Not Fooling Anyone

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) signed legislation Thursday that allows business-owners to discriminate against pretty much anyone based on religious objections. Mainly because he thinks that he’s running for president in 2016 and feels he needs to pander to the religious fundamentalists in the Republican base.

Naturally, same-sex couples, gays and lesbians, along with perhaps even mixed-race couples and random minorities will be impacted the most, creating a convenient loophole for business-owners to refuse service to anyone who might make the business-owner feel icky.

The law is the first of at least a dozen proposals nationwide, a last gasp for anti-gay conservatives in the face of, among other things, legal and recognized same-sex marriages. But what it achieves is a return to the pre-Civil Rights Act era when bigoted shop owners could refuse service to African-Americans and other minorities.

Along those lines, you might be familiar with the story of Ollie’s Barbecue in Birmingham, Alabama. The owner, Ollie McClung Jr., sued the government in 1964 following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, insisting that allowing black customers in his restaurant would drive away the white customers. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously against McClung, upholding the Civil Rights Act. With this precedent in mind, it’s difficult to imagine the Indiana law holding up in court.

But let’s say it does. The Court today is loaded with neanderthals like Justices Scalia and Alito, and it’s difficult to imagine legitimate precedent topping the brute force of their obvious ideological bias. So, anything can happen, you don’t need to look any further than the Hobby Lobby decision.

The question remains however: If a religious objection is based on a business-owner being worried about violating biblical dogma and potentially committing a sin, where’s the chapter and verse pertaining to selling cakes to gay people?

In other words, where’s the part of the Bible in which God or any other character condemns the selling of goods and services to gay people or gay couples as a trespass? Don’t bother trying to find it because, as I alluded to in the last post, it’s not in there. The Bible has a few lines condemning same-sex intercourse, but there aren’t any “activist judges” or lawmakers forcing Christians to engage in gay sex, requiring this series of “religious freedom” laws.

Again, this law is about giving religious people the freedom to refuse to sell goods and services to customers because doing so would violate their religious beliefs. But those beliefs have to be based on some kind of biblical teaching and there aren’t any passages suggesting or even hinting at the idea that selling a pie to a so-called sinner also makes the pie-seller a sinner.

In order to legally justify a religious objection, shouldn’t a Christian business-owner cite biblical evidence for his or her objection? And if they do, what will they cite in this case? “It’s just what I believe” doesn’t cut it.

Now, where the issue gets sticky is the matter of officiating same-sex marriages. In that case, I’m not sure that same-sex couples would necessarily want to be married by someone who vocally objects to their marriage. Then again, there are religious same-sex couples who’d like to be married in a religious service by an officiant from their church.

The church could object based on the biblical references forbidding same-sex intercourse, or papal mandates, however marriage isn’t sex and officiating a marriage isn’t a direct endorsement of sex. Again, the Bible only forbids a man having sex with other man, not performing a wedding that will likely lead to the participants having sex. In the Catholic Church, the Pope can establish rules that augment what’s in the Bible. The Pope’s words are, in effect, the words of God and Pope Francis has condemned same-sex marriage. Catholic priests, therefore, could cite a specific ruling. That’s just the ballgame.

All told, this is a huge step backward. Obviously. It’s the return of segregation, not only impacting the LGBT community but all minorities (the Bible can, and was, used to justify segregation, slavery, etc). The sooner this makes it to the Supreme Court, the better. Until then, anyone with religious objections better know their Bible because they need to be prepared to cite the explicit basis for their objections.

A Quick Guide to Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz

The first GOP candidate to declare their intentions to run for president was Dr. Ben Carson, who followed his announcement with a disastrous interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show during in which he erroneously cited the origins of Islam and suggested the Baltics weren’t part of NATO. Not a very strong start for the first candidate to hop into the clown car.

Next up: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is set to ride shotgun, announcing his candidacy on Monday at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Let’s talk about Cruz by way of a refresher on what he’s all about.

Doh! Canada

Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1970 to an American mother and a (insane) Cuban father. Sound familiar? The only difference between the presidency-related birth circumstances of President Obama and Ted Cruz is that Obama was actually born in the United States and Ted Cruz was not.

Of course this doesn’t matter because Obama is black with a funny-sounding name and Cruz is a white guy named “Ted,” so it’ll be assumed that Cruz is totally a natural born citizen while Obama isn’t. That seems fair.

