On Evolution, Science and Healthcare

Dear Corporate Leaders; It's called "evolution"

Nothing, not even viruses *just happened* (never mind that the existence of life is not what evolution describes. Perhaps life is everywhere in the universe, just waiting for the right conditions to spring up. No one knows) evolution describes, and is the only explanation that fits, how the many forms of life on this planet came to exist. It's a lot like gravity. It doesn't depend on your acceptance or belief to function as it does; it just does. If you understand it you can create things like animal companions that meet specific needs (in that sense breeders have understood evolution for centuries) and modern medicine, including drugs like the morning after pill that prevents conception (the myth that The Pope declares begins life) and hormone drugs that treat various feminine diseases as well as preventing pregnancy.

...and anything that calls itself a *health care plan* should include those drugs.

The government should handle all parts of public health. Vaccinations, regular examinations, emergency care, maintenance drugs, etc. We,the people, should take back control of our government from the MIC, and force it to spend the taxes it already takes from us, on US. There is more than enough (we'd all get tax breaks, even) to pay for the kinds of services that Europe already enjoys. They have better healthcare in Mexico than we do here. If the wealthy want Cadillac service, they should be allowed to purchase it on their own. Public health should not be left to the whims of the individual and the budgets of the poor.

Evolution, as I said, is not subject to belief. My belief, your belief, the Pope's belief. It is a process that occurs whether we will it or not. God has no hand in it, because if god interferes with the real world, that interference can be measured. No such influence has ever been detected. Spinoza might have a point (and Einstein loved Spinoza) about the universe being god, but that god is not the god that most people believe in. Humans evolved from earlier (I won't say lower because that's another misunderstanding) forms of hominids which we have documented in the fossil record. It's simply the way it IS. If we ever have a hope of retaining our (imagined) place in the world, we are going to have to embrace science.

I'll never understand libertarians who deride government and their ability to use force; and at the same time trumpet corporations while they use force. It is the same force, exercised by the same types of legal fictions, one (The Government) creating the other (The Corporation) If libertarians are opposed to coercion, force and fraud then they necessarily must place both corporations and government in the same category of *evil which must be stopped*. Just another reason I don't bother to call myself libertarian anymore.

Public health is *exactly* what the government was formed for, if we're talking about healthcare. If you care about public health, you should care that all individuals get immunized, get regular checkups, and are provided with maintenance medications for ailments. Emergency care requires investments in infrastructure, training and employment of professionals. It realistically requires government oversight.

To not have the government involved in public health is to not have a government at all. Anarchy not minarchy.

(Published herehere and here on Facebook. Two of my most commented upon status updates to date)

On the Third Day of Christmas

"There is a Santa Claus but it's an idea, it's not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Clause"
- Rebecca Watson (the Skepchick) relating her father's discussion SGU#74
Despite creating a draft more than 6 months ago in order to update and combine my previous rantings on the subject of Christmas lists, Day Two and Santa Claus, the new version never materialized (I blame an obsession with World of Warcraft. It's a handy excuse) and now it's once again after Christmas and no Christmas post this year.  My apologies to anyone expecting one.

I have been listening to back issues of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe lately (much like I went through all the Freethought Radio after I discovered it) and I made it a point to get to a Christmas release before Christmas Day. It was a nice treat, discovering the above quote in episode #74.   I have long thought that skeptics and atheists take too narrow a view of the world, and the need for fantasy material that drives the mind of the average child. 

...I would balk at feeding my children stories like Rebecca's family does (the entire exchange in that section of the podcast is hilarious) but then we keep a very large library of YA literature in the house for a reason. Both The Wife and I are voracious readers and have been all our lives. The escape provided by Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and old standbys like The Lord of the Rings are a necessary part of a developing imagination.

Another Abramanation on the Horizon

For some reason I 'liked' Star Trek on Facebook (an error I intend to correct shortly) so I was jarred out of a fanciful daydream when this image appeared on my wall.  Yes, that is a nacelle, coming up out of the water.

For those who may not remember, we've covered my rejection of Abrams' work on Star Trek in the past (the label Abramanation is assigned here)  as well as my long term unhappiness with where the franchise has been going dating back to before the series Enterprise was rolled out. This is not a sudden separation from Trek on my part, but a well thought out and gradual withdrawal from the fan scene.  I simply don't have enough in common with current fans to have an interest in the ins and outs of fandom any longer. 

