lundi 30 septembre 2013

Shutdown now on - What happens on the 17th?

Will the GOP deliberately force default and destroy the US Dollar forever BECAUSE OBAMA?

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Should Obama up the ante?

At this point, the GOP has succeeded in crippling the USA over the fact that Romneycare is now Obama's baby, and also over the fact that Romneycare applications will also be voter registration applications. (The last thing a group of ancient white men who don't trust people who aren't like them need is a voter registration drive, after all.)

I think the Senate should up the ante. Not only should they return the bill to the house without shutting down or delaying Obamacare, they should amend it to speed Obamacare, fund the EPA at 1000% of present, fund the Consumer Protection Agency at 1000%, the USGS at 1000%, the banking regulatory commission at 2000%, the attourney general's office for white collar crime by 5000%, and up the tax rate on people making over 1Mil per year to 75% marginal rate.

Then maybe we'll see some reasoning happen.

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The Canterbury Tales

Advice needed.

I've never read it, but have always heard it is obviously a classic and very good.

I finally want to get round to reading it, but

I am not the most intelligent human that has hit the planet and from memory it is written in olde English.

Before I buy it I was wondering if I am going to just spent hours wondering what the hell the Chaucer is going on about deciphering it

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We has met the Aliens and they is us

Golly gee and whizbang, who woulda thunk it? Just as I'm reading "The Ancestor's Tale" too.

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Heeeeeeere's Obamacare!

Just sayin'. You know, in case you hadn't heard...


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Smithsonian Magazine and JFK Assassination ARGH

Crap. Smithsonian's new issue has an article about the Zapruder film and the author deals in some of the debunked conspiracy crap. Specifically he says "It sure looks like a shot from the front!" and "Oswald couldn't have fired three shots in six seconds."

I expected more from Smithsonian. I guess I shouldn't have.

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The controversial world of the female nipple

And people say in NZ we are backward

.......... And they be right


Nipples banned from TV breast cancer ad

Kiwi prudishness has complicated the Breast Cancer Foundation's adaptation of a Scottish advert credited with a massive increase in breast cancer awareness in Scotland.

The foundation said it had to find creative ways to get its message across after the Commercial Approvals Bureau told it nipples were not allowed in television advertising.

The foundation had been considering a New Zealand adaptation of an advert made last year for the Scottish Government featuring actress Elaine C Smith.

The Scottish advert highlighted some of the lesser-known symptoms of breast cancer "beyond a lump", and led to a 50 per cent increase in the number of Scottish women consulting their doctor about possible breast cancer symptoms.

Constrained by the "no nipples" ruling, the foundation said it had worked with agency Colenso BBDO to develop The Naked Truth campaign, in which strategically-positioned pot plants, balloons and cupcakes illustrated symptoms such as skin changes, changes in size, and redness.

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Busted: Lord Monckton on the Collapse of Al Gore's Climate Lies

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LOng term effects of bullying

I'm 66 but the images of my tormentors faces and actions have stuck with me. There are consequences. One of them is a deep abiding hatred of violent criminals and trouble makers in general.

I've been on two juries and I had to fight these feelings of wanting to get even. Fortunantly both perps were guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt and I didn't have to do any soul searching to decide if my guilty verdicts were justified.

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2016 doesn't have to be Hillary (no not a Republican, silly)


First woman president, also first woman president of color.

Say hello to our next Heap Big Chief. :cool:

Injuns are "of color", right?

She's also a good cook.

Indigenous Marthonian cuisine, of course.


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Climate-change-istas come out in favor of sterilizing the unfit.

Oh yes they do! :)

Yeah OK it's from the "fail". So? :cool:

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Programming Question... Web application access to Desktop Services

I have a question for other software developers ...

I'm currently working on a web application (PHP/Javascript, hosted on a Linux server). This will be used by a small group of people within one company (using either Chrome or IE on a Windows computer). Now, users of this application will have a special scanner attached to their computer (similar to a bar-code reader) as they use the application.

The web application needs to be able to read information from the scanner and put the results on one field (and only on one field) of a web form.

So, I'm trying to figure out the best way to read from the scanner.

Someone had suggested doing a keyboard insertion when something was scanned; however, there's the problem if the user doesn't have the cursor in the right field of the web form when the scanning takes place.

I figured the best way would be to write a Windows service or application on the desktop that waits for a TCP/IP socket connection; there would be a button on the form that calls a Javascript function that would send a request to the Windows service to start scanning; the scanner would return a value to the function which would populate the field.

I've been doing some research on how to do this (both through Google and by talking to other developers here)... I've been getting some conflicting information... some sources have said that Javascript can talk only to the server, other sources have suggested that TCP/IP isn't supported by all browsers.

So, would my idea work? Or does anyone have any alternate suggestions?

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Meth and libertarism

I'm sure this has been brought up before, but I was wondering how liberatarians and objectists handle the impact of drugs like meth in a "community". I put community in quotes because there's another thread about wether there is such a think as community, which I don't want to get into here. Also, I don't want this to be a discussion about pot, pot does not have the same potential for wide spread damage as meth.

The "community" discssion is here,

Let's just say you have agreed to live in a town, which has a meth issue. The adicts are cooking at home, houses have exploded, damaging near by houses, leaving toxic waste sites in their wake. Petty crime is rampart, adicts breaking into houses to steal stuff to sell for their habit. The adicts have no money, they can't pay for the clean up or the damage to other houses.

What would be acceptable solutions to this problem? Currently, there is jail, government clean up of the site, substance abuse treatment, restrictions on the sale of critical chemical for the production of meth. I'm very curious how libertarians and objectists would

balance the rights of the various actors in the case.

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Pondering String Theory - in song...

I simply couldn't resist posting this link to String Theory pondered to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with Einstein sock puppet - it might just be a work of genius :D

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Why do so many "rationalists" identify as libertarian?

(This thread is not so much about libertarian philosophy as it is about scepticism, so hopefully this is the right section for it. If not please move it.)

This is something I have never quite understood. Why is it that whenever I find a community of supposedly critical thinkers, a significant amount of them identify as libertarian? For example, the Less Wrong forums, which are not supposed to be about politics at all and are instead about rationality and overcoming biases, is about one third libertarian. And the James Randi forums also seem to have many libertarians around, though I don't know the exact number. This despite the fact that politically, libertarians are a clear minority in most countries. They seem very much overrepresented.

So why is this? I don't see any reason why critical thinking or just being smart should imply libertarianism, and yet libertarianism seems way overrepresented among smart free-thinking people. The most obvious explanation would be that libertarianism really is the most rational worldview, yet I doubt this is the case considering how it seems to be based more on idealogical preferences than rational argument. My current best explanation is that people make an intuitive leap from "I'm a free thinker and don't want others to tell me what to do, therefore nobody should ever be told what to do by the government", even though this doesn't really make sense.

Or, maybe I'm not giving libertarians enough credit? Maybe a lot of libertarians are more like Bill Maher, who called himself a libertarian because he wants to legalize pot? Or maybe a lot of Americans call themselves libertarian because they don't want to support either of the two main political parties there, and this is what skews the numbers?

You tell me, people at JREF, because I don't get it. :boggled:

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Fallout from Global Warming

Well, there you have it, hard evidence that sea pH is dropping fast enough to keep bivalves from reproducing. Since bivalves are one of the good sinks of carbon in the ocean, this is not JUST "no oysters" (I don't even like them, personally), but also a reduction in sea uptake at the same time atmospheric CO2 rises.

