Friday, December 20, 2013

Utah Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down

A federal judge has declared the Utah law passed by voters in 2004 that bans gay and lesbian marriages unconstitutional because it violates the right to due process and equal protection under the law.

Judge Robert J. Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way and that the state's unsupported fears and speculations were insufficient to justify not allowing same-sex marriages.

Can you say "move out of the way of the avalanche" quickly three times?

I think it's safe to say that the state of Utah will appeal the decision. Let's see the Supreme Court duck making an ultimate decision if and when this puppy gets there.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty

I've never seen the show "Duck Dynasty." I'll admit that I'm something of an intellectual snob and have absolutely no interest in the show.

The other day, in an interview for GQ, the Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson made what many people consider to be homophobic remarks. Basically he said that the Bible declares homosexuality a sin, he believes in the Bible and therefore he believes homosexuality is a sin and gays won't go to heaven.

As a result A&E suspended him indefinitely from the show. Needless to say the loony toons on the right are all up arms yelling "Freedom of Speech!"

Let's understand something. The 1st Amendment protects you from retribution by the government for expressing your opinion. It doesn't protect you from criticism or retribution from private individuals or companies. They have as much right to express their Freedom of Speech by telling you that you have your head up your ass and, if they find what you say offensive enough, making you pay for it in some way, shape or form.

The A&E Network, since it is a private company, is well within its rights to suspend Robertson for his remarks assuming the action doesn't breach some contractual obligation. I just think it's sort of silly for them to do so.

Robertson didn't say anything other so-called Christians haven't been saying for as long as I can remember. Who cares? By suspending Robertson you're making it look like what he thinks matters. It doesn't so I'd reinstate the man and move on.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Part of Utah Polygamy Law Struck Down

A federal court declared a part of the Utah law against polygamy as unconstitutional so of course all of the religious right morons are saying "See we told you so, a slippery slope. Allow Gay Marriage and before you know it people will be marrying their dogs."

Which is of course total nonsense.

The judge's ruling had to do with the co-habitation part of the law. The basic question he asked was what's the difference between a married man living with his wife and two women who are not his wife and a man living with three women none of which are his wife?

The state blew it because there IS a fundamental difference. When the state issues a marriage license, it confers financial and legal benefits upon the two parties and it has a reasonable expectation that the couple will form a two adult relationship. If no marriage certificate has been issued, then the state confers no benefits and has no expectations.

The ruling does not legalize polygamy. You still cannot be legally married, with all of the rights, obligations and privileges that entails, to more than one person.

About Pope Francis

This guy is beginning to appeal to me.

Conservatives in the US have been jumping all over his statement criticizing Capitalism. When asked about being called a Marxist by these folks, simply because he urged a socialist like approach toward insuring care for the poor, Francis came up with the best description of the "trickle-down" myth I've ever seen.

"...'trickle-down theories' which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. 

The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. 

But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor."

Not only is the theory bogus, most people advocating it know damn well it's bogus. The only ones stupid enough to actually believe it are those that have been convinced to wait, panting and voting Republican, for the overflow that's never allowed to come.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homosexuality and the Vulnerability of Christianity

I'm not naive enough to think that Christianity will disappear anytime soon but I think it's more vulnerable right now than it's been in a while.

Why do people turn away from Christianity? It's been my experience that it's not usually triggered by a logical evaluation. That comes later. More often than not it's triggered by an emotional disagreement with Christianity on some issue. This begins the unraveling.

For many people the issue was contraception. For others it was abortion access. I personally first began to question my religion given its continued reluctance to fully accept the Theory of Evolution.

Today I think the issue of homosexuality and gay rights is driving wedges between people and the religion.

Who's hammering those wedges? Typically it's people that claim to be Christians.

Conservative Christians are doing more damage to the Christian religion than a thousand Richard Dawkins' or Sam Harris' could ever do.

A lot of people don't really understand what the hell those guys are saying but just about everyone gets the idea that's there is something unfair about the Christian assault on people that just want to be who they are.

The whole idea of trying to turn things around and claim it's Christians or religious freedom under assault by the big, bad gay lobby is so ludicrous as to simply manage to cause further damage.

When a Christian says that he's being denied religious freedom by not being allowed to discriminate against gays or bully gays it has to make one wonder what the hell is wrong with his religion? It's a club that most people would be embarrassed to be a part of.

Yes, yes, I understand that there are hundreds of Christian sects and not all of them are homophobic. The problem it that far too many of them, including the loudest, damn well are.

Hobby Lobby, Jim Dobson and the Contraception Mandate

I see Jim Dobson is now filing a lawsuit challenging the Contraception Mandate of the Health Care Law. Didn't anyone tell little Jimmy that Hobby Lobby had already done so and that their case was fairly advanced by now?

However, there's a problem here. Saying that this is about the "Contraception Mandate" is misleading.

Both Hobby Lobby and Dobson's lawsuit address one specific type of contraception know as the "Morning After Pill," Plan B or Levonelle. The lawsuits describe this as an "abortion pill."

Let's remember that abortion coverage is not allowed as part of a Health Care Plan so if  Plan B is "abortion," then covering it is illegal.

But is it "abortion?"

Unfortunately, the answer is "maybe."

If a woman is already pregnant, Plan B has no effect so calling it an "abortion pill" is a bit misleading also. It doesn't abort an existing pregnancy, it prevents one from occurring. The question is how?

The problem is no one really understands exactly how Plan B works. There are three ways a drug could prevent or reduce the risk of pregnancy.

(1) It could kill all the sperm. Plan B doesn't do that so depending upon sperm quality, the little trouble makers could live from three to five days.

(2) It could delay or prevent ovulation. A delay of five days or so (see above) would be very effective. Preventing ovulation would be 100% effective, if it hasn't already occurred. Note that simply delaying ovulation until the sperm are kaput isn't "abortion."

(3) It could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. I think a strong argument could be made that this is a form of "abortion."

So what do we know that might help figure this out? First, the later the pill is taken the less effective it is, second, even if taken immediately it's only about 85% effective and third, as stated above, if a women is already pregnant the pill has no effect.

This information doesn't really help. It could still be (2) or (3) or a little of both.

Since one can't say with any certainty, I have to concede that Hobby Lobby and Dobson have a point. Plan B MAY be an abortion pill by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting and therefore should not be part of the contraceptive mandate.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Satanism in Oklahoma

Christians never learn.

Conservatives in the Oklahoma legislature voted to place a privately funded monument of the Ten Commandments on state capital grounds. They did this despite criticism from legal experts that it was illegal.

The ACLU immediately filed suit but the Satanic Temple in New York saw an opportunity and notified the Oklahoma Capital Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument as well and will submit a design later this month.

Needless to say Christians are going absolutely ape shit over this. The basic argument that the Ten Commandments are OK but any other monument isn't is that the commandments of part of our history while there weren't any Satanists among the founding fathers.

Of course what they overlook is it doesn't matter. There weren't any Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims or Wiccans there either but the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that all of these groups are protected by the first amendment.

No one ever accused Conservatives of being overly bright and this is just another example of pig headed arrogance and hubris ending up making them look like the complete assholes they are.

Monday, December 09, 2013

A Constitutional Convention

Article V of the US Constitution states:

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments..."

No Constitutional Convention has ever been called so it's not even clear exactly what Congress would have to do to convene a convention but a number of people, mostly Conservatives, are beginning to seriously consider trying to get "two thirds of the several States" to apply for such a convention.

The objective would be to propose amendments near and dear to Conservatives hearts including a Balanced Budget Amendment and a Congressional Term Limit Amendment. These are two amendments that I am sympathetic toward by the way. But as they say, the devil is in the details and I'd have to know more about any such amendments because I could say for certain one way or the other.

The fear of course is that any convention would attempt veer into other areas such abortion access and gay marriage which would be a big mistake.

I suspect the effort is doomed to failure though because there are far too many open questions including how would representatives to the convention be chosen and what would the Rules of Order of the convention be?

Besides, I don't see why a convention would be any less politically gridlocked than Congress.

Friday, December 06, 2013

the "War" on Christmas

I put "War" in quotes because it is purely imaginary. This is one of those Right Wing Myths that is used to keep the under 80 IQ trailer park set in constant state of consternation and contributing money, which they really can't afford to part with, to Right Wing organizations.

