Category Archives: politics

Flag desecration: Is it legal?

flag desecration

Arkansas statute 5-51-207

The skepdick saw this picture going around his Facebook feed this Memorial Day weekend and wondered about the veracity of  flag desecration laws, including this one from Arkansas.  Is it really illegal to defile, burn, place on the ground, or trample a flag of the United States?  Wouldn’t this be the antithesis of the foundation of our Constitution?  Or does this country have a law that protects people’s feelings and intangible symbols?  Let’s dig into some legal statutes and see what the Supreme Court has to say about this issue and whether or not you can be arrested for wearing this sweater.

flag sweater

I vote that this is one ugly sweater

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Gun Control, what is it good for? Not much.

The skepdick recently had the opportunity to visit the Coroner’s office and witness a few autopsies. One of the unfortunate bodies being examined was a young man who had been shot and killed (yes, I do live in Chicago). This got me thinking about gun control. How did the person who shot this young man get their gun? Did they buy the gun themselves using their own FOID card? Did the shooter have a concealed carry license (CCL)? Basically, what were the chances that this shooting was perpetrated by someone using their own legally obtained gun and with a legal right to do so?  If you’re like me, you probably assume the shooting was done with what we’ll call an illegal gun (i.e. the shooter did not have a CCL and was not the legal owner of the gun).  Is this a fair assumption?  Lets take a look at gun control in the United States and along the way we’ll find an answer to our question:  what percentage of gun-related crimes are committed by people who legally possessed the gun?

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Controversies in Autism Spectrum Disorder

The skepdick got to write a paper in Psych class about controversies in autism.  I suppose I could have been harsher on the anti-vax people, but so be it.  Enjoy.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a range of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by five separate diagnostic criteria. The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists those criteria as:

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction.

  2. Repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

  3. Symptoms must be present in early childhood.

  4. Symptoms must cause clinically significant social impairment.

  5. Symptoms are not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay. (DSM-5., 2013, pp. 50-51)

     As a spectrum, symptoms are further categorized into three levels of severity. With level 1 ASD the individual “requires support”, level 2 “requires substantial support”, and level 3 the individual requires “very substantial support” (DSM-5., 2013, p. 52).

     Autism was first described in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner, who identified an unusual pattern of symptoms in children, one of which was the child’s desire to be alone, thus naming the condition, autism, after the Greek work for self (Grandin, 2013, p. 5). Some of the criteria Kanner developed is similar to the DSM-5 criteria we use today, but it took quite a few years before we understood even the basics of autism and there were many controversies along the way.

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Holy Basil, Batman!

The skepdick is in an ongoing discussion with a friend about the safety of fluoride in our drinking water.  Perhaps one day she’ll come around and be convinced by the real evidence, but that hasn’t happened yet, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listing water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.  The World Health Organization sets an upper limit on fluoride in drinking water at 1 mg/L (mg/L equals ppm) and recommends an appropriate concentration of 0.5 mg/L which is the level of fluoridation in most of the government supplied drinking water in the United States.  Despite the fact that water fluoridation has been proven to reduce caries (the infection that causes dental cavities) by up to 40%, she believes any level of fluoride is dangerous.  She believes we should eliminate fluoride altogether from our drinking water, a belief I do not share.  What we do agree on is that fluoride can be very dangerous in high doses.

Last week she sent me a link to a news article about a new way to remove fluoride from water.  The strength-to-awaken blog reports that holy basil leaves contain special properties.  Let’s take a look and see if this herb is as powerful as this pseudoscientific website claims (by the way, if you feel sensitive to the planetary movements of the galaxy this is the site for you).

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I cannot tell a lie.

The skepdick was made aware that you can now go to jail for teaching people how to beat a lie detector test.  Yup.  But is that really why Chad Dixon is serving time?  Or is Pinocchio’s nose the only real lie detector we should rely on?

Let’s see if our version of a lie detector test works as well as his famous nose and find out what the first amendment says about this sort of free speech…

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Prince Charles = Prince of homeopathy?

The skepdick was not shocked to see Prince Charles once again advocating a load of rubbish.  The heir to the throne has long been a believer in homeopathy despite there being no evidence that it works and no possible mechanism by which it could work.  Apparently he has been secretly lobbying politicians to allocate more funds for the National Health Service to spend on homeopathic treatments.  He even has an ally in parliament, one David Tredinnick who supports homeopathy and said on the BBC, “We should do what they do in the rest of the world, which is to take [homeopathy] seriously.”

What?  I take it seriously not because it works, but because so many people think that it does.  Homeopathy does not work.  If you don’t think it’s dangerous, take a look at this webpage describing 437 people have died because of it.  If people, and that includes Prince Charles, choose to believe in utter nonsense based on no evidence whatsoever, that’s up to them.  But medicine and the NHS should be based on proven science and they shouldn’t waste money on snake oil and bullshit.  Why do they still have a monarch over there anyway?  At least in our country the snake oil salesmen have the decency to just be movie star celebrities who get jobs on The View.

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Alleged Boston marathon bombers were framed!

The skepdick saw this news report today about how the parents of the Boston bombing suspects are convinced their sons are innocent and that they have been framed by the United States government which wanted to “eliminate them”. 

Clearly the government would never do something as simple as just arresting these men weeks ago, right?  No, instead the government chose to embark on a frame up job so complicated and widespread that it must have involved hundreds of people, none of whom is talking, and which must have begun weeks and even months ago.  Let’s take a look at the steps involved in this conspiracy, shall we?

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