But, no, we still see massive, relentless denial.

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So why should I not be ticked off with the GOP right now?

They are trying to shutdown the government so they can try and get rid of a program that will get me health insurance for the first time in a decade.

So why should I not be beyond angry with them?

Anyone want to talk me off the ledge here about why I shouldn't care they are trying to stop me from getting health insurance?


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dimanche 29 septembre 2013

The Fate of Bedouin in Area C

It seems to me that these Bedouin have done nothing wrong besides being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My own view is that pending results of ongoing negotiations or for a period of (say) 12 months these Bedouin should be able to go about their lives.

This thread has been started outside the "general" thread because that thread has been reduced to a farce and is an embarrassment to JREf. Hopefully this Thread can stay on topic.

any comments on the topic?

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The ice gas cometh

I thought about where to put this a bit. It's possible that this is a "science" topic but I suspect that most of the discussion around it will be political in nature. So:

It seems that Japan's state mineral resource company JOGMEC—sort of odd that they even have one—will bring commercial production of methane hydrates online by 2018.

Will they do it by then? I don't know. What do I know?

  • Tar sands are described as "low-hanging fruit" in the article but their advantage can't be that great. They have miserable EROI, I think ~3, and it took considerable economic pressure just to start exploiting them. To my knowledge, attempts to develop Canadian tar sands in the 70s and 80s fell through and it was only recently that they became viable. When they come out of the ground they basically look like dirt and are hauled to and fro by Avatar-sized dump trucks rather than pipelines. That pretty much summarizes how crappy they are and how desperate we've gotten as a planet.

  • EROI on fracking on the other hand is apparently huge , but how long gas deposits recoverable by fracking will last is not certain. The article I linked says "Estimates of the amount of gas available from the shale plays vary widely. It is not clear yet whether there is anywhere near enough to rival coal over the long haul."

  • The possibility of emissions significant at the global level cannot be ruled out. The article mentions that methane has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than CO2. Nevertheless it is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 while it is in the atmosphere. A number of scientists attribute grave danger to methane emissions from various sources, including hydrates. For more on that see here: Some would even go as far as to compare the risk of methane-based positive feedbacks in the climate system to the Permian-Triassic extinction aka "the Great Dying".

Maybe capturing the hydrates will ameliorate the possibility of hydrates destabilized by climate change belching out into the atmosphere but, while I don't have exact figures, experts appear to be leery towards the environmental effects of this new resource. And one can imagine how spectacular a blowout like the Deepwater Horizon would be. As the article at the top says: "For example, the gas expands to 160 times its initial volume by the time it reaches the surface, which can blow standard drilling equipment to bits." I reckon the people who are going to work on the platforms that bring this highly explosive, flammable crap off the seafloor are going to need balls, sorry, spoons of steel just to make it to midday. (Thanks for the reminder, Atheism+.)

All told, I can't imagine it will be too long before methane hydrates are being substantially exploited. Imagine a meth junkie who is desperate enough to snort 20% pure shake-and-bake dope (tar sands). Imagine this same junkie, spurred onwards by an ever-increasing need to binge on his favorite drug, suddenly sees bag upon bag of beautiful, gleaming, unadulterated, white crystal meth. That's hydrates. That's Earth. That's us. Come hell or highwater, our burgeoning global economy and population will not be able to keep our hands off the stuff, regardless the risks to the miners, the effects on the global climate, how much of the process industry needs to be retooled to gas instead of oil, or anything else. It's going to happen sooner or later.

It might not be as bad as turning to coal liquefaction once other oil and gas resources are tapped out but in all other regards:

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the JREF. The JREF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.

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Presenting the latest in anti-NSA technology: the Triumph Adler

The Russians apparently have a lead in the field:

Who'd have thunk it? Typewriters and paper, the ultimate defense against snooping.

Guess I'm ahead of the game as well. Last count, I've got five of the buggers: three Smith-Corona Silent Supers (one's a parts machine only), a Montgomery Ward portable, and a venerable Underwood Standard Portable with the four-bank keyboard. All manual.

The only catch is they don't access the internet very well.

For those that want to join the Secure ClackerNet (tm), current-production hardware is available at the following:

$119 USD, S/H extra.


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Do any "truthers" actually think they will get another investigation?

The title says it all.

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Gun Nut Family Kill each other

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What is the paleontological evidence for a Bigfoot?

I've often wondered if anyone ever looked for fossils of Bigfoot ancestors.

I mean considering the dearth of evidence for a Bigfoot right now fossils of an ancient hominid in North America would actually lend weight to the idea that Bigfoot might exist. I know it might make me reconsider my position that Bigfoot isn't out there. I mean it wouldn't make me sure of it but I would raise the possibility percentage a bit.

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ALS, blue-algae tie in?

Wonderful work by a terrific skeptic woman leader....also the link to the earlier article that first alerted me this might be a problem.

after losing our good friend Nobby Nobs, I hope is a first step to a treatment or recommendations about exposure. Science gives us hope.

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Technology and Skepticism, 20th and 21st Century

Hey guys, I am currently working on a thesis for a 60 page paper.... and was wondering if you guys can help me out. I got a couple questions I am sure some of you would have good input on.

OK, so if we look at the 20th and 21st century, would you say that technology is now helping the skeptic movement, or impeding it.

In the 20th century, electricity and technology (like cameras and what not), people werent as well educated on how they worked, and therefore were a catalyst to the spiritualism movement. Think spirit photography, and seeing electricity as magic and what not.

Nowadays, we still have people going around, tryig to film ghosts, or pick up voices on recorders and radios, BUT we have the internet, which allows us to spread information a lot easier. This however can be used against us, but for the most part we have media savy skeptics making memes and youtube videos promoting logic and critical thinking about the supernatural/paranormal and pseudo-scientific.

I am having trouble finding articles on 20th century technology and how it was used to promote spiritualism. I got a ton on spirit photography, but I am looking for things about radios, film, and recordings... etc.

Anyone know where to find some, or know anyone worth contacting for advice? Thanks in advance!

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chiropractors break baby's neck



A baby's neck has been broken by a chiropractor in an incident doctors say shows the profession should stop treating children.

The injury was reported to the Chiropractic Board of Australia, which closed the case without reporting it to the public and allowed the chiropractor to keep practising as long as they undertook education with an ''expert in the field of paediatric chiropractic".

The Sun-Herald has also seen evidence that chiropractors have been entering Sydney hospitals, including neo-natal intensive care wards and surgical wards, to treat patients without the required permission.

NSW Health has warned that any chiropractor working in a hospital without permission could put patients at risk, while the Australian Medical Association NSW says the behaviour is "outrageous".

Read more:

Mods, I couldn't decide what was the correct forum for this, please move if it isn't

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Just protecting the ladies from themselves, see?

Women shouldn't drive because it damages their ovaries and pelvis, warns Saudi sheikh

Mail Online (UK)


  • Sheikh Salah al-Luhaydan said if woman drove they would damage their pelvis and their children could suffer 'clinical disorders'

  • In 2011 Muslim scholars said a relaxation of the ban would see both men and women turn to homosexuality and pornography

  • Women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia

  • Some defy the law - with one taking to the roads for four days continuously to protest for greater women's rights in the country


Wait a minute. Women driving makes men "turn to homosexuality"?

At last an explanation why.

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How easy should it be to get a gun permit?

