Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson Missouri

If you've been following the case in Ferguson we have a black teenager shot by a white police officer.

This is one of those stories that has wildly varying claims about what happened and who did what.

Witnesses claim that the teenager, Michael Brown, had his hands in the air and was trying to surrender when the police officer, Darren Wilson, shot him.

The reason Brown was initially approached by Wilson appeared to have been an incident where Brown allegedly robbed a store by basically walking out with some merchandise.

As usually the media has been all over the map.

There were significant, often violent, protests in Ferguson over the shooting. A Grand Jury was convened to consider whether or not the police officer should be indicted for Brown's death.

After wading through volumes of testimony and forensic evidence, the Grand Jury declined to indict Darren Wilson.  The jury consisted of seven men and five women, nine of them white and three black. Nine votes were required for an indictment. What the vote actually was has not been made public.

What can I say? Clearly the Grand Jury was not convinced that an indictment was warranted. From what I've heard the eye witness testimony tended to support Brown being shot down unjustifiably while the forensic evidence seemed to indicate that Wilson's version of the events was closer to the truth.

If that's true then I can understand the reluctance to indict because eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable.

I didn't here the evidence so I can do is rely on the decision of the Grand Jury.

Friday, November 07, 2014

6th Circuit Upholds Gay Marriage Bans

Let the games begin!

As expected the 6th Circuit Court has upheld Gay Marriage Bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

It doesn't sound as if the court found the states arguments particularly persuasive as the 2-1 decision stated that Gay marriage is almost inevitable. What the court did state is that the issue should be settled by the democratic process and not by the courts.

The 6th Circuit has apparently forgotten that a key role of the courts is to protect the rights of the minority under the law from the tyranny of the majority. A "let the democratic process" settle it approach in the days of Jim Crow would almost certainly have kept blacks disenfranchised and segregation in place.

I wonder if the court is using this as an excuse to kick the question up where it belongs at the Supreme Court?

In any event now the SCOTUS has no excuse not to address the issue. If they hurry up they can still get it on this years docket.

I think Gay Marriage should be legal across the country. The waste of resources over this question is ridiculous. Let's settle it and move on already.

If the SCOTUS upholds state bans, the battle and waste of resources will continue. The way to put an end to it is to declare Gay Marriage a right under the 14th Amendment because it's the right thing to do.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ebola, the Short Term and the Long Term

In New York and New Jersey Governors Mario Cuomo and Chris Christie have decided that healthcare workers returning from working with Ebola patients in West Africa will be quarantined until it's been demonstrated that they're not carrying the Ebola virus.

This is in response to a doctor who had been in Guinea working with Doctors without Borders coming down with the Ebola virus in New York City.

The move apparently caught officials in both New York City and Washington by surprise.

While this may seem like a logical response to protect the citizens of New York and New Jersey it has a down side. It places another potential obstacle in getting healthcare help to West Africa (as if there weren't enough already).

Now, in addition to the obvious dangers and hardships involved, doctors and nurses would face forced quarantine upon returning home. If enough places established such regulations, and Illinois and Florida have already indicated they'll follow suit, it could place a serious limit on medical help getting to West Africa where it's desperately needed and the disease is still spiraling out of control.

This is the concern of the so-called experts in the area who contend that the best protection for everyone else is to get the epidemic under control in West Africa.

In other words, we may have a case of "short term" versus "long term" strategy.

It's quite possible that if the outbreak in West Africa isn't contained, we could be seeing the start of a global catastrophe. In other words, playing ostrich and not worrying about it because "it's way over there in Africa" could be a enormous mistake.

On the other hand, outbreaks in New York, Dallas and Western Europe aren't going to make things any easier and would still deflect medical help from West Africa.

The White House is trying to make like a good global citizen but I'm not sure that strategy is correct. The best way to get the disease in West Africa under control is with a vaccine or a cure. That's the real long term solution. Having pockets of infection in the US and Western Europe isn't going to help that process and might very well hamper it if people really get all bent out of shape over this thing.

I have to say that in this particular case I'm going to go with Cuomo and Christie. If someone is willing to face going to an Ebola infested area, I don't think there's a high probability that a few weeks of quarantine on the way back is going to change their mind.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Hayflick Limit

What exactly is the Hayflick Limit? I'll tell you.

Basically the Hayflick Limit states that the maximum number of times that cells may divide is finite and somewhere between 40 and 60.

Prior to Leonard Hayflick's experiments in 1961 cells were thought to possess the ability to divide an infinite number of times.

So, what does this mean to you? It means you're not going to live forever. The Hayflick Limit essentially limits how long the human body can repair itself before it gives out. Hope that your limit is closer to 60 than 40.

Oh, by the way, it also pretty much rules out any chance of people living to ages near 900 like in the Bible. The simple fact is that ancient peoples exaggerated everything about their cultural heroes including how long they lived.

