Christians love to quote the bible.  They love it.  And they love to quote it to Atheists.  Doesn’t matter at all how illogical it is to quote the bible to someone who doesn’t believe in God, nor all the discussion of circular reasoning to follow, they simply must put a stamp of “authenticity” on their argument with a Bible verse.  I imagine its like reciting the quadratic equation in middle school and feeling smart.  I feel like sticking chopsticks in my eyes and stirring my brain every time.

And so we have my latest encounter with a verse I learned back in 8th grade Bible study.  In response to a particularly vehement Christian commenter on a YouTube channel I’m subscribed to, I asked the simple question “How much do you know about other religions?”

The response:

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Prov. 26:4-5

Awesome!  This is kind of like the Christian way of saying “fuck off”.  Not terribly unlike many Christians use “God bless” after telling you you’re going to hell.  In context, the fool is the unbeliever, and the verses tell us that no good can come of arguing with an unbeliever.  See how that works?  Jump in, make a claim, then duck defending the claim by quoting the bible and telling people they are fools and not worth talking to.  Pretty much standard religious stuff when you think about it.  There’s no need to back up any claims.  How can you doubt that Jonah lived in a whale?  How can you doubt that a man rose from the dead?  How can you doubt that God impregnated a virgin teenage girl so he could give birth to himself, then sacrifice himself on the cross to forgive you for the sin created you with?  You’re just a damn fool and nothing good can come from talking to you.

In this case however, the response actually answers the question he wanted to avoid answering (which is, presumably, “jack”).  By avoiding the unbeliever entirely, he avoids the unbeliever’s foolish message – which is the point of the passage.  The message would be equally foolish disbelief in Christian dogma whether it be the message of an Atheist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist etc.  So when I see these verses, I automatically think “willfully ignorant”.  A man who is afraid to exercise the power of his own mind.  A man afraid that he will burn in hell if he finds the pre-determined “foolish” message convincing and thus refuses to even hear the message.  Religion: a psychological house of cards with fear at its foundation.  Christians often say they feel sad for me, but I feel bad for them.  My beliefs and actions are not compelled by fear.

But speaking of being foolish: A fool is defined as a person who lacks judgment or sense.  If there are dozens of religions that warn of such dire consequences as eternal damnation if you get it wrong, wouldn’t it be foolish to accept the first one that you’re exposed to?  I mean, I even shop around for the best price on jeans… but eternal damnation?  That’s pretty serious.  Might have to at least spend some time on the googles.  You know, research your options; make the best decision from the available info.  No no no, what am I talking about, that would be foolish.

Was discussing philosophy/theology earlier and was reminded of this little proof by Douglass Gasking:

1.) The creation of the universe (everything) is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
2.) The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
3.) The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
4.) The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
5.) Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater product — namely, one who created everything while not existing.
6.) Therefore, God does not exist.

Further, if everything that exists is defined by limitations (descriptions of what something is, are to the necessary exclusion of everything it is not), how can something with no limitations be said to exist?

Discussion is welcome. 🙂

Vote on debt ceiling must be tied to spending cuts

-Rep. Eric Cantor

Great, let’s start with the Defense Department… you know, the single largest discretionary item in the budget.  You’ll quickly find that Republicans are full of crap when you discover them unwilling to include defense cuts in their plans.  This, despite the fact that US defense spending accounts for 46.5% of the WORLD’s military spending.  The US spends more on defense than the next 14 highest spenders combined!


Its not about the deficit.  Its about killing social programs they don’t like (social security, medicare, medicaid).  The deal that Dems had to cut with Reps on extending the Bush tax cuts actually increases the deficit.  They don’t care about deficits, they encourage them.  They use them to bolster an argument to cut government.  Republicans have long run a "starve the beast" strategy when it comes to government.  Cut taxes and run up deficits until the only discussion is what to cut, rather than what our spending priorities should be (because Dems always win that fight).

Generally speaking, its a bad idea to cut spending with a weak economy and high unemployment.  In a poor economy, the budget should be in deficit (lower economic output means lower tax revenue).  The problem being that for this to work you must also allow surpluses during booms (which are used to pay down debt; see Clinton).

