Friday, June 29, 2012

On the road to Health Care Reform

After a long week of teasing by the Supreme Court, we finally had our answer to the great question of whether the Health Care Reform law (ACA) championed by President Obama would stand. The waiting throng were inflamed. On one side, conservatives licked their lips at being able to attack and denounce ideas of mandates and secured rights to medical aid. On the other side were those eager for a win in the hopes of finally securing the foundations of reform to being addressing the core issues impacting millions.

And, for this moment, Chief Justice Roberts decided to be the voice of the majority ruling. 5-4, in favor of the mandate being constitutional (The ruling is at the link.). Laying out the reasoning, it was decided the reform was not defensible by the Commerce Clause, but that it did fall under the power of taxation.

And with word out, confusion reigned for a moment, in only the way the proud and loud professional media only can do. But quickly it was clear that the reforms had been preserved, mostly.

And in response...

Conservatives chose to be quite silly.
from Reuters

Apparently the idea of the poor having a guarantee of insurance and health care access conflicted with their Christ-like faith. But, I don't get religion.

And the politicians did their own bits of stage work.

Rep. Mike Pence from Indiana immediately announced that the decision was akin to 9/11. He apologized, but it nicely set the tone for the sheer ridiculousness of conservative reaction, like above. Also, he said his words were thoughtless...but how different was it from his unusual political comments in attacking the president?

The former spokesman for the Michigan GOP sent out an email declaring this law and the court's affirmation of it were grounds for armed rebellion. Though he hoped that his vision of the country would be established without having to shoot anyone. The reason for rebellion? If the government decided it could make decisions on personal choices like this, then the government is a threat. Now, at the same time, the GOP feels controlling women's reproductive choices, controlling family options for gay people, etc., is exactly what government should be doing. And this power over people, no doubt, is something people like the former spokesman feel should be defended.

Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky said that the reform is unconstitutional, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court, according to Paul, are just a couple of people, who don't know much about the constitution. ...He's a rising GOP star...

Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin said he planned to just ignore the law and wait. Same old, same old in the leadership department from Walker. Suppose if the Koch asked him to set up an insurance exchange he'd wag his tail and run off to do it. And, Gov. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana won't being doing his job either. Guess he's waiting got to get back on addressing volcano monitoring first.

Then there's Romney. And, as usual, what he had to say was empty and false. It would be nice if the GOP candidate for president was less a ridiculous clown, and if he would treat the effort to improve health care seriously. Life isn't all japes and pranks, Mitt.

One point the GOP have made clear is that mandates are just ODIOUS!!!

Except when it comes to women and their reproductive choices. Then it's up to the brave GOP to step in and guide the dainty women folk away from their silly opinions. But, all that Health Care Reform offers to women, is unacceptable.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alex Jones brings the paranoid BS.

Alex Jones...what do you say about this guy. He's an equal opportunity opportunist. That's about as nice as I can get about this guy.

If you do know of him it is, possibly, because of his wild claims about Obama and his plots to destroy democracy. If not, you may remember him for his wild claims about GW Bush and his plots to destroy democracy. If not, you may remember him for his wild claims about Clinton and his plots to destroy democracy. See a pattern? (Granted GW made the crazy easier to buy.)

But that pattern in important. For 8 years, under Bush, Alex Jones became a darling of paranoid liberals, and those looking for "proof" of Bush villainy. (Again, plenty of concerns to find, but not through Jones.) Under Clinton and Obama, conservatives flocked to him, and the criminal evil of those vile villains. (And under any president, he has a constant flow of nutters, and people just paranoid about government, power, and foreign powers.) That has been something he can bet on, no matter the side in power, the other side will race to hear him denounce "them."

I remember the first time I actually got to know how he worked. Came across a movie. Reading the description, I assumed it was a generic action movie about an evil global conspiracy. I was wrong, it was a generic documentary about and evil global conspiracy. It was fascinating to watch. The leaps in logic. The appeals to emotion. The absence of real evidence. At one point he was on a bullhorn yelling at generic bureaucrats going to a private meeting, about how he knew what they were up to and he would expose them. And this was to be a moment of triumph for viewers to see...but, sitting there, all I saw was that he was looking like a nut screaming at folks outside a hotel.

And that's Alex Jones.

Hear him for a moment he should pip a warning off in your head. Otherwise, if you listen to what he says over and over again, it is plainly ridiculous and contradictory. But people are getting what they want, so it is all good. Heck, Glenn Beck was happy to bring on his TV show while he had it? Tells you something.

Here's a mix of his best hits. It shows him lay out claim after claim, promising soon to come terrorism, murders, etc., none of which have happen.

Ninja the Mission Force is coming out on DVD

Quite thrilled to hear that Ninja the Mission Force, a web show created by Dark Maze Studios, will be coming out in about a month on DVD.

Now you will be able to enjoy the blend of old movies and new plots, and tradition as ancient as the ninja...or bad 80's ninja movies.

cover for the Ninja the Mission Force DVD
The DVD is coming! Hide your avian ninja warrior statues!

If you haven't partaken on Ninja the Mission Force yet, here's the first episode. Enjoy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mitt Romney: Who's driving this bus? many weeks into this campaign season are we? ...What do you mean we could measure it Well the campaigns grind on, and we wait for Romney to have something to say that isn't a gaff or an evasion. But that isn't to say that Team Romney isn't trying to be fun (Stick your face in butter fun.).

You may remember that the team, the scamps they are sent a bus from their campaign buses to a President Obama event. To circle outside and honk away. You know, like a irritated cabbie, overheated dad, or a douchey boyfriend. What fun.

Well, they've done it again. Wise use of resources? Check. Tomfoolery? Check. Accidental metaphor for your own campaign. Double check.

