Posts Tagged “nyc”

VaccineA devout Catholic mother is suing the Big Apple over its requirement that students be vaccinated. As the Staten Island Advance reports, she considers vaccinations to be an affront to God … or something like that (WebCite cached article):

West Brighton resident Dina Check fervently opposes vaccinations, even for her young daughter, on religious grounds.

The practicing Roman Catholic believes the body is a temple, and contends injecting vaccines into it “would defile God’s creation of the immune system … [and] demonstrate a lack of faith in God, which would anger God and therefore be sacrilegious.”

Those strong views have put Ms. Check, 46, at odds with the city Education Department. They have also resulted in her 6-year-old daughter’s recent barring from PS 35, Sunnyside, for failing to be immunized.

Ms. Check has struck back, filing a civil lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court against the Education Department.

I’d never heard the Catholic Church teaches its followers not to allow vaccinations. The Advance checked into the matter, and confirmed it does not:

Professor Christopher P. Vogt, a moral theologian, said the Catholic Church doesn’t oppose vaccinations.

“I don’t see any tension between immunizing children and Roman Catholic teaching, belief or practice,” said Vogt, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at St. John’s University in Queens. “When we immunize children, we’re trying to protect children and the common good. As a Catholic, we have a responsibility to take care of our world.”

When read some passages Ms. Check had written, he said it seemed as though she’s taken a Fundamentalist view of Scriptures.

“Catholicism doesn’t hold that we take a literal reading of Scriptures,” he said.

Note, this is not the only occasion when Catholics have decided to opt out of certain medical procedures on religious grounds, even though Catholicism does not forbid them. A couple years ago I blogged about how many Hispanics — largely Roman Catholic — consider organ transplants to be sacrilegious.

Also, sadly, this is not the only time a parent has refused perfectly valid medicine for his/her children because to do so would betray a lack of faith in God. It happens even when getting medical care is a matter of life and death. It’s much more common than most people are aware.

Photo credit: John Keith, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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'Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.' -H.L. Mencken (PsiCop original graphic)I’ve blogged a few times about the ongoing scam that is anti-terror security in the US. Their actions are frequently extreme and misdirected, and often absurdly out of proportion with the risk being dealt with. The government’s excuses for all of this ridiculousness are legion: “An abundance of caution” is typically cited as being necessary, as well as the need to be vigilant because the terrorists are everywhere.

I concede there are terrorists working to attack Americans … as well as people all over the planet. It would be insane to say there’s absolutely no danger. What I’ve consistently questioned is whether what’s being done, actually diminishes that risk, as well as whether or not the measures that are taken, are worth the small increase in safety they might provide. I’ve long agreed with experts like Bruce Schneier that it’s all just “security theater,” or useless exercises intended to make people feel safer, without actually doing anything to make them safter.

In its review of New York City’s claim of success in contending with the threat of terrorism, ProPublica has examined the city’s record, and found its claims disingenuous (WebCite cached article):

The NYPD is regularly held up as one of the most sophisticated and significant counterterrorism operations in the country. As evidence of the NYPD’s excellence, the department, its allies and the media have repeatedly said the department has thwarted or helped thwart 14 terrorist plots against New York since Sept 11.

In a glowing profile of Commissioner Ray Kelly published in Newsweek last month, for example, journalist Christopher Dickey wrote of the commissioner’s tenure since taking office in 2002: The record “is hard to argue with: at least 14 full-blown terrorist attacks have been prevented or failed on Kelly’s watch.”

The figure has been cited repeatedly in the media, by New York congressmen, and by Kelly himself. The NYPD itself has published the full list, saying terrorists have “attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots.”…

Is it true?

In a word, no.

A review of the list shows a much more complicated reality — that the 14 figure overstates both the number of serious, developed terrorist plots against New York and exaggerates the NYPD’s role in stopping attacks.

ProPublica goes over this list of NYC anti-terror successes, and points how they’re really failures. I’ll leave the details up to them to explain, but I do urge you to look at them and see it for yourself.

I’m disappointed the mass media have reported on government anti-terror activities as uncritically as they have. It’s not as though the record on a lot of these matters can’t be verified … as ProPublica demonstrated. But it seems the mass media generally aren’t interested in checking it out.

Now, if I were a committed ideologue, I’d chalk this up to some sort of “media bias” (of whichever direction). But I need not appeal to anything that subjective. I think the reason the mass media have refused to examine the government’s anti-terror track record, is because reporters (outside of ProPublica!) are — quite simply — too lazy or too incompetent to bother doing it. This is not the only field they’re uncritical about … for instance, I’ve caught media outlets reporting uncritically on the paranormal. A lack of critical thinking on the part of reporters, is just one of many aspects of modern journalism that’s severely lacking.

