Friday, October 30, 2009

Return of the Dark Eyed Juncos

When I arrived home yesterday around dusk I heard a steady chit... chit... chit...* in the woods nearby. It was softer than a chipmunk's call and then it moved suddenly several yards away and I knew it had to be a bird. But who?

Now I see several dark eyed juncos in the bushes and the memory of their calls returns to me. Of course! How could I forget.

This is the time of year when the cute little guys suddenly mob us. They'll hang around until springtime when they'll just as suddenly head west and north for their breeding season.

Fun facts: Dark eyed juncos like to make a pew-pew-pew noise kinda like sci-fi phaser sounds.#
Sound files here.
* Click "Chip notes (Slate-colored race)" to hear.
# Click "Kew calls ("Slate-colored" race)" to hear.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Church of Scientology guilty of fraud in France

updated 8:03 a.m. ET, Tues., Oct . 27, 2009
PARIS - A Paris court on Tuesday convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud and fined it more than half a million euros — but stopped short of banning the group as requested by prosecutors.

The group's French branch immediately announced it would appeal the verdict.

The court convicted the Church of Scientology's French office, its library and six of its leaders of fraud. Investigators said the group pressured members into paying large sums of money for questionable financial gain and used "commercial harassment" against recruits.

I'm glad France and Germany are capable of distinguishing dangerous sects from more benign religious groups. We have a hard time doing that in the US for a variety of reasons.

It's true that lots of religious groups have strange ideas and may promote bigotry or backward ideas. Still, it's worth noting that many largely ignore their more unpleasant official teachings and spend most of their time trying to be helpful to those who seek them out.

Scientology is another kettle of fish. It's nothing like the typical religious groups most of us know from our communities. It's history reveals that the word "religion" is nothing more than a legal loophole --a protection from the IRS and scrutiny for fraudulent claims.

Which other religion has so many associated front groups? I find the effort to hide the connections between Scientology and the natural medicine movement and the anti-blasphemy or "hate speech" movements disturbing, particularly when these groups seem to have connections to the UN and human rights movements around the globe.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Scientology-Naturopathy Connection

About ten years ago I knew someone friendly to $cientology who also had a number of odd health ideas. She wanted people to write to authorities in support of Hulda Clark, who I understood to be some sort of quack. I smiled politely and ignored the strangeness.

When Tom Cruise ranted about using vitamins, detox, and excercise to treat depression, I thought, "what a douche," and not much else. Naturopathy was an unknown to me then. But now the naturopathic theme in Cruise's rant seems obvious.

$cientology has been funding schools of naturopathy in Britain.

Some discussion of mercury militia and DAN! $cientologists here.
Front groups:
= Ability Academy Inc. (dba, Delphi Academy of San Diego)
= Ability Apple School
= Ability Plus Academy of Colorado, Inc.
= Ability Plus Connecticut, Inc.
= Ability School of Utah
= Academy for Learning (formerly, Mission of the Children, Inc.)
= American Detoxification Foundation
= Applied Education, Inc. (dba, Delphi Academy of Sacramento)
= Applied Scholastics Colorado
= Applied Scholastics Hawaii
= Applied Scholastics International
= Applied Scholastics of Florida, Inc. (dba, Applied Scholastics East U.S.)
= Applied Scholastics of Orange County
= Applied Scholastics Outreach
= Applied Scholastics Western United States
= Association for Better Living and Education International
= Bear Hill School, Inc. (The)
= Bridge Publications, Inc.
= Building Management Services
= Canyon View Academy
= Carroll Rees Academy and Arts
= Cherish the Children Foundation, Inc.
= Chicagoland Academy, Inc. (dba, Delphi Academy of Chicago)
= Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc.
= Church of Scientology International
= Church of Scientology Western United States
= Church of Spiritual Technology (dba, L. Ron Hubbard Library)
= Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR)
= Citizens for an Alternative Tax System
= Clearwater Academy International
= Clearwater Community Volunteers, Inc.
= Criminon International
= Criminon Western United States
= Criminon, Inc.
= Delphi Academy of Boston, Inc.
= Delphi Academy of Florida
= Delphi Schools, Inc.
= Earth Organization
= Ebony Awakening, Inc.
= Education Basics and Beyond, Inc (also, The Brighten School)
= Excalibur Foundation
= Flag Ship Trust (FST)
= Foundation Church of Scientology Flag Ship Service Organization (FFSSO)
= Foundation for a Drug-Free World
= Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education
= Foundation for Religious Freedom (took over Cult Awareness Network)
= Friends of Narconon, International
= Golden Academy and Tutoring Center
= Happy House
= Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (HELP Harlem)
= Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (HELP Los Angeles)
= Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (HELP Miami)
= Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (HELP Orange County)
= Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (HELP Portland)
= Hubbard College of Administration (strangely, this entity advertises itself as "secular", but is registered as a religious entity at the IRS)
= International Academy of Detoxification Specialists (dba, New York Rescue Workers Detoxification)
= International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance
= Jensen Family Foundation
= Lafayette Academy
= Lewis Carrol Academy of the Arts, Inc.
= Literacy and Education Ability Resources Network, Inc. (dba, LEARN, Inc.)
= Literacy and Education Awareness Project
= Los Gatos Academy
= Minnesota Applied Study Technology, Inc.
= Mojave Academy, Inc.
= Narconon Drug Prevention and Education, Inc.
= Narconon Eastern United States
= Narconon Florida, Inc.
= Narconon Gulf Coast, Inc.
= Narconon Hawaii
= Narconon Idaho, Inc.
= Narconon Inc.
= Narconon International
= Narconon Northern California
= Narconon of Georgia, Inc.
= Narconon of Oklahoma, Inc. (dba, Narconon Arrowhead)
= Narconon of the South, Inc.
= Narconon Sacramento
= Narconon Southern California
= Narconon Stone Hawk
= Narconon Western United States
= New Era Publications International ApS (Denmark)
= New Era Seniors, Inc.
= New Mexico Ranch School, Inc.
= New Village Academy ("NVA uses study technology as an umbrella methodology woven through the subjects." )
= Phocis, Inc.
= Pinewood Academy of Literacy and the Arts
= Pollack Family Foundation, Inc.
= PROCIVICOS (Volunteer Ministers for Civil Protection)
= Religious Technology Center (from Form 1023)
= Renaissance Academy Inc.
= Say No to Drugs
= Scientology Missions International (from Form 1023)
= Second Chance Program, Inc.
= Sequoia Academy, Inc. [ref, ref]
= Set A Good Example [SAGE] Foundation (formerly, Concerned Businessmen's Association of America, Inc.)
= Shuttleworth Leadership Society International (also, Shuttleworth Academy/Mary's Schoolhouse)
= Standard Education, Inc.
= The Bryan and June Zwan Foundation, Inc.
= The Community Learning Center, Inc. (dba, World Literacy Crusade of Pinellas Co.)
= The Literacy, Education and Ability Program
= The Truth and Freedom Foundation
= The Way to Happiness Foundation International
= WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises)
= World Literacy Crusade International
= World Literacy Crusade of Florida, Inc.
= Youth for Human Rights International
= Youth Specialist Centers, Inc.

