Creationists, lay off Nessie (part 2)

June 29, 2012

Nessie replica in Scotland. Česky: Lochneská n...

Nessie replica in Scotland. Or, a replica of what that drunk guy claimed he saw. Based on a sketch the police wouldn’t use. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dave Does the Blog agreed, and pointed the way to Slacktivist, a blog on issues of faith and lack of faith, who also agree that creationists ought to change their tune:  The Loch Ness Monster doesn’t belong in science textbooks, especially as a claim against evolution theory.

We soaked this idea a bit here at the bathtub a couple of days ago.

Slacktivist points out that the Nessie claim is taught in schools funded with public money.  Your tax dollars at work, parents, teachers and politicians, teaching your children that Nessie is real.

English: Looking west as Nessie marches up 6th...

What constitutes real science evidence, for creationism? Looking west as Nessie marches up 6th Avenue on a sunny early afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about monsters under the bed?  Does the text claim they contradict evolution, too?


Sourced quote of the moment: Tax, or mandate? Lincoln said . . .

June 28, 2012

In light of this morning’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act, and questions about whether the law is a “mandate” or a “tax,” we might look to history to see whether the question matters, and what it is.

Lincoln probably had it right, as we noted here many months ago.  So, an encore post:

It’s a delightful story I’ve heard dozens of times, and retold a few times myself: Abraham Lincoln faced with some thorny issue that could be settled by a twist of language, or a slight abuse of power, asks his questioner how many legs would a dog have, if we called the dog’s tail, a leg. “Five,” the questioner responds confident in his mathematical ability to do simple addition. Lincoln Memorial statue, profile view

“No,” Lincoln says. “Calling a dog’s tail a leg, doesn’t make it a leg.”

But there is always the doubt: Is the story accurate? Is this just another of the dozens of quotes that are misattributed to Lincoln in order to lend credence to them?

I have a source for the quote: Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time / collected and edited by Allen Thorndike Rice (1853-1889). New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1909. This story is found on page 242. Remarkably, the book is still available in an edition from the University of Michigan Press. More convenient for us, the University of Michigan has the entire text on-line, in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, an on-line source whose whole text is searchable.

However, Lincoln does not tell the story about a dog — he uses a calf.

Rice’s book is a collection of reminiscences of others, exactly as the title suggests. Among those doing the reminiscing are ex-president and Gen. U. S. Grant, Massachusetts Gov. Benjamin Butler (also a former Member of Congress), Charles A. Dana the editor and former Assistant Secretary of War, and several others. In describing Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, George W. Julian relates the story. Julian was a Free-Soil Party leader and a Member of Congress during Lincoln’s administration. Julian’s story begins on page 241:

Few subjects have been more debated and less understood than the Proclamation of Emancipation. Mr. Lincoln was himself opposed to the measure, and when he very reluctantly issued the preliminary proclamation in September, 1862, he wished it distinctly understood that the deportation of the slaves was, in his mind, inseparably connected with the policy. Like Mr. Clay and other prominent leaders of the old Whig party, he believed in colonization, and that the separation of the two races was necessary to the welfare of both. He was at that time pressing upon the attention of Congress a scheme of colonization in Chiriqui, in Central America, which Senator Pomeroy espoused with great zeal, and in which he had the favor of a majority of the Cabinet, including Secretary Smith, who warmly indorsed the project. Subsequent developments, however, proved that it was simply an organization for land-stealing and plunder, and it was abandoned; but it is by no means certain that if the President had foreseen this fact his preliminary notice to the rebels would have been given. There are strong reasons for saying that he doubted his right to emancipate under the war power, and he doubtless meant what he said when he compared an Executive order to that effect to “the Pope’s Bull against the comet.” In discussing the question, he used to liken the case to that of the boy who, when asked how many legs his calf would have if he called its tail a leg, replied, ” Five,” to which the prompt response was made that calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg.

I believe it is fair to call the story “confirmed.” It’s not an exact quote, but it’s an accurate story.

_____________

So, is it a tax, or a mandate?  If it’s the right thing to do, does it matter what we call it?  A rose by any other name . . .

Update:  There remains the very strong danger that critics of the Affordable Healthcare Act can’t tell the difference between a calf’s tail and a calf’s leg, or ear, or any other part of the anatomy.


