Way To Go SCOTUS!

The Supreme Court Of the United States has made some spectacularly bad decisions over the years – Citizens United has flooded the political system with legalized bribes.

But this week, this country took some big steps forward. The Court upheld key provisions of the Affordable Care Act and this morning they ruled that love conquers all – the states cannot ban marriage equality! My LGBTQ friends can marry whom they choose. This is a great day for the United States.

Cracked’s article A 30-Second Guide To How The Gay Marriage Ruling Affects You nails this perfectly:

If You Are a Homosexual and Want to Get Married:

Where before this came down to whether or not your state had legalized it, now you are free to do so regardless of which state you live in.

If You Are a Heterosexual and Do NOT Want to Enter into a Homosexual Marriage:

You will not be required to marry a gay person. This is a common misunderstanding. This decision actually does not affect you in any way.

If You Are Currently in a Heterosexual Marriage:

This decision does not affect you in any way.

If You Are a Heterosexual Who Is Not Currently Married:

This decision does not affect you in any way.

It goes on like that. “This decision does not affect you in any way.” EXACTLY!

Equal rights for everyone.

What A Difference Two Months Can Make

For the last few weeks, there has been a lot of rain across Texas and into Oklahoma. It has washed away homes and bridges. At around 3:30am this morning, I awoke to the wailing of the tornado sirens. That’s usually pretty scary – I grabbed Debug and spent several minutes in the closet beneath my staircase.

Yet, only two months ago, there was inches of snow in my backyard. Wow, what a difference!

I took some photos of the (fortunately minor) flooding around my neighbourhood. They are uploaded to the My Life In Texas album on Flickr.

Coppell_River_01The Coppell Creek separates the cities of Irving and Coppell. Normally it is only about 12 to 18 inches deep and in the middle of summer can dry up completely. But in this picture it is at least 5 feet deep!

I included a short video clip on Flickr showing how fast it is flowing too.

Je Suis Charlie

Of course I am shocked and repulsed at the vile and cowardly attacks in Paris yesterday. Having a free society obviously includes the freedom to criticize or satirize any idea – including (especially?) religious ideas. Of course, I am not surprised either.

Islamic intolerance of criticism is no longer shocking to us. We expect it.

Indeed, according to the clueless and disgusting Catholic toad Bill Donohue, these attacks are the fault of the cartoonists themselves. There is no level too low that this cretin won’t sink to.

I’ll just leave this image here…

fuck islam

 

While we are at it … fuck Bill Donohue too.

Congratulations To The ESA

I ended up procrastinating this post unfortunately. But this was amazing news!

Alright, the poor Philae lander ended up in an unplanned location that is too shadowed for its solar panels. Hopefully the lander can be re-charged in the future and we get even more data. It was still an incredible accomplishment. We’re still getting some awesome science out this mission.

I mean the possibility of organic molecules!?!? AWESOME! Sure, Jerry Coyne put a bit of a blanket on it. This is still worth exploring of course – it is a key reason for sending a probe to the comet in the first place. We need to keep pushing our frontiers when it comes to the origin of life. Because for damned sure, there wasn’t a magic man in the sky who did it!

Oh that stupid shirt thing. I was disappointed (but not entirely surprised) when Phil Plait went on a tirade about it. There are bigger concerns for this topic as far as I am concerned. Plait went for the easy target. I am glad The Young Turks took Dr. Taylor’s side on this; especially Ana Kasparian’s points.

Minor Earthquake In Irving Last Night

Last night, just as I was beginning to fall asleep – with Debug curled up beside me – a rumble shook the house. The entire structure creaked. Freaky. My first thoughts were that my furnace or water heater had broken; but the sound was not mechanical.

Debug was on immediate alert – she was sitting at the edge of the bed and prepared to move if necessary! I managed to get back to sleep and planned to investigate in the morning.

When I woke, it felt colder than normal. That reinforced my thoughts that my furnace had died. Everything seemed okay, there was electricity flowing and the water heater appeared to be intact. So I made breakfast.

imageMy former trainer, Patrick, had stated on Facebook that it had been an earthquake. Why didn’t I think of that? Off to the USGS website. Confirmed!

I live in Irving but I am actually between the words “Coppell” and “Carrollton” on this map. So the quake was south-east of me by several miles. It registered 3.3 on the Richter scale.

There have been tremors in this area before but I had missed on those. I can remember experiencing a few tremors around Hamilton when I was kid too.

Happy Belated Birthday United States!

