Time for a major overhaul of the SC Justices

As of today, the Conservative branch of the US Supreme Court has declared war against the common citizen of the United States.  It’s been common knowledge that the right-leaning branch of the court was weighed down with ideology over actual law, but today the second shot of the double-tap was fired.

Where the Citizens United decision was a blatant strike in attempting to grant a larger voting voice to those with bigger checkbooks (and the first shot in an attempt to kill our country’s democratic principles), today the decision of ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE v. BENNETT signals a shot against the common citizen.

AFE v B was a case where Arizona (not known for its forward-thinking law, under most circumstances) in which the state observes funding levels for candidates for office, and uses public funds to match funding levels of adversaries in the contest.  It does not restrict anyone’s funding whatsoever – it merely prevents a monied candidate from drowning out all competing voices.  In many ways it resembles an idea I have put forward several times (which was to eliminate private contributions in their entirety, and provide matching campaign funds to all candidates from a public pool, ensuring equality between candidates) in an attempt to let their platforms, not their bankroll, decide the election.

This is an act that protects the principle this Conservative legislation from the Bench set out with Citizens United.  With CU, the bench gave free reign for all monied interests to pour unlimited finances into candidates from whatever source, with zero transparency – enabling not only massive multinational corporations a far greater impact on our electoral process than the one-person-one-vote principle of Democracy that Conservatives pretend to cherish, but also grants foreign governments an open door to influencing our government through the same mechanism.

With AFE v B, Arizona’s opportunity to level that playing field has been denied.  Your voice has been silenced.  The Conservative wing of the Supreme Court has decided that not only is your voice not important, but that it is not welcome.

Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Alito, and Roberts must go.  They have openly declared their war against our Democracy, it’s time for them to be gone.  It’s clear they hold the United States citizenry in disdain – and that their contempt for the country exceeds their sense of responsibility to the Constitution.

We can start with Clarence Thomas.

And in news of the “Cool” variety…

It appears that Saturn’s moon Enceladus has a liquid water ocean.

This was an unexpected surprise for me – I was under the impression our only shot at seeing life outside of Earth was going to be on Europa.  But to see another ocean on yet another world in our solar system?

That’s freaking awesome.

Why?  Because if those two oceans have similar conditions to our early world, then we’ve got the potential for life three times in just this one solar system.

There are three hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone, and best estimates peg there being about 50 billion planets in the galaxy.  That is an enormous number.  And here we’d be, showing life on three out of eight (maybe more, if we discover fossil remnants or extremophiles on Mars, or strange forms in the clouds of Jupiter or Saturn).

So even if we manage to cook off all the life on this planet and turn our once-beautiful blue home into a Venusian shit-hole, there might still one day be a chance for a something or a someone to appreciate the beauty of seeing the stars.

Nice to see the Teabagger king exposed as a moron.

In chambers, Rand Paul demonstrated just what a dumb fuck he is, by making the claim that by de-funding the OAA the government would save money.  Just like every other moron Teabagger, he fails to see more than thirty seconds into the future.

The OAA, for those who aren’t familiar, is the program that tries to ensure that seniors get fed properly.  A person who is well-fed doesn’t suffer malnutrition, and the attendant diseases that accompany it.  Such a person doesn’t end up in an emergency room except as a result of a genuine accident.

Remember those emergency room discussions a few years back, how a dose of prevention can cost as little as 0.01% of the cost of an emergency room visit?  That’s what we’re talking about here.

These facts are backed up by solid actuarial statistics.

However, in Rand Paul Land, it’s “I’ve got mine, go fuck yourself.”

And happily, Bernie Sanders and Al Franken basically put little Paul’s bullshit where it belongs.

At this stage of the game, Teabaggers are just looking more and more like traitors to me.  If they’re so sick of American values, maybe it’s time they spent a little money on a plane ticket and left.  I even know a perfect place they could go, where there’s no taxation and no government to interfere with their little drug-induced worlds.

Somalia.

