The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘business’

Creation Museum’s Faith-Based Investment in “Ark Encounter” Appears to be Sinking

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 11, 2014

The saga of uber-creationist Ken Ham’s Creation Museum continues, and it isn’t looking good for him or his followers.  If you recall, Ham and his creationist organization Answers In Genesis (AiG) have, in recent years, gone all-in on an investment scheme to fund what they call a life sized replica of Noah’s Ark named Ark Encounter.  For years, I and others have reported on the continuing financial troubles and ethically questionable revenue sources for Ken Ham’s enterprise, and now things seem to only be getting worse for Ham, AiG, and the Creation Museum.

Ken Ham Ark Encounter

Ken Ham looking over his model of Ark Encounter… the irony is that, according to myth, Noah didn’t need lots of investment capital, the backing of the government, and huge construction teams to build his Ark. (image source)

Back in February, there was a big debate between Ham and Billy Nye the Science Guy at the Creation Museum; after the debate, Ham reported that this debate had brought in a huge amount of much-needed financial support for Ark Encounter and that construction would begin on the much publicized project in May of this year (after repeated delays due to insufficient funds).  At the time, I and others were skeptical, speculating that perhaps Ham wasn’t being completely truthful because while he said money was coming in, he didn’t provide any specifics.  This led me to believe that Ham was continuing his habit of not only bending (or breaking) the truth on issues of science but those of economics and finance as well.

Well, now it appears that the other shoe has dropped… as reported in June by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, it seems that Ham is resorting to all sorts of shenanigans and obfuscation to give the impression that his enterprise isn’t sinking:

1) First, there’s the issue of the time-table on Ark Encounter continually being pushed back, at taxpayer expense

The main problem with Ham’s overtly religious pet project is it seems to be a magnet for taxpayer dollars. First, Kentucky officials committed more than $40 million in tax incentives to the Ark Park. Sadly that was just the beginning. Later, the Kentucky legislature planned to spend $2 million on a road project in a rural area, seemingly for the sole benefit of the proposed Ark Park.

But even those generous incentives weren’t enough for misguided lawmakers. The city of Williamstown, which had already granted a 75 percent property tax break for the park, decided last year that it would sell $62 million in municipal bonds on behalf of AiG affiliates.

All told, various government entities in Kentucky have planned to give the Ark Park, which was originally supposed to cost about $175 million, an astounding $100 million (or more) in various types of public support. Recent reports, however, cast serious doubt on just how much of that money, if any, will reach the project.

It seems Ham’s ever-changing timeline has finally caught up with him. He said in January 2011 that work would begin on the Ark Park that spring; then in May of that year, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer; in June, AiG said construction would begin in August; and by early August 2011, AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months.”

Then in late August 2011, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012. That did not happen, either.

2) Then there’s the problem of the expiration date attached to the public funding (the one smart thing the KY lawmakers did in this whole fiasco)…

Louisville’s LEO Weekly reported last week that the large tax incentive package promised to the Ark Park back in May 2011 by Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet came with one little catch: an expiration date. The agreement says that AiG can receive a 25 percent tax rebate on the cost of construction once the park opens, provided construction began by May 2014. The discount would be capped at $43 million.

Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism Cabinet, told LEO Weekly that Ark Encounter quietly withdrew its old application for a $172 million project on March 28 and instead submitted a $73 million proposal. If that application is approved, and if it is built within the allotted timeframe, that would mean AiG is eligible for $18.25 million in tax incentives, LEO Weekly said.

But the shrinking tax package doesn’t appear to be Ham’s only problem. In April, the Cincinnati Enquirerreported that the local road improvements needed to handle all the traffic that will supposedly rush to Ark Encounter (if it ever opens) will be pushed back to 2017. That’s a bit of a problem for Ham, who last claimed that the park would open in the summer of 2016. Perhaps he wants park visitors to have an authentic Bible experience by walking or riding camels to see the ark.

There is also some mystery surrounding the $62 million in municipal bonds that supposedly rescued Ham’s project. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January that while $26.5 million in bonds had been sold, the city needed to sell an additional $29 million by Feb. 6 or else those who already bought bonds would be able to collect on their investment immediately.

The city would not say exactly how much money was raised, the Courier-Journal reported in late February, but AiG’s website claims the bonds actually yielded $73 million. AiG also claims it has raised $15 million on its own.

