Friday, January 30, 2009

Republicans: You Were Wrong. Now Shut The Hell Up!

The United States is a mess right now. We have a financial crisis, we have two occupations, and a crumbling infrastructure.

Republicans: you did this to us. You were in charge for the past eight years--in total control for four--and you did this to us. You caused the financial disaster by working actively to put as much money as possible into the hands of people who were already wealthy, while also working hard to collapse the middle class.

Your supply-side economics is just what Geoerge H. W. Bush said it was: "voodoo economics". The reason it was so obvious to him and others is because it's so infernally stupid. Here's the theory: put more money into the hands of the wealthy, and they'll invest in more jobs, thereby causing the wealth to trickle down to the rest of the populace. No! Wrong! Stupid, stupid, stupid! How many of you own businesses? How many of you believe you have time to start other businesses? Why would you think that a business owner or the top executives of corporations would have time, with their schedules as full as they are, to create more jobs? They're going to take that money and put it into safe investments--and those that create jobs aren't usually all that safe. Budding businesses fail more often than they succeed.

Stupid. You're stupid and you need to shut the hell up. We don't need your input on the stimulus package, because your input for the past eight years has done nothing to our benefit. Nothing. You have sought only to benefit yourselves and the wealthiest among us, and now even their fortunes are disappearing.

You know what happens when you give more money to the poor and the middle class? They spend it. You know what that spending causes? More businesses will thrive when more people are spending money. The more businesses there are that are thriving, the more jobs we'll have. The more people we put to work, the more secure and prosperous we'll be.

We don't need your input. We don't need it. Shut up. Shut up, already! If I have to hear one more Republican (Boehner) whine abou thow Pelosi won't listen to him, I'm going to scream. I'm so tired of hearing the whining. Isn't it obvious from the number of colleagues that you lost in this last election that the majority of Americans don't give a rat's ass what you say? Don't you realize that America isn't about you? We're hurting. We don't need your political games. We don't need your incorrect policy decisions. Obama is President and the Democrats decisively control Congress. Americans want change. Unless you can come up with something other than tax cuts for the wealthy or other typical Republican fair, your input is not required, and you should be shut out of the process.

Bipartisanship is highly overrated right now. You have demonstrated that you're not capable of compromise, so bipartisanship isn't even possible. Let the adults run things now. Your reign of stupidity is over.

I wish Sarah Palin would just go away

Every time I come across anything about Sarah Palin, it makes me want to write something about why I wish she should go away. However, every time that thought comes to me, I also think about how I am contributing to the total number of things out there about her, and worry that I'm just fanning the flames.

I can't stand it anymore. I have to get it off my chest. This will be absolutely the last time I write anything about her, and I'm hoping that this post inspires others to ignore her as much as humanly possible.

When Sarah Palin became John McCain's choice of running mate, she was unknown to me. The more I got to know about her, the more I had to wonder why McCain didn't choose someone more qualified. I wouldn't have voted for him anyway, but at least I would have been slightly more comfortable if he had won.

The first story I heard about Sarah Palin was that she tried to get books banned from the library in Wasilla, Alaska. What is true about the story is that she asked the librarian how she felt about banning certain "objectionable" material. The books were never banned, and the list that circulated in a viral manner all over the Internet was a hoax, but the truth regarding that story was enough to make me dismiss her as a viable choice for any office under the United States. If she was willing to try--even try--to ban books from the library, she could not uphold the Constitution.

The next thing I began to hear about was her religion. As someone who supports and defends the Constitution, I fully support the Free Exercise and Establishment clause in the first Amendment, as well as the prohibition of religious tests provided in Article VI. I would feel like a hypocrite if I simply condemned her because she's part of a fundamentalist sect whose members feel as though they're entitled to a separate set of facts about the world than the rest of us, simply because that, to me, would be a religious test. My concern is that she cannot separate state and church, so she will not leave me the freedom to choose not to exercise religion--which is a necessary component of the Free Exercise clause. We can't have free exercise if I am forced to choose a religion; I must be free to abstain from that choice. Sarah Palin's record on the First Amendment is poor in this regard.

Palin's positions on choice, endangered species, drilling for oil, and just about everything else are opposite of mine. I don't favor eliminating opposing viewpoints, but she struck me as someone who is unwilling to compromise--just like George W. Bush. Someone who will not compromise will ignore the will of the people--just like George W. Bush. We don't need another George W. Bush.

