Blog Archives for January 2017

St. Jacobs Oil: New Acquisition

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 24, 2017

My recent acquisition of another St. Jacobs Oil liniment bottle warrants this update. My earlier blog (St. Jacob’s Oil, January 8, 2014) told how German immigrant August Vogeler (1819–1908) came to America and founded a patent-medicine business by 1845; after 1878 he and his son Charles were selling “ST. JACOBS OEL” (sic, using German spelling). I only described their early bottle but showed a photo of a later one.

No Obligation to Make Sense

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 24, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Trump reinstates the destructive and cruel "global gag rule," a Reagan-era dictate barring any organization working outside the U.S. and getting federal funds from discussing abortion, ever. It's just callous and backward. CFI has always staunchly opposed the rule, and we're part of a huge coalition of organizations pushing back. Jina Moore at Buzzfeed helps explain...

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The Murky, Otherworldly Ether

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 23, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

The Women's March on Washington, along with its sister demonstrations around the world, was magnificent. I love these pictures. Estimates of the numbers of people who came out vary wildly, but a few things are certain: the crowd in DC alone utterly dwarfed the number that came out for Trump's inauguration (which also happened). Nationwide, according to two researchers there were at least 3.7 million protesters, which is more than 1% of the entire U.S. population. 

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I’d Vote for Any Ungulate in Rut

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 20, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

I can't seem to wake up today. Almost as though my body is saying, "No, really, you don't need to see this." 

SciAm reports on the possible consequences of this "vaccine commission" Trump might create with RFK Jr.:

Public health experts and autism advocates are deeply worried that an effort with presidential backing could undermine public confidence in vaccines and trigger epidemics of all-but-eradicated diseases. 

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Relic Madness

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 19, 2017

The mania for holy relics—in Catholicism objects once connected with the body of a saint—stems from belief that a relic is imbued with miraculous power including supernatural healings. Not surprisingly, this superstition has led to many excesses.

The Province of Wusses

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 19, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

I was sick yesterday. Today is our last full day with President Obama. Tomorrow is the first day of President Trump. 

As though fuming in frustration, Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, the third straight year it's done so. NYT's Justin Gillis puts it plainly:

Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization. 

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Reading Romance Novels in Jamaica

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
January 17, 2017

A conversation with a Jamaican reader of romance novels. 

Why Can’t I Just Not Care?

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 17, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

The theater where I direct a show with University of New England students every year (we're doing Into the Woods this year because we're crazy) is apparently haunted. As long as the ghost doesn't screw up the performances, then fine.

Peter Boyer at Esquire reports that the Trump communications team may evict the press corps from the White House altogether

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The Trump Presidency: A Second Harding Administration?

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
January 13, 2017

The inauguration of Donald Trump is only a week away and the many who dread the incoming administration are busy bewailing the coming catastrophe. The terms “fascist” and “fascism” feature prominently in their denunciations and historical analogies to Hitler or Mussolini are liberally offered. Just the other day, a full-page ad appeared in the Washington Post courtesy of refusefascism.org. The ad, bearing the signatures of a number of prominent individuals, flatly states that “by any definition, Donald Trump is a fascist.” This claim is not unique. Some respected political commentators have made the same accusation.

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Out of the Comfort Zone

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 13, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

The Washington Post editorial board comes down against Trump and the news of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. being maybe-asked to head a "vaccine safety commission," saying, "He will endanger the health of millions of children if he fans doubts about vaccine safety."

Emily Willingham scared the crap out of me, as a recently-diagnosed autistic, with this today: "Of all of the groups out there whom Donald Trump disdains, whom his policies will endanger profoundly, autistic people stand to suffer the most." ... 

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Sincerity-Proof Chamber of Distortion

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 12, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz introduces a "scientific integrity" policy to try and brace against the coming Trump storm. Chris Mooney reports:

The seven-page policy prevents other agency employees, such as political appointees or press officers, from leaning on or torquing scientific findings. “Under no circumstance may anyone, including a public affairs officer, ask or direct any researcher to alter the record of scientific findings or conclusions,” the document states. The document also embraces a strong commitment to whistleblower protection laws and says the agency will install a “scientific integrity official” within the Energy Secretary’s office to head up enforcement of the policy. 