Hmm… when “there is some mystery” about how public funds are allocated and being used, especially on a legally and ethically questionable project such as this, then that’s kind of a problem.  KY lawmakers and politicians would be wise to distance themselves from this slow-motion train wreck.  But there’s more!

3) Ham has claimed that ground breaking and construction did indeed begin this past May, except that it didn’t actually happen…

Despite these setbacks, Ham presses on. His latest ploy appears to be keeping up the hoax that the Ark Park is under construction. In February, he said groundbreaking would begin in May. On May 1, AiG hosted a “groundbreaking ceremony” at the site where the park is supposed to be built, but the “groundbreaking” consisted of a handful of men in suits using wooden mallets to hammer wooden pegs into wooden boards. This all took place inside an auditorium, which doesn’t look much like a theme park. (You can watch this exciting video here, but be warned – it’s over 40 minutes long.)

It is now June, and it remains unclear whether or not construction has actually started on Ark Encounter. AiG’s website says its “construction management team” is still soliciting bids from contractors, suggesting that no real progress will be made anytime soon.

Whoops!  I thought that “construction” meant that earth-moving machines were actually, I don’t know, moving earth and digging holes and that carpenters were actually nailing pieces of wood together and so on.  Apparently, in Ken Ham’s universe, “construction” means… something else.

Well, one thing is for sure: this story won’t end here.  I think Ken Ham is going to try to string both investors and politicians alike along for as long as possible on his sinking Ark Encounter, despite the fact that it should be obvious by now to any reasonable observer that his grasp of finances is about as trustworthy as his grasp of science.

Too bad for the folks who invested in this debacle that they didn’t use a little evidence-based thinking. That’s what you get for faith-based investing, I suppose.

Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Continued Financial Trouble for KY Creation Museum?

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 25, 2013

Ken Ham’s Creation Museum is back in the news, and – surprise – it has to do with a questionable funding proposal to finance his floundering theme park, where people can pay to be told that the Flintstones is the real thing.

Flintstones

Yup, they actually teach that humans and dinosaurs coexisted… just like in the Flintstones cartoon.  Looks like a good investment to me – Yabba-dabba-doo! (Image source)

I’ve posted before (here and here) about the troubles the Creation Museum has had in securing funding for its Ark Encounter attraction (not to mention its dwindling profits – or should that be “prophets”?), and the following article indicates that Ken Ham is pursuing a constitutionally questionable strategy which could land him and the municipality in question into some dicey legal waters…

Kentucky City May Offer $62 Million in Securities to Help Noah’s Ark Replica Park

A city in Kentucky is working with Crosswater Canyon, an owned subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, Inc., to offer $62 million in securities for prospective investors to help aid the completion of a Creationist theme park and replica of Noah’s Ark.  While the city of Williamstown is issuing the bond, Crosswalk Canyon is solely responsible for the bonds, not the city.

Beginning next month, Williamstown may oversee the amount of taxable securities for investors to the project overseen by Answers in Genesis, reported Brian Chappatta and Priya Anand of Business Week.

“Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called ‘Ark Encounter.’ Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year,” wrote Chappatta and Anand. …

But if things are going so well for Ken Ham and his cartoon attraction, then why the need for these so-called “securities” to fund the project?  Let’s read on…

… Unlike the Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter project has had its share of financial issues regarding funding and donations.

The official ground-breaking for the project has been delayed multiple times since 2011, with private donations not matching the necessary monetary benchmarks.

Mike Zovath, head of the Ark Encounter project, told The Christian Post about the current status of the park’s construction, namely that it is “under design.” …

Wow, that’s got to make potential investors nervous.  So what’s the big deal about going through these “securities” issued by the town of Williamstown, KY?…

… Answers in Genesis’ efforts in Kentucky have garnered their share of criticism, including from the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In the past Americans United has criticized the alleged First Amendment issues with regards to the state support for projects that benefit the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.

Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United, told The Christian Post that the bond offering is one of many examples of government aid proposed for the Ark Encounter project.

“The imminent bond offering is only one of several different kinds of aid being given to the Ark Park by the State of Kentucky, Grant County, and the City of Williamstown,” said Luchenitser.

