Saturday, March 28, 2009

Uneducated Christians Hold Progress Back

I realized why zealous Christians will never stop criticizing science no matter how much empirical proof is thrown at them. The majority of them have never even taken a science class in their lives, to them, science is just another religion.

In a country where only 10% of the population graduates from four year institutions anymore (ALL four year institutions, including high schools), children are exposed to church basically from birth, but may never step foot inside a biology class. The foundational principals of blind-faith are ingrained in them from baptism and hard study of scientific principal is not explored in-depth at all until at least the ninth grade. Schools are charged with undoing 15 years of damage, which is very unlikely to happen in one semester, or in the week max that students spend studying evolution.

The conclusion, no wonder science doesn't make sense to zealous Christians, they can't understand it. In this country's education system, that's no surprise. On the flipside, biology class can't be much more boring than church can it? The same people who will begrudgingly leave a bio lab for God will go sit in church for fear of damnation if they don't. Well, damnation to hell in a second life that may not even exist for not going to church is obviously more convincing than damnation to poverty for not staying in school. Obviously.

I tried to have a conversation with my dad about Humanity's origins, I explained that we started as unicellular organisms that split and multiplied to create multicelluar organisms and eventually changed into their present day forms over millions of years to cope with their respective environments. "That's how babies are formed, from single cells that split and multiply," I explained. It's not the best argument, but it's an analogy that him, being uneducated from Albania, might understand. He was outraged.

"I don't come from an amoeba!" he touted. "Just look at how complicated living things are! No mistake in nature could have come up with such a sophisticated and complicated system!"

Um, yes, it can and it did and the fact that we're standing here today is proof that it did. No theoretical conceptualized logic-proof (a proof and to prove, two different things btw) that Descartes wrote can undo the fact that we're here, he himself said "I am, therefore I exist."

The only shred of empirical proof that Christians have for God stems from the lack of proof scientists have for certain scientific phenomena. "Oh well explain this, explain that, hah! You can't! Therefore God must exist." We can't explain magnetism either, does that mean it doesn't exist? We can't completely explain evolution but we can see that it has happened and can see it happening just like magnetism, but until you can throw it under a microscope, Christians will not be satisfied, and even then, they'll find a way to keep looking away. It's like how cheating spouses will deny they cheated until you show them a video of them in the act, or how criminals will claim innocence until you show them the surveilance video.

Christian faith in an external God is ironically based on a lack of faith in an internal self. Of all the wondrous and amazing things that the Human mind, body, and spirit are capable of, people don't have the self-confidence to take credit for their acts or abilities, so they attribute it to an external inspiration-source to qualify their feats. It people would start believing in themselves, the need for a God would disappear. Maybe the churches know this, which is why they strive to hold people down and tell them they're incapable worthless shmucks without God--to keep their jobs.

Even professed "experts" who take up the study of scientific principals for the sake of refuting them, religion still came first. Religion set its roots, held its influence, and did its damage long before the school tried to intervene and failed. For some people, there is no hope and no escape and the only thing they can do is what they are programed to do--convert people. Yet for some, they see the light, realize that the ultimate aim of religion is to make good people and decide that they can be good people without proverbs or worship. Some people need religion, and that's okay, but some people don't, and that's fine too, just please someone graffiti over the billboard on the 105 Freeway that says "Pull the Plug on Atheism," I don't want to have to be subjected to this ignorance in this anti-intellectual society anymore.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who Watched the Watchmen?

Rotten Tomatoes gave Watchmen a 64%. What! RT complains that Snyder didn't stay true to Allan Moore's "vision" by spicing up the fight scenes, beautifying everyone, and changing dialogue.

First, let me throw it out there, this is a hard movie to understand if you have not read the novel. If you have read the novel, do not go see this movie with someone who has not, they will not get it and will ruin your experience.

This movie is essentially making fun of superheroes. The infamous Rorschach is a parody of the Question, and breaks the superhero code of honor: Superheroes don't kill people. Watchmen puts a grungy spin on the superhero by portraying it as if it were an actual profession, making the unreal completely realistic and they pretty much go around acting like rogue Blackwater operators.

