Sunday, March 29, 2015

One Light, Many Lamps

Indianapolis March Protests Religious Uncharitableness Law

"Indiana, A Great Place To Be A Bigot!" Excellent Video Spoof

"Bad Religion: A Compendium"

"Any Religion That Needs Fear To Thrive Is Bad Religion"

Good Religion And Bad Religion

"You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image 
when it turns out God hates all the same people you do."
Tom Weston S. J.

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
Devout Christian, Blaise Pascal

"The terrible thing about our time is precisely the ease with which theories can be put into practice.  The more perfect, the more idealistic the theories, the more dreadful is their realization.  We are at last beginning to rediscover what perhaps men knew better in very ancient times, in primitive times before utopias were thought of: that liberty is bound up with imperfection, and that limitations, imperfections, errors are not only unavoidable but also salutary. The best is not the ideal.  Where what is theoretically best is imposed on everyone as the norm, then there is no longer any room even to be good.  The best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.”  
"Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,” by Trappist monk, Father Thomas Merton

Thousands march in Indiana to protest law seen targeting gays

(Reuters) - Thousands of people marched in Indiana's largest city on Saturday to protest a state law that supporters contend promotes religious freedom but detractors see as a covert move to support discrimination against gay people.
Waving signs reading "No hate in our state" and carrying rainbow flags, a crowd of at least 2,000 people including Democratic elected officials rallied the same day that business-rating website Angie's List Inc put on hold its plans to expand its Indianapolis operation with new offices, citing the new law.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed overwhelmingly by the Republican led-state legislature and signed into law on Thursday by Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Supporters say the legislation will keep the government from forcing business owners to act against strongly held religious beliefs. Opponents say it is discriminatory against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and broader than other states' religious freedom laws.
"This bill is not about discrimination and does not in any way legalize discrimination in Indiana," said Pence's spokeswoman, Kara Brooks.
That statement did little to assuage the concerns of Rick Sutton, one of the marchers.
"It's a great sound bite but it's not the truth. I'm not protected. LGBT citizens are not protected," Sutton said. "If we were protected, we would not be there right now."
Indiana's also drew criticism from business leaders.
"Angie's List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents," company chief executive Bill Oesterle said.
Seattle's openly gay mayor, Ed Murray, said on Saturday he will ban city employees from traveling to Indiana on official business.
"None of our taxpayer dollars should go toward supporting this discriminatory law," Murray said.
The National Basketball Association and Women's National Basketball Association said in a joint statement the basketball leagues would ensure all fans, players and employees feel welcome at events in Indiana and elsewhere.
"The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect," they said.
On Friday, Apple Inc's Tim Cook, one of the most prominent openly gay American CEOs, joined other executives, including Inc's Marc Benioff, in blasting the law.
A day after Indiana's move, the Arkansas Senate overwhelmingly approved a similar bill, which Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, has said he would sign into law.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which has its home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, criticized that measure.

(Reporting by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and Nate Chute in Indianapolis; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Scott Malone and Marguerita Choy)

Is Pope Francis' End Nigh? "He Feels It Will Be An Event That Wipes Him Out, Not A Natural End"

Is Pope Francis Planning a Last Hurrah?

The pontiff believes his days are numbered, and some observers believe his declaration of a holy jubilee year next year is meant to send a signal.

Excerpt: “This pope seems to be in a hurry to get as much done as he can, as if he’s got a deadline,” Marco Politi, a Vatican expert said at a small roundtable discussion on Francis and the length of his papacy last week. “He keeps talking about how his time is short, but it’s not because he’s sick.  He has told his friends that he feels it will be an ‘event’ that wipes him out, not a natural end.”
Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast

