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Politics

Yep, Politics. Let’s try to keep it clean people…

The MISkeptics Get Together: Will we be the Borg?

Author Jonathan Stars

Jonathan Stars is a writer, database consultant, musician, comedian, and songwriter. He has written over 100 articles on computers, music, and software. His latest novel is the techno-thriller “N-hanced.”

This month we are talking about the future of technology. Our featured speaker will be Jonathan Stars.

In this talk Jonathan will tell us about the promise and peril of our coming relationship with computers.  According to inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil (among others), in the next few years our lives will be dramatically changed by advances in robotics, genetics and nanotechnology.  Kurzweil predicts a technological singularity that will arrive around 2045, where people will need to have their intellects mechanically enhanced in order to keep up with the accelerating changes.

You may be surprised to find the future is closer than you think.

Jonathan Stars is a writer, database consultant, musician, comedian, and songwriter. He has written over 100 articles on computers, music, and software.  His latest novel is the techno-thriller “N-hanced.” (Learn more at www.N-hanced.com).

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

We are meeting at 4:00 PM on Saturday, June 14th in Plymouth, Michigan. Details are in the RSVP Links.

You can RSVP via our Meetup Page, Our Facebook Page, or our Google Plus Page.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming.

MISkeptics is accepting donations! You can contribute to our future endeavors by following this link, or in person at any Get Together. You can donate with your credit card or drop money into the donation jar.

I look forward to seeing you there!

MISkeptics April Get Together: The Idea of a Basic Income

What is Basic Income? Proponents tie it to Humanism and Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Logo

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as a direct result of World War 2.

According to Article 25, Section 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Basic Income is a concept where the state would provide a regular income payment to every adult citizen, with no conditions attached. Such a payment would be enough to meet basic needs for a frugal lifestyle, and would largely replace welfare, food stamps, and public pensions. It would also augment the income of poorly paid employed people, and provide a safety net for those with irregular incomes.

Is this a system that could work in the United States? How would it be implemented? How is it different and is it better or worse than our current welfare system?

Basic Income posters on a wall.

The concept of Basic Income goes back to the 16th Century.

Our special guest this month is MISkeptics member and contributor Marc Stemmer. Marc has extensively studied the philosophy and practice of a Basic Income and will present his research. We will learn the positives, the negatives and clear away the hype associated with it.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting Skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

We’re meeting on April 12th at 1:00 PM. The details are in the RSVP links below.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary.

You can RSVP at our Meetup Group, our Facebook Event Page, or our Google Plus Event.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Nelson Mandela for our January Get Together

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.

On December 5th 2013, at the age of 95, Nelson Mandela died. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He also served over 27 years in prison for his activism prior to that. The end of Apartheid in South Africa is credited largely to him. He was called a lot of things when he died, a hero, a savior, a great leader, a terrorist, a communist, and a murderer. But what was he really?

On Saturday, January 18 at 1:00 PM, we’re teaming up with Minority Atheists of Michigan to talk about Nelson Mandela. We will cut through the hype and hyperbole and learn the facts of his life and work. We will learn about the good and the bad and decide for ourselves who he was.

Our guest speaker will be Jamon Jordan. He is the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Black Scroll Study Group. A local organization that researches any and all phenomena related to Black people.

Jamon Jordan Image

Jamon Jordan is the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Black Scroll Study Group

They present their findings through educational materials for institutions to use in order to present data on Black/African history and culture that is frequently overlooked.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting Skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

You can RSVP for the event at our Meetup Page, our Facebook Page, or our Google Plus Page.

Tomorrow: The Michigan Skeptics Get Together!

Conzilla; the Mascot of ConClave

Conzilla; the Mascot of ConClave

This month we had to delay our regular monthly meeting by one week due to MISkeptics was requested to host two panels for the ConClave SciFi/Fantasy convention. Which was a huge success. Special thanks to Bria Crutchfield, Chris Clayton and Howard Scrimgour for their help speaking on the panels. We had lots of fun, and many new members joined. As an added bonus, we have been tapped to provide skeptic content to the up and coming North American Science Fiction Convention next year. The entire weekend was amazing. Thanks to everyone that came out for the convention and also those who came out for the SitP afterwards.

Kumare Poster

Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, Kumare is an insightful look at faith and belief.

For tomorrow, Saturday October 19th at 1:00 PM we are going to watch Kumaré.

