Hobby Lobby: Religion Bogs Us Down

A few weeks ago, there was that controversial bill in Arizona that shouldn’t have been controversial concerning religious freedom in discriminating against gays. I wrote about it here.

I wasn’t really concerned about the Arizona bill. It was doomed. But this (check the link out if you don’t know about the case) is serious. This will break the country if the wrong decision is made. Literally.

One thing a lot of people ignore in this case is that this isn’t some decision that will revolutionize religion across the world. All it will do, at the most basic level, is verify whether or not America is deserving of the first-world position that it pioneered after World War 2.

Let me repeat that: America pioneered the first world. But now we must see if we deserve that position.

Here are two graphs. One which displays religiousity, light green representing more religiousity, and one which displays access to universal health care. You see where I’m going with this.

Religious Index

Universal Health Care

America has fallen behind in what other first world countries provide. And it’s due to religion (more specifically, Ronald Reagan and his “religious right is gud!!1!”). If you don’t believe me, ask yourself against just why there’s a controversial Supreme Court case on whether religion overrides women’s rights.

The Obama administration has already provided exemptions for the contraceptives part of Obamacare to nonprofit religious groups. That’s enough of a problem. But when your boss’ religion matters more than your rights, what does that mean for the future of America?

By declaring that people have the right to exercise their religion on other people, what kind of message does that send to Europe and East Asia (and Canada and Australia) about us?

America has taken most of the steps necessary to doom itself. It has forsaken all but the 1%. It has repudiated the concept of social welfare. It has flouted the notion that students may be more important to our future than tax cuts for billionaires. It has left people to wallow in their stupidity (Don’t you absolutely love No Child Left Behind?).

But we yet hang on with the hope of reform. That maybe people will stop being such idiots. That maybe America too can provide universal health care and help students out. That’s a Marxist pipe dream in Utah, but taken for granted in Europe.

There is only one thing that can prevent the failure of America to keep up with Europe at this moment, the crash of the last standing hyperpower from World War 2. And that is the Supreme Court. There is only one road that will return us to the highway within the next generation. And that is to reject the supremacy of religion. It is to reject the concept that an archaic book is more important than the rights of those standing next to you. It is to reject the transcendence of religious beliefs, the idea that attaching a name to stupidity makes it important. We need change to this policy that religion is relevant– but to say that religion is foolish is political and social suicide in this country.

I worry about this case. Anything but an incisive and sharp ruling against Hobby Lobby may only prolong our suffering in the religious hell we doom ourselves to, but I do not foresee such luck. Corporations are entitled to 1st Amendment rights, by Citizens United, and the supposed swing vote in this decision, fairly radical Justice Kennedy, compares ruling for the government to forcing companies to pay for abortion.

ggwp surr@20

For June, I wait…

 

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Mt Gox: 530,000 MORE Bitcoins Still Exist!

It doesn’t seem as though this news has hit the US media yet. But a recent petition in Japan has alleged that ~530,000 bitcoins were being transferred by Mt Gox between March 7 and 10. 

Engrish version here.

And here’s the direct evidence: all the suspiciously large transactions here, and all the suspicious recent transactions here (which Mt Gox recently took down the list for– too late!)

[I have added up all the transactions listed on those two pages, not counting repeats, and it totals about 140,000 BTC. Insignificant considering that the "List of Largest Transactions" only lists 500 transactions, many of which were not confirmed.]

As of yet, neither Karpeles nor the lawyer covering the case, Kobayashi Nobuaki, has responded to these points.

I anticipate how they will respond. Maybe they won’t. Maybe this will be another Dorian Nakamoto. But I doubt that. A lot of money is at stake here. As in, about half a billion dollars at current rates. And nobody lets money get off the hook.

Karpeles won’t escape. Bitcoin transactions are all recorded. Once he makes a move, the entire Bitcoin community will sniff every detail out.

I can’t wait for the denouement.

Mt Gox: Still a Scam

Yesterday, I moved my old refrigerator to my garage. When I woke up today, there was an icebox in my kitchen and nothing in the garage.

Mt Gox released a report stating that they had “found” 200,000 of the ~850,000 “lost” bitcoins. (The English version is on the second page.)