Go to the original source: Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare

June 28, 2012

You can read the entire decision here:  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf

5-4 decision, Chief Justice Roberts voting to uphold the bill, Kennedy voting against and leading the dissent.

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. R...

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. Roberts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Syllabus from the case (links added for your convenience, not in the original):

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS ET AL. v. SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
No. 11–393. Argued March 26, 27, 28, 2012—Decided June 28, 2012*

*Together with No. 11–398, Department of Health and Human Services et al. v. Florida et al., and No. 11–400, Florida et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services et al., also on certiorari to the same court.

In 2010, Congress enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in order to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care. One key provision is the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to maintain“minimum essential” health insurance coverage. 26 U. S. C. §5000A.For individuals who are not exempt, and who do not receive health insurance through an employer or government program, the means of satisfying the requirement is to purchase insurance from a private company. Beginning in 2014, those who do not comply with the mandate must make a “[s]hared responsibility payment” to the Federal Government. §5000A(b)(1). The Act provides that this “penalty”will be paid to the Internal Revenue Service with an individual’s taxes, and “shall be assessed and collected in the same manner” as tax penalties. §§5000A(c), (g)(1). Another key provision of the Act is the Medicaid expansion. The current Medicaid program offers federal funding to States to assist pregnant women, children, needy families, the blind, the elderly, and the disabled in obtaining medical care. 42 U. S. C. §1396d(a). The Affordable Care Act expands the scope of the Medicaid program and increases the number of individuals the States must cover. For example, the Act requires state programs to provide Medicaid coverage by 2014 to adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, whereas many States now cover adults with children only if their income is considerably lower, and do not cover childless adults at all. §1396a(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII). The Act increases federal funding to cover the States’ costs in expanding Medicaid coverage. §1396d(y)(1). But if a State does not comply with the Act’s new coverage requirements, it may lose not only the federal funding for those requirements, but all of its federal Medicaid funds. §1396c.

Twenty-six States, several individuals, and the National Federation of Independent Business brought suit in Federal District Court,challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the Medicaid expansion as a valid exercise of Congress’s spending power, but concluded that Congress lacked authority to enact the individual mandate. Finding the mandate severable from the Act’s other provisions, the Eleventh Circuit left the rest of the Act intact.

Held: The judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part.
648 F. 3d 1235, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

1. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Part II, concluding that the Anti-Injunction Act does not bar this suit.
The Anti-Injunction Act provides that “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person,” 26 U. S. C. §7421(a), so that those subject to a tax must first pay it and then sue for a refund. The present challenge seeks to restrain the collection of the shared responsibility payment from those who do not comply with the individual mandate. But Congress did not intend the payment to be treated as a “tax” for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Affordable Care Act describes the payment as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label cannot control whether the payment is a tax for purposes of the Constitution, but it does determine the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act therefore does not bar this suit. Pp. 11–15.

2. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Pp. 16–30.

(a) The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce.” Art. I, §8, cl. 3 (emphasis added). The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court’s precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court’s cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe the power as reaching “activity.” E.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 560. The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so  affects commerce.

Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.” Pp. 16–27.

(b) Nor can the individual mandate be sustained under the Necessary and Proper Clause as an integral part of the Affordable Care Act’s other reforms. Each of this Court’s prior cases upholding laws under that Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power. E.g., United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. ___. The individual mandate, by contrast, vests Congress with the extraordinary ability to create the necessary predicate to the exercise of an enumerated power and draw within its regulatory scope those who would otherwise be outside of it. Even if the individual mandate is “necessary” to the Affordable Care Act’s other reforms, such an expansion of federal power is not a “proper” means for making those reforms effective. Pp. 27–30.

3. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–B that the individual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable.

The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power.It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product. Because “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 648, 657, the question is whether it is “fairly possible” to interpret the mandate as imposing such a tax, Crowell v. Benson, 285 U. S. 22, 62. Pp. 31–32.

4. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Part III–C, concluding that the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause. Pp. 33–44.

(a) The Affordable Care Act describes the “[s]hared responsibility payment” as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label is fatal to the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. It does not, however, control whether an exaction is within Congress’s power to tax. In answering that constitutional question, this Court follows a functional approach,“[d]isregarding the designation of the exaction, and viewing its substance and application.” United States v. Constantine, 296 U. S. 287,
294. Pp. 33–35.