How easy or difficult do you think it should be to get a gun permit (for the overall right to own a firearm)? I think it should be very difficult, requiring some valid reason (not "Ah likes ta shoot guns!" or "ZOMG w/o gunz teh bad guyz will kills me!!!11!1!"), background checks, extensive training, and rigorous testing (both of ability and mental stability).

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Pastor shot, killed during Louisiana church service

Pastor shot, killed during Louisiana church service

If only the pastor, choir and parishoners had all been armed, they could have prevented this senseless tragedy. Because after all, more guns equal less crime and the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.



Myers said Karey has no known criminal history.

So the shooter was a law-abiding gun owner right up until he wasn't.

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Yes. It is a suicide cult.

Baby girl survives after being shot in the chest in parents' 'global warming suicide pact'

Daily Mail (UK)


A seven-month-old baby girl survived three days alone with a bullet in her chest beside the bodies of her parents and toddler brother.

Argentines Francisco Lotero, 56, and Miriam Coletti, 23, shot their children before killing themselves after making an apparent suicide pact over fears about global warming.

Their son Francisco, two, died instantly after being hit in the back.

But their unnamed daughter cheated death after the bullet from her dad's handgun missed her vital organs.


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Core Collage Sink Hole Analogy

OOOOPS typo on the thread title...should read COLLAPSE not collage!!!!!!!!!!!

As the core columns failed the load that each column had been supporting was no long able to follow the path through THAT column to the one below and on to bedrock that it does in its static state. The load above it now was bearing on "nothing" (or something) which could support it...air? or what was structurally "equivalent" to air. The immediately effect was for the column above the failed column above to drop down.. and in so doing it pulled all the bracing and floors bearing on failed column with them (where there were no shafts) downward. I suspect this broke the lateral beam stub connections to the failed column (3 stories of them), shattered the 3 floor areas locally around the failed/dropping column. This was sort of analogous to the ground dropping into a sink hole... and there was a "sink hole" created around (above) each failed column. The take away effect is that the core area ABOVE the failed columns were "sinking" and destroying the integrity of the core around it... freeing the floor mass from the structure whereas the dropping floor mass began to building to threshold driving collapse mass.

Note the descent of the antenna pre release. This appears to be the tell tale sign that the support for the antenna, coupling it to the columns below and on to bedrock had failed... the antenna was falling into a "sink hole". And of course since the sink hole failure was not perfectly symmetrical, (the damage and the axial load support in the column plan wasn't either) ...eccentricities would attend and so the antenna both descended and tilted. Note as well how eccentricities manifest in columns (antenna was a column with a pinned end condition)... as it dropped it tilted.

My hunch is that in the moments just before the observed release of the facade... pretty much most of the core had gone into "sink hole" behavior mode as the *sink holing* was propagating across the core.. not radially from the center of the core.... and since propagation was moving laterally plan asymmetry was created and this resulted in "tilting" as the last non sinking columns were the last paths of the loads to bedrock.

The sinking core's perimeter's columns then pulled down the core side ends of the floors (if connections held... some did and some didn't presumably) in the region adjacent to and above the failure zone (3 story high plane strike region of one core column length). The floors then either remained as cantilevered rectangular doughnut shapes attached to the facade (unlikely) ... or they began to break apart absent core side support and fall/fail independently very rapidly. The latter would contribute to the outside the core ROOSD mass.

I suspect once the core sink hole effect and ultimate bending and buckling of the last core columns engaged to bedrock... the insides of the upper section was like one massive hollowed out sink hole and its mass disorganized and disengaged from the facade dropping inside the outermost perimeter... which had rotated slightly as noted above, but was descending down pretty much as a rigid tube and breaking apart at its bottom upon impact with the rigid tube of the lower still engaged with bedrock facade below.

Note the facade appears to show inward movement locally in its initial failure. Was this buckling or being pulled in locally by falling floors? Perhaps both?

Therefore, I would suggest that the sink holing of the core preceded and was analogous to and enabled the ROOSD effect outside the core. The entire process of the inside of the tower going from static state to a dynamic "flow" of floor mass was the result of the progressive loss of axial support and column engagement with bedrock of the core which rapidly propagated through the core kicking off both tilting and ROOSD.

In my mind the only issue which remains uncertain is if there was sufficient heat to drive the progressive core column failures and how and where did the heat actually act? Did it drive the capacity of a few columns below service load and begin the progression of failures and sink holing? There was no other known mechanism to erode capacity post plane impact. If the heat was sufficient to accomplish this... the above sequence seems to work.

At the heart of the truth movement's belief... is that there was insufficient heat to weaken the steel frame to failure. Once begun all the column failures were mechanical not heat related... at best heat weakened and facilitated by loss of strength.

I think it comes down to a definitive answer of the fire caused heat issue.


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would the price be like smack dab in the middle

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on twilight zone

I'm loosing touch with reality,convince me it's just my brain function

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The jref mobile app

Is asking for my credit card.

1 Is it worth it?

2 Is it secure

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The Economics of Seinfeld

From their home page:


Seinfeld ran for nine seasons on NBC and became famous as a “show about nothing.” Basically, the show allows viewers to follow the antics of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer as they move through their daily lives, often encountering interesting people or dealing with special circumstances.

It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses. Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere – in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.

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samedi 28 septembre 2013

Science of Effect?


I was just trying to understand, how things and beings can affect each other in energetic way.

My layman understanding suggest few i.e. by radiation, reflective/photo effect, voice, gravity etc.

Will you tell me more? You may avoid physical interactions eg. slapping etc.

Best wishes.

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Continuation Part Six: Discussion of the Amanda Knox/Raffaele Sollecito case

Mod InfoOnce again, the thread was getting quite lengthy, so this new continuation thread has been started. As always , please feel free to refer back to the previous thread here to make your points. The cut-off post was arbitrary and no offense is intended. Thank you for keeping the conversation polite.

Posted By:Loss Leader


Originally Posted by Machiavelli (Post 9518862)

You are now again deflecting on me, on posters. You should talk about your claims. Evidence of your claims.

I am not interested in Mignini. I am interested in you. In you, I mean you as a mob, in your mentality, in your beliefs and idolological system. I am interested in the media, in the opinion campaign, and I am interested in the machine which you belong to. It's a machine for political propaganda that builds false narratives and targets the functioning of powers, like justice, pursueing criminal purposes and methods, and relies also on criminal elements with ties to some government agencies (like Mario Spezi); this machine is what we call in Italian "macchina del fango".

I would like to see you put in discussion your claims. Speak about your beliefs. Look at your belifs with critical attitude, try to check what you can actually demonstrate. I am testing your mentality and your rational attitude. I want to see how you think, why you come to your conclusions.

It's actually stunning.

You're not interested in Mignini.... but then you build the very myth that includes Mario Spezi.... who is ONLY known internationally for his exposure of Mignini, vis a vis the Narducci case, as well as the wrongful prosecution of two unlikelies in Perugia.

The agenda you and Andrea Vogt have bought into could not be more clear. Even in denying you are interested in Mignini, you build the very conspiratorial case that Mignini himself believes.... "My troubles all started with the Narducci case."

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I hear loud knocks on my walls at night and can't find the cause

A night ago I heared, suddenly, very loud knocks on my wall. I first opened a window, closed it again, and immediately after closing the window, a whole bunch of knocking on the walls was happening. (excuse me for my bad English, my mothertongue is dutch).

Later that night: again three loud knocks. Suddenly out of nowhere and before and after the noise it's completely silent.

I do not believe in paranormal activity at all, but I cannot find any cause. I'm used to normal sounds in the house of radiation, pipes, frigerator, wooden floor, etc.