International eforts:
Another organization concerned with enforcement of human rights is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is an inter-governmental body which consists of more than 50 European countries, as well as the United States and Canada.

The OSCE has developed a series of treaties which have recognized the vital need for infusing human rights principles into agreements considered essential to resolving conflicts.

The Church of Scientology International’s Human Rights Office in Brussels is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) with the OSCE. Its staff regularly participate in human rights sessions organized by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE and other intergovernmental bodies and also organize regular roundtables and conferences on human rights themes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

And it's all really, really there!


[deGrasse Tyson]
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically

I think nature's imagination
Is so much greater than man's
She's never going to let us relax

We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature

I'm this guy standing on a planet
Really I'm just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There's billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We're made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned

I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we

[deGrasse Tyson]
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??

(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)

There's this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other

And it's all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it's all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Can Haz Flu Shot

From FailBlog.

Pod People Screening Exam

Warning: May provoke excessive facepalm and/or an OMGWTF BBQ!!!

From a comment at Orac's site:
I'm apparently the only one who saw just perhaps the faintest glimmer of Maher's opinion beginning to "evolve" in a postive way on this matter.

Above Maher does seem to have moved from confident anti-vax to "teach the controversy." A step in the right direction, I grant you. But not a clear sign of better things to come.

Are my readers cozy? All tucked in under the covers? Then it's time for a little bedtime story. Tonight's selection is called, "Pod People Screening Exam."

Once upon a time in a far away kingdom lived a fair princess who'd been dating Bill Maher. Many days she was happy, for Bill could be charming. Other days she was sad, for when Bill was unhappy he was very insulting. These emotional ups and downs drove the poor princess crazy. So she made an appointment to see Dr. Titmouse at her nest in the woods.

"Oh Titmouse," said the princess, "my feelings were hurt. Bill was to dine at my place around 6:00. But at 7:00 he called to say he was stuck at the mall with his ex picking out appliances or something. Could I put his plate in the fridge? He would try to make it by 8:00. But the time passed. I waited, then I worried. Then I left voicemail on his cell around 10:00 Finally near midnight he was at my door. But he was so tired he didn't want to talk. He kicked off his shoes and crashed on my couch.

The next morning I asked what happened. He was grumpy. He said, "Why are you so demanding? So inflexible? You know what your problem is? You're too needy. You're pathologically jealous."

And so the weeks passed. The princess soon realized that she and Bill would have to part. But this made her so sad she couldn't think what to do.

Then for no reason at all things seemed to change for the better. The princess and Bill were together most evenings. They danced, laughed, talked, and planned. "I was a jerk," Bill confessed, and he explained why: politics at work, balloon payment on the condo, an evil ex making threats --all too much on his plate at once.

The princess wished to cut Bill some slack. "But what do you think?" she inquired of the Titmouse.