 

Expose the Koch Scam

Watch the video below.  Senator Bernie Sanders is finally taking the fight to the octupus and the funding behind the right-wing talk machine.

The Koch brothers want your money – they want to STEAL it.  The entire “privatize” argument is to take your money, and stick it in a vulnerable market where they can then arrange for you to lose the gamble.  They’ve invested a lot of cash already in making sure you aren’t paying attention when they do it.

The entire 401(k) idea sprang from this.  Now, they’re after the trillions that pass through the Social Security program.

It’s time to put their efforts to an end.  In case you weren’t paying attention, this is the kind of maneuver that will end up killing you, because someday soon you’re going to find yourself retired, without money, and you will simply starve to death or freeze.

 

I’d clap and cheer if someone put a bullet in the eye of both of the Koch brothers.  As with Jerry Falwell – sometimes death can be a good thing.

If you really are curious…

…about evolution, and you’re not just saying you are so you don’t appear to be some kind of flub-brained creationist, Darryl Cunningham has put together a great comic strip detailing a very general view of the principles behind evolution.

I disagree with the section on “you have to think of DNA as a vast chemical information database,” because that implies a conclusion that something was out there to read that data.  Under current theory, there was a period prior to cellular life in which self-replicating chemicals dominated the planet – RNA (ribo-nucleic acids).  Very simple, able to generate new copies of themselves (not because they’re smart, it’s just what they do, just like battery acid “knows” how to chew through flesh).  DNA, a very similar chemical, is transcribed by forms of RNA, and it’s not so hard to posit that DNA also occurred in this soup of RNA, basically parasitising the RNA world.

Eventually, when conditions were right to generate lipid “shells,” DNA and RNA got trapped inside those shells and became the first genome.  I think the current best explanation for this is waves against rock and clay – in a sea choked with organic chemistry, imagine the most polluted environment you can think of, a scummy sea somewhere off industrial New Jersey or perhaps Lake Erie in the 1970s, waves beating that phlegm against the shore and making foam.  That foam, in this case, was a combination of lipids and a few small proteins, cast-offs from the RNA/DNA replication race.  The bubbles that the foam formed, the really small ones, trapped small pockets of RNA/DNA countless kazillions of times inside lipid shells until one combination actually was able to continue operation inside the shell.  That shell was really malleable, and had a lot of surface tension, so it stayed bound tight to the contents while remaining flexible – and some things could pass through it.  Again, not intentional, it’s just what lipids do.  They break when certain conditions arise, and they let certain things pass through them.

So there’s that bubble – filled with the soup from around it, with actively-replicating RNA/DNA in it, and as the materials inside it get used up and the cast-off unusable stuff gets concentrated, another principle of chemistry kicks in.

Osmosis.

Osmotic pressure is that experiment that most of us (those who didn’t go to a religious school or were abused home-schooled) did right around eighth grade – separate two parts of a water tank with a semi-permeable membrane that doesn’t allow salt or some other chemical to pass, and then pour a shit-ton of that chemical into one side.  The water can pass freely, so the volumes to either side stay the same, but one side builds up a huge concentration of the chemical – and because the molecules of that chemical have a tendency to spread out into an even distribution, it creates pressure.  So the membrane bulges out.

In the case of our little bubble, the chemicals causing the osmotic pressure are able to pass through the lipid barrier, either directly through the lipids, or through holes in the small proteins caught in the shell.  (Proteins are just basically long chains of amino acids – they form tangled strings that each have specific shapes, because there’s only so many ways those aminos can fit together – so now imagine one of these chains tangled up in the form of a lowercase letter “e”, and caught in the lipid shell.  Stuff that is small enough can fit through the hole in the “e”, making that protein a teensy little gateway for crap to go back and forth between the outside and the inside.)

So the DNA/RNA inside the shell can keep doing what it does, replicating, because although the lipid/protein bubble it’s stuck in does slow it down some, it doesn’t prevent new materials from coming in – and it lets byproducts out.