“The array of government aid to the Ark Park raises very serious issues under the religion clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the even stricter church-state prohibitions of the Kentucky Constitution.” …

Well, there’s that!  And then there are other questions regarding the legality/wisdom of these securities from the standpoint of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  But don’t take it from me; take it from from people who actually know business and investment, like the folks at Bloomberg Businessweek.  Here’s an excerpt from an excellent blog post on this particular point:

Bloomberg Reports on Ken Ham’s Ark Bonds

This is about an article at the website of Bloomberg BusinessweekBusiness Week was formerly an independent magazine, now it’s part of the Bloomberg international news agency, headquartered in New York. Their article is Noah’s Ark Depends on Faith in Default-Plagued Debt: Muni Credit.

From our recent post, Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” Bonds, you already know about the bonds being issued to finance the proposed Ark Encounter project, which is owned by a company controlled by Answers in Genesis (AIG). AIG is the on-line ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia. It also owns and operates the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.

It appears that Bloomberg has seen all the documents, and they routinely report on the bond market. Their analysis is far more sophisticated than ours. They say, with bold font added by us:

“Given the default history of unrated municipal debt, investors may have to pray for the success of bonds being sold to build a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark.

The northern Kentucky city of Williamstown plans to offer $62 million of securities next month for affiliates of Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit that operates the Creation Museum upstate. Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called “Ark Encounter.” Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year.”

Ouch… but what the heck does Bloomberg Businessweek know?  Sure they may have oodles of financial and investment expertise, but if creationists have shown us anything it’s that they don’t need no stinkin’ experts who spout off about pesky things like evidence and facts!

So head on over and buy some of Ken Ham’s bonds.  You just have to have faith that you won’t be flushing your money down the toilet 🙂

Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

EBay Bans Witchcraft and “Supernatural Sales”?

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 16, 2012

Okay, sometimes you run across a story so outlandish that it just seems too goofy to be true, kind of like those headlines you see in The Onion… then you find out they ARE true and you get whiplash from the double-take.  Case in point, this little gem from the LA Times:

EBay bans supernatural sales of magic spells, potions, hexes

By Tiffany Hsu This post has been updated. See note below.August 16, 2012, 10:58 a.m.
Making a profit on the occult arts? Cultivating a loyal customer base for potions, magic spells and psychic readings? Not on EBay, you’re not.

In its 2012 Fall Seller Update, the online marketplace said it was banning all sales of supernatural goods and services, exiling its witchy and wizardly clientele to the wilds of Craigslist and other Web-based Diagon Alleys.

Among the prohibited items: “advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic services; prayers; blessings; Psychic, Tarot, Reiki, and other metaphysical readings & services; magic potions; healing sessions.”

EBay representatives did not immediately respond to questions as to why Harry Potter wannabes were no longer welcome or whether they contributed substantially to EBay transactions.

[Updated, 12:00 p.m. Aug. 16: EBay said in an email that it regularly reviews categories and updates policies based on customer feedback and was “discontinuing a small number of categories within the larger Metaphysical subcategory.”

Spokeswoman Johnna Hoff said that buyers and sellers have complained to EBay that such transactions “often result in issues that can be difficult to resolve.”

“It’s important to note that items that have a tangible value for the item itself and may also be used in metaphysical rites and practices (ie  jewelry, crystals, incense, candles, and books) are allowed in most cases,” Hoff wrote.”]

Beginning Aug. 30, attempts to list such enchantments for sale will be blocked, according to the website. …

Oh dear evil Jebus… you’ve got to be kidding me.  Not “you’ve got to be kidding me” in the sense of “you’ve got to be kidding me that EBay banned witchcraft” but “you’ve got to be kidding me that they even sold witchcraft in the first frakkin’ place!!!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that EBay woke up and smelled the coffee, so to speak.  But why did they even sell this crap in the first place???

I would also just like to note that, despite showing a semblance of sanity and relation to reality by banning these so-called “supernatural sales”, EBay will still have a subcategory titled “Metaphysical” after August 30.  The mere fact that such a subcategory even exists on EBay just makes me cringe and forces me to seriously question the ethics of those who operate the company.  Selling such nonsense purely for the sake of making a buck just strikes me as wrong; or will the operators of EBay be willing to take “metaphysical money” in place of the real, materialistic cash for these purchases?