(b) Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. Cf. Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U. S. 20, 36–37. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance. See New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144, 169–174. Pp. 35–40.

(c) Even if the mandate may reasonably be characterized as a tax, it must still comply with the Direct Tax Clause, which provides:“No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” Art. I, §9, cl. 4. A tax on going without health insurance is not like a capitation or other direct tax under this Court’s precedents. It therefore need not be apportioned so that each State pays in proportion to its population. Pp. 40–41.

5. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, joined by JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAGAN, concluded in Part IV that the Medicaid expansion violates the Constitution by threatening States with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion. Pp. 45–58.

(a) The Spending Clause grants Congress the power “to pay the Debts and provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. Congress may use this power to establish cooperative state-federal Spending Clause programs. The legitimacy of Spending Clause legislation, however, depends on whether a State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of such programs. Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U. S. 1, 17. “[T]he Constitution simply does not give Congress the authority to require the States to regulate.” New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144, 178. When Congress threatens to terminate other grants as a means of pressuring the States to accept a Spending Clause program, the legislation runs counter to this Nation’s system of federalism. Cf. South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U. S. 203, 211. Pp. 45–51.

(b) Section 1396c gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to penalize States that choose not to participate in the Medicaid expansion by taking away their existing Medicaid funding. 42 U. S. C. §1396c. The threatened loss of over 10 percent of a State’s overall budget is economic dragooning that leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion. The Government claims that the expansion is properly viewed as only a modification of the existing program, and that this modification is permissible because Congress reserved the “right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision” of Medicaid. §1304. But the expansion accomplishes a shift in kind, not merely degree. The original program was designed to cover medical services for particular categories of vulnerable individuals. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is transformed into a program to meet the health care needs of the entire nonelderly population with income below 133 percent of the poverty level. A State could hardly anticipate that Congress’s reservation of the right to “alter” or “amend” the Medicaid program included the power to transform it so dramatically. The Medicaid expansion thus violates the Constitution by threatening States with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion. Pp. 51–55.

(c) The constitutional violation is fully remedied by precluding the Secretary from applying §1396c to withdraw existing Medicaid funds for failure to comply with the requirements set out in the expansion. See §1303. The other provisions of the Affordable Care Act are not affected. Congress would have wanted the rest of the Act to stand, had it known that States would have a genuine choice whether to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Pp. 55–58.

6. JUSTICE GINSBURG, joined by JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, is of the view that the Spending Clause does not preclude the Secretary from withholding Medicaid funds based on a State’s refusal to comply with the expanded Medicaid program. But given the majority view, she agrees with THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s conclusion in Part IV–B that the Medicaid Act’s severability clause, 42 U. S. C. §1303, determines the appropriate remedy. Because THE CHIEF JUSTICE finds the withholding—not the granting—of federal funds incompatible with the Spending Clause, Congress’ extension of Medicaid remains available to any State that affirms its willingness to participate. Even absent §1303’scommand, the Court would have no warrant to invalidate the funding offered by the Medicaid expansion, and surely no basis to tear down the ACA in its entirety. When a court confronts an unconstitutional statute, its endeavor must be to conserve, not destroy, the legislation. See, e.g., Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New Eng., 546 U. S. 320, 328–330. Pp. 60–61.

Read the entire decision, and its dissents, for the authoritative view . . .

Earlier related articles:


XKCD debunks claims of the Moon landing hoax

June 28, 2012

Kenny’s right — this is a pretty good debunking of the Moon landing hoax hoax.  Good old XKCD:

XKCD debunking of Moon landing hoax claims

With debunking this clever, don’t you think this strip is one you should read every day?

Grateful tip of the old scrub brush, to Kenny Darrell in the wilds of darkest Connecticut.

More:

Cropped from Image:AldrinFlag2.jpeg (now calle...

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon (Cropped from Image:AldrinFlag2.jpeg (now called Image:NASA AS-11-40-5875.jpg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Christians, call on this publisher to repent

June 27, 2012

What would Jesus do in a case like this?

In order to question evolution theory, a publisher claiming to be Christian, publishing books to be used in nominally Christian schools that get charter school funds, claims that the Loch Ness Monster is real.  Why?

[Loch Ness Monster = dinosaur] + [Alive with humans] = [Falsification of evolution theory]

Like Dave Barry, we could not make this stuff up.  It’s too lunatic for fiction.