But this sound is as if someone is just knocking very hard on my walls and then it's silent. I cannot find any explanation and I tend to believe it's something very weird.

I did an google search and found out that other people have had this experience too. But I don't know what to believe and they, unfortanately, explain it with 'paranormal' theories. But I don't believe that.

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Militant Atheists Using Chemtrails to Poison Angels?

This is some Timecube-level crazy right here. As far as Google can reveal, this site is not a Poe.

Here's a little taste to wet your whistle:


Originally Posted by

President George W. Bush famously fought against the scientists entrenched in his administration. At many points they promoted evolution “theory” and “global warming” over good old-fashioned common sense. They tried to uproot Christianity in our schools through activist judges. And while President Bush fought the good fight, he ultimately did not win the battle. The long line of anti-theists ruling the inner halls of power since Lyndon Johnson remained in control.

So what is at the heart of this secret society of globalist atheism? One of their most significant concerns is the power of Faith. They despise the Glory of Jesus and the hope that He brings to countless Americans. The atheists are so insanely dedicated to their obscene cult they will try just about anything to destroy every remnant of Christian Love on this earth. As this sickening obsession was wed to advances in aerial spraying technology in the last century, one can surmise the evil compound that resulted. In this formula, it seems quite logical that the atheist’s next step would be to attempt the widespread murder of Jesus’s very Heavenly Agents of Love.

EDIT: Sorry - true source of the story is here.

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Mississippi judge ejects Sikh from court for refusing to remove "that rag" from head

The ACLU has released a letter it wrote on behalf of Jagjeet Singh, a practicing Sikh, to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (DOT) in Pike County. The complaint contends that in January, Singh, a licensed long-haul trucker, was humiliated by DOT officers after being pulled over for driving with a flat tire.

According to the ACLU, the officers who pulled Singh over believed that his kirpan — a ceremonial “sword” worn by Sikhs that poses as grave a danger to the public as the crosses donned by many Christians — was a “dangerous weapon,” despite the fact that it had been sewn into the waistband of his pants.

Singh tried to educate the lead officer by “show[ing] him, and other officers present, videos stored on his phone and on Youtube about the Sikh faith.” The officers responded with mockery, one of them allegedly referring to Sikhs as “depraved” and “terrorists.”


The officers eventually arrested Singh for failing to comply with their commands. As if that was not humiliating enough, according to the ACLU, when Singh returned to Pike County to contest his arrest, presiding Judge Aubrey Rimes ejected him from the courtroom.

In chambers, the ACLU alleges that Judge Rimes told Singh that he wouldn’t be allowed to reenter the courtroom unless he removed “that rag,” referring to his Dastar, from his head. When Singh refused, Judge Rimes forced Singh and his attorney to wait until all other litigants had been heard before allowing him back into the courtroom.

Of course, that whole Sikh thing is a load of rubbish from a purely epistemic standpoint. Having said that, I agree that demanding Singh remove "that rag" is essentially discriminatory and that, unlike removals of the burqa recently demanded in France, the demand serves no utilitarian purpose because Singh's turban does not make him anonymous. You can plainly see all his facial features and if he's going to be wearing that turban all the time, you'd probably be better off seeing him with it than without it in case you need to identify him in the future. *sigh*


It's pretty hard to ridicule even Singh's belief in the obvious nonsense of a syncretic 14th century religion when you compare him to police officers and a judge who are probably a few shades of skin tone and one dental mishap short of this:

Remember: if at first you don't secede, try, try again.

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Italian Prime Minister question

A quick question about the Italian Prime Minister. Is s/he a member of parliament or just the leader of the largest party, unelected by the people? I've tried to find the answer to no avail.

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Win 7, LibreOffice, double click, and elevation error

Data first:

OS is Windows 7 Pro x64 with only one, single, 'admin' account with UAC set to max, and LibreOffice is version

The problem:

About nine months ago, after Windows versions of LibreOffice began to be released in Microsoft installer format (.msi) rather than in .exe, I experienced the problem of facing the following error message when double clicking on an .odt file: "The requested operation requires elevation".

After a lot of research, and posting on a dedicated forum, I finally solved this problem in installing LibO via the msiexec command (with admin rights).

It worked perfectly until I upgraded to versions 4.0+ (of LibreOffice). Since then, the "elevation" error is back, no matter how I do install LibreOffice (installation via "msiexec" with admin rights should be the most powerful but repeatedly failed to overcome the problem, even after LibO profile reset).

The question:

Do you have an idea or suggestion about how to overcome this irritating problem?

: Admittedly, the problem I submitted should be more relevant on a specialized, dedicated forum. In fact I already did it, in my first language, on a forum entirely dedicated to OpenOffice/LibreOffice. Unfortunately, that forum is rife with pedant and arrogant jerks who, instead of providing answers, just continue to ask questions like "How do you open the command prompt window?" (where I actually posted commented screencaps of how to open and use cmd.exe with admin rights!) I know that you JREFers are better, and that some of you are real, great geeks. I just trust you more than anyone else on the interwebz.

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What would a "real" 9/11 attack look like?

For the purposes of this thread I accept that the attacks on Sept 11, 2001 was a huge false flag. :rolleyes:


Now I have another question: what would a "real" airplane hijack suicide attack by 19 Muslim radicals look like?

Yes, if 19 radical Muslims really did carry out an attack like the "false flag" one how would it be different? What would be the "real" military response? What would be the "real" timeline of events? What would the "real" damage be? What would the "real" Pentagon videos show? What would be the "real" death toll?

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People who fight against irrationality obstruct new scientific development

I see that some critical thinkers, some atheïsts, etc... have adopted the illusion that 'the thinking process' is "using rationality'.

They think that 'math' is the only road to reality. They are spreading the word that 'rationality' is the only way to discover how nature works.

I want to say: that's an illusion.

Not the secure logic steps in mathematics leads to the evolution of science, but above all:

The passion, fascination, fantasy or imagination and the acceptance of trial and failure during the process of thinking can lead to new intresting ideas. Not being sure at all what the outcome shall be of your trial. Not be sure that it leads to anything intresting at all, is the road to new discoveries.

It's most of the time imagination, asking questions, using analogy (thinking by association), fail many times, do it over again, being critisized, integrating this feedback, doing it over again, making associations by coincidence, not being sure at all that it will lead to something intresting.

And this process is all driven by passion and fascination.

Rational theories are build on irrational processes. (imagination, passion, fascination, trial and error)

But some critical thinkers and teachers of contempary science give the wrong message that 'only secure staps of reasoning (math) will lead to discoveries'. But the rationality of math alone did not let to great ideas.

We know that people like Newton tried and failed many times before they got it right. That's the process of creativity.

And being an non-conventional thinker, using path of thinking and paths of association which were not tried before, can be a basis for new discoveries. Uncertainty, not being sure where this road will take you, and fail, was the path of the evolution science during history.

And you never know in advance what the outcome will be.

So, irrationality, crackpot physics, cranks with passion, fascination, patience, frustration,etc are using the building blocks of great ideas.

The people who fight against irrationality are, in fact, blocking the evolution of new scientific discoveries.

But of course: the irrational idea is not rational or truth. But irrationality is a fundament for discovering new rational ideas.

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Progressive collapse

Today, a building in Christchurch collapsed unexpectedly.

It was being demolished due to earthquake damage, and a demolition digger was ripping it pieces bit by bit when a part of the building collapsed and a chain reaction occurred leading to all of the floors collapsing.