It would hardly be fair to Canada if I wasn’t late writing this post too! Happy birthday 237th USA!

Part of me is stunned that at 237 years old, this country still has so much growing up to do. Well, actually, vast swathes of the population have regressed its maturity (hello to the entire Bible Belt and North Dakota!). As spectacularly wonderful as the death of DOMA and Prop 8 were, the Supreme Court also gutted the Voting Rights Act!

{sigh} Let’s see how Mississippi and the other in-breds react. What a shame that the “great American experiment” has to toy so blatantly with other’s basic human rights.

I’m reading some quotes from past presidents on the separation of state and church. We need more leaders like these!

Happy Belated Birthday Canada!

A very happy 146th birthday to the greatest country on Earth! I do miss you. May there be a 146 more of these and then some!

Sorry I didn’t write two days ago, work has been crazy – which isn’t really an excuse for such a quick post.

The United States Continues To Civilize

I should have posted this two days ago when it happened! Just the same, it always pleases me when I see the USA inch forward to true equality for everybody. In spite of tired, old, white cretins like Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court has overturned the ludicrously-named Defense Of Marriage Act and thwarted California’s Proposition 8.

Wow! Awesome!

Excellent work Justices who understand and empathize with fellow human beings!

My only regret is that SCOTUS did not go far enough and actually state in their ruling that all people, regardless of gender, have a right to marry. So there is still a fight ahead for my LGBTQ friends; this ruling does gain them ground though.

Of course, tired, old, white cretins exist outside of the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. This is most of the Republican Party at its very worst. I truly love how Neil Macdonald put it in that last link:

But Boehner’s statement was no sooner in the hands of the press corps than out marched 11 of his caucus members, determined to change the party message.

What followed was a spectacular display of intolerance from a fading era, as the hardline rump of the GOP emerged once again as its public brand.

As wonderful as this news is, there was still some terrible stuff happening in the American courts and political halls (perhaps most notably what SCOTUS did to the Voting Rights Act) this week. Mark Morford captures this side of it with his indomitable style.

What a rollercoaster ride!

The Exodus Of Exodus

I could hardly have been happier when I first read that Exodus International was closing its doors.

They were on a fool’s errand right from the very beginning. What is deeply tragic – so I am pleased to hear a sincere apology from Alan Chambers – is the amount of hurt that they caused over the last 30+ years. Shaming gays and lesbians when prayer alone didn’t “cure” them of their natural attractions. Chambers also admitted that he continued having same-sex attractions over the years.

Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist dealt with this story.

This is an on-going change and something that is making us more civilized as a species. To fight against it is to (try to) drag humanity backward. You are on the losing end of this fight; so come around to reasonableness and be a better human being.

The Progress Of Equality

I am very late in posting about these events. Sorry.

On May 6th, Delaware became the 11th state to legalize marriage equality. Minnesota followed and we now have nearly one-quarter of the United States that recognize that the LGBTQ community deserve equality rights. I love how Mark Morford put it in his article:

Minnesota is, of course, also home to the Tea Party’s twitchiest nutball, its most flagrantly insane hood ornament, one Rep. Michele Bachmann, a goofy homophobe of epic proportions who once dragged a squadron of conservative “prayer warriors” into senate chambers to ask God to help smite the evil gays.

And lo, it would appear God has finally responded to Michele Bachmann, and the nation’s right-wing homophobes in general. Can you see it? Why, it looks like a very large, very bright, very unmistakable… middle finger.

One day the rest of the States will become civilized and catch-up with so much of the rest of the world.

Great Job New Zealand!

On Wednesday, the parliament of New Zealand voted to legalize marriage equality. It is the 13th country to do so and the first in the Asia-Pacific region (seriously Australia, get your act together and follow the Kiwis!).

Everyone else; you do realize that you will fall on the wrong side of history if you wait. Stop listening to the terrified, old men that run your church! The world will not end if two men or two women can express their love for each other in the same way that a man and a woman can. This is about basic human rights, not about your faith.

Carrara Has A Future!

For some reason that I do not fully understand, DAZ-3D likes to keep their cards close to their chest. They are essentially silent about what they are working on. This leads to wild and usually unfounded speculation in the support forums (here is a recent example).

Coming from Microsoft and their love of blogging and general openness about their products, I do find this to be very frustrating. There is no doubt that DAZ-3D would prefer to be a content-only company (or just stick with their own Daz|Studio product).

