Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Idiocy of the Right Wing

There has been a minor dispute going on about the name of a mountain in Alaska named Mt. McKinley.

The mountain, at 20,237 feet, is the highest in North America and received its current name in 1917 in honor of President William McKinley. The local Koyukon Athabaskans had always called the mountain Denali which was based upon their word for high or tall.

Alaska has long maintained that the mountain's name be officially changed back to Denali since that's what it's called locally. The Alaska Board of Geographic Names changed the name of the mountain to Denali in 1975 but a request by the Alaskan state legislature to the US Board of Geographic names was blocked by an Ohio congressman from McKinley's home town of Canton.

I suppose having the Pro Football Hall of Fame wasn't enough.

However the federal government has finally caught up and announced in August of 2015 that the name will officially be changed on the federal level to Denali in order to line up with what Alaska calls the mountain.

I mean, remember that 10th Amendment that conservatives keep crying about? I would think that naming your own landmarks would be covered under that.

Alas, not in today's contentious world. Incredibly, politicians in Ohio are up in arms over the change to the name of a mountain in Alaska that was named by a prospector for a president most of them probably didn't know came from Ohio before the name change was announced.

But, you know, this is just people being silly. For Republicans anything the Obama administration does is bad. He could cure cancer, resolve the debt, end poverty and bring about world peace and they would still find something to complain about.

You sort of expect it by now. It's like background noise to anyone with more than half a brain.

But Mike Huckabee brings stupidity to a whole new level. He's called the move "outrageous," claims it shows the president doesn't think there is any limits on his power and called upon Republicans in Congress to block the move.

How can anyone take people like this twit Huckabee seriously?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Birthright Citizenship

Birthright Citizenship simply refers to the principle that if you are born in the US then you are a US citizen. This has been the traditional interpretation of the 14th Amendment which states:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Of course Trump and the other Republican nominees that are calling for an end to Birthright Citizenship don't read the Constitution,

Or, if they do read the Constitution, they don't read case law.

The argument is that the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" does not apply to the children of illegal immigrants.

This issue was resolved in 1898. In the landmark case “U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark” the Supreme Court decided that the 14th Amendment must be interpreted based upon English Common Law and included all native-born children except for those who were: (1) born to foreign rulers or diplomats, (2) born on foreign public ships, or (3) born to enemy forces engaged in hostile occupation of the country's territory.

So, unless someone would like to claim that illegal immigrants are "enemy forces engaged in hostile occupation" ending Birthright Citizenship would require either (a) the Supreme Court to overturn “U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark” or a constitutional amendment.

I suspect that none of the Republican bozos supporting this idea would bother to go this far. They're just playing off the god awful ignorance of the Republican base.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Colorado Cake Case

An appeals court in Colorado has upheld an administrative law judge's decision that refusing to bake a cake for a same sex wedding violated the Colorado Anti-Descrimination Act (CADA).

Masterpiece Cakeshop had claimed that requiring them to provide such a wedding cake violates their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

The court disagreed.

"...CADA does not compel Masterpiece to support or endorse any particular religious views. The law merely prohibits Masterpiece from discriminating against potential customers on account of their sexual orientation."

The court also specifically related this to discrimination against blacks and quoted from Newman v. Piggie Park Enters., Inc.

 "Undoubtedly defendant . . . has a constitutional right to espouse the religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens. This Court refuses to lend credence or support to his position that he has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of the Negro race in his business establishment upon the ground that to do so would violate his sacred religious beliefs."

Masterpiece also claimed that they discriminated not because of the sexual orientation but simply because they're opposed to same sex marriage.

"Masterpiece thus distinguishes between discrimination based on a person’s status and discrimination based on conduct closely correlated with that status. However, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that such distinctions are generally inappropriate."

Both of these points are well established law with multiple precedents that should have been known by the legal team representing Masterpiece. The fact that they proceeded with the case anyway makes me wonder if they are incompetent or dishonest.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kentucky Clerk Case

A court clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis by name, that has refused to issue marriage licenses to Gay Couples despite directions by the governor of Kentucky to do so.

With the help of Liberty Counsel she brought suit in federal court claiming to issue licenses her rights under the 1st Amendment and violated Article 6 of the Constitution forbidding any religious test to hold government office.

Today Justice David Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering her to do her job.

