An End to Conspiracy? Rare Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Arrest Suggests Why He’s Guilty


An End to Conspiracy? Rare Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Arrest Suggests Why He’s Guilty
Click to visit the original postIn our 50th anniversary commemorative issue of TIME, we published a rare photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald being arrested outside the Texas Theatre. Gary Mack, the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, writes for LightBox about the photo’s legacy:

Certain images and scenes from the Kennedy assassination — the gruesome Abraham Zapruder film; Bob Jackson’s shocking photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald; Stan Stearns’ heart-wrenching view of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket outside the Cathedral of St. Matthew — remain as powerful and disturbing today as they were 50 years ago.

But there’s another photograph that remains relevant and gripping five decades later, in a different way, and relatively few have seen it.  The picture was taken by Dallas freelance photographer James “Jim” MacCammon barely 80 minutes after gunshots reverberated through Dealey Plaza. MacCammon photographed 24-year-old Oswald as he emerged from the Texas Theatre into the bright midday sun, sandwiched between Patrolman C.T. Walker and, still chewing his cigar, Detective Paul Bentley.
Read more: An End to Conspiracy? Rare Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Arrest Suggests Why He’s Guilty – LightBox

http://lightbox.time.com/2013/11/22/an-end-to-conspiracy-rare-photo-of-lee-harvey-oswalds-arrest-suggests-why-hes-guilty/#ixzz2lN3DV2zM

Alien Skull? Archaeologists discover ancient ‘conehead’ in French necropolis; wealth artistocratic woman’s skeleton


Archaeologists discover ancient ‘conehead’ in French necropolis; wealth artistocratic woman’s skeleton
conehead skull

The pointy ‘conehead’ skull of an ancient aristocratic woman has been discovered in a French necropolis. Picture: Inrap Source: Supplied

A SKULL of an aristocratic woman with a deformed, pointed ‘conehead’ has been found in an ancient burial plot in France.

The skeleton, whose skull was bound into a deformed cone-shape reserved for aristocracy, was unearthed in a necropolis discovered in the Obernai region of Alsace, France. The burial site contains 38 tombs from the Stone Ages to the Dark Ages, discovered in 2011, reports INRAP, the France’s archeological research institute.

Archaeologist Philippe Lefranc said the ‘conehead’ skull was discovered in a section of the necropolis that includes 18 tombs from either the late Roman period or early dark ages, roughly 1650 years ago, LiveScience reports.

In that period, an alien-like, domed skull was a privilege only afforded to deceased aristocracy.

“The deformation of the skull with the help of bandages (narrow strips of cloth) and small boards is a practice coming from central Asia,” said Mr Lefranc.  The practice was made popular by the Huns, from central Asia, and then spread throughout Germany, he said.

“In France, Germany and eastern Europe, these deformed skulls appear in tombs rich in objects,” he said. Researchers also found signs of wealth including gold pins, pearls, a comb made of antler and a bronze mirror in the woman’s grave.

The remains are thought to be the graves of Asian mercenaries and their families, hired by the Roman Army during the decline of the Roman Empire.

conehead skull

Researchers say the graves likely belong to Hun mercenaries who were hired to fight for the declining Roman Empire. Picture: Inrap

Conspiracy Theories; How I Figured Out That Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK


How I Figured Out That Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK

How I figured out that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK
by Marc Ambinder

Confession: I am a JFK assassination buff. I never much liked the term, but it describes me well. I’ve read just about every book ever published on the assassination, watched every documentary, mock trial, and dramatization. And for a long time, until about 14 years ago, I was a conspiracy theory believer. Too many loose ends. Too many coincidences of propinquity. And since I had no understanding of physics, or ballistics, or medicine, or of the world, really, I was fascinated with Oliver Stone’s enormously influential JFK. I remember writing somewhere, and bear in mind I was 14 at the time, that the third act scene with “Mr. X” was one of the most dramatic moments in modern film history. That might have been true to a kid who hadn’t scene many movies and who had no idea how awful New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison actually was, or how utterly absurd his theories were.

