Ramblings

Usually drunken.

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Update

Jan 19, 2011, 11:43 am by Paul Stiverson

Howdy everybody, I’m sure my tiny group of readers has dwindled since it has been so damned long since I’ve posted anything. Sorry about that, just ran out of stuff to talk about I guess. Anyhow I’ll post a little update about life right now, and I think I’ve some things to say again so expect upcoming updates.

To begin things, I finished my Master’s Degree many moons ago (I’m a master of science. Take that, Bitches). I had posted that I wanted to work on a Ph.D., but I’ve abandoned that plan due to lack of research interests. I’ve been filling my days with tutoring, and my evenings with dancing. I’m going out on a limb and focusing my efforts on being a professional ballroom dancer. My teacher has taken me under her wing, and has been formally grooming me to teach and dance as a career. I’m happy to announce that I’m now available to teach as an associate of Susan’s Ballroom Dance, if you want some lessons you can get in touch and we can schedule a lesson.

As a happy result of focusing so intently on dancing I lost 75 pounds in the last year. I still have a bit to go before I start building a permanent wardrobe, but I’m extremely happy with my results thus far.

In other news, I was arrested for aggravated gardening. I’ll probably tell the story more completely in the near future. The case has been resolved: my charge was pled down to a misdemeanor and I’m serving 2 years of probation, paying $2000 in fines, and serving 200 hours of community service. Justice served. For community service I’m going to try to start a dance program at a local community center, barring that I’ll do whatever they ask of me. If you are sympathetic to the cause then you can donate to my fines and legal defense fund, I’ll choreograph you a dance in return. I’ll probably have a series of posts relating to the joys of community supervision. One of the terms of probation is that I cannot consume alcohol, or enter the premises of any establishment that profits primarily from the sale of alcohol (What alcohol has to do with pot is beyond me, but I’m hardly in a position to dictate the rules). The upside being that I now have a good reason for turning down invitations to bars, sorry folks I never liked them anyway save for the dancing.

Barring any major catastrophe my probation will end December 17, 2012.

A vote for Cornyn is a vote for Rape!!

Oct 18, 2009, 12:57 pm by Paul Stiverson

My beloved senator, John Cornyn, bravely stepped forward in support of rape.

John Cornyn is a Texan who knows the truth: If you want recourse for rape, you better be born without a vagina or you better not work for a government contractor (women should all be in the kitchen anyway, amirite!). Although it isn’t one of the issues listed on his site (and he strangely didn’t issue a press release, but he knows how to best represent our interests: keep big liberal government out of protecting citizens from rape by the hands of the very people it is paying.

Seriously though, it is time to get this guy out of office. 2014 can not come soon enough.

P.S. Here is a list of the other 29 senators who voted for rape.

Stop the War!

Sep 19, 2009, 11:55 am by Paul Stiverson

I’ve been thinking about making this post for a while, but when I read why that Iraqi reporter threw his shoe at George Bush it sealed it. What he wrote fully cemented my pro-peace sentiments. We are, thankfully, on our way out of Iraq but we are ramping up forces in Afghanistan so this post is still very relevant.

If you want to know how people are able to commit such unthinkable acts as occurred on 9/11 then you really need look no further than why the shoe was thrown. It is a perfect snapshot of the (probable) feelings of millions in Iraq right now who are upset at seeing their homeland turned to Swiss cheese for the last 6 years. Millions of people who have witnessed their neighbors, friends, and relatives burnt, dying, dead, or rounded up for questioning; and not all of them have the luxury of throwing their shoe at the person most directly responsible. It is entirely plausible that some clever Iraqi will find a more harrowing way to lash out at those who invaded his homeland, and it is a complete certainty that organized terrorist groups are gaining recruits as direct result of our invasion of Iraq.

But wait, our invasion of Iraq was to remove Saddam Hussein, we were liberating Iraq from an oppressive regime! Those ungrateful bastards were supposed to greet us as liberators! Well, here in reality people don’t like it when uninvited foreigners tell them how they should be living, their disdain for outsiders meddling is increased with proximity. We have a ready example here at home, just look at the vitriol and hatred coming from the right about a perceived outsider—not an actual outsider, just somebody from a different party—meddling with their government. There are preachers praying for Obama’s death, and he is our duly elected president. Imagine for a moment that there were direct evidence that Obama hailed from a different country, not just tenuous rumors that he was born in another country, but imagine that he was wearing another nation’s flag on his shoulder every day as he administered our government and “kept peace” with an army of jack-booted thugs likewise from another country. Imagine the hatred that would emanate from nearly every American in that situation. That is the sort of thing you don’t soon forget.