“But I thought the hackers proved that Mt Gox was a scam from the start?” (me to myself a few days back)

No. That was another scam. This stuff is getting problematic.

Disregarding that. This playout of events is unusually similar (see “Copycat Scam”) to MyBitcoin. After shutting down and claiming hax, they “recovered” 49% of their bitcoins and gave them back to the customers.

Mt Gox has not yet offered the 200,000 bitcoins they found back– likely, more bitcoins will be magically discovered, and then they will allow customers to retrieve a percentage of what was lost.

This only convinces me further of foul play. Think about it. What kind of atrocious accounting does it take to allow 200,000 bitcoins to sit around and not be verified when switching systems?

That’s like moving into a new house and taking a month to realize that you forgot to bring your family.

Or, as a more accurate analogy, depositing $1000 into a bank and taking a month to realize that your account only has $800.

You don’t even need to keep a record. Ignoring that a TRADING MARKETPLACE needs to have everything on record, how can you not bother to notice that A FOURTH OF YOUR MONEY ISN’T THERE?

For Mt Gox to have “thought” that these old wallets contained no bitcoins, they must have failed to check how many bitcoins they actually had in the new wallets. Which means, either Karpeles is such a retard that he doesn’t know how to count, or he purposely left those 200,000 bitcoins behind… to reproduce MyBitcoin’s scam.

I, personally, would be more likely to believe the “haxors” story were Karpeles not to have released this preposterous report. I suggest you do similarly. I am eager to see how this will progress.

The Constitution is 400 years old?

This week in domestic uproar:

Representative Sheila Jackson (D-TX) supposedly claimed that the Constitution was 400 years old.

Last time I checked, getting basic history facts wrong is the Tea Party’s job. So I was a bit surprised to see that a Democrat would miss something that simple. Let’s check it out:

Depending on your political affiliation, you may be quick to jump to some assumptions.

But as someone who has suffered through AP US History, I’m going to take a guess and say that maybe crazy right-wingers are misrepresenting what she said.

“…and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating under a Constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.”

400 years ago was approximately when Virginia was permanently settled, in 1607. British colonization, the foundation for America, began then. The Constitution was ratified in 1788.

I can see this as a case of ambiguity. “We” can define the geographical lineage of the USA, which is about 400 years. However, it can also describe the country under the Constitution.

I’m not an expert in grammar, but I’ll say that analyzing the sentence would actually give you what Fox News charges, because “operating” is a clause used to modify “have lasted”. But I honestly don’t think that’s what Jackson was implying.

This is really a case of picking at words. It’s like “You Didn’t Build That”. Obama was completely correct in saying that in the context, while grammatically he may have implied something incorrect.

On the other hand, Bachmann is pretty clear about how CO2 isn’t harmful.

I would suggest that Democrats start learning how to correctly enunciate their ideas, so that conservatives can stop attacking ideas that are correct but said incorrectly.

Some Food for Thought on Crimea

WE MUST STOP CRIMEA FROM SECEDING!

is probably the most hypocritical thing America could possibly say.

Think about it for a second.

This country was founded by people who violently rebelled against their mother country, in the name of liberty and all that.

Nearly 240 years after the Declaration of Independence, we are now attempting to stifle a movement attempting to do the exact same thing we did without the violence.

Here’s a little thought experiment. Consider that the American Revolution were happening today.

Patriot: We should secede from the UK and become an independent nation! We aren’t being represented properly and they’re not addressing our problems!

Putin: No.

Patriot: What do you have to do with our decision? You’re not related to our problems in any way at all!

Putin: No.

Sounds ridiculous?

Now replace “Patriot” with “Crimean”, and “Putin” with “EU and USA”.

I don’t really give a shit about some aspects of “international law”. There are sometimes more important things than “international law”. The American Revolution was one of them. Crimea is another.

Now consider that Crimea is voting for secession at something like 95%, when Patriots numbered less than 50% during the Revolution. Talk about inconsistency.

If we want to act like Crimea is taking down the UN’s law and burning it at the stake, I suggest we go back to being a colony under the UK to bring ourselves in line with our own rhetoric. I, for one, would like the socialized healthcare.

How Sectional Democracy Propogates Stupidity

There are two kinds of people in the USA.

There are the rational people. You’ll find them mostly in the Northeast and West.