Team Romney is on a roll with their winning plan. First, give no constant or concrete answers. In fact, flee any semblance of a real answer. Second, concern troll the president, "Gee he seems unable to do the job. Maybe...someone else should do it...Don't know who..." Finally, keep saying you'll repeal everything, and yada yada yada, the economy will be posthumously baptized...Sorry! Resurrected.

And this seems to be it. Pretend like the economy isn't improving (Damn, you Rick Scott, get in line!!!). Pretend the president isn't acting (Stop acting to help people, Mr. President!!!). Pretend that the president has no ideas (Stop with your ideas and agenda!!!). Then shrug and announce Mitt's the alternative, ans watch him coldly smile at the camera as his eye slowly look in on the camera.

It seems to be there only shot. Whenever Mitt speaks. When ever he goes out to engage with the commoner...his fellow man, his polling suffers. And his ideas and policy are not helping.

The GOP's slurs against Obama, and the pushing of paranoid wet dreams about the president have hurt. The millions spent by PAC have and will do damage to the president. And even with this, Romney knows his only real shot against Obama is to be the generic other choice, the yes in, "Would you vote for another candidate?"

He is the "Why Not?" candidate. I expect before long he'll be championing the "Can't Someone Else Do It?" cause.

That is, if his masters tell him to.

The boot mark of Citizens United.

I have to appreciate Justice Stephen Breyer stepping up to offer clear concerns in the dissenting opinion on the matter of allowing corporate interest unfettered spending on political campaigns in Montana.

Citizen United has been a continuing problem for the country. And money in politics has only grown in it's shaping of politics and politicians. It is remaking the landscape.

I do appreciate the idealist line of thing that money is speech, and to deny the rich and powerful this speech is to hamper free speech.

It is true. Money can say many things. And if it is limited in use during campaign, the power of the rich in politics will be limited. But we, as a nation, make choices on speech, most famously illustrated in the quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.:
The Case of  The 1% vs. The Rest of Us...Eep!
"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

We do make exceptions (shouting fire, etc.) for the safety and well-being of society. Now, we should not make such decisions lightly, but we can and do make those decisions.

And as Breyer notes, in Montana the laws prohibiting corporate action were placed on the books after a good deal of corruption and bribery that went rampant.
... Montana’s attorney general claimed that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act should stand as proof that the court’s argument had already been proven wrong over 100 years earlier, when the state’s mining billionaires blatantly bought off state legislators to further their interests. Most notoriously, copper king William Clark was appointed to the Senate by the state legislature, only to have his seating blocked by the Senate in Washington, D.C. over widespread evidence of bribery.  
(via TPM) 
To pretend this is not a continuing risk is farcical. And to ignore the impact this money continues to have is dangerous.

Breyer's words are wise.
“Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so,” Breyer wrote.

Some people need to wise up. Other's need to stop being so damned greedy.

The Four Corner of Deceit... Willful Ignorance to the Fourth Power

There is nothing quite as disheartening, but to see Rush Limbaugh so nicely define the Quest for Ignorance and Intolerance he daily bolsters and boosts.

The 4 are Academia (colleges), Media (Hollywood, news, except Rush and those who put his mark on their doors), Science (...Scientist!!!), and the Government (black helicopters, fat cats, except those that get a pass by Rush...and the military...I think). So anyone with an education is a liar. Anything on TV is a lie. Any result of research is a hoax. And, NEVER trust the government (Until we get a God fearing Republican back in...). Here's a good paranoid run down of the idea just after Rush posited it.

The Four Corners of Deceit. Quick. Catchy. Encompassing a pathology of potty paranoid pride. So it sells well. And makes a handy tool to try to shut down conversation.

It has been a quick go to on topics like Climate Change. It's all over academia (Ack!), on the news, (Boo!), touted as an issue by scientist (Smartypants!), and warned of by the government (You suck!!!). So, no one that matters is worried about this. And that is the way Rush and his buddies like you, dumb, complacent, and angry at the right time and at the right people.

Even on autism, Rush is playing a game (thankfully he's not pushing the antivax position).

The crap research of Andrew Wakefield was finally, officially, repudiated. So Rush plays it like Wakefield was a beloved part of the great Science Conspiracy, REVEALED!!! ...By other scientist, and printed by the media...Rush you're whole conspiracy is already falling apart...Nevermind...Science is EVILS!!!

So, it all fits together. Now, if anyone claims or suggest some environmental affect or material is impacting babies or fetuses...A LIE! Because, as Rush says, "They" always have a new hoax ready.


And it sells. Yes, Wakefield is a joke. But most scientist in the field knew that ages ago. He had never been a standard bearer for science. Same with talk on Mercury and autism. These and other claims out there are fringe positions, pushed by scared parents on to representatives. And the government takes extra safety steps.

But Rush cleans them up, adds a little bad acting, and acts like he's dug up some hidden dark secret, like he's leading people away from some villainous plot. He plays diligent investigator, pious truth seeker, and then goes out and chortles to himself. He's getting himself richer and richer by stoking fear, paranoia, and ignorance. Which is what he's been doing for years.

But now the system is in place to lock people into an ever shrinking circle of thought. These Right Wingers have home schooling, special colleges, news networks, radio networks, book publishers...From birth to the grave, you never have to come in contact with an original or troubling thought. And Rush gets to sit at the top of it all.

SPOILERS. Rush Limbaugh disgust me.

Trouble with Matthews - Those Blind Spots

Chris Matthews can be amusing or frustrating to watch on TV. Sometimes it can be a matter of your or his politics. And sometimes it can be how seriously he's taking the job.

