QuickiesScience

Skepchick Quickies 9.23

  • Bigoted white Dems could doom Obama – “Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama’s support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.” 
  • NASA deploys rubber ducks to track glacial water – I want that job, NASA rubber duck labeler.
  • Can “showing love” be a hate crime? – A banner of the University of Alberta’s atheist student group has been defaced with “Jesus is coming!”, “God loves you!”, hearts, crosses, and the groups contact information was blacked out. 
  • Want to help girls get into science? – “The National Girls Collaborative Project, as you might guess from the title, focuses on helping girls and engaging girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (aka “STEM”).”  Check out the directory to see if there’s a program in your area.

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

Related Articles

51 Comments

  1. Re: the Obama article…

    “Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates.”

    And yet the headline is about race. Hmm.

    I’d guess some are prepping excuses for a potential Republican win (I tend to think he will – don’t want him to, but he will). Racism, voter manipulation yada yada blah blah cry cry…

    Competency is the issue, not race. Had the Democrat-led congress done even one constructive thing recently things would be different.

    Obama’s the better of the two major party choices, but he’s not that much better. In three years of Senator-ness he has four major accomplishments. A) getting nominated for President. B) voting for China’s “most favored nation status” (not a plus). C) and D) his books.

    That’s all, in three years at the federal level. You only get four in the White House. Will he be equally ineffective?

    Add to this Obama wanting to send troops into battle in Afghanistan (despite Americans being sick of war altogether), wanting to drill away our problems, etc., much like his equally moderate opponent.

    You know how you tell a moderate Democrat from a moderate Republican? Yeah; neither do I.

    Apparently a lot of people think the way I do, if that poll, which is allegedly “exhaustive ” is right. He’s going to have to be a lot more forward thinking, a lot more of a difference from the status quo, before he generates that landslide he needs.

  2. That Obama/race things smells bad. “More than 1/3 agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks”. It doesn’t say whether those adjectives are true or not. Tabloid headlines, I say.

    IMHO, Obama’s not losing many votes due to racism, b/c those people would be voting GOP anyway.

  3. @mxracer652: Really? Because I think they do. Matthew Shepard probably wouldn’t have been killed had he been straight. The two men who killed him were motivated to kill him because he was gay. Period.

    Don’t the motivations behind other murders matter, too? I mean, if someone kills someone because they are drunk and driving, they didn’t do it out of cold-blood, and that is indeed important when they are charged and when they go to trial. If that same person had instead gunned someone down using his car out of cold-blood, that would make a HUGE difference in how he was charged and sentenced.

  4. @marilove: Yeah, maybe it’s just me, but I think Drinking and Driving resulting in a death should be murder one. We’re far too lenient on that kind of crap. It’s pretty much the same as shooting at a target on the other side of a crowd of people after spinning around really fast.

    Motivation should be taken into account, but pretty much only in that sometimes motivation makes the action not a crime (killing in self-defense, say).

    That’s my take, anyway. I know I’m in the minority on that.

  5. Yes. I really do. I also think that if we took it more seriously as a society, we’d have a lot less of it happening. Cars are bloody dangerous machines, and it’s high time we stopped treating them otherwise.

    Caveat: I think now is the time to make it abundantly clear that I rabidly oppose the entire concept of long-term imprisonment. Stupid 17 year olds should not be sentenced to spend the rest of their lives being beaten, aped, and/or psychologically tortured for any crime, and neither should anyone else.

  6. @Rystefen: I agree with you that DUI involving a death should be punished much more severely than we currently do in the US. I don’t know about Murder 1, though.

    I have felt that way ever since one of my daughter’s friends was killed by a drunk driver in broad daylight – She was 4 years old. The guy responsible had several DUI’s on his record before he killed her. Why was he on the road again? Because some judges repeatedly let him off with fines and jail time.

    @mxracer, I agree with marilove that motivation does matter when considering a crime. My opinion is much more like kaylia marie’s. We need to ask questions like “How much harm was caused by this crime?”

    A hate crime is not only aimed against the victim, but at people similar to the victim. It’s similar in motivation to terrorism, i.e., “If I do this to that (fill in the blank), other (fill in the blanks) will be frightened/put off/flee for their lives.”

  7. @Rystefn: Well, then I think you’re contradicting yourself. Murder one generally implies a long imprisonment, does it not?

    Anyway, I do think our society needs to concentrate more on rehabilitation, counseling, and most importantly, education. Our justice system is way out of wack (especially when it comes to drugs, but that’s a totally different topic from today).