ROME — Of all the things a sitting pope can do, calling for a Holy Jubilee Year is surely one of the more important.  It is a joyous occasion that draws millions of Catholic pilgrims to Rome to take part in celebrations and get that ever-important indulgence, or forgiveness for sins, that some believers think will shorten their time in Purgatory.
With the announcement that Pope Francis has designated December 8 as the beginning of what the Vatican calls the Holy Jubilee of Mercy, this enormously popular pontiff is setting yet another record. No pope has ever declared a jubilee year so soon in his papacy. John Paul II held two holy years during his long sojourn, Benedict XVI retired before he had a chance to call such a celebration.  
Once more the 78-year-old Francis seems to be racing against the clock, and many in Rome are speculating that his decision to declare such a momentous event so soon in his papacy, barely two years after his election,  is be sure he gets one in before time runs out, as if he is holding a sort of last hurrah or a farewell ceremony.  And there are sad, almost sinister undertones.
“This pope seems to be in a hurry to get as much done as he can, as if he’s got a deadline,” Marco Politi, a Vatican expert said at a small roundtable discussion on Francis and the length of his papacy last week. “He keeps talking about how his time is short, but it’s not because he’s sick.  He has told his friends that he feels it will be an ‘event’ that wipes him out, not a natural end.”
In an interview with the Mexican network Televisa earlier this month on the occasion of his second anniversary as pope, the pontiff repeated the idea that his days are numbered. He said he had a feeling that his reign at the helm of the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t last too long, echoing previous comments in which he said he had a “vague sensation” that his time was short.  “I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief—four or five years,” he said.  “I don’t know, even two or three.” 
“I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more.”
“Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed, and if he wins, he’s happy,” the pope told the Mexican station. “But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more.”
Maybe the pope is just spinning us to draw attention to his great themes, like the importance of mercy. But if Francis’s premonitions are right and he suddenly disappears from the scene, a Holy Jubilee Year is a great farewell.
Even in less parlous times, a jubilee automatically boosts the Church’s appeal for Catholics, who descend on Rome for the indulgences which are, according to the Vatican website, “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” so long as their pilgrimage is pious and they pray at any of the designated Jubilee churches.   
Jubilee years also historically give a considerable boost to Rome’s economy. Francis’s Jubilee of Mercy has already been described as a “true miracle” at a moment when the lingering economic crisis and the threat of a terrorist attack from ISIS have been reflected in depressing tourism statistics.
Rosario Cerra, head of Rome’s General Confederation of Enterprises, Professions and Self-Employment, called “an extraordinary opportunity” for businesses to cash in.  “Sectors of travel and tourism can expect a 20 percentage point increase in their GDP, and a significant increase in jobs,” he said.  “Everyone needs to have a strategy to make the jubilee elixir work for them.”
The last jubilee 15 years ago, marking the millennium in 2000, attracted more than 25 million extra Catholic pilgrims to Rome, and because it was announced six years before it happened there was plenty of opportunity for Romans to prepare —both to welcome pilgrims and to cash in on their stay. 
This time, Rome has just nine months to get ready, which has put the city into an understandable panic, not least of all because preparations will be much more expensive than 15 years ago when Italy and the Vatican still used the Italian lire. 
In 2000, the Jubilee prompted countless renovations of restaurants, public transportation, roads and services.  Religious houses were turned into pilgrim hotels, and private homes that had sat vacant were chopped up into rental apartments.  (It is still common to refer to any major improvement to the city as “a Jubilee project.”)  The first euro-era jubilee will almost certainly cost more—Rome has already asked the government for €100 million to get the city ready in time.  Items high on the priority list are fixing sidewalks, patching streets and scrubbing up the city’s monuments.
Francis’s Jubilee of Mercy will be the 30th the Vatican has observed.  The first was called in 1300 by Pope Boniface VIII to boost his power, according to Vatican expert Robert Mickens who has chronicled the Holy See for nearly 30 years.  “The goal and effect were often the same,” he wrote recently in his Roman Observer column.  “To boost the pope's power and popularity and to enhance the church's finances.”
This jubilee may well do all those things? But many of those who celebrate will be wondering what comes next.
Pope Francis doesn’t really need much help when it comes to his popularity. In late 2014, his approval rating was 88 percent among American Catholics and slightly higher among Europeans.  If he can channel some of the love for him into mercy for the poor, as his Jubilee theme suggests, then what could be his final hurrah will surely be his lasting legacy.

