to you that no scientist believes that DNA is a real “language” or “code” in the sense that you or I use those terms. Just as your definition of “theory” is very different from what science defines as a “theory”, words have different meanings and connotations in different circumstances. You don’t get to choose your definition, the definition is contextual. You are quite right to stand in awe of the complexity and seeming impossibility of life. It is wondrous. Yet science continues to shed new light on the intricacies and specifics of how life came to be as we know it. There are many questions that still need to be answered, but know that those answers are out there; with no need to resort to the supernatural.
Grant, you might yet be right about evolution. Unfortunately for you it would require disproving thousands of separate lines of evidence for the theory. There is the remotest of chances, perhaps even worse than the chances of spontaneous generation, that science has been horribly misled in physics, geology, dendrochronology, biology, genetics, and just about every other area of science that touches upon evolution. Yet clinging to arguments that are known to be false does nothing to help your case. You can still admit that you were misinformed; the quote was misattributed, that you were unaware of the latest information in genetics, that you misunderstood the probability and hypothesis of abiogenesis. You can admit all those things and I won’t say you are wrong just because of bad information. I might tell you that your apprehentions to evolution are unfounded; that if your belief in creationism is based on the shortcomings of evolution, then you need to get better information.
There is no shame in admitting when you are wrong. It does not make you perpetually wrong either. Continuing to lie when you know you have been caught just makes you look idiotic, and as fun as it has been to continue to do just that, I want you to know that you have a second option. Just admit that you had some of your facts wrong, admit that the information was wrong but that it doesn’t completely disprove your argument. Then go out and try to find the right information to back up your hypothesis. You may be surprised what you learn…..
P.S. – Just to show you what quote-mining is, here is a quote from this open letter. It is not even in the spirit of the text, it is taking rhetoric out of context and taking it to mean something it was not intended to:
Just hear me out. You might yet be right about evolution. You are quite right to stand in awe of the complexity and seeming impossibility of life. It is wondrous. Good conclusions are aided by good evidence, and science has been horribly misled in physics, geology, dendrochronology, biology, genetics, and just about every other area of science that touches upon evolution.
-George W., Atheist blogger, Misplaced Grace, “An Open Letter To Grant”, September 17th, 2010.
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Today I spent all day lurking on other sites and have seen a common thread running through most of them. Jerry Coyne has a post about what proof you would require to question your atheism. Signal In The Noise took this post and ran with a rebuttal. Greta Christina has a couple posts on whether you care about the truth of your beliefs. Even the mental clusterfuck that has become the debate over Rand Paul’s personal beliefs about the age of the Earth are getting in on the action.
Proof seems so easy on the face of it. In response to a essay Signal has in his post, I responded thusly:
The essay you point to about proving negatives makes some glaring errors in logic. I’m not saying you can’t prove a negative, but rather that the degree to which you can prove it will never satisfy a skeptic. For the author of that paper to conflate the existence of Unicorns to the rising of the sun every day is disingenuous at best.
In fact I will take the next logical step.
1. If unicorns had existed, then there is evidence in the fossil record.
2. There is no evidence of unicorns in the fossil record.
3. Therefore, unicorns never existed.
By this logic:
1. If Homo habilis had existed, then there is evidence in the fossil record.
2. There was no evidence of H. habilis in the fossil record until 1960
3.Therefore, H. habilis never existed before 1960.
The problem here isn’t that inductive arguments won’t give us certainty about negative claims (like the nonexistence of Bigfoot), but that inductive arguments won’t give us certainty about anything at all, positive or negative.
If there is another way of proving a negative other than induction, I’d like to hear it.
He then goes on to conflate my belief that the sun will rise tomorrow as a similar inductive process.
It is by degrees not the case. The inductive process of proving a negative always requires one faulty step in induction. In the case of our unicorn analogy, it is that there does not appear to be evidence for unicorns in an incomplete fossil record. I don’t deduce the sun will rise tomorrow just because it has always done so. I deduce the sun will rise tomorrow because the earth completes a full revolution once per day and the sun rises and sets over my horizon as a result. If the sun does not rise tomorrow, that should be the least of my worries; I would hazard a guess none of us would be capable of worry at all.
What the author should be claiming is that you can trust a conclusion derived from the process of induction if the premises that you use are practical.
That seems far too cautious to be called a truth.
If Signal, you believe the arguments that Hale makes are correct; it should follow that we have enough evidence to say Jesus didn’t exist:
1. If Jesus had existed, then there is evidence in the records of the Romans.
2. There is no evidence of Jesus in the record of the Romans.
3. Therefore, Jesus never existed.
So what do you think?
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