I have been seeing him on the TV since the days of Clinton, and what you get from him will vary. Some days it is silly season, with everything a joke or a laugh (When he was covering talk of Al Gore's "exaggerations" during the '00 campaign, he'd just get giddy.). Or, he can get reverential, which we've seen a bit with Obama or GW Bush, and a hell of a lot with talk of Kennedy or Tip O'Neill. Or the Odd Guy, obsessed with minutia, like how you say Dick Cheney's name. Then you get Mr. Serious, who won't take answer as given and will keep pushing. It is a mixed bag.

But he's done good in his time, chased after liars and blowhards.

But he's also been inured of them at certain times, and been them at others. Eh. I hate to go be critical of him, seeing as the Right Wing love to skewer him so...But they skewer everyone not on the payroll.

An issue I do have with Matthews is his obliviousness at time. He loves to act the role of Know It All, he's been there, seen that. But he hasn't really. He is so often clueless about topics.

I remember when he was explaining to us all how Hispanics were natural Republicans, what with their inclination to open bodegas. (Yeah, I know some Hispanics that opened "bodegas", and I know some that are bankers, professors, school teachers, and doctors. It's a sad lack of understanding of Hispanics or the difference between Dems and Reps.) I also remember a time, years back, when he lectured a guest on how Planned Parenthood was mostly about abortion. The man talks piffle.

But that can be true of many of us. What I have a hard time forgiving a journalist is how he chooses to be oblivious to his own past actions and their repercussions. He just reworks it all into a new narrative to his liking.

In talking recently about the Catholic Church, Sandusky, and child abuse (I caught a discussion of this on the June 22nd, The Jimmy Dore Show), he remarked that people had no idea what was really going on all these years because the press didn't use visceral language about sex abuse. If only journalist had used graphic language, people would have acted...really. It is pathetic. "Someone said a priest abused a kid." "Abuse? That is meaningless to me. Go away, you've given me a headache." He doesn't want to admit to himself that HE was silent as he heard the stories of abuse. He was a part of this press all this time, and he did act.

But an even better example of this denial can be seen in him talking about the Iraq War, which apparently to him occurred in the Age of Elves. (Again, I caught this thanks to The Jimmy Dore Show on June 1. Starts at about 32 minutes, 20 seconds.) At a media event he began explaining how we got into the war, how those journalism failed us then, and how the business was wildly different today. Now, you might think this is about how we have blogs and twitter now...No. It is because NOW we have 24-hour cable news. Yeah. The big invention of this decade.

Really! For Matthews the Iraq War was sold to the American people because people relied on TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), back in the day (2003). And those journalist didn't do the hard work, ask the hard questions, challenge authority. So, we went to war.

But NOW it's different, cable news is a new beast. 24 hour coverage, going in depth, asking hard questions...Has he seen cable news, ever? Has he seen his own show? (Oh, ye gods, I could go on a tirade about the failure of the 24-hour news scheme.)

But, you may ask, what was Chris Matthews doing in 2003? He wasn't born yesterday, was he?! No. At the time he was, gasp, hosting a cable news show (and hosting another syndicated one, that covered the build up to and start of and end of the Iraq War. He was on a cable news show the whole time. Imagine that.

We must obviously think then that he chased these stories down, right? He fought that noble fight, right?

No. He did the opposite. He attacked people doubting the "evidence." He mocked the antiwar groups. He called the lot kooks and losers. And, he praised GW Bush for his leadership.

At with that, cable news failed, in reality...Uh, no. There actually was one, top rated, show chasing these hard questions down, the Phil Donahue Show on MSNBC (Matthews may be familiar with the network.). It got cancelled for asking those hard questions. Who helped get it cancelled? Chris Matthews, who didn't care for the trouble maker.

That is damn pathetic.

So, now, years on, he ponders. What happen? Why weren't people like him there to act. He ponders why those people listened to GW Bush, an idiot. He ponders why those people were not willing to be critical and ask questions.

He wonders why he failed at his fucking occupation.

But he can't admit to this. So he escapes into a reworked fantasy history.

I almost been sorry.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

V'Ger is outta here!

For the past month NASA has been readying for a first in it's, and human, history. The first human artifact is about to leave our solar system.


Voyager 1 was launched back in 1977, and since then it ran continued towards the system's edge pulling in bits and pieces of information along the way. Currently, gamma radiation levels are indicating that it is on it's way out, but they are still waiting for some more info. ...But the time is here!

And following it, Voyagers 2.

Let's hope for the best.

Not this...

...or, this.

And we better not end up with this.

Uganda: No Gays Allowed

I have already mentioned some of the continued efforts against the freedom and lives of the gay community of Uganda.

But, sadly, there is always more news from Kampala. This times from the Minister for Ethics and Integrity (About as creepy a title as Minister of Truth.).
However, while the anti-gay bill has so far remained off the statute books, a reminder of the severe difficulties faced by LGBT communities in Uganda comes with the news that the country's Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo has just announced that 38 NGOs will be banned because they "promote" homosexuality. While the organisations have not been named, it appears clear from the minister's comments that they will include many groups working to defend gay rights...

It suggests that the groups in question have been recruiting for and promoting the gay lifestyle.

This is what we keep hearing from pious worry warts (I shouldn't try and be flippant, they want to do horrible things.) in Uganda and in the United States. We keep hearing from them, the gays are recruiting youths. Now, these people are peddling the idea that the foreigners are trying to turn their nation's kids gay.

It's a continuation of the paranoid conspiracy theorizing we've seen from proselytizers of religious fear. In churches around the US, people are being warned that the UN is an organization based on a pagan environmentalism cult out to upend Christianity. Part of the same sort of thinking.

Why are you being asked to respect gays and allow them to be a part of society? Why are you being asked to try and preserve resources and clean the environment? It's all part of the secret plot against you and your culture. It is so much easier to see yourself as being plotted against, then to see the world passing your dangerous antiquated ways by.