In a Persian epic poem several Shahs are said to have had extremely long lifespans. Zahhak lived 1000 years, Jamshid 700 years and Fereydun 500 years.

In China Zeng Pu supposedly lived for 800 years during the Yin Dynasty and Zuo Chi lived for 300 years during the Three Kingdoms Period.

Similar legends can be found in Japan, Korea, the Roman Empire, Poland and the Czech Republic.

All of these lifespans are as impossible as those in the Bible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Even More on Ebola

Oh this just gets better and better.

Now we're being told that the nurse diagnosed with Ebola that took the Frontier Airlines flight with a 99.5 degree temperature CALLED the CDC to check if it was OK.

Whoever it was that talked to her looked at the chart which said the threshold temperature was 100.4 degrees and told her it was OK for her to fly.

Did we farm out the CDC to the lowest bidder while I wasn't looking?

So the guys watching the hen house continue to demonstrate that they are not taking this thing seriously enough. Even the CDC says she should not have gotten on the plane so who the hell did she talk to? The receptionist?

The Keystone Cops have nothing on these turkeys.

More on Ebola

Now a second healthcare worker in Dallas has contracted Ebola and this ditz got on a Frontier Airline flight from Ohio to Dallas AFTER she detected a 99.5 degree fever.

Almost like clockwork articles appeared about how hard it is to contract Ebola on an airplane while the CDC was trying to get in contact with the 130 people also on the plane.

In the meantime consider this, the common flu is also spread by droplets of fluid and can infect people up to six feet away if someone sneezes or coughs. Ebola is spread the same way so why isn't it just as contagious as the flu?

Would you want to be on an aircraft for 2 hours sitting next to someone with the flu?

Again I'm concerned that the information we're getting has been dumbed down in an effort not to cause confusion or panic. Unfortunately that's exactly what's happening because of the contradictions in what we're hearing and the fact that most of us are capable of thinking for ourselves.

People keep trying to compare this virus to Aids or the flu and that's just not going to work. Anyone with at least half a brain can see it's not like Aids or the flu.

Again, concern doesn't mean panic but WHO is estimating that within a few months we'll be seeing 10,000 new cases a week in West Africa. Somehow we need to do better than that.

As for the US, enough with the slow role and self-monitoring. We need a blood test or we need to isolate people that have come in contact with people with Ebola.

Don't ask me what we're going to do about the 130 people on the Frontier flight or the hundreds more in the airport that may come in contact with Patient #3 because I don't know.

At a news conference this morning a Texas Presbyterian Hospital spokesman said they didn't have a systemic problem at the hospital. You'll excuse me but two healthcare workers becoming ill and one so untrained as to get on an airplane after symptoms appeared says that you DO has a systemic problem.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Ebola Outbreak

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now claimed 4,000 lives and shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

In the US the first diagnosed case of Ebola was a man returning to Texas from Liberia. The patient was originally misdiagnosed at a Dallas hospital (they were probably too busy saying "how about them Cowboys") and sent home with antibiotics.

The man later died from the disease and now a healthcare worker that treated that man at the same Dallas hospital has been diagnosed with the virus. This is the first case of someone catching the virus in the continental US.

Three other false alarms, one in Frisco Texas, one in Boston Massachusetts and one at Newark Airport in New Jersey, made temporary headlines.

So what's the deal here? Should we be worried? Worried yes, in a state of panic, despite attempts by Fox News and other to create one, not so much.

My biggest cause for concern is I'm detecting a bad case of "too much arrogance and not enough caution" from Center for Disease Control (CDC) spokesmen.

They're making it sound like they have everything under control despite not seeming to be doing very much. The healthcare worker in Dallas should shake them up because either (1) the safety protocols were broken which is bad or (2) the safety protocols aren't as effective as we'd like to think which is REALLY bad.

All in all there are far too many people making statements and writing articles about how there's really nothing to be concerned about. When lots of people start telling me I have no reason to be concerned, I get concerned. Don't tell me, show me.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

And the Right Wing Goes Bonkers

Of course the rejection by the Supreme Court along with the rapidly piling up string of victories for Gay Marriage is driving the Right Wing absolutely crazy.

They're delusional in the best of times but this seems to have really driven them over the edge.

Stacy Swimp, A Michigan Pastor, predicts "complete chaos and lawlessness" leading to "broken families" and "escalated crime." Funny, but none of this seems to have occurred in the states where Gay Marriage is already legal. The fact is that the gay population, at 2%, is too small to have much of an affect on anything.

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (!?) - Thanks to the Supreme Court "We live not in freedom but in tyranny" and "Now is the time for civil disobedience on a massive scale."

Well. the fact that a court decision can be enforced says we live under the rule of law which is by definition not tyranny. As for "civil disobedience on a massive scale," not a snowball's chance in hell because no one is going to be negatively affected by these decisions.

