Recent Articles

Fake Creationist Labs

| August 20, 2014 | Reply

Delightful detective and unsurprising information from Patheos.

Amazingly proud ignorance displayed her, and a green-screened lab thrown in for shits and grins. Wow. These are the people who want to have equal time in science classrooms.

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The stereotypes about atheism

| August 19, 2014 | 3 Replies

A new movie, “God’s Not Dead,” is about to be released. From it, many church-going folks will have their stereotypes about atheists reinforced. Here’s a list provided by Nell Carter at Patheos:

1. Atheist professors are predatory, and they are out to convert everyone into ideological clones of themselves.
2. Atheists are selfish, self-absorbed, greedy jerks.
3. Atheists are cocky, self-sure, and totally enamored with their own superiority.
4. Atheists will openly threaten you, bow up, get in your face, stare you down.
5. Atheists are clearly incapable of love.
6. Atheists lack ethical boundaries.
7. They disbelieve in God because something bad happened to them.
8. Atheists are angry at God. You can just hear it in all of their voices.
9. Atheists are miserable because they believe life is meaningless.
10. Atheists have no basis for morality.

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Beware Free Dimes from the March of Dimes

| August 17, 2014 | Reply

Would you like to piss away some money? How about sending money to the March of Dimes, which recently sent me this letter that included a dime glued to the letter.

March of Dimes

The first thought in my mind is Robert Cialdini’s Rule of Reciprocity, which appeared in his best selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion:

Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.

In his book, Cialdini points out that when someone hands us something, the feeling of indebtedness makes many of us feel compelled to reciprocate, and the reciprocation is often out of proportion to the initial gift. In the case of the March of Dimes, people get only dimes but they will often respond by writing checks for $25 or $50.

But should you contribute to the March of Dimes? Consider this, also from Wikipedia:

In his book Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, sociologist Professor James M. Henslin describes March of Dimes as a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own through a classic example of a process called goal displacement. Faced with redundancy after Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, it adopted a new mission, “fighting birth defects”, which was recently changed to a vaguer goal of “breakthrough for babies”, rather than disbanding.

Charity Navigator, an organization that attempts to quantify the effectiveness of charities, has given the organization a rating of two stars (out of four). This is a merged score that attributes both a Financial as well as Accountability & Transparency rating to a non-profit. As of Fiscal Year 2012, Charity Navigator gives a 34.68 out of 70 score for Financial and a 67 out of 70 for Accountability & Transparency. This gives the March of Dimes a merged score of 44.93, leading to their two star status.

Another criticism has been that President Jennifer Howse’s compensation is high. In 2011 the March of Dimes 990 reported it was $545,982.[citation needed] In 2012 her compensation was reduced to $526,679.

 

Related topic: Charities that play the game of giving you something so that you give THEM something. Example: Girl Scout Cookies.

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How many ancestors do you have?

| August 17, 2014 | Reply

How many ancestors do you have? This article is a delightful excursion into math and biology.

I’m always fascinated to hear people over-focused on only that one twig of their family that carries their surname. Too bad we can put a button to see everyone related to us glow, the glow brighter based on how closely they are related to us. Would anyone NOT glow? Maybe such a fantasy device would make us less likely to start wars.

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Farce Democracy

| August 16, 2014 | 1 Reply

A paper by Princeton University’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page questions whether the United States can claim to be a meaningful democracy. Bloomberg reports:

Economic elites have “quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.” Interest groups have a lesser but still “substantial” influence, the paper says. In contrast, the authors found, “It makes very little difference what the general public thinks.

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The new version of brick and mortar

| August 15, 2014 | Reply

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine, a lawyer from Kansas City, who mentioned that he is moving to Birmingham, Alabama. He’s fully intending to maintain his Missouri practice with his Kansas City law partner.

I’m increasingly hearing these sorts of stories from experienced lawyers who handle complex litigation. That is my situation too, and it’s working out well. My two law partners ( John Campbell and Alicia Campbell) are based in Denver, where John teaches law at Denver University, but also handles litigation with our firm. We have a workload based mainly in Missouri, and the Campbells often “commute” by airplane to Missouri to handle court hearings, depositions and trials. In the meantime, much of what all of us do involves creating pleadings and researching at our computers, exchanging tons of email and having phone conferences with other attorneys and judges. We keep our files almost entirely in the cloud and we make use of quite a few internet services and computer programs to keep our workload moving and accessible.

IMG_0764 CampbellLaw - trio portrait - March 17 2013

Functionally, it’s really not much different than it would have been had we been working together daily in a brick and mortar office. Campbell Law, LLC was featured for the way we employ technology in an article published by the Bar Assn of Metropolitan St. Louis for being one of the prominent St. Louis firms to make such extensive use of technology (I’ve attached the article as a jpeg). I’m feeling gratified about how well things are working out, especially as Campbell Law is in the process of preparing for its five-year anniversary, Alicia having founded the firm in 2009.

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Recipe for dysfunction, corporate or governmental

| August 13, 2014 | 2 Replies

Because of my recent divorce, I needed to make some changes to my health care policy which my family had purchased under Obamacare. Therefore, today, I spent almost 3 hours on the phone, first with the Obamacare people at Healthcare.gov and then with my current insurer, Anthem/Blue Cross, one of only two health insurers offering coverage on the exchange in St. Louis. For me, it was as revealing as it was frustrating. Significant dysfunction permeated both organizations.

For those who say that they would not trust the government to have a hand in health insurance, I would respond that Anthem was terrible. It took 15 minutes to even get a live human being on the line. After the man demonstrated that he was not able to answer my concerns, he refused to elevate my concern to a supervisor. He made claims that he would not confirm in writing. I do not trust large powerful corporations to be responsive to consumers whenever there is a monopoly or a near monopoly (e.g., health insurers and telecoms).

For those who say that they do not trust big corporations to handle health care, I would say that a big lumbering government is not necessarily going to solve your problems either. Healthcare.gov runs a dysfunctional site when it comes to people like me, who are attempting a special enrollment due to life changes. I would offer that the problem is that there is little meaningful pressure we can exert when the government site is deficient [In fairness, signing up for my family's original policy through Healthcare.gov was somewhat straightforward].

The bottom line: Whenever there is substantial power and no direct pressure consumers can assert to force a big organization to change its ways, there will be substantial long-term dysfunction. It doesn’t matter whether the organization is a big corporation or a government entity.

Unless there is a meaningful feedback loop whereby consumers can force the government OR corporations to improve performance, we can expect dysfunction.

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John Oliver takes on Payday Lenders

| August 12, 2014 | Reply

John Oliver takes on Payday Lenders with a vengeance.   Check out Sarah Silverman’s payday loan alternative commercial at the end.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/PDylgzybWAw” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

I have often been highly critical of Payday Loans at this website. They are dangerous financial products that drive the working poor into bankruptcy, foreclosure and worse.

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Jim Carrey takes on guns

| August 11, 2014 | 1 Reply

This video, a parody of a show called “Hee-Haw,” takes on the glorification of guns with a feisty song. Jim Carrey plays the role of Charleston Heston.

The 2013 video caused quite a stir, even bringing Ted Nugent and other “patriots” out into the limelight.

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