But wait, Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and he was hell-bent on using them on Americans! Our strike was a pre-emptive one! LOL.

The simple fact is that we had no right to go into Iraq, and that our presence has not been universally well recieved. Our intensions might have been noble (I don’t believe that they were), but we put our big dick in the sand of somebody else’s desert and it is going to have consequences. Hopefully those consequences will be mostly shoe-throwing related, and not involve explosive ordinance.

But wait, Afghanistan is different, those people attacked us! We deserve our revenge need to make the world safe from terrorism! Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from SAUDI ARABIA, in fact not one of the hijackers was from Afghanistan. To be fair, the central planning did go down in Afghanistan, but that doesn’t change the fact that a large-scale invasion is not the appropriate way to combat organized or decentralized terrorism. Counter-intelligence and public relations are effective ways to fight terrorism. Public relations to prevent people from hating us enough to attack, and counter-intelligence to thwart those who would attack us. It is the case that 9/11 could have been prevented by following up on data known at the time.

I do think that stopping terrorism is a noble cause, but I do not think that fighting a war is the right way to do it. “For not by hatred is hatred appeased, hatred is appeased by non-hatred only.” Bin Laden is heart set on attacking us, and that cannot be denied—we have the evidence—but let us not forget that we are the ones that elevated Bin Laden to his current status by employing him to fight the Soviets. Going into Afghanistan to kill thousands isn’t going to heal any wounds, it is only going to create new ones and facilitate future hatred. Let us do the right thing, turn the other cheek and put this old hatred to bed (and pay attention to future security briefings, and follow up on good intelligence).

If you say I descended from a monkey I’ll throw my poop at you.

Sep 1, 2009, 3:25 pm by Paul Stiverson

I just finished watching an interview (it is about 67 minutes long split into 7 parts), wherein Richard Dawkins interviews Wendy Wright (perhaps a mismatching of wits). Dawkins puts her on the ropes pretty quickly, but in one of her jabs back at Dawkins, Wright asks, “Why is it so important to you that everyone believe in evolution?” She goes on “You seem to almost feel like it is dangerous for people to believe that human beings were created individually and with a distinctness, and created by a creator.” I would reply to Wright that it is absolutely not the case that it is dangerous for people to believe in a creator, but that it cannot be viewed as anything but dangerous for so many people to be able to deny the mountain of evidence supporting evolution. It isn’t dangerous in the sense that evolution might get mad and destroy us all, but instead that lacking the critical and abstract thinking skills required to process and potentially rebut the evidence presented is the danger. I am referring to the ability of Wright to ignore any evidence given by saying that it is insignificant in validating macro-evolution (evolution from one species to another).

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by the willing and gleeful ignorance of the deeply religious, within the first two pages of the bible god damned man for finding knowledge that he (god) did not impart. Genesis 2:16–17 says “And the lord god commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.’” We all know the story: serpent convinces Eve to try a bit, Eve convinces Adam to try a bit, both are then ashamed of their nudity (neither dies that day, thus god is a liar), and the jig is up when god tootles back and casts the two from Eden (also god invents labor pains, and thorny bushes, and introduces a bunch of anti-feminist sentiment into the world… yayy god.). Given the troubles that the tree of knowledge caused for mankind, I can see why Christians are so apt to avoid seeking new knowledge when it comes to the creation story.

When presented with the various steps between ape an man which are present in the fossil record, Wendy claimed that the evidence is not material. As though the only way to “prove” evolution is to witness one species being born of another, this is as absurd as the “If man evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?” argument. She claimed that if evolution were true then there would be an abundance of evolutionary evidence from pond scum up to humans, showing each discreet step in-between. Such a stance shows a lack of understanding in the scientific process and in the nature of scientific research. Despite her scientific shortcomings she insists that teachers should be allowed to “Teach the Controversy” of evolution, and present the shortcomings of Darwinism as well as present the evidence of intelligent design. I really do question the origin (and existence) of any evidence of intelligent design (considering it is purely a matter of faith). It is true that the picture painted by evolutionary scientists is incomplete, and there is still much work to be done to reach the absolute fact of our evolution, but to my knowledge there is very little evidence of a divine creator (please, before you comment, the bible doesn’t qualify as scientific evidence).