A provocative social experiment-turned-documentary, Kumaré follows American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise Indian guru, hoping to prove the absurdity of blind faith. Instead, he finds himself forging profound connections with people from all walks of life — and wondering if and when to reveal his true self. Will his followers accept his final teaching? Can this illusion reveal a greater spiritual truth? Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, Kumare is an insightful look at faith and belief.

Kumaré received fair reviews upon release. Many movie reviewers criticized Gandhi’s deception as immoral, but partially forgave Gandhi for realizing that the experiment had grown out of his control. Many compared the character of Kumaré and the deception by Gandhi to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character and film. Those who liked the movie, like Stephen Holden of the New York Times and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, praised the film’s message of “finding the guru within.”

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Admission is free. Donations are helpful. You are responsible for your drinks and food.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. You can RSVP via our Meetup Page or our Facebook Page.

I Look forward to seeing you all there!

The First Get Together of 2013!

It’s been two months since we last got together. Unfortunately we had to cancel our December events, including out End of the World Party. But don’t worry, another one is coming up. Another one always is.

So for our January Get Together we have a special guest who is returning to talk to us again.

Photo of Peter Sinclair

Peter Sinclair runs ClimateCrocks.com and is a popular speaker on the environment.

This month we welcome back Peter Sinclair of Climatecrocks.com to update us on the science and politics of climate change/denial. He was last with us two years ago and there’s a lot to be updated about.

Peter Sinclair is a long time advocate of environmental awareness and energy alternatives. An award-winning graphic artist, illustrator, and animator, Mr. Sinclair runs Greenman Studio from his home in Midland, MI.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

We also have special guests and speakers that contribute to the conversation and/or debate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary. You can RSVP at out Meetup Site, our Facebook Page, or our Google Plus Page.

I hope to see you all there!

So We Had This Birthday Party…

MISkeptics members enjoying the second birthday party

A table of revelers at the Michigan Skeptics Second Birthday Party. Also you can see Lauren, the awesome waitress that has taken care of us for so many months now.

There are some times where you just have to sit back and smile.

My week had not started off too well. There was an endless chain of waiting in line and bureaucratic red tape that I had to spend several days to wade through just to get back to the beginning. By the end of it, (it is no where near finished) I was tired and really just wanted to either crawl into my bed or the nearest bottle.

But no! I can’t do that. We’re having our birthday party. Two years ago, we started the Michigan Skeptics Association in the hopes of creating a resource for skepticism and humanism in Michigan. Today we have a vibrant and diverse membership throughout the state and satellite groups starting in areas that cannot come to our monthly Get Togethers and events.

So I managed to shower off the last of the red tape and made my way to the birthday party. After all, I had the cake.

It’s been two years of hard work that we all put in together to make us what we are. A strong group of Skeptics and Rationalists working toward a goal of a fact based state. And as a group we are going to be more active in our communities. We will be there when anti-vaccination nuts try to convince people of their paranoia.

We’re going to go to school board and local government meetings where they try to dilute science and facts with drivel and we’re going to fight.

When we started this group, we pledged that we are politically neutral, and we’ve been true to that. We have members on all sides of the political spectrum. We can all agree, though, that fighting back against creationism and conspiracies in our schools and governments is an important matter that goes beyond left or right.

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Debate: Is Christianity Good For American Politics?

CFI Michigan is hosting a debate between two prominent authors and political commentators, Dinesh D’Souza and Susan Jacoby. The topic for the debate is going to be “Is Christiantity Good for American Politics?”

When: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Where: Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain NE, Grand Rapids, MI

Cost: TBD

Join us for a debate featuring two prominent authors and political commentators, Dinesh D’Souza and Susan Jacoby on the topic “Is Christiantity Good for American Politics?” This event is co-sponsored by ISI, Center for Inquiry–Michigan and the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University.

About the Debaters

Dinesh D’Souza

Dinesh D’Souza has a distinguished 25 year career as a writer, scholar and intellectual. A former policy analyst in the Reagan White House, D’Souza also served as an Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute as well as a Rishwain Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Called one of the “top young public-policy makers in the country” by Investor’s Business Daily , D’Souza quickly became a major influence on public policy through his writings.Illiberal Education , his first book publicized the phenomenon of political correctness in America’s colleges and universities and was on the best seller list for 15 weeks. Subsequent best sellers, include Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader , The Virtue of Prosperity, Finding Values in an Age of Techno Affluence, What’s So Great About America, Letters to a Young Conservative, What’s So Great About Christianity, and The Roots of Obama’s Rage . His latest work, Godforsaken , responds to the problem of evil.