Lee Harvey Oswald

A year later, the day that Gerald Posner’s Case Closed came out, I remember sitting in my high school library waiting for my chance to page through U.S News and World Report, which was serializing the chapter on the “single bullet.” I was nervous. Part of me didn’t want to read a book that concluded something that was precisely the opposite of what I believed. But, clearly, I wasn’t totally convinced, because I wanted to read it in the first place.

I took the magazine and began to read. I can pinpoint the moment when my blinders came off, when my childhood assassination conspiracy fantasies dissolved. Posner pointed out that (a) the president’s row of seats inside the presidential limousine were built to be higher than the row of seats where Gov. John Connally and his wife Nellie would sit; and (b) all the photographs of the motorcade entering Dealy Plaza showed Connally sitting closer to Nellie, away from the edge of the car.

Continue reading at The Week.

World Nut Daily Continues To Defend George Zimmerman Amid Abuse Allegations


WorldNetDaily Continues To Defend George Zimmerman Amid Abuse Allegations
by Brian Tashman

WorldNetDaily’s Jack Cashill believes that the allegations of domestic violence against George Zimmerman are part of a big liberal media conspiracy, even though one of the claims occurred before the Trayvon Martin trial. In another WND story defending Zimmerman in the face of new accusations of abuse, Cashill claimed Zimmerman’s estranged wife and “his latest ‘victim,’ girlfriend Samantha Scheibe,” concocted their claims to garner media attention and “betrayed” Zimmerman by going to the police after he threatened them.

While Cashill thinks this is all the media’s fault, the Associated Press notes in 2005 “Zimmerman’s former fiancee filed for a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence,” and in the same year “Zimmerman was arrested and accused of resisting an officer with violence.”

But maybe the media went back in time as part of the anti-Zimmerman conspiracy!

Between April 2012 and July 2013, Zimmerman’s life fell apart. He showed up at the trial dead-eyed, grossly overweight, and financially and emotionally bankrupt.

The local NAACP, with which he had worked on a civil rights case a year earlier, had betrayed him. The state of Florida had sacrificed him to the mob.

His president denied him. The media had rendered the mid-Florida ether so poisonous he could scarcely leave the house. His wife no longer loved him and was eager to tell the world about it.

Zimmerman’s acquittal settled nothing. The death threats amplified. The attorney general continued to hound him despite full clearance by the FBI more than a year prior. And the media cried “Injustice!”

“I still see sadness in his eyes,” said his brother Robert soon after the acquittal. “He was definitely not the same person I had seen a few days before the incident.”

In the last two years, Zimmerman has experienced more betrayal on more levels than most of us will in a lifetime.

Now, it appears that his latest “victim,” girlfriend Samantha Scheibe, was soliciting national media interviews weeks before their well-publicized dust-up.

Regardless of the circumstances, each misstep Zimmerman has made post-trial has left the media giddy. They seem to think it vindicates their utterly subversive rush to judgment.

The fact is that the Zimmerman they now happily trash is the Zimmerman they helped create. Whatever happens going forward, the blood is on their hands.

Obama Removes God; Farcical Idiot Pond “Breitbart” Make Fools of Themselves, Yet Again


Breitbart “News” Beclowns Themselves Yet Again
Right wing journalism at its finest
By Charles  Johnson
I’ve taken a bit of a break from mocking the right wing idiots at  Breitbart.com lately, but this self-beclownment is so monumental it rivals Ben  Shapiro’s hilarious “Friends of Hamas” smear against Chuck Hagel, as Larry  O’Connor gets the vapors over President Obama’s recitation of an early version  of the Gettysburg address for a Ken Burns film: OBAMA  REMOVES ‘GOD’ FROM GETTYSBURG ADDRESS.

