Monday, April 18, 2011

Some Semblence of Sanity in Arizona

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the "Birther Bill."  In her veto letter, she stated,
"I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions."
I think her past experience as Secretary of State gave her some insight into this that few other would have.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

So Long Dilbert, It Was Nice Knowing You

Last  year, there was a big dust up on the atheist blogosphere about someone who created a blog called "Your Not Helping" that basically was criticizing various other atheist bloggers claiming that their talking down on religion was not helping the atheist cause.  Or something to that affect.  He went after some of the bigger names with blog posts, and they responded to the criticisms with their own blogs.  As it turns out, what astute atheist blogger smelled something fishy, after doing a bit of digging around, discovered that the YNH blogger was using sockpuppets to support his positions in his comments section.  For those of you that don't know what sockpuppets are (and I'm not talking about real socks), here is a quick definition from Wikipedia.
A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception within an online community. In its earliest usage, a sockpuppet was a false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks with or about himself or herself, pretending to be a different person,[1] like a ventriloquist manipulating a hand puppet.
The YNH blogger eventually fessed up and tried several very poor attempts at an apology.   He went so far as to completely delete his website to remove any future evidence.  Unfortunately for him, several other bloggers cached his entire blog offline.  Once it's on the Internet, it is hard to get rid of it.

So, what does this have to do with Dilbert?  Nothing directly, but it has to do with Dibert's creator, Scott Adams.  He was recently outed as having a sockpuppet on his own site pretending to be his biggest fan.  So, that very fact is deceptive and pretty much makes you a prick.  But this alone was not really enough to question my fondness for Dilbert.  I recall seeing a news article about Adams a few weeks earlier about some rant he posted.  As it turns out, it was a huge misogynist rant that he later deleted due to the firestorm it caused.  So, he is deceptive and a misogynist.  Doing a little more research, I find out he is a creationist apologist and defender of Intelligent Design with outstanding reasoning such as this (as quoted from an old Pharyngula blog)
I take the practical approach — that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.
Brilliant.  Also, he is apparently a former member of Mensa.  According to the Wikipedia article, which is usually pretty snark free, "and thus presumably a former genius."

I'm not sure I can view a Dilbert cartoon in the same light anymore.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Give Them Raises!

Ed Brayton has the this post about a Texas state legislator who said the following,
"It's being done in Dearborn, Mich., because of a large population of Middle Easterners," Berman said, "and the judges in Dearborn are using and allowing to be used Sharia law." He mentioned the city six times throughout his testimony.
But when asked for evidence for that ridiculous claim:
"I heard it on a radio station here on my way in to the Capitol one day," Berman said Monday in an interview. "I don't know Dearborn, Michigan but I heard it (Sharia is accepted law here) on the radio. Isn't that true?"
Yes, he heard it on the radio station.  Rep. Leo Berman proposed legislation in the Texas legislature to ban Sharia law based on what he heard on the radio while driving into work.  I wonder if he was listening to Rush or Hannity?

A search of Ed's blog would show dozens more examples.  Here is a post from PZ Myers blog today, as said by Republican Frank Nicely of Tennessee,
"I think that if there's one thing that everyone in this room could agree on, that would be that Albert Einstein was a critical thinker. He was a scientist. I think that we probably could agree that Albert Einstein was smarter than any of our science teachers in our high schools or colleges. And Albert Einstein said that a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity."
That is a very interesting mis-quote or non-quote, especially when you consider that Einstein was a Secular Jew.

Basically, the state legislatures across the country and filled with a bunch of dumb, dim-witted, right-wing, Christian idiots.  It has often been asked why more intelligent, literate, and reasonably minded people don't run for office?  One simple answer is that it doesn't pay well enough.  However, as a society, we take vote down any possible pay raise for our state legislators because we feel that, for the most part, they don't deserve it.  And, that is true, for most of the ones currently in office.  But, you will never get enough of highly qualified legislators to run for office if you don't give the idiots in there now a raise.  Not to mention, it may reduce some of the under the table lobby money that gets thrown their way, or in the case of Arizona, Fiesta Bowl money.

I have voted for every pay raise on the state ballot for as long as I have been eligible to vote for this very reason.  By the way, the exact same argument can be made for why we don't have more excellent, highly qualified school teachers.  Not that we don't have some now, but there are nowhere near enough.

Unfortunately, the Republicans know this.  They know their only hope of maintaining majorities in the state legislatures is to be sure to dumb down the electorate so that their demagoguery will work.