Eventually, though, the replicating RNA/DNA builds up enough of itself inside that it can’t fit easily – and the little bubble has to stretch, eventually splitting off little sections of itself to alleviate the pressure.  Probably most of these just burst, spilling all their crap back into the soup.  But a couple – at least one – somehow has the right byproducts of its DNA/RNA to make the shell flexible enough (remember, we’re talking chemistry – a lot of the stuff we’re dealing with is really slimy and slippery, and can have viscosity similar to motor oil or tar).  So this one bubble with a bunch of DNA/RNA in it is spewing out enough byproducts inside that it can suck up stuff from the outside soup, replicate its nucleic acids, and rather than burst, its shell is of the right consistency to pinch off rather than pop, like bubbles of oil in water.

Mainly because that’s what it is, it’s a weird kind of oil bubble in water.

What that is, is a cell.  I won’t pretend that this is what happened, because I don’t know – but it is a pretty good description of how DNA got its start inside a cell.  And to bring it back to the original point above, let’s say that cell has a generation time of sixty minutes (e.coli is 20, but it’s a lot more complicated and has had time to fine-tune to its surroundings).  It’ll have 8,766 generations in one year.

In a million years, it’ll get 8,766,000,000 generations.  If each of those results in a doubling (it won’t, because some of the cells will be destroyed, but for the rough purpose of this discussion we’ll use it), that’s 2 to the 8,766,000,000 individual cells – each one subject to error in replication.  Errors in such a haphazard collection of crap will be quite common, and more often than not fatal.

But some will be advantageous.

In case you’re wondering, another word for error in this context, is mutation. And over the course of 4,500,000,000 years (in the world of the cell described above – that would be 39,447,000,000,000 generations), there’s a lot of room for change.

So the accumulation of change to the tiny little bucket of DNA/RNA in that early, primitive cell results in the DNA we know today – where cell lineages have found survival tactics wildly different from one another.  Just as one person might make a living as a nuclear physicist while his or her sibling might be a baker, cells since that early age have found an enormous number of different paths to survival and propogation.  Some took on an extra lipid layer.  Some bound together in great colonies and use chemical emissions to keep each other aware of the status of the colony (these are called biofilms).

Some went a few steps further, and started to specialize.  Certain cells discovered that working in cooperation enabled them to focus on a symbiotic relationship – where some cells performed only certain functions.  Eventually, these cells got so accustomed to living in symbiosis that they couldn’t survive without their partners – and these became the first true multicellular organisms.

The rest, as they say, is history.  But DNA isn’t a database – it’s more like a cookbook.  A really messy one, that gets scribbled out onto pages in crayon every time it gets transcribed.  Each gene is a recipe for a protein (and some of the DNA, it is currently thought, is also a form of instruction).  There’s also a lot of crap built up in our genome – the term “junk DNA” is used for this – which are broken genes, things left over from generations ages and ages ago that no longer has any function today.  But because the crayon-scribbler is blind and doesn’t know what’s good and what’s not, it copies all of it, junk and all, and makes mistakes every time it does.  (As an example, humans accumulate approximately 150 errors with every transcription – each of us is a mutant.  We each have about 150 mutations in our genes relative to the genes that were donated by our parents.)

That’s a really long description there – which is why, for the purposes of a comic strip, using “database” is appropriate.  But lest it become something that a proponent of Intelligent Design (a.k.a., and IDiot) tries to harness dishonestly as “evidence”, this description needed to be laid out.

So, again, go read the cartoon.  It’s really great.

You probably didn’t realize this…

…but Rupert Murdoch’s paper in the UK, News of the World, was responsible for one of the biggest cases of phone-hacking there’s ever been outside of NSA wiretapping.

From the appearance of the case (which is now ten years old), practically every person of note in the UK was hacked, their voicemails listened to, etc.  The case just took another turn recently.

This is a Murdoch property.  If you think for a minute that Fox isn’t doing something similar in the USA, I’ve got five bucks says they are.  If not them, then certainly the other Murdoch properties (newspapers, etc.) in the empire.  The NewsCorp properties have no journalistic standards – and it should be obvious that ethics runs short there as well.

