Use a calculator much?

I only have a few minutes, but I HAVE to get this off my chest… I’ve seen this email 3 times in the last 3 hours:

Hi Pals,

Just letting you know I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We-Deserve-It Dividend.

To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So, 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up.

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals $425,000.00.

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We-Deserve-It Dividend.

Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let’s assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam, but it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket. A husband and wife would have $595,000.00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.
Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads.
Put away money for college – it’ll be there.
Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
Buy a new car – create jobs.
Invest in the market – capital drives growth.
Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves .
Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean – or else.

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.

If we’re going to redistribute wealth, let’s really do it instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 ( “vote buy” ) economic incentive that is being proposed.

If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!

As for AIG – liquidate it. . . .Sell off its parts.

Let American General go back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.

Here’s my rationale: We deserve it and AIG doesn’t.

Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work”, but can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party!

How do you spell Economic Boom?

I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 billion We-Deserve-It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC.

And remember, this plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.
5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

Ahhh…I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

I’m all for alternative solutions to getting us out of this mess. I honestly appreciate efforts to brainstorm… But, um, every calculator and spreadsheet program at my disposal says that $85,000,000,000 (that’s eighty-five billion) divided by 200,000,000 (that’s two hundred million) people only comes out to $425 each. If I have a choice, I’ll take the $1000 incentive.

So if this email crosses your path, I’m begging you, please – stop the insanity. If you forward it, please do so only to share a warning about how far off base it is. Your local and national politicians are not failing you for ignoring it as an option. They’re actually doing you a favor.

Wait, huh?

New press release from the Catholic League today, in which Bill Donohue declares a Ramadan event honoring Iranian President Ahmadinejad “obscene.” Donohue says:

“Catholics need to stand with their Jewish brothers and sisters in protesting this obscene event. Ahmadinejad is a menace to freedom-loving people the world over, and the sight of religious groups embracing him is nauseating. The Catholic League is proud to take part in this rally and we encourage people of all religious groups to have a contingent represent them on Thursday evening.”

Hmmm… well, as scary as it is, I’m inclined to agree with the threat-to-freedom part. But, hey, Bill…? What about the threat to freedom that Catholicism and all religion in general pose? Weren’t you just screaming, purple-faced and pop-eyed about the great intolerance of PZ Myers’ own demonstration of protestation? If you’re going to rant about your right to respect from others, maybe you should observe this right for others. You don’t get the monopoly on respect from people. You have to practice giving it, too.

Thank you

I want to say thank you to many people. Here’s the shortlist:

PZ Myers
Richard Dawkins
Michael Shermer
James Randi
Eugenie Scott
Steven Novella
Bob Novella
Jay Novella
Rebecca Watson
Evan Bernstein

But really, my thanks go out to all the skeptical, freethinking, humanist communities that have been so informative. I still have a lot to learn about the world we’re in, but I have come so far in the past eighteen months.

This morning, my landscaping company came. Awhile after they started working, the doorbell rang. I figured it was them, telling me they’re done. I thought it took a little bit longer than usual, but I went to the door and opened it without looking. There stood an older couple, the man with a bible and some Watchtower magazines in hand.

I’m just not rude enough to shut the door in someone’s face. I mean, I will if they prove themselves particularly obnoxious, but I at least give them the warning that they’re about to be face-to-door. So this guy starts by asking my name, and telling me it’s very pretty. It feels a little condescending, but hey, icebreakers aren’t everyone’s forte.

Then he tells me that he and his wife are going around the neighbohood with this magazine issue that discusses life beyond the grave. “Do you believe there is life after death?”

And this is the point where I have to say thank you to everyone already named. Because no matter my beliefs, in the past, I would have humored the guy, taken his literature, then put it in the trash after he left. And admittedly, I considered it. But by the time he asked me this question, I had eliminated the option. I didn’t want to be held hostage at my own door. So I said, “No, I don’t.”

Honestly, he seemed to hold back some surprise. Do that many people tell him yes? Do so few say no? Anyway, he says, “But you believe in the creation, right?”

“No. I believe in evolution.” (Okay, so I don’t really “believe” in evolution; I accept the evidence as fact. But I didn’t feel like getting into an etymological debate, and figured I’d speak his language.)

“So you believe this all happened by chance?” And this is where I particularly have to thank PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins. What little I can say I understand about evolutionary biology, I attribute to them. They’ve made the ideas so accessible, that even my mind – which struggles mightily with most sciences – can understand it.

“No, not by chance. Evolution is not a matter of chance.”

“So you think that out of some soup of sludge, we all came into being?”

“Yes – ” He didn’t let me finish.

“You know, the greatest scientific minds say the brain is the most complex piece of machinery, and there’s so much about it we don’t understand. It must have a designer. Do you really think that just happened?”

So I told him that we don’t have all the answers, that science still has a lot to learn. I told him that we shouldn’t assign a god to it, and accept that – we wouldn’t have modern medicine or understanding of the stars if all men had just accepted a god or gods. And no, just for the record, evolution doesn’t just “happen.” It is a series of events where the creatures that survive are the creatures whose evolutionary path puts them in the right place at the right time, in simplest terms.