  8. @QuestionAuthority: That guy should NOT have been given his license back, and likely should have had much more prison time than he had, and of course it wasn’t his first offense (or even his 2nd) when he killed that poor girl, and that should be taken into consideration when he was/is charged and sentenced. I still don’t think murder 1 is appropriate, though.

  9. @marilove: I most assuredly am. Under current laws, DUI is a minor offense with almost no punishment associated. Since you also disagree with that system, now we’re having a discussion about we wish our judicial system worked.

    With the system in place, I don’t think you should get murder 1 for killing someone in cold blood because the punishment is completely inappropriate to the crime, by the same logic you apply to the DUI situation.

  10. @Rystefn: “Yeah, maybe it’s just me, but I think Drinking and Driving resulting in a death should be murder one. ”

    So why did you not explain it to begin with? I notice you have a habit of doing that: Saying one thing, but meaning something completely different.

    @TheSkepticalMale: The thing is though, his age does matter, especially when you also take into account his health issues (ie, skin cancer). Old agecan hinder someone’s ability to lead, but race cannot, at least not in a direct sense.

  11. @marilove:

    The two men who killed him were motivated to kill him because he was gay.

    But so what? What difference does it make why they killed him? Yes, they killed him because he’s gay. If they had killed him because he slept with one of their girlfriends, does that make the crime less deserving of harsh punishment?

    I understand and agree with your proceeding comment about differentiating between intential and unintentional homicide, but the law already made that distinction before hate crime legislation went into place. Punishment based on the existence or degree of intent is much different than punishment based on the type of intent.

  12. @Rystefn: And honestly, I think someone who kills in cold blood is not the same as someone who kills someone, without intending to, while driving drunk. Motivation does matter and I think someone who stabs someone to death because they didn’t like the fact that he was gay deserves to be more harshly punished than someone who kills because they were driving drunk.

  13. @marilove: Oh, come on, if McCain dies, that’s what we have the VP for ;) … Actually, I’m not afraid that McCain will die so much as I’m afraid McCain will end up like Reagan was his last year or so in office … and as I see it, Obama is essentially another Jimmy Carter (the state of world affairs and the economy smells kinda similar to 1976 to me) … You know, I’m voting (as I always do), but I just cannot vote for President this time around.

  14. @jtradke: I am going to quote QuestionAuthority above, because he said it better than I can:

    “A hate crime is not only aimed against the victim, but at people similar to the victim. It’s similar in motivation to terrorism, i.e., “If I do this to that (fill in the blank), other (fill in the blanks) will be frightened/put off/flee for their lives.””

    And you can’t change the fact that you are gay or black or chinese, while cheating is a choice, so I don’t think that that is an accurate analogy that you can use.

    Also … and I could be wrong, because I probably have watched too many Law & Order: SVU episodes, but they do tend to treat sex crimes harsher and differently from straight murders, because the motivation is different.

  15. @TheSkepticalMale: “will end up like Reagan was his last year or so in office”

    I agree!

    Also, honestly, I think Jimmy Carter gets way too much flack, but that’s neither here nor there, because I don’t know enough to properly debate it, though that would be an interesting thing to research…

  16. Things can get squishy when talking about motivation. I think intent can be considered in determining punishment. That is, what did the perpetrator want to do. Getting into why they wanted to do it becomes problematic, and crosses into criminalizing certain thoughts, or certain mental states. Is it really better to kill someone because you think it might be cool to see someone die than to kill someone because you don’t like the way they look? Is it worse to throw a brick through someone’s window because you don’t like their religious beliefs than it is to throw a brick through their window because you want their stereo?

    Intent is valid to consider, because someone who accidentally does something wrong should be handled differently from someone who intentionally does something wrong. Although, negligence then comes in and makes that area muddy too. I consider DUI accidents to be in the negligence category. You didn’t intend to hurt anyone, but you should have known that your actions were making that much more likely. But, I don’t care why the idiot got drunk in the first place.

    As for the banner in the original story, it’s vandalism and defacement of private property. It doesn’t seem to matter why someone wanted to do that. I would distinguish between that and someone who accidentally damaged the banner (maybe by stumbling and spilling something on it that caused a stain).

    I am a Hedge

  17. @marilove: Now, now… I did clarify in my second post. Sometimes I forget that the people I’m talking may not be aware of my stances on other issues that I’ve talked about here before. I didn’t say one thing and mean something completely different, I said one thing, and I meant it, and I stand by it. I just temporarily forgot that it’s been a while since I said the thing about long-term imprisonment around here.

