Daily Archives: November 15, 2012

Are you a Catholic?

And if so, are you against freedom to marry for all?

If not … if you are a Catholic AND you support, for instance, same-sex marriage, the YOU ARE A CHUMP and your beloved church is making a fool of you.

Catholic priest denies confirmation to teen who supports freedom to marry

The Catholic Church is fighting it’s members and is once again on the wrong side of history.

Last month, Lennon Cihak, a 17-year-old living in Barnesville, Minnesota, posted a picture of himself holding an altered ‘Vote Yes’ sign on his Facebook page.
Lennon markered out the ‘Vote Yes’ text and replaced it with ‘Vote No!’ He also changed the sign’s slogan to read, ‘Equal Marriage Rights!’ Shortly thereafter, Lennon’s mother, Shana Cihak, was called into a meeting with Rev. Gary LaMoine, the priest at Assumption Church, the Catholic church the Cihak family attends. LaMoine informed the family that Lennon would no longer be able to complete his confirmation because of his gay marriage stance.

Story here.

Can't we do something with this White House petition thing?

For a long time I ignored the White House petitions, mostly, because their sign in system was messing with me and I spend very little time on web sites that mess with me. But they seem to have fixed that problem and now I can actually read what is going on there and participate in the process. Or not.

So, here’s some ideas. First, I wonder if we should all sign the petitions for various states to secede from the Union, but only for states we don’t live it. That would be funny. Like this one:


As an American Veteran on behalf of the U.S. Constitution, the Republic, the Rule of Law, and equal justice for all freedom loving citizens of the United States of America hereby declare that the Federal Government allow Alaska to peacefully secede from a dysfunctional Union that is run by corrupt politicians who buy the votes of individuals who can no longer be seen as American citizens but rather, slaves to a tyrant.

We who took the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, now declare Washington DC to be the domestic enemy to the freedom and liberty of all Alaskans and indeed, 50% of the free citizens of the USA. Therefore, we declare our secession in support of the US Constitution. LET MY PEOPLE GO!

Created: Nov 10, 2012
Issues: Energy, Firearms, Government Reform

By the way, it is interesting that a) some of the secession petitions are listed with “Firearms” as the “issue” and EVERY SINGLE ONE (to use some all caps) of the active petitions in the “Firearms” category are for one state or another to withdraw from the Union. Those are the aforementioned ALASKA IN ALL CAPS, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Utah.

If you are against the secessional petitions, there are some anti-secessional ones, such as a petition to “Disregard attempts to withdraw the state of Texas from the union. United we stand, divided we fall.” It reads “Separating the State of Texas will not only destroy its economy, it allow the inhumane thoughts and acts of closed minded individuals to take away the rights and liberties of hard working citizens. This country has evolved and should continue to move forward instead of backwards. We will not be separated…..United we stand behind our president and government. Divided we fall, NO to secession.”

I’m undecided on that one. Having texas as a neighbor with an international border between us has a certain attraction. There would have to be strict immigration rules and any time Texas looked at us funny we would have to bomb them into the stone age. Right?

Here’s one you should sign for sure:

Federally legalize gay marriage

Denying gay couples to wed is a violation of religious freedom; considering the fact that religious and civil marriages are different institutions. The biggest reason why gay couples are being denied to get married is because major religions regard homosexuality as a sin. Contrary to this, the First Amendment of the Constitution states that ‘an individual’s religious views or lack thereof must be protected.’ If gay couples decide to forego church weddings and instead, have a civil union, the government needs to adhere to their request.

Created: Nov 13, 2012
Issues: Human Rights

Just go sign that one</a

There are people who are for and against this kind of thing:

Create a Wildlife Conservation Stamp for Habitat Acquisition and the Conservation of Wildlife.

We propose a Wildlife Conservation Stamp, comparable to the well-known Duck Stamp, to support the acquisition of habitat and the conservation of all wildlife in the National Wildlife Refuge system with an emphasis on non-game species. A Wildlife Conservation Stamp would allow birders, photographers, hikers, and other people who enjoy wildlife in a non-consumptive way to financially show their support of the National Wildlife Refuge system.