Perhaps I’m being too rough on Mrs. Wright. She claims to respect us (by virtue of being evolutionists) and just wants the same from us, “I don't think that there should be as much dissension between our camps, that we can come to respect one another—in fact we do, we respect evolutionists for their beliefs—we would hope that there would be as much respect on the evolutionists part toward us.” It is difficult for me to feign respect for people who challenge widely accepted principles on faith and without evidence. I do appreciate skepticism of evidence because it is essential to the expansion of knowledge, but I refuse to show respect to the ignorant simply because they believe they are right. When Dawkins essentially called her (and her colleagues) ignorant, Wright replied, “It probably would be helpful to the dialog if the evolutionists were not so demeaning and degrading to others.” Which is true, but there really isn’t much of a dialog occurring when one side says “Here’s some dang ol’ evidence”, and the other side covers their ears.

When you hear Mrs. Wright’s reasoning behind rejecting Darwinism you find that it has nothing at all to do with science: “A philosophy that is drawn out of Darwinism would be extremely brutal, and in fact has been… Recognizing that there is a loving creator helps to build a society that is more than just livable but pleasant.” She is right and Dawkins acknowledges that, noting that if our societal structure was built entirely on constant competition for the scarce resources we require then it wouldn’t make for a very pleasant existence. However, the fact of the matter is that the sort of society we would like to live in today has little bearing on how we as a species came into existence. Further, to say that we should stop seeking the facts of our creation (be it through evolution or otherwise) because of the societal implications of those facts is ludicrous.

If you want to believe that we humans were created by god, or even that a duck shat us all out into our mothers’ tummies, then you are welcome to do so. I have no call to stop you, nor would I care to stop you. However, I do have a problem with people who attempt to undermine scientific fact to protect whatever mental illusions they wish to maintain.

It’s time I expressed some outrage

Aug 8, 2009, 3:49 pm by Paul Stiverson

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again. Those who know me best know that I am a full-on supporter of a single payer health-care system (something like every other industrialized country in the world employs), and I find it incredibly vulgar to profit off of somebody else’s health or lack thereof. Not only is it vulgar, it is morally bankrupt to disrupt a person’s access to health care after they have specifically and loyally paid for the guarantee of access to health care. Such practices are commonplace in the for-profit health insurance racket: allow somebody to pay ever increasing premiums until they actually need care, then pull the rug out and let them settle for substandard care. Never-mind what the patient and doctor have decided is the best course of action, it is too expensive so fuck you.

The truth of the matter is that insurance companies are not compelled to pay for expensive care because it hurts their profits, they are primarily responsible to the share-holders, not the policy-holders. The facts are pretty clear that this is the case, if you file a large claim then your odds of being covered are the same as throwing tails in a coin toss. It would be a different story if the company were to offer a refund of all the money that the policy-holder had ever paid to the insurance company in the case of a defaulted policy, but instead the policy as well as the money go straight into the corporate memory-hole. Imagine if a bank pulled the same stunt: you studiously deposit thousands of dollars per year into a savings account until you decide to retire, only to find your account emptied when you start to withdraw.

But what about socialism? Won’t Obamacare turn us into Soviet Russia? Why do you hate America? Why do you hate freedom? What are you, a terrorist? Shut the fuck up. If caring about my fellow citizens enough to prevent them from being defrauded in the name of the GDP is socialist then pass me that vodka, comrade. And oh by the way, we already have a system of socialized medicine in this country. It is called Medicaid, and it works pretty well if you are poor enough. In case you are unfamiliar, when you are on Medicaid you walk into a doctor’s office and you get treatment, the doctor doesn’t need to get pre-approved to offer care, the patient doesn’t need to be pre-approved for the visit. The patient walks in, the doctor treats them, the patient walks out, the doctor gets paid. If I could qualify for Medicaid I would apply today, because it is vastly better than the no-insurance I have now.

Also, let us not forget that the health care reform being discussed in congress could hardly be characterized as “Socialized”. It is not a government sanctioned monopoly like AT&T was back in the day, but instead an option that would allow people to opt out of private health insurance while still maintaining access to doctors. People enrolled in a public option would still be paying for their own health care, but they would be provided with some guarantee that their insurance would not be cancelled over a misspelled word on an application. The notion is that by ensuring that everybody has ready access to a doctor (insurance) many systemic problems can be alleviated: Improved focus on preventative care leads to less expense in catastrophic care, the free-rider problem which artificially inflates our health-care costs will be mitigated to a large degree. It will also push the doctor and staff focus back to caring for patients rather than ensuring that the patient can pay.

