Thought of the day

I just spent the weekend on North Hero island on Lake Champlain and it was great. I’ve been to a lot of states and I have to say, Vermont is definitely one of the best. The people are always nice, the landscape is hard to match (especially in autumn), and Burlington is just about my ideal city. Plus, best of all, I like to imagine how much someone from Alabama, Mississippi, or some equally terrible state would hate all the recycling, hybrid cars, and general awareness of the world around us that one finds when in Vermont.

Vermont gets vaccination bill half-right

The Vermont Senate has recently passed a bill taking away the ‘rights’ of parents to refuse certain vaccinations on philosophical grounds for their children before entering school:

The Vermont Senate on Friday passed and sent to the House a bill that would end the philosophical exemption from the requirement that parents get their children a series of vaccinations before they enter school.

But a religious exemption would remain in place, and senators and state Health Department officials agreed that there are no standards in Vermont law for what constitutes religious belief.

There are definite pros and cons to this bill. The overwhelming pro is that it sends the message that vaccinations are important to the health of children. This should help to counter some of the anti-vax rhetoric that still pervades much of the Western world as if none of us have ever heard of medicine or science. The biggest con, however, is that the actual implication of the bill is impotent. Vermont does not put itself in the place of determining what constitutes a legitimate religious belief, so anyone can simply lie on a form to exempt their child from good health.

And, of course, there is the issue of giving the religious special rights. This bill creates a divide which says that religious beliefs are more important than philosophical beliefs. It’s reminiscent of the hoops through which the military puts pacifists during a draft versus what they require of, say, the Amish. It’s not only morally and logically abhorrent, but I doubt it’s constitutional.

But there is an upside. Aside from the obvious health benefits, this could be a stepping stone to outlawing the religious from exempting their children, much like DADT acted as a stepping stone to what we have today. It’s probably wishful thinking, but it’s possible. Religious liberty is not unlimited, after all. (If you think it is, try sending your child to school completely nude on the basis that it is part of your religion.)

Allowing felons to vote

Maine and Vermont are currently the only states which allow inmates to vote. A number of other states have laws allowing those convicted of felonies the right to vote after release or after probation is over. Still, several states don’t allow it no matter what. Commit a felony at 18, serve 3 years, and you still can’t vote at 85. The Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution allows this in the 14th Amendment, but the scenario I just gave would seem to at least violate the 8th Amendment. But that may be changing in Washington based upon a federal decision.

The 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the 2000 ruling of a district judge in Spokane. That judge had ruled that Washington state’s felon disenfranchisement law did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former prison inmate from Bellevue.

The two appellate judges ruled that disparities in the state’s justice system “cannot be explained in race-neutral ways.”

I’m not sure I find the reasoning here very convincing. These laws do disproportionately affect minorities, but that would seem to be an issue of law enforcement in the first place, not voting rights. One could say bans on ex-cons carrying guns also disproportionately affect minorities, but that doesn’t mean the ban should be overturned.

There is one caveat to that, however. Some states (especially in the south, surprise surprise), specifically did institute these laws to disenfranchise black voters. I’m not sure how a court decision could tease everything out, but it would seem that the appellate court’s reasoning would apply to those states.

But under all this is a more important question: Why aren’t felons allowed to vote? Isn’t the goal to rehabilitate prisoners? Don’t we want to better integrate them into society? Even for lifers, don’t we want them to be a part of a process that isn’t self-destructive and destructive to the lives of other prisoners (and prison officials)? If anything, voting should be encouraged for felons. Disallowing their votes seems to be nothing more then petty revenge, not something remotely helpful to either the prisoners or society.

Vermont begins equality

Same-sex marriages have officially begun in Vermont. All monuments still stand, children are just fine, and no storms have ravaged the Ben & Jerry factory.

Maine is currently facing possible discrimination by the will of many of its Christians. One of the primary groups pushing for bigotry is the Maine Family Policy Council. You can tell just by the arrogance in its name that it’s bad news. Who the hell would want people who cannot justify their own beliefs*, who hate based upon an ancient cultural book, who have radically immature views on sex, who…well, the list goes on…who would want these people in charge of any policy regarding the privacy of one’s family?

Here’s a small taste of what these slime balls do. There’s a man who was arrested earlier this year on manslaughter charges. A few days before his arrest, he spoke at a public forum discussing Maine’s same-sex marriage bill (which passed and is now being challenged via a People’s Veto). Naturally, the MFPC is focusing on this guy a lot. It isn’t hard to find articles where this organization of immoral scumbags tries to connect homosexuality to logically leading to things such as manslaughter and murder.

One plausible scenario is that the sadomasochistic activity on the night of the killing became more and more depraved until LaValle Davidson inflicted the greatest possible harm on his victim, that is, death. If the details of the crime come out at trial, the public will see a part of the homosexual lifestyle that is very different from the positive image the gay rights movement is trying to project.

That isn’t plausible at all, and it’s irresponsible to suggest to a group of gullible readers (Christians) that these words may actually represent facts. They do not.

But that isn’t the half of it. Go back to the first link I posted to their site and there’s something even worse.