"Let me ask you this," said Titmouse, "If the shoe were on the other foot, if you were the one stuck somewhere and he were the one waiting, would you perhaps forget to call?"

"Hmm," puzzled the princess. "Knowing the guy's in love with me? And probably going crazy waiting? No, I couldn't see myself blowing off a phone call. Not in a million years."

Titmouse replied, "Well of course not. You're human. You're not a pod person."

"Pod person?" queried the princess.

"Rent Invasion of the Body Snatchers." said the Titmouse. "Some people only seem human."

"But," asked the princess, "if they seem alike, how do you tell which is which?"

The Titmouse answered, "You must ask yourself the shoe-on-the-other-foot question. If the answer is, 'not in a million years,' then what you have on your hands is a pod person. Cut your losses and move on."
* * * *

If I were in Maher's shoes, if several smart people had been telling me that I'd been talking crazy talk on national TV, would I simply keep on as before? Would I continue to contradict the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Richard Dawkins? Would I insist I was right without a pause for self-study and reflection?

No, not in a million years.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pediatricians, WTF?

From a comment left at Orac's blog.

Quiz: How many stoopids can YOU find in the text below?


I miss all of you.

I just saw an eight-month-old boy who got two vaccines then lost his language, motor skills, reaction to his own name and responsiveness to his 3 year old sister. This all happened three hours after a DPT/HIB combination. All previous observation and video of this little boy is normal. Lots of great video of a vibrant, talkative happy baby.

He has autism now. No proof, but the temporal proximity of the regression to his vaccines is daunting to those of us who would like more rigorous proof rather than just a collection of hundreds of pieces of anecdotal evidence. Tempting to assume causation even if only this one case/child.

Just thought you'd want to know. I usually see these kids in my office months or years after the event the parents think caused the problems. I have read hundreds of emails and spoken to thousands of parents who are certain that vaccines triggered or mightily contributed to their children's autism.

Not this time: This family came to my office just days after the vaccines, distraught that he was no longer talking,smiling, acknowledging his sister or his mom and dad and was flapping his hands a lot.

What do you think?


Posted by: Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP | April 27, 2009 3:44 AM

"FAAP" means "Fellow, American Academy of Pediatrics."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And so de Urf wuz saved!

"CSIRO" is the Australian "Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation."

Monday, October 5, 2009

PZed, will you be my dad?

I just finished reading PZ Myers' ancient review (2-23-09) of Bill Maher's Religulous:
On a related note, Bill Maher was one of the presenters for best documentary, and what did he do? Plugged his movie, Religulous, while moaning over the fact that it was not nominated. Bad form, Bill, very bad form. Maybe it just wasn't good enough.

I did finally see Religulous a few days ago, and I confess to being a bit disappointed. It consisted of a series of short interviews with, for instance, truckers at a truck stop chapel, Catholic priests, an "ex-gay" minister, a Muslim rapper, etc., and it was all capped with excellent and scathing monologue that strongly criticized religion. Don't get me wrong, it was good, and there were some funny bits, but something nagged at me throughout, and only when I saw the conclusion did I realize what it was.

Maher cheated. He had a clear idea of what his opinion was, but he wasn't sharing it with the people he was interviewing. They were left to flounder and make poor arguments in part because there are no good arguments for religion, but also because they were left in the dark about what they were arguing against. It may be funny, but it's no fair; contrast that with the Dawkins' documentaries on religion, which are less funny, but more honest, because the people on camera know (or should know) exactly what they are wrestling with.

A better Religulous would have recorded the closing monolog first, and sent that to each of the potential interviewees with a note saying, "Here's my position. Are you willing to argue against it on camera?" That would have made for a much more interesting movie, and Maher would have had to break a sweat to address criticisms…and it would probably be less funny. There's a reason Maher wasn't nominated for an Oscar, and I think it's because his documentary took no risks, and didn't probe very deeply.
Damn, PZ is a fast judge of character. I can see everything he saw now, but I missed most of it the first time through.

When I absent-mindedly watched Religulous on DVD some weeks ago, I thought, "Haha, long haired dude really does look a lot like Jesus." That's about as deep as I went with that film

Didn't watch the Oscars. So when I read a few moments ago that Maher was upset that he didn't get a nomination, I nearly fell outta my chair. Whaa? Must be kidding! No, not kidding. Oh wow.

PZ, I wish you'd been around to help me sort boyfriends back in the day when I was young and gullible.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bill Maher Ridiculous

Maher has a lot going for him. He's smart and funny, and he does seem to learn and alter his views over time.

Below is one of Maher's better moments. This is the clip where the 9/11 Truthers heckle him during his show. He fairly effectively makes them look stupid. I imagine that doing stand-up all those years was good preparation.

But it must be said that Maher's understanding of medical science is rather feeble, particularly in the realm of HIV, vaccines (opposing some but not all vaccines CUZ U NOES MOAR DEN CDC still makes you an anti-vax loon), immunity, toxicology, and nutrition.

Celebrities can have opinions. But where public health is concerned, they must get the facts right or STFU. Medical misinformation kills.

If you have cancer, don't listen to Bill Maher.