I agree that if you go back to the early sixties or 1950s, any holiday greeting other than Merry Christmas would have sounded strange. "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" were few and far between.

But as time moved on, the country became more mixed and the minority non-Christian groups became more of an economic force, the switch to the neutral terms of expression became more prevalent.

Personally, I don't really care what you say but there are some who might.

As I've said before, this is NOT the Holiday Season. It's the Christmas Season. Christmas is the big Kahuna. If you want to piggyback some other celebration onto the Christmas coattails, that's up to you.

Hanukkah occurred this year sometime around Thanksgiving. Besides, it's a very minor Jewish holiday and, if the truth must be told, a terrible thing to celebrate. It essentially commemorates the success of reactionary forces stifling the growth of culture, knowledge and democracy.

As for Kwanzaa, I still don't really know what the hell it is.

The Christmas Story is certainly a myth but that's no reason not to enjoy the story anyway.

2014 World Cup Draw

Well, the madness is beginning. Today was the final draw for the 2014 World Cup to establish the eight groups.

If there was a worse draw that the US could have come up with, its hard to imagine what it could have been. Not only was it a terrible draw, but as a bonus the US inherited the worst travel schedule. Ah well, what the heck.

 The US gets not one but TWO top five teams in Germany and Portugal plus Ghana the team which eliminated the US in the last two World Cups. Getting to the knockout round of 16 doesn't look too good.

 England has a tough road as well as they would have to beat out either Uruguay #6 or Italy #7. France has a good chance to make it to the knockout round as does Mexico and Russia. Iran is probably a long shot and Australia and Japan look like they're toast given the groups they drew.

Anyway, here are the groups with the current FIFA ranking in parens.

Group A: Brazil (10), Croatia (16), Cameroon (59), Mexico (20)
Group B: Spain (1), Netherlands (9), Chile (15), Australia (57)
Group C: Colombia (4), Greece (12), Ivory Coast (17), Japan (44)
Group D: Uruguay (6), Costa Rica (31), England (13), Italy (7)
Group E: Switzerland (8), Ecuador (22), France (19), Honduras (34)
Group F: Argentina (3), Bosnia-Herzegovina (21), Iran (49), Nigeria (33)
Group G: Germany (2), Portugal (5), Ghana (23), USA (14)
Group H: Belgium (11), Algeria (32), Russia (22), South Korea (56)

On the bright side let's not forget that there are no easy World Cup matches. So, time to make myself look foolish. My early predictions for the winners of the group stage.

Group A: Brazil (10), Mexico (20)
Group B: Spain (1), Netherlands (9)
Group C: Colombia (4), Greece (12)
Group D: Uruguay (6), England (13)
Group E: Switzerland (8), France (19)
Group F: Argentina (3), Nigeria (33)
Group G: Germany (2), Portugal (5)
Group H: Belgium (11), Russia (22)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Then there were Sixteen

Hawaii and Illinois have joined the list of states legalizing same sex marriage and the governor of Missouri has ordered same sex marriages recognized for the purpose of filing state tax returns.

And so the wall continues to crumble.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What is an Atheist?

This is a definition from the Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett, one of the cases in which the Supreme Court in 1963 struck down both Bible reading and the Lord's Prayer in public schools as a violation of the 1st Amendment.

An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. 

An Atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now, here on earth, for all men together to enjoy. 

An Atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. 

An Atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to reach a life of fulfillment.

Get it?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Virginia's Attorney General Update

A week after the election it appears that the Republican's didn't manage to hold the Attorney General's office in Virginia.

Less that 200 votes appear to have given the election to  Democrat Mark Herring over Republican Mark Obershain.

According to the right wing nut jobs this is just further evidence of election fraud to add to Cuccinelli's loss, Romney's loss, McCain's loss...

Conservatives cannot tell the difference between fact and fantasy nor can they understand that many people simply DISAGREE WITH THEM!

Still, even with a zero for three showing in Virginia we're hearing it's because they weren't conservative enough. Welcome to the Republican Party, all lunatics welcome.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Election 2013

For an off-year election this had some important "tend" style things going on.

In New Jersey what passes for a moderate Republican, Chris Christie, easily won re-election over the non-entity Barbra Buono. With 84% of the vote in Christie was ahead 60%-38%.

However a buzz kill for Christie's presidential hopes were in exit polls that showed he would lose New Jersey to Hillary Clinton.

In Virginia lunatic fringe candidate Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost the gubernatorial election to Democrat Terry McAuliffe by 47.5% to 45.9%. Libertarian Robert Sarvis managed 6.6%.

But more important than the governor's race was the race for lieutenant governor where certified lunatic Republican E.W. Jackson got trounced by Democrat Ralph Northam 55% to 45%.

So what's the key take away here? Cuccinelli was far more conservative than Christie and Jackson was much, much more conservative than even Cuccinelli. So, despite what the right wing lunatic fringe is saying, the more conservative you are, the more likely you are to get clobbered in the general election.

The Republican's might manage to hold Attorney General in Virginia as Mark Obershain leads Democrat Mark Herring 50.3% to 49.7%. This is sort of unfortunate as there isn't much to choose from between Cuccinelli and Obershain.

The only reason Jackson was on the ballot was the Virginia GOP went from a primary system to a convention. Jackson would never have won even a GOP primary. He's that loony toons.

In New York City, it wasn't even close. Bill DeBlasio is up by about 3-1. My concern with DeBlasio is all about finances. Personally I would have liked to see Mike Bloomberg made mayor for life.

The last election of note is in the Alabama 1st District where a Republican run-off is taking place for the seat of the resigning Republican Representative. Both candidates are conservative whack jobs but we're talking about Alabama here so it's all relative. Apparently the establishment Republican Bradley Byrne is going to defeat his Tea Party challenger by 52.5% to 47.5%.

All in all a really bad night for the Tea Party and that's a good thing.

Friday, November 01, 2013

My 2 Cents on Obamacare

Ok, maybe it will be a nickle or maybe even a dime.

Let's start with the catastrophic roll-out web site screw-up. Granted that it's just a techie thing, and I've seen my share of techie foul-ups (I've even been a part of a few), but this is such a screw-up it leaves one breathless.

Yes, the technology is more complicated that it looks but they could at least have hired a contractor that had some vague notion of what they were doing. I would love to know how the selection process went on this puppy.

There is no question in my mind that Kathleen Sebelius should be canned. This is a foul-up of that kind of magnitude. She had ONE THING TO GET RIGHT and she blew it spectacularly.

Now let's talk about the fact that, despite constant assurances that you could keep the health care you had, apparently this wasn't true in all cases. Due to regulations instituted by the Department of Health and Human Services, many private policies aren't grandfathered because they don't meet the Health Care Law requirements.

What this means is a golden opportunity for insurance companies to (1) dump policy categories (and they must end a whole business area and not individual policies) that are unprofitable or are so piss poor they're law suits waiting to happen. The Health Care Law introduction gives them the perfect excuse.

AND OBAMA KNEW IT ALL ALONG. Where I come from we call that lying.

The solution is simple. Pass a law that guarantees people can choose to keep policies they had prior to March 2010 (the current grandfathering cut-off) unchanged if they're happy with it and regardless of how lousy the policy may be.

What do you figure the chances are Congress can do something BEFORE January 1 when the policies disappear?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Christie Drops Appeal

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has decided to drop his appeal of the legalization of same sex marriage in the state.

After the New Jersey Supreme Court's unanimous refusal to grant a stay and the broad hints in that decision that there wasn't a snow ball's chance in hell of Christie winning that appeal plus the general euphoria in the state from local politicians to the Bergen Record saying "It's about time," all I have to say is:


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Waiting for Armageddon

"Waiting for Armageddon" is a 2009 documentary about Evangelical Christians and their beliefs about the Rapture, the Tribulation and the whole End Times mythology.

These people are bat shit crazy. If they would just go off in a corner with their fairy tales, no one would care. Unfortunately they tend to be socially and politically active which makes them dangerous.

They are so dangerous that I think they are far and away the greatest danger to the security of Western Democracy. They envision a "victory" scenario which is far worse than any "defeat" that I can imagine.

Friday, October 18, 2013

NJ Supreme Court Refuses to Grant Stay

The NJ Supreme Court has refused to grant a stay preventing same sex marriages from beginning in the state on Monday October 21st.