Created: Nov 14, 2012
Issues: Environment, Natural Resources, Postal Service

That one was started by my friend Corey. The idea here is that they have these duck stamps (and some other stamps…we have a trout stamp in Minnesota) which raise money for “wildlife” but more like so you can shoot them with guns than actually preserve them, and piles of money come in from those stamps. Ironically, some bird lovers buy the duck stamps because they are pretty, but the stamps basically support duck hunting.

I’m not against duck hunting per se, but I am annoyed at the way in which our conservation efforts across the country have been co-opted by hunters so that they are the only ones that matter any more. That is not fair and it is not smart. Fuck the duck stamps, I say! I signed it, and you may want to as well.

Anyway, here’s the thing. There are a lot of dumb-ass petitions on there, and some good ones, but what I’m not seeing is any kind of effort from the skeptical community and only a minimal effort from the scientific community to generate and promote sensible, fact based and evidence based petitions. Let’s turn this:

Into a better mix of reason and sense.

Most Distant Galaxy Found (So Far)

So far indeed. It is blobbish and small, but interesting.

From NASA:

PASADENA, Calif. – By combining the power of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and one of nature’s own natural “zoom lenses” in space, astronomers have set a new record for finding the most distant galaxy seen in the universe.

The farthest galaxy appears as a diminutive blob that is only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. But it offers a peek back into a time when the universe was three percent of its present age of 13.7 billion years. The newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, was observed 420 million years after the big bang, the theorized beginning of the universe. Its light has traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth.

This find is the latest discovery from a program that uses natural zoom lenses to reveal distant galaxies in the early universe. The Cluster Lensing And Supernova Survey with Hubble (CLASH), an international group led by Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is using massive galaxy clusters as cosmic telescopes to magnify distant galaxies behind them. This effect is called gravitational lensing.

Along the way, 8 billion years into its journey, light from MACS0647-JD took a detour along multiple paths around the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0647+7015. Without the cluster’s magnification powers, astronomers would not have seen this remote galaxy. Because of gravitational lensing, the CLASH research team was able to observe three magnified images of MACS0647-JD with the Hubble telescope. The cluster’s gravity boosted the light from the faraway galaxy, making the images appear about eight, seven, and two times brighter than they otherwise would, enabling astronomers to detect the galaxy more efficiently and with greater confidence.

“This cluster does what no man-made telescope can do,” said Postman. “Without the magnification, it would require a Herculean effort to observe this galaxy.”

MACS0647-JD is so small it may be in the first steps of forming a larger galaxy. An analysis shows the galaxy is less than 600 light-years wide. Based on observations of somewhat closer galaxies, astronomers estimate that a typical galaxy of a similar age should be about 2,000 light-years wide. For comparison, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy companion to the Milky Way, is 14,000 light-years wide. Our Milky Way is 150,000 light-years across.

“This object may be one of many building blocks of a galaxy,” said the study’s lead author, Dan Coe of the Space Telescope Science Institute. “Over the next 13 billion years, it may have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of merging events with other galaxies and galaxy fragments.”

The galaxy was observed with 17 filters, spanning near-ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths, using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Coe, a CLASH team member, discovered the galaxy in February while poring over a catalogue of thousands of gravitationally lensed objects found in Hubble observations of 17 clusters in the CLASH survey. But the galaxy appeared only in the two reddest filters.

“So either MACS0647-JD is a very red object, only shining at red wavelengths, or it is extremely distant and its light has been ‘redshifted’ to these wavelengths, or some combination of the two,” Coe said. “We considered this full range of possibilities.”

The CLASH team identified multiple images of eight galaxies lensed by the galaxy cluster. Their positions allowed the team to produce a map of the cluster’s mass, which is primarily composed of dark matter. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that makes up the bulk of the universe’s mass. “It’s like a big puzzle,” said Coe. “We have to arrange the mass in the cluster so that it deflects the light of each galaxy to the positions observed.” The team’s analysis revealed that the cluster’s mass distribution produced three lensed images of MACS0647-JD at the positions and relative brightness observed in the Hubble image.