Judge Bunning summarized the question as "Does the Free Exercise Clause likely excuse Kim Davis from issuing marriage licenses because she has a religious objection to same sex marriage?"

He decided that the "Court answers this question in the negative."

The judge then went on to articulate the reasons for his decision.

"The Court must again point out that the act of issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple merely signifies that the couple has met the legal requirements to marry. It is not a sign of moral or religious approval."

Approval of the marriage is NOT a prerequisite to issuing a license. Not one is asking the clerk not to disapprove.

"...Davis is simply being asked to signify that couples meet the legal requirements to marry. The State is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities."

Issuing a license to a same sex couple in no way restricts someone from practicing their religion.

"Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs...However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk."

If you can't perform the job requirements due to religious convictions, you can't expect the job requirements to be changed to accommodate your beliefs.

Liberty Counsel has advised Davis to ignore the court ruling and has issued an appeal.

The problem here of course is that this is standing in the way of the right of others to get married. What's the old saying? Your rights end where the next guy's rights begin?

This is essentially someone throwing a tantrum because they can't have their way. It's childish and immature. As for Liberty Counsel, they're giving their client lousy advice.

It should be interesting to see how Judge Bunning responds. He can't allow the rights of gay couples to be trampled on pending appeal can he?

Friday, August 07, 2015

Post the Debate

OK, so the first "debate" is over. There were no real surprise. Trump and Christie were abrasive. Huckabee, Walker, Cruz and Carson were delusional, Rubio, Paul and Bush seemed lost in space but Rubio did better than the others and Kasich showed up and made some noise..

From now on I think I will treat this circus in two parts. The "Terrible Ten" and the "Trash Heap Six." Or is it seven? Didn't some other turkey join in? Maybe I should ignore him for the moment?

Also my order of preference will be based upon a combination of "sane enough to put up with" and "probability of winning" the nomination within the group the candidate is currently in.

The Terrible Ten
#1 - Donald Trump - I don't think what he's saying is that outrageous although the way he puts it is a bit crude. I'm willing to give a businessperson a chance instead of another politician.

#2 - Jeb Bush - He's probably incompetent but at least he's not crazy. I still think he's got the inside track.

#3 - Marco Rubio - He ranks this high because I don't know that much about him. The others I'm sure are loony toons.

#4 - John Kasich - Like Rubio he benefits from the benefit of the doubt. He might not be crazy.

#5 - Chris Christie - I think Christie is a complete ass-hole so you can imagine what I think of the other five.

#6 - Rand Paul - Like his dad, not only doesn't he have any answers but he doesn't even understand the questions.

#7 - Ted Cruz - He's crazy and he's still ahead of three others.

#8 - Scott Walker - I'm surprised this dum-dum isn't dribbling at the mouth yet. I suppose I should just give it time.

#9 - Ben Carson - Mister Delusional himself. If he were to somehow end up in the White House I'd move to Scandinavia.

#10 - Mike Huckabee - Huckabee is a complete lunatic and he demonstrated it again last night with his personhood idiocy. Can someone please run him over with a truck?

The Trash Heap Six or Seven
#11 - Rick Perry - I don't think Perry is as crazy as he sometimes pretends. He might in fact make a pretty good president.

#12 - Carly Fiorina - Similar rationale as with Trump. Maybe we should let a pure businessperson take a shot? The big question is how good a businessperson is Fiorina?

#13 - George Patacki - Patacki could be a reasonable president but I think he has no chance.

#14 - Lindsay Graham - Same as Patacki, no chance.

#15 - Jim Gilmore - The governor of Virginia has no chance but I'll take him over Jindel and Santorum.

#16 - Bobby Jindel - This guy is the world's biggest loser but I would still take him over Carson, Huckabee and Santorum because they're completely crazy.

#17 - Rick Santorum - He's not as crazy as Huckabee but he's still crazy.

One would hope that people will start dropping out soon.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Terrible Ten

The lineup is set for the 1st Republican Primary debate and the cast of characters would frighten any sane man. Unfortunately there aren't many sane men in the Republican Party.

Are you ready? Here's the 10 that made the cut.

#1 - Mr. Immigration. He of the rotten toupee, DONALD "THE BOSS MAN" TRUMP!

#2 - The man with all the money and looking to make it a bushy three, JEB "LET'S SCRAP MEDICARE" BUSH!