It's painful to see, NGO's working to help prevent violence and help communities out are being driven out. And how does the US set any sort of example? States are shutting down health care for the poor to spite Planned Parenthood. Irrationality, pure and simple, putting lives at stake

And remember, Uganda isn't alone:
... Indeed, just this morning Pink News reported on a recent article in the Ethiopian newspaper Yenga daily which warned of a gay "infestation" in the country, and suggested that homosexuality is being "exported" into Ethiopia by foreign agents such as the UN, NGOs, European countries and the USA.
Not good news. Nice if all of those good Christians in the US would dissuade their fellow Christians in these countries against this paranoia.

Remembering Genius: Alan Turing

Turing is undeniable genius of the 20th century. A mathematician, cryptologist, and early master of the computer sciences, he also showed himself a hero of the Allied Forces during World War II.

Born in 1912, on June 23rd, he went on to go to Cambridge and Princeton getting a top education. During this time he created the Turing Machine, which was a "hypothetical device representing a computing machine." 

Already in '38 Turing went to work with his nation's cryptanalytic department, outside his main job. When the war officially started he went to work for the U.K. full time. He was a leading decipher of German codes and helped build Bombe to help reveal Axis secrets. By the war's end they were decoding 84,000 messages a month. His, and his colleagues, work led to him being made an officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Along with his code work, and the creation of Bombe, Turing developed an amazing early computational device, ACE, which showed a good deal of promise. But it was not completed to his schematics, simplified, and therefor behind other designs that were built.

In 1950 wrote a paper in which he introduced the idea of the Turing Test. It is a test of a machine and it's capacity to reflect intelligence. If you've seen it in popular culture, like in Blade Runner, the concept plays out as an attempt to see if a machine can act human. The test continues to be applied, and debated, to this day. During this time he was made a member of the Royal Society.

As he continued to chase new ideas in computer science, in 1952, Turing was arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime of being a homosexual. Well through the 20th century this remained a crime in England (In the U.S. the Supreme Court was still striking down these laws in 2003.). To avoid actual prison time, Turing was chemically castrated. Along with this, as a homosexual, he had his well deserved security clearance revoked and cut off from the advance work of his field. Two years later, he was dead. It was ruled suicide then, but there is an argument for it being an accident arriving from his research

Today we remember a genius and hero, ostracisized and humiliated by a close minded society. After such duty and dedication, such brilliance and output, he was discarded by his government. Only in 2009 did the government admit to the wrong.

Let's be sure no one else suffers a similar fate in the U.K. or the U.S. in the 21st century, shall me?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dungeons & Dragons as D&D

Okay, saw this tonight, and it is too funny not to post.

A cut of an old episode of the Saturday morning cartoon, Dungeons & Dragons, voiced over as if it is a gaming session of the D&D game.

Brilliantly true.

The old shows intro for some more nostalgia.

WMD's and Belief

Weapon's of Mass Destruction. Those were popular for awhile. Early part of the last decades it seemed to be all we would talk about. Not so much now.

But still, after all we've been through some are interested in the topic. No, I'm not talking about people all jacked up on the idea of bombing Iran into oblivion (...Though, there is some overlap.). Nor do I mean the people who still remember all the eager talk of WMD's and the need for wars (Thankfully some remember and try to keep the rest of us from forgetting.). Rather, I mean the lot who still believe and want to make other's believe that Iraq was a success for the US on the WMD chase topic.

Yes, many people, mostly Right Wingers, believe the antiquated dilapidated hype of the Bush PR team. Of course, they are largely FOX News watchers so they believe plenty of naff things. But this is particularly interesting as the continued embrace of this tenuous point makes them more reassured of the idea of the preemptive Iraqi invasion and claims of WMD threats in other places.

Lessons must be learned.

Let us remember just why we went in. We were DAYS from getting nuked by those mad Iraqis. They were mass producing nukes and other horrors, and we had all the proof we needed. So we got shaky intel, we got dubious sources, we got vials of talc to shake in people's faces, and we got all the King's Men in a line to say, "Yes. Freedonia must go to war." (Sigh...I know, obvious joke.)

Then they lined up the allies.

And off we all went, whether we liked it or not.


And the results, on the WMD front, were bupkus.

Despite what some want to claim, we found nothing new. What was there is what we already knew of. All the weapons and facilities were in place (Yes, chemical, biological, and nuclear.). They were in place and unused since 1991. That's when we first made them close up shop.

And some want to go, "AH HA!!! Vindication!" ...No. We knew about this stuff. It was no threat. Hell, alot of it was 80's mustard gas, from back when Iraq was our ally. What about the deadly (but sounding, oh so, delicious) yellowcake? Packed up in barrels way back in the day by inspectors. And no sign of the passionately promised Nigerian buys (Looking at you, Powell.).

But people tried and still try to move the goalpost. We can call it WMD's, so they are everything we claimed. So Iraq had them, and the Neocons were right. ...No.

Oh, no. We were told of active work being done. Nuclear warheads, ready to go. Deadly toxins, ready to deploy. But none of that was found. Just the tracks that showed where the goalpost was moved from. From fantastical pristine research labs to the reality of rusting bins in a storage facility.

Whatever the reason we want to say we went into Iraq, and it's impact on our nation, Iraq, and the world, we did not go in and preempt any genuine immediate threat.

That should be a part of the legacy of the Iraq War never forgotten.

But some try to convince us we can forget, and move on to the next war.

Benjamin Franklin & the Electric Ministers

We all know Benjamin Franklin...Hell, we do all know Benjamin Franklin? He hasn't cut out of the history books? Omitted for time altogether, right?

Ben Franklin. Poor Richard. Printer. Writer. Thinker. Inventor. Founding Father. Booze hound. Horn dog.

So many ways to see this historic figure. But for the moment let's consider his scientific interests. As you should know, he did love to tinker with science, inventing useful items and gadgets and plumbing the depth of our understanding of nature.