The connection between homosexual activists from Southern California and the effort to foist same sex marriage on the people of Maine is a mysterious one. The individual most responsible for the success of gay marriage in Maine, Senator Larry Bliss of South Portland, was born and raised in Southern California, and both the victim and the alleged killer involved in the South Portland killing were from Southern California. The victim, Fred Wilson, had moved to South Portland only three years ago, and lived one half mile from Senator Larry Bliss in a comfortable home near Willard Beach. The Maine Legislature acknowledged Bliss’s leading role in enacting same sex marriage by making Bliss President of the Maine Senate for a day so he could sign the bill on behalf of the entire Senate.

This sort of illogical, monstrous, immoral, irresponsible, inane, butt-headed, stupid, crass, ill-conceived, incorrect nonsense reminds me of the other bad arguing styles of Christians. The difference in the other styles in that link, however, is that they are intentionally reduced to being especially absurd. The above quote isn’t humorous at all. It’s just evil. If there has ever been a call to show a prime example of some widely-accepted dangerous thought as wrought by mainstream religion in the United States, this answers that call. People who have no moral qualms with connecting a random man with such an awful death should not be given any respect at all. The deference we give these people cannot be justified. Yet as November makes it way here I suspect I will continue to see people from this organization quoted in local papers and interviewed on the local news.

*Falling back upon faith – something all religious people necessarily must do – is falling back upon nothing at all. It implicitly says “I have no evidence, and thus cannot actually justify my beliefs. I just have them because I have them because I have them. It’s faith.”

More victory

The conservatives get knocked down – hard – and all of a sudden, bigotry starts to peel away.

Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature’s vote.

The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote, the minimum needed, to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.

Douglas called override “not unexpected.” He had called the issue of gay marriage a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important.

If this is a distraction, that means it must be taking valuable time away from other, pressing issues. So why did Gov. Douglas veto the legislation? That means that all the work done to get it to him in the first place was wasted. Of course, one could argue that a bill coming to him is largely beyond his control. But he claims he expected an override. In other words, he knew what he was doing was going to take up more time while 123 total non-bigots fixed his error in moral judgement.

“What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs,” the governor said Tuesday. “We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work.”

More stable couples help to grow the economy. Idiot.

Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.

“It’s been a very long battle. It’s been almost 20 years to get to this point,” Dostis said. “I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we’re a couple like any other couple. We’re as good and as bad as any other group of people. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we’re good members of our community.”

I have to disagree with the notion that any married couple needs to prove themselves to anyone. This is about principles of equality. If they are contigent upon being good members of a community, they are not principles.

Good news for Maine

A recent Gallup poll “asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives.” The United States, despite the religiously-driven anti-science movement, does not rank as having an especially high number of individuals who say religion is an important part of their lives. For all the countries surveyed, the median response was 82%. The U.S. came in at 65%.

This does not mean the U.S. is unreligious. The interesting thing about this survey is that it is strongly correlated with poverty. In nations where poverty is higher, so is the rate of positive respondents to the poll. That is, poor people cling to their religion. It makes sense that someone who has lost hope, or at least been placed in the dismal position of being desperately poor, would turn to mysticism as a last resort. Of course, this has not helped the people of Sri Lanka or Eygpt gain much wealth. Religion simply isn’t the helpful. In fact, it isn’t really helpful at all.

So what’s rather shocking, at least statistically, about this poll is America’s amount of wealth and rate of religiosity.

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout.

Of course, the obvious point to be made is that this seems to directly contradict the issue of correlation. In fact, it does not. This is because as poverty increases by state, so does religosity. Alabama, the slack-jawed center of the South, comes in at 82% answering positively. Mississippi, the well-established cesspool of stupidity, Mr. 50 in Everything Bad, as it were, comes in a smidge higher than the worldwide median, at 85%. These two poverty-rich states are roughly equal to Iran with their rate of response.

It should be of little surprise, then, that all six states of New England fill out the top ten. In fact, the top four are, in order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Tending toward less general poverty, these states also tend toward less religiosity. Of course, it’s important to also consider the more liberal, more moral, less evil leanings in this area as well. Such people – the ones concerned with reality – often have a liberal bias. Freed from the shackles of sheepdom as wrought by religion, these states have generally better standards of living and education. No big news there.

Vermont rated healthiest state; Maine 9th

Vermont tops states in health, Louisiana ranks last.

It was the second straight year that Vermont topped the rankings. It was followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine.

Louisiana fell from 49th to 50th, replacing Mississippi. Rounding out the bottom 10 were South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada and Georgia.

California, the most populous state, ranked 24th and New York 25th.

Vermont, with the second smallest population of any state, had the third-highest public health spending and an obesity rate of 22 percent, four points below the national average.

It also had low child poverty and violent crime, a large number of doctors per capita and good high school graduation rates.

Hawaii had similarly low obesity, the highest public health spending, little air pollution, low rates of uninsured people, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and low rates of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Mississippi led the nation in obesity at 33 percent of the population, while Colorado was lowest at 19 percent.

22% is the obesity rate in the healthiest state. That’s absolutely absurd. But let’s keep outspending every nation combined on our military. Health certainly isn’t relevant or important to life.

By the way, is it any surprise the South makes up the whole of the bottom 10?