Republicans abhor a federal budget surplus – they always demand it be returned to the people in the form of tax cuts (see Bush). 
The truth of the matter is that spending isn’t out of control, it is a little high, but not much out of line with historical trend.  Total spending is presently ~25% of GDP even though GDP is temporarily depressed being we are coming out of recession.  For perspective, in 1983 it was ~23% of GDP.  GDP represents the total value of economic output in the US, or in other words, you might think of it as our income as a nation.  25% of our national income goes to government.  The average since World War II is ~18%.  That’s not a spending crisis (see this chart, if necessary, select "Total Spending" from the category drop down: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/downchart_gs.php?year=1900_2010&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=fy11&chart=F0-fed&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&title=&state=US&color=c&local=s).

You should note that if GDP falls (as occurs in a recession), that the percentage will increase, even if spending remained the same.  In our case, spending has risen AND GDP has fallen, and yet total spending as a percentage of GDP isn’t much out of line with historical spending. That’s a damn good hint that deficit isn’t the result of runaway spending.

The cause of the deficit, therefore, is that revenue is historically low.  Federal revenue as a percent of GDP fell 10% from 2006 to 2009 (http://usgovernmentrevenue.com/downchart_gr.php?year=2000_2010&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=fy11&chart=F0-total&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&title=Revenue As Percent Of GDP&state=US&color=c&local=s).  Since a fall in GDP means a corresponding fall in revenue, that means its not just a failing economy that caused such low revenue.  It’s largely the result of the Bush tax cuts.  The cuts were back loaded – having their largest cuts in the final years, almost exclusively benefiting the wealthy. 

Spending increases meanwhile have been mostly attributed to the social safety net, things like unemployment benefits; or a variety of stimulative spending in aid of local governments to keep teachers and police employed… but they pale in comparison to the scale of tax cuts over the last 10 years; on top of a poor performing economy. 

In a twist of fate, Republicans will have to raise the debt ceiling despite being elected to put an end to deficit spending.  The irony, is that it is their own irresponsible tax cuts that lacked any corresponding spending cuts that got us here.

So, I’m an SPLC member, and I was just reading about right-wing militias in the northwest. Apparently, virtually all of these groups are made up entirely of white people, and a number of such groups have neo-Nazi/hate group ties. I’ve noticed that right-wing media tends to whitewash these groups as "patriotic supporters of the second amendment"; modern “minutemen”. Fair enough, but it got me wondering… how would that same media paint an all black left-wing militia? I mean, those don’t actually exist and yet you have the likes of Rush Limbaugh calling Democrats terrorists and mobsters the other day. A black left-wing militia? Holy shit, that’s gotta be like one of the signs of the apocalypse then.  Oops, I’m late to the party.

Republicans in the house came into office with the promise to reduce government spending.  Their first acts basically amounted to grandstanding: a full reading of the constitution, and a vote to repeal healthcare reform.  Of course, the vote to repeal is entirely symbolic, being that the measure stands no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, and even the House itself failed to achieve the 2/3 majority required to overcome a presidential veto.  So given their claimed commitment to reducing spending, I began to wonder just how much these pointless symbolic gestures cost taxpayers.

It turns out that it costs about 1.2 billion (actually a bit more than this, since the only numbers I could find were a couple years old) a year to run the House of Representatives – counting only  the office expenses of individual representatives and the salaries of officers and their employees.  This doesn’t include any of the infrastructure costs, like the Capitol Police, support agencies, and facilities.  So the true cost is quite a bit higher, but it would be awkward to determine how much of that cost ought to be allocated to the House as opposed to the Senate.  Figuring that the House of Representatives is in session about 150 days a year on average, that means the average cost to run the House of Representatives for a day is 8 million dollars, excluding all support agencies and infrastructure.

8 MILLION dollars; Per DAY.

Fiscally responsible, tea partying Republicans just spent at least 2 days time, or 16 million dollars, to read the constitution and pass a measure that they already know stands no chance of becoming law.

