Category Archives: Politics

Be wary of this man.

blame I think this may be the guy I wrote about yesterday. Remember? The one who said, “God is watching over us” while eleven people died? Be wary of this man.

I just found this guy’s picture on Facebook and thought I ought to post it here, because you probably know him. If not, you almost certainly know somebody like him.

He’s conservative; he probably votes Republican, though he’ll tell you he’s politically independent; and he thinks the United States is a Christian nation, even though our Constitution never mentions Christ. He loves sinners–well, except maybe faggots and godless, atheistic secular humanists–and wants to save them from themselves and the world from them. He honors the presidency of the United States, but despises our President; and he loves our country so much he wants to tear up the Constitution and establish a theocracy. By force, if necessary.

He’ll tell you climate change is “the biggest fraud ever perpetrated against the American people,” even as we complete the hottest year in the history of climate studies. He’ll lie to your face and claim it’s not true that 13 of the 14 hottest years on record have been since the turn of this century and the other one was 1998. He’ll laugh about the possibility that sea level could rise enough to notice, even while small island nations prepare to be swallowed up by the waves.

He’ll say that “if you tell your kids they came from animals, they’ll act like animals.” Then he’ll claim we were all made out of dirt.

This man is a Fundamentalist. What makes him dangerous is not just that he’s so wrong about so many things, but that he’s absolutely certain he is right about them. Ask him what could potentially shake his faith in his beliefs and he’ll probably answer truthfully, “Absolutely nothing.” He is so certain, in fact, that he wants you to live your life according to the dictates of his conscience.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by men just as certain of their wrong ideas. Iran is ruled by men just as certain of their wrong ideas. North Korea is ruled by a man just as certain of his wrong ideas. America needs leaders who get their ideas and ideals from science and reason and compassion, and who understand they might be wrong about anything they believe and willing to learn better.

Be wary of this man. Be very wary of this man

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Gun Control in the Democratic Debate

The clip above is from the first Democratic presidential campaign debate last week. Gun control is one of the most divisive issues in the country; people are either for lots of it or against any of it. There seems to be very little in between.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees “the people” the right to bear arms, but it provides no guidance about what kinds of regulation might be permissible or proper.

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

United States (2011-03-24). United States Bill of Rights (Kindle Location 8). . Kindle Edition.

Arms Are for Militias

It’s clear the Second Amendment (above) refers to militias, which no longer exist in the United States in the same form or for the same purposes as they did when the Constitution was written. They have been  replaced by a standing Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, National Guards, and other military institutions, some of which the framers of the Constitution could never have imagined.

Nevertheless, the writers wrote, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be abridged.” The Supreme Court has ruled this right is still protected, even though the stated need for it no longer applies.

Reasonable Gun Control Is not Forbidden

While “the people” are guaranteed the right to bear arms, this does not necessarily mean we have to let criminals or mentally ill people have guns. As Hilary said, “We are losing 90 people a day to gun violence” in this country. We have every right and responsibility, through our representatives, to try to prevent this.

We have the right to require background checks on people before selling them weapons, as we sometimes — but not always — do. There is a glaring loophole in this policy: background checks are only required if you want to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. You can go to a “gun show” nearly every weekend in any moderately large city and buy guns with no questions asked.

Bernie sounds good on gun control.

Bernie says this loophole must be closed. I agree.

He says felons and mentally ill people should not be allowed to own guns. I agree.

He says that if a dealer sells a gun legally and the buyer uses it to commit a crime, the dealer is not liable. However, if the dealer has intentionally or carelessly sold the gun illegally, then  the dealer is also responsible for the crime committed by the buyer. I agree completely!

One of the ways some dealers sell guns illegally is the so called “straw man” sale. This is when somebody buys a gun for somebody else, who might not pass a background check. It’s always illegal for the buyer to do it, and it’s illegal for the seller if he or she knows it’s happening. That is, a dealer cannot knowingly sell a gun to one person for somebody else.

For a variety of reasons, this is seldom enforced, though it happens a lot. Bernie says it must be enforced, and I agree.

Hilary says Bernie is soft on gun control, but he sounds pretty good to me. His opinions on this issue just make sense. They provide reasonable control without making gun ownership difficult or illegal for responsible citizens.

Bernie is unique in this election cycle. Nobody else is even in the ballpark. They have no clue about the things that matter to most of us.

