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)