As the comments followed on the image I was appalled to note this entry;
"If you think about it a submarine is very much like a starship. It makes sense that to hide a space vessel waters like a large ocean or lake. It is completely sealed and pressurized. Why not hide it under water?"
This is why Star Trek and science fiction in general have become so dumbed down. There is absolutely no engineering resemblance between a space vessel designed to hold air in, and a submarine designed to keep water out. Not similar, at all. But to the layman it's a "woo-woo" moment. "Look, it's underwater!" (eyeroll) Oh, really.

Before fans of the franchise pop up with objections, I'd like to offer the following list of observations;
  1. I don't accept the premise that "any Trek is better than no Trek" voiced by some of  the commenters to that thread, and by fans I've talked to in the past. I would specifically prefer no Trek to continuing Abramanations, which is ultimately why I no longer refer to myself as a Trekkie or a Trek fan. The franchise has gone somewhere I do not wish to follow.
  2. I don't "hate" the abramanations. On some levels they are quite enjoyable as most eye candy is; the problem is that Star Trek has never been simply entertainment to me. I don't become a 20 year fan of things that are simply entertaining. I'm not a fan of Gilligan's Island, although I laughed while watching nearly every episode. Consequently when Star Trek crossed over into the "just entertainment" category, I stopped being a fan of it. Like it or not, I don't care.
  3. There are specific problems with every single SF venture that Lindloff and Abrams are involved in; generally it amounts to not paying enough attention to established factual science (like the engineering issue I pointed out previously) not developing believable characters because of lazy story plotting ("Isn't it cute?") and not enough research into established canon. When combined, you have a final product that is nearly unwatchable to the technically educated, ridiculous to the trained storyteller, and offensive to the hardcore fan.
This is why there are so many vocal objections to the latest iterations of various franchises that the average popcorn chewer will dismiss as a hater. It's not hatred to offer valid criticism for what is a weak effort from people who are being well paid (over paid, from my perspective) and provided with lavish budgets to produce what could be very high quality artistic works, if only they took the time (see James Cameron) to do the due diligence that an undertaking of this magnitude requires. 

 In Other Words, promoters of the current Abramanation, don't ask for opinions if you don't want opinions.

I finally did see this film edited for television recently (sometime in 2016) I wrote about it here.

For America? That Depends on How You Define America.

The Facebook group For America scrolled across my newsfeed today.   It advertised itself with the demand that you,
"Like if you miss Ronald Reagan."
Iran-Contra? The S&L meltdown? No, I don't miss Reagan, because I remember what it was like to live during Reagan's time (only marginally better than Carter's time) But the key to understanding "for America" and their linkage to Ronald Reagan is Reagan's introduction of fundamentalist christianity to the political scene (the code phrase "judeo-christian values") leading almost directly to the debacle of the last election with prominent elected Republicans seeming incapable of discussing anything other than rape.

...but For America's real reason to exist is right their on their front page, repeal Obamacare. Talk about living in the past. And this sham group hopes to trick people into liking their page and all the baggage that brings with an appeal to good-old-dayism. Reagan would be proud.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

The Anarchist Fallacy

I have never been an anarchist. I find anarchists to be some of the most delusional (and generally harmless) people around. Humans have always adhered to some form of tribal authority, and work best in groups aligned on a common goal. An individual can survive, but it cannot thrive without the group and its greater than the sum of its parts compiled results. To suggest that we can simply do away with governments and tribal authority and replace it with nothing is to ignore reality; and the solutions offered by anarchists as a replacement don't look any better to me than current government.

When you pull that trigger on a trespasser, just remember, you are government doing violence on someone who has explicitly chosen to disregard your conceptualization of property and rights. You are applying force to someone who, specifically, has not agreed to be bound by your conceptualization of where your rights end and his begin. It is an application of your personal self-government on another person.

As far as the tax argument goes; utilizing services paid for in advance through taxes, without paying taxes, is also theft. Fire, police, emergency services, roads, etc. all require investment in advance in order for them to be available when needed. The populations of the various nations have clearly stated their desire for these services to be provided; and to the extent that the actual costs of these services are accurately levied as taxes, those taxes are not theft but the actual cost of living in the society that you were born into or chose to migrate to. It's called the social contract; and no, you aren't required to sign it in order for it to be in force.