Then, six hours after the screaming anti-Obama headline comes the sheepish  update:

UPDATE: A text box now appears on the Ken Burns website learntheaddress.org which states: “Did you know there are five versions of the Gettysburg Address?  We asked President Obama to read the first, the Nicolay Version.” A  cached version of the same webpage from several days ago shows no such  reference.

Right, because O’Connor and the rest of the right wing crazysphere made such  a stink about this moronic fake outrage that Ken Burns needed to post a  clarification to stop the idiocy from spreading any further. Winning!

And speaking of clarifications, Larry — how about an update to your totally  wrong headline?

10 Deranged Dispatches From the Right-Wing Wackosphere This Week


10 Deranged Dispatches From the Right-Wing Wackosphere This Week

Holier than the Pope himself, Palin and Buchanan take Francis to task.

Photo Credit: Jennifer A. Walz/Shutterstock.com 

It’s been a busy week for all manner of charlatans, religious and otherwise.

1. One-woman parade of idiocy, Sarah Palin: The Pope is too liberal; social programs are similar to slavery.

Sarah Palin was on book tour this week, telegenically spewing some of the stupidest nonsense we’ve heard since she announced she could see Russia from her house. We’d like to ignore her, but the fact is she’s hugely popular among a certain segment of the population, and her book about the “war on Christmas,” Good Tidings and Great Joy, is destined for best-sellerdom. Just don’t wish her “Happy holidays!” That is waging war, my friend.

As Christian as she is, though, during an interview with CNN, Palin complained about Pope Francis. She’s taken aback by his liberal attitudes, she says. Taken aback by his unwillingness to go after the LGBT community and atheists, we suppose, and his sympathy for the lonely elderly, and unemployed youth. As Bill Maher said, Palin’s really going to be shook up when she finds out what Jesus said. Be sure to have tranquilizers available when she encounters the Sermon on the Mount.

Palin hopped right on that highly offensive bandwagon of equating the social safety net with slavery. “Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our children and borrowing money from China,” she said. “When that note comes due — and this isn’t racist so try it anyway, this isn’t racist — but it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due, right? We are going to be beholden to a foreign master.”

Insisting that you are not being racist when you’re comparing slavery to something far more benign is always a really convincing way to make people believe that you are in no way racist.

2. Pat Buchanan: The Pope is bordering on moral relativism. The horror!

Pat Buchanan is another conservative who is very upset that the Pope is not willing to use the Catholic Church to bully people anymore. Specifically, he misses license to bully atheists, women who use birth control and have abortions, and gay people. In his refusal to berate or convert atheists, and tell LGBT people that they are going to hell, Pope Francis is bordering on— cue music of dread — moral relativism.

Two of the statements that upset Buchanan the most: Pope Francis describing the attempt to convert people to Christianity as “solemn nonsense,” and saying that Christians should spend less time lecturing people than listening to them to “discover new needs.”

Why, that dastardly Pope Francis even acknowledged that people can be good no matter what their religious belief, or lack thereof. And he committed the cardinal sin (sorry, pun intended) of stressing helping the poor, rather than focusing on distractions like the gay lifestyle. As Buchanan wrote at Townhall on Friday, Pope Francis is leading “the Catholic Church to a stance of non-belligerence, if not neutrality, in the culture war for the soul of the West.”

A non-belligerent church?! What the hell?

3. Pat Robertson: Ask your gay son if he has been molested.

Ever the dispenser of sound parenting advice, 700 Club host, evangelical bigot par excellence Pat Robertson advised a caller to be “understanding” when talking to her gay son. By being “understanding,” he meant asking her son if the reason he is gay is because he was molested. Because that is always how people become gay.

“Is there a biological thing going on or has he been influenced — has a coach molested him?” Robertson asked the viewer who called in.

Either way, of course, the mother must immediately enroll her son in one of those gay conversion therapies; yes, the abusive form of pseudo-counseling that even ultra-conservative New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was forced to acknowledge should be illegal.