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A Tramp-art Cross

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 11, 2017

In my previous blog, “A Tramp-art Picture Frame,” I focused on a typical work of that folk-art genre. Here is a very different example (see photograph).

A Stench So Severe

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 11, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Yesterday was crazy. I mean, just ridiculous. The mind reels just trying to recall all the weird, troubling, inspiring, depressing, hilarious, and bizarre things that happened.

So of course you have the Russia thing, and the pee. What's true, what's not, I dunno. So I won't get into that here. Trump's tantrums on Twitter are not inspiring confidence.

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Choose to Avert Your Eyes

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 10, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Donald Trump seems a rather unprecedented figure, but Rick Perlstein sees a lot Nixon in Trump. He talks about this comparison on the latest Point of Inquiry.

The Cleveland Clinic assures us that its anti-vaccine ranting "wellness" chief, Dr. Daniel Neides, will be "appropriately disciplined." I bet they put him in a room and disrupt his chakra.

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Pretty Obviously Cartoons

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 09, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Jeff Sessions, we're not sure you're the right guy to be defending anyone's rights. CFI's Michael De Dora reaches out to the Senate to urge them to press Sessions to explain his seeming preference for injustice over justice:

CFI respectfully requests you to ensure that our next Attorney General is one committed to ensuring civil rights for all, not one who, as Sen. Sessions is reported to have said of civil rights cases as a US Attorney, wishes he “could decline on all of them.

This is maddening: Dr. Daniel Neides, COO of the Cleveland Clinic, espouses anti-vaccine lunacy about autism and neurological diseases. The clinic itself had to tweet, "We fully support vaccines to protect patients & employees. Statements made by our physician do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic." 

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CFI Libraries Year in Review

Access Points with Timothy Binga
January 06, 2017

You may have noticed that I do not blog as much as I have in the past. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to post more often and keep people better informed regarding the libraries here at CFI. I have been very busy with a few projects (which is one of the reasons why I do not write here as often), but here are a few of the more interesting ones that I am working on or have worked on this year.

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We Are Born Bad

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 06, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Priorities well established, Paul Ryan is ready to do the people's work...by defunding Planned Parenthood. Take THAT, cancer screenings!

Robert Leonard at NYT has a must-read piece on the fundamental philosophical divide between liberals and conservatives, speaking to rural Iowans...

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The Dead Person Standing Behind You

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 05, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

The big news is that CFI has scored another big win for secular folk and against religious privilege, as a U.S. District Judge rules that our Secular Celebrants are now authorized to solemnize marriages in Illinois!

Ed Brayton makes a good point on the political calculus around this:

For some bizarre reason, the Illinois legislature refused to pass legislation to fix their unconstitutional law, which prompted this lawsuit. Why they decided to fight it when the matter was already settled and they had zero chance of winning is beyond my comprehension. They will now be forced to pay not only their own legal fees but those of the winning side as well. I’d call that political malpractice. 

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There Are Two Worlds Out There

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 04, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

So American Atheists' Nick Fish and I got into a thing over Twitter yesterday, and long story short, he decided to make his own attempts at a new CFI logo, inspired by failed presidential candidacies, and then Hemant Mehta got into it, and, well, I think we'll go with the one we got.

Benjamin Radford takes a deep dive into the "fake news" phenomenon, distinguishing different types, and reminding us that we bear some responsibility...

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A Tramp-art Picture Frame

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 03, 2017

A folk-art phenomenon of yesteryear was so-called “tramp art”— wood items handcrafted from discarded materials, ostensibly by hoboes, either to sell or to barter for food or drink. Pictured here (see photo) is a tramp-art frame with its religious oleograph (which I acquired for my collection in 2002).

Parsing ‘Fake News’

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
January 03, 2017

‘Fake News' has become a social boogeyman over the past few months. Because "fake news" is so commonly encountered (both the phrase itself and variants of the phenomena it purports to describe), it's useful to briefly unpack that concept.

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Again and Again and Again

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 03, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Welp, back at it.

Over the weekend we announced that after much crossing of T's and dotting of I's, CFI and the Dawkins Foundation are finally, actually, formally legally, and officially merged. And we got a spiffy new logo, which you'll gradually see more of as we start improving our web presence. 

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