Attempting to live in the society and not utilize the labor of others, not utilize the services paid for by others, is an exercise in futility. So many thousands of man-hours go into the computer systems that run the internet; are you certain that every person who contributed to this conversations ability to exist was voluntarily employed, fully compensated, and wants for nothing further that should be his right to ask? How then can you say that you owe nothing to society? That the bills government asks you to pay are completely unwarranted theft?

A BBS comment of mine harvested from somewhere on the internet.

Vice Presidential Debate Breakdown

I still want to know why I have to wait for The Daily Show to get a proper breakdown of news events in the US.

Pretty much sums it up. Then in the second segment;
The Lost Language of Journalism being spoken on modern television. I couldn't believe it. Martha Raddatz [kisses]

...anyone (I'm looking at you FOX) who watched that debate and didn't see that Biden won it hands down, and that the moderator was sharp as a tack and willing to take on both sides, is simply lying to themselves. Or as Jon put it;
To sum up FOX's post-debate coverage; Joe Biden was an angry, demented, abusive, drunk, old crazy person, who mopped the floor with our guy.
Full episode link; http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/mon-october-15-2012-j-k--rowling

....and J.K. Rowling is a shining example of the benefits to making sure that the poorest among us deserve to be cared for.  

Irish Athiests; More Common than Leprechauns

Michael Nugent is making the rounds here in the US, apparently. He is chair of Atheist Ireland and while on this week's FreethoughtRadio he made the comment;
There is more likely to be leprechauns than a god
Spoken like a true Irishman.

Earlier in the podcast he had cited figures for a religion poll that set the Irish population at 47 percent religious, 43 percent non-religious; 10 percent convinced atheists, and that the Catholic church is now having to import priests for Ireland instead of exporting priests from Ireland.

He also touched on the problem of blasphemy laws in Ireland and the work they are doing there politically as well as charties they are promoting world-wide. All in all the best podcast from FFRF I've head in awhile.

Mitt Romney: Richer Means Superior

 Stealing Cenk's Title, because I'm just going to embroider his conclusion with some pointed thought;
Romney's deeply offensive comments about the Palestinians probably won't hurt him in the election at all. There is no group in America you can insult with more impunity than Palestinians and Arabs. That doesn't hurt your electoral chances, it might even help. But what does hurt is the overwhelming sense you get from Romney that he is looking down his nose at you. This son of a bitch actually thinks he's better than the rest of us because he was born to a mega-rich dad, figured out how to cheat the system at Bain and hid away so much of his money abroad (tax avoidance was an enormous contributor to his fortune - do you have any idea how much more you save up if you pay 10% in taxes a year rather than 35%). Now, that doesn't sit so well.

Who wants to have a beer with a guy who thinks he'd rather be having a Chardonnay with one of his equals? To Mitt, we're all Palestinians.
This obvious attitude (and it's acceptance by his supporters) stems from reading Atlas Shrugged and thinking that you (Mitt Romney) are one of the members of Galt's Gulch when in fact you are a lowly James Taggert. He would have to be, since government largesse is the biggest reason he has money.

More on the hopeless outlook for Republicans

More on just how hopeless the outlook is for Republicans this election year can be found at Freethought blogs.
I would have thought that it was a relief, a minor bit of unconcern, that Mitt Romney nominally supports evolution (he’s one of those waffly theistic evolutionists, so he doesn’t really…but at least he wouldn’t be brazenly contradicting all of the evidence). But there’s a potential problem looming: who will he pick for vice president? Who does he turn to advice on education? Ken Miller discusses the situation, and points out that his key advisor on education reform and potential VP pick is…
Bobby Jindal, creationist governor of Louisiana.
Mitt is still trying to convince conservatives that he's a real Conservative.  But what he should be worried about (if he wants to win the election) is proving to the rest of us that he's really not completely loony like the base of his party.

There's always the hope that the LP has their game face on. For once.

Clueless Texas GOP; Not just a Governor Issue

Here I was thinking that what Texas needed was a new governor, having had to apologize for his behavior over the last few years.  After reading about the new Texas GOP platform, I'm actually embarrassed that my voter ID says "Republican" on it.  Gong have to get a new card I guess, because what Texas needs is a new majority party.