Of course the most remember aspect of this is involving lightening. You know the image.

Franklin and his dog's body Baldrick. (Yes, that is a

Franklin. The kite. The storm.

What came from this work though, which many have forgotten was the lightening rod. Now, there were some ancient places in the world where this was worked out before, and in some areas of Europe like work was being done. But Franklin helped advance the idea of the rod and established the scientific understanding around lightening and electricity. Plus, for a long while it was called the Franklin Rod (Hey, hey! ...Told you he got around.).

But the reaction to preventing lightening strikes on buildings, preventing fire and other damage DID NOT go down well in some circles. Religious leaders were pissed.

You see, lightening was widely accepted as the angry text message of the day from Zeus...uh, know, pick a god. So by actually building a doodad that could throw off "god's will" you were only pissing the Almighty Alangry all the more. He may also be that way about seat belts and condoms...but I'm not a holy man.

Now Christian apologists (Those are the people you see constantly trying to work out how to shovel god's manure onto other people's worldviews, without anyone seeing.) have worked to explain the thinking away, centuries after the fact. One point being, it's a pagan idea that some carried over to Christianity, so it doesn't count. ...And then it was enforced and used at pulpits. It was embraced as part of Christian culture. And, frankly, almost nothing in Christianity doesn't come from Judaism, "paganism", or other ancient beliefs.

But at least the apologist nicely made a note of the religious silliness of the times.
In Switzerland, France and Italy, popular prejudice against the lightning rod was ignited and fueled by the churches and resulted in the tearing down of lightning rods from many homes and buildings, including one from the Institute of Bologna, the leading scientific institution in Italy. The Swiss chemist, M. de Saussure, removed a rod he had erected on his house in Geneva in 1771 when it caused his neighbors so much anxiety that he feared a riot.
Panicky religious mobs. Those are always fun.

Phil. Mus. of Art, "Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky" 
by Benjamin West (1738-1820).
Going back to Franklin though, he had some interesting. A few years after Franklin's discoveries, there was an earthquake in Massachusetts. A massive one. Many divine explanations were sought to explain it all. And at least one pastor, Thomas Prince, leapt at this as PROOF that Franklin and his Rod (Heh heh.) were to blame.

If God can't blast your house down, or pick off the occasional church bell ringer, he's going to go TECTONIC on us.

"God shakes the earth because he is wroth," insisted Prince in a sermon he published soon after the quake. He warned his flock that the more lightning rods were erected around Boston, the more earthquakes would afflict the city as a result. 
While not present at this sermon, Adams wrote that he heard idle talk of the "presumption of philosophers in erecting iron tods ... attempting to control the artillery of heaven," and dismissed it a drunken nonsense. For his part, Franklin was amused by the reaction. Why, he wryly asked, was it acceptable to build a roof to keep out the rain but blasphemy to place a rod upon the roof to keep out the lightning? 

Of course this should all be quite familiar to us today. It is still the bread and butter on many preachers to cry out about how we are bringing about damnation and suffering for how we live and act.

What doesn't get the blame on a god's wrath for one action or another?

We keep having to live through this demagoguery. It shouldn't be surprising to us, it should just make us sick and tired. Particularly when they want to parley it into political and social change (To manipulate us into regressing.).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fast, Furious, and Signifying Nothing *UPDATED*

I already have a post addressing most of the ridiculousness of Daryl Issa and...well, he's pretty ridiculous all on his own, but him and the Fast and Furious SCANDAL (ooooo!).

It is ridiculous.

But as only Rachel Maddow can, here's a break down of why we are stuck dealing with this and why the conservatives are so (as usual) panicked.

I have been seeing some of the commentary in the comment thread on stories. And this explains some of the seemingly calm, but strangely agitated talk.

A few of the people commenting have been trying to push that things were safe and normal with this program under Bush. But, apparently, under Obama things changed (ooooo!), and now the weapons were sent willy nilly and Obama looked the other way.

Now I see what this was code for, this stuff from the Right Wing Blogosphere, where this is all about getting people killed to lead to gun control law.

Really. That is what this is about. They think this is all a plot to get gun control. Unbelievable.

Murders and weapons passing into the hands of criminals...for that? Sigh. Remember the Clinton years...Probably too young.

Okay. During that time a man named Vince Foster committed suicide, it was called by the right wing part of a conspiracy. When the Commerce Secretary died in a plane accident, blamed by the right wing on a conspiracy. This is the same old same old.

So after everything, this is what they want to believe, despite Obama has protected and EXPANDED gun rights. But the GOP, the NRA, and the conspiracy loons only see it as proof that conspiratorial web is about to enclose around them.  I lie, many of the GOP and NRA leadership know better, but spouting conspiracy promises money and power.

From the Maddow piece:
"I don't have all the facts, but I know he's anti-gun."
No facts, no proof, but they have their gut feeling. And the GOP will ride that as far as it will take them and their backers.

So as Congress readies to vote on contempt charges, remember, this is about a conspiracy theory.


6/26/12 - TPM has a nice piece on Fast and Furious nuttiness:
Five Signs You May Be A Fast & Furious Conspiracy Theorist

Just starting with the first idea, that Obama would have to want to spend political capital on gun control is a litmus test on how tethered you are to reality. At no point as Obama made any move or given a hint of that intent. In the wake of congressperson being SHOT, nothing. As Tea Partiers went around the country waving guns as they talked about him, nothing. But from Congress to the drunk passed out behind the VFW, you hear this wild ass, passionately defended claim. 

"He's after my guns." 

And when you ask them, how do you know, they make a claim about some vague action or speech. When you push back and show the quotes from him don't exist, they just shrug and say, 

"I just know."
Congrats to Karl Rove, his party really doesn't live in a reality-based world. He must be so proud.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jimmy Dore Show...Now with more Dore to see.