As one hard-working but very poor young man said recently at a Sanders rally, “I want to see change. And I believe Bernie Sanders is the one to do it.” I agree. Bernie is the ONLY candidate with any grasp of our problems and a plan to fix them.

Can he succeed? I don’t know, but nobody else is even talking much about the real issues facing the country. Issues many of us face every day. Issues like creeping poverty. Like life-long, crushing debt for college graduates. Like crumbling overpasses and bridges on the highways we travel. Like reasonable, practical gun control. Like staying out of war, except as an absolute last resort. Like making enough money to live on if you work full-time at one job. Bernie Sanders is the ONLY candidate in either party to propose any rational solutions to these problems.

I was never a particular fan of Sanders until this campaign, but Bernie Sanders sounds better every time he opens his mouth.


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The American people are tired of hearing about your damn emails!

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

In some ways, it was the highlight of the Democratic debate last night.

For eight months Hillary has been answering questions about the private email server she used when she was Secretary of State. It was not illegal, but she has admitted it was a mistake. Still she found herself answering again last night for the umpteen billionth time, and complaining that it was time to go on to something more substantive.

Bernie Sanders, standing next to her, turned her way. “I think the Secretary is right,” he said, “The American people are tired of hearing about your damn emails!”

I agree.

I want to hear how the candidates plan to make America great again. I want to know how they are going to create — or promote the creation of — millions of good, high-paying, secure jobs. How they are going to save and expand Social Security and Medicare and provide universal access to healthcare and education. I want to know what they plan to do to keep America and the world safe.

I’m tired of hearing about the damn emails.

“It looks like a bomb.”

Ahmed's clock

Nearly everybody seems to say “It looks like a bomb.” Of course, I’m talking again — hopefully for the last time — about Ahmed Mohammed’s clock (above) that caused all the commotion recently.

Ahmed didn’t “invent” a clock. That seems clear enough. What was different about this clock that made him think he had invented something is not clear. Nevertheless, he was proud enough of it that he wanted to show it off to his engineering teacher.

Unfortunately, the alarm went off during English class, and the English teacher and Principal went bonkers. You’ll remember, I’m sure, that nobody thought it was a bomb. The boy was arrested and taken away in handcuffs because they thought it was a “hoax bomb.” They said it looks like a bomb!

suitcase bomb

Here’s a real suitcase bomb on the left and another on the right. See the difference?

These bombs have actual explosives, which you can see in both of them. Ahmed’s “hoax bomb” doesn’t have anything to explode. It’s just a tangle of wires and electronic elements.

Hackett Suitcase Bomb

I wonder what an actual hoax bomb clock would look like? Here are a couple I found on Google.

The clock on the left definitely looks like a bomb to me. It was meant to.

clock hoax bomb

The “hoax dynamite” explosive is just wooden dowel pins covered with brown paper and bound with electrical tape, but it looks real to me. This definitely looks like a bomb.

The clock on the right (below) is designed to look like a C4 bomb.

clock hoax bomb

The fake C4 plastic explosive is nothing but gray modeling clay, but it looks like a bomb.

Ahmed Mohammed has a reputation as a tinkerer and likes to think of himself as an “inventor.” His friends pay him actual money for some of his gadgets. So nobody should have been alarmed (no pun intended) when it dinged. This “model student” who had never been in trouble before brought his current project to school to show it off to people he thought would appreciate it.

Who would have thought so many supposedly intelligent, educated, and trained people would have thought it looks like a bomb? Who would have thought such an exceptionally bright and well behaved student would have been (mis)treated like a terrorist by people he trusted? People he thought were on his side?

What Controversy?

http://carbon-comic.com/

No Controversy

The cartoonist notes:

With the heightened political coverage, the ridiculous anti-science popping up in my newsfeed is reaching frustrating levels. Yes, I’m talking about you, Texas.

Do your part in the fight for science literacy and buy a copy of Sounds Sciencey for a friend!

Anyway, keep calm and science on!

Texas is my state. Most of the time, I’m proud  to be a Texan. But I know that Dallas Independent School District and many others are teaching creationism and Intelligent Design in biology classes, I have to hang my head.

No controversy!

There is no controversy among scientists. The controversy is all among politicians and certain religious people. Evolution is real and should be taught in public school biology classes. Creationism and intelligent design are phony and should not be taught. It’s as simple as that?

97% of all scientists accept evolution as the way we and other living things got here, and far more than 99% of scientists working in biological fields. There is no controversy among them!

