Friday, October 17, 2014

Colorado Amendment 67 - How the personshood movement will tell barefaced lies right to your face

I've written about the personhood movement before, here and here (be warned, I am really not very nice about it or some of the people involved). To paraphrase a famous Jedi, "You'll never come across a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." They lie. A lot. Sometimes by omission, sometimes deliberately. It is what they do, it is what they need to do in order to make their position and themselves seem reasonable. Colorado's proposed Amendment 67, on the ballot for this years November elections, is just the latest example of this.

So let me tell you about Amendment 67, which according to the Colorado Secretary of State's website is:
The title as designated and fixed by the Board is as follows:
An amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings.
The ballot title and submission clause as designated and fixed by the Board is as follows:
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?
Although there have been attempts to claim this is not a personhood bill (although some admit that it is indeed a personhood bill) or an attempt to ban abortion, that is exactly what it is. It is just coming through the back door.


In July 2012 Heather Surovik, the face of Amendment 67, tragically lost her unborn baby at 8 months when a drunk driver ran into her car. The driver was charged with vehicular assault but the law in Colorado at the time did not allow for extra charges for the death of the unborn fetus, whom Ms. Surovik had named Brady (hence Amendment 67 also being called "Brady's Amendment"). As a result of public pressure, the Colorado Congress passed H.B. 1154, the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, in 2013. This added Article 3.5 (Offenses Against Pregnant Women) to Title 18 (Criminal Code) of the Colorado Revised Statutes, effective July 1 2013.

The backers of Amendment 67 say that Article 3.5 doesn't go far enough because it doesn't use the word homicide. And here is where you start to see what the pro-Amendment 67 people are up to.

It doesn't use the word homicide because Article 3 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S. from now on) defines homicide as:
"(1) "Homicide" means the killing of a person by anotherC.R.S. § 18-3-101(1)
 And then defines person as :
(2) "Person", when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who had been born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act. C.R.S. § 18-3-101(2)
So, the death of a fetus can't be homicide because the definition of person in Part 1 (Homicide and Related Offenses) of Article 3 (Offences Against the Person) specifically states that you must have been born and be alive to be a person for the purposes of homicide in the criminal code. So the definition of person under the criminal code must be changed in Colorado in order for an unborn fetus to be considered a person, and for their death to then possibly be considered a homicide.

Hence, Amendment 67.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ALS Association admits 73% of funds don't go to research - or lies, damn lies, and Facebook statistics

I suppose the backlash against the popular Ice Bucket Challenge and its main recipient, the ALS Association, was as predictably inevitable as the tabloid outing of a virulently homophobic Christian preacher or a crassly stupid statement by the celebrity you just described as "A genuinely nice person, despite being rich and famous." That doesn't stop me being disappointed in people falling for it though - especially when the backlash is so jaw droppingly stupid.

Take this article from, which seems to be an Internet home for the intellectually challenged. The headline reads:


A more misleading headline you would struggle to find. The article begins:

We've been duped.
No, you haven't. The article continues:

But wait? Ice Bucket Challenge donations are nearing $100 MILLION. Where is that money going?
According to the ALS Foundation, not towards ALS.

Bullshit. I often wonder how people manage to type English, without being able to read or understand it first.

Then, the articles shocking reveal:

Over 73% of all donations raised are going to fundraising, overhead, executive salaries, and external donations. Less than 27% is actually used for the purpose we donated for.

Wrong again. The really worst part is that the article actually links to the chart that the ALS Association uses to explain how it spent funds in a recent year. Then proceeds to lie and twist it anyway. Got to admire the cheek at least, I suppose. You can find the ALS Associations financial information here. The chart in question is this one:

So, yes, 73% of expenses for the year ending January 31, 2014 were not for research. However, the description of how this 73% was spent is exceptionally dishonest and misleading. Not to mention that the most recent update to the financial information on the ALSA website states the figure spent on research is actually 28%, they originally miscalculated - so these backlash articles can't even get that right. So it isn't less than 27% - it's more than!

Only 7% was spent on administration and only 14% on fundraising - that includes overhead and salaries for everyone working for the Association (it isn't just executives that get paid you know - from what I can tell from looking at their IRS forms, combined executive salary was approximately $1.8 million of approximately $5.8 million spent on salaries and benefits) AND if they didn't spend money on fundraising, they wouldn't have any money to spend at all - it's an operating cost for goodness sake. That's 21% of the Association's expenses. The remaining 51% is dismissed by this silly article as "external donations". Well that sounds appropriately underhand and sketchy right? I bet it went to those dirty immigrants and unwed mothers. Or maybe abortions. Or ISIS. Or maybe ISIS abortions run by immigrants for unwed mothers. Amirite?


It went to fund the other stated purposes of the ALS Association - public and professional education and patient and community services. In other words, it went "towards" ALS. I say "towards" because the money isn't going to the disease, who would write such a stupid phrase?  It is going to efforts to fight it, and to educate people about it, and to help those suffering with it. You know, the purposes of a charity devoted to fighting ALS. These other purposes are explicitly stated on the ALS Association website:

How does The ALS Association use its annual budget?
The ALS Association has posted its audited financial statement online here. On that page you can see a pie chart which breaks down our expenses from this document from the fiscal year ending in January 2014. Please note that our expenses are broken down by two major types of activities as required for not-for-profit voluntary health agencies – Program Activities and Supporting Activities. Below is a brief description of what services and activities are included in each category:
Program Activities
  • Research: Our research entails involves funding for global studies to find the causes of and treatments - and ultimately a cure - for ALS. These activities encompass grants and funding for ALS research and associated costs related to our research program. This program takes a collaborative approach by interacting with scientists around the world and academia, government agencies, and the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Patient and Community Services: Our Care Services program provides compassionate care and support for people living with ALS and their families. Our 38 chapters assist those living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease by offering them access to loan closets, support groups and information about local resources to help them better cope with the demands of this disease. In addition, our Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence deliver the best of multidisciplinary care to individuals with ALS, and our Recognized Treatment Centers serve the medical needs of those living with the disease.
  • Public and Professional Education:  Through public and professional education, The Association educates healthcare professionals, scientific communities and the general public about Lou Gehrig’s Disease and the work we do in assisting those battling ALS. Our Public Policy Department works with national and local legislators as well as government agencies to advance legislative policies that benefit ALS families. Each year, The Association’s Public Policy Department hosts National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference, whereby members of the ALS community travel to the nation’s capital to educate Congressional members about ALS and to share their stories about how this disease has impacted their lives with these national legislators.

If the author of the article was interested, even remotely, in getting to the truth of what he or she was writing they could have found this out very easily. I wonder why they didn't bother to mention it? And notice that there are no comments allowed on this article. Wouldn't want people correcting the author now, would we?

But it doesn't end there. Stupid never quits. 

That pie chart shows the figures for the year ending in January 2014 - so it doesn't even include the funds donated because of the Ice Bucket Challenge. To say, or imply, that only 27% of funds raised by the Ice Bucket thing goes to research is a big fat lie. Not even the ALS Association knows exactly how the money raised will be spent yet:

Can you give me a breakdown of how each Ice Bucket donation dollar will be allocated?While research and care services to patients and their families are our top priorities, we cannot provide a breakdown at this time. We appreciate the sense of urgency that exists and are already engaged in discussions on how we’re going to put this money to work in the short term and into the future. Now and in the coming weeks, we will be able to enhance our strategic plan, reformulating and recasting strategies with input from stakeholders, including our donors, our chapters, and most importantly, people living with ALS and their families. We want to move quickly but decisively as our ultimate goal is to use this incredible generosity in a way that has the biggest impact on the disease.
The ALS Association is absolutely committed to transparency and will be communicating regularly with the ALS community, our donors, the media and the public about progress in funding projects and programs to support the cause.

 The money being raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge has not yet been spent - anyone who tells you they know how much of the money has been spent on research is a lying fucking asshat with an agenda.

And what is that agenda?

No moral outrage against current social trends would be complete without throwing religion in, so the author throws in some Christian charity watchdog which claims that you can only be a reliable charity if you give 80% of expenses, or more, to the cause you are recieving donations for. And I am SURE that no religious charity ever broke that rule. But hey, since the ALS Association gets to 79%, who is going to quibble? Right wing religious nuts, that's who. I think we can see the real reason for these silly attacks now, can't we?

Oh, you didn't notice that the standard they cite is a Christian one? That's because they left that bit out, they wrote:

According to the ECFA, a charitable watchdog

No - a religious charitable watchdog. A Christian watchdog with an agenda. That watchdog requires charities to be Christian and have a statement of faith. The ALS Association has funded embryonic stem cell research which is opposed by Christian religious pro-life groups. You do the math.

Congratulations, by quoting or re-posting this article you are serving the religious right's agenda. Bravo.

Anyone who keeps repeating this stupid article, and others like it, without bothering to check facts first should hand in their critical thinking card when they leave please.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Health and Prayer II - Why God still can't lose

I had a reply posted to a blog I wrote some time ago that I didn't feel I could do justice to in just the comments, so here's the full on reply.

The original post was one I made about the myth that prayer heals, and how patently ridiculous such an assertion is in the face of our need for modern evidence based medicine, you can find that here. The comment came here. I'll call the commenter littleinions in reference to the pseudonym they entered there.

The comment is, I think, a perfect example of what I was referring to in the original post - the "God can't lose" concept. That is to say, the seemingly miraculous is attributed to God and he gets all the credit for it, even in the face of the suffering that may have occurred. For example, God gets credit for saving one person in a plane crash and is praised for his miracle, but doesn't take the blame for the 250 other people who died in the same crash. If saving one is to God's credit, what is letting the others die? God can't lose because the majority of believers will then say they weren't meant to be saved, didn't pray hard enough or it wasn't part of the plan etc - God can't lose because only the good stuff is attributed to him - the bad stuff is rationalized away, but whatever the rationalization is, it is not God.

Carry this into health care though, and we often have people attribute someone's recovery from ill health to God and prayer or miracles - not to medical treatment and care, misdiagnosis or spontaneous remission. Yet, as I point out in the original post, if prayer really worked in the way that the religious claim we wouldn't have need of hospitals or evidence based medical care for two main reasons:

  1. Nobody prays to become sick. People pray for good health and a long life - they don't pray to have a serious accident or incurable disease. If prayer worked no one would ever be sick - except I suppose the non-religious or non-devout, who either don't pray at all or don't pray enough (whatever that limit is).
  2. If people were sick or injured then if prayer worked those illnesses or injuries would be immediately rectified or cured upon those people praying - nobody prays to continue to be sick or injured, they pray to be cured or to recover. If prayer worked they would not therefore need medical treatment and in countries where the religious are present in great numbers hospitals need not exist. This is demonstrably not true.
Further to these two points is the obvious one that the website Why Won't God Heal Amputees? makes. People who lose limbs, or who are born without them, never have those limbs come back despite praying for exactly that to happen. If prayer works, then why won't God heal amputees?