Colorblind People See Certain Colors For The First Time Ever, Are Visibly Moved

Colorblind People See Certain Colors For The First Time Ever, Are Visibly Moved

It's easy to take the little things for granted. Like seeing certain colors, for instance.
After watching Valspar's "Color for the Colorblind," you might just look at the world through new eyes.
The video was made in partnership with EnChroma, a company that makes glasses that "enable colorblind people to see color for the first time in their lives," co-founder Donald McPherson says in the video. The camera follows around various colorblind people as they interact with several brightly-colored art installations while wearing EnChroma's glasses.
The impact is nothing short of what you'd expect.
"I've never been able to see this one," says a woman named Atlee, pointing at a swatch of pink paint on the wall. "I just want to cry a little bit. I never realized how much I was affected by the fact that I can't see the world ... the way that other people see the world."
"For a second I felt kind of sad, like, 'Wow I've been missing out, how vibrant everything has been,'" she explained in another video, "and then I thought how cool it is I get the opportunity to see the world in a completely different way, and it's special to me."
One man named Andrew looks at art his son drew him, then stares at the sunset and asks with an incredulous smile, "So is that what you guys see every day?"
McPherson told The Huffington Post that the glasses, which range in price from $325 to $450, address red-green colorblindness, the most common form.
(Story continues below)venice
Left: Venice seen by someone with colorblindness. Right: Venice seen by a colorblind person while wearing the EnChroma glasses.
Left: A landscape seen by someone with colorblindness. Right: The same landscape seen by a colorblind person wearing EnChroma glasses.
"The effect of correcting color blindness can be profound," McPherson told The Huffington Post in an email, describing how people react when they first wear the glasses. "The first experience is typically either one of quiet contemplation or excitement."
"Later on, many users report finally ‘getting’ sunsets, and describe them to us in exacting detail," he continued. "We also hear a lot of reports of appreciating the natural world, seeing the true colors of plants and flowers, realizing that trees have many shades of leaves, and being able to see the difference between flowers, fruit and foliage."
The company is beginning to focus on helping kids, a particularly in-need population because so much information in schools is shared visually. According to McPherson, only 11 states test kids in schools for color blindness. With the wrong diagnosis, he said, colorblind kids are often inadvertently labeled as having a learning disability.
This story has been updated with information from Donald McPherson.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Gen Con Threatens To Pull Out Of Indiana. Let's See How GOP Principles Hold Up To Lucre

"Indiana, A Great Place To Be A Bigot!" Excellent Video Spoof

Gen Con threatens to move convention if Gov. Mike Pence signs religious freedom bill