Palin demonstrated time and again that she knows nothing about world affairs. The very idea that she would be a heartbeat away from the Presidency was unsettling to me.

Finally, she associated with Alaskan secessionists. The fact that her husband was involved witha secessionist organization and that she spoke to that organization--praising it--tells me that she does not have the best interests of the United States in mind. Why would someone who hates this country want to hold its highest office? I suppose the reasoning involves the notion of changing the country to fit one's own politics.

The media just won't leave Palin alone now. I wish they would. I'm tired of seeing her. I'm tired of hearing about her. She isn't relevant anywhere but Alaska at this point. If the GOP is insane enough to run her again in 2012, I'll be surprised, but until then, can we just be shut of her? Can we just pretend like she never happened? Sure, she was great for comedy, but that's no reason to keep her story alive.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When a friend becomes a fan of the Roman Catholic Church

For some reason, I have profiles on Facebook and MySpace. I really don't know why. It has been a way for people from my past to contact me, but the other day I realized something: almost none of these people know me anymore.

Chances are that if you met me before high school and haven't seen me since, you really don't know me anymore. I am not that person you knew in elementary or junior high.

If you met me in high school, I'm not sure you really know me all that well, either. My political leanings have changed, my willingness to take risks, my tastes in music (which expanded)'d have a lot of catching up to do if we met now.

If you knew me in college or after, you pretty much know me as I am today. I have matured, I've settled down, but I went through some radical philosophical changes around age 19 that solidifed at around age 21, and I haven't been the same since.

All of this intro brings me to the title of this entry. I went into Facebook the other day, and I found that one of my friends became a fan of the Roman Catholic Church.


I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I went to Catholic schools from K through 9, was an altar boy, read in church, and even wanted to become a priest at one point (just before puberty hit, in fact). I had doubts from at the age of eight at the latest, asking, "If God created everything, who created God?" I was told I had to accept on faith that this "God" character is eternal, and that I shouldn't question. Well, if I shouldn't question, why was curiosity so much a part of my nature? In any case, my questions were silenced, and I went along with the religion thing. I kept doubting myself, kept thinking that there just had to be proof out there of the existence of this deity, and that something must be wrong with me because everyone around me believed in this stuff. I did pray, but as I got older, as I became used to none of my prayers being answered--not one damned prayer--they began to start with "Jesus[/God], if you're there..." I was teased endlessly by my peers in Catholic school, and no matter how much I prayed for that to stop, or for me to have the strength to endure it, or for my life to change, it only stopped when I made the changes myself.

I can hear the apologists now: "Oh, you had it in yourself to change; that's why God didn't force it," or "Your prayers were all about you, and that's selfish." Yeah? Well explain why my Uncle Ronnie died at 36 when I prayed for his cancer to go away so my mom wouldn't have to see her younger brother suffer. Explain why my prayers for world peace were answered with more war. Explain...nah, forget it. If you're an apologist, you'll come up with some lame reason why my prayers weren't answered, or you'll tell me that they were, and I just wasn't paying attention, or you'll tell me that they will be, or you'll tell me, as the song goes, "Sometimes God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." Gag.

Oh, and you know what I changed the most about myself? I tried very, very hard to show no outward signs that I am an intelligent person. I always stood out like a sore thumb in that regard. When I dumbed myself down superficially, I gained friends. Great change, huh? But it made my life more tolerable.

The bottom line is that I read the Bible more than most people have, in various versions, and what I got from it, at least the parts were Jesus was involved, was that faith could move mountains and prayers would be answered--even if someone had faith "as a grain of mustard seed." Well, I did have at least that much, and it never worked for me. Faith has never been useful in my life, so I discarded it eventually.

The first thing that made me turn from the Catholic Church in particular was confession. I hated confession, and the reason I hated confession was that I rarely did anything that could be considered sinful. I was a good kid--ask my parents! Still, when I told this to the nun who took us to confession for the first time, she told me to think hard, because everyone was a sinner, and I had to have done something. I went in and gave the priest a really lame excuse for a sin. He was probably laughing on the inside. The penance was a pittance.

What you don't want to do is tell a priest that you don't have anything to confess, that they're just making you go. I tried that, and the priest gave me a major penance for "lying". Damn it, I really was a good kid! I always tried to help people. Always. Still do. Unfortunately, that willingness to help sometimes comes off as arrogance; some people see me stepping in to help them as a comment on their capabilities or lack thereof, and feel insulted that I would think they would need help. That's another story, though. The bottom line is that if you're a Catholic, you are guilty until proven innocent, and even then, you're guilty. You're a sinner. No way around it.