Ah well, EBay, this one’s for you:

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

XKCD Uses “The Economic Argument” Against the Paranormal

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 29, 2010

I just ran across this today, and I think it’s a hilarious way to make the point about why it is that so much pseudoscientific & paranormal flummery is basically useless.  Note: make sure to go to the XKCD website and actually put your mouse over the cartoon to get a special, secret message 🙂

Posted in economics, humor, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ten Reasons Why “Boycott BP” is a Stupid Idea

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 13, 2010

Like many of you, I have been hearing all summer long that we should all be boycotting BP gas stations in protest of their handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Now, while I am definitely one to get up in arms about corporate incompetence & malfeasance – especially regarding environmental issues – I have to say that I think this whole “boycott BP” meme is a really stupid idea.

I was planning on going into all the reasons why I think the boycott is dumb & misguided, but then last week I heard on my local radio station (good ol’ 95 WIIL Rock) a discussion of this very topic, and the DJs there posted a link on their website called “10 Reasons Not to Boycott BP”…

10 Reasons NOT to Boycott BP

June 22, 2010

(UnhappyFranchisee.com) by Sean Kelly

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

Despite the “oil crisis” in the 1970’s, the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and two oil-related Gulf wars, we continue to choose convenient self-delusion over logical, intelligent, honest and actionable thought.  We Americans prefer the illusion of environmental action to any path that might require us to modify, even slightly, our own oil-dependent lifestyles.

There’s no better illustration of this misguided thinking than the boycott of BP service stations.  Despite the obvious inanity of this non-solution, the Boycott BP Facebook page has nearly 700,000 fans.

BP franchise owners have become convenient, local scapegoats.  They’ve had oil-soaked animal carcasses chucked on their doorsteps, and had to withstand protests, vandalism, verbal abuse and sales declines… but to what end?

If you are boycotting BP stations or considering it, here are ten good reasons to reconsider:

#1  BP Stations Aren’t Owned by BP

The 11,000 BP-branded gas stations in the U.S. are owned by independent franchisees – not BP.  BP makes a tiny portion of its profits from retail gas sales, and can simply sell excess fuel inventory to other retailers… like the one boycotters are burning an extra gallon of unleaded to patronize. 

Bottom line:  Your boycott won’t hurt BP.

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#2  Gas at No-Name Mini-Market May Still be BP Gas

Boycotting BP gas isn’t as easy as you think.  Even if you fill up at Joe’s Mini-Market instead of a BP station, you may still be buying BP-refined gas.  BP, like other oil companies, sells “unbranded” gasoline to a wide variety of local gasoline retailers.

Bottom line: Even if you bypass BP stations, odds are you’re still buying BP products.

#3  You’ll be Attacking Small Business Owners, Not Big Business

Think your boycott is anti-big-business?  Think again.  BP franchisees are small business owners with the misfortune of being locked in to franchise & fuel purchase agreements with the corporate giant.  Some even chose BP because of its alleged corporate responsibility. 

Bottom line: Depriving BP stations of your gas/cigarette/green tea purchases isn’t an attack on big business, it’s an assault on small to medium-size employers.

#4  Boycotting BP Hurts Local Economies

BP franchisees are small business owners.  They are employers, taxpayers, homeowners & community members. They write paychecks to local citizens, pay  local taxes, purchase good & services from other businesses and draw traffic to the local area and nearby businesses.  What if your boycott is successful?  Is a vacant lot, boarded windows, and a longer line at the unemployment office your idea of success?

Bottom line: You’ll hurt your neighbors more than BP with this boycott.

#5   Korn, Lady GaGa & The Backstreet Boys

No catastrophe is so devastating that attention-starved celebrities won’t exploit it for their own financial gain.  To promote its upcoming album release, rock band Korn is exploiting the BP Boycott with a publicity push so inane it borders on self-parody.

Korn’s enlisted fellow 2D media hoors like Lady GaGa (pictured left) & The Backstreet Boys to take the bold step of filling their gas-guzzling tour buses at non-BP stations.

Bottom line: You’ll help the environment more by boycotting Korn, Lady GaGa & The Backstreet Boys.  Demand that they cancel their energy-sucking, oil-wasting tours altogether.

#6  You Can’t REALLY Boycott BP

In an The Atlantic Wire article, John Hudson quotes Kait Rayner at WJBF in Augusta: “BP does more than just sell gas. their petroleum is used to make tires, sunglasses, and cleaning supplies. It’s in your lipstick, your shampoo…and even in your toothpaste.”

Bottom line:  Boycotting BP completely is pretty much impossible. All you can do is pretend you’re boycotting BP.