The thing that bothers me the most is the degree to which people are fighting against their own best interests. The system as it stands does not serve the individuals’ interests (unless they are stock-holders of any number of insurance companies), and by fighting to keep it they are permitting the potential for future dismissal of their own insurance policy. I do not wish to forcibly stop them from protesting, the First Amendment allows them to speak their mind, no matter how closed or ignorant it happens to be. I will say that the “Rabble Rabble” approach to protest does little to promote the effective operation of our Republic, but that is just one man’s opinion. Also, this.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this tactic, Limbaugh said from the get-go that he, “hopes Obama fails”. He doesn’t want conservative policies to succeed, he just wants liberal policies to fail. If he can’t enforce his sick and twisted viewpoint on America then he wants to burn it to the ground. It is sick (and unamerican), but it is telling. He and other conservative hucksters have no interest in the greater good, they are only on the lookout for themselves and those who wash their backs. What’s worse is they are more than happy to use fear to get ‘the unwashed masses’ to back their agenda. I just hope that people come to their senses before one of them hauls off and kills somebody.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Ben Franklin was asked what form of government America would have, he replied “A Republic, if you can keep it.” I submit that this fear-baiting is absolutely not the way to keep it.

preview

Aug 6, 2009, 2:05 pm by Lew

I am preparing a rebuttal to the following. Professor Cress covered this and I will try to not step on his toes. I am still doing some reading to build my argument. In the mean time I wanted to post these so y'all could mull them over.

What follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture on science and belief that Dr. Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008:
Slide 1: “Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.”
Slide 2: “God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.”
Slide 3: “After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced ‘house’ (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the moral law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.”
Slide 4: “We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.”
Slide 5: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”

baseball stadium tour

Aug 5, 2009, 9:55 am by John

http://www.eric-snow.com/i/images/stories/mlb-logolast year was the final year for yankee stadium. the house that ruth built. the stadium where every great player to date has played at some point. the home of babe ruth, lou gehrig, joe dimaggio, mickey mantle, and roger maris and i never got to see a game there. this makes me slightly angry so i have vowed not to let a piece of american and baseball history slip through my fingers again. i have set a goal to watch every major league baseball team play in their home stadium.

the plan is to visit every major league baseball team's ballpark starting with the oldest and working my way up. this way i won't fall victim to the yankee stadium dilemma. even though i don't think the next 2 on the list of oldest stadiums, wrigley (chicago cubs) and fenway (boston), are even close to being shut down, i don't want to risk it.

now, of course, i'm excited about visiting all of these stadiums but i am equally excited about visiting all of these cities that i haven't gotten to visit yet. to date i have not been to any of the cities north of washington dc or any of the cities on the west coast. i am looking forward to seeing what these cities have to offer as far as culture, food, history, etc.

it has already been brought to my attention that i could get multiple cities in during one trip. for example, washington dc, baltimore, and philidelphia are very close together and could be visited in one weekend. however, this would defeat the purpose of visiting the city. therefore, i have decided that i will only visit multiple stadiums in a weekend if they are in the same city (chicago, los angeles, and new york).

the only thing i have to figure out is what piece of memorabilia i will be picking up from each location. the only thing i can think of, that you can not buy online, is the souvenir programs that are made and dated for each series. other than that, everything is available through the internet, to my knowledge.

i have slated my trip to start next year, since i don't have any more vacation days left, so get prepared for a lot more posts as i wind my way through the country.

On Francis Collins

Jul 29, 2009, 9:44 pm by Zach

Francis Collins, Director NIHPaul sent me a link to this NY Times article about Obama's pick for national director of the NIH, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Most non-scientists are probably pretty in the dark about the NIH, but it's a Very Big Deal. They head up lots of biomedical research and are responsible for giving out lots of grant money to scientists across the US.

Collins is a Christian and a scientist. Without knowing much about him, I'm sure most liberals would roll their eyes and consider this a step backwards. Collins is actually pretty good about separating religion from science. In fact, I'd say he's a great model for demonstrating how the two need not be mutually exclusive. He doesn't promote "intelligent design" and his CV is pretty impressive. He headed up the National Human Genome Research Institute, which will prove to be an invaluable tool for treating genetic diseases. I actually met him once at a lecture at SMU when I was in high school and he was a great speaker.