(h/t Right Wing Watch)

4. Sandy Rios: Gay-waiter-refused-tip story just a clever ruse to help ENDA.

No doubt you’ll remember the story two weeks ago of the Kansas City waiter who, in lieu of a tip, received a note from his oh-so-considerate Christian customers saying that, despite his superb service, they couldn’t let him share in their riches because they, and god, disapproved of his lifestyle. That story went viral, and even Bill Maher picked up on it, suggesting that if you want to be selfish and cheap, just do it. Don’t claim it’s for the worker’s own good.

Unfortunately, the behavior has spread, with another family refusing a tip this week to a server they assumed was a lesbian. They were even less nice about it, treating her rudely from the start, racking up a sizable bill and gleefully stiffing the hardworker, who happens to be an ex-Marine, out of her gratuity.

But wait, back up, this just in: Sandy Rios of the American Family Association says the first story was a ruse — a hoax staged by the tricky LGBT community to drum up sympathy for ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) to pass in the Senate.

“I smell a rat in this story,” Rios said. “I don’t believe a Christian couple wrote this note, I think it was a ruse because it was the week ENDA was being voted on.”

If only progressives were as willing to engage in dirty tricks and outright deception as ultra-conservatives. If only… hatred was something that was merely stagecraft.

5. Rafael Cruz: Atheism leads to sexual abuse of children.

Ted’s dad. At it again. Downloading his unique combo of spurious lies, bile and nonsense.

This week, speaking at a gathering of a group we must look into joining, OK2A, described on its website as “Oklahoma Premiere Second Amendment advocacy group,” Rafael Cruz said, straight up, that atheism leads to sexual abuse of children.

Here is the logic he laid out to the assembled gun-toting crazies: “If there is nothing, if there is no God, then we are ruled by our instincts.”

Atheism leads to moral anarchy, he said. “Do we know any politicians that have done that?” he asked the crowd.

“Hitler!” answered Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, who, coincidentally, was in the audience.

“Oh, we don’t have to go that far, Larry,” Cruz chummily replied. “Just go to Washington. Just go to the White House.” From there, it’s a short hop to sexual immorality, perversion and sexual abuse, Cruz concluded.

Follow?

6. Faux “Historian” David Barton: True Christian soldiers wouldn’t have PTSD.

Atheism is apparently a problem in the military, too. Because if soldiers were true Christians, they would not feel bad about killing enemies and sometimes non-combatants. They would not come home traumatized and have all these psychological problems.

Christian “historian” David Barton, the one who blamed Typhoon Haiyan on women having legal abortions, celebrated Veteran’s Day by criticizing veterans who feel at all guilty for what they do on the battlefield. If they read their Bible, he and televangelist Kenneth Copeland agreed on Believer’s Voice of Victory, they’d read in Numbers 32 that soldiers “shall return and be guiltless before the Lord” and that means that they wouldn’t have PTSD.

“You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, it doesn’t take psychology; that promise right there will get rid of it,” Copeland said.

When you go to war God’s way, Barton chimed in, “not only are you guiltless for having done that, you’re esteemed.”

So, get it together veterans!

(h/t: Right Wing Watch)

7. Rand Paul: Obamafascists are coming for your donuts.

This is truly terrifying. Right-wing libertarian wackadoodle Rand Paul took to the microphone this week to warn Americans that the federal government is targeting donuts. That’s what he said: “They’re coming after your donuts!”

Way to scare people. First, Madam Dictator Michelle Obama tries to get kids to eat more vegetables and exercise; now, the FDA is banning trans fats. Give me obesity or give me death! Or both, as the case may be.

You know who libertarian Paul is not so libertarian about? Gubb’mint employees.

“I say we should line every one of them up. I want to see how skinny or how fat the FDA agents are that are making the rules on this,” he said in his rousing donut hysteria-invoking speech.

Donuts, as Esquire’s Charles Pierce pointed out, don’t need trans fats to be delicious. The two largest donut purveyors, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts are making pretty tasty round pastries without them.

Credit where due, though: There’s no indication, yet, that Paul’s recent call to arms was plagiarized.