But despite its namesake, Watchmen is NOT a superhero movie, it is a Human-hero movie. In the end when the twisted, completely f-d up climax of the whole movie is finally revealed, and all of those superheros with their psychic powers and technological turmoils are finally faced with the age-old dilemma of "what should we do," Rorschach, the guy in the trench coat with his only claim to superhero-dom being a sock over his face, was the only one who got it right.

A greater good in which even one person has to die unwillingly is not a greater good. Two wrongs don't make a right. "If you would have cared from the beginning, none of this would have happened."

Dr. Manhattan, the idealized image of "God," discovers the value of Humanity, which is one of the prime epiphanies of the movie. This is a Human-hero movie for the Y2K generation, who has never witnessed anything like this before.

People who were alive back when the cold-war was a reality and the doomsday clock was actually in the papers complain that this movie wasn't true to the original concept and has instead spun off into a cheap action thrill-ride. Well, I've got a bit of a newsflash, THIS MOVIE WASN'T FOR YOU! If Snyder would have made this movie for you, he would have made no money. This was for 18-25 year old's who literally just saw The Dark Knight like a second ago, that's what they're going to be comparing it to whether we like it or not. That is the reason for the hyped-up fight scenes and the dramatic undertones, the enhanced athleticism of the characters from fat, paunchy, average joes to actual superheros so that they didn't look like they were parading around in Halloween costumes, and unfortunately also for the raunchy porno sex scenes (18-25 year old wank-off's expect that from a movie made by the guy who did 300 because of Leonidas' patootie scene). Honestly, what is this new "purist" movement going around? Who wants to see movies that are too akin to real life? If I wanted to see a movie about an insurance salesman and his problems in life, or a senior analyst living an average life, I'd save myself the cash and just look outside. I go to movies to be entertained, and this movie still managed to be entertaining given the fact that it was basically charged with portraying a dead message (who the heck is afraid of the Soviets anymore).

In conclusion, this movie had a lot of turn-off's. The bone-crushing fight scenes and the porno sex were very annoying, but I understand why they were there. You have to be intelligent to understand this movie, Allan Moore's comic did not hand you the meaning on a silver platter, the majority of American's with a 6th grade reading level would have come out of the theater completely unentertained if they couldn't at least say there was some cheap sex and shoestring action to top it off.

The book hit hard, there is no doubt about the fact that Watchmen changed people, but my generation just isn't living in the cold-war, and this movie wasn't about the war on terror. It would have gone completely over our heads and for the most part, did. Take away about 1/8 from the books hit and that's about how hard the movie hits. For the time constraints, this movie still showcased all of Allan Moore's morals and original story epiphanies, the deeper meaning is there, unfortunately you will have to sit and think about it on your drive home to get it, it will not pop out at you.

Definitely go see this movie, but take it with a grain of salt.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Prop 8 WILL be Overturned...The LA Times Miscalled It

The LA Times has wrongly called oral arguments against Prop 8 before the Supreme Court last Thursday a lost cause. Luckily, I was there when it happened with an in-depth analysis of the case regarding Proposition 8—a measure that amends the California Constitution in a way that strips homosexuals of the right to marry.

Last year, the High Court ruled that Prop 22—a part of the Equal Protection Clause in our Constitution that recognized marriage as only between one man and one woman—was unconstitutional because it stripped a suspect classification of a fundamental right. Now Prop 8 has been called Prop 22 turned into an amendment. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether Prop 8 constitutes an amendment or a revision to the California Constitution in determining its validity.

Shannon Minter of the ACLU argued that not only did Prop 8 take away “the fundamental right to marry from same-sex couples...without compelling government interest,” it enacted a “wide-sweeping change in governmental structure.” Minter argued that the case of “Livermore v. Wade” held that amendments cannot change the core underlying concepts of our Constitution (the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution is a core underlying concept). Furthermore, it was argued that the people cannot use the initiative process to reinstate a statue the Court has ruled unconstitutional, instead it must follow a separate process outlined in the Livermore case called the revision process, where parts of the Constitution are revised in order to make a proposed statue mesh with the existing framework of the Constitution.