    I also think killing someone deliberately in cold blood is not the same as killing one though an act of deliberate idiocy with complete disregard for the safety of others. I just think the punishment shouldn’t be substantially different. I also don’t think the punishment for either should be long-term imprisonment – the most foolish and inept idea in the history of law as I see it.

    Frankly, I think it’s quite a bit less horrific to kill the exact person you wanted to kill (even if the reason behind it was reprehensible) than to just kill whatever poor sucker was unlucky enough to cross your path that day.

  18. @Im a Hedge: “As for the banner in the original story, it’s vandalism and defacement of private property. It doesn’t seem to matter why someone wanted to do that.”

    Oh, no, I do think it matters why someone wanted to do that. Not necessarily in a legal sense (I think it depends on the situation and proof and whatnot), but rather in a more abstract sense. Why does our society feel like it is okay to deface and kill just because people think differently or believe differently or because they are black or gay, etc.? If that makes sense. I haven’t had enough coffee yet.

  19. @Rystefn: “I also don’t think the punishment for either should be long-term imprisonment – the most foolish and inept idea in the history of law as I see it.”

    I agree in some cases — when it comes to negligence or accidents or murders done in the heat of the moment, and *especially* non-violent crimes (our country likes to throw people in jail and prison for almost no reason, that’s for sure). But what about when it comes to serial killers? We had a serial rapist here in Phoenix not too long ago — he would grab random women, sometimes in broad daylight, stab them, and rape them. He evaded police for a long time, and his rapes and murders were brutal — and I think it is highly unlikely that he is going to rehabilitate again, and indeed it is more likely that he would kill again if he were to be released, but I also think he is mentally fit and knows exactly what is right or wrong — he just doesn’t care.

    Do you honestly think he doesn’t deserve long-term imprisonment?

    “Frankly, I think it’s quite a bit less horrific to kill the exact person you wanted to kill (even if the reason behind it was reprehensible) than to just kill whatever poor sucker was unlucky enough to cross your path that day.”

    Eh, I don’t know. I think both are pretty horrific, just for different reasons.

  20. @marilove:

    So why did you not explain it to begin with? I notice you have a habit of doing that: Saying one thing, but meaning something completely different.

    “That’s glory for you!” Humpty Dumpty Rystefn said.
    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice marilove said.
    Humpty Dumpty Rystefn smiled comtemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”
    “But that’s not what ‘glory’ means,” Alice marilove said.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty Rystefn said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more or less.”

    I am a Hedge

  21. @marilove: I like Carter, but I would venture to guess that even he would admit that he has a lot more wisdom about foreign policy than he did as President … In any case, the 1976 election was the first I can remember – it was the bicentennial, and Carter was going to come in as the outsider (read: inexperienced), with the Republicans’ popularity at an all-time low (due to Watergate), and attack the recession with grand government progams and save us from a dangerous world with the kinder, gentler hand of diplomacy … The reality is that the most significant role of the President (in terms of sheer constitutional power) is as the leader of the free world, and when I look at Obama, I see a deer in the headlights … That said, as someone who studied African-American history in college, I will tell my children that Obama, just being a candidate, was one of the great moments of American history that I happened to be alive to witness.

  22. @marilove:

    Oh, no, I do think it matters why someone wanted to do that. Not necessarily in a legal sense

    Right. I meant legally, as in ‘Hate Crime’. Sorry I wasn’t careful enough to clarify this. I agree that it matters, but that it shouldn’t enter into any legal considerations. I don’t think “Hate” should be a crime.

    I think it is legally acceptable to hate someone. I even think it is acceptable in general to hate someone for reasons that are under their control (such as what they think, or what they do). I also think it’s a very bad idea to do so, and not usually worth the trouble.

    I am a Hedge

  23. Do you honestly think he doesn’t deserve long-term imprisonment?

    Do you honestly believe torture is ever the right punishment for a crime? I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has something to say on the subject, and the answer is unequivocally “no.”

    How in the universe we manage to convince ourselves locking someone away for years and years in a building full of criminals is anything other than torture is beyond me.

    Now, I’ll freely admit my outlook here is biased by my own perceptions, and the fact that most people out there clearly don’t feel that they’d rather be gunned down in the street than locked away for ten years shows that I’m in a minority here… but the fact that there are clearly some people who choose that path shows that I’m not alone.

    I think both are pretty horrific

    I agree 100%

  24. @Im a Hedge: Teehee, you always seem to make me laugh!! You be funny.

    @Rystefn: So what do you say are options are for serial killers, then? Just let them roam the streets because it’s better than “torturing” them? Why is it okay to put everyone else in danger? I don’t get this at all. And I don’t think locking someone up forever is necessarily torture, especially if they are a danger to society.