Legally-speaking, Ted Cruz is perfectly eligible to be president based on the citizenship status of his mother, just like Barack Obama, especially given how the latter was born in Hawaii. But don’t expect a (fake) investigation by Donald Trump or any mass freakouts by a legion of conspiracy theorists over Cruz’s eligibility to be president because, again, he’s a white Republican. Anything is okay if you’re a white Republican.

No Experience Necessary

We have to wonder whether the GOP will retract its argument that a first term senator with no business experience shouldn’t be president. Cruz just completed his second year in the U.S. Senate, almost exactly the same amount of time Barack Obama had served before declaring his campaign for the Democratic nomination back in 2007.

Furthermore, Cruz has roughly the same private sector experience as Obama, having worked in law before entering public service. Beyond that he has no business experience to speak of, which is pretty astonishing given how Obama was relentlessly attacked in 2008 for only serving in Washington for two years and not accumulating any business management experience.

Green Eggs and (Very) Stupid

Ted Cruz’s biggest claim to fame came when he filibustered the removal of Obamacare de-funding language from a continuing resolution to fund the government. During the all-night self-beclowning, Cruz famously read the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham, obviously for the “I do not like it” line, correlating it to how he doesn’t like Obamacare.

He read it cover-to-cover, and must’ve been shocked by the ending when the main character ends up (whoops!) loving green eggs and ham after finally trying it. That’s right, Cruz fumbled a Dr. Seuss metaphor. Put another way: screw the 3 a.m. phone call litmus test, we now have to ask whether our presidential candidates can accurately comprehend the moral of a children’s book.

Ted Cruz the Prop Comic

Last year, Ted Cruz went on rampage against net neutrality. I know. Yawn. But in lockstep with the conservative entertainment complex, Cruz repeated all of the opposite-day lies about how net neutrality would lead to something, something, government tyranny.

One day, he decided to start his very own talking point, rather than just robotically repeating the off-the-shelf talking points. Cruz suggested that net neutrality would somehow restrict technological expansion and innovation, and used the iPhone as an example of technology that wouldn’t have been discovered if it had been regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. He even held up an iPhone as a prop during a speech to a group of young people and said:

When you regulate a public utility, it calcifies it — it freezes it in place. Let’s give a simple contrast. The Telecommunications Act of 1934 was adopted to regulate these [brings out an old rotary-dial phone]. To put regulations in place and what happened? It froze everything in place. This is regulated by Title II. [pulls out an iPhone] This is not.

Again, Cruz fumbled the demonstration. Of course the iPhone is regulated by the federal government. How do we know this? Look at the back of your iPhone and you’ll see several logos including an Apple logo and, yes, an FCC logo.

Reckless Ted

According to the Republicans and the press during the Ebola scare last year, we should all be dead now. The fact that we’re not is enough evidence that the panic was falsely amplified for the sake of dramatic flair. At one point CNN even hosted a medical-fiction author to discuss how quickly Ebola would become airborne and kill everyone.

In terms of the Republicans, it became abundantly clear that they were exaggerating the threat as a means of attacking the Obama administration for not, I don’t know, not exercising enough big government? That moment of clarity came when the Senate Republicans refused to approve Obama’s nominee for surgeon general in the middle of what we were being told was a massive public health crisis.

Leading the charge against the nominee was Ted Cruz. And why was Cruz holding up the nomination in the midst of the Ebola “crisis?” Because Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was eventually confirmed, once tweeted something about gun control. Cruz said:

Of course we should have a surgeon general in place. And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist.

In other words, screw the (alleged) Ebola threat while we genuflect before the altar of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA. Priorities, right?

Clairvoyant Ted

Ted Cruz has his own coloring book just in case your kids are creepily into coloring a doughy tea party homophobe who knows less about the moral of Green Eggs and Ham than they do.

One of the pages features the following line:

Speaking with clairvoyant precision, it was as if Ted could see the immediate future of the quickly approaching Obama Care disaster.

Now, I know it’ll be difficult, but make sure your kids don’t fight over this page too viciously. But yeah, Cruz is apparently clairvoyant. You know how I know he’s not? Because Obamacare isn’t a disaster at all, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

For one, it’s responsible for the fewest uninsured Americans in 40 years. Costs are being controlled. The exchanges, including the Healthcare.gov exchange, are working fine and the second open enrollment period went off without a hitch, even though we didn’t hear much from the “liberal media” about it. Cruz is no more clairvoyant than a “guess your age and weight” carnie, and the carnies are right a lot more often.