#3 - The man with no degree that has driven Wisconsin into the 3rd world, SCOTT "DUM-DUM" WALKER!

#4 - The biggest religious fruitcake in the race. The man who's going to use federal troops to stop abortions, MIKE "HUCKLEBERRY HOUND" HUCKABEE!

#5 - Mr. Delusional himself, BEN "NO BRAINS" CARSON!

#6 - The man who doesn't understand the Internet, TED "MY DAD"S CRAZY" CRUZ!

#7 - A man with an R on his right hand and an L on his left but still gets them confused, MARCO "I DIDN'T KNOW THAT" RUBIO!

#8 - The man who thinks there's a plot to merge the US with Canada and Mexico, RAND "SECRET PLOT" PAUL!

#9 - The man's who's hated by just about everyone in his home state, CHRIS "BRIDGEGATE" CHRISTIE!

#10 - Last, and probably least, the man who has been watching Ohio fall apart all around him and who says he don't need no black folks, JOHN "GHETTO MAN" KASICH!

The big question of course is how are these certifiable lunatics going to act on national TV. I'm sure you won't be hearing any of the loony toons comments we've been hearing. I'm betting all ten will spend all night attacking the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton.

I can see it now.

Fox Moderator: Senator Cruz, what programs would you propose to generate more jobs?

Ted Cruz: Well first we'll have to repeal that Obamacare and undo the racial animosity generated by the current administration because, as you know, net neutrality is a Communist plot and there's this terrible assault on Religious Freedom because an activist Supreme Court has redefined marriage. Then, of course, there's Benghazi. And that's not to mention the millions of illegal immigrants crossing the border every day and taking away what few jobs we have left.

Fox Moderator: Very insightful and I'm sure you speak for all the candidates when you say Obama has squandered the prosperity of the Bush years and Hillary Clinton is most likely a mole for the Muslim Brotherhood.

(Nine bobble heads nod)

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Defending Evolution

One of the things I find utterly appalling is the number of people in the US that reject the Theory of Evolution.

Every once in a while I will make the mistake of responding to a video or opinion piece which purports to "disprove" Evolution and I will get into an extended exchange of posts with someone of that ilk. I used to do this more often when I was naive enough to still think that evidence mattered.

I know it's a waste of time but I get sucked in until I finally throw my hands up and exit the conversation.

It's unbelievable, it really is, how misinformed people are about science in general and evolution in particular. I suspect one reason for this is that in many areas of the country the topic is so fraught with peril that the schools gloss over it.

It's also incredible about the things they "know" to be true that are just flat out wrong. You run into the same objections over and over again. That groaning sound you hear is me being told for the umpteenth time that "there are no Transitional Fossils" or "Radiometric Dating doesn't work" or "the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics disproves Evolution" or "a cat can't give birth to a dog" or simply "that (whatever evidence it may have been) still doesn't prove Evolution."

Yes there are Transitional Fossils. Hundreds of them in fact but one has to understand what constitutes a Transitional Fossil. It is not a creature that's half of one species and half of another. It's a fossil that has the traits of different types of animals. For instance a fish with feet (Tiktaalik) or a reptile with the features of a bird (Archaeopteryx) to name two of the more famous.

Yes Radiometric Dating works. There are between 35 and 40 methods and they all agree within 3%-5% of each other. This validates the one critical assumption that radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate per isotope. The common objections such as the unknown starting quantities and possible contamination can be eliminated by using the slightly more complicated Isochron Dating method.

No the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics doesn't disprove Evolution because the Earth's Biosphere is not a closed system. It is constantly importing energy from the sun. If that weren't the case a seed couldn't grow into a plant; a fetus couldn't develop into a baby and a baby couldn't mature into an adult.

It's a true statement that a cat can't give birth to a dog and Evolution doesn't say it can. As a matter of fact if a cat ever gave birth to a dog the entire fabric of Evolution would unravel because the theory says that can't happen. But, based upon the differences in DNA, cats and dogs had a common ancestor about 55 millions years ago that was not a cat or a dog.

As for "proving Evolution," technically you can't PROVE anything outside of the realm of mathematics. The Natural Sciences work with probability. What one can do is pile up evidence so high that it would be irrational not to accept something as true.

And so on and so forth. I'm not a biologist but I've educated myself adequately to understand what Evolution actually claims and why the evidence is so strong.