8. Rush Limbaugh makes deranged comments on Obamacare.

There have been a lot of deranged comments on Obamacare this week, including from theNew York Times when it idiotically compared the bumpy rollout of healthcare.gov to Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. Hmmm, website = hurricane. Thousands dead = millions potentially getting health insurance. Yep, that analogy works.

Actually, all kidding aside, it’s monstrous.

While arguably Rush Limbaugh is less influential than the Times, and perhaps a tad more right-wing, he was not to be outdone in the crazy Obamacare hysteria that ran rampant this week. Rush, of course, does not like women, or sluts as he calls them, who use birth control. And Obamacare making it easier for them to do so is one of the healthcare act’s greatest evils in his view. Because he cares so much about millennials and their virtue, Rush took it upon himself to warn them on Wednesday’s show not to fall into this trap. What Obamacare is really advocating is not safer sex, he says—it’s prostitution.

“If you like being promiscuous, you can keep on being promiscuous,” Limbaugh, friend of the young, said. “If you like being a prostitute, then have at it!”

And summing up for emphasis:

“If you like your risky, promiscuous lifestyle, you can keep it. That’s what Obama is promising.”

Wait, that sounds kind of good, Rush. Thanks!

(h/t: Media Matters)

9. Phyllis Schlafly: Calling all border agents—be on the lookout for polygamist Muslims.

In a world that made any sense, conservative mouther-offer Phyllis Schlafly would have long ago faded into irrelevance. Frankly, we had assumed she was dead by now, but she’s alive and kicking, and still getting airtime to broadcast her ignorance.

While the Eagle Forum founder has long been preoccupied with fighting feminism, she also wants to make sure that those really sexist Muslims with multiple wives are not being let into our country. Yes, immigration, the changing complexion of America, and what that means for the welfare rolls is very much on Schlafly’s increasingly enfeebled mind these days.

She expressed these concerns on a radio show called “Crosstalk” the other day, saying:

“I would like to know if our immigration authorities are letting in people who believe in polygamy. Polygamy is against our law. We’ve brought in thousands of Muslims — I want to know if they made them sign a pledge to assure they’re not bringing in a bunch of wives who will now go on our welfare. Nobody can answer that question; I can’t get any answers to that question.”

Luckily, a caller to the show had an answer. He asserted without an iota of doubt that the Obama administration was bringing in 40 to 50 million Muslims and that they will destroy our constitution and implement Sharia law.

On the bright side, Phyllis: feminism and Sharia law do not go well together. Time to make friends with the enemy of your enemy?

10. Louisiana official: Close the libraries so those Mexicans can’t learn English; build a jail instead.

Most immigration hardliners also believe that anyone who comes to this country damn well ought to learn English. No bilingual education, no chance of Americans ever rubbing elbows with people who don’t speak Amurrican.

But Lindel Toups, who sits on the Lafourche Parish City Council, is upset that Mexicans are trying to learn English, and he’d like to divert funding from libraries to a new jail because of that fact. Toups played down the importance of libraries in recent comments to the Tri-Parish TimesandBusiness News, by pointing out that the Spanish-language Biblioteca Hispana section helps Spanish-speakers learn English.

“They’re teaching Mexicans to speak English,” Toups said “Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico.”

Libraries are apparently a great source of evil. “There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with… Them junkies and hippies and food stamps [recipients] and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps [on the Internet]. I see them do it.”

The citizens of Lafourche Parish are voting this week on whether to keep $800,000 in the library system or put it toward the $25 million needed for a new jail. That way, they might be able to avoid an increase in taxes.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Think the Tea Party Is Crazy? Europe’s Rising Neo-Fascism Is a Taste of What’s Coming If Austerity Prevails in America


Think the Tea Party Is Crazy? Europe’s Rising Neo-Fascism Is a Taste of What’s Coming If Austerity Prevails in America

Cutting social programs and government investment is a recipe for the growth of fascism.