Birther Madness!

The Arizona legislature has become the first in the country to pass a so-called Birther Bill.  The law, if signed, would basically require any presidential or vice-presidential candidate to prove their US citizenship to the Arizona Secretary of State for the purposes of being placed on the ballot.

I'm certainly no expert on constitutional or election law, but it would seem to me that the determination of a Federal candidate's citizenship for a Federal office is in the purview of the Federal Government.  Although they say it has nothing to do with Obama (yea, right!).

I see several ways this could play out.  First, the Obama Department of Justice could sue the state claiming that the right to determine citizenship if a federal issue and not a state issue.  However, if the Obama Administration did try this, then the conspiracy theorists would see that as proof positive that Obama is simply trying to hide is Kenyan birth for another term.  Second, Obama can give an electoral middle finger to Arizona and simply not bother to put his name on the ballot as a candidate for President.  He has no chance of winning Arizona anyway, so how bad would it look to Arizona to not have a Presidential candidate from one of the two major parties not on its ballot.  In fact, Arizona could end up with no candidate from the Dems or GOP (more on that later).  Again, conspiracy theorists would see this as proof positive that Obama is trying to hide his Kenyan birth by not placing himself in a situation where the "truth" would be told.  Funny how conspiracy theories are always proven true by contradictory evidence.  Third, he could submit the necessary forms as specified (the long birth form is not a requirement) and then wait and see if our Secretary of State is a birther and reject his bid.  In which case, the conspiracy theorists would say, "See, we told you so!"  Or, the Secretary of State could simply say, "Yes, he qualifies."  In which case, the conspiracy theorists would claim it is all a plot of the liberal media to hide the truth.  Oh, wait.  They already are.  Never mind.

Now, here is the irony.  A recent story from the Atlantic, is asking where Mitt Romney's birth certificate is?  I don't know what reason Romney has for not showing his birth certificate, and I pretty much don't care.  No candidate running for President in this day and age is going to get away with not being a U.S. Citizen.  There are simply too many public records and recorded history to get away with it.  I have no doubt Romney is a U.S. Citizen, and a natural born one at that.  But, what irony would it be if he refused to show this information to the Arizona Secretary of State and was not put on the ballot, assuming he wins the GOP nomination.  How cool would it be for Arizona to be the first state to ever cast its electoral votes for a third party candidate, because they are the only ones on the ballot.  Arizona would be the laughing stock of the nation, surpassing Alabama for that time.

What?  We already are the laughing stock of the nation?  Damn.  Alabama, you need to work hard to get the title back for The Most Bassackwards State in the Union.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gov. Brewer Does the Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

Gov. Brewer vetoed a bill that would have increased the state's tax credit for private school donations.  She claims that it would unbalance the budget.  While this is true, and it is a good thing to not add more of a burden on our state budget, the fact is that a lot of this money goes to religious schools and that is a direct subsidy of government money for a religious purpose.    Either way, it's a good thing she vetoed it.

She also vetoed a religious liberty bill.  This bill had some serious potential for unintended consequences.  Another good move on Brewer's part.

My New Facebook Page

In another effort to be a kinder, gentler Facebook friend, I have created a Facebook page for my blog. The link is Across the Rubicon.  I will be directing all of my blog posts as well as many of my shared links to this page instead of my personal page.  If you have any interest in continuing to read my opinions and shared posts on all manner of subjects, please go and "Like" me.  Also, I have linked this Facebook page with  my Twitter account RubiconAZ, so you can follow my various rants that way as well. 

Liking my page does not mean that you agree with me, it simply means that you are interested in what I have to say, so I welcome anyone who simply wants to follow along.  If you do agree with many of my opinions (and why wouldn't you?!), then great!  Feel free to join in the dialog.  I will probably continue to cross post for a week or so to be sure that all my wonderful, caring, and fun-loving friends, will get plenty of chances to see the new links and like me.

For those of you that I have oft offended, I can't really say that I apologize, because I do believe very strongly in the causes, facts, and opinions that I post.  It is one of the great things about this country and the rights we enjoy through our a First Amendment.  But I also understand that you don't always get a choice to not see what I have posted, unless you have already hidden me by now.

