Liars. Liars everywhere.

To my count, I have come across four major liars in my blogging career. First up is Jack Hudson. He has the be the worst, but he also may be the dumbest. I’m not sure which part of his personality I dislike more. The next is Christopher Maloney. His lies were in the details of his writings and, to his credit, I suspect some of them were just a result of his lack of understanding of how the Internet works. Then we have Michael Hartwell. He’s a recent addition and generally isn’t guilty of being dishonest, but that doesn’t mean he’s really any better. And finally, we have braggart Roxeanne. She has mostly confined herself to misunderstanding and misrepresenting science, (did you know that because condom usage needs to improve even more in order to better combat infection rates, that means condoms are ineffective and we should advocate abstinence-only programs? Crazy, I know), but now she has ventured into plainly liar territory:

There is a reason why children are nine times as likely to be abused by their mother’s boyfriends or new husbands than by their own fathers, and why biological fathers are an impediment to abuse of children. Predators seek out the vulnerable.

Yet California, land of moonbats, decided to make it easier for non-biological “fathers” to access children. The Golden State is considering letting more than two adults have “parent” rights to a child. Now, any normal person knows that this is going to result in a lot of litigation and some serious trauma for the kid (at best) and sexual abuse (at worst), but the Left is more concerned with eliminating traditional family structures than with advancing the well-being of children. What this state has just told paedophiles is that it’s open season on little kids, and if the mother gets creeped out, said paedophile can sue to have visitation with her child. After all, the former boyfriend/ex-stepdad had a “bond” with that lovely young teen, and such a “bond” should be respected by our legal system.

Well. Isn’t that interesting. It’s like she isn’t even trying to spin her lies in a way that is even remotely plausible. Here is the actual purpose of the law:

[Representative Mark] Leno told ABCNews.com that he recognized a “problem” in the legal system in 2011 when an appellate court placed a girl in foster care when her legally married parents — two lesbians — could not care for her.

The child was taken into state custody when one of her mothers was jailed and the nonbiological mother was hospitalized.

The court did not have the authority to appoint the girl’s biological father, with whom she had a relationship, as a legal parent. That third parent could have “benefitted the well-being of the child,” said Leno.

In other words, two people can have a child, marry separate people at some point, and all four individuals can be given custodial rights. And unlike Roxeanne suggests/lies, all the parents would have to agree before anything could move forward. There is no way some ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend couldn’t sue for custody as a result of this law.

This bill would obviously help in same-sex situations, but I think it would more commonly be applied in cases of heterosexual divorce. That’s just basic statistics. (And even if that wasn’t the case, who cares? Gay couples form families, too.) Furthermore, this would do nothing to benefit pedophiles. That argument is patently absurd and hardly deserves a response. Roxeanne isn’t the shiniest penny in the fountain, but I think she’s just barely smart enough to know she was lying.

This is a good law. Plenty of children are in situations where there are three or four parents involved. At certain times, this can cause undue problems as a result of legal restrictions. That is, a clear authority figure with the child’s interest at heart – a biological parent’s spouse, for example – may be denied from caring for the child, such as we see from the article. That isn’t fair to anyone involved and is more a snafu in the law than anything. The only reason to oppose this is stubborn denial of reality.

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California to teach gay history

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill requiring California to teach gay history to its students:

“History should be honest,” Brown, a Democrat serving his second stint as California governor, said in a written statement released by his office.

The measure won final passage from the state legislature earlier this month when it passed on a 49-25 party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

“This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books,” Brown said. “It represents an important step forward for our state.

The law also requires that public schools teach the contributions of Pacific Islanders and the disabled.

California already mandates that schools include historical accomplishments by Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans and European Americans.

Of course, probably everyone who voted for it did so out of as much of an agenda as those who voted against it. One group wants to help minorities rise up while the other is fearful that their kids might catch gay. Or something like that. Either way, I don’t think those should be the biggest concerns here for either side. Instead, I think what matters is, is this good history? And will this distract from broader themes that ought to be basic knowledge for every American?

What I have often found in my work as well as general interaction with teenagers and kids is that there is a surprising level of ignorance about history. I don’t mean the sort of ignorance currently popular amongst the Bachmanns and Palins of the world. I mean the sort of ignorance that is indicative of a complete lack of familiarity with the subject. And this extends beyond anecdote. Polls of adults and tests of students show we don’t know as much as we should.

