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Archive for the ‘social issues’ Category

Papering over a Reactionary Supreme Court

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To the shock of most commentators, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the Supreme Court yesterday to uphold almost the entire Affordable Care Act. Had he not done so, the Court’s historically low public confidence of 25% would have plummeted even further. Many pundits claim that Roberts saved the Court from becoming an overtly partisan operator, but it seems to have escaped almost everyone that four of the nine Justices threw away their legal training and attempted to axe the entire health care reform because they dislike, perhaps on a political level more than anything else, President Obama’s policy.

In the past, the Court has struck down laws in their entirely only when the essence is unconstitutional. While the individual mandate was a prominent part of the ACA, it was only a means to fund it, a tool of implementation. Without it, the reforms could still be carried out. Yet the Court was about to throw everything back at Obama; it was as if they would tear up the entire criminal code because one sentence for criminals was excessive.

The ACA is a set of reforms that illustrate the schizophrenic politics of many Americans. Most of its parts are strongly supported by the majority of Americans, who nevertheless want to see the totality destroyed. At least they do so on largely political grounds. Four of the five conservatives on the Court are no better, and probably far worse, judging from their latest opinions.


Written by Gnostradamus

Fri, 6/29/12 at 0913

What if homosexuality is a brain chemical, not a choice?

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Biologists have shown for the first time that serotonin, a chemical known to regulate sexual behaviors in both mice and men, determines whether male mice prefer to mount males or females. The study was ingenious and worth reading in its own right, but even more consequential is the moral dilemma it poses for anti-gay and equality rights activists.

Of course, all of this discussion assumes serotonin has the same effect in men as it does in mice, a reasonable hypothesis that nevertheless requires experimental proof.

In the United States, most people are Christians, and most anti-gay activists are Christians. Many of them base their beliefs on their bible (the end of this article discusses some of those beliefs).

But if too much or too little serotonin leads to homosexuality, then reasonable people could question why a deity so against the practice would allow males of so many species to be born with a condition that renders them all but certain to adoptĀ  that practice. And why has that god not told these God-loving people that it is a chemical, not a choice?

Why have they been so wrong?

Equality rights supporters are not off the hook either. For one thing, some religious regimes will almost certainly start “treating” gay men, if not women, with serotonin, just like the way researchers turned gay mice into heterosexuals. Although less common, support may also exist in this country among some of the more virulently anti-gay groups.

Should discriminatory sentiments not decrease significantly or quickly enough, some gays who have not come out of the closet may try to change themselves through “voluntary” self-injections of the chemical.

Urgent actions need to be taken immediately in this area of bioethics.

Christian Justification

Christians who hate gays often cite the following passage:

“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

The problem is that three verses before that passage is one that calls for execution of people who curse their parents.

“For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.” (Leviticus 20:9)

Another passage is often used to justify discrimination.

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

The same book, though, called eating shellfish (such as shrimps), an abomination, not once, not twice, but three separate times.

“But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:10)

“They (shellfish) shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.” (Leviticus 11:11)

“Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales; that shall be an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:12)

You can read more about it on

Written by Gnostradamus

Sun, 3/27/11 at 2124

Nuclear saviors: Fukushima 50 doing what god would not

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Nuclear Death

Photo used under Creative Commons license

Explosions, fires, exposed fuel rods. We are almost impotent watching crisis after crisis unfold at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The picture coming out is one of a loosening grip on the disaster. At the time of this writing, there are reports that spent fuel rods at the No. 4 reactor may reach “criticality” again and restart a chain reaction. The consequences would be far deadlier than at the other reactors, because these rods are stored outside containment structures, after being taken offline before the earthquake hit.

All that stopping the plant from going nuclear is 50-70 workers who have stayed, as TEPCO, the power company with a shady past and present, pulled out the other 750 workers. They have been dubbed the “Fukushima 50”, and they accept the probability of death: without protective equipment, one may not last more than ten minutes outside these reactors. The situation is so dangerous than anyone within 20 miles has been told to leave.

As CBS News described in that report, a Japanese official said his friend, one of the Fukushima 50, has told him that he was ready to die, that it was his job.

Numerous well-meaning folks have urged people to pray for these self-sacrificing heroes. Well, why won’t a god who can create a whole universe not lift a finger in these critical times?

We know, hopefully, what we would do with the ability to stop the nuclear reactions. And those 50 heroes are trying their human best. The question has been mangled by centuries of theologians, but comes down to this: would you? Ultimately, the justification is that there is some grand plan we do not understand.

Scrap the plan. Don’t try to justify preventable deaths, or you can justify anything. Only religions can make someone do that. We are better than that. The Fukushima 50 have shown we can be better than god. Remember what they are doing as you go about the rest of your life, because they may not have a chance to go about theirs.

Update: The danger of fatality may have been proved, as Japan abandons stricken nuke plant over radiation, but not before two workers went missing in a blast.

Written by Gnostradamus

Tue, 3/15/11 at 2230

Women should stay home and raise the kids, American Talibans explain

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It makes as much sense for women (or at least those who consider themselves equal to men) to call themselves Republicans as for Log Cabins.

Republican Officials Cut Head Start Funding, Saying Women Should be Married and Home with Kids

Written by Gnostradamus

Sat, 2/19/11 at 1644