Then there are the Confederate flag-waving idiots. You’ll find them mostly in the South and Midwest. (Don’t believe me? Check out the Mississippi state flag and the Confederate flag in SC.) This group includes the Obama conspiracy theorists and whatever other stupid crap that we have come  with.

This divide has existed since the founding of the country. Yes, things have changed. At one point, “radical Republican” meant someone who wanted to disenfranchise rich white voters, take their land, and give it to black people. But there has always been a divide.

And one of the critical aspects of this divide has been that the part on the bottom has usually been overrun by idiots.

Indian Removal supporters– the South. Slavery supporters– the South. Segregation supporters– the South. Creationism supporters– the South.

You’d think that some great president like FDR would do something and enlighten these people, so that they would stop being such bigots.

But that’s not how sectional democracy works.

Sectional Democracy is when you have a few geographical parts to a country that have distinctly different views. Eg, the USA. (I coined this term. Much unique!)

Typically, one side’s agenda is based on scientific morality. More opportunity for students as an investment for the future, lower taxes on the middle class to strengthen spending, raise in the minimum wage to alleviate poverty, etc.

The other side’s agenda is based on what they think is correct. As in, what their religious book says is correct. (Both sides can be stupidly bigoted in opposite directions. That works too.) But their illiteracy, mainly as a result of historical problems, precludes advancement in thought processes. (For the USA, this was the socioeconomic divide during the slavery period, and Johnson’s failure to effect Reconstruction properly after the South was devastated by the Civil War.)

(I will except Ukraine because it’s only been 20 years since the Soviet Union collapsed. Sectional Democracy stands for a long time.)

So then, the problem is, how to educate the illiterate? You could band-aid the broken bone with No Child Left Behind or some other stupid umbrella crap. But when they teach the Bible in school, do they really think about No Child Left Behind?

I made this point earlier– a person born to bigots in a bigoted town going to a bigoted school will almost inevitably become a bigot, no matter whether you say nurture or nature. You cannot tell a racist that racism is bad, walk out the door, and expect him to come to a realization. A blanket federal program will not, in the way it tries to, prevent the spread of bigotry.

The fact of the matter is, you must adopt a strong interventionist posture in order to fix the problem. You must walk into the town of bigots with a march of science teachers, burn down and rebuild the school (metaphorically), and force the presence of non-bigots. This is what activists did during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. They walked into the South, registered black voters, and progressivized people. That’s why it worked.

That’s nice and all, but who’s going to take this posture?

Activists? It’s not like rednecks are posing an actual threat to the intelligentsia of America. Sure, they’re screwing over the middle class and themselves, but the intelligentsia are international.

That leaves the federal government. The federal government has taken strong interventionist postures a few times, but only in the wake of war and extreme economic depression. Reconstruction. The New Deal. The Great Society (which, for the sake of argument, I will say actually originated in Truman’s presidency, but was realized by the “f**k the people who don’t agree with me” LBJ).

But the federal government can’t take a strong posture outside of those circumstances. Reason is, the bigots won’t let them.

Analogy time!

Let’s say I have a committee. 5 people are idiots. Their IQ levels are about room temperature (Fahrenheit, because ‘Murica). 5 people are well-educated. They have six figure salaries.

The 5 smart people want to pass a bill that would allow any member of the committee access to the committee refrigerator at any time during the working day. The idiots think that they’re trying to steal the refrigerator, and block the bill.

The 5 smart people try passing a few more bills, all simple ideas that would benefit everyone. To their indignation, the idiots block each one.

They then try to kick the idiots off the board. Sadly for them, the idiots block that too.

That is the essence of our political system. You cannot do anything. If you try to fix the root of the problem, the same people who prevent you from doing anything will also prevent you from doing something about not being able to do anything. And even in the slight chance that there’s some urgent national problem that the nation can band together to fight against, you still can’t fix education! Bigots may temporarily agree to give up some of their bigotry because they have no other choice, but they will never allow you to teach science in their schools.

If I had no money, I might let you give some to me so I could pay my daily expenses for a while, even if you were an instrument of the devil. But would I let you teach my children your heathen ways? Think about that.

This leaves us in a peculiar spot. We have a problem. We know we have to fix it. But we don’t know how. There are simply too many idiots to stop their expansion.