 The Christie administration had asked for the stay until the Supreme Court ruled on its appeal in January. The Supreme Court refused saying that the Christie Administration had "not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits." 

The court, in its unanimous decision went on to say "The state has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: Same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today. The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative."

Which sort of leads me to believe the court is not going to overturn the lower court decision in January. Essentially, the Supreme Court of NJ just told Christie to shove it.

Here's hoping Christie is smart enough not to waste any more time or resources on beating a dead horse. He's already demonstrated he's on the wrong side of history. There's no need to make that same point again.

As of Monday, New Jersey will become the 14th state to allow same sex marriage. All I can say is that it's about time.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Zero-sum Thinking

I have to admit that I've been a little mystified by the vehemence of the Right Wing, and especially the so-called Tea Party, in its opposition to health care reform.

Concerns over cost or possible negative impacts on the job market just didn't seem to justify the attitude especially considering there is little or no evidence to indicate any significant concern is warranted.

However, I just read a paper by Lawrence Rosenthal, the Executive Directer or the Center for Right Wing Studies at Berkeley (they have a center for right wing studies at Berkeley? WTF?).

According to Rosenthal the fundamental world view of Conservatives is that everything is a Zero-sum game. If someone benefits, then someone has to lose in amounts equal to the benefit. Even if the losses aren't immediately obvious, they have to be there somewhere.

So if millions of people benefit from getting access to health insurance, people who already have health insurance, in other words the Tea Party supporters, have to lose either by paying more or losing benefits.

The same logic applies to Gay Marriage. If Gays gain, then non-Gays must lose. I even did a post a while back about a list that someone put together on how Gay Marriage hurts heterosexual marriage. Many of the items had such a minuscule potential affect that they struck me as absurd. But in a zero-sum game, there HAS to be losses even if the only ones you can find are at the "no one would ever notice level."

Rosenthal points out that even liberty and freedom are viewed as zero-sum. If blacks get the right to sit at a lunch counter then the lunch counter proprietor loses the right to serve only those he chooses; if a Gay Couple gets the right to order wedding flowers at any store open to the public, then the store proprietor loses the right to choose who he will sell flowers to.

The problem of course is that liberty and freedom are NOT zero-sum. The merchant's loses are negligible compared to the gains of the minority. As a matter of fact, one could argue that the merchant, by being forced to act like an ethical human being, actually gains more.

So what about health care? Again it's not a zero-sum game. Are some of us going to spend more for health insurance? Probably, but ultimately everyone benefits from a healthier population especially the millions that have no access to health care now. I think it's reasonable to expect a net benefit across all of society.

But, I'm willing to discuss and analyze that question. Rather than ASSUME zero-sum or non-zero-sum let's talk about it based upon the facts and evidence that we have and, as necessary, make adjustments to insure that in the final analysis it's NOT zero-sum.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Congress Reaches a "Deal" Just before the Deadline

Yes Virginia, the Federal Government will resume operations and be able to borrow more money.

So what did the Republicans accomplish in this whole "Defund Obamacare" fiasco?

They accomplished absolutely nothing beyond sending the financial markets on a roller coaster ride and flirting with economic disaster.

Hopefully the electorate will remember this idiocy come 2014 but I wouldn't count on it. By then we'll probably have gone through another three or four crises' with the next one looming just after the new year.

Even the minimal concessions that Obama and the Democrats seemed willing to make on the health care law fell by the wayside. This is essentially a total and complete defeat for the GOP.

I put "Deal" in quotes because this is just another band aid. The deficit is being reduced but it hasn't as yet been eliminated. That means the debt continues to grow and that is simply an unsustainable situation.

I'd like to think that the worthies in Washington have learned a lesson here and will really get down to business and address the financial issues in a meaningful way.

But, to be honest, I suspect I'm going to be disappointed once again as the game of kick the can down the road continues.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

THIS is Ridiculous

Congress is a goddamn joke.

We're two days away from a potential default that could send the Global Economy into a downward spiral and the damn Republicans don't seem to care. In the meantime the Democrats can't seem to get it through their thick skulls that SOMETHING has got to be done about the budget deficit and sooner rather than later.

I put the majority of the blame for this on the Republicans for giving in to a handful of radical right wing Tea Party conservatives.

In particular I blame John Boehner for continuing to refuse to bring a bill to the floor for a vote unless a majority of the Republican caucus approves of it. The rules need to be changed so that NEITHER party can do things like that.

Think about how ridiculous this is for a second. It means that half of the majority party effectively has veto power over all legislation. That's just fucking crazy and why radical elements wield such power.

The White House is right for standing its ground on this one.

Still, there's needs to be some realistic work on the real problem which is the ongoing lack of a budget and the deficit spending. Spending has got to be brought into balance with revenues. As many independent groups have pointed out, the only reasonable way to accomplish this is a combination of raising taxes and cutting spending.

Again the Republicans are the major problem here with a constant "no new taxes" position that has absolutely no justification IF it's coupled with significant spending cuts.

This is utterly ridiculous.

Monday, October 14, 2013

EBT Glitch

The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system used to provide cards for food stamps went down on Saturday. What that meant was that the cards no longer had any limit on them.

Two Wal-Mart stores in Louisiana saw virtual stampedes as people cleaned out the shelves attempting to buy food with the no limit cards. Other grocery stores simply refused to accept the cards during the outage but Wal-Mart decided to let people use the cards anyway.

The result, according to Louisiana police, was total chaos as people attempted to check out seven and eight shopping carts filled with food.

When the store announced that the system was back up, and the limits back in place, people simply abandoned the full carts they hadn't checked out yet.

I'm not sure what Wal-Mart was thinking. Perhaps they were concerned that families would be left without food if they refused the cards. According to the latest reports the stores are going to be stuck with the bill for over purchases. Wal-Mart has indicated that it will not press charges against people who misused the cards.

These people should be ashamed of themselves. Where is their self-respect? To take advantage like that strikes me as disgusting behavior.

Food stamps and other financial aid is a privilege paid for with the hard earned dollars of other people. If you have no respect for yourselves, then at least try to have some for the people who contribute to help you buy food.

I'm sure the cards have some sort of code that would allow the identification of the people who basically stole from the Wal-Mart stores. Since Wal-Mart doesn't want to press charges, how about we make the food stamp allotment of people who took advantage of the glitch ZERO until the extra purchases are made up and Wal-Mart paid back? Why should the stores eat the loss?

Seriously, this type of behavior is totally unacceptable. How many of these people do you suppose will be in church on Sunday? Maybe they should actually READ the Ten Commandments (assuming they CAN read).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Social Conservatives must be Mentally Ill

I've been following the Values Voters Summit and these people are either delusional or incapable of understanding the simplest things. Either way, they should be locked up for their own protection until we can find a cure.

Jim Bob Duggar
Just the name "Jim Bob" should clue you in that this isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Jim Bob apparently thinks the current state of things in the US is on a par with Nazi Germany at the height of the Final Solution. Clearly Jim Bob knows nothing about Nazi Germany.

WHY Jim Bob thinks that's the case he doesn't make clear but, then again, Social Conservatives never seem to understand the concepts of JUSTIFYING what you assert and presenting actual EVIDENCE to support your opinion.

Ryan Bomberger
According to Ryan, abortion access is a plot to bring about black genocide. Precisely WHO is doing this plotting Ryan doesn't make clear. He criticizes the NAACP for its pro-choice stand and says the organization should be called the "National Association for the Abortion of Colored People." So I suppose it's black people that are plotting the genocide of black people? Sure, that makes sense.

Ryan also thinks homophobia is a myth because Ryan doesn't understand the difference between criticizing someone over what they do or believe and vilifying someone simply for who they are.

Ted Starnes
The Fox Reporter continues to demonstrate that  either (a) he can't tell the difference between the truth and the way he would like things to be or (b) lying doesn't bother him.

Starnes insists President Obama is "persecuting Christians" and cites the "fact" that Obama never raised the issue of an Iranian-American pastor named Saleed Abadini, currently in an Iranian prison, when he spoke to the Iranian President.

The problem is Obama DID  raise the issue and it was reported by Fox News, the station Starnes works for!