     

American political dysfunction looks pretty bad — but just take a look at what’s going on across the Atlantic. A poisonous wave of right-wing, neo-fascist parties is emerging in response to the continent’s ongoing austerity and hugely ineffectual policy response to the resulting jobs crisis.

The U.S. could be headed in the same direction if the austerity-pushers have their way. Europe is a case study in what happens when mainstream parties on both the right and the left fail to deliver relief to the people. Extremists seize the opportunity to assert themselves, and things get ugly very fast.

Bringing countries together in the European Union was supposed to make violent nationalist conflict a thing of the past. Member countries were supposed to prosper economically. But now countries like Greece and Spain are fracturing politically and falling into a downward economic spiral.

The creators of the euro were like parents fixing an arranged marriage. They knew that they were locking together countries with very different economies and political cultures. But they hoped that, over time, the new partners would grow together and form a genuine bond.

The European Union was banking on three forms of convergence: economic, political and popular. At the time the euro was launched, there was much hopeful talk that a surge in trade and investment between the euro zone nations would create a truly unified European economy, in which national levels of productivity and consumption would converge on each other.

It was also assumed—or perhaps just hoped—that the euro would create political unity. Once Europeans were using the same notes and coins, they would feel how much they had in common, develop shared loyalties and deepen their political union. The designers of the single currency were also hoping that elite and popular opinion would come together. They knew that in certain crucial countries, in particular Germany, the public did not share the political elite’s enthusiasm for the creation of the euro. But they hoped that in time, this would change.

Enter reality.  At first, people saw most regulations and orders coming from Brussels as annoying and occasionally inconvenient. Rulings on things like what kind of fat chocolate may contain seemed objects of ridicule, not the stuff of revolution. The European Commission was seen as something distant with little day-to-day relevance for the lives of most citizens living within the European Union. But everything changed with the Great Recession of 2008. Ruinously destructive austerity policies took hold in the councils of Europe, notably in the form of economic austerity packages demanded of Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, etc. The consequences have been monstrous.

Politically, the implementation of the euro-zone’s stability pact has been largely left in the hands of unelected bureaucrats—the so-called “Troika,” in particular the IMF and European Central Bank, operating out of institutions that are devoid of any kind of democratic legitimacy. They implement “fiscal rules” on the basis of some arbitrary numbers that have no foundation in economic theory or reality.

Here’s a perfect example. A former senior budget ministry official in the government of former French president François Mitterrand was recently revealed as being the inventor of a phony “rule” repeated by governments both right or the left that the public deficit should not exceed 3 percent of the national wealth. The French official had this to say when asked about the origins of the 3 percent rule:

“We came up with the 3% figure in less than an hour. It was a back of an envelope calculation, without any theoretical reflection. Mitterrand needed an easy rule that he could deploy in his discussions with ministers who kept coming into his office to demand money… We needed something simple. 3%? It was a good number that had stood the test of time, somewhat reminiscent of the Trinity.”

So highly paid unelected bureaucrats in Brussels pull magic numbers out of the air, and then policy makers use them to call for nations to cut welfare, wages, jobs and the like. The result? People have already started dying in riots in Athens, Madrid and Rome. Backlash in France produced Marine Le Pen’s surprisingly successful candidacy in the last French presidential election for the Front Nationale (FN). If the name sounds familiar, it’s because fascism runs in the family: She is the youngest daughter of the French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, former president of the FN and currently its honorary chairman. In last year’s French presidential election, she polled some 18 percent in the first round and finished in third position behind winner François Hollande and the previous incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Anti-EU parties of the sort Le Pen represents are on the rise across continental Europe. They are growing precisely because the mainstream parties conspicuously continue to ignore the prevailing social disasters they are imposing on their respective electorates.  As the New York Times recently reported, the far right is quickly gaining ground:

“In France, according to a recent opinion poll, the far-right National Front has become the country’s most popular party. In other countries — Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland and the Netherlands — disruptive upstart groups are on a roll.”