However, as outlined in the NY Times article, he has said some things that make people like me cringe--that at some point in our evolution, god inserted a soul. Of course, no science can prove this. The nature of science is to answer how, when and what, but never why. Collins has said, however, “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence”, which any scientist would agree with.

The question remains as to whether or not someone who is religious can ever be a truly good scientist. To say not would be as intolerant as the religious right is known to be. Logically, science and religion answer different questions (or different sides of similar questions), and a truly great scientist's work would never be swayed by their spiritual beliefs. Historically, this is almost never true. Lots of us hope that Collins is level-headed enough and will make a great director of the NIH, but part of us worries that NIH funding might change directions and support scientists who hold his religious beliefs. I personally don't think this will happen. I think he will end up doing a great job. Your thoughts?

One thing we can all agree on, though, is homeboy needs a new haircut. Do he and Bill Gates see the same barber? Damn!

Jury Rights, or The disappearance of the Jury Veto

Jul 27, 2009, 9:37 am by Paul Stiverson

Jury duty is arguably the only civic duty that any American is still obligated or compelled to perform. Despite the enormous privilege of a system which ensures the right to a trial by jury, people dread jury duty. I can fully appreciate why, who wants to take a day off of work to hear the gory, or worse the mundane, details of somebody else’s alleged wrongdoings. (There are better things anybody could be doing, like watching that marathon of CSI: Miami) They make you sit in an uncomfortable chair, the lunch they feed you isn’t going to come from the deli you like and will probably have Mayo on it despite your explicit instructions. Typically the result of whatever trial you are hearing will not affect you, your family, or society as a whole, in the least. To top it all off you have to pay attention ALL DAY, and they aren’t even going to pay you a fair wage for your day of work.

I understand not wanting the burden of jury duty, because as a juror you are typically not asked to actually weigh in on the case, you are given the evidence and asked to determine who is telling the truth. In most criminal trials there is a pretty strict guideline as to the decisions of the jury. The judge, or some other authority, tells you the letter of the law that should be adhered to. He says, “There are three criteria which need to be met for the defendant to be guilty, if these three criteria are met in your estimation then you must deliver a guilty verdict.” There is no room for their opinion on whether delivering a guilty verdict is actually delivering justice to the defendant. The jury is restricted to judging the facts, not the law, or so they think.

It is actually well within the rights of the jury to offer their opinion on the law itself.1 It is the juries’ unique right to say, in spite of the evidence of crime, that the accused is not guilty. Not guilty because the law itself is not fair. The jury is legally protected in their decisions, they cannot be punished for not executing the letter of the law. When this awesome responsibility is re-integrated2 into jury duty, then it will cease being a boring obligation that deserves to be unquestionably shirked. It will once again become a obligation that should be honored, because it could allow you to issue a referendum on the laws we live by.

Before you pass off this idea as ridiculous please consider the following hypothetical. You are asked to serve on a jury for a prostitution case, and throughout the trial it is made completely clear that the defendant did sell sexual favors thus roundly violated the law. It also becomes clear that the defendant was sold into slavery to pay off a family debt, and if the defendant refused her “Owners’” command to work the streets then she and her family would surely face bodily harm, however the law doesn’t regard coercion as justification. As a juror, do you think that convicting the defendant would be just?

The ‘Jury Veto’ is an extremely useful tool for jurors to offer a dissenting opinion on the law itself, and while their veto doesn’t actually remove or revise the law it does provide justice in the case they are hearing. The fact is that public opinion can be gauged based on these jury vetoes, and the legislature can change the law to reflect the will of the people (see prohibition, some 60% of cases involving alcohol during prohibition showed evidence of a jury veto).

Notes:

  1. State of Georgia v. Brailsford (U.S. Supreme Court, 1794), Sparf and Hansen v. U. S (U.S. Supreme Court, 1895), Also protected under the Constitution of the state of Texas.
  2. It never actually left, however it is not discussed in the courtroom. If jurors don’t know about their rights then they cannot be exercised.

Jimmy Carter, Fuck Yeah!

Jul 24, 2009, 9:36 am by Paul Stiverson

I happened across an article that I found interesting and I want to share it with you all.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States of America, has always been a man of extraordinary character. He recently decided to speak out in protest against the Southern Baptist Church for their passive mistreatment of women, saying the following:

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

He is bravely making the connection between the global mistreatment of women to patriarchy within his own social circle. I, for one, am extremely glad to see somebody in the public eye that is willing to execute this necessary criticism; I am especially glad to see that it was executed by the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps his bravery will embolden others to say what needs to be said.

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