For a while now I have been, via podcast, enjoying The Jimmy Dore Show.

It looks at politics and media, through the prism of comedy, including a number of great comedy writers and stand up comedians. It's a fun show that hits on issues and current events.

Along with the radio/podcast work, Jimmy Dore also now is providing content for The Young Turks channel on YouTube. (If you listen to different liberal/progressive media, you may have noticed that TYT has been expanding and including a number of new voices.)

So here is the first of two episodes I have seen that are available now.

They are still refining things, but I look forward to more from Dore.

Also he is trying some of the segments he does on the radio, like Oh My God!

While I am mentioning all things Dore, I would like to point to his recent interview with comedian Fred Stoller on his podcast, Comedy and Everything Else. It's a humorous and interesting back and forth.


What is a bagginses?

Okay. Mentioned Tolkein in the last I can't resist posting The Hobbit trailer.

Afraid history is secular to.

The Wild Hunt blog looked at, what I assume is, an all too common assumption of Christians. That the world was holding it's breath awaiting their faith. That final layer on the social cake. (How bad was that analogy?)

Now, I understand, it's your religion. It's a precious gem everyone should want, the word of a god, yada yada yada. But that just isn't how it actually works out.

In the post, they look at a piece from Marc Barnes that laments the post-Christian culture he sees. Apparently, we aren't "Men", or "of Men." I guess we aren't manly enough for him...Anyway it is sad to know that without Christ I am... effete? Drone wars are boring, not viscerally enough for Barnes. Eh. I don't know. Don't care really, it is silly. Just an excuse to put down people not of faith in an intellectually lazy manner.

But as is pointed out, more interesting is how he views history pointing to Christandom. And, like I said above, sure you believe that. It's cute.
... The Pagan world awaited Christ as a virgin awaits her bridegroom. In her myth and legend she whispered of Christ. ...
Did I say cute? I meant creepy. It's creepy now. I guess if you know history, the world...sorry, just "the pagans" awaited the Christians to come save them from themselves. Imagine, paganism way have just become a spinster culture.

Sure, that's what it looks like to me in the stories of Charlemagne. That's why Constantine converted. That's why the old religions often had to be destroyed or banned...Wait. Oh, that's right. Christianity shaped itself to be a sellable product, but very slowly spread, often moving thanks to leaders seeing it as a useful political tool to crush opposition and control populations. And in spite of attacks on the pagan centers, older polytheistic religions still continue today.

People like Barnes love romanticizing the pre-Christians and their Christian history, as if it's some gentle natural progression. Even, I think, I tried to envision some progression from nature worship to many gods to one god, when I was young. It has some presumed sense. But it's bull. Societies don't work that way in reality.

It became popular for a time, Religious Evolution. Some notables, like C.S. Lewis, were proponents. But, Social Darwinism to had some favor once with people who should have known better. It is a poorly thought out idea. It's the kind of idea a missionary minded person embraces. It speaks to how your faith was the natural and inevitable end result of everything that came before. Like how the Greek pantheon feed into the Roman pantheon, which will stand and be widely worshiped for all of time. It's just so short sighted.

The other aspect of the post noted was that pagan's were all "Men," while we today are not. The All Man Old Timey People...Yeah, and that is true, if you find the idea of the Klingons to be realistic. No, they come off as solely focused, which would doom a culture, as often written. A real culture is more diverse, as ancient societies were. All societies have warriors, and also thinkers and dreamers.

What are the Spartans?

This, right?

But what about their politicians? Their thinkers?

Their poets?
And she is, she is our own, The splendid-ankled Hagesikhora! With Agido, by whose side she lingers,She honors the rites with her beauty.Accept her prayers O gods, For she is your handiwork, Perfect of her kind.And I, I, O Choirmaster, Am but an ordinary girl. I hoot like an owl in the roof.I long to worship the goddess of the dawn. Whose gift is peace. For HagesikhoraWe sing, for her we virgin girls. Make our lovely harmonies. 
The Spartans. They sang songs. They wrote poetry. They were artisans. And they could go to war with the best of them. Despite, what is left to history, they were not one note.

But societies, over time, get streamlined and simplified. Vikings, manly invaders. Spartans, manly warriors. Athenians, democratic thinkers. Scythians, ...who are they? Anyway, you know, the drill.

So we wimpy modern secularist get compared up against these tall tales, these legends, these myths.

But Barnes is not alone in this. That was what we saw in JRR Tolkien's stories, the grand old days that much of Middle Earth looks back at, long gone. When the men of Numenor strode powerful and confident. It is an old fantasy to have.

In the end, we can see a far to simplistic view of history, which we should all avoid accepting.

Why become religious?

It happens every now and then, but one can't help but do an eyebrow raise when learning of an atheist embracing religion. It is not so much from shock, but for confusion as to why that would happen.

Just recently, one atheist blogger announced she was becoming a Catholic. Not just some faith, going off the deep end into the serious stuff. Come on, Catholicism? That's the brown liquor of religion.

Now, in the end, I don't really care. You live your life whatever way you want, no matter to me. But like Mehta, I wish her the best. Such transitions can be hard, or just awkward. Hope she is happy.

But I am always fascinated to understand just why that choice is made. Is there an argument that turned her thinking? Some evidence that changed everything? What leads to the shift in thinking?

This is always of interest to me, as I am always looking to understand just what leads one to enter become religious, stay religious, or promote religion. And over the years I have been eager to hear a good sound argument, or see a piece of evidence that would bring about faith.