Star Parker
According to Star the "enemies of God" (whoever they are) are using homosexuality to "bring hostility into the public square." Seems to me its Christians that are the ones radiating all the hostility.

Star says gays should "keep it private." I'd extend the same advice to Christians. Keep your beliefs private and I suspect the hostility level will go down a whole bunch.

Rick Santorum
I guess Rick isn't a big fan of either contraception or the French Revolution as he claims the former is a descendant of the latter.

Aside from the fact that this is more than a little bizarre I continue to be amazed that social conservatives can't recognize the simple fact that contraception eliminates unwanted pregnancies and eliminating unwanted pregnancies eliminates abortions.

Michelle Bachmann
This lady may well be the most delusion person in the United States today that isn't confined to a mental hospital. She seriously needs to be on medication.

According to Michelle, Obamacare will turn the US into a police state and be known as DeathCare. Precisely how making medical insurance available to more people and eliminating some of the more onerous practices of insurance companies will do that this loony bird doesn't say.

I suppose she still thinks in her befuddled mind that somewhere, buried deep in the health care law, where NOBODY can find it, is the Death Panel provision which of course, when the time comes, the House and Senate will vote to fund, whoever is president will sign into law, and the Supreme Court will uphold.

Michelle Bachmann is a blithering idiot.

Ok, that's enough. I think I'll start raising money to find a cure for Social Conservatives. Nah, actually, they're not worth the trouble.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Explanation of My Religious Views

I've been ask to explain how I arrived at my current religious outlook.

Interestingly enough I always considered myself a Christian. When my parents passed away I felt that I didn't really understand the faith into which I had been born and began to learn more about the Bible and the History of Christianity.

I read the New Testament for the first time and found myself confused by both the similarities and differences. If these men were writing about their own experiences, as I had been taught, then why were large portions of the text identical in different gospels? Why were there small but significant differences in many of the Jesus quotes? Why were the passion stories so radically different and why was the Gospel of John so different from the Synoptic Gospels? Then I began reading the Hebrew Bible and was horrified by some of the things I found in there such as Deuteronomy 22:13-21.

I branched out and starting reading books by recognized biblical scholars including John Dominic Crossan, Richard Friedman, Israel Finkelstein and, especially, Bart Ehrmann. I then began to realize that my ignorance ran deeper than I had originally imagined. Even things I thought I knew, were probably wrong.

These things shook my faith but the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak was Christianity's rejection of the Theory of Evolution and the constant attempts to force Creationist crap into the public square.

Yes, I realize that not ALL Christians are guilty of this but there were enough to finally push me over the edge. As an Engineer I had to assume that a philosophy that could be several orders of magnitude wrong about biology was probably wrong about everything else as well.

So I left Christianity. I then called myself a Deist until I realized that this was a form of wishful thinking. I then labeled myself an Agnostic mistakenly believing this was a middle ground between a Theist and an Atheist. Then I realized that an Agnostic was simply a type of Atheist so now I'm an Agnostic Atheist which is also sometimes called a Weak Atheist.

I don't believe in a God simply because I no longer believe that the evidence supports such a belief. As an Engineer I can only go where the evidence leads me.

I would be very, very happy to be shown that there is in fact a loving God but I can accept the idea that there isn't and this life is probably all I'll have.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Government is Shut Down

Well, it's October 1st and two things have happened. The Health Insurance Exchanges are "open" for business and the Federal Government is closed.

I put "open" in quotes because I tried to get on and there are so many people already on the Exchanges it's basically impossible. I'll either try at about 3 AM or wait a week or two until things settle down.

As for the government shutdown, thank the Republicans for being bigger dumb shits than usual and the Democrats, for once in their lives, not being pussies as usual. You'll excuse the language but I reserve profanity for VERY special occasions and this is one of those.

In the meantime the DOW went up by 60 points. This I look upon as further evidence that our so-called market experts are just as clueless as everyone else.

At least so far it looks as if the electorate is putting the blame where it belongs. In the latest poll about 63% place the blame on the GOP. Let's hope they remember come November 2014 but I wouldn't count on it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Next Obamacare Gambit

Now the House has decided to attach a delay of one year to the individual mandate and remove a tax on some medical devices which is a part of the law.

Both the Democratic Senate leadership and the White House has repeatedly said that a spending bill which impacts the Affordable Healthcare Act is not going to be acceptable but it takes time to turn around a scrubbed bill. That means the chances of a government shutdown on October 1st just skyrocketed.

The White House has said that the Exchanges will be opening Tuesday regardless of whether the government shuts down or not. That's the sort of "come hell or high water" statement that one rarely gets from Democrats.

Let's see if they stick to their guns.

Senate Removes Obamacare Defunding

Despite Ted Cruz talking for 21 hours, the Senate voted for closure 79-19 and passed a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown without the controversial attempt to defund Obamacare by 100-0.

Yes, Virginia, you read that right, even Ted Cruz voted for it.

The bill now goes back to the House where John Boehner will face the headache of what to do with it.

With the Exchanges ready to open in 33 states (17 have decided NOT to fund them) defunding the program now would be like dropping a brick wall in front of a speeding train.

Of course it's quite possible the train is heading for a brick wall anyway.

It's still too early to tell how much confusion and chaos this bill is going to cause but you can be pretty sure the Republican generate bullshit machine will be out in force exaggerating every little problem.

Assuming health care reform can survive the first two or three years, I suspect that it will become as widely accepted as Social Security or Medicare because, in the final analysis, its biggest fault is that it didn't go far enough.

Gay Marriage Declared Legal in New Jersey

A Mercer County judge has declared Gay Marriage legal in New Jersey based upon a law suit claiming that, since the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act, Civil Unions no longer provide the same legal rights as marriage as required in the state constitution.

The Christie administration argued that the problem is the federal government's which should include Civil Unions as equal to marriage.

But that's the whole problem Chris, different is inherently unequal.

The court ordered Gay Marriages to begin by October 21st, 2013, but no one is getting too excited because the administration has said it will appeal.

Here's hoping that's a waste of time and the New Jersey Supreme Court tells Christie where to stick it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

House Votes to "Defund" Affordable Care Act

House Republicans have passed an emergency funding bill that strips the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) of its funding with a scant two weeks to go before the Exchanges are supposed to open for business.

The Republicans need to get their heads out from their asses.

Clearly this is going no where. The Democratic Senate leadership has already said they're going to take the defunding out and the White House has said it will veto the bill.

The Republicans are clearly hoping that the blame for the potential ensuing train wreck will fall on the Democrats. This is unlikely and John Boehner knows it.

Exactly why conservatives have such a burr up their saddle about the ACA is a little unclear to me. That the American populace doesn't understand the bill is obvious and the Republicans take advantage of that by continuing to circulate what amount to flat out lies.

The bill is not preventing 8.2 million part time employees from finding full time jobs. The total number of part time workers was 8.2 million when this claim was made. It was 9.1 million when the ACA was passed and its 7.9 million now.

The bill isn't a "job killer." Most economists believe the bill's effect on jobs will be minimal with the loss of only a small number of low paying jobs. Of course if you're one of those that loses his job then it's not so "minimal" is it?

Everyone isn't going to pay higher premiums. The simple fact is that younger people will tend to pay more while older people will tend to pay less because of the way the bill is structured. Feel free to say this amounts to wealth redistribution from the young to the old and oppose it on those grounds if you want.

The government is not going to choose your doctor nor is it going to get involved in your health care. This is just total crap. There are no government panels deciding what care you should get; the law doesn't cover abortions and the law doesn't cover illegal immigrants.

Despite Republican claims to the contrary, incomes will be verified when someone applies for Federal subsidies; the law simply provides some flexibility to insurance companies on how to do this.

Finally, as stated previously, Congress is NOT exempt from the law.

Conservatives lie. Always keep that in mind. Liberals lie too but not nearly as much as Conservatives because reality tends to have a Liberal bias.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Russian Solution

After insisting that the Syrians didn't use chemical weapons, or at least implying there wasn't enough evidence to demonstrate they did, the Russians have come up with a compromise to avoid the use of force.

The Syrians have agreed to turn over their chemical and sign the non-proliferation treaty in exchange for a Western guarantee that it will not attack over the alleged chemical weapon attack.

This sounds like a reasonable compromise to me even though it strikes as a case of "I didn't do it and I promise not to do it again."

