Ramblings

Usually drunken.

Want to keep track of the ramblings without visiting the site all the time? Well, subscribe to our RSS feed. Don’t fret and don’t frown, learn how to subscribe in mail (for OSX) or subscribe in iGoogle.

Next 10

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.

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.

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.

Religion in Iowa Schools

Jul 12, 2009, 2:38 am by Paul Stiverson

There has been a recent proposal in an Iowa school district proposing to allow prayer as an option in commencement exercises, it would also call for the creation of two new elective courses: “The Bible in History and Literature,” and “Critique of Darwinism, A Scientific Approach.” The proposal would also permit teachers to answer questions about their religious beliefs, as well as allowing students to distribute religious materials. The stated purpose of the proposal is to educate about religious faith, and to promote dialog. I cannot say that I am completely opposed to such a measure, if it were enacted it could actually benefit students by allowing for real and diverse religious expression. The proposal clearly states that “[The] School will not discriminate against private religious expression,” so if there are teachers of varying religious backgrounds then it could elucidate the fact that not everybody is a Christian, and it could give refuge to students who are exploring or questioning their own religious beliefs. The proposal would also allow distribution of dissenting literature thus allowing students to inform their classmates about other religions.

Some other folks have said that this proposal is a thinly veiled attempt at thrusting the Christian notion of god back at the fragile and impressionable minds of our youth, complaining that the district is not calling for the creation of any other “The [religious text] in History and Literature” classes. I do agree with them that the classes being added are somewhat one sided, but I don’t think that the critics have considered all aspects of the proposal. The proposal is very clear in its anti-discrimination verbiage, so—while there might not be any classes—there will be discussion of the spiritual alternatives to Christianity. If the proposal is intended as an endorsement of Christianity (I certainly believe this is the case), then it will backfire the first time a student hands out anti-Christian (or non pro-Christian) literature. Handing out this literature—or the refusal to allow it to be distributed—could spark a debate of a much larger scope than just the district. If this proposal is just an attempt to re-enroll god in Iowa schools (if it should pass) then it will quickly be found out and eradicated, but not without shining a national spotlight on how not-far we have come since Scopes. If the proposal’s intentions are true then it is a positive step.

I hope the proposal does pass, and I hope that there are non-Christians who are ready to walk through the flames—so to speak—to endorse their beliefs. If there are then the debate on religion in the public sphere might finally be coming to a head, and the public discourse on religion could get very interesting in the next few months.

Texans for Kinky

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

Those of you who know me personally know that I was an ardent supporter of Kinky Friedman during his run for Governor of the great state of Texas in 2006. He was running as an independent, and he came in dead last. He has announced that he plans to run in the upcoming gubernatorial election, but this time as a Democrat, which I think is where he should be to offset some goober like Chris Bell from stepping in and not even trying to run a campaign against Rick Perry (as happened in ’06).

I believed then, as I do now, that our state needs somebody like Kinky in the Governor’s Mansion. We need Kinky because he is not from the political institution, and he can break up the cronyism that has plagued our government for the last decade. In these tough times we need somebody who will actually stand up for the working poor and offer them the support (not necessarily monetary) that they need. We need somebody who will place education in the forefront and pull us up from the bottom 5% in education quality. We need somebody who will re-instate funding for those who care for the mentally and physically handicapped. We need somebody who will speak for needs of every Texan. We need a rebel to bring back the international glory and mystique that Texas once held.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he was better as an Independent, but he can win as a Democrat. Afterall, it isn’t the label that is important, it is the man. And, friends, Kinky is the man for this time and place.

No Condoms

Feb 4, 2009, 5:39 pm by Paul Stiverson

Preface: this post was inspired by a pro-life facebook note that evolved into a discussion about contraceptive education in schools. This post can be considered an expansion on a previous post.

Anytime I find myself in a civil dialog concerning abortion and unplanned pregnancy I always bring up the inadequacy of sexual education in schools, and it is always a touchy subject. I believe that when it comes to education that you must never seek to hide or alter the truth from the student, to do so keeps the student ignorant, and ultimately destroys the students’ ability to form coherent and informed opinions. Needless to say I think that sex-ed—if it is to be taught in public schools—should include common contraceptives as well as the merits of abstinence.