Since this thing is just getting kicked off, I still have quite a bit of things to do in terms of liking other pages and sorting those types of things out.  At any rate,  I hope to see you on the other page.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sheriff Babeu Telling More Tall Tales

I've highlighted the false claims of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu before.  He continues with his dubious claims as highlighted in this Arizona Republic article.  His claim is as follows,
Pinal County is "the No. 1 pass-through county in all of America for drug and human trafficking."
He also dished out this gem on Fox News, 
the sheriff told host Greta Van Susteren he's facing "one of the highest crime rates in America" and crime is "literally off the charts in Arizona."
But, the statistics dispute this,
An analysis of U.S. Census data and Department of Public Safety records shows 11 of Arizona's 15 counties have crime rates higher than Pinal County's. Residents of Maricopa County are victimized nearly twice as frequently as their neighbors to the south.
Pinal County records show violent crime plummeting over the past few years in every major category except homicides, where numbers are too small for statistical significance. Aggravated assaults in Pinal County decreased 29 percent since 2007. Armed robberies are down 41 percent. Border Patrol records indicate that illegal-immigrant apprehensions in Pinal County have declined every year since 2008.
With all of these  statistics, you would think Babeu would be claiming victory in the decreases in crime in his county instead of talking up how bad things are.

Here is another interesting statement,
"If this administration was truly committed to securing the border, they would have already implemented the . . . 10-Point Border Security Plan" advocated by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona. That proposal calls for more National Guard units, fences and other deterrents.
Why was he not screaming this during the Bush Administration.  Afterall, that is where the emphasis on controlling the borders over terror started.  Also, it was at Bush's insistence that the Mexican government get stronger on the drug cartels.  Since then, nearly 40,000 Mexicans have been killed.  No wonder they are fleeing for the border.  However, it is a Republican rule that you can not criticize Bush for anything that started in his administration.

Babeu has aligned himself very strongly with Senators Kyl and McCain.  It would not surprise me to see him run for Kyl's Senate seat with Kyl's backing.  The quickest path to an election victory for a Republican is fear, and Babeu has been learning that tactic very well over the last couple of years.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Myth About School Prayer

I've seen this little "poll," for lack of a better description, floating around Facebook.  Do you think they should put prayer back in school?

The question it is asking is flawed.  You see, prayer never left the schools.  There is no law anywhere, in any town, city, county, state, or federal level, that has banned prayer in school.  Nowhere.  The law simply doesn't exist.  Every child today, at any time, can legally pray at any time during the school day, as can any teacher, secretary, janitor, coach, or principal.  They can pray before a test, after a test, at recess, in the cafeteria, wherever.  That is what freedom of religion means.

What is NOT allowed is for any member of the school faculty to lead a prayer in which the children are required to participate.  That is what is in the Constitution.  That is what separation of church and state means.  Why should a Jewish kid, or a Buddhist kid, or even a Muslim kid have to be forced to listen to a Christian prayer in a public school?  Ask yourself, if they were to say a Muslim prayer, would you be OK with that?  Would you be OK with all the children going out to the playground and facing east to pray to Allah?  No, you wouldn't.  So why should it be OK for a Christian prayer.

Hasn't the bloodshed in Afghanistan over the Koran burning demonstrated how state sponsorship of religion is bad thing?

Hamid Kharzai has Blood on his Hands

Pastor Terry Jones got smart.  Rather than announce his big plans to burn a Koran, get his 15 minutes of fame, and back off at the last second like he did last year, this time, he just went ahead and did it.  On March 20th, Jones held a mock trial and presumably, the Koran was found guilty, so it was burned.  The media, for the most part, just ignored it.  Another religious kook who had his fame can easily be dismissed as just another bumbling idiot. 

Apparently that wasn't good enough.  Even the Afghan media even ignored it.  But, Hamid Kharzai decided he would just announce it in a speech and denounce the action.  Guess what happened then?  Dozens of innocent victims murdered by a crazed Muslim mob with their usual shouts of spewed religious hatred.  The religion of peace is going to have a more difficult time of it if Islamic leaders in the United States don't step up and take resounding stances against their fundamentalist brethren.  Even, then, as a society, we are passed the point of believing anything from any leader of Islam, whether abroad or locally.

Kharzai needs to bear some responsibility for lighting the fuse.  He had to know this was going to inflame people.  He is no ally to the U.S. if he can't keep his mouth shut.

Unfortunately, you don't hear a resounding condemnation of Jones from his Christian brethren either.  They aren't coming out in droves praising him, but the silence is deafening.

So, what is the lesson learned here?  Religion is intolerant, and apparently mute as well.  The silence says a lot about even moderate Christianity.  If they keep sitting on the fence, they are going to be pulling splinters out of their asses.