Take the chemical weapons and let the two sides fight it out. I have a bad feeling that there is no "good guy" in this war so I'm not about to choose sides.

A policy of "stay out of it" works just fine for me.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Kiva and Opus Dei

I'm a member of Kiva and have been for about five years. The idea behind Kiva is to supply what are known as micro-loans to third world individuals trying to improve their economic situation.

The total amount of the loans typically range from $500 to about $3000 with each lender contributing small amounts such as $25 or $50. The loans are interest free with repayment times typically between 9 and 36 months. Once the loan is repaid you can lend your $25 to someone else.

With each loan Kiva generally asks for an optional 10% contribution so you need to refresh the amount you're working with from time to time.

At the moment I have $45.47 out on three loans and $4.41 in my account. I've made 17 loans over the five years I've been a member for a total of $450. I made my last loan on August 8, 2013 to a gentleman named Yagoup, in Palestine, who wanted to buy a refrigerator for his grocery store. I pitched in $25 of a total $3,000. The repayment term is 26 months.

Kiva, in addition to maintaining gobs of statistics on your lending, also supports "lending teams." These are simply groups of like minded individuals lending on Kiva. Each of your loans also credits the teams to which you belong.

I belong to the A+ team (Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Free Thinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-religious) which is the largest Kiva team and makes the most loans.

Since I didn't have any cash in my account I was a little surprised to see an e-mail from Kiva in my in box. I was even more surprised when I read that it was a request to fill out a survey because I was a member of the A+ team. Then I was even more surprised to learn that the survey related to Kiva's relationship to Strathmore University in Kenya which is a corporate entity of Opus Dei.

Opus Dei is an extremely conservative organization of the Catholic Church that is rabidly anti-LGBT rights, anti-birth control, anti-choice and anti-female equality.

In the e-mail were links to an open letter from Kiva and the survey. I found the open letter short on details and long on rationalizations that left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I went to the A+ message board to get some background prior to filling out the survey.

Apparently, starting in June or July, people began to notice loan options associated with tuition at Strathmore that were significantly different from the typical Kiva loan. First, they were for a lot more money, some in the $10,000 to $12,000 range. Second, they were for much longer periods of time with some stretching out for 10 years. Third, they had to be funded in a very short period of time. Much shorter than the typical time for a Kiva loan.

The money flow also caused some concern with $10,000 to $12,000 going immediately directly to Strathmore/Opus Dei and then being parceled out over time as needed. This amounted to zero interest loans, for extended periods of time, going directly from Kiva lenders to Strathmore/Opus Dei.

Something smelled wrong here and despite denials from Kiva that Opus Dei had any influence on the operation of Strathmore, a little basic research made it obvious that this wasn't true. To make matters worse Kiva has apparently opened an office on the campus of Strathmore, a move that is unique as Kiva hasn't established such a presence with any of its other partners.

The GLBT Team was the first to raise objections to the relationship between Kiva and Strathmore/Opus Dei. They were quickly supported by the A+ team. The survey e-mail was the latest attempt by Kiva to quell the growing rebellion.

I say quell the rebellion because the number of team members that are active on the boards is very small. I wouldn't have been aware of the debate if it wasn't for the e-mail. The "survey" was clearly aimed at getting a majority of the respondents to blame the lenders rather than Kiva for the disagreement. I found it terribly biased and more than a little condescending.

So, now what?

All my Kiva Cash is lent out, and it will be a while before I get $25 in my account due to repayments, so I'll simply monitor the situation for now. I have posted on the A+ message board supporting the concerns being expressed by members of the team. I find this relationship unacceptable and I find the direction Kiva is taking with these loans troubling.

Even without the Opus Dei issue, tying up so much lender money for such long periods is causing other loan requests to go unanswered and a record number of loans seem to be expiring. Loan requests are only good for a couple of  months and then they "expire, " no loan is made and the money is returned to the lender account. I've never had a loan "expire" because prior to this year, and the advent of the Strathmore loans, it was very rare. Now it seems to be quite common.

The Kiva administration hasn't been terribly responsive to the concerns of the lenders. Basically they've taking the position that there is nothing to be concerned about and it's just a few troublemakers stirring up much ado about nothing. The survey struck me as an attempt to put together numbers to support those assertions.

It's a shame really as I felt Kiva did a lot of good, but religion poisons everything.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Obama Leaves Syrian Action to Congress

At the 11th hour President Barack Obama has asked congress to approve military action in Syria.

I believe that is the right thing to do and I'm hoping that congress will listen to the American people and refuse to OK any unilateral military intervention.

I'm as appalled as anyone that it appears agents of the Syrian government launched a nerve gas attack against local rebels. Of course I'm even more appalled that the Syrians have nerve gas at their disposal. I'd certainly like to know where they got that.

Regardless, I still am opposed to US military intervention. Leave it up to the UN and the other Arab regimes in the region to decide what action, if any, should be taken.

Hopefully congress will come back with a big fat NO as an answer.

I saw a headline somewhere asking if this decision, to ask for congressional approval, weakens the presidency? My immediate reaction was I certainly hope so. The American presidency has become far too powerful and scaling it back is long overdue in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I have a great idea. Just let them kill each other. Pooh-pooh the situation all you want but stay out of it.

No military intervention; no missile strikes; no drone strikes; no air strikes. Nothing, nada, zippo. Get it?

How about we focus on resolving our own problems. I'm not an isolationist but enough is enough. I'm tired of footing the bill for getting involved in every two bit fight.

The hell with it. It's an internal matter. If they want to fight, let them fight.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lesbian Couple Files Discrimination Charges Against Bakery

A lesbian couple filed discrimination charges against a bakery in Gresham Oregon for refusing to provide a wedding cake for their marriage.

The couple cited their Christian beliefs as a reason for refusing.

The filing claims the bakery violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. The law exempts religious and religiously affiliated organizations but not individual business owners.

I'd like to say that if it were me I'd just shrug and take my business elsewhere but I understand how something like this can rankle someone enough that they can't let it lie.

So is this an issue of Religious Freedom as some folks claim?

I think that once you make an exception for one type of belief, how can you defend not making it for other types of beliefs? You'd have to come up with all sorts of rationalizations as to why those other cases, which you don't make an exception for, are different.

Still, it's hard to justify saying they have to do something which their Iron Age fairy tale says is wrong.

Personally, I say let them discriminate if, and only if, they post a big sign, where everyone can see it, that they don't serve gays. This shouldn't be a problem if they really believe what they're doing is right.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

GOP Says no Debates for NBC and CNN

The GOP is pissed off that NBC and CNN are planning programs about Hillary Clinton claiming it's an attempt to influence the 2016 election. Given the lunatics that will probably take part in the Republican primaries, this might just be an excuse to limit the audience.

The GOP is caught between a rock and a hard place. The conventional wisdom is that no one can win the GOP nomination without sounding like a bat-shit crazy lunatic. That almost guarantees the loss of the Northeast and the West.

The GOP would love it if no one but registered Republicans watch the primaries. Then they wouldn't have to air their dirty laundry before the rest of the country.

The reality of the situation has always been national elections are won by moderates and, despite all the whining about Obama, he's a slightly left of center moderate who beat two slightly right of center moderates that were forced to pretend to be more conservative than they actually were in order to keep the so-called Republican base happy..

That pretending might well have cost them the election because (1) it scared away a lot of Independents and (2) a lot of people can sense insincerity.

Here's hoping the Republicans manage to shoot themselves in the foot again.

New Jersey Outlaws Conversion Therapy for Minors

New Jersey has followed California and outlawed conversion therapy, which attempts to turn gay teens straight, for minors. Incredibly Chris Christie, the Republican governor, signed it.

Of course the Religious Right is going absolutely bonkers. Pastor Larry Tomczak, writing in Charisma Magazine, wrote an open letter to Christie protesting his action. In the letter Tomczak made three major points which we've all heard before. My response is below.

1. People are not born homosexual

Saying that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is part of a person's biological constitution is just flat out not true. There is no definitive answer as to why someone is homosexual but the evidence points toward a combination of genetic, hormonal and perhaps environmental factors that appear to determine a person's sexual orientation as early as age five. Don't take my word for it, information on this is readily available at reputable sites on the internet.

