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.