Thoughts on Dr. King's Day - A few more miscellaneous thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. on this day of remembrance. *One*: King was a troublemaker. In many ways, he became more of a...
19 hours ago
In a historic move that will cheer Richard Dawkins, lessons about atheism are to be taught in Ireland's primary schools for the first time.
The lessons on atheism, agnosticism and humanism for thousands of primary-school pupils in Ireland will be drawn up by Atheist Ireland and multi-denominational school provider Educate Together, in an education system that the Catholic church hierarchy has traditionally dominated.
Up to 16,000 primary schoolchildren who attend the fast-growing multi-denominational Irish school sector will receive tuition about atheism as part of their basic introduction course to ethics and belief systems, including other religions.
From September 2014 children could be reading texts such as Dawkins' The Magic of Reality, his book aimed at children, according to Atheist Ireland. ...
Jane Donnelly, a member of Atheist Ireland and a parent of two children in an Irish secondary school, welcomed the creation of an atheism alternative for Irish pupils.
"I opted my two girls out of religious education classes and they were told to go to the library and find a philosophy book to read during RE instead. The range of philosophy books was very limited so I sent them into school each day with a copy of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion for them to read."
• God is omnipresent in the 1937 Irish constitution, with article 6.1 stating: "All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people"; and article 44.1 noting: "The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion."
• Since the foundation of the republic, the Catholic church controls up to 93% of the state's 3,200 primary schools.
• The Catholic church's near monopoly of influence in education means that the ultimate power in each school is the local Catholic bishop. ...
• The Irish taxpayer, and not the church, pays the bills for all the schools the hierarchy controls.
To the cheers of Tea Party members everywhere, Larry Klayman called for a coup to overthrow our elected government, and replace it with a new dictatorship. Now he has expanded this, and given the dates for the armed insurrection in Washington DC:
Last Wednesday, the great usurper, Barack Hussein Obama, after having been indicted by an Ocala, Florida citizens’ grand jury [not a real grand jury], was convicted by a people’s court [not a real court] of defrauding the American people and Floridians by proffering them with a fake birth certificate. See www.citizensgrandjury.com. As readers of this column and www.wnd.com know too well, Obama is not a natural born citizen eligible to be president of the United States, as he was not born in this country to two American citizen parents. However, to justify his fraud and his elections to the highest office in the land, and after years of inquiry, in 2011 the Obama White House posted on its website a birth certificate purporting to show him having been born in Hawaii. The problem is however, according to forensic experts, the birth certificate is altered and forged.
The day of reckoning has come. Obama, having failed to plead in response to the indictment [not a real indictment] that was served upon him, waived his right to a jury trial. Thumbing his nose at We the People, as the citizens’ prosecutor [not a real prosecutor], I appeared before a citizens’ court judge [not a real judge] and presented evidence from Cold Case Posse investigator Michael Zullo showing that Obama tricked voters into electing him in 2008 and 2012. As a result, the citizens’ judge found him guilty on two counts of falsifying information to federal and state election officials. He was thus sentenced to the maximum prison term for these offenses of 10 years, and ordered to immediately surrender himself into the custody of the citizens of the United States and Florida.
Of course, Obama will not willingly obey the law of the people. He will attempt to hide behind the iron fences of the White House, perhaps cowering under his desk for fear that the people will rise up and demand his ouster.
On November 19, 2013, a day that will hopefully live on in the history of our once great republic, I call upon millions of Americans who have been appalled and disgusted by Obama’s criminality – his Muslim, socialist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-white, pro-illegal immigrant, pro-radical gay and lesbian agenda – among other outrages, to descend on Washington, D.C., en masse, and demand that he leave town and resign from office if he does not want to face prison time.
Yup, more Birther nonsense. This is the same old racism, the same old threat. As when they were founded in 2002, the Tea Party has been the refuge of racists and bigots. The supporters of the Tea Party just can’t stand the idea of a black man as President. And studies back this idea up.
And now, this, a call to overthrow the democracy of the United States and impose their religiously-driven ideology onto the United States. On a schedule too. November 19th, they plan to march on Washington and, as pointed out in his previous call, they plan to send Obama to “72 Virgins,” a thinly veiled death threat. And, he has numerous allies ready to fight. After all, it was not even a few months ago that the NRA, long a supporter of such violent rhetoric, was caught handing out pamphlets calling for a violent overthrow and the usurping of democracy.
After all, as that flyer said:
ELECTIONS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEM; ELECTIONS ARE THE PROBLEM!