I’m sure the careful reader is aware that the Holy Roman Catholic Church has—historically—taken a strong stance on the use of contraceptives: latex+penis=hell (although they are starting to come around). I can appreciate their views on the subject, they believe that when blocking the chance of conception the “marriage act” (Catholic for sex) is incomplete and amoral.1 This view doesn’t stop them from trying to prevent conception thought, oh no, they came up with a strategy for doing the marriage act without having kids and without bringing down the fire and brimstone. In order to not conceive you should practice natural family planning, to do it properly you should probably invest in a pocket calendar (for the record I have no problem with that being taught in schools, as long as condoms can get equal time).

Now, in the recent past there has been quite a hubub regarding teaching kids about condom use—preferring to rely on shame and fear to keep kids safe—because of this (religious) belief. It seems to me that writing a curriculum based on some religious docorine is a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state. In order to get around that violation they changed their tune: contraceptive talk shouldn’t be allowed because their effectiveness is sub-optimal. Well sure, the effectiveness is debatable (99.98%2 isn't quite perfect), but even the worst condom is more effective than none at all, and couple it with an oral contraceptive and the effectiveness jumps significantly. Who’s keeping track. If we want to restrict sex-ed talks to methods that are 100% effective then why don’t we teach our kids about anal sex? Probably because the church thinks it is icky.3

The time to start giving teens accurate, reliable, and unbiased information about their sexual health is now. To be completely honest though, I don’t think it should be the schools’ job, it is time for parents to step up to the plate and teach their children well.4 If it is to be taught in (public) schools then there should be no pretense regarding the morality of sex, keep it simple and give them the facts. Leave the sermons to the priests.

Notes:

  1. I’m deriving this from the document Morals and Marriage, Part IV Morality of Intercourse, from a section titled “Purity implies sex”. Not a bad read, check it out if you’ve got some time to kill.
  2. Hatcher RA et al. Contraceptive Technology, 18th rev. ed. New York: Ardent Media, 2004.
  3. For the record, it is icky. That whole section on anal sex is a joke (a reference to a great site technicalvirgin.com, which has sadly been removed), lighten up zealots.
  4. [Crosby, Stills, and Nash joke here]

Fireside Chat

Jan 21, 2009, 7:55 am by Paul Stiverson

Exciting times in America, we have ourselves a new president: a liberal fellow who will surely restore some international (and intranational) trust in America, who will push us forward into the future with the only thing that can possibly push a people forward: forward thinking. Honestly, I will be happy if he just pushes for higher research funding, scientific research is the only thing that can make the future better than the present.

As part of his presidency Barack Obama is bringing back the fireside chat, although it will not be called the fireside chat, but instead a “Weekly Video Address”. Every Saturday President Obama (it is really nice to finally say “President Obama”) will record and post a video aimed at the American public, hopefully to keep us apprised of situations and keep people engaged in civic participation.

If you click on the above link you will be taken to the freshly re-designed WhiteHouse.gov which is done in the same style as Obama’s campaign website and the now-removed transition website, change.gov. Of course, WhiteHouse.gov will not feature any of the user-created content like BarackObama.com, and WhiteHouse.gov will have graphics set in a presidential Times New Roman rather than the sleek and hip Gotham which was used on all campaign materials.

The new president will also, apparently, be keeping a blog, it is a brave new world.

Inauguration

Jan 20, 2009, 4:34 pm by Lew

First post during the Obama administration! I ducked out with a few co-workers to catch the inaugural address. We watched it at oaxacan tamaleo near our lab. starting out the obama administration with a plate of enfrioladas and good coffee was the right thing to do. it was just us and the tamale folks there watching it (it was a bit early for tamales). they were super nice to let watch it with them and provide tasty food. we walked in on the tail end of rick warren's prayer. i like him. i like him in the same way i like mike huckabbe. i disagree with him strongly but like him as a person. i thought it was a nice and touching invocation. aretha franklin proved that she is the only diva, damn she can sing like no one else alive. i am looking forward to beyonce singing "at last" for the first dance at the inaugural ball. but beyonce, don't forget aretha stills runs the show. i face palmed when the chief justice flubbed the swearing in. obama's speech was right on i thought. i am not sure it will be famous for generations but i thought it was right on for the climate right now. i whooped (really i did) when he said "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders..." and "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers." non-believers appreciate the shout out mr. president. The poem was a flop. the final convocation rocked. if you didn't see it you need to. it was the most memorable part of the inauguration.
diva'd!

Next 10
Sidebar off | Posts per page: 10 20 30