In the news, Texas GOP Cuts Nose Off to Spite Face, Then Stupidly Looks Up in a Rainstorm and Drowns.

Texas GOP Platform: Don’t Teach Kids Critical Thinking Skills!
Remember when Texas State Board of Education member David Bradley criticized teachers and scholars who were crafting new language arts and reading curriculum standards for Texas schools back in 2008? Having students actually think about what they were reading didn’t seem like a good idea to Bradley:
“I’m sorry. This critical thinking stuff is gobbledygook.”
Well, Bradley’s fellow Republicans appear to agree. The 2012 Texas GOP platform adopted this month in Fort Worth includes the following gem:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
So the Texas GOP worries that teaching kids to think is a threat to parental authority. Who knew?
I'd like to explain what this stand by the Texas GOP means, but I'm afraid I'd look like an amateur next to the unequaled Stephen Colbert and his The Word segment;

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - On the Straight & Narrow-Minded
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Apparently I'm just not narrow minded enough to fit in with the GOP anyway.

Central Mistake of Obama Administration

I've touched on this subject before. Sometimes the truth is worth repeating. From Cenk Uygur, that bastion of liberalism, we have this;
The Mandate Is the Perfect Symbol of the Central Mistake of Obama Administration

The individual mandate in the health care law was originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation, the most conservative think tank in the country. It was supported by almost every Republican in the country, including the first President Bush, Mitt Romney and conservative stalwarts like Orrin Hatch. Simply put, it was a conservative idea. There is no question about that; it is a fact.

Let me immediately digress to point out how terrible our media is since about 2% of the country knows that fact. If you asked the average American now, I'm sure they would say it was a liberal idea originally proposed by Barack Obama. Another fact -- Barack Obama was originally opposed to the mandate during his campaign for president.

So, this brings us to the central problem with President Obama's administration. They were under the unbelievably mistaken impression that if they worked with the Republicans, compromised with them and gave them what they wanted, that the Republicans would react likewise. Progressives (and anyone that was paying attention to politics in the last decade) warned them that would not be the case. We were dismissed. Now look at what's happened.
Yes, this is two week old news, and we now know that the SCOTUS has ruled to let the mandate stand; and we also know through yet another attempt at repealing Obamacare that the Republicans have no shame, no shame at all, in their grandstanding attempts to prove that the mandate is not their idea. But it is their idea, and we are fools if we fall for their lies again.

JFK Conspiracy Solved; Oswald Shot Him.

I found that these videos, when put together, definitively link Oswald to the killing of Kennedy.  First off is The Kennedy Assassination - Beyond Conspiracy clips of which are assembled here;

The second source of video was a very detailed recreation of the exact poses of the victims taken from Zapruder film footage, that were mocked up by Anatomical Surrogates Technologies for the  documentary JFK: Beyond The Magic Bullet(full video available in three parts here) While the shot does appear to strike too low, it doesn't negate the fact that the "magic bullet" was nothing of the kind.

...conspiracy theorists will of course come up with reasons why this proves nothing. Personally I see no reason to continue pretending that Oswald did not kill Kennedy.  If you feel the forensic tests are simply not enough evidence, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of Case Closed.  If Posner can't convince you, then no one will.

LFR - Some Things Were Improvements

This is months late, I'm sure. Still, it bears mentioning that I am thankful that Blizzard took the time to create a version of endgame content that could be played by the casual gamer. For the first time since we started playing World of Warcraft three years ago, the rest of the family (who definitely meet the definition of casual players) have been able to experience raid format play, and have been able to take down the main bosses for an expansion while the expansion is still current.

Seriously, this is a heartfelt "thank you" on that score.  Please, keep that up.

I find myself amazed that I am still playing, after more than a year since my last post where I promised I was going to quit when my script ran out that May. I'm pretty sure it was the annual pass and the bribe of a free copy of Diablo III (which I have been playing more than WoW of late. We own multiple copies of Diablo I and II, that one was a no-brainer) that keeps me on the script list.  It's not the endgame play which, other than the LFR, has pretty much evolved into what Wrath was right before Cataclysm came out; die hards continuing to play content that they've memorized by now, casual players drifting in and out, mat farmers complaining about node ninjas and auction house junkies complaining about not being able to get what they want for stuff that no one wants to buy.