For a long time I remember getting a little excited/scared when I saw a link or video that promised a mind blowing argument or proof that there was some higher power at work, or that some holy book was true. Would this be the moment I realized I had made a horrible mistake in thinking? Had I been remiss? ...Well, I am an atheist currently, so no. No, I got no impressive argument, or evidence. Just one sad rehashed argument after another (No, Pascal's Wager is not mind blowing.), one misunderstanding of science or history (The bible is not universally accepted as proven true, and you DO NOT understand the Laws of Thermodynamics.). It is disappointing. You'd think something would arise better than what is out there. But people try and pretend it is why they believe.

People have faith or are part of a religion because they want that. They want to belong. They want to think there is a higher power at work. They want to think that there is a reason for all things and that they will get a magical second chance. I'm not saying it's lying. It's what they accept, they believe, and embrace.

Faith is faith. It's supposed to be intangible and personal. But people do try and quantify it in explaining their beliefs. And I don't want to fault people for having faith (Except for when they try and enforce it on everyone else, of course.). I just wish more people were honest with themselves (Yes, many are.).

So, when an atheist converts, it is interesting. Not the first time, of course. Doubt it will be the last time. Their have been various people over the years. But, as of yet, I have not seen a good argument for WHY from any of them. They all seem to, after being parsed through, come down to, I want to believe it's so.

That's fine. It is unsatisfying to me. Years of embracing rational ideas, then you choose to forgo that for...fantasy. The rather famous scientist, Francis Collins (Human Genome Project), explained his coming to faith (now an evangelical christian) arising out of a winter hike. He came across a frozen waterfall, and marveled at it's crystal structure. He also noted it was split in three (A trinity.). And, that was it, he saw a Maker. He was given a sign.

It is kind of a nice story, I suppose (Could've used a burning bush.). But, I've seen similar wonders. For me, it is such a treat when you can see trees glazed over in ice during the winter, as if they are crystals. It is beautiful, stunning, and inspiring. But, I don't see a reflection of The Divine. It is an act of nature, a blend of temperature and meteorology that make sights like that possible. No god paints the ice on, no angel chips at an ice block and replaces some falls. It is natural wonder. And I am in awe. I just infer no magical meaning. It needs none. And I know, like Collins did, anything extra to be found in a sight, I bring.

For me (and this means I am reading into other people's intent and thinking here), Collins, is just trying to express what he internally had already decided. He had already been debating and thinking of reentering the religious world, while dealing with his parents' deaths. He was already in the process of reentering the religious world, he was ruminating on the idea, and was open to a "sign" to okay it. And that is the story I keep seeing, due to an internal desire the irrational (the one without evidence or a real logical argument) path is taken.

So, we come to the new convert. And I have to say the post is unclear to me.

She says she admits their are parts of Christianity and Catholicism that were a good match for her morality...And parts that were not? What about other faith systems? And Catholicism? ...That is a whole hornets nest you are choosing to fully embrace. You're not even born into it, you've picked it.

Then she mentions evidence FOR Christianity...What's that? I'd like to see that.

Then she gets into moral law and it's origins. That's always a lively debate. For me, morality seems to derive from us. We develop our morals, socially and individually (Sometimes we maintain society's morals, sometime's we buck them for our own sensibilities.). Slavery is moral, than it's immoral. Killing is wrong, but we believe it can be justified and right. We make the moral rules for ourselves. It's how it always seems to have been.

But for the converting blogger this was not good enough. As she says, she sees it as personified, a Person, a Truth.

And at that point she says ONE religion pointed the way forward for her...Okay. Like I said with Collins. I think the truth is that she likely already was toying with taking the irrational leap, just waiting on an iffy argument to do it with. (Of course, this is my uninformed ignorant reading of events from a brief blog post.) Looking at some of her other posts, she has been interacting and going back and forth with Catholics for awhile on her issues. So their is a little sense to her choice of religion. Still an odd choice.

But the choice is hers. She sees morality as some force, that is her philosophic choice. It will be interesting in future to see if she will be debating and talking on the subject.

Daylight Atheism had some questions on what she said that go more thoughtfully into the issues.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sex Ed = Less Risk Tasking = Better Health = Duh

Think Progress has made note of a study looking at the impact of sex education on youths.

Big surprise but, after years of conservative maneuvers on local/state education boards, cries of fretting uninformed parents, and various religious groups spreading misinformation, there's an uncomfortably high level of ignorance on contraception. The study focused on sexual active youth (ages 18-29), the majority of which DON'T fully understand contraception and ways to protect their health.

When young people are given a proper education on sex risk and contraception, they make smarter choices about the risks they WILL be facing (Sorry, people will be having sex.). Education makes you smarter. Why is this so hard for some people to grasp? (Perusing the GOP presidential field from earlier this year...Ah, that's part of the problem.)

It is important to reach out and impart this knowledge with teens. It cannot wait, and it must be valid and useful information. Instead we get the abstinence angle flogged out, we get moral outrage, and that has done us no good. It doesn't stop sex. It doesn't make sex safer. It doesn't make the nation's youth healthier. It just makes some parents and moralist feel a little prouder of themselves.

It gives the Abstinence Lobby nice night of sleep. Meanwhile their kids are sneaking out and going at it with the commonsense and preventative knowledge of rutting rabbits (See the Palins.).

Monday, June 18, 2012

On This Day in Voting

Think Progress has a picture to remind of us the voting struggle on this day, many years passed.

She was willing to risk jail and fine to get to vote, and then refuse the costs and final fine from the different courts and police (They even refused to jail at the end, to keep her from getting an appeal.). And suffragettes for years to follow faced brutality in their own quest. Why? Because it mattered to have that right. And to use it.

What are the voter percentages these days? Being able to vote matters. As does actually voting.

As it is, in places like Florida they are actively trying to prevent 1000's from voting, just tipping the balance in the small numbers of us that do vote. People also want us to give up on the democratic process, not even try.

Susan B. Anthony faced prison to vote. In the 1960's people faced lynchings to vote. What do we risk by getting involved?