    Do I think our judicial system is basically effed up? Yeah, in a lot of ways. But I do think they treat serial killers exactly right, that’s for sure.

    I have a unique perspective on this, actually. My cousin (my dad’s brother’s daughter) is actually in prison in Texas, and the death penalty was thrown around early on in her case. She is now in there for 60+ years. She was … er, 20 or so? I can’t remember exactly and I’m too lazy to google atm, when she was first sentenced.

    When it comes to her case, as I’ve grown older and more knowledgeable in general, I am still so unsure about it all.

    Curious: I assume you’re anti-death penalty? Seems you would be. (This is just curiosity, I’m still not sure how I feel about it myself.)

  25. I am most assuredly against just letting them wander free to hurt others.

    I fail to see how the danger a person represents to anyone else affects whether or not locking them in a cage counts as torture. Either it is or it isn’t. If you think it’s not, that’s your opinion, I suppose, but that determination can only really be made based on what it does to the person, not how it affects others.

    I am not anti-death penalty in the case of very, very bad crimes that have been 100% proven guilty… especially in cases where the person is likely to continue doing it.

  26. @Rystefn: “I am most assuredly against just letting them wander free to hurt others.”

    Then what is the solution?

    From your last sentence, I guess it is the death-penalty. Why is that somehow better than locking them up forever? Why is the death-penalty not torture, while locking them up is?

  27. Hallelujah, Rys @Rystefn:

    this is one thing that I can’t really understand how people don’t understand it: everyone, everything, WILL die. It is necessary. So, the death penalty just speeds it up…I kind of even think that the death penalty is kinder than imprisonment….

    I’m afraid that I’m not going to articulate this properly, and the below is not to be read as having much of anything to do with death penalty as human punishment for humans crime…just about the inevitability of death and how some people see death as worse than torture/non-freedom.

    Some people think that hunting is barbaric. Let’s even pretend that it’s only non-meat eaters that I’ve heard say this (unfortunately, I’ve heard meat eaters argue this…). Now, it’s easy for me to understand and agree with the opinion that feedlot/factory farming is cruel to animals (do I even have to explain why?I will if anyone requires me to, but I’d rather not waste time typing it out).

    Hunting, though? What could be more natural? The animal lives its life, the predator kills its prey. The animal is going to die at some point, be it by the hands of a hunter, jaws of a wolf, or slow decline of age/disease.

    What an animal does not necessarily need to go through is being penned up, force-fed weird shit, artificially inseminated, standing around inits own feces, being in a constant position of submission and vulnerability to any jerkwad who works at the factory farmand wants to let off some steam by hurting an animal.

    so…(jeez, I need some coffee)

    That’s why I think that the death penalty is less fucked up than life in prison, and also why I would rather be swiftly murdered with the minimum amount of pain than survive some episode of torture to haunt me for the rest of a long life. And if I were a non-top-of-the-food-chain animal, I’d rather be shot in the head by an hunter than live at a factory farm, or, for that matter, be killed by a pack of fanged animals.

    Does that make sense?

  28. On another (kinda related) note, I’ve heard that PETA’s stance on companion animals (dogs and cats specifically) is that it is cruel to keep them. Now, I don’t know if this is true,and quite frankly, I’m too sensitive to brave their website to try to find out (can’t stand pictures of teh crying animals – hell, that SPCA commercial with the Sarah McLaughlin song gets the waterworks going as soon as I hear it), but what the hell? Does anyone know what their stance on dogsand cats is?

    Sorry for the tangential tangefying.

  29. I kind of even think that the death penalty is kinder than imprisonment….

    I agree completely – for long-term imprisonment only, of course. It’s a rare person who would rather die spend a night in jail. Not even my unstable ass is that extreme about it.

    Yes, I am saying that I would rather die than go to prison for a decade. Yes, if I thought at any point it was a likely outcome of any given course of events, I would force the issue. Luckily it’s highly unlikely to come up for me, for a variety of reasons.

  30. meh, if it meant 10 years of daily rape and olive loaf, I’d bow out. 10 years of having a room of my own, basic materials …wait, why am I even entertaining these scenaria? I’d never do anything that a civilized society would deem even remotely criminal.

  31. In Oregon one at least one organization is trying to encourage young girls – and other groups – into STEM programs. ORTOP.org (Oregon Robotic Tournaments and Outreach Program) runs statewide Lego Robotics Program (see FIRST program). It offers training, works with other organizations – eg Girl Scouts – provides equipment and guidance to those groups who are under represented in the engineering field. (women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans etc.)

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close