I have to say that the professions are about as useful, more or less, at this point as they were then too.  After the initial bumps of getting the XP going, the programmers have managed to roll out gear that can be created with a reasonable amount of mats, and can be used to gain access to heroics and the LFR. Can't ask for more than that at this point.

Now for that post about the Panda Expansion in Beta...

Conservative? Liberal?

Posted originally here. I will personally drink a celebratory toast, when Rush Limbaugh finally goes off the air.  Not that I've posted on the subject of Limbaugh Lies before, or anything like that.

I live in the middle of a very angry red conservative state; by design, in the chill blue liberal heart of it. I find it funny when people from outside say "they", and then misattribute what it is that "they" think.

I'm drowning in conservative (and religious) expression around here. You can't escape it. What is going on is really rural vs. city life clashing; the reality of the fact that large groups of people working near each other can achieve more than a single person working on his own. The rural insight, the midwestern work ethic, is that you have to work hard to get ahead. Everything must be struggled for, including basic needs like shelter and food. The idea that something as complex as healthcare could ever be provided without cost to the end-user is as foreign a concept to them as having crops harvest themselves and bring themselves to market. It just doesn't happen in the experience of your average 'red state' person. They are convinced that the poor get something that they aren't entitled to, since they don't have to work to get it. All forms of assistance are cheating (as a disabled person, I see this virtually every time I admit that I don't work) because someone has to pay for that, and you didn't earn it.

They are angry, and conservative outlets like Fox news and Limbaugh tell them that their anger is justified.

But it really is just manipulation. Of the top 1% who control 95% of the country's wealth, how many of them go out and earn a days wage? Let's go further down the food chain, though. Amongst the angry 'red' crowd, how many of you actually get out and sweat in the sun all day earning a living?

Some of the angriest people I know only have time to be angry, because they aren't doing a job they are happy with and it doesn't occupy them. But they get to stay indoors out of the sun. By contrast, some of the happiest people I ever worked with worked in the sun all day (oddly, a good portion of them would probably be deported by the angry people) actually doing the work that angry conservatives think they do themselves. The angriest conservatives are city people with a rural attitude that no longer reflects the reality of the lives they lead. Were they not sermonized to, at every opportunity, about the evils of the lazy immigrant and the poor, they might actually come to this realization themselves.

...and that's the crux of the problem. When I point out to people (as I've done a few times) that you cannot know personally that every person involved in creating the products that you use has been fairly compensated for their work, and so consequently you cannot know whether the assistance beneficiary paid their 'fair share' and are simply receiving the benefits of someone who worked honestly to get it, they go through the roof in anger. It contradicts the worldview of the average conservative, that getting something without paying a fee for it directly is always going to be cheating the system. Before you disagree with me, ask yourself; if someone sues an insurance company and wins a big check, do you feel happy for them? How about if they don't have to sue, but get a nice big payout anyway? Do you doubt they earned that payout? Really?

Is a liberal worldview better? No. Most liberals I know (and I am a liberal. Have been one all my life) have no clue how things get done. They just expect things to happen when they want it, and couldn't begin to explain how the systems around them work. In my experience, the group effort's resultant extra payout is in large part squandered by the 'middle managers' who really are the lazy people in the equation. They're the ones who don't want to do the front line grunt work, and don't want the attention that upper management gets. It's why groups like Romney's company will slash that part of the workforce first. At worst upper management will have to deal with the front line directly for awhile (this is how you get a fiscal conservative like Romney running as a Republican. Strange bedfellows) a liberal sees these actions as detrimental, because they only see the loss of paid positions. Ask stockholders if they think cost cutting is a bad idea, though.

In the end, both sides of the spectrum are wrong; and they are wrong for the wrong reasons. The conservatives are convinced that a return to our roots is required (as if that's even vaguely possible) and talk about morals and religion as if that's the work ethic enshrined; it's not. The liberals talk about safety nets and the rich, as if the rich didn't get where they were by crafting their own safety net; as if they could simply print money until everyone has enough. There really does need to be a work ethic, and there really is enough wealth in this country that we can afford to keep people from dying on the streets (and don't tell me it doesn't happen. Happens all the time) I just wish the hate would stop. Tired of the stupid people hating. Bad for the heart, you'll end up a burden on society.