Well, good riddance to my involvement with the Catholic Church. I'm still altruistic to a fault, and even though I have my moments that could be considered "sin" by you, I'll be the judge of that, not you. I am NOT one of your FANS!! I know my own flaws, and I am answerable to myself. I am my own worst critic, and I am a harsh one. I feel guilty if I hurt people because I have empathy, not because someone is threatening with eternal hellfire, pergatory, or any other bullshit you try to heap on people. I also feel good when I help people, because I know what it feels like to be helped--by other people, for motives having nothing to do with Catholic guilt.

Here's the thing: I probably wouldn't unload on the Catholic Church at all right now if it weren't for the pedophilia scandal. I know the caricature of the pedophile priest is a running joke right now, but what makes me mad is that the Catholic Church actively worked to cover up child rape. That's what it is. Let's not be so damned clinical about it. They were raping kids. Raping. These priests raped children, and the Catholic Church would sometimes move them from parish to parish, with no oversight regarding what sort of activities they would engage in at their new homes.

It's so insidious, I get nauseous writing about it. Before the pedophillia scandal, priests were well-respected and trusted, because they were "men of the cloth", doing the work of "the Lord" and such. Let's apply what happened with the Catholic Church to another institution where people are generally trusted with our kids: the education system. Image if you will that the same percentage of teachers were involved in child rape within our school systems. Now, imagine the school catching them, then simply relocating the offending teachers to other schools in other parts of the country, never turning them in to the authorities. First, it was just the teachers who were guilty; now, school administrators are complicit. Would you or would you not have their heads, figuratively speaking?

A lot of people left the Catholic Church after the pedophilia scandal, but they're still the largest sect in the United States, even after losing thirty-eight percent of their parishoners here. The Pope let priests get away with child rape, and people still attend Catholic mass. The Pope, his cardinals, and his bishops let priests get away with child rape, and people still tithe--still give ten percent of their earnings to the Church. The Church hierarchy let priests get away with child rape, and they are still in business.

I don't understand why anyone would want to be a fan. I am sure she has to be blissfully unaware of how much the Catholic Church knew about the pedophilia going on at the priest level, but I am not sure I'm comfortable having her name on my Facebook page anymore.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Testing for Autism During Pregnancy

Recently, there has been a controversy regarding the possibility of a test for autism during pregnancy. With this information in hand, the parent(s) can make an informed decision on whether to continue the pregnancy, or else prepare for a challenging life as (a) parent(s) of a child with autism.

My problem with this approach is that it presumes that autism most definitely has a genetic marker, and that set of genes alone is responsible. Did they arrive at this conclusion only by analyzing the DNA of people with autism, or did they have a control group of randomly-sampled neurotypical people? Perhaps the genetic marker is really a way to tell whether a person is more susceptible to heavy metal poisioning or gluten/casein allergies, and the cause is partially environmental. The evidence that caused me to form my hypothesis that both are to blame involves a recent study that demonstrates a correlation between rainfall and the number of cases of autism in a given area. The more rainfall there is, the higher the number of cases of autism there are. To me, this correlation (though correlation is not necessarily causation) leads to the possibility that some pollutant (mercury from coal-fired power plants?) is getting into the ground water, then into our children's bodies. Some children can process this pollutant; some cannot.

Parents keep bringing up vaccines as a possible cause for autism. Many "know" that it's the cause. The contradictory evidence comes from a study done on children who have received the MMR combination vaccine. This evidence ignores the fact that there is no safe recommended dose of mercury for children under six months, and many vaccinations are given long before MMR. In the first six months of my daughter's life, she received twenty-six vaccines. Did any of them contain thimersol, a mercury-based preservative, or another, aluminum-based one? I don't know. It's worth studying. I'm betting on the atmospheric mercury from coal-fired power plants combined with moderate to heavy rainfall, but vaccines could still play a role. The way to tell is first demonstrate that cases of autism occur more frequently in places affected by pollution from coal (follow the acid rain path for this data; sulfuric acid raid is directly caused by coal's SO2 pollution, and mercury would follow the same direction), then follow it up by demonstrating that even more children have autism who have had vaccinations in these areas.

The bottom line for me is that no test for autism during pregnancy is valid until someone can show me that the sole cause is genetic.