The organizers of Gen Con, the city's largest convention in attendance and economic impact, are threatening to move the event elsewhere if Gov. Mike Pence signs controversial religious freedom legislation that could allow business owners to refuse services to same-sex couples.
"Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state's economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years," said Adrian Swartout, owner and CEO of Gen Con LLC, in a letter sent to Pence just hours after lawmakers sent the measure to his desk.
Gen Con's website describes the convention as "the original, longest-running, best-attended gaming convention in the world!" The conference attracted 56,000 people last year to the Indiana Convention Center and has an annual economic impact of more than $50 million, Swartout said in the letter.
"Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds," she wrote. "We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention."
Gen Con is under contract to hold the conference in Indianapolis through 2020. Conference spokeswoman Stacia Kirby said there are no plans to break the contract. But the state's adoption of the measure would factor into future decisions, she said.
Chris Gahl, vice president of marketing and communication for Visit Indy, the city's tourism bureau, said the organization took a position weeks ago against the bill.
Gahl said Gen Con told Visit Indy about the letter before releasing it publicly. He said no other current clients have expressed concern but potential clients have emailed asking about the bill.
"Our concern is that there could be a misperception with this bill that doesn't paint a picture of being a warm, welcoming, hospitable place," Gahl said. "It doesn't align with the brand that is Indianapolis, and for that matter, Indiana. Because it could impact our ability to win convention business down the road — and keep convention business — we raised our hand and said we do have a concern."
Gahl noted, however, that 19 other states have a similar law, including Illinois. Chicago, Gahl said, is a top competitor of Indy's convention business.
The NCAA men's Final Four will be in Indianapolis next week. The NCAA also puts on the March Madness Music Festival, which includes the band Bleachers, whose lead singer, Jack Antonoff, has been outspoken in support of gay marriage.
"We are examining the details of this bill, however, the NCAA national office is committed to an inclusive environment," said a statement from the Indy-based organization.
Pence, who has said he intends to sign the measure, was undeterred by Gen Con's letter.
"The Governor has been clear on where he stands on this issue and we don't have anything to add at this time," spokeswoman Kara Brooks said.
Senate Bill 101 would prevent state and local governments from "substantially burdening" a person's exercise of religion unless the government can prove it has a "compelling interest" and is doing so in the "least restrictive" means.
Supporters say the measure would protect people and business owners with strong religious beliefs from government intrusion.
Opponents say it would license discrimination, particularly against gays and lesbians. They are mounting a last ditch effort to persuade Pence to change his mind.
The letter from Gen Con is similar to one last week from Salesforce, which said the measure could impact the company's decision to continue growing in Indiana.
The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate gave the measure final approval Tuesday afternoon on a 40-10 vote along party lines.
Call Tony Cook at (317) 444-6081.

Ted Cruz And Other Like-Minded Christians Are Spoiling Their Brand

Alan: Make no mistake.

Aggressively ignorant Christians are their own worst enemy.

By their action and inaction they contrive to undermine the believability of their faith.

If not their children, then their grandchildren will turn on them in disgust.

These young people will not revile their elders because the kids are immoral but because their parents and grandparents are.

It is wrong to abuse Truth by debasing it with logical fallacy and linguistic manipulation rather than honoring it as a non-negotiable pillar of reality.

"There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving customers. If the scale registers 15 ounces, you can say: "It's a pound." Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If customers check it, they can see that they are being robbed, and you know by how much you are robbing them: a truth remains as a judge between you. But if the demon induces you to tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the true which is denatured, there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating."  Denis de Rougemont

Ted Cruz says satellite data show the globe isn’t warming. This satellite scientist feels otherwise