Apparently that’s fiscal responsibility.




I received an error today in one of my web apps that was pretty tough to figure out so I’m documenting it here.  Strangely, it occurs in Firefox and Chrome, but not in any version of Internet Explorer (6 through 9 beta).

Invalid postback or callback argument. Event validation is enabled using in configuration or <%@ Page EnableEventValidation="true" %> in apage. For security purposes, this feature verifies that arguments topostback or callback events originate from the server control thatoriginally rendered them. If the data is valid and expected, usetheClientScriptManager.RegisterForEventValidation method in order toregister the postback or callback data for validation.

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution ofthe current web request. Please review the stack trace for moreinformation about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.ArgumentException: Invalid postback or callback argument. Event validation is enabled using in configuration or <%@ Page EnableEventValidation="true" %> in apage. For security purposes, this feature verifies that arguments topostback or callback events originate from the server control thatoriginally rendered them. If the data is valid and expected, use theClientScriptManager.RegisterForEventValidation method in order toregister the postback or callback data for validation.

The user action that causes this error is selecting from a databound dropdownlist, which, when selected populates a textbox with some text.  In the ordinary course of things, the user will select an item from the dropdown and a blurb of text related to that item will be loaded into the textbox.

(Simple stuff, please forgive the formatting)

<asp:ObjectDataSource ID="odsPracticeDetails" runat="server" SelectMethod="GetListConcatenated" TypeName="EducateAL.DAL.dalPracticeDetail">
        <asp:Parameter Name="IndicatorID" Type="Int32" />

<asp:DropDownList ID="ddlLevel" runat="server" AppendDataBoundItems="True" DataSourceID="odsPracticeDetails" DataTextField="PracticeLevelName" DataValueField="Description" 
onselectedindexchanged="ddlLevel_SelectedIndexChanged" AutoPostBack="true">

protected void ddlLevel_SelectedIndexChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)
            DropDownList list = (DropDownList)sender;
            FormView f = (FormView)list.NamingContainer;
            TextBox box = (TextBox)f.FindControl("DescriptionTextBox");
            box.Text = list.SelectedValue;

The “GetListConcatenated” method calls a stored procedure that returns a list of “descriptions” (practice details) associated with a “level” (1-5).  Each description is its own record in the database, but I needed to plop all of the descriptions that are related to the “name” selected in the dropdown into a single textbox as prepopulated text for data entry – so I needed to concatenate them by level. “GetListConcatenated” method that populates the dropdown:

public static List<PracticeDetail> GetListConcatenated(int IndicatorID)
            DataSet ds;

                ds = DBTask.ExecuteDataset(Conn, "Ref_GetPracticeDetailsByIndicator", IndicatorID);
            catch (Exception ex)
                throw ex;

            List<PracticeDetail> l = new List<PracticeDetail>();

            foreach (DataRow r in ds.Tables[0].Rows)
                PracticeDetail p = Fill(r);

            List<PracticeDetail> ConcatList = new List<PracticeDetail>(); //list of practice details concatenated by level
            List<PracticeDetail> tmpList;  //list of practice details by level
            for (int i = 1; i <= 5; i++)
                tmpList = l.FindAll(p => p.PracticeLevelID.Equals(i));
                if (tmpList.Count != 0)
                    PracticeDetail newp = new PracticeDetail();
                    newp.PracticeLevelName = tmpList[0].PracticeLevelName;
                    foreach (PracticeDetail item in tmpList)
                        newp.Description = newp.Description + item.Description + "\n\n";

            return ConcatList;

Now, guessing that my error might be related to bad data, or potential script injection, I looked through my tables for suspect text, but came up empty.  That’s when I noticed the newline characters in the above method.

newp.Description = newp.Description + item.Description + "\n\n";

I put these there to create some spacing between description paragraphs, otherwise the concatenation creates one big paragraph.  Just on a hunch, I took them out – ta da!  Problem fixed.  I won’t begin to say I understand why IE doesn’t have a problem with them, but Firefox and Chrome get validation errors.

Maybe someone who comes across this can let me know.