Women’s rights, too

When I read how our state legislature has restricted women’s reproductive rights in the last couple of years, my head hangs even further. In some ways, we haven’t progressed in the last and 65 years.

Science and women’s rights don’t necessarily go together, but they’re both important. Extremely important! Fellow Texans, we need to build a fire under our governor and our legislature and force them into the 21st-century.

In varying degrees, the same is true of the other states in our country and of our federal government. America can be great again, but not this way.


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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King Jr.

Constitution of the United States of AmericaAs noted in the sidebar, the above quote is the guiding principle of this blog. I intend to speak out about things that matter. While there are many kinds of things that matter, it has always been my primary intention to write about science and the skepticism that is an essential part of it, including the nature that science studies and the technology it creates.

My passion for those four things — science, skepticism, nature, and technology — will not diminish. However, I also feel compelled to discuss American Presidential politics more for the next few months — maybe all the way to the election in about a year and a half. Presidential election campaigns in the United States have become circuses that last a minimum of two years, beginning long before anybody officially declares his or her candidacy. This is insane. Election campaigns in most of the free world last days or weeks, by comparison.

Not only that, but American elections cost an enormous amount of money. So much money that all but two candidates this time are seeking the backing of billionaires and SuperPACs. Otherwise, they cannot hope to finance their campaigns. One of the two exceptions is himself a billionaire, so he doesn’t have to sell his soul — if any — to the super-rich for campaign donations.

The other exception is focussing on getting small donations from middle-class people and is doing incredibly well. So well that he has been able, so far, to wage a very competitive campaign against the Democratic front-runner, who, for a long time, was considered a shoo-in for the nomination.

The Republican frontrunner is a self-centered, sexist, blustering, billionaire, bully. Please don’t misunderstand; I have nothing against billionaires personally. I’ve always wanted to be one myself. It’s self-centered, sexist, blustering, bullies I have a problem with, whether rich or poor; but being rich makes them better at it. Whether or not he can keep his followers loyal until the primaries start in Iowa on February 1 is anybody’s guess. I hope not.

The other Republicans are all scientifically illiterate; even those you’d think ought not to be, like the medical doctors. They deny evolution, almost without exception. Several are young earth creationists, claiming our world is less than 10,000 years old. That’s incredibly ignorant for the potential “Leader of the Free World!”

Most of them also want to ban most or all abortions, repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than fix it, leaving tens of millions of additional citizens unable to afford basic medical care; and commit a number of other atrocities like gutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, and other essential services. Several even openly and plainly put their interpretations of the Bible above the Constitution a President is sworn to uphold and protect.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not pleased with the Democratic frontrunner, either. Too many questions remain unanswered about the Benghazi Massacre. “Why does it matter now?” is not an appropriate response to an investigator’s question. It matters because it speaks to the character, loyalty, and ability of the then Secretary of State (as well as the current President, of course; but he’s not a candidate this time). In addition, there are still too many questions about her email debacle.

I sympathize completely with the guy who said a few elections back, “If God wanted me to vote, I think He’d give me somebody to vote for.” But I will vote, as I always have.

For the duration of this political circus, I feel compelled to make a lot more posts of a political nature. The Presidency is just too important to let it fall into the hands of another incompetent ignoramus like some we’ve had recently, an irresponsible, self-aggrandizing blowhard, or any of those candidates who would place their own beliefs and desires above the Constitution and laws of our nation.

The United States is not, never has been, and must never be “one nation under God.” Our forefathers fled that kind of nation in Europe when they came to North America in search of religious freedom. That’s why we have always been (since 1789) one nation under the Constitution of the United States of America.

Marriage Redefined

marriage redefined

Billboard recently placed in Kim Davis’ home town by Planting Peace. Kim Davis is the Kentucky County Clerk who made news by refusing to sell legal marriage licenses to same-sex couples and then went to jail for refusing to obey a court order to do her job.

Even now, after being released from jail, she still refuses to personally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or even let her employees issue such licenses bearing her name, title, or authority. “Instead,” she says, “the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order.” Lawyers are questioning whether or not such a marriage license is even valid.

According to their website, Planting Peace is a global nonprofit organization founded for the purpose of spreading peace in a hurting world. Their projects focus primarily on humanitarian aid and environmental initiatives, including their multi-national deworming campaign, Equality House LGBTQ rights advocacy, a network of orphanages and safe havens, and conservation effort in the rainforests of Peru.