A prolific, writer, persuasive debater, D’Souza has been named one of America’s most influential conservative thinkers by the New York Times. In the fall of 2010 Dinesh D’Souza was named the President of The King’s College, a Christian College located in the Empire State Building in New York City. The mission of The King’s College is to transform society by preparing students for careers in which they help to shape and eventually to lead strategic public and private institutions.

Susan Jacoby

Susan Jacoby is the author of ten books, a frequent contributor to national magazines and newspapers, and the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2001 appointment as a fellow of the New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers.

An outspoken advocate of reason, she writes “The Spirited Atheist” column for On Faith at The Washington Post. Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age is Susan Jacoby’s tenth nonfiction book. Her most recent books include the New York Times bestseller, The Age of American Unreason (2008) and Alger Hiss and The Battle for History (2009).

Susan Jacoby has been the recipient of many grants and awards, from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2001-2002, she was named a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She is also a member of the advisory boards of the Secular Coalition for America and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Susan Jacoby lives in New York City.

Contact: Jennifer Beahan, michigan@centerforinquiry.net, 616-698-2342

The Facts Behind The Kony 2012 Video

Kony 2012 Banner

For $30, The Action kit includes a t-shirt, bumper sticker, bracelet and become an "Advocate of Awesome"

Last week Invisible Children, a non-profit organization founded and head by film maker Jason Russell, released a 30 minute documentary video called “Kony 2012“. The documentary details a Ugandan warlord/rebel named Joseph Kony and the crimes he has committed against civilians and children.  The documentary video went viral in a few days with over 37 million views.

Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) a militant group that is an offshoot of an armed resistance in Northern Uganda called the Holy Spirit Movement. The Holy Spirit Movement was formed by Alice Auma in 1987 as a resistance army protected by the holy spirit.

The Holy Spirit Movement fought as a regular army – taking and controlling territory, as well as holding pitched battles with NRA forces – but had a number of practices that outsiders found bizarre. Spiritual “controllers” were integrated into each unit. Along with duties such as tending to Alice Auma while she was possessed, they smeared blessed oil on combatants that was supposed to stop bullets if the combatant’s soul was pure. [via Wikipedia]

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The Sad State of NASA’s Information and Cyber Security

 NASA Office of the Inspector General Badge

NASA Office of the Inspector General Agent's Badge

Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Investigations and OversightHouse Committee on Science, Space, and Technology by Paul K. Martin, Inspector General for NASA revealed the ongoing issues with NASA’s Security efforts. He highlighted five issues of main concern:

• Lack of full awareness of Agency-wide IT security posture;
• Shortcomings in implementing a continuous monitoring approach to IT security;
• Slow pace of encryption for NASA laptop computers and other mobile devices;
• Ability to combat sophisticated cyber attacks; and
• Transition to cloud computing.

 NASA’s Office of Inspector General reported 5,408 computer security incidents for 2010 and 2011, an average of 7.4 a day. These are the intrusions that made it in, and either implanted malware or extracted data. They range from script kiddies testing if they can do it to foreign entities attempting to steal sensitive data. Continue reading

U.S. Court Rules Part of DOMA Unconstitutional

Gay Marriage

What do you think the relirious right finds scarier. That they're gay or that they're interracial?

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, a Bush appointee judge, has rules a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The ruling came down Wednesday in San Francisco in the case Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management. Karen Golinski, the Plaintiff in the case is a staff attorney for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Karen had tried to enroll her spouse, Amy Cunninghis, in her health insurance plan but was refused. Karen and Amy had married during the 5 month window in 2008 when gay marriage was allowed in California. That window was closed with the passing of Proposition 8.

The Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It also bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages for all purposes, including social security, inheritance, and health benefits. The law passed the House and Senate by a wide margin in 1996 and was signed into law by Bill Clinton on September 21st that same year.

The legal suit, filed on January 20th, 2010 (it was re-filed on April 14th 2011 as a direct challenge to the constitutionality of DOMA) received national notoriety last year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barak Obama declared DOMA unconstitutional and while they would continue to enforce it, they would no longer defend it.

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