When asked by Chief Justice George about how the case “People v. Frierson” played into his argument, Minter retorted that Frierson “did not strip a fundamental right from a suspect classification. Instead it reinstated a remedy clear across the board.” Raymond Marshal followed up on that point arguing that Frierson was a ruling on “the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” not the case of an amendment vs. a revision. What happened in the Frierson case was that the death penalty was ruled cruel and unusual punishment and was hence repealed. The people recalled three Justices of the California Supreme Court, replaced them with Justices who ruled the death penalty was not cruel and unusual punishment and hence reinstated it. Dad said no, so they ran to mom.

The Supreme Court went on to ask Theresa Stewart of Lamda Legal how the case “Raven v. Deukmejian” does not affirm the people's ability to remove fundamental rights from a suspect classification. Steward argued that the Raven case constituted a revision because it “removed the power of the State to interpret its own Constitution” but still “did not take personal rights away from one group.” Raven was Prop 115 which stated criminal's rights could not be interpreted any differently than the US Federal Constitution dictated them. That constituted a revision and was thrown out on the grounds that it was a revision, not that it removed rights from a suspect class. Both of these cases restored remedies. What that means when compared to Prop 8: Apples to Oranges.

According to Chief Justice George, since the High Court has never had a case like this before, under the second prong of the 2 part test the Court has established for determining a revision (prong one a quantitative test; prong two a qualitative test), the Court is not limited toonly structural changes in government, and leaves open the possibility that fundamental changes in social rights may constitute a qualitative revision. In fact, it even articulated a possible ruling that “an initiative that alters a fundamental right of a suspect classification constitutes a revision,” according to Justice Corrigan.

Assistant Attorney General Chris Krueger's argument was slightly more novel in that even if Prop 8 is an amendment, it is an ultra vires amendment that the Court has no compelling state interest in upholding. “Amendments cannot be used to take away civil liberties without a compelling State interest,” argued Krueger citing the Raven Case. Courts can indeed strip fundamental rights from suspect classifications, but only if there is some very very good reason pertaining to a State's governmental structure and the ability to run itself. What possible benefit to our governmental structure could not recognizing gay marriage have? Kenn Starr of Pepperdine University, who represented the Intervenors, thinks he has an answer.

“The will of the people is sovereign even if unwise,” argued Kenn Starr. When asked by Chief Justice George if an amendment could be enacted to repeal the freedom of speech, Kenn Starr replied “as long as the people knew what they were voting for, yes.” To quote a movie featuring another famous code of laws, “they're more like guidelines anyway.” “It is the people's right to decide what is wise when it comes to their own legal structure,” argues Starr. My response: then what do we have Courts for? This constitutes a HUGE sweeping change in governmental structure. It takes the power of the Courts and puts it in the hand of the people. The end result: Mob Rule. Out of all the Justices, only one, Justice Kennard, vocally expressed a somewhat agreeable opinion that the people were sovereign but prefaced it by saying “in my opinion.”

According to the Preamble of our California Constitution, Theresa Stewart of Lamda Legal argued that “we the people came together to enact a legally binding document called the Constitution, and we understood that we the people meant all people because it says so in the Preamble.” In response to Starr's argument, this means that all people came together in a legally binding agreement to follow the rules and procedures they set forth in the Constitution, and that there would be a uniform process for revising or amending the Constitution. That is a core underlying principal which Prop 8 upended and went around.

“What I'm picking up is that this Court should willy-nilly disregard the will of the people,” Justice Kennard insenuated. Stewart answered that accusation by saying that the people could likewise not willy-nilly disregard the rules they placed upon themselves. The people do in fact have a “very broad power to amend their Constitution” but must do so in the way they entered into a legally binding agreement to do. If the people don't have to follow their own rules and they don't have to follow the Court's rules, whose rules do they have to follow? What's the point of even having a Constitution if the people have some inalienable right to “willy-nilly” disregard it at will? “Enforcing the statutes while ignoring the reasons they were enacted is like protecting the moat while allowing the castle to burn down,” argued Stewart.