While the European leaders are now talking about moving to a fully fledged political union (a “United States of Europe”) they are doing so within a culture of austerity, which simply exacerbates the prevailing social stresses and leads to further populist challenges to the mainstream.

Time is not on the side of Europe’s policy makers. The stock of private debt remains very high and policy makers are beginning to fret about the possibility of a genuine Great Depression-style debt deflation leading to another lost decade. That was the hidden message behind the ECB’s recent cut in interest rates, although the real answer must surely lie in a fiscal response that will break the fall in incomes and preserve living standards.

That’s the main reason America has not seen a comparable rise in fascism. In this country, we still have institutions, such as Social Security and Medicare, which were designed during the New Deal and the Great Society and by and large work extremely well. Europe, unfortunately, seems determined for now to go in an opposite direction, reviving old historic enmities and rivalries in the process. That could be in store for us if we follow a similar route, which would make the Tea Party seem like a tea party in comparison.

Marshall Auerback is a market analyst and commentator.

Billy Graham, Religious Huckster; Amid His Kindred


Worth 1,000 words: The awful state of American evangelical Christianity after Billy Graham
By Fred Clark

This is a picture taken this week at the celebration Franklin Graham held for the 95th birthday of his father, Billy Graham. It is also a parable, a metaphor, an astonishingly revealing snapshot of the sorry state of evangelical Christianity in America in 2013.

Seated in the middle there is Billy Graham, the world-famous evangelist who was, for more than 50 years, the face of white evangelical Christianity in America and the second-most influential Baptist pastor of the 20th century.

At 95, Graham is frail and in ill health. His image and his legacy have been usurped as political tools used by his son Franklin Graham, who seems desperate to be a political player and kingmaker. Not content with living off the interest of his father’s legacy, Franklin has been burning through the capital.

Just look at how Franklin has exploited his father here. The famous preacher is silent now, a voiceless prop called upon to lend a sheen of respectability to the likes of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News lackeys.

To his credit, Billy Graham looks uncomfortable being dragged out to offer his apparent blessing to a gaggle of dishonest strangers and charlatans that includes two racist billionaires. The scowl on the old preacher’s face may reveal his recognition that this is what has become of his legacy — that everything he did and worked for has led only to this, to the empowerment of lying hucksters and the politics of resentful privilege. Perhaps he’s even realizing that something like this was bound to happen — that the intensely otherworldly focus of his lifelong ministry meant that it couldn’t plant deep roots in earthly soil.

But just look at that horrifying photograph. Soak it in.

This is evangelical Christianity in America in 2013.

White. Rich. Right-wing. Dishonest. Predatory. Outwardly pious, inwardly corrupt.

It’s all about political tribalism. Jesus simply isn’t in the picture.

Wicked Jews will Unite With Antichrist says Xtian Zionist John Hagee


Hagee: Jews Will Make End Times Deal With Antichrist, 9/11 Was God’s Judgment
This is the guy who founded Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
This guy and others like him are the ones that always yammer about America’s “Judeo-Christian” values. What a truly disgusting load of two-faced B.S.

Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted a Praise The Lord prophecy special this month, featuring a number of speakers including televangelist John Hagee. The right-wing pastor explained that during the End Times, the Jewish people will not accept Jesus as the Messiah until he returns “because they have just— three-and-a-half years or seven-years before — made a deal with the Antichrist, who is the false messiah, and they are extremely skeptical of that.”

David Reagan, another Christian Zionist preacher, said the Jewish people will experience a “horrible holocaust” and the vast majority will die during the End Times: “Two-thirds of them are going to die and that one-third that is left at the end is going to finally come to the end of themselves.” […]

More: Hagee: Jews Will Make End Times Deal With the Antichrist, 9/11 Was God’s Judgment

Eric Holder: US Doesn’t Plan to Prosecute Glenn Greenwald


Eric  Holder: US Doesn’t Plan to Prosecute Glenn Greenwald

“On  the basis of what I know now”
 
by Charles Johnson
Attorney General Eric Holder said today that although the US still wants to  see NSA leaker Edward Snowden stand trial, there are no  plans to prosecute Glenn Greenwald.