A Religious Institution's Moral Authority

It is an interesting habit in society, how we often automatically give religious institutions certain "due" deference. They get a tip of the hat, a quick bow, or a heap of public cash. Just some niceties.

Now, we don't do this for all. When a new religious group arises, they get hazed (Catholics), beaten (Mormons), maybe killed (...Ahem.). But if they persevere long enough, they get in the club.

But, we give groups this deference, not due to actually enlightened thinking and understanding, but because that is what one does. Go back to England. Go back to Gaul. Go back to Rome. Go back to Israel. Go back to Uruk. Go back to the early gathering near a fire at night as a holy man spoke. It's just what we do.

So it falls on us over time to try and look at our little traditions and reevaluate them. See if our old assumptions hold up. And I know they reaction that gets, a hostile and negative one. Religion doesn't care to have to answer questions. At least, it doesn't care to have it's answers fact checked. Or it's actions judged and compared against other choices made.

But let's do that with the Catholic Church now. It is one of the larger religious forces at work in the United States, and has made a point of trying to place itself at the center or government policy and social progress. Trying to stop both.

So let's start there. The Church has worked angrily to try and enforce it's views. It has been a loud voice against expansion of gay rights, from adoption of children, to same-sex marriage, to employment protection. They have also pushed against access to abortion services. Also they have reproached access to contraceptives. This includes even when not payed for by them, or distributed by them. And in education, the Church has been a stalwart fan of misinformation on sex. It pushes abstinence, and has worked hard to spread false information on birth control options, to scare people away from them (And this has had a costly impact across Africa.).

And when the Church has felt push back, like when gay people are allowed to adopt, they threaten to remove their support of the system. And by support I mean, they take public cash to do what the state could do on it's own. So they threaten to dismantle established services, for children.

But they have a moral certainty in these actions. They know what is right and what is wrong. At least they say and suggest they do.

Excommunication, it's a serious act to take against one of faith. But it seems to be a useful tool of deterring people from stepping out of line, damning them for eternity. And recently we've seen a good example of it's use, against a mother and a doctor. A 9 year old girl faced years of repeated abuse by a stepfather (There is also a disabled sister who may also have been abused.). It resulted this year with the little girl becoming pregnant. Having discovered this, the mother agreed to allow an abortion for her daughter. And for this the doctor who did the procedure, and this mother, were damned to the fiery pits of Hell. Nice, huh? And the stepfather? The serial abuser of at least one young child he was raising? He's okay by the church. It's nice. Go to confession. Show contrition. You get to Heaven...unless you have any part in an abortion. Cause that is sick and evil...And at least he'll see his step daughter in Heaven, since she's too young to be excommunicated (The only reason she hasn't been cast into Hell.). And as bad as this one is, remember, this is a NINE YEAR OLD! She was carrying twins at 4 months! And the doctors told the mother, this pregnancy may likely kill your daughter. To save her life, they ended to pregnancy. And the Church has no compassion to share. It feels damn cruel and cold to me.

Response from Cardinal Re:
It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated. Life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian Church is unjustified.
Had a right to live? And the "mother?" What of her? Nothing. And, unjustified attack? Under you D&D magic system you've damned 2 people to Hell for saving a little girls life. And, as a "moral" leader, you feel your church cannot be questioned or challenged. How does any person not feel some level of contempt?

Early retirement is another topic to look at. You probably don't give it much thought, but priest do retire. No, it's not like Father Ted.

There', I don't care, really. It's early retirement I'm interested. And in particular, when it's sought by the Church for priest they'd rather no longer have to deal with. Like, say, their pedophilic lot. In Wisconsin, now cardinal, Timothy Dolan made pay offs to priests he wanted out of his hair. Up to $20,000 was given to these men so they would quietly leave the priesthood (As opposed to going around bragging about sexually abusing children?). So they covered up crimes. Then they made pay outs to the criminals. Then they fought to keep from paying compensation to the victims. And then also lied about the original pay outs to the criminals. This is a lot of messed up shit.

And, again, to tie to the other story, pedophiles in holy robes abusing kids, dismissed from office, but saved from Hell. Heck, many stayed in service. Mom and doctor, damned eternal.

This is an unfortunate attitude. But it's not held by all. Some nuns have taken certain stands. One is Margaret McBride, who was on a hospital ethics committee in California agreed with the rest of the committee to allow a life saving abortion. She was then excommunicated rapidly, with no dithering.

Other nuns, are speaking out still.

Crooks and Liars:

So many Catholics have told me how angry they are at the Vatican for coming down on nuns for the work they do with the poor -- instead of speaking out against abortions. Now some of those social-justice nuns will take to the highways to speak out against Paul Ryan's unChristian budget proposals...

They have opinions, views, and want to be heard. And have been getting louder over time. Hence hostility from the Vatican.
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage. 

“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.” 
 (Emphasis added.)

I didn't hear this hard of language against...certain priest...And all because they are concerned for the poor and the sick.

Have you also heard of a teacher at a Catholic school who initially was OK'ed to try and get pregnant via IVF, then later fired when Church higher ups learned, they were outraged and disgusted. She was called a "grave, immoral sinner." The Church is now opposed to IVF and all "artificial procreation." The bishop hearing her appeal said it was evil.

Amazing who's a sinner, and what is evil.

But thankfully, much of the membership of US Catholic churches have more evolved and understanding views (Guess they don't watch FOX News.). And offer some hope. But the actual church leadership is proving hard and cold. It is also eager to consolidate it's conservative credentials.

I'd suggest trying to look at these stories on Catholic news sites and organization sites to see how the more devote and single minded view them. It's quite different, like reading WND...or The Onion.

Oh, and feel free to look at the other religious institutions in society. You'll find much the same.