Not your best moment, Keystone State. Just last week, Pennsylvania was in the news when gun-loving small town police chief Mark Kessler’s expletive-infused rants against “libtards” went viral – and cost him his job. Now, Coatesville Area School District superintendent Richard Como and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato have gained national attention for their abrupt departures from their positions – and the slew of hateful and racist messages discovered on their district-issued cell phones. Board president Neil Campbell has called the texts “sickening and obviously unacceptable.”
The incendiary messages, which all date from this past June, are a regular cavalcade of bigotry. And a source told the Philadelphia Inquirer Monday that “What has been made public represents a fraction of the messages between the men.” In one exchange, the two riff on how “All should have whatever first names they want… then last name is [n-word]!” Over the course of their messages, they also speculate in details on other people’s sex lives, discuss a “Jew red haired ESL” teacher, “that ape,” “cotton pickers” and a “skinny bitch,” among others. Intriguingly, there’s also a reference to a “MAJOR sneak” who “made at least 1500 – 2000 on kickback.” But to be honest, my favorite is the damming understatement that “This fucking phone! No idea how to work!”
Cancer is not a creative, original disease; it has not been honed by ages of evolution to craft novel lines of attack on your body. Instead, it’s an opportunistic thief. Cancer misuses and perverts existing processes in your cells to send them out of control. Everything cancer does is simply the same thing your cells normally do, only amplified and unconstrained, driven by damage to the genes that would normally regulate their behavior.
Here’s a metaphor, a car with a dangerous defect. It has acquired a glitch in the accelerator so that every time you start it up, it immediately roars up to full speed, as if you’d floored the pedal. The problem hasn’t created anything new in the car, it’s just taken something you normally need to do, that is, regulate the speed of the machine, and stripped you of all ability to control it. That’s what an oncogene does; it is a gene that is normally involved in controlling the rate of cell proliferation, for instance, and a mutation has broken it in such a way that it now tells the cell to divide as rapidly as possible.
Now if you were driving down the freeway and suddenly your accelerator were stuck and you couldn’t slow it down, you’d have alternative strategies to stop (and so does the cell). You could hit the brakes or shift gears or turn off the ignition key. Cancers acquire another set of mutations that destroy the ability to shut off cell processes, analogous to breaking the brake pedal or snapping off the gear shift handle. These genes that can block the effects of out-of-control cell regulators are called tumor suppressors, and I’ll write about those at another time. Today I focus on oncogenes, regulators of the cell that must be damaged by mutation to produce an excessive response.
The first concern that comes to everyone’s mind is that you don’t want to have your cells running amuck — no one wants cancer. Just as you can do your best to maintain your car, you can also live sensibly — eat in moderation, avoid carcinogens or other behaviors that expose you to radiation, and get regular checkups — to reduce the likelihood of deleterious mutations. But they can happen anyway, through no fault of your own. Every time your cells divide, there is a very small chance of an error in replication that inserts a mutation into an oncogene. Just existing, even while doing everything exactly right to maximize your health, brings with it a base chance for a mutation. Given normal rates of cell division, every single one of you reading this is going to acquire about 20,000 DNA lesions today and every day. Almost every one of them will be patched up by DNA repair mechanisms (you have no idea how important DNA repair is to your continued health), but even so, one will occasionally slip through — over your lifetime, your cells will acquire an estimated 10,000 mutations. Live long enough, playing these odds, and cancer is essentially inevitable.
So cancer is fundamentally a chance process. There is no reason people get cancer, no purpose behind it, and everyone is susceptible. Some behaviors can increase the odds — smoking, failing to use sunblock — and you can also inherit genetic predispositions that increase the likelihood of acquiring a full set of mutations that lead to cancer, but ultimately, no one is at fault for cancer.
Two men died Wednesday, Sept. 18, in a shootout that stemmed from a road rage confrontation, Ionia police said.
Ionia Department of Public Safety officers were dispatched to Wonder Wand Car Wash in the 400 block of South Steele Street shortly before 7 p.m. on reports of shots fired. Police arrived to find two men with gunshot wounds.
Initial investigation shows the Ionia men, ages 43 and 56, pulled into the car wash parking lot after a road rage incident. They exited their vehicles and eventually drew handguns and exchanged fire, police said. It wasn't clear what the two men were arguing about.
Life EMS transported the men to Sparrow Ionia Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
Police said both men, whose identities have not been released, held permits to carry concealed weapons.
