Mar 26, 2014

The Supreme Court to Decide Whether Birth Control Can Be a Religious Exception. In Other Words, Conservatives Still Have a Problem With Sex.

Conservatives are challenging "Obamacare," again, arguing for religious freedom, so an employer whose religion is anti-birth control should not have to provide such as part of health care coverage. The Supreme Court will decide whether there should be an exception. Conservatives on the SCOTUS and around the country hope to shoot another hole into "Obamacare." I'll refrain from evaluating how "religion poisons everything" as the late Christopher Hitchens used to say, but apparently this lunacy has no end. It's such a distraction, and a waste of resources.

Apparently, conservatives believe they have a shot at the Supreme Court. Why? Because this court is rather conservative. Why? Because elections have consequences. Elect Republican presidents and senators and that's what you have. You get judges like Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts, who make important decisions about our lives. Yes, if you live in this society, what happens at the Supreme Court, the executive and legislative branches does matter!

Side note: in this midterm election year, it'll pivot around turnout, more specifically what groups show up to vote. I'll have another post on this later.

Justice Elena Kagan, you've got to love her. She stuck it to Scalia. If he's to be consistent with his own previous statements, he should vote against the motion for the religious exception on birth control case. During oral arguments, she said that religious-based exceptions to neutral laws could lead to anarchy!

 "Your understanding of this law, your interpretation of it, would essentially subject the entire U.S. Code to the highest test in constitutional law, to a compelling interest standard," she told Paul Clement, the lawyer arguing against the mandate for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. "So another employer comes in and that employer says, I have a religious objection to sex discrimination laws; and then another employer comes in, I have a religious objection to minimum wage laws; and then another, family leave; and then another, child labor laws. And all of that is subject to the exact same test which you say is this unbelievably high test, the compelling interest standard with the least restrictive alternative."

Of course it's Scalia who has argued that our entire civil code, judicial and political, indeed our entire civilization is based on the Judeo-Christian moral code--as, of course, is clearly laid out in the Bible.  On another side note: Did you hear about the Xtian church in NYC that advocates applying this law, stoning homosexuals to death? And, did you hear that a lesbian knocked on the church's door and asked them to stone her to death? Apparently the person who answered the door said they were out of stones so she should come back another day!

To be fair to this church, the Bible indeed prescribes death by stoning for a variety of moral trespasses. Ah, the "good 'ol days" when the Lord ordered genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, subjugation of women, pestilence, floods, etc.  

Did you hear that many Xtians are upset about the movie Noah? They said that Hollywood's fiction is not what happened. Bill Maher has a response:


Mar 12, 2014

Popular Science Shows Up Big with Cosmos 2014--A Much Anticipated and Needed Story of Our Existence!

I watched Cosmos when I was very young and loved it to the point that I used a tape recorder to capture the audio so I could listen to the fascinating information again and again. There was so much information that I needed more time to comprehend. This was some 30 years ago, beyond the lifespan of my cheap tapes, which I've long lost. It's amazing how much more we have learned since then or in the last 50 years.

Carl Sagan popularized science, because he knew how to explain it. The current host of the 2014 series, Neil deGrasse Tyson, was inspired by Cosmos and Sagan to become an astronomer, and he's great at explaining and inspiring. Of course, it's by purpose they chose to host this new Cosmos series on the Fox network, because they're trying to reach the scientifically illiterate or those on the fence. I can see that happening with a few people who aren't willfully ignorant, because the latter have already made an emotional choice to be blind to science and evidence-based world.

Dr. Tyson, who's an agnostic, tries hard to reach the Bible readers without dismissing their unscientific views. Listen to this interview on WNYC; 
this interview  aired after the premier of Cosmos. He says it's OK to have faith and read the Bible but not as textbook. Well, good luck with that. I won't ask, if the Bible is full of contradictions, ignorance, and dead wrong about the cosmos, then how could it be God's word? Never mind...

I think it's good to introduce some scale of the cosmos, time & space, because, perhaps, people could wonder whether the creator of the universe cares about what clothes we wear, whether we perform circumcisions, what we eat on what days, etc. The universe was not made for us nor are in the center of it all. 

Amazing facts

The universe is about 13.8 billion years old. Let's compress this time into 1 year.

  • Jan 1:big bang. It takes about 200 million years to "cool down" so stars and galaxies can form.
  • Jan 10. New stars; Jan 13 small galaxies; March 15-our own Milky way. Star stuff recycled. 
  • Plus, 6 "months later" (6 billion yrs) on Aug 31-our own sun is born. Same month the Earth is formed
  •  Sept 21st, life (not human) appears in earth.  
  •   Nov 9th life was breathing, moving, eating, responding to environment. Microbes. Sex.  Tiktaalic [see link] moves from see to land (transitional fossil). 
  • Dec 28th:  Flowers 
  •  Dec 30th Dinos extinction, rise of mammals. 
  • Dec 31st, 9:45 new year’s eve…. Africa. Bipedalism. 