Holder indicated that the Justice Department is not planning to prosecute  former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who received  documents from Snowden and has written a series of stories based on the leaked  material. Greenwald, an American citizen who lives in Brazil, has said he is  reluctant to come to the U.S. because he fears detention and possible  prosecution.

“Unless information that has not come to my attention is presented to me,  what I have indicated in my testimony before Congress is that any journalist  who’s engaged in true journalistic activities is not going to be prosecuted by  this Justice Department,” Holder said.

“I certainly don’t agree with what Greenwald has done,” Holder said. “In some  ways, he blurs the line between advocate and journalist. But on the basis of  what I know now, I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution of  Greenwald.”

Greenwald, of course, is still pretending to be a persecuted victim of the US  government.

“That this question is even on people’s minds is a rather grim reflection of  the Obama administration’s record on press freedoms,” he said in an e-mail. “It  is a positive step that the Attorney General expressly recognizes that  journalism is not and should not be a crime in the United States, but given this  administration’s poor record on press freedoms, I’ll consult with my counsel on  whether one can or should rely on such caveat-riddled oral assertions about the  government’s intentions.”

“That this question is even on people’s minds” is actually only because Glenn  Greenwald keeps bringing it up like a crude boogeyman scare story. Neither AG  Holder nor anyone else in the Obama administration has ever proposed prosecuting  him, and he knows it.

How bacteria create magnetic navigational aids


How bacteria create magnetic navigational aids

See image 1 for description.

By the time people began to look for viable routes on the ocean with the help of a compass needle in the 12th century, magnetic navigational aids had already long been in use by other living creatures. Migratory birds orient themselves with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field, but some unicellular organisms, called magnetotactic bacteria, do as well. They carry within them a chain of nanoparticles of magnetite, a magnetic mineral that functions as an internal compass. Details of how the microorganisms form the mineral magnetite from oxides of iron are being presented in two current publications by scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam-Golm, together with colleagues from France and the USA. According to the articles, the bacteria create magnetite nanoparticles through an intermediate step that is similar to that in higher life forms; however, they use a different protein, MamP, to control the oxidation of the iron.

When magnetotactic bacteria follow their internal compass, they are not seeking the proper route from north to south, but instead are seeking the bottom of oceans, rivers, or other bodies of water. This is because the microorganisms find the ideal oxygen-poor conditions for their nutrients a few millimetres below the boundary between the water and bottom sediments. They follow the lines of the Earth’s magnetic field there, which do not run parallel to the Earth’s surface when far from the equator, but instead angle downward toward the surface. The bacteria orient themselves with respect to the magnetic field with the help of magnetosomes: nanoparticles of magnetite encapsulated in membranes that line up in chains along the cell axes.

Two international teams, both including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, have now investigated more closely how the tiny iron oxide particles form. “Magnetotactic bacteria are excellent subjects for studying magnetic biomineralisation”, says Damien Faivre, Leader of the Molecular Biomimetic and Magnetic Biomineralisation Research Group at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam. “This is because their genomes are already decoded and there are enough investigative techniques with which we can genetically alter them.”

The way bacteria control the biomineralisation offers a great model for materials science In general, magnetite crystals consist of iron(II,III) oxide (Fe3O4) containing two different species of iron. The shape of the nanoparticle and thus the magnetosomes varies among different species of bacteria, though one species of bacteria always forms them with great precision in the same shape and size. The microbes are apparently able to control the biosynthesis of the nanoparticles in a unique manner, which has awakened the interest of not just biologists. “If we develop a better understanding of the underlying principles, new approaches and methods of producing magnetite nanoparticles in the future will certainly open up”, according to Damien Faivre. “If materials scientists were able to control the properties of synthetic magnetite particles as precisely as bacteria do, then new applications