No One’s Forcing Ted Cruz to Marry a Guy

Finally, Ted Cruz is leading marketer of the “same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty” nonsense. Simply put, Cruz believes that marriage equality will strip anti-gay religious people of their First Amendment rights. Cruz and others believe that, for example, a business should be able to refuse service to gay people because the Bible forbids homosexuality. Just a few days ago, Cruz said:

[T]he federal government and unelected judges cannot set aside the democratically-elected legislatures’ reasonable decisions to enact and protect traditional marriage. […] If the courts were following the Constitution, we shouldn’t need a new amendment, but they are, as you put it quite rightly, making it up right now and it’s a real danger to our liberty.

It’s a wafer-thin argument that we’ve seen before. First of all, the Bible forbids a lot of mundane things (eating shellfish, trimming your beard), and permits a lot of really awful things (slavery, child abuse).

Furthermore, no judge or lawmaker is pushing a law that mandates Christian men to have sex with other men, the so-called “abomination” that the Bible forbids. Conversely, there’s nothing in the Bible that forbids Christians from selling cakes or otherwise doing business with homosexual people. So anti-discrimination laws aren’t forcing Christians to violate biblical dogma in any way, thus these rulings aren’t violations of religious liberty. And Ted Cruz is an idiot.

Anything Else?

Yes, he’s also an insane conspiracy theorist:

Ted Cruz is a hardlined paleoconservative who represents the GOP’s harrowing conjugal union with the tea party. He’s a political demon whose soft-spoken persona and sad-clown eyebrows allow him to get away with the most poisonous Obama Derangement Syndrome fappery in Congress. He represents the new GOP cynicism, elevating anti-Obama pandering to his unglued base above actual governing.

But worry not. Ted Cruz isn’t win a damn thing other than a bump in his speaking fees due to his newly ordained status as a “presidential candidate” which is why he’s running in the first place.

 

Tour the Solar System AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT

An eye-opening new video really puts the sheer size of the solar system in perspective. It shows that even if you travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), the trek from the sun to the Earth and other planets takes a really long time.

The 45-minute-long video, created by Los Angeles-based artist Alphonse Swinehart and posted on Vimeo Jan. 26, starts at the sun and zooms out into the solar system. You reach the Earth and our moon at around 8:20, and the journey ends after reaching Jupiter and its moons at around 43:20.

Watch and feel insignificant:

Don’t Tell Me What to Do!

Pesident Obama (correctly) says parents should vaccinate their children so of course, Republican and conservative pundits are now against it.

Fox News troll Sean Hannity was accompanied on his show last night by the “Fox News Medical A-Team” who indicated that we should been vaccinating our children (but it shouldn’t be mandatory), while Hannity insisted that he is “not trusting President Obama” to tell him “whether to vaccinate” his kids.

If President Obama is for it, we have to be against it.

Meanwhile, Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) told MSNBC that the last thing we need is the oppressive big government telling us what to do.

I want that to be my choice as a parent,” Duffy, a father of seven, said said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rundown With José Díaz-Balart.” “I know my kids best. I know what morals and values are right for my children. I think we should not have an oppressive state telling us what to do.

It’s not much of a  stretch to say that the GOP’s vaccine contrarianism and trutherism will endanger even more children’s lives. That’s exactly what it has done and will continue to do.

Although I am looking forward to that moment when the presidential hopefuls are asked to raise their hands if they believe vaccination should be a choice.

Americans vs. Scientists

A study published in the journal Science last week found that Americans are seriously misinformed when it comes to scientific topics like evolution, the safety of GM foods and vaccinations, as well as humanity’s role in climate change. The survey, jointly conducted by the Pew Research Center and American Association for the Advancement of Science, compared opinions about scientific matters of the public and AAAS’ member scientists:

The results are…discouraging. Thirty-one percent of Americans believe that humans have been in “their present form” since their creation, while 24 percent believe that humans evolved but under the guidance of some God-like figure. Only 2 percent of AAAS scientists do not believe in evolution (which is scary in and of itself).

The numbers were even worse when it came to climate change. Only half of the those surveyed agreed with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change view that climate change is mostly driven by human activity. Nearly half said there was either no good evidence for global warming, or that the recent warming of the Earth was due to natural climate variability.

Alan Leshner, the CEO of AAAS and Executive Publisher of Science said:

“There is a disconnect between the way the public perceives science and the way that scientists see science. Scientists need to do something to turn this around.”

Personally, I would place the majority of the blame on the media, with their bias toward appearing neutral instead of being objective when it comes to matters of scientific consensus, rather than on the scientists themselves.