No one was injured, although there were a few rather scared people!

a video can be seen here (the best one IMO because it shows the complete collapse)

News report

Another news report

one more video (kind of NSFW due to swearing)

It is a concrete structure rather than steel, and it was much smaller than the WTC buildings, but I think some comparisons can be made.

First off, it shows straight away that the dust clouds have nothing to do with a controlled demolition (the explosive kind), also, it was REALLY loud! (could easily be mistaken for explosions) Actually, it sounds remarkably similar to the WTC collapses.

A failure of one part of the structure lead to the whole structure collapsing, and the result was a rather flat pile of rubble.

Once the support columns were destroyed, those top floors fell pretty fast!

Thought some people might be interested.:)

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Dear American Soldier, You're No Hero

Just as no cop is a pig until they abuse their authority to mistreat others, no soldier is a hero until they put their life on the line to save others.

Some military members are idiots who were conned by a recruiter.

Some couldn't hold any other job so they got the one job that's virtually impossible to get fired from.

Some are a step away from jail and joined the military instead.

Some would probably turn traitor or coward if given the chance because they didn't quite grasp what would be asked of them in military service.

Some got caught drinking and driving, lost their rank and pay, and are real pieces of crap who just happen to still be in service.

Shouldn't we treat soldiers as individuals, rather than lump them all together as heroes?

Why should anyone assume that someone in uniform is a hero? Very few soldiers have actually taken bullets for others and are proven heroes. Those few people deserve the utmost admiration. The rest are just people with a tough job and lifestyle.

So I reiterate, "Dear American Soldier, You're No Hero"

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vendredi 27 septembre 2013

Oh, Shame on you Canadians!

It seems that the Canadian public has bought into some of the 'suspicions' of the 9/11 Truth movement. A FB friend posted a link to this a couple of days ago.

I have attempted to distance myself from the whole 9/11 Truth thing (nothing against you folks here) but after reading this dreck I decloaked for the second time this year and posed a few questions for him, then decided it was useless to entertain the nonsense. I apologized and removed my comments.

First time was in response to the posting of a link to another fact-free truther video and several dumb comments posted thereafter. Believe it or not, someone wrote that Bush's brother ran a company that controlled security at the towers and Dulles airport, no less! I just couldn't resist making a few corrections.

The only reason I would bother to interject on my friends conversations is when I sense an unsuspecting citizen is getting fed the guanophrenic tripe. But I don't bother engaging truthers, they're not going to listen anyway.

btw, were there hoards of Truthers and ordinary citizens marching this year on 9/11? I didn't catch a glimpse in the news.

cheers everyone


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Necesary Reforms

The following is a sort of a minimal list of reforms which I'd view as needed at this point....

Money System and Financial Reforms

The money and banking system which was set up in 1913, along with the income tax and IRS which was set up to pay interest on debt while using debt as a primary basis for money, has reached the end of its useful lifespan. Glass-Steagal should be implemented immediately, the so-called "Super Priority" of derivative counterparties hould be abolished immediately, and a major effort should be made to devise a rational system of money for the United States. The Federal Reserve, the IRS, and the income tax should be abolished, and the power to coin money itself should be reclaimed by congress. No rational government should ever borrow money into existence.

Political Reforms

The first item of meaningful political reform HAS TO BE runoff elections or instant runoff elections for all public offices. Nobody should ever fear to vote his first choice, at least on a first ballot, and nobody should ever hold any public office with less than 50% of the vote.

There should be a None-Of-Above choice on all ballots for public office and if that choice ever wins, then the other candidates should be barred for life from holding ANY public office and the parties sponsoring them should be barred for at least ten years from sponsoring candidates for that particular office. The penalty for running dead wood for public offices should be severe.

There should also be some mechanism to prevent utterly unqualified people from holding high offices. Certainly a candidate for president or vice president, or for US Senator or member of the House of Representatives should need to obtain the same basic and simple secret level security clearance which anybody would need to be a guard at the gate of any military base in our land. That isn't asking for much but it would have spared us from the last two democrat presidents.

Another item on such a list would be a provision that when a president is impeached and removed, his VP goes out the door with him and the office is either vacant until the next election or an emergency election is held to fill the office for the remainder of the current term. Granted removing a president should be difficult but it should not be impossible and if we couldn't remove Slick, we'd not have been able to remove Hitler or Nero either.

Another item on such a voters' bill of rights should be something which would eliminate voting fraud for all time.

Our entire voting system is fubar and needs to be replaced and a fraud-proof system would not be that hard to devise; it would involve biometrics and p2p networking and the idea that ANYBODY could do his own vote tally and that all tallies should match. It also should involve the idea that a person could have total assurance that his vote did not disappear or get counted for the other guy. What I'd envision would be keeping my vote on MY computer with a fingerprint reader like you see on all govt computers i.e. a record of my contact info and a biometric reading and a national database to check biometrics for me and everybody else, and a p2p network to allow ANYBODY to do his own tally by calling for votes the same way you'd ask or a copy of "you aint nothing but a hound dog" on Kazaa, and all tallies should produce the same number within statistical limits.

We should consider the possibility that, when an election is within one percentage point, we send both people to congress with half of a vote each.

There is also a question as to the extent the people should be voting on some issues directly since we now have the technology to allow that, while the founding fathers did not. You could get some of these social issues settled once and for all and out of politics, and you could limit the scope for corruption and bribery by letting the people themselves settle at least some kinds of issues.


The "War on Drugs" and the Prison/Industrial Complex should be ended immediately, along with "No-Knock Raids".

The "war on drugs" leads to

  • "No-knock" raids, which are a clear violation of the fourth amendment and of the common law principle of a man's home being his "castle". In fact technically a homeowner who were to shoot and kill one or more government agents in the process of conducting a "no knock" raid would be entirely within his or her rights.

  • The incarceration of large numbers of people who would otherwise never have had contact with prison systems. For many this amounts to a career training program for serious crime.

  • Gang wars, drive-by shootings and the like.

  • Corruption, the rise of drug cartels, and outright civil wars in other nations which supply drugs to the illegal drug enterprises here.

It is that final item which some would use as a pretext to eviscerate the second amendment, which is the link pin of the entire bill of rights. Consider the following from the former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Bush administration no less:


The former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection called Monday for the U.S. to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons and take other measures to rein in the war between Mexico and its drug cartels, saying the violence has the potential to bring down legitimate rule in that country.

Former CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner also called for the United States to more aggressively investigate U.S. gun sellers and tighten security along its side of the border, describing the situation as "critical" to the safety of people in both countries, whether they live near the border or not.

Mexico, for its part, needs to reduce official corruption and organize its forces along the lines the U.S. does, such as a specialized border patrol and a customs agency with a broader mandate than monitoring trade, Mr. Bonner said in an exchange of e-mails.

"Border security is especially important to breaking the power and influence of the Mexican-based trafficking organizations," Mr. Bonner said. "Despite vigorous efforts by both governments, huge volumes of illegal drugs still cross from Mexico..."

The problem here clearly is not guns and it is clearly a problem of economics. The drugs one of these idiots would use in a day under rational circumstances would cost a dollar; that would simply present no scope for crime or criminals. Under present circumstances that dollar's worth of drugs is costing the user $300 a day and since that guy is dealing with a 10% fence, he's having to commit $3000 worth of crime to buy that dollar's worth of drugs. In other words, a dollar's worth of chemicals has been converted into $3000 worth of crime, times the number of those idiots out there, times 365 days per year, all through the magic of stupid laws. No nation on Earth could afford that forever.