Dear good Catholic daughters, and daughters in general, and anyone who has ever come into contact with the teachings of a kookooroo like Raylan Alleman:
1. You do not have to obey.
It's okay if you don't believe me right now—I'm just going to keep hammering this one point over and over again for the rest of my life, just to do my part to ensure the message is there, steadfast and unequivocal, any time someone needs it. Contrary to what people might have told you, your life is yours—not your father's, not your husband's, not the Pope's, not some radical internet creep's. People who come at you with shit like this are liars with their own best interests in mind, not yours:
My personal impression is that the day-to-day grind of a job is below the dignity of women. In a way, it is like being a hired hand, as result of the fall and the penalty for original sin.
The "personal impressions" of Raylan Alleman, self-appointed internet lady-wrangler, are irrelevant to your life. You get to do whatever the fuck you want, within legal boundaries. You can still hold yourself to the moral code of your choice, immerse yourself in the church of your choice, marry someone whose faith you respect, and so on, but your church's jurisdiction over your life ends where your personal liberty begins. "Obedience" is part of the lexicon of slavery, and that is precisely how Raylan Alleman is using it. Your purpose is to stay home, stay tethered, stay ignorant, and stay harmless. Have more babies! Clean some stuff! Avoid critical thinking—it isn't your place (besides, we wouldn't want you getting critical of your husband and your life). Avoid going outside and making a mark on the world with your radiant brain and agency—that's your husband's place.
Well, fuck that. It is your place. Every place is your place. You are a human being and you have just as much a right to thrive and grow in any place you choose as some man who didn't do anything exceptional except be born. These places were built on your back too. You were born too and this is your life and you can do what you want with it. Obey yourself.
An almost completely unknown group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has identified itself as the secret source of almost a quarter of a billion dollars received by conservative political groups in 2012.
The group, Freedom Partners, raised $256 million in the year following its creation in November 2011, and made grants totaling $236 million to conservative groups, according to Politico, which was shown a draft of an IRS document the group plans to file shortly. As Politico put it, the upshot of Freedom Partners’ revelation is that “a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.” ...
Originally named the Association for American Innovation, Freedom Partners is organized as a 501(c)6 tax-exempt chamber of commerce. The designation allow it to keep its donors secret (but is different from the 501(c)4 “social welfare” group status that became popular after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.) On its website, which was registered in early September, Freedom Partners claims to have over 200 members. And according to Politico, those members are drawn from the semiannual conferences hosted by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire businessmen and conservative donors. Each member of Freedom Partners pays at least $100,000 in annual dues. ...
Freedom Partners was able to remain in the shadows during an election year because many (if not all) of the groups it gave money to in 2012 also keep their donors secret. But while dark money groups don’t have to disclose many details about the money they take in, they do have to tell the IRS more about the money they give out in the form of grants. Hence the IRS filing that the group shared with Politico.
For the Christian right, having a “faith-based” worldview extends far beyond claims about demons and angels. Unsurprisingly, the world of fundamentalist Christians is absolutely crawling with conspiracy theories, urban legends, and just plain bizarre beliefs about how the world works.
1) Same-sex marriage is an elaborate scheme concocted by lesbians to entrap men. David Usher of the Center for Marriage Policy managed to cough up a theory that is an outstanding blend of homophobia, misogynist myths about the mendacity of women, and paranoia about the supposed gravy train that is child support. He argues that women will marry each other and conscript men into supporting them by “pretending they are using birth control when they are not.” The men will then “become economically conscripted third parties to these marriages, but get nothing in return,” presumably because the only reason a man would want to care for his own children would be in exchange for sex and housework. He also assumes that the only sources of income women have access to are child support and welfare; the possibility that women hold jobs doesn’t seem to occur to him.
Usher is trying to find a way to justify the increasingly ridiculous right-wing claim that same-sex marriage is somehow undermining “traditional” heterosexual marriage. He has zero-evidence for his claim outside of his belief that women are generally sleazy liars, and will “cheat” men out of the straight marriages they’re entitled to by sneaking off with women.
6) Obama is the Antichrist and plans to rule America by sharia law. Even though you’d think Obama would be getting on with this plan already instead of wasting time talking about bombing Syria, the belief that any day now a combination of sharia law and the apocalypse will be brought on by Obama still rules in Christian right circles. Public Policy Polling found that an alarming 13 percent of Americans are sure Obama is the Antichrist and another 13 percent entertained the possibility. Christian right-wingers are always on the lookout for “evidence” that Obama’s secret sharia plan is about to take off, leading to headlines likes this one from Breitbart.com: “Obama administration paves the way for sharia law.”