Gay Marriage is legal in the entire Northeast and nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed except for the better.

Travis Weber of the Family Research Council - According to Weber the court decisions are based upon "poorly constructed, very poor analysis."

Of course the arguments against Gay Marriage all sounded like "sound and fury" coming from a complete moron. The bottom line is that opponents of Gay Marriage simply have no valid arguments.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association - According to Fischer the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeals was "unconscionable, unconstitutional and un-American."

All you can do with ridiculous howls like that are laugh. No one with a triple digit IQ could possibly take this twit seriously.

Sandy Rios of the American Family Association - Rios thinks "we're going to see riots in the streets," "we're going to see starvation" and "we're going to see a complete breakdown in terms of law."

Funny, but I seem to have missed all of these things going on in New Jersey and New York where Gay Marriage is already legal.

But my favorite is Right Wing talk show host Janet Mefferd who accuses the entire US Judicial System of being "lawless" and doesn't understand why "more Christians aren't yelling and screaming" over this lawlessness.

Christians can yell and scream all they want and it isn't going to change a thing. The mixture of ignorance, arrogance and sheer chutzpah of someone that calls the judicial system lawless is breathtaking isn't it?

A common thread through all of these howls of indignation is an attempt to drum up fear in the under 80 IQ trailer park evangelical Christian base. Fear is how religion and authoritarian politicians keep the white trash and other riff-raff they wheezle out of money they can't afford to give in line.

Unfortunately there's not much one can do about that. These people don't know how to not be afraid.

Gay Marriage Bans in Nevada and Idaho Fall

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that same sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho violate the 14th Amendment rights of gays.

In a unanimous three judge decision the court declared "Idaho and Nevada's marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states."

The court went on to say that neither state offered any legitimate reason to discriminate against gay couples. The states presented the argument that Gay Marriage would somehow devalue traditional marriage leading to more out-of-wedlock births.

The court rejected the argument stating "This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response. We reject it out of hand."

Ouch. Attorneys trying to defend Gay Marriage bans are not only loosing they're getting spanked by the courts for the idiocy of their arguments.

Like I've said, if social conservatives were smart enough to see how ridiculous their positions are, they wouldn't be social conservatives.

I think that's now, given the SCOTUS refusal to hear the appeals from the five states Monday, something like 32 states that have either legalized Gay Marriage or had their bans struck down. I'm loosing track.

More on the Cowards in Robes

Apparently the pro-gay forces are looking upon the court's decision as a positive thing while the anti-gay forces are livid.

Every anti-gay marriage organization is howling at the moon over the SCOTUS letting the lower court decisions stand.

As I read through the statements blasting the court by people like the AFA and NOM I'm struck by both the consistency of the arguments and how wrong headed they are.

The common threads running through almost all of the statements are:

(1) That legalizing Gay Marriage is a "redefinition of marriage." Well, actually it's not a "redefinition" it's an expansion. Just like the legalization of inter-racial marriage was an expansion.

(2) That the courts are defying the rule of law and the will of the voters. No, it's the purpose of the courts to define the law and to protect the rights of the minority. The will of the voters is OK as long as it doesn't violate the law.

This is a point that conservatives can't seem to grasp. The law, and especially the Constitution, trumps the will of the voters.

(3) That legalizing Gay Marriage negatively impacts Freedom of Religion. This is the old zero sum game argument that somehow rights and freedoms are finite and to expand one persons rights must by necessity reduce the rights of someone else.

The only way to describe this argument is that it's total horseshit.

The whole idea that the legalization of Gay Marriage somehow impinges upon the Freedom of Religion of people who's religion says homosexuality is sinful is ridiculous. If your religion says that homosexuality is a no-no, that's between you and your religion. The rest of us are free to ignore it.

What Christians actually are asking for is the privilege to define morality. They are essentially demanding that everyone else recognize their definition of what's immoral. No, it doesn't work that way because Christianity has no authority in a secular republic like the US.

The acceptance of any religion's teaching is purely voluntary. That's the real meaning of Freedom of Religion. You are allowed to accept or reject the tenets of any religion. When you get right down to it, trying to force the idea that homosexuality is immoral violates the Freedom of Religion of those who's religion, or lack of religion, says no it's not.

So what about non-discrimination laws which force Christians to sell things to gays for events they may disapprove of such as a gay wedding? There's an old saying that one man's rights end where the next one's begin. Again Christians are asking for a privilege. The privilege to discriminate against a class of people because their religion says that class is sinful.

Personally I don't think we're obligated to accept such an ignorant, hateful and bigoted philosophy like that. On the other hand, why force the issue? Take your business someplace else.

Anyway, after thinking about it, the SCOTUS, by not taking these cases is essentially validating the lower court decisions that bans on Gay Marriage violate the 14th Amendment. How can they possibly rule that they don't later after Gay Marriage has been legal in the affected states?