#7  This Guy

Speaking of self-delusion, behold the picture of the fun, jolly guy who’s put more thought into making his pirate hat than thinking through the impact (or lack thereof) of the boycott he’s promoting.  The fact that he feels he’s taking meaningful action by promoting a counterproductive boycott keeps him from putting his time and energy into endeavors that might actually have a positive impact.

Bottom line: Feel-good boycotts divert time and energy from activities that might yield real, positive results.

#8 “Bankrupt BP!” Lunacy

We want BP to spend lots & lots of money cleaning up the catastrophe in the Gulf, right?  We want BP to continue to spend lots & lots of money for years to come, right?  So where is the logic in trying to diminish the revenue they’ll have available to put into clean-up efforts?  Where is the logic in diverting our gas dollars to competitors that are not being required to put a portion of those dollars into cleaning the gulf? 

Bottom line:  Cutting off BP revenue threatens its ability to finance aggressive and long-term cleanup efforts in the Gulf.

#9  Lack of a Worthy Alternative

So if you are going to award your business to a more worthy oil company, which pillar of ecological responsibility will it be?  ExxonMobil? ConocoPhillips?  Citgo?  Chevron?  Valero (Diamond Shamrock)? QuickCo? Sunoco? How about Shell?

Can you name an oil company you feel good about?  Maybe that’s why neither the Sierra Club, Greenpeace nor UnhappyFranchisee.com backs the boycott. 

Bottom line:  As Sierra Club spokesman Dave Willet says, “This is broader than just BP.”

#10  It Lets YOU Off The Hook

BP & 32 other companies are drilling deepwater wells in the Gulf for a simple reason:  to keep up with the demand created by you, me and our fellow oil-addicted Americans.  We’re consuming 800 million gallons of petroleum per week, and 25% of the world’s oil.  Will switching gas brands change that? 

Bottom line: Let’s stop doing things that make us FEEL LIKE we’re taking action, and actually TAKE ACTION.

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#11  (Free bonus reason!)  Let’s Boycott Stupidity Instead

We’re a smart, educated nation but let’s face it: the public puts more energy into choosing the next American Idol than addressing our energy addiction.  Let’s demand more fuel efficient automobiles.  Let’s demand greener energy practices for both individuals and businesses.  Let’s replace any governmental watchdog agency that’s laying down with the dogs they’re supposed to be watching.  Let’s actually develop and use the alternative sources we’ve been talking about for 30 years.

Most of all, let’s boycott our own stupidity. Boycott laziness. Boycott apathy. Boycott convenient self-delusion.  Let’s start by boycotting the moronic BP Boycott, and stop using phony environmental activism to attack innocent business owners.

Posted in economics, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Skeptic Money: Guaranteed Mutual Funds?

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 12, 2010

This past weekend at Skepchicamp 2010, one of the most interesting presentations was given by Phil Ferguson, the author of the must-see Skeptic Money website. Phil specializes in applying skepticism & critical thinking to an area where I am admittedly very weak: money, finances, and investing.  During his presentation, Phil was gracious enough to give some very useful skeptical advice on “Guaranteed Mutual Funds”, and I’m reposting his blog entry on the topic below…

That’s Phil on the left, along with The Friendly Atheist 🙂

NOTE:  This post is part of an ongoing education series.  This information is for educational purposes only.  This information does not constitute investment advice.  No rational person would make investment decisions based on a blog post.  Please consult with your financial advisor before taking any action.  If you think it is OK to make investment decisions based on a blog post, then for the love of the FSM – Stop reading my blog.

Below is a description of an investment product.  This is based on real and available products but does not represent any specific product.  Numbers below are estimates and are only intended to show how this product works.

The Pitch.

There is a new product it is a combination of the best of bonds and the stock market.  It is a guaranteed mutual fund.  Part of the money is invested in an index fund and some is invested in Zero-coupon bonds issued by the US Government – AAA Grade.  You get the benefit of the stocks and bonds.  The best part of all is that in the next 10 years, you are guaranteed a 40% return.  That’s like getting 4% each and every year.  That’s right you will make at least 40% return on your investment and you have the unlimited potential to make more if the stock market goes up.  Just sign here and give me $100!

The Reality.

Now for all of the details that the sales person did not tell you about.  The odd thing is that they did not need to tell you verbally because all of the details are in the prospectus – 72 pages of 6 point font written in the best legalese.  You signed a form that said you read it.  Now they can do almost anything to you.  You thought if you invested $100 you would have $140 in 10 years.  Now we will get the details.