Call it a counter-advert – and I find it really interesting that this never made a peep in the US press cycle.  Where’s that “liberal media,” folks?

Answer:  long gone.  Been dead since Reagan.

Well, that’s one way to do it

Apparently, a gentleman in North Carolina who was laid off from Coca-Cola three years ago became so desperate for health care that he robbed a convenience store in order to be incarcerated, where he would receive medical attention.

This should be a national embarrassment, that we are among the most successful countries in the world, but our citizens are dying on their feet because they can’t afford health care.  That’s the kind of thing I would expect to see in a third-world shithole like Haiti, not the USA.  It’s why we should be thankful of workers’ unions, not resentful of them.

Utterly shocking and bad.

This just makes me look at the state of science education in the USA and cry.  I don’t usually expect a lot of neurons to be shared among the contestants of a beauty pageant, but to hear the total bullshit that streams from their mouths in this, it just makes me want to beat Jimmy Swaggart or Rick Warren until they bleed.

Seriously.  The level of ignorance in this video is just stunning.  Not only the missing understanding about what is current in science, but the underlying failure in our school system to get the point across.

If nothing else, this just further demonstrates the criminality that passes for religion back home.

Edit:  On the plus side, at least the winner, out of the fifty-one contestants, was one of the two who actually got it close to right.

Hmm…something is fishy in downtown Rome…

The title is rhetorical, I suspect a great many people feel the same way.  Walk with me down a little logic path here.

I hope it is a well-known fact that when people are taught to value one thing over another, it becomes easy to sacrifice the less-valued thing in favor of one that has more.

That said, if for about a thousand years, say, or perhaps two, a culture is brought up to consider “The value of this person A is more than that one B” then it would follow that considering the needs of A would preclude consideration for B.

Now lend the power of belief that this value judgment system comes directly from God.  That’s a pretty hefty value statement, don’t you think?  And would it surprise you that wars get fought over it?  Because after all, if person A is a favorite of God, then by definition A is worth far, far more than B, who is ignored – or worse, considered an enemy – by God.  And if person A is actually “in touch with God” regularly, i.e., they are speaking together often, then that differential becomes a whole lot bigger.

In light of that path, doesn’t it make a perverted sort of sense that the Catholic Church protects priests committing rape against children in their parish, rather than prosecuting them?  Doesn’t it make the same sort of sense that they consider defense of the Church to be paramount over the well-being of the children who are nominally under their protection?

Allow me to point something out.  It’s mundane, common.  I’m sure the message is everywhere among the parishes.  This is taken from an Irish Sunday School book:

Figure it out for yourself, I'm busy puking over here.

This is evil at work here.

Tell you what – when I see the Vatican in flames, and the Catholic Church is reduced to a historical footnote alongside mention of the great mass-murderers of all time, maybe then I’ll be able to think of the millions of people they’ve killed in my lifetime and not feel the compulsion to slug a collared priest in the mouth.

And yes, I said MILLIONS.  There are enormous fatalities every year to AIDS – which the Catholic Church has enabled, because they feel using a condom is worse than dying horribly when your immune system goes belly up and you succumb to common infections that ravage your body.  Oh, but those are black people, which I’m sure don’t rate as high in some circles.  The influence of the Church in that regard is enormous.  And they’re still doing it.

Every time you drop a fiver or a ten-spot in that plate, you support this.  You also help pay for the redistribution of sex offenders who rape children, rather than putting them behind bars where they belong.

So if you’re Catholic, fill me in – why are you?  Why would you support this group?  Do you genuinely believe the Pope is the one-and-only guy on the planet with a hot-line to Jesus?  Do you feel that one of your children using a condom is worse than having him or her killed by AIDS?  Do you think that eating a cracker once every so often will literally absolve you of whatever sins or crimes you may have committed?  Do you genuinely consider that the idea of Original Sin is somehow more believable than Scientology’s arch-galactic-overlord Xenu?

I submit to all of you – this institution is not worthy of your support.  Quite the contrary, they deserve recrimination and need to be shut down.