So the issue here, I think, is how much can we include in these lessons? I don’t think adding the accomplishments of Harvey Milk to the curriculum is going to take away from talking about bigger historical issues like Reconstruction or the Great Depression, but it is worth considering what is worthy of required inclusion. As interesting as so many historical issues may be, the fact is there is a time limit to these lessons and priorities need to be set. I do support this law, but I do so with some caution.

Supreme Court: Video games are art

Siding with reality, the Supreme Court has ruled against California in a decision regarding the status of video games:

Video games are art, and they deserve the exact same First Amendment protections as books, comics, plays and all the rest, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday in a ruling about the sale of violent video games in California.

California had tried to argue that video games are inherently different from these other mediums because they are “interactive.” So if a kid has to pick up a controller and hit the B button — over and over again until he starts to get thumb arthritis — to kill a person in a video game, that’s different from reading about a similar murder, the state said.

The high court didn’t buy that argument, however.

I was reminded recently that this case was coming to a head and I wondered to myself how ‘Justice’ Scalia would rule. After a little consideration, I surmised he would come down in favor of the gaming industry. He often makes poor decisions based upon little to nothing, but this case was just too obvious for him to get wrong:

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

So not only does the interactive medium not make video games fundamentally different than things like music and literature (in terms of being art), it actually is a feature which helps to define it as art. Everyone has been telling this to California all along, but I’m glad the Supreme Court could articulate it so well.

And as much as I dislike Scalia, I’ve always thought he was a decent writer, sometimes even humorous. He doesn’t fail to deliver here:

That’s all well and good. But the most fun to be had in this potentially dry court opinion is when Scalia starts writing about how gory old-school stories are, too. He’s trying to make the point that stories have included violence for as long as there have been stories.

The examples are pretty hilarious:

“Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed,” he writes.

Then there’s this:

“Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.”

And, finally, if that wasn’t enough eye-related violence for you:

“High-school reading lists are full of similar fare. Homer’s Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake.”

Well done, sir. Now excuse me while I go snipe some Elites.

The irrationally harsh laws of America

One thing I can’t help but notice whenever MSNBC’s Lockup comes on is that the U.S. has a lot of morally horrific laws. Plenty of inmates are absolutely nuts and need to be in prison for a long time, but there are also so many who don’t deserve the sentences they get. The U.S. is doing itself a disservice by locking up people for insanely long times, especially when the crimes are non-violent or even victimless. Of course, if our citizens were as white as our institutions, we probably wouldn’t be trying to show the world we can be less forgiving than China.

And the reprehensible laws don’t end there. We have people who get in trouble because some overzealous, moron prosecutors internalize rules. Take the case from last year where teens who were of the age of consent sent nude pictures of themselves to each other over their phones. They got community service for distributing child pornography. That helps no one. No one.

And of course then there’s that whole “Murder is wrong…unless governments do it!” law. I mean, the death penalty. It’s the height of hypocrisy, devalues human life, and is virtually only supported by nations with backwards laws – and I most certainly include the U.S. in that grouping.

With all these irrational laws and punishments, I find it so refreshing when I hear about organizations that fight to help convicts. The most visible groups are the ones that try to stop state-sanctioned murder, but there are also ones like Stanford’s Three Strikes Project that fight against those awful three strike laws present in 26 states.

Students at Stanford Law School’s novel Three Strikes Project, which has successfully overturned 14 life prison terms handed down for non-violent crimes under California’s unforgiving sentencing law, are joined by an unusual coalition in their latest bid. The county judge and prosecutor who sent Shane Taylor behind bars for 25-years-to-life in 1996 now want to help set him free.

His public defender at trial is also supporting Taylor’s plea for a reduced sentence by conceding he failed to mount an adequate defense.

Taylor’s offenses: two burglary convictions when he was 19, and a third conviction for possessing about $10 worth of methamphetamine.

Any reasonable person can see that it makes no sense to send a 19 year old to prison until he’s 44 because he did three stupid things. And this is the typical of these sort of laws. We routinely send young people to prison, removing virtually all discretion from the hands of judges, and to what end? We aren’t educating them. We aren’t removing them from negative environments. All we’re doing is placing them with criminals who are going to teach them how to make a living being criminals.