A rational set of drug laws would:

Legalize marijuana and all its derivatives and anything else demonstrably no more harmful than booze on the same basis as booze.

Declare that heroine, crack cocaine, and other highly addictive substances would never be legally sold on the streets, but that those addicted could shoot up at government centers for the fifty-cent cost of producing the stuff, i.e. take every dime out of that business for criminals.

Provide a lifetime in prison for selling LSD, PCP, and/or other Jeckyl/Hyde formulas.

Same for anybody selling any kind of drugs to kids.

Do all of that, and the drug problem and 70% of all urban crime will vanish within two years. That would be an optimal solution; but you could simply legalize it all and still be vastly better off than we are now. 150 Years ago, there were no drug laws in America and there were no overwhelming drug problems. How bright do you really need to be to figure that one out?

Medical Reform:

The country does need medical reform, but not Obungacare.

The size of obungacare indicates to me that it is about power and not about health care. Likewise Mark Steyn notes that the job of director or head of public health has become the biggest govt. job in European countries which have public health care i.e. it would be a step upwards from PM or President or King or Grand Duke or anything else to head of health care. In other words, European health care is ultimate bureaucracy.

If I had the power to I would institute a sort of a basic health care reform which would be overwhelmingly simple and which would resemble the thing we're reading about in no way, shape, or manner. Key points would be:

1. Elimination of lawsuits against doctors and other medical providers. There would be a general fund to compensate victims of malpractice for actual damage and a non-inbred system for weeding out those guilty of malpractice. The non-inbred system would be a tribunal composed not just of oher doctors, but of plumbers, electricians, engineers, and everybody else as well.

2. Elimination of the artificial exclusivity of the medical system. In other words our medical schools could easily produce two or three times the number of doctors they do with no noticeable drop off in quality.

3. Elimination of the factors which drive the cost of medicines towards unaffordability. That would include both lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and government agencies which force costs into the billions to develop any new drug. There should be no suing a pharmaceutical for any drug which has passed FDA approval and somewhere between thalidamide and what we have now, there should be a happy medium.

4. Elimination of the outmoded WW-II notion of triage in favor of a system which took some rational account of who pays for the system and who doesn't. The horror stories I keep reading about the middle-class guy with an injured child having to fill out forms for three hours while an endless procession of illegal immigrants just walks in and are seen, would end, as would any possibility of that child waiting three hours for treatment while people were being seen for heroin overdoses or other lifestyle issues.

All of those things would fall under the heading of what TR called "trust busting". There would also be some system for caring the truly indigent, but the need and cost would be far less than at present.

By far the biggest item is that first one. I don't know the exact numbers but if you add every cost involved in our present out-of-control lawyering, it has to be a major fraction if not more than half of our medical costs. The trial lawyers' guild being one of the two major pillars of financial support for the democrat party is the basic reason nobody is saying anything about that part of the problem.

Other than that, you almost have to have seen some of the problems close up to have any sort of a feel for them.

Item 2, this is what I saw in grad school some time ago, although I do not have any reason to think much has changed. In the school I attended, there appeared to be sixty or seventy first year med students walking around and all but one or two of them would have made perfectly good doctors, they were all very bright and highly motivated. The only way the school should have lost any of those kids was either they discovered they couldn't deal with the sight of blood in real life or six months later they changed their minds and went off to Hollywood to become actors or actresses; the school should never have lost more than ten percent of them. But they knew from day one that they were keeping 35% of that class.

That system says that you know several things about the guy working on your body: You know he's a survivor, and that's highly unlikely to be from being better qualified than 65% of the other students; You know he hasn't had enough sleep (he's doing his work and the work of that missing 65%); You know he's probably doing some sort of drugs to deal with the lack of sleep... One of my first steps as "health Tsar" or whatever would be to tell the medical schools that henceforth if they ever drop more than15% of an incoming class, they'll lose their accreditation.

Item 3. My father walks into a pharmacy in Switzerland with a bottle of pills he normally pays $50 for in Fla. and asks the pharmacist if he can fill it. "Why certainly sir!", fills the bottle of pills and says "That will be $3.50." Seeing that my father was standing there in a state of shock, the man says "Gee, I'm sorry, Mr. V., you see, we have socialized medicine in Switzerland and if you were a Swiss citizen and paid into the systemn, why I could sell you this bottle of pills for $1.50 but, since you're foreign and do not pay into the system I have to charge you the full price, certainly you can appreciate that."

The guy thought my father was in shock because he was charging him too MUCH... Clearly whatever needs to be done with drugs amounts to trust busting, and not extracting more money from the American people.

Item 4. A caller to the Chris Plant show (D.C./WMAL) the other morning, an ER nurse, noted that much of the costs which her hospital had to absorb, as do most hospitals, was the problem of people with no resources using the ER as their first and only point of contact to the medical profession. She said that there were gang members who were constantly coming in for repairs from bullet holes and knife damage and drug problems, that they could not legally turn any of those people away, and that there was zero possibility of ever collecting any money from any of them, and that the costs of that were gigantic.

Clearly throwing money at that problems is not going to help anything either. Again if I'm the "Medicine Tsar", those guys would be cared for, but not at the ER or at least not the part of the ER where normal people go, and they would not be first in line. Mostly they'd be dealing with medical students who needed the practice patching up knife and bullet damage.


As in the case of the "War on Drugs(TM)", the only real solution is to take the profit out of it and in this case the profit is measured in votes.

We need a law and possibly a constitutional amendment requiring a person to be a US citizen for 18 years before they ever vote in a US election. That would not be difficult to justify; I had to be a US citizen for eighteen years before I ever voted in a US election and I don't see any immigrant group which appears better or more deserving of rights than I am.


Notice I didn’t mention public education/indoctrination in that one since to my thinking public schools need to be abolished and not reformed.

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Solid Light

Researchers at MIT have created solid photons, a new form of matter. Photonic matter isn't simply science fiction now that they've outlined the findings in the journal Nature.

Now I'm not an expert on such things, far from it. What it seems like they did was take advantage of the Rydberg blockade effect using very rubidium to quantum link photos. These photons, once interacting, behave more like traditional matter and less like photons. The obvious use would be in quantum computing. Photons are a great medium for information after all. Then there are the crystal structures that could be formed. I'm excited to see replication of the technique by others so that the properties of this new form of matter can be explored. Who knows what else this could be good for. Converting electricity to light? Extremely hard? Very pretty?

What do you all think?

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Next up: *Protestant* clerical kiddie fiddling.

Billy Graham’s grandson: evangelicals ‘worse’ than Catholics on sex abuse (RNS)



Mission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent,” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries, he said. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency. Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.


Abusers discourage whistle-blowing by condemning gossip to try to keep people from reporting abuse, he said. Victims are also told to protect the reputation of Jesus.


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UK crop-circles stopped this year ....

......fantastic designs, year-out, year-in, for two decades or more, without fail.

And this year, they just stopped.

I'd say this is a bad sign.

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Easy ways of detecting diet and health scams

As a science teacher, I have the scientific knowledge and ability to evaluate many health claims from a scientific perspective. I think I also have the ability to tell the differences between good and bad sources on the internet. Sometimes I am wrong, but generally I am right.

However, one of my friends on FB recently made the following post.

"Carbs, no carbs, paleo, vegan, starch solution, wheat free, juicing, detoxing....who the heck is right"

This woman does not have a scientific education and really has no experience critical thinking. She's a fundie Christian and has 2 kids.