Chris Mooney

Now that Ted Cruz is a presidential candidate, his views on science are, naturally, getting a lot of scrutiny. That’s particularly the case in that while he does seem to acknowledge the reality of at least some amount of climate change, he nonetheless seems a skeptic of the idea that human-caused climate change is happening right now, or has been happening lately.
This has caused some in the media, like press critic Jay Rosen, to wonder how journalists will handle candidates who challenge an important aspect of modern science.
Here’s one journalistic approach: Parsing out what Cruz has said about what he actually thinks, whether it’s accurate, and whether the scientists that Cruz himself seems to rely on would agree with how he characterizes things. So let’s do that.
In a much cited episode on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” Cruz recentlysaid the following about climate change:
My view actually is simple. Debates on this should follow science and should follow data. And many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem cause the science doesn’t back them up. And in particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever. It’s why — you remember how it used to be called ‘global warming’ and then magically the theory changed to ‘climate change’? The reason is it wasn’t warming, but the computer models still say it is, except the satellites show it’s not.
The key phrase here is “satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever.” And it’s noteworthy, because it shows that Cruz has done some homework and found a particular type of data that would appear to support his claim.
But interestingly, Cruz doesn’t say why we should trust satellite data over, say, ground-based weather station data, or sea-based buoy data. Based on such surface temperature measurements, NASA and NOAA both called last year the warmest on record, followed by 2010, followed by 2005, and then only maybe followed by 1998 — which is presumably the year Cruz considers to have been the hottest, given that it was 17 years ago.
Such is the current ranking of hottest years — and that ranking, on its face, would seem to undermine Cruz’s claim. But actually, that’s not the only or even necessarily the best way of looking at matters.
Individual years can vary in temperature, but decades tell you more about trends. Using this approach, the World Meteorological Organization hasably demonstrated that the decade of the 2000s was warmer globally than the 1990s, which was in turn warmer than the 1980s. So while 1998 may have been one of the top four or five hottest years on record, that hardly means the globe hasn’t been warming in the past 17 years.
Granted, the rate of warming may have been slower of late — according to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the rate of warming from 1998 to 2012 was “smaller than the rate calculated from 1951.” But that’s hardly the same as “zero warming.” Moreover, the IPCCwarned that “Owing to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends.”
So how can Cruz claim that there’s been no warming in 17 years? First, he’s selectively using one type of data over others. Second, he’s starting his analysis with a single warm temperature year — 1998 — rather looking at the aggregate temperatures of multiple years (or decades).
But moreover, it turns out that even when you look at the data Cruz is citing, his interpretation is questionable.
When PolitiFact investigated Cruz’s “17 years” claim, it reported that Cruz spokesman Phil Novack supported the claim by referring to a blog item byCarl Mears, a physicist and senior scientist at Remote Sensing Systems. In response to a query, Novack sent me the entire response to PolitiFact, which cited Mears as well as another satellite data temperature set to support the idea that “there has been a pause or hiatus in warming during the twenty-first century.”
These datasets use satellites to measure temperatures in the lower troposphere of the planet — basically, the part of the atmosphere where weather occurs. And in Mears’s dataset, for this particular part of the planet, it does look like 1998 was the year with the warmest temperature anomaly.
But if you look at Mears’s blog  post, while he agrees there has been a slowdown in the “rate of warming” — which, again, is not at all the same thing as “zero warming” — he disagrees that this undermines global warming concerns. “Does this slow-down in the warming mean that the idea of anthropogenic global warming is no longer valid?” Mears asks. “The short answer is ‘no.’”
Indeed, Mears uses the term “denialists” to refer to climate skeptics in his post.
To explore Mears’s views further, I did one thing journalists can do when covering the climate views of presidential candidates — I contacted the researcher. And his response was quite critical of Cruz’s approach to the evidence on this issue:
Mr. Cruz (and others who seek to minimize the threat posed by climate change) likes to cite statistics about the last 17 years because 17 years ago, the Earth was experiencing a large ENSO [El Nino-Southern Oscillation] event and the observed temperatures were substantially above normal, and above any long-term trend line a reasonable person would draw. When one starts their analysis on an extraordinarily warm year, the resulting trend is below the true long term trend. It’s like a pro baseball player deciding he’s having a batting slump three weeks after a game when he hit three homers because he’s only considering those three weeks instead of the whole season.
Mears went further, explaining that while he studies satellite data, we probably shouldn’t rely on those data more than we rely on the temperatures that NASA and NOAA are using:
My particular dataset (RSS tropospheric temperatures from MSU/AMSU satellites) show less warming than would be expected when compared to the surface temperatures. All datasets contain errors. In this case, I would trust the surface data a little more because the difference between the long term trends in the various surface datasets (NOAA, NASA GISS, HADCRUT, Berkeley etc) are closer to each other than the long term trends from the different satellite datasets. This suggests that the satellite datasets contain more “structural uncertainty” than the surface dataset.
Structural uncertainty, explains Mears, refers to situations in which scientists are “getting different results when different, but scientifically reasonable, methods are used.”
So in sum: In claiming the globe hasn’t warmed in 17 years, Cruz selectively highlighted satellite temperature data, rather than other data (which NASA and NOAA recently used to call 2014 the hottest year on record). He also selectively focused on one year (1998), rather than examining the aggregate temperatures of many years or decades. And finally, a key scientist who studies this type of satellite data, and whose work was cited by Cruz’s spokesman (as backup), criticizes Cruz’s approach and conclusions.
Speaking of conclusions — at this point, feel free to draw your own.
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