But maybe Taylor’s crimes do deserve a lot of prison time, regardless of the law, right?

The judge, Howard Broadman, became haunted by memories of the case, believing he had rendered a bad decision in invoking the harsh law. He regretted that in calculating the prison sentence he hadn’t ignored one or both of Taylor’s previous felony convictions: Attempted burglary and burglary that netted a homeless and methamphetamine-addicted Taylor a pizza paid for with a forged check.

And some of the other people in prison under this horrible law?

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says 8,570 third strikers were in prison as of December 2009. Slightly less than half were sentenced for “crimes against property,” drugs and other offenses, including 55 drunken driving convictions.

No one wants to go easy on drunk drivers, but 25 years? Come on.

There’s no rationality behind these sort of laws. They are motivated by nothing more than emotional and a desire for revenge. And they need to go.

California marriage ban struck down by judge

I have limited time at the moment, but this is too important to not report upon immediately.

Proposition 8, California’s controversial voter-approved gay marriage ban, was struck down by a federal judge on Wednesday in a ruling that deemed the ban unconstitutional.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s 136-page decision ruled that the same-sex marriage ban violates equal protection and due process rights that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

….

“Today, the sun shines a little brighter on the Golden State. A federal judge has affirmed what a majority of Californians know to be true: that love does not discriminate and that marriage is a civil right, not a privilege reserved for a select class of citizens. The decision handed down today in Perry v. Schwarzenegger reaffirms the notion that separate is never equal,” Villaraigosa said in the statement.

“Although this is a landmark case and one of tremendous importance, we all know that this will not be the final word on marriage equality. We will continue to fight as tirelessly as ever before to ensure members of the LGBT community and all Californians are afforded the same rights and privileges under the laws of our nation,” he continued.

Federal same-sex marriage case to begin soon

A federal case is set to start in the coming days. At issue is the federal constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 bill that passed, damaging the lives of thousands of Californians and ignoring the rights of every last one of them. I’m sure it will be some time until this reaches the Supreme Court (where Scalia will not consider any legal issue), but it will certainly get there.

Interestingly, one of the opponents of equal rights has asked to be dropped from the lawsuit. Since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown correctly refused to mount a defense for California, others had to step in. One was Hak-Shing William Tam, an official bigot and proponent of Prop 8.

On Friday, Tam told the court that he was harassed and his property vandalized during the campaign, and feared similar retribution if he continued to represent gay marriage foes’ interest in the lawsuit and trial, which is scheduled to start Monday in San Francisco.

“In the past I have received threats on my life, had my property vandalized and am recognized on the streets due to my association with Proposition 8,” Tam said in a court filing. “Now that the subject lawsuit is going to trial, I fear I will get more publicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

While the guy is a scumbag, he doesn’t deserve that. Dare I say, the actions toward him represent, gasp!, bigotry! No one has to accept Tam’s beliefs, but tolerance is required.

Artificial molecules

Origins research is beginning to really heat up (hilarious pun intended). One team of researchers is working with RNA (but then again, who isn’t?)

A new molecule that performs the essential function of life – self-replication – could shed light on the origin of all living things.

If that wasn’t enough, the laboratory-born ribonucleic acid (RNA) strand evolves in a test tube to double itself ever more swiftly.

“Obviously what we’re trying to do is make a biology,” says Gerald Joyce, a biochemist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. He hopes to imbue his team’s molecule with all the fundamental properties of life: self-replication, evolution, and function.

By building a molecule that can self-replicate, Joyce’s team has shown a pretty solid principle of how scientists believe life began: begin with something simple which makes copies of itself, then…

Not content with achieving one hallmark of life in the lab, Joyce and Lincoln sought to evolve their molecule by natural selection. They did this by mutating sequences of the RNA building blocks, so that 288 possible ribozymes could be built by mixing and matching different pairs of shorter RNAs.

What came out bore an eerie resemblance to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest: a few sequences proved winners, most losers. The victors emerged because they could replicate fastest while surrounded by competition, Joyce says.

As Joyce notes, this isn’t truly life. It’s a very promising experiment, however, and that’s where the excitement lay. By inducing mutations, evolution began to take place. It’s so simple a child can understand it.