State rocks and religious resolutions: What’s going on in the state legislature today?

As an informed citizen, I am curious about the laws being created in my state. So, I get a daily report on House and Senate bills introduced in Pennsylvania and the actions taken.

Today was interesting… I caught up on what was done all last week. Oh, there was plenty of important stuff proposed– bills (called ACTS) that hopefully will become laws. But there are regularly many “resolutions” proposed to the legislative bodies. Many are labeled: “INTRODUCED AS NONCONTROVERSIAL RESOLUTION UNDER RULE 35”.

They include such well-meaning items as:

  • A Resolution designating the month of June 2016 as “Healthy Living and Healthy Eating Month” in Pennsylvania and encouraging all residents to eat healthy.
  • A Resolution designating the month of June 2016 as “Adopt a Cat Month” in Pennsylvania.
  • A Resolution commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Borough of Plymouth, Luzerne County.
  • A Resolution observing June 19, 2016, as “Juneteenth Independence Day” in Pennsylvania in recognition of June 19, 1865, the date on which slavery was abolished finally in all regions of the United States.
  • A Resolution recognizing the week of June 13 through 19, 2016, as “Men’s Health Week” in Pennsylvania.
  • A Resolution designating the month of July 2016 as “MECP2 Duplication Syndrome Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.

Read More »

Will this type of attack come to America? It already has.

Rhetoric seems to reign supreme in the US these days. When the audience lacks critical thinking skills and the ability to objectively question the speaker (usually a politician), we are in deep trouble. When fear –> anger –> violence happens and all reason is lost, then we can justifiably worry. I don’t comprehend politics very well. It confounds me. But what I do know is that we certainly need to be applying critical thinking and sound skepticism to the claims coming out of politicians these days. Their language, their ideas and their attitudes are getting worse.

I came across this opinion piece by Alex Massie who said:

We know that even lone lunatics don’t live in a bubble. They are influenced by outside events. That’s why, when there is an act of Islamist terrorism, we quite rightly want to know if it was, implicitly or explicitly, encouraged by other actors. We do not believe – at least we should not – in collective guilt or punishment but we do want to know, with reason, whether an individual assassin was inspired by ideology or religion or hate-speech or any of a hundred other possible motivating factors. We do not hold all muslims accountable for the violence carried out in the name of their prophet but nor can we avoid the ugly, unpalatable, truth that, as far as the perpetrator is concerned, he (it is almost always he) is acting in the service of his view of his religion. He has a cause, no matter how warped it may be. And so we ask who influenced him? We ask, how did it come to this?

Read More »

Psychical Research President states scientific disbelief in psi is “pathological”

coverPNRWhat a very strange “President’s Letter” is in Issue 77 of the Paranormal Review published by the Society of Psychical Research (Winter 2016). I read and re-read it trying to make heads or tales out of Dr. Poynton’s meaning and assertions. He seems to despise the application of reason and questioning, wishing the stodgy “pathological” scientists and skeptics would just BELIEVE already since the evidence for psi is as plain as day.

Fortunately, you can view the letter here (scroll down a bit past the editorial). Take a read and see what you think.

Read More »

1-160405_SCI_Animal-Welfare-Act.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Unclear and inconclusive study makes people panic unnecessarily about cell phones

How about this for a headline:

Puzzling, inconclusive study shows male rats placed in artificial environments and evenly dosed with cell-phone-like radiation across their whole bodies for nine hours a day over two years show slightly more rare heart tumors yet lived longer than those male and female rats NOT exposed to radiation

That is more accurate a description than the current hubbub coverage regarding a recently completed study done by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) regarding cell phone use. I hesitate to post the ACTUAL headlines that were used because they are misleading, potentially causing concern where, in real life, there is little reason to be concerned. But, because headlines need to be short and grab your attention, and that news orgs like to use fear to get hits, you’ll see much punchier headlines that DO mince words.Read More »

Photo on 5-27-16 at 9.03 AM

You (didn’t) WIN: Jackpot scams from the car dealer

I’m usually pretty good at spotting the “small print” on gimmick mailers and promotional contests. The latest one from a local car dealership was well-hidden. I looked and looked. Got out my hand-lens and scanned the tiny print in the margins. Hmm. This one was sneaky.

Mail flyers from car dealers that say you’ve won cash or prizes are bogus ploys to get you to come to the business. This one, from Brenner Pre-Owned in Harrisburg, PA and addressed to “Future Customer”, contained a scratch-off ticket. Some contain “keys” that you bring into the dealer to try for a new car.

Alright, I’ll play. [Put on skeptical spectacles]

Read More »

Rainbow+Rose

Skeptic Rose

Front-cover-2-664x1024I first heard about Rose Mackenberg from The Witch of Lime Street and thought, “Why haven’t I heard of her before!?” I was a bit behind on my reading.

Rose appeared in the Junior Skeptic issue of Winter 2013 written by Daniel Loxton, and in Massimo Polidoro’s book Final Seance (2001) that is on my reading list. She was Houdini’s “special agent” who busted psychics – a kick-ass Skeptic woman and we should all know and appreciate.

Thankfully (thanks Tim Farley), Rose has her own Wikipedia page now.

And today, she is featured on the front page. So there is no excuse to be unaware of this remarkable person. Read More »

Animal Planet’s Monster Week tones down the hype for 2016

jump_the_sharkIt’s business as usual at Animal Planet channel. It’s Monster Week. You know, it’s not that bad to air shows like The Cannibal in the Jungle for one week or on occasion. But AnPlan has gone too far in the past several years by suggesting that mermaids, Megalodon and cryptids exist by co-opting bad or outright FAKE science to make people think there is more support for these claims than there really are.

Animal Planet and Discovery channel (both of Discovery Network) often share shows so you may have seen a variety of strange offerings on both. (A complete list of paranormal programming in English, go to my list here.) For AnPlan in particular, fiction began to overtake nature programming in 1997 with the show Animal X about mystery cryptids. Then, they got into the Pet Psychic shows from 2002-2004 and again in 2010. But seriously, pet psychic shows are not even interesting and are kind of ridiculous even to the average person who believes in psychic abilities. River Monsters began in 2009 and is still going. It’s not exactly an unnatural program but occasionally does hype up the drama and lead viewers to misleading ideas. This hinted at what was to come – actual cryptid hunting.

Finding Bigfoot was a ratings success at AnPlan starting in 2011, becoming its top rated series (for a time – I think River Monsters may now hold that spot). Then, in 2012, the shit really began to hit the TV screen. Mermaids: A Body Found was a fictional show that was made to look like an actual documentary. The two-hour special used fake footage, CGI, fake “underwater sound recordings”, and had actors portray scientists to discuss the thoroughly dismissed “aquatic ape theory”. There was an immediate response. People who expect to see science on AnPlan thought this was science! There were some who actually believed mermaids were real and the government was hiding the truth! The NOAA had to issue a public statement to assure the nation that, no, mermaids were NOT real. The network had gone off the deep end but took the position that ratings were more important than information about real animals. After the raging success of Mermaids for Monster Week 2012, a sequel came in 2013 with even more misleading content and fake scientists. Also included in the 2013 Monster Week were programs that sounded like Roger Corman movies: Man-eating Squid, Invasion of the Swamp Monsters, and Invasion of the Mutant Pigs. Discovery Channel meanwhile was basking in the glow of confusing the public again with a fake documentary on an extinct giant shark that they wanted you to think was still around. Cue fake footage and doctored photos. This was the end of association with the network by many scientists who had had enough.mermaids-e1368894096230

Read More »