It felt pretty good to turn the sermon around. The difference, though, is I wasn’t trying to convert him. He said, “So I guess you wouldn’t be interested in reading the articles here?”

“No, sir.” Then I added, because I wanted him to know that not all atheists are heathens who just don’t know any better, “I want you to know that I was raised Christian. I was very close to God at one point. What I’ve told you today is the result of more than a year of intense investigation, both internal and external. This decision was not taken lightly. There’s nothing in your magazine I haven’t already explored.”

There was nothing militant in what I said or how I said it. The man and his wife were still pleasant when they left; they just recognized that they wouldn’t change my mind.

I research and I learn for my own edification. I want to understand the world and universe I live in, and the evidence I’ve found points to a naturalist view. I have not had the opportunity offline to use what I’ve learned in a true conversation about religion. I don’t seek out such opportunitites.

But I am so very grateful that when the opportunity came knockin’, I was ready to stand up to the challenge, and not be ashamed or unprepared to declare that I am an atheist, and it is an informed choice. So thank you to everyone who has contributed to my education and confidence.

Let’s talk about that moral compass…

Honestly, this conversation shouldn’t take that long. But it rages on and on, because theists who try to convince non-theists that a god must exist always seem to come around to the tired argument, “What about your moral compass? Where do you think that comes from?” The assumption being made is that since we know right from wrong, there must be a god who instilled those values in us.

The short answer to this argument is simply, Ethic of Reciprocity. Christians know it as The Golden Rule, and they’re often surprised to learn that the concept long predates Jesus. It appears in philosophic models and religions like Buddhism, Confucianism (both ~5th-century BCE), and Hinduism (which evidence dates as early as 1700 BCE). It is really a very simple idea: do things to others such that, if they reciprocate, you won’t be hurt. It’s a survival thing. I wasn’t there, but I’d be willing to bet early humans had to learn the lesson the hard way. But then they taught their offspring, who taught their offspring, who eventually went off and formed societies (and religions) with the wisdom of the ages to date. This is where right and wrong come from – our ancestors who had to learn the hard way. I mean really, have right and wrong changed much since the dawn of man? Or at least since man started recording his ideas?

Morality does not have to be a religious principle. It is easy to assign this to God, especially if you are raised to believe that the ten commandments are a moral code issued by God Himself. If that’s the case, consider opening your mind to a different source of societal ideals.

Shady polls

I would love to say that Internet polls are useless dreck. But unfortunately, they’re grim reminders of the saturation of ignorance – willful ignorance – in our society.

I ran across one today on a local news station’s web site. I was disturbed enough by the response options. This is a snapshot of my vote:

So you see my vote? Yes? Here’s the results:

Alright… so there’s only 5 votes. Let’s hope the distribution changes over time. 4 of the 5 people think that, “We have better things to spend our limited classroom time on?” Should we scrap other historic events like Pearl Harbor or the assassination of Franz Ferdinand? Those things precipitated America’s involvement in wars, but apparently there are more important things to discuss. Like intelligent design, maybe?

But that’s not all. The 5th person apparently thinks “[i]t’s too controversial or disturbing for the classroom.”  Is this because of the rampant conspiracy theories? Or is it because we can’t have our children know about death and violence? News flash: history is full of painful, violent things. They aren’t pleasant to learn about, but they often happen as a result of ignorance (hmmm… like a plane crashing into a skyscraper because of close-mindedness to other religions and ideas). We teach history and current events in our classrooms so that history doesn’t repeat itself. So to spare our children from the pain of violence, we perpetuate ignorance so they can experience it firsthand.

Notice anything else? How about the 0.0% next to the other two options. Wait. Remember my vote? Why is it not being counted? I hope it’s not being lumped in with either of the other two. That would be worse that having it just be ignored. But let’s talk about this option – I want to qualify it. I believe 9/11 should be a part of current events taught in classrooms. I don’t necessarily believe it should be a large part. It deserves a place in the textbooks – for better or worse, 9/11 permeated our culture, our ideas and our beliefs. It is a piece of America’s fabric.

Of course the responses to this poll are limited. I am hopeful that there are some people with concern for today’s education that stop by and provide some sensible responses. Or at least that 12 News decides to fix their results-counting code…

Healing Lunatics?

Kofi Sammy of Ghana has been healing folks with sand, thanks to a vision of Jesus – who, incidentally, “had long hair and was a very nice person.” I’m pretty sure it’s only going to be a matter of time before a new healer will need to pop up to cure Sammy’s followers:

While this may sound bizarre, thousands of hungry-for-miracle Christians in Ghana are literally eating, drinking, smearing and some even injecting the clay-sand into their stomachs by putting it into an enema bag and administering it through the anus.

I’m no doctor, but I can’t imagine a small sandbox in the tummy is biologically sound.

Perhaps the most ironic statement in the whole piece is this:

The prophet said he had cured many lunatics who were brought to him after all efforts to cure them had proven futile…

So, that just leaves one to wonder – when will Kofi Sammy be using this miracle clay on himself? It seems to me he’s creating more lunacy than he’s curing.