There’s not really a realistic solution to this, sadly. You could win some kind of 1964-like victory with some kind of progressive revolution, but that’s just pie in the sky. I live in the Northeast, and most people vote Democratic, but only because they’re scared of an idiot like Romney becoming President. If it were something like Clinton vs Christie, they probably wouldn’t bother voting at all. People are fed up with government corruption, and just want to make sure that someone like Romney doesn’t win.

Sectional Democracy is a failure. Ukraine is demonstrating that to us right now. Jefferson said, “We are all Republicans– we are all Federalists”.  Sadly, that’s no longer true. Sorry, Jefferson.

How much longer can America last before it falls at its own foundation? We are the only superpower that has not collapsed to some extent since WW2. But you can’t outrun time.

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Security State Criticized by… Advocate of the Security State

When it comes to the NSA, the hypocrisy amongst supporters is absolutely appalling.

The domestic spying of the NSA is a complete failure– we know that by the lack of any trials concerning terrorism since the passing of the Patriot Act.

But most proponents, who are for the most part business Democrats and Republicans (in contrast to populist Democrats, libertarians, and tea partiers), seem to ignore that the law applies to them too.

Yesterday, Tuesday, Senator Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a staunch supporter of the NSA, accused the CIA of spying on committee investigations tasked with investigating torture by the CIA.

I get the point that the CIA shouldn’t be trying to suppress the torture report. But the fact of the matter is, it’s ridiculously hypocritical to criticize the CIA for spying on you when you support unconditional ubiquitous government spying.

The most general argument for the NSA is “You’re not breaking the law, so you shouldn’t be worried.”

Feinstein isn’t breaking the law, so why the hell does she have a problem with being spied on?

Snowden, who attacked Feinstein as a hypocrite, noted this as a “Merkel Effect” (Background: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was pissed that the US was spying on the German citizenry, but didn’t do shit about it), “where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it’s a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them”.

Feinstein had the temerity to demand an apology and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the CIA, all while claiming that your privacy is completely irrelevant!

This forms the basis of American government: crony capitalism. Politicians see themselves as out of the range of authority of the government, and they make sure they are, along with their Wall Street buddies. As Elizabeth Warren put it: “Anyone else want to tell me about the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial?”

As Republicans demand tax cuts and decreased spending, but more wars, NSA advocates support ubiquitous spying but decry it when they become the subject.

Let me present another idea, in the form of a proof.

Given: Snowden leaked NSA documents concerning classified stuff.

Given: Feinstein called Snowden’s actions treason.

Given: Feinstein’s committee is planning on releasing a 6000+ page document on CIA torture.

Given: the CIA is a government agency, mostly carrying out secret operations.

Postulate 1: The CIA’s torture stuff is secret, as it’s carried out in secret.

Basic Human Rights Law: Torture is wrong.

Postulate 2: Because torture is wrong, it is justified to release secret CIA information on it for the sake of preserving Basic Human Rights. (See Article 5)

Feinstein is outraged that the CIA is violating her constitutional rights and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which limits federal jurisdiction to cases with “a compelling federal interest”. Transcript of the speech, if you want.

Postulate 3: Violation of constitutional rights via spying is wrong, according to Feinstein.

Postulate 4: Because violation of constitutional rights via spying is wrong, according to Feinstein, it is justified to release secret NSA information on it for the sake of preserving Basic Human Rights. (See Article 12)

Postulate 4 contradicts with Given. Snowden is a traitor according to Feinstein, but also according to Feinstein it is justified for him to have released the NSA documents. So either Feinstein and every person trying to get released the torture report is a traitor, or Snowden wasn’t one. Oops. Well, what goes around comes around.

This is Feinstein right now.

Be careful about your policy…

However, at least one good thing is coming out of this. The European Parliament is getting ready to inveigh against the NSA’s ubiquitous spying program. Snowden is still on the back burner, but… it’s a start. Perhaps it’ll finally be some group besides the United States to dictate policy!

Let me sum Feinstein’s crisis up with a comment from here:

When the NSA is spying on Americans, it’s for the glory of “Homeland Security”.

But when that same security apparatus is spying on our politicians, it’s a “Constitutional Crisis”.

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