2. Practicing Homosexuality is a sin

In YOUR opinion and don't give me any guff about God because the idea that the Bible is God's word is YOUR opinion as well. I've studied the Bible and the one thing I'm am absolutely certain about is that is was written by men, and fairly ignorant men at that.

3. The health risks of encouraging people to stay in a homosexual lifestyle far outweigh the risks of helping them to change.

Not according to the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. The biggest health risk associated with homosexual activity appears to be the extremely high incidence of STDs including HIV and syphilis. But while that is a statistical fact, as reported by the CDC, why that is the case hasn't been fully investigated. Much, if not all, of the increased risk may be traceable to the fact that homosexuals are still a despised minority in this country (and people like YOU writing articles like this aren't helping any) so even your only valid argument has a huge caveat associated with it.

I live in New Jersey and I'm no fan of Chris Christie but in this particular case he is going with the prevailing medical opinion that conversion therapy is counter productive. If you have EVIDENCE to the contrary rather than opinion and YOUR interpretation of the iron age ramblings of a bunch of unwashed nomads, feel free to present it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gay Marriage in New Jersey

The assault to legalize Gay Marriage in New Jersey is proceeding along two fronts.

First, New Jersey United for Marriage (NJUM) is working out of Montclair New Jersey to put pressure on state legislators they think are "moveable" in order to override Governor Christie's veto.

Unfortunately they need three senators and 12 assemblymen to pull that off.I think it's a long shot.

More promising is the Lambda Legal court case which claims that the Civil Unions currently available in New Jersey don't satisfy the 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court decision requiring something equivalent to marriage.

The argument that "different is inherently unequal" has been bolstered by the striking down of DOMA because federal regulations do not extend marriage benefits to Civil Unions.

The Christie administration has countered that the issue is with the federal government which should extend the same rights to Civil Unions. That strikes me as a pretty weak defense.

The judge has allowed time for more case law citations because she says that has been insufficient so far. One has to wonder that the hell else she needs beyond the 2006 New Jersey Supreme ruling and the SCOTUS DOMA case.

I guess a federal court case that rules Civil Unions aren't entitled to federal marriage benefits would help but DOMA hasn't been out of the picture long enoigh for that to occur.

A ruling is expected sometime in September.

In the meantime a Rutgers poll shows 67% of New Jersey residents want marriage equality on the ballot and 59% support legalizing it. Gay marriage supporters in New Jersey have consistently said that a minority's fundamental rights, such as marriage, should not be decided by popular vote.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Gay Marriage hurts Heterosexual Marriage

For years I've been challenging people to identify ways in which gay marriage hurts heterosexual marriage. Finally, former chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, as reported by Right Wing Watch, in an e-mail to members of his "Pray in Jesus Name Project," has supplied an answer. 

Here are Klingenschmitt's 7 ways what he calls the homosexualization of "marriage" has de-valued the traditional marriages of all Christian families, with commentary:

1. It has made our traditional marriage less valuable in the eyes of the state.

How so? The benefits for what you call traditional marriage don't change. This strikes me as a simple piece of paranoia.

2. It has forced Christian couples to pay more taxes to make up for the homosexual "bonus pay" now issued by as tax-benefits given to gay "married" couples.

Single folks could say the same thing about traditional marriage. Aside from the fact that the amounts involved are trivial, there is no tax increase that goes along with gay marriage so this isn't even correct for the minuscule amounts.

3. It has de-valued by inflation our dollars in our family's bank accounts by increasing the national debt to pay for more government benefits for gay "married" couples, for which the Fed must print new dollars to pay such debt.

Again, single folks could make the same claim and the amount is so minuscule that I doubt it can be measured.

4. It has taken away the rights of Christian couples and Catholic charities to foster or adopt children in states like Massachusetts.

Oh no it hasn't. Catholic Charities had always allowed gay couples to adopt but was forced by the Catholic hierarchy to end the practice. The Catholic Church then VOLUNTARILY ceased adoption services over the objections of the Catholic Charities board of directors.

As for "Christian couples," the rule is adopting couples must agree to accept whatever develops in the child they are adopting. If the child is gay, then they must accept that he or she is gay. If the child is transgender, then they must accept that. This is an obvious common sense rule in the best interests of the children being adopted.

5. It has hurt our national security and therefore our family's safety by de-funding benefits given to straight couples or weapon systems and re-distributing those Pentagon dollars to gay "married" couples.

First of all this contradicts #3. Both can't be right and this one is total nonsense. No loss of funding for benefits to straight couples or weapons systems are tied to gay marriage benefits.

6. It has hurt our ability to worship Almighty God in a Christian chapel building whose altar has been desecrated by homosexual "weddings" depriving us of a sacred worship space.

That's only your opinion. Others would say that it's been sanctified and your type are the ones doing the desecration and others probably don't care one way or the other. As for me, I think all religion is horseshit anyway so it doesn't matter.

7. It has threatened our family's religious freedom in countless ways...

There is a link to a video here where Klingenschmitt talks about what he calls the five step homosexual agenda, (1) hate crimes (accomplished), (2) repeal of don't ask don't tell (accomplished), (3) repeal of DOMA (accomplished), (4) passage of Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and (5) what he calls the gay classrooms act but which is actually the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

This is the typical Christian whine that not allowing them to discriminate against gays (or Wiccans or Atheists or Muslims) somehow violates their freedom of religion. This is of course a crock of total garbage.

People like Klingenschmitt are delusional. They're incapable of differentiating between their flights of paranoid imagination and practical reality. The problem is too many of the people listening to this crap have the same problem.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Congress Exempting itself from Obamacare?

No, not quite. Here's the actual story.

During the original wrangling over the health care law Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa came up with what he thought was a great idea to embarrass Democrats. He proposed an amendment that would obligate all members of the House and Senate, along with their staffs, to purchase their own health care policies on the exchanges just as they were going to obligate other Americans to do.

Grassley reasoned that there was no way in hell the Democrats would accept this amendment and then the Republicans could claim they were unwilling to accept the same insurance they were offering to everyone else.

To Grassley surprise the Democrats thought this was a neat idea and accepted the amendment. Thus the following was added to the health care law.

The only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).

With me so far?

Now, you will notice this says nothing about whether the Federal Government can pay for the majority portion of the insurance as most large companies do. Companies with more than 100 employees aren't eligible to purchase insurance from the exchanges until 2017.

Right now the Federal Government pays about 75% of the insurance cost for Congress and staff. So the question became can it still pay that cost after the health care law goes into effect?

The question went to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which concluded that it was not the original intent of the law to strip congressional staff of its health benefits and ruled that the government can still pay 75% of the cost but lawmakers and their staff must purchase the actual insurance plans on the exchanges.

So it wasn't a question of different coverage, but a question of who pays for it.

This is symptomatic of the major problem with the Affordable Health Care law. There wasn't enough time and analysis put into it. At least two to three years should have been spent by a non-partisan panel of health care experts studying the issue and producing recommendations.

Instead we got a camel put together by a gaggle of politicians that's going to need a lot of patching and jury-rigging before it becomes effective. It was the right idea, but the wrong approach.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Omnibus/YouGov Poll on Evolution

A poll held July 8-9, 2013 on Evolution among 1,000 people shows SOME encouraging news but not a hell of a lot.

The options were Naturalistic Evolution, humans evolved with no direction from God, Theistic Evolution, humans evolved but evolution was directed by God, Creationism, humans were created by God in their present form in the last 10,000 years and Not Sure.

Overall 21% chose Naturalistic Evolution and 25% Theistic Evolution for a total of 46%. Only 37% chose Creationism and 17% said they weren't sure.

Among males, 26% chose Naturalistic Evolution and 30% Theistic Evolution for a total of 56%. 31% chose Creationism and 13% said they weren't sure.

Among females, only 17% chose Naturalistic Evolution and 20% Theistic Evolution for a total of 37%. A plurality of 43% of females chose Creationism and 21% said they weren't sure.

That's a huge difference between males and females. One has to wonder why that is? Evolution almost certainly occurred, yet some 64% of females don't seem to be aware of that.

Acceptance of Evolution was highest among those aged 18-29 (60%) and lowest among those 65 or older (43%).

53% of Democrats accept some form of Evolution along with 47% of Independents but only 35% of Republicans. Only 5% of Republicans chose Naturalistic Evolution while 28% of Democrats and 26% of Independents did.