        Last hour, last day: humans appear at 11.59, 46’’  

    • 11:59 30,000 years, first cave paintings!  Read the stars, seasons.
    • 10,000 years ago. Agriculture. Middle East. First stable societies.
    • 14 seconds to midnight: humans;  
      6,000years ago: writing! Save our thoughts. 5’’ ago Jesus, 3’’ Mohammed, 1’’ ago science!!!
  • In the last 14’’ seconds –all we know about humanity.
  • Last second= recorded history! All the civilizations, all the ideas, art, science, wars, tribes, leaders, religions, technology, you and I, etc…

Mar 8, 2014

What do US Conservatives Want? Regression Bathed in Trickle Down Piss and Freedom to be Poor, Ignorant & God-fearing!

I watched snippets of the CPAC--the largest annual gathering of conservatives--and I kept wondering how in the hell so many people fall for this bullshit. Most of it was trite exhortations about freedom, God, patriotism; labels, simplicity, and rightwingnuttery in ample supply. These people are fit for the Dark Ages. Any politician associated with this circus isn't appropriate to lead the country forward. But, that's the point: they don't want to go forward, but backward to the "good ol' days".... making a brief stop to Reagan's 1980s, and then a fast rewind to the days when unbridled capitalism ruled, when most people who got sick died, when religious morality & freedom meant discrimination, segregation, and bigotry. Yeah, that's the kind of America the conservatives want.

More often than not, the conservative disposition can be explained by a sense of a personal loss or a price to pay if the "unworthy others" receive anything from the social safety net. They don't understand that in a proper civic society everybody receives benefits. Everybody! From the very top to the bottom. More so, for those ontop, even though they don't see it that way, as if they operate in the vacuum of space--where they make their money of course. 

The following statement is, sadly, typical not only of a conservative mind but also of a college student. Most--and I include both sides of the political divide--don't know how to write a proper sentence or explain simple ideas, let alone the fundamental beliefs they hold. 

In my personal opinion, our democratic system has so many holes in it, which is leaking, causing chaos in peoples minds. With the recent reelection of Obama, there was clearly havoc that rose among people who are against him; and in good reason. Obama wants to redistribute the wealth of others to people who did not necessarily own it and he wants the government to pay for expenses for people that cannot afford it by taxing the wealthier class.  The government is basically making people rely on others to provide for them without really trying themselves, thus making this one of the laziest generations. 

I can't count the times I hear this theme from conservatives; it's part of their narrative along with misguided patriotism and inability to imagine reality. Yes, conservatives can't think in the abstract very well. That's why they may change their minds only if they experience something themselves. Have a gay son, oh, maybe it's OK. Hurricane Sandy destroys your home, oh, where's the government to bail you out? Have a retarded baby, oh, yes, how come we don't spend more to find a cure and support such. 

The conservatives have opposed the abolition of slavery, desegregation, equal rights for women, civil rights, personal reproductive choice, science, access to voting, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, clean air, consumer protection, science (yes, even science irks them!), etc, etc, oh, and electrification!  All those things that make our lives better and are the norm in every advanced liberal-social-democracy!  But, listen to the CPAC speakers and it's clear what horrible society we'd have if they got their way. Of course you have to part the smoke & mirrors of misguided patriotism, and the empty slogans about freedom. On your knees, you pitiful, wretched creature.  

 A Typical Conservative Prescription Bad for Your Health

 Gail Collins in this NYT editorial shows how the conservatives think and operate. If you think it doesn't matter, think again. Elections have consequences, from the state and local to the national and the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Texas is moving on to Step 2. As of September, it will require the clinics, which perform only simple early-term abortions, to have all the equipment, space and special air and water filters necessary to do a surgical procedure like a hip transplant. Miller determined the cost of complying would be in the neighborhood of $3 million per clinic.
There’s been a vague attempt to cloak all these new laws as health care imperatives, but, really, the cover is pretty thin. During the debate on the Texas bill, State Senator Dan Patrick told his colleagues to ask themselves: “How would God vote tonight if he were here?
I am mentioning Patrick because this week he came in first for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, campaigning as “a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third.” He has also been desperately busy ginning up anti-immigration sentiment; this is the guy who claimed illegal immigrants were threatening Texas with “third world diseases” like leprosy. The lieutenant governor, by the way, is possibly the most powerful public official in the state.
Well, turnout for the primaries was very low. It was freezing down there on Tuesday. Once again, we leap at a chance to blame the weather.
The social right has been waving the banner of religious freedom lately. What that generally means is the right to impose one’s theology on other people. Particularly, it seems, when sex is involved.
For instance, the Supreme Court is scheduled to decide, in its next big Obamacare case, whether the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby can refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives on religious grounds. Hobby Lobby actually already covers its employees’ birth control pills. Its owners just object to a few things, like intrauterine devices, because they have religious convictions against preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Scientists disagree that’s what an IUD does, but what the heck? It’s their theology.

The Texas conservatives are not alone. Again, take a look at the CPAC conference [here's their official site so you can watch their videos]where all the major conservative and Republican leaders attend and make speeches about the kind of society they want.