Atomic Bomb Attack on Japan

Atomic attack on HirishimaAugust 6, 1945, seventy years ago today

The United States dropped one atomic bomb called “Little Boy,” and killed or fatally wounded more than a hundred thousand people in and around Hiroshima. It was the world’s first atomic bomb attack.

Three days later, we destroyed another hundred thousand people in Nagasaki with a second atomic bomb called “Fat Man.” Even though we had no more atomic bombs for immediate use, President Truman promised a “rain of ruin.” Japanese leaders evidently believed him. They surrendered.

Let’s hope there’ll never be a third atomic bomb attack on anybody.

It was the Second World War. Japan had destroyed most of the American Navy in a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and we were still struggling to recover. Germany’s Adolph Hitler had tried to turn the entire world into a Nazi “Third Reich.” He wanted to rule it for a thousand years, taking his cue from the prophesied millennial reign of Jesus. The war had continued for years already, and millions of people had died. Germany had finally surrendered a few months earlier, but the United States and her Allies were still at war with Japan.

It was common in war to bomb cities, because weapons were not yet accurate enough to target specific military installations well. Little effort was made to spare civilians. Germany had rained bombs from the sky on London until the city was almost destroyed. If the more powerful bombs we have now are ever used, they’ll destroy cities very thoroughly.

On the night of March 9-10, America’s B-29 bombers had struck Tokyo with incendiary bombs, which killed 100,000 people within a few hours. Over the next five months, American bombers firebombed 66 other Japanese cities. Untold numbers of buildings had been destroyed; between 350,000–500,000 Japanese civilians had died. But they would rather die than surrender.

It was about this time that General George Patton told his soldiers, “It is not your job to die for your country. It is your job to help our enemies die for their countries.”

Germany had been trying to design an atomic bomb.

Albert Einstein had recommended to President Roosevelt that we should design an atomic bomb, because it would be impossible to stop Germany if they got it first; but he recommended that it not be used on Japan. President Truman disagreed.

Germany was no longer in the war, and people have been debating ever since whether or not it was necessary to use atomic weapons against Japan. It’s probably something we’ll never know for sure.

For his part, Einstein became a pacifist. Somebody once asked him, “What weapons will be used in the next war?” He answered, “I don’t know, but the war after that will be fought with rocks.”

Hiroshima about a month after the atomic attackEven vastly more powerful bombs invented

In 1952, an atomic bomb was used to trigger a vastly more powerful thermonuclear hydrogen bomb. During the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union that lasted more than 40 years, both sides built thousands of thermonuclear weapons. The Soviet Union has been gone for almost 30 years now, but those weapons still exist and endanger the entire human race. There are enough of them to destroy us all many times over.

A nuclear, or atomic, bomb is an explosive device that gets its deadly power from nuclear fission, the splitting of uranium or plutonium atoms; a thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bomb gets its power from fusion. An atomic bomb is its trigger. Fusion smashes atoms of deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen) together with such extreme force that they fuse, forming a helium atom. Both reactions release tremendous amounts of energy from small amounts of matter, according to Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2.

The atomic bomb released over Hiroshima produced a staggering amount of energy equal to about 20,000 tons of TNT. The first thermonuclear bomb tested just seven years later released 500 times as much energy, about as much as 10,000,000 tons of TNT!

Several treaties have been made over the years to reduce the stockpiles of atomic weapons, but little has actually been done about it. Unless nuclear and thermonuclear weapons are destroyed, they will eventually destroy us. All of us.

A madman could get hold of one and destroy a city, thereby setting off a war. Pakistan and India, which have little wars every few years, both have atomic weapons on missiles aimed at each other. A leader of the United States, Russia, or China could foolishly decide for whatever reason to attack one of the others. The principle of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) has prevented such insanity for 70 years, but it can’t work forever.

Even a mistake or an equipment malfunction could produce the same result, and nothing works perfectly all the time. Those of us who don’t disappear in a flash will almost certainly die of radiation poisoning in the few months following.

Mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb attack on NagasakiThe Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2012 there were more than 17,000 nuclear and thermonuclear warheads worldwide. Around 4,300 of them were considered considered ready for immediate use. There are enough of them mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach anywhere in the world in 30 minutes or less to destroy the entire human race many times over. How could anybody have ever thought we needed so many?

It’s not enough to hope. We must stop the proliferation of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons any way we can and eventually destroy our own stockpiles before they destroy us. It doesn’t have to happen.

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