In terms of education, 60% of respondents with a college degree, and 70% with a post graduate degree, accepted some form of Evolution.

In the West, 63% accepted some form of Evolution and in the Northeast it was 54%. In both the Midwest and the South it was only 37%.

The racial breakdown was something of a surprise. While 48% of whites accepted some form of Evolution only 24% of blacks did. Only 6% of blacks accepted Naturalistic Evolution compared to 25% of whites.

Again education appears to be the critical factor followed closely by the region of the country where you happen to live. I was a bit surprised by the disparities by sex and race but this isn't a very large sample size so by sex has a margin of error in the 4% range and the poll among blacks a margin of error in the 10% range.

Still, the results are interesting. It would be even more interesting to see a correlation between sex, race, education and region of the country but that information wasn't available in the report I read.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Still Arguing About Evolution

I find it incredible that in the 21st Century there are still people in a supposedly educated country that are fighting the teaching of modern science. It wouldn't be too bad if it were a small minority but the number is actually staggeringly high. In the developed world, only in Turkey do a smaller percentage of people accept the Theory of Evolution.

In Kentucky the forces of light are trying desperately to update the state's science standards. Of course this brings out the lunatics in force.

The Courier-Journal reports on the howling at the moon by the unwashed about both Evolution and Climate Change.

"One parent, Valerie O’Rear, said the standards promote an 'atheistic world view' and a political agenda that pushes government control."

No, scientific conclusions, if they're honest and I think it's safe to say these are, are neutral with respect to God and politics. If reality demonstrates that your religion is a crock, you'll have to live with it.

"Matt Singleton, a Baptist minister in Louisville who runs an Internet talk-radio program, called teachings on evolution a lie that has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions."

It's only a lie if the people saying it know it's untrue. Even if it has led to those things, and of course it hasn't, it says nothing about it being right or wrong.

“'Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,'” Singleton said. 'Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state.'"

Outsiders? You mean like people that actually understand science?

The "rich man's elitist religion of evolution?" Well, first, evolution is not a religion and neither is gravity, cosmology, geology, relativity or quantum mechanics. As for "rich man's elitist," I suppose that gives you an idea about what this putz thinks about education.

"At one point, opponent Dena Stewart-Gore of Louisville also suggested that the standards will marginalize students with religious beliefs, leading to ridicule and physiological harm in the classroom, and create difficulties for students with learning disabilities."

"Create difficulties for students with learning disabilities?" WTF? Lady, just because you're too stupid to understand science doesn't mean they'll have any trouble.

“'The way socialism works is it takes anybody that doesn’t fit the mold and discards them,' she (Dena Stewart-Gore) said, adding that 'we are even talking genocide and murder here, folks.'”

Clearly this lady knows as little about economic systems as she does about science. Genocide and murder? You see any of that happening in the civilized northern and western states that have real science curriculums?

It's embarrassing that there are morons like this living in this country. Seriously, people should have to pass an intelligence and basic knowledge test before they're allowed to vote. There's no sense in even trying to teach these people anything. Better to simply hope that some day they qualify for a Darwin Award.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Queen's WWIII Speech

As a part of an exercise in 1983 a speech was drafted for Elizabeth II just in case WWIII broke out. The full text is below.

"When I spoke to you less than three months ago we were all enjoying the warmth and fellowship of a family Christmas.

Our thoughts were concentrated on the strong links that bind each generation to the ones that came before and those that will follow.

The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth.

Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.

I have never forgotten the sorrow and the pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father's inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939.

Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.

We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history.

The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology.

But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.

My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country.

My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.

It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defense against the unknown.

If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country's will to survive cannot be broken.

My message to you therefore is simple. Help those who cannot help themselves, give comfort to the lonely and the homeless and let your family become the focus of hope and life to those who need it.

As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be.

God bless you all."

The speech is very general and vague since, luckily, things never got that bad and the devil is always in the details. However, given the situation, I guess it hits the right balance given that London would either already be a pile of ashes or have the potential of being one in the not too distant future.

Ronald Reagan was the US President at the time and he had a speech prepared as well.

"What do you mean there aren't any red jelly beans left?"

Ronnie was always up on current events.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zimmermann and Martin, One More Time

The latest news out of this case is the rumor that Trayvon Martin was a user of a concoction called "Lean" or "Purple Drank," a recreational drug popular in the hip hop community in the southeastern United States.

A simple review of a number of Martin's Facebook posting make it clear that he was in fact pursuing the ingredients for "Lean." The latest right wing claim is that the Skittles and Arizona Watermelon Fruit Drink (NOT Ice Tea as it turns out) represented 2/3 of the formula with over-the-counter Robitussin cough syrup the final 1/3 and that Martin must have been high on "Lean" which, so they claim, can produce side effects of "paranoia and agitation."

Time out guys. The main ingredient for Purple Drank is prescription cough syrup containing promethazine and codeine which is exactly what Martin is looking for in his posts. If he ever succeeded is unknown.

Codeine is the active ingredient and the syrup is usually mixed with a soft drink like Sprite and a hard candy such as Jolly Ranchers which gives it flavor to cover the cough syrup which is pretty vile. To imply that Arizona Watermelon Fruit Juice Cocktail, Skittles and over-the-counter Robitussin are the ingredients for "Purple Drank" is flat out dishonest. At most it's some sort of kiddy version.

Now, that doesn't mean there wasn't some sort of street formula out there claiming such a mix would provide a high. But the codeine is the active ingredient in "Purple Drank" and there is no codeine in those ingredients. So, I don't see how it could be more effective than the alcohol content of the Robitussin or as a sort of street placebo.

In any event, Martin certainly didn't have the time to mix anything and no cough syrup, codeine based or otherwise, was found.

Is anyone really shocked that a 17-year-old was into, or trying to get into, the current thing? As for the side effects of "Purple Drank" (which Martin wasn't making without codeine), I've never seen "paranoia and agitation" listed as effects. Rather the opposite so I'd have to see a reputable medical source for that claim.

But ultimately, it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what happened that night and we'll never know the whole story. What we do know, or don't know, is:

(1) Zimmerman left his car to see which direction Martin went. When asked by the 911 operator if he was following Martin, and he said he was, he was told he didn't have to do that.

(2) We don't know how the physical confrontation started. Everyone talks about Zimmerman's right to self-defense but Martin had the same right and Zimmerman was the man with the gun.

(3) Martin had no knife or other weapon. He wasn't much of a "thug," as I've heard him called, if he wasn't even carrying a knife.

(4) Zimmerman knew the police were on the way because he had spoken to the 9/11 operator yet somehow he still felt he had no choice other than to put a 9 mm slot into Martin's heart.

The jury said not guilty and we should accept that. Only Zimmerman knows the true story and he'll have to live with it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's a Boy!

Ah well, Duchess Kate gave birth to an 8-pound 6-ounce baby boy today in London at 4:24 PM.

I was really hoping for a princess. Now we wait to see what name they'll give the third in line to the British throne.

Congratulations and let the celebrations begin!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Race Card

Have you noticed that criticism of Obama invariably leads to the accusation that it's because he's black?

In some cases that may be true but I don't think it's true in general. So what's the deal here?

I suspect it's because the criticisms are often vague name calling and hand waving. Rarely do you ever see specific issues articulated. Just a lot of juvenile absurdities such as he's a Marxist or a Muslim or he hates America. So the problem is if you can't take the criticisms seriously, what's left to explain the venom?

For what's it's worth, here's my opinion of the situation. Many people in the US feel like they are losing control of their country and that the US is losing its ability to influence what's happening in the world. Of course, they're right.

The demographics of the US are changing rapidly. The economic power is shifting to China and generally evening out around the world. This is frightening a lot of people and there is some justification for that fear. Obama is the visible manifestation of these changes because they're happening on his watch so, subconsciously, they blame him for what's happening.

The fact that he's black, actually, he's HALF black, makes him an even more potent symbol of the changes especially to the change in US demographics. His policies haven't been terribly radical. You can disagree with any number of them, and I do by the way, but I don't see anything in policy disagreements that can explain the pure hatred many people seem to feel for this guy. It's just not justified based upon politics as usual.

Things seem to be going downhill and people figure it can't be their fault; it can't be the country's fault because they've been weaned on the fiction of American exceptionalism. But it must be someone's fault? So hey, Obama is as good a whipping boy as anyone.