For the past month;,we Carraraists have been speculating about an alleged February announcement. What might it be? Carrara 8.5 is piteously overdue, is it finished? Is DAZ-3D selling Carrara? Is Carrara abandoned? On and on the theories piled upon each other without any word from DAZ all month.

Late last night, Carrara Cafe released this tantalizing bit.

Not exactly earth-shattering stuff there. But at least they announced some dates that we can try to hold them to.

Goodbye Benny! Good Riddance!

I was surprised – but immediately pleased – when I read this morning that Benny was going to be the first pope in nearly 6 centuries to resign. As soon as the dopamine flood in my brain subsided, my next thought was, “Old age? My ass!”

I would not be surprised if there was other forces at work here. Purely human forces I might add. JP2 was practically a pontificating corpse; so I find the old age excuse particularly weak. Benny may be older, but he’s nowhere near as infirm as JP2 became – so there almost has to be more to this than meets the eye.

Over at The Friendly Atheist, they used the title “The Pope Pulls Out.” Hilarious! Followed up by even funnier comments…well worth the read.

Slate re-published a 2010 piece by the late Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is always worth reading. Or watching on YouTube; here is a bit of Hitch’s masterful summary at the Intelligence2 debate about whether Catholicism is a force for good:

I don’t wish ill on any fellow primate or mammal of mine. So I don’t look forward to the death of Joseph Ratzinger, I don’t. Or any other pope, not really. Except for one tiny reason which I ought to confess and share with you. When he dies, there’s quite a long interval until the Conclave can meet and for the whole time – that whole interval, there’s a delicious, lucid interlude – there isn’t anyone on Earth who claims to be infallible.

Isn’t that nice? All I want to propose in closing is this; that if the human species is to rise to the full height that’s demanded by its dignity and by its intelligence, we must all of us move to a state of affairs where that condition is permanent.

The Vatican Will Never Condone Gay Marriage

I know that this is hardly surprising news to anyone with a few extra brain cells. It is obviously a reaction not only to President’s Obama’s resounding victory, but also to the four states that helped pull the USA further away from the Dark Ages that the Catholic Church so dearly loves.

Personally, I think that they won’t condone gay marriage because that would take all the illicit fun away from the priests.

My fellow Canadians feel much the same way. Here are some of the comments from that story:

  • “And I will never condone the Vatican.”
  • “The Vatican is irrelevant in the modern world.”
  • “What the Vatican has to say on any issue has not one iota of relevance to me.”

The World Breathes A Sigh Of Relief

Congratulations President Obama!

I am so glad for these results, that rationality and sanity won out (albeit not without some setbacks – Pete Stark lost his seat in Congress). What a huge gift it was to hear that Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin and Richard “Rape Is God’s Will” Mourdock lost their campaigns. It is also great to see more women representing this nation – 18 female Senators is an all-time high. Tammy Baldwin is also the first openly gay Senator.

I am also excited to see Elizabeth Warren win her Senate race. I’ve long been a fan of her work and advocacy of commercial reforms.

Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland all approved marriage equality laws. More progress towards becoming a civilized nation that respects humanity in all its diverse forms.

Progress! Slow – often painfully slow – but sure progress.

I definitely feel better about continuing to live in this country.

Thoughts On The Chick-fil-A Fiasco

Last week, every time that I began to write about this something new would crop up. The brouhaha seems to have finally calmed down. Of course; any one who knows me already know which side of the argument that I am on.

At first I applauded when the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco stated that they didn’t want a Chick-fil-A store in their cities. However, I am glad to say that reason returned to my mind. It was wrong to politicize this issue (though it was important for political leaders to speak out as they did, it is preferable to allow the free market to deal with it). I owe a nod to Matthew Paul Turner – a Christian writer – who wrote 5 Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday about the failure of the politicization of this issue:

People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated…

Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”

But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?

As a humanist, I want the best for everybody. If two people love each other and want to marry, they should have that as a right. Religion has often (always?) been at the forefront of supressing people’s rights. In spite of this, we humans have slowly moved forward and made life better.

There was a time when a group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them larger breasts, wider hips and even a different way of peeing, were regarded as inferior to the rest of the humans. These humans were treated as property for far too long. That slowly changed. There is another group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them darker skin; these humans were also seen as inferior and treated as property for too long.

Those struggles still continue to a certain, sad, extent. Today, we have a group of humans with some genetic differences that give them a predilection toward the same gender. This group is often marginalized and treated as inferior or broken. Yet, in time, they too will win out.

I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.