“Doesn't Prop 8 only take away the nomenclature of marriage?” asked Chief Justice George. In a resounding hypothetical, Petitioners suggested that women in California cannot serve on the Judicial Bench, and addressing the Justices themselves, “Justice Corrigan, Justice Kennard, you would be called Commissioners (given your gender), while Chief Justice George would be called a Judge.”

“Justice,” the Court corrected.

“So what, it's only nomenclature right? It's not that important.” That point hit home and even got a laugh out of the Justices. Shannon Minter of the ACLU argued that the elements of marriage are organically intertwined and removing any element changes the entire institution.

Kenn Starr believed that while “denying only the recognition” of marriage did not take away any other rights of same-sex couples, people can wake up tomorrow and find they're not married but it shouldn't bother them because they have the putative spouse remedy. That was the argument Kenn Starr used to attempt to invalidate the 18,000 same-sex marriages already performed, to which the Court said “that was the law of the land at the time, and if the people cannot rely on this Court to tell them the laws, who can they rely on?”

The most important reason why Prop 8 should be invalidated according to the Petitioners is because of the foundational guarantee of equal citizenship. Prop 22 is still unconstitutional, the issue being looked at is do the people have a right to carve an exception out of equal protection? “A conditional guarantee of equal protection is no guarantee at all,” argued Stewart.

“Kenn Starr is arguing a system of Democracy, fortunately it is not this state's system of Democracy,” said Mark Rosenbound, Legal Director for the ACLU in a post-hearing press conference. “California is not a system where minorities' rights are subject to the whim of the majority. If Proposition 8 is upheld, there is no limit to the discrimination that can be mandated by the Constitution.”

Erik Dutch, a long time resident of North Hollywood, seems to agree. “If they want to get married, go for it, let them be miserable just like the rest of us!” However, the hate among some supporters is so ingrained that when Kenn Starr was asked by the Court if calling all marriages in California “civil unions” would satisfy them, Starr said it would. They would give up the right to marry completely before sharing it with homosexuals. Go for it! Then after all this has blown over, lets change the nomenclature of civil unions back to marriage!! (Just nomenclature right?).

When I personally asked Mark Rosenbound about Kenn Starr's comparison of gay marriage to pluralist marriage, Rosenbound responded that “being gay is not a lifestyle. A homosexual individual can turn around tomorrow and choose to be straight as easily as a heterosexual individual can turn around tomorrow and choose to be gay.”

If it's an amendment, it flies. If it's a revision, it dies. Essentially, here are the two side's arguments in perspective: one side, “they're taking away my right to marry the person I love.” The other side, “they're taking away my right to take their rights away.” The Court will decide which right they do and do not have. For everyone who was scared by the LA Times' lack of comprehension in reporting on this case, DO NOT WORRY. Do not stop believing in what you believe because it is unpopular and no matter what the outcome, get ready for rippling repercussions. As the ACLU and opponents of Proposition H8 have so unanimously resounded, “win or lose, this is just the beginning.”

Sunday, March 01, 2009

MILK: Go See It

Even if you're not all into the Gay Rights Movement, go see this movie. This is a story about Political Activism. It is a story about one man making a difference and fighting the powers that be. This movie was heartwarming and there was also a personal side to it, it makes you want to get up and change something. At the very least, it will make you want to go out and vote.

When the movie ended, everyone just stayed in their seats. For at least a whole minute after the credits came on, it was all dead silence. No one moved. We were caught in some freeze frame, some time warp that left us all wanting to applaud, but yet we all stayed quiet as if were actually there when the event happened. The feeling was surreal.

There are lots more hot guys kissing in this movie than there were in Brokeback Mountain though, so be wary about taking your old fashioned father out to dinner and a movie.