So, teaching her the principles of evaluating claims is out.

So I came up with some easy guidelines to evaluating diets.

"Diet is not complicated, actually. Reduce portion size. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Reduce meat consumption. Try to make more food out of basic ingredients. Simple. Anyone who tries to tell you it's more complicated is trying to rip you off. All the the things you mentioned above are scams, designed by people to try to scare you."

But then I realized what I said was still too esoteric.

So I came up with the following points.

You know (name withheld), it may be difficult to figure out truth from falsehood. However, there are some easy ways to figure out if something is a scam.

1. De tox is a word almost always associated with scams. Your body naturally removes toxins, and toxins your body can't remove are not affected by detox diets/techniques.

2. If someone wants you to sell some sort of health product, it's always a scam.

3. If the diet can't be followed for the rest of your life, it is a scam.

4. If someone tells you never to eat a certain food or that you can eat as much of a certain food as you want, it's a scam.

5. Gluten free is always a scam unless your Dr. has diagnosed you as a celiac.

6. Raw diets should be treated with caution, and never given to kids.

7. If the diet needs some sort of kitchen gadget you don't already have, it's a scam.

8. If the diet requires ingredients you can't find at you grocery store, it's a scam.

9. If a diet tells you to avoid 'chemicals,' it's a scam.

10. If a diet blames your problems on aspertame, MSG or GMO's, it's a scam.

11. If your advice comes from or it's always a scam.

12. If your diet comes from advice of a nutrionist that does not have at least 2 years post bachelor's education, it's a scam.

Finally, if a diet has a name (eg, the South Beach diet, the Paleo diet, the Atkins diet) it's almost certainly a scam.

I was going to add that diets that require organic food are also scams, but that's not necessarily true all the time or easily believed by a layperson.

So, what would you add or take away?

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White Nationalists Upset at lack of Credit for Inventing GOP 'Whites-Only' strategy

Over at VDARE, the white nationalist website named after the first child born to English immigrants to America (ironic, given their anti-immigration stance), John Derbyshire (the contributor to the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance and regular fixture at their conferences who was kicked out of his job at National Review for being a racist and whose articles are popular repost material at the neo-Nazi website Stormfront) laments that the GOP's popular new strategy to win elections by appealing solely to white voters isn't being properly credited to his fellow racists at VDARE who came up with that strategy.

As Right Wing Watch says, "We don't agree with John Derbyshire on a lot, but we do agree with him on one thing: Republican proponents of the Sailer Strategy should give credit where credit's due."

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Do those who espouse crackpot astronomy truly not understand astronomy?

What triggered me to start this thread is this post, by icebear, in the Why is there so much crackpot physics? thread. Here's an extract (bold added):


Originally Posted by icebear (Post 9514844)

Don't get me wrong... It's not like there isn't crackpottery on the fringe or anything like that; just that much of the last century's worth of mainstream science isn't much better.

A few Example:

  • The "Big Bang(TM)" idea. BB should have been rejected on day one on purely philosophical grounds. Having all the mas of the universe collapsed to a point would be the mother of all black holes; nothing would ever "bang" its way out of that. BB was never based on anything other than an interpretation of cosmic redshift as distance and velocity, which turns out to be wrong. Halton Arp has shown examples of very high and very low redhift objects which are very clearly part and parcel of the same things, often with obvious connecting material between them. For his troubles, Arp was banned from observatories in the US and subsequently picked up by the Max Planck Institute, sort of like the story of the "Ugly Duckling" which children read. [snip]

  • Relativity (deformable time). What could be stupider than claiming that when two Volkswagens pass each other at light speed (or at any other speed for that matter...), time for each slows down WRT the other?? Aside from every other problem with Relativity, there is the fact that when Dayton Miller reran the MM experiment with much better equipment and at higher altitude, it did not fail...

I could, of course, have chosen any of dozens of other posts from this part of the JREF forum, over the past year or so.

In the example above, icebear summarizes what s/he thinks Halton Arp has established - close, physical-distance, proximity of objects with very different redshifts - without having any idea what "redshift" actually is, much less how an astronomer like Arp would go about measuring it. Yet icebear chose to post these opinions, here, in this part of the JREF forum, in a manner which suggests s/he is very certain of the validity of this result.

I have no problem with someone challenging 'the mainstream' understanding of anything in astronomy (or cosmology); but I do expect that, at the very least, they'd have taken the trouble to understand - even at a high level - just what the astronomical observations are, that their challenge relies on.

Yet, in every case I can recall I've seen here, those challenges have quickly been shown to be based on very weak understanding of what the astronomy actually is: what astronomers did, how they took data obtained from instruments attached to telescopes (for example) and converted them into things like 'redshift' or 'distance', what physics theories these steps totally depend on, and so on.

Which is then a good segue to the topic of this thread: Do those who espouse crackpot astronomy truly not understand astronomy?

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Do you know who else was against shooting elephants in the face? Hitler.

No, really.

Well, according to this idiot, anyway.

Bonus :boggled: : he says elephant hunting is perfectly okay because he only hunts them for food, plus not shooting elephants is racism!

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Taxonomy as a Rigorous Science

Someone in this thread made comments about the lack of rigor in paleontology, specifically in regards to taxonomy. I made a brief post in that thread, and I'd like to continue my discussion without derailing the thread.

If I may jump in where I more or less left off:

Scientists have an almost pathological aversion to the subjective, and taxonomists are no different. They have established several methods for ensuring objectivity in their analysis.

First and most importantly is the type specimen. This is a specimen (or more rarely a series of specimens) that defines the species in question. The concept is a bit Platonic/"shadows on a cave wall" for my taste, but even I acknowledge that the function it serves is critical. That function is to give a universal and almost always unverying starting point for species determination. Everyone uses the same type specimens for each species; you can't NOT use the same type specimens. These specimens are carefully maintaned in very high-quality labs. The existence of these type specimens does not, I hasten to emphasize, mean that the concept of a species is immutable once established; any time spent reading the taxonomic literature will show innumerable discussions that amount to "This species should be redefined" (particularly now, with the whole Ceratopsian thing going on). Type specimens make the discussion objective because they give us all a starting point, and all the same starting point.

One of the great tragedies of World War 2 was the bombing of so many museums. I'm not trying to deminish the astounding loss of life; I'm just saying that a tremendous amount of scientific data was irrevocably lost. Unfortunately, this was what was required to spur people into routinely including photographs with their species descriptions. Sadly, many pre-war species no longer have type specimens due to them simply being blown up and converted into rubble. I've had personal experience with the tremendous, and sometimes insurmountable, difficulties this causes even today.

The species description is another way to add objectivity. As I said previously, these descriptions are long, dense, and extremely technical. That's because they need to be. These descriptions give us something against which to test our specimens--they in a very real sense are the formal experiment in taxonomy. Once written, anyone can (once they've been trained to comprehend the description) determine if a new specimen is part of that species or not, using precisely the same logic as physicists used to determine if they'd found the Higgs Boson or not. This means that taxonomy is an empirical, experimental science.

Finally, all of the rules for species identification have been codefied in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. This is the framework within which taxonomists are required to operate. The Code defines the different types of type specimens (haplotype, paratype, holotype, and a few more that I've never seen in person), as well as how to address synonymies, contradictions, and other issues that will inevitably arise when thousands of researchers contribute to a conversation that's been going on for three centuries. These rules are determined by the researchers for the purpose of ensuring objectivity.