Photo credit: PsiCop original, containing the wisdom of H.L. Mencken.

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Police are investigating a firebomb attack against the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation building and three other sites in Queens, New York. (CBS 2)Note: See the update below for an important update to this blog post!

I’ve blogged a number of times about a movement I call “the Neocrusade” — a modern effort by “Christian nationers” to eliminate Islam within the U.S. It’s mostly found in the same parts of the country as Religious Rightism, i.e. in the Bobble Bayelt (er, Bible Belt), but it can be found elsewhere too, including the New York City metropolis. As CBS News reports, there’s a chance that Neocrusading vigilantes might once again be active in the Big Apple (WebCite cached article):

Authorities are investigating four fire attacks in New York City, including one at an Islamic center and one at a house used for Hindu worship.

Police say three attacks Sunday night involved molotov cocktails. There were no injuries. Police are investigating the attacks as bias crimes.

The fact that non-Islam-related targets were hit, certainly suggests these attacks weren’t Neocrusade-motivated. But then again, Neocrusaders have been known to lash out at the wrong targets, so it can’t be ruled out quite yet.

If this is, in fact, the work of militant Christian Neocrusaders, the irony of Christianists resorting to terror and violence in their campaign against a religion they consider violent and terror-promoting, is precious.

Update: It turns out this may have not been Neocrusaders’ work, after all. The New York Times reports a suspect has been arrested, police say the fires he set all resulted from specific, personal grudges, not out of religious fervor (cached).

Photo credit: WCBS via CBS News.

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Two Wrongs Are Inequal To A RightIn my experience, one of the most common fallacies that people fall into, themselves, or hear and accept from others without noticing it, is two wrongs make a right. This is in spite of the fact that most of us were taught by our mothers that two wrongs do not, in fact, make a right; however, this simple teaching that most or all of us received in childhood, can’t seem to contravene the overpowering emotional effect of seeing someone else do something wrong, thus triggering a sense of an entitlement for oneself to do the same. The frequency with which grown adults — who by definition should all know better — plumb the depths of this fallacy hit home over just the past couple of days, in two ways.

First, CBS News reports on how extreme Religious Rightist and radio host “Dr Laura” Schlessinger used the “N word” on the air, in a barrage aimed at an African-American caller (WebCite cached article):

Talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has issued an apology for saying the N-word several times in an on-air conversation with a caller that she said was “hypersensitive” to racism. …

During the exchange on Tuesday’s show, Schlessinger said the woman who called herself Jade was too sensitive for complaining that her husband’s friends made racist comments about her in their home.

Dr Laura’s reasoning for why this woman was being “too sensitive”? It was the old “two wrongs make a right”:

When the woman asked if the N-word was offensive, Dr. Laura said “black guys say it all the time,” then went on to repeat it several times.

Schlessinger did not direct the epithet at the woman, but said she used it to suggest how often she hears it, and that it should not automatically be cause for offense.

When the caller objected, Schlessinger replied: “Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.”

For Dr Laura, then, the “N word” becomes acceptable to use, because some African-American comedians use it, and because it can be heard on HBO … therefore there’s nothing wrong with the word, and her caller should not be insulted by it.

A second use of this fallacy was one I encountered while reading about the childish Religious Right caterwauling about the Cordoba Center proposal in lower Manhattan (about which I’ve blogged already). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who apparently is trying to reintegrate himself into Rightist politics after having shamed himself out of office years ago — has come up with this rationale for opposing it, which you can see him spew in this Youtube video:

Here’s a transcription of his key remarks, courtesy of Reason.Com:

I find it very offensive to get lectured about religious liberty at a time when there are no churches and no synagogues in Saudi Arabia and when no Christian and no Jew can walk into Mecca…. I’d love to have these folks say, “Let’s build a church and a synagogue in Mecca, or rather Saudi Arabia, and that would balance off our having an interfaith mosque [in lower Manhattan].” They’re not saying that. It is entirely one-sided. It is entirely, I think, a kind of triumphalism that we should not tolerate.

For Newt, Saudi Arabia’s religious intolerance means it’s OK for us to prevent American Muslims from building cultural centers where they want. In other words, he thinks it’s a good idea to get into a pissing contest with Saudi Arabia to find out which country can be more religiously intolerant. What he fails to understand is that Americans should do what Americans should do, and not emulate others, just because they feel entitled to do so.

These are but two examples of how “two wrongs make a right” thinking sneaks into common rhetoric. It happens much more often than this. Be on guard against it, and don’t be swindled into thinking or doing the wrong thing just because someone can point to someone else who thinks or does it.

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