You know, about losing the country, people said the same thing during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War protests. And at least then we weren't also in the middle of scary economic changes as well.
It's a tough time. But it's always a tough time for some reason or other. In the 30s it was the Great Depression; in the 40's a little thing called World War II; in the 50s and early 60s the challenges to segregation, which brought enormous changes; in the late 60s the Vietnam War and in the 70s we had runaway inflation and a series of useless presidents. Now we have terrorism, lingering economic issues, including an ever increasing degree of income inequality and a ridiculous debt burden. Then of course there is the emergence of the Gay Rights movement.
Tough and sort of scary times indeed. The country is definitely changing, but we got through all the other tough times and all the other changes and we'll get through these too IF we start to focus on the issues and problems. I don't believe we're doing that right now and that worries me more than anything else.

Monday, July 15, 2013

George Zimmermann Round 2

In the wake of the not guilty verdict there have been a number of protests. Most have been peaceful although in Los Angeles demonstrators allegedly threw things, including batteries which hurt like hell if they hit you, at police.

On the legal front Zimmermann's attorneys say they will now proceed with the law suit against NBC news which admittedly botched, and then broadcast, some 911 call editing.

Zimmermann is claiming defamation of character. Usually defamation means demonstrating there was malicious intent rather than just a simple error. That will be the hard part. He's entitled to his day in court on this and we shall see where it leads.

If I were NBC, who has already fired a technician and a reporter over the incident, I think I'd tell Zimmermann to stick it. You know what they say about there being no such thing as bad publicity and if Zimmermann sues, the NBC attorneys can force him to testify. Although of course the judge may rule that testimony about the incident itself may be irrelevant to what NBC is alleged to have done.

In the meantime, the Department of Justice has resumed its investigation, suspended to allow the state of Florida to complete its case, into whether there was a civil right violation.

I think I'd rather not see Zimmermann charged in Federal Court as that would just open up a whole new can of worms.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

George Zimmermann Found Not Guilty

Back in April of 2012 when this all started I said they couldn't convict him of 2nd Degree Murder and that getting him on the lesser charge of Manslaughter, while perhaps more appropriate, was just going to complicate things.

Well, apparently the prosecution couldn't meet its burden of proof on either and Zimmermann was found not guilty.

It was a tough situation. On one hand you hand Zimmermann testifying to what occurred and expert witnesses swearing the evidence was "consistent with" that version of events.

On the other side all the prosecution could due was present speculation and you're never going to convict someone that way.

We'll never know exactly what happened but once it got to the point of Zimmermann, a 29 year-old adult with defense training, getting his ass kicked by a 17 year-old kid armed with a box of skittles then apparently, according to Florida law, he was allow to act in self-defense which, in the South, apparently means pulling out a 9 mm and shooting the kid in the heart.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Evidence? We don't need no stinking evidence.

A fundamental difference between conservatives and normal people (moderates and liberals) is that while normal people tend to understand that evidence matters and will, sometimes grudgingly, accept where it points.

Conservative on the other hand tend to go with their gut. Here's a perfect example from Eric Rush.

"I know it’s typical for those on the political left to demand peer-reviewed studies, videotape and signed affidavits proving the assertions some of us make concerning the machinations of the Obama administration and socialist encroachment at large..."

Well, yeah, because unsupported assertions are, well, worthless.

"... but we all are aware by now that this is a diversion."

No, it's not, it's because unsupported assertions are, well, WORTHLESS you moron!

Rush among others throw out a constant stream of allegations, assertions, surmises and speculations with absolutely nothing to back them up. You can easily spot them by the liberal use of the words "could," "may," and "possible."

Friday, July 05, 2013

Silver Coins

The British mint will be providing silver pennies for babies born on the same day as the eagerly awaited new member of the royal family.

I think that's a nice touch. The British have class as opposed to their prodigal offspring on this side of the pond south of Canada.

So what will the royal baby be?

I'm hoping for a little princess.

Actually, I think they already know it will be a girl which is why they changed the rules about royal succession to include girls for the first time.

Any day now, any day now.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

So who lies the most? rates the statements of politicians and others as True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire for real whoppers.

The first rule is always look at the numbers so let's look at them shall we? In the order of highest percentage of true claims:

Barack Obama - True or Mostly True (46%), Half True (27%), Mostly False or False (26%) and Pants on Fire (2%)

Hillary Clinton - True or Mostly True (46%), Half True (25%), Mostly False or False (26%) and Pants on Fire (2%)

John Boehner - True or Mostly True (35%), Half True (9%), Mostly False or False (52%) and Pants on Fire (4%)

Mitt Romney - True or Mostly True (31%), Half True (28%), Mostly False or False (32%) and Pants on Fire (9%)

Rick Perry - True or Mostly True (27%), Half True (26%), Mostly False or False (38%) and Pants on Fire (9%)

Paul Ryan - True or Mostly True (26%), Half True (26%), Mostly False or False (43%) and Pants on Fire (5%)

Rick Santorum - True or Mostly True (20%), Half True (25%), Mostly False or False (44%) and Pants on Fire (10%)

Nancy Pelosi - True or Mostly True (18%), Half True (45%), Mostly False or False (27%) and Pants on Fire (9%)

Michelle Bachmann - True or Mostly True (15%), Half True (10%), Mostly False or False (50%) and Pants on Fire (25%)

Hermann Cain - True or Mostly True (13%), Half True (17%), Mostly False or False (56%) and Pants on Fire (13%)

Rush Limbaugh - True or Mostly True (6%), Half True (12%), Mostly False or False (53%) and Pants on Fire (29%)

It's a bit of a concern that no one is above 50% for True or Mostly True isn't it?

There wasn't enough history to list Bill Clinton or George W. Bush although I suspect that neither of them would do well. We all know Bill lied about his women and Georgie probably lied about the WMDs but only under duress from Dick Cheney (*cough, cough*).

What the Hell is Going on in Egypt?

Things appear to be taking a violent turn in Egypt.

President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood appear to be loathe to relinquish power and the military is taking a dim view of their reluctance.

Nothing like a riot or two to upset things.

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing,, but I suspect it's a good thing.

The Egyptians elected Morsi under the assumption he would reform the corruption and excesses of President Hosni Mubarak's reign but, according to Tamarod's website, "the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence."

In other words the Egyptian's think they were hoodwinked into exchanging one dictator for another. Serves them right for electing a Theocrat.

Still, democracy rarely emerges from a military coup and that what appears to be occurring there at the moment.

Before the right wing types start criticizing the Egyptians, let us not forget:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...

So the Egyptians are merely exercising their right to abolish a government they feel has become destructive to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

I say go for it guys and better luck this time around.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I said on June 21:

"The most I believe we can hope for is the striking down of DOMA and allowing the lower court ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional stand on procedural grounds."

So we got what I thought was the most we could hope for. Cool.

I had to shake my head at Scalia. In his dissent, just one day after he voted with the majority to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights act overwhelmingly endorsed by Congress in 2006, He had the gall to say the court had no right to strike down a law enacted by a democratically elected legislature.

He is the worst sort of hypocrite. The type that doesn't even care that he's a hypocrite.

In the meantime, religious right types are going absolutely crazy over this decision and I'm loving every minute of it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

You Heard it First Here

On May 14, in a post entitled "The IRS Scandal II," I made the following statement>

"So why wouldn't the IRS take a really close look at groups whose names implied political partisanship?

I guess the big question here is what was the criteria for extra scrutiny and was that criteria biased?"

Now we're finding out that they were just keying off of politically sounding terms like "Tea Party",  "Progressive" and "Occupy." In other words, they were treating both right wing and left wing groups about the same way. THEY WERE SIMPLY DOING THEIR JOB!

They couldn't help it if there were more groups with "Tea Party" in their name than "Progressive. If Congress hadn't written such an obscure, whezzle worded statute, we wouldn't have this problem.

So there's no scandal but that won't keep the ring wing fruitcakes from howling at the moon over imagined slights (I would have said ring wing fruitcakes and Republicans but that would have been redundant).

Just like Benghazi, it's much ado about nothing. This country is in serious trouble when a significant portion of the population can't tell fact from fantasy or simply doesn't care.