Here’s the story, from Scotsman.com (not “true Scotsman,” of course) (links added):

Loch Ness monster cited by US schools as evidence that evolution is myth

The Loch Ness monster: Used as evidence that evolution is myth

The Loch Ness monster: Used as evidence that evolution is myth*

By CLAIRE MCKIN
Published on Monday 25 June 2012 14:05

THOUSANDS of American school pupils are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real – in an attempt by religious teachers to disprove Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Pupils attending privately-run Christian schools in the southern state of Louisiana will learn from textbooks next year, which claim Scotland’s most famous mythological beast is a living creature.

Thousands of children are to receive publicly-funded vouchers enabling them to attend the schools – which follow a strict fundamentalist curriculum.

The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme teaches controversial religious beliefs, aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.

Youngsters will be told that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man, then Darwinism is fatally flawed.

Critics have slammed the content of the religious course books, labelling them “bizarre” and accusing them of promoting radical religious and political ideas.

One ACE textbook called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.

“Have you heard of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur.

One former pupil, Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as “evidence” that evolution could not have happened.

He added: “The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4,000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived.

“If it was millions of years ago then that would be ridiculous. That’s their logic. It’s a common thing among creationists to believe in sea monsters.”

Private religious schools, including the Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana, which follows the ACE curriculum, have already been cleared to receive the state voucher money transferred from public school funding, thanks to a bill pushed through by Republican state governor Bobby Jindal, a Hindu convert to Catholicism.

Boston-based researcher and writer Bruce Wilson, who specialises in the American political religious right, said: “One of these texts from Bob Jones University Press claims that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons. It has little to do with science as we currently understand. It’s more like medieval scholasticism.”

Mr Wilson believes that such fundamentalist Christian teaching is going on in at least 13 American states.

He added: “There’s a lot of public funding going to private schools, probably around 200,000 pupils are receiving this education.

“The majority of parents now home schooling their kids are Christian fundamentalists too. I don’t believe they should be publicly funded, I don’t believe the schools who use these texts should be publicly funded.”

And you wonder why kids turn out like they do?

Christians, you may disagree with evolution theory, or Darwin’s findings and the work of 10,000 other scientists, but do you want to perpetrate bald-faced hoaxes to defend your disagreement?  Call on the publisher to change the book.  Spreading falsehoods is the wrong way to go about getting at the truth.

_____________

*  Yes, that’s the photo that’s been debunked a dozen times, a dozen ways.  Whatever it is a photograph of, it is not the Loch Ness Monster.

More, and Related articles


Turk’s Cap, native Texas flower in 90 seconds

June 26, 2012

Short piece from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Turk’s cap is a native Texas shrub that attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and moths. This easy-to-care for plant is named for the shape of its small blooms. To learn more about Texas native species and habitats, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/

Must admit I was unaware it’s a Texas native, though Kathryn has had it in all of our Texas gardens.  I love the blossoms.  I wish our local hummingbirds loved it as much as the photo in the video shows, but we have other plants they love and a feeder.  Butterflies like it, too.

Few other plants equal the intense red of the flowers.  Turk’s cap requires less water than many less spectacular, non-native plants.  Ours keep coming back year after year.  What more do you want in a good garden plant?

I wish my photos were so good as those used in the film.

More, and related material:


Activist Supreme Court?

June 25, 2012

Today’s the day, most likely, the Supreme Court will announce the results of the legal challenges to what has come to be called ObamaCare.

English: West face of the United States Suprem...

West face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a twist of fate, conservatives are praying for an activist court to go against precedent, and strike the plan down.  They hope that will improve their chances of getting into the driver’s seat of federal government again in November, because a fiscal ditch is looming and they find the temptation too strong to resist.

Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook noted:

Most legal scholars think the mandate is constitutional, but few are confident it will be upheld. ”The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years. Only eight of them predicted the court would do so…Five of the 21 professors who responded, including Whitman, said the court is likely to strike down the coverage requirement. Underscoring the high stakes and complexity of the debate, eight described the outcome as a toss-up..” Bob Drummond in Bloomberg.

Klein’s post is titled “Everything you need to know about health care and SCOTUS in one post.”  He covers the waterfront — you should read it.

Interesting day.  I’ll be traveling.


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