Coe and his collaborators spent months systematically ruling out these other alternative explanations for the object’s identity, including red stars, brown dwarfs and red (old or dusty) galaxies at intermediate distances from Earth. They concluded that a very distant galaxy was the correct explanation.

The paper will appear in the Dec. 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Redshift is a consequence of the expansion of space over cosmic time. Astronomers study the distant universe in near-infrared light because the expansion of space stretches ultraviolet and visible light from galaxies into infrared wavelengths. Coe estimates MACS0647-JD has a redshift of 11, the highest yet observed.

Images of the galaxy at longer wavelengths obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope played a key role in the analysis. If the object were intrinsically red, it would appear bright in the Spitzer images. Instead, the galaxy barely was detected, if at all, indicating its great distance. The research team plans to use Spitzer to obtain deeper observations of the galaxy, which should yield confident detections as well as estimates of the object’s age and dust content.

MACS0647-JD galaxy, however, may be too far away for any current telescope to confirm the distance based on spectroscopy, which spreads out an object’s light into thousands of colors. Nevertheless, Coe is confident the fledgling galaxy is the new distance champion based on its unique colors and the research team’s extensive analysis.

“All three of the lensed galaxy images match fairly well and are in positions you would expect for a galaxy at that remote distance when you look at the predictions from our best lens models for this cluster,” Coe said.

The new distance champion is the second remote galaxy uncovered in the CLASH survey, a multi-wavelength census of 25 hefty galaxy clusters with Hubble’s ACS and WFC3. Earlier this year, the CLASH team announced the discovery of a galaxy that existed when the universe was 490 million years old, 70 million years later than the new record-breaking galaxy. So far, the survey has completed observations for 20 of the 25 clusters.

The team hopes to use Hubble to search for more dwarf galaxies at these early epochs. If these infant galaxies are numerous, then they could have provided the energy to burn off the fog of hydrogen that blanketed the universe, a process called re-ionization. Re-ionization ultimately made the universe transparent to light.

Research scientists Leonidas Moustakas and Julian Merten of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., participated in the study.

The Mysterious Black People of Maine

I’ve not been to Maine in years, but there was a time when I frequented the state and knew it pretty well. And, my recollection is that almost everybody there is white or whitish. Hardly any black people. I looked it up just now: Maine is 12th from the bottom among us states in terms of percent “black” with about 1%.

Now, here’s the thing. Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog is reporting on comments mad by Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster’s concern that on election day, “Dozens of black people” showed up out of nowhere and voted. Here’s Charlie:

“Pat” is “Part” so that’s “Some parts of the state” not “Some pats of the state.”

That post card should trick those black people into not responding to the post card, and thus, be certain that they really weren’t there.

Bottom line: The guy who is in charge of a state political party is checking on people’s race. For that, we have THIS. Charlie’s activities need to be investigated by the FBI, and if he really is seeking ways to keep black people from voting in Maine (all 1% of them) he should be prosecuted. Mean time, the Maine GOP needs to fire him.

Savita Halappanavar’s Death

As you know, it was recently reported that a woman named Savita Halappanavar was killed in an Irish hospital when she was not given proper medical treatment for religious reasons. One of the last conversations she had was with hospital employees who told her and her husband that this was an “Irish Catholic Hospital” so of course there would not be a termination of a pregnancy, which was in the process of a long and problematic miscarriage, even if the patient, Savita Halappanavar, might die with out it. Well, she did die, at the hands of the hospital staff. First, the fetus died, but the miscarriage involved complications that later killed Halappanavar. Halappanavar was neither ethnically Irish nor Catholic.

So, do the Catholic hospital staffers get to go to heaven because they killed a Hindu? Or what? Someone please explain the logic, and the consequences, from a religious point of view, if you can, because I don’t understand that.

Biodork has written about it here. Almost Diamonds discusses it here. Dana Hunter’s comments are here.