There are some problems with this method, yes. As I said before, it's very Platonic. The type specimen is supposed to represent the big-T Truth of the species, or at least was until fairly recently. This obviously contradicts evolution, and that assumption was abandoned by most researchers a long time ago. At this point, as far as I can tell, most researchers view type specimens as vital conveniences, not as Horse. I know two researchers (three? depends on how you count them--one person is only intermittently part of that team) who are attempting to redefine ammonite species based on population statistics, rather than a type specimen.

Secondly, and far more significantly, the literature is extremely widely scattered. A common type of taxonomic paper is "A revision of the genus ____", in which the researcher puts together everything they can find about that genus and proposes a new understanding of it. A common criticism of such papers is "But you haven't examined THIS paper!" A valid criticism--and drawing such criticisms is one of the critical aspects of such papers. Unfortunately there is no database we can go to to find this stuff. Several have tried to establish one (I think the Tree of Life is ongoing, but I could be wrong), but the task is beyond the comprehension of most. Even putting together all the information on each family within one order is an enormous task beyond all but the most dedicated research teams. What that means is that, unfortunately, when we describe a new species it's often already been described before. Nothing's more disheartening then realizing that your species was already named, back when scientific publications were in Latin (though it does give you a real sense of your connection with the great names in science; referencing Linnaeus is both disheartening and profoundly satisfying).

Another major issue with taxonomy, and in fact the biggest one, is that it does not presume to define evolutionary history. Linnaeus had no intention of discussing--nor, indeed, any knowledge of--evolution. The book "Darwin's Century" discusses some doubts he had later in life, but when he started at least the nested heirarchy was simply a matter of convenience. This is why Arthropoda can be both polyphyletic and a valid taxonomic name--taxonomy, at its start, was merely about putting things in categories. Which means it has a curious side benefit: taxonomy up until very recently served as a truly independent test for evolution. The fact that taxonomy largely matched evolutionary history, despite having nothing to do with it, is very clear evidence that evolution is right.

Still, taxonomy is a powerful tool. And the thing that strikes me about each of these problems is that the people identifying them and addressing them are researchers in the field. Like Creationists, those who attack paleontology for lacking rigor have not, to my knowledge, presented a single criticism that my coleagues and I haven't addressed first, better, in more detail, and found ways to fix.


In the other thread I had mentioned that the math behind cladograms using morphological characters and genetic characters (characters=traits; don't ask me why, the best explanation I ever got was "Cladists wanted to set themselves apart, and jargon was an easy way to do that). I'm not going to go into too much depth here; if you really want to know more about the math, here is a very good resource. You can also download a freeware program at that site and actually play with some data yourself. Apparently a new version is out; hopefully they made it so you can copy and paste from Excel into it now. That was one of the most annoying aspects of that program. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to toy with statistics--it can do all kinds of things, from cluster analysis to PCAs to cladograms to simple Gausian statistics. You just have to play around with it until you find out how. It's for serious researchers; they didn't design it to be intuitive to non-experts.

Anyway, here's how the math works, at the 1:1,000,000 scale: You pick your taxonomic groups, and you pick your characters. Genetic taxonomy is easy--you pick the gene, and each codon or base pair represents a character. Morphological data are trickier, but generally by the time you're doing this stuff you've gained a pretty good understanding of taxonomy so it's not too hard. What you want to focus on are shared, derived traits--meaning traits a group has because their ancestor had it and they retained it. Traits that only individual species have are pretty useless for determining evolutionary history--you already know where they evolved, so they tell you nothing. You should also have an "outgroup", a species that is outside the group you're interested in, but close enough to share some primative traits of the group (bacteria are a horrible out-group for primate cladistics; bats aren't too bad, actually). Then you run the program (it may shut down your computer for a while--on a really big database I saw it shut one down for three days).

What the computer does is construct every possible cladogram and count the number of evolutionary changes necessary to arive at that tree. The program will give you the trees with the elast number of changes necessary, on the assumption that the fewer changes necessary the more likely it is that the tree represents the true evolutionary history (as my old professor put it, "We assume that evolution is hard").

What you will immediately find is that there are many. The reason is that the way the heavy math works is by assuming that only pairs are possible--one species splits into two species, but never three or more. Obviously this doesn't represent biological reality; however, the consensus tree--meaning the average of the shortest trees--typically collapses many of the clades, meaning that it groups multiple species together. There is some debate as to what this means; personally, while I haven't run any serious tests of it (I'm still toying with how to run such a test), I lean towards the idea that those collapsed clades represent evolutionary reality: they show organisms that arose from the same stock, if not necessarily the same time.

Now you can test it. There are multiple ways; the ones I'm most familiar with are bootstrapping and jack-knifing. In one (and I always forget which), you simply remove random characters, re-run the analysis, and see what pops out. It does this a thousand times (default setting; you can make it do more). More robust trees can handle the loss of some data; if, however, some structure relies on a single character, it's more likely that it's not real. Often there's a reporting limit of 50% or so, meaning that if the structure doesn't appear on 50% resultant trees, you treat it as if it's not there. The other test also removes random traits, but it duplicates random traits as well--so each analysis has the same number of characters, but not the same characters. It's dealt with the same way.

This is how the math works for ANY set of characters. Genetic or morphological, even behavioral or stratigraphic (yes, I've seen it; no, I do not approve of if)--the characters don't matter, that's how the math works. So in essence, genetic cladograms are not superior to morphological ones.

One thing that's really cool about these trees is that each time the branches come together (called a node), the math will tell you what the traits of that node are. This forms a hypothesis about the nature of the ancestor of those two species. I've found, through analyzing numerous cladograms, that often the cladogram is saying "This species directly gave rise to this other one", which is by itself a really cool concept (I've toyed around with somehow addressing the distance from nodes, but haven't done much with it since grad school; haven't had time or a reason to get back into it). If the node matches a species you analyzed, that means that you are arguing that that speceis gave rise to the other(s) branching off that node. If the node's characters don't match anything you've analyzed, that means you are hypothesizing the existence of an organism ancestral to the ones you studied, and--here's the part that I find unbelievably awesome--you are predicting the nature of that organism. What that means is that someone can go out, find it, and say "Hey, this matches what they predicted"--making cladistics indespensable for making sense of the past. (The researcher would still have to draft a species description and curate the type specimen; the honor of naming the species goes to the discoverer, not to the person who hypothesized tis existence.)

These mathematical methods have been tested. For example, there was a scientist who created a fictional clade of organisms based on a known evolutionary history. He then presented them to scientists and challanged them to reconstruct the history of that clade. Eventually they succeeded--and we've gotten much better at it over time. As an aside, I want to make some of these as stuffed animals for my impending child.

A second test is to compare the hypothesized evolutionary history against what we see in the rock record. We expect some range extensions--FADs and LADs are not usually the first organism to have evolved in that species, but only the first and last APPEARANCE of that species in the fossil record. Still, the fossil record is useful. If you hypothesize a huge number of organisms and we only find three, or hypothesize traits we just don't find, it's cause to re-examine the cladogram, and specifically the characters and assumptions that went into it.

As I said, this is the 1:1,000,000 scale, for all of this--meaning I'm glossing over a huge amount of data and only barely scratching the surface of the stuff I'm adressing. Still, I think it's sufficient to demonstrate the rigorous nature of taxonomy and of our methods for understanding evolutionary history. If anyone would like me to expand on any of these topics, please feel free. And Jodie, please point to specific areas where subjectivity can be problematic.

via JREF Forum