10 years – You will want to keep this investment for 10 years because if you sell it early you have to pay a 10% penalty.  Whoops… did we forget to tell you that.

4% per year – Actually it is closer to 3.3% per year compounded but hey it’s only money.

The Load – oh…  did we forget to tell you there is an 8% load.  A load is a sales fee that is collected from you and paid to the sales person.  8% is on the high side for mutual funds but, this is a really good investment so it is a small fee to pay.  The $140 after 10 years was based on an investment of $100 you only invested $92 ($8 covers the load).  You do not make $40 but $37 (remember you only invested $92).  So when it’s all done you have $129 – still really good.

Annual expense ratio – We told you the 40% return is guaranteed – and it is.  So is the annual expense ratio.  This is to cover the cost to the company that manages you money – and they deserve it for getting you such a great product.  The fee is just 1.8% per year.  Just above the industry average but your worth it.  Total cost is just $18 over ten years.  Your total return is still $111 that’s great.

Insurance – Your money is guaranteed, it’s a kind of insurance.  You pay for auto and home insurance – of course you have to pay a little something for this insurance.  The cost is just 1.5% per year.  Total over 10 years is about $15.  Your total return is $96 – isn’t this, a wonderful investment.

Taxes – The IRS does not want to wait and tax you on all the money you are going to make with the Zero Coupon Bonds.   So they created a thing called imputed interest. They collect tax on the money you are going to get.  Don’t think that you lost money.  You did not!  You made money but agreed to a lot of high expenses.  That’s your problem not the IRS’s.  So…. ya gotta pay the tax.  I will call it $6.  So now your awesome investment of $100 after ten years is now worth around $90.

Who wants to buy now?

Umm… not me, Phil.  Thanks for the tip.

Posted in economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Amazing Skeptical Smackdown of Homeopathy!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 8, 2010

(Hat tip to Phil over at Skeptic Money for passing this little gem along 🙂 )

Below is some footage from a BBC show called Dragon’s Den, where would-be entrepreneurs make a sales pitch to the assembled judges about why their idea is worth funding.  In this case, a homeopathic doofus pitches his “miracle water” to them using the standard alt-med, “natural is good” woo-woo, with disastrous results.  What follows is, to me, an excellent example of in-your-face skepticism in action – with the perfect combination of hard questioning, demands for evidence & research, and moral outrage.  Take a look…

Posted in economics, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Put Climate Science “On Trial”

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 1, 2009

According to this article from the LA Times, the biggest business lobby in the United States wants to hold a “trial” concerning global warming science…

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” — complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

“It would be evolution versus creationism,” said William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. “It would be the science of climate change on trial.”

What a joke!!!  It is ironic that Kovacs mentioned evolution & creationism, for reasons you’ll see below.  Folks, this is ludicrous on so many levels…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in global warming denial | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Financial Crisis & Business Skepticism

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2009

The news about the economy is, by most accounts, pretty dismal these days. As time goes on, we are finding out about more an more shady deals on Wall Street and even outright fraud – think Bernard Madoff. How did we get caught up in this hysteria of wishful thinking that drove an insane economic bubble which ultimately burst so badly?

I’m no economist, and I don’t like to write about economics, but I wanted to take a moment or two to give a shout-out to someone who is applying skepticism & critical thinking to these questions – Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show 😀

In the last week, Jon Stewart has very publicly and vocally taken those financial reporters, networks, and commentators – such as CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer – to task for failing to apply their own skepticism & critical thinking to the situation. And in the end, when dealing in business and/or investing, it boils down to that old adage: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I want to share two video clips of Jon Stewart laying the skeptical smackdown on CNBC for failing to apply critical thinking to these issues. The first is a broadcast from The Daily Show earlier in the week where Stewart criticizes CNBC for giving sloppy or shady financial advice…

stewart vs cnbc

The second video is an interview between Stewart and Cramer as they discuss what went wrong and the business media’s responsibility to be more willing to ask tough questions and follow through…

stewart vs cramer

I have to agree with Stewart. While it is incumbent upon all of us to apply our critical thinking skills to issues of business & finance, at some point we depend upon the business media outlets, like CNBC, to provide us with trustworthy information. Let us hope we’ve all learned this painful lesson well.

Posted in economics, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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