10) Birth control pill turns your uterus into a grave littered with teeny-weeny corpses of fully formed babies. Kevin Swanson, Christian right talk show host, expelled this one recently, claiming that “certain doctors and certain scientists” are finding that women on the pill have, “these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb.” An evocative image, albeit one that requires not only falsely believing the pill “kills” embryos (it works by suppressing ovulation), but also simply refusing to believe that menstruation actually exists.
On Saturday, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming delivered the weekly Republican address. He ignored Syria, presumably because his party is deeply conflicted on the issue. (For the record, so am I.) Instead, he demanded repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “The health care law,” he declared, “has proven to be unpopular, unworkable and unaffordable,” and he predicted “sticker shock” in the months ahead.
So, another week, another denunciation of Obamacare. Who cares? But Mr. Barrasso’s remarks were actually interesting, although not in the way he intended. You see, all the recent news on health costs has been good. So Mr. Barrasso is predicting sticker shock precisely when serious fears of such a shock are fading fast. Why would he do that?
Well, one likely answer is that he hasn’t heard any of the good news. Think about it: Who would tell him?
My guess, in other words, was that Mr. Barrasso was inadvertently illustrating the widening “wonk gap” — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.
About health reform: Mr. Barrasso was wrong about everything, even the “unpopular” bit, as I’ll explain in a minute. Mainly, however, he was completely missing the story on affordability.
For the truth is that the good news on costs just keeps coming in. There has been a striking slowdown in overall health costs since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, with many experts giving the law at least partial credit. And we now have a good idea what insurance premiums will be once the law goes fully into effect; a comprehensive survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that on average premiums will be significantly lower than those predicted by the Congressional Budget Office when the law was passed.
But do Republican politicians know any of this? Not if they’re listening to conservative “experts,” who have been offering a steady stream of misinformation.
...to state it more simply, the right has us licked on the propaganda front. As I was saying before, when it comes to catchy slogans premised on their ideological assumptions (“job creators,” etc), lockstep message discipline, and mind-numbing repetition, liberals just can’t compete. ...
However, the left has an equally lopsided advantage when it comes to a different type of pundit: wonks. The left’s wonk bench is both wide and deep. These folks are ideologically inclined, certainly, but are also dedicated to study, empirical analysis, and informed debate. They argue mostly through evidence-based reasoning, sometimes shot through with a bit of sarcasm or anger, but they’re uncomfortable with abject partisanship.
They do have a strength, though, which was on vivid display yesterday when Mitt Romney finally released a few niggling details about some of his policies. Team Wonk sank their teeth into that like a bunch of half-starved wolverines. (Finally, something we can analyze!) Jon Cohn dug into Romney’s health-care plan (yikes), while Matt Yglesias found some disturbing implications in the education plan. Today, Suzy Khimm took a more even look at Romney’s education plan, and they’ll probably be gnawing over the scraps all weekend.
The right simply doesn’t have that kind of policy muscle, though it remains to be seen whether their increasing disregard for evidence and policy will hurt them electorally.
At the same time, in an echo of the Romney camp’s polling fantasies, other conservative “experts” are creating false impressions about public opinion [of 'Obamacare']. Just after Kaiser released a poll showing a strong majority — 57 percent — opposed to the idea of defunding health reform, the Heritage Foundation put out a poster claiming that 57 percent of Americans want reform defunded. Did the experts at Heritage simply read the numbers upside down? No, they claimed, they were referring to some other poll. Whatever really happened, the practical effect was to delude the right-wing faithful.
And the point is that episodes like this have become the rule, not the exception, on the right. How many Republicans know, for example, that government employment has declined, not risen, under President Obama? Certainly Senator Rand Paul was incredulous when I pointed this out to him on TV last fall. On the contrary, he insisted, “the size of growth of government is enormous under President Obama” — which was completely untrue but was presumably what his sources had told him, knowing that it was what he wanted to hear.
For that, surely, is what the wonk gap is all about. Political conservatism and serious policy analysis can coexist, and there was a time when they did. Back in the 1980s, after all, health experts at Heritage made a good-faith effort to devise a plan for universal health coverage — and what they came up with was the system now known as Obamacare.
But that was then. Modern conservatism has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts. Liberal policies were supposed to cause hyperinflation, so low measured inflation must reflect statistical fraud; the threat of climate change implies the need for public action, so global warming must be a gigantic scientific hoax. Oh, and Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been a real conservative.
It’s all kind of funny, in a way. Unfortunately, however, this runaway cult controls the House, which gives it immense destructive power — the power, for example, to wreak havoc on the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And it’s disturbing to realize that this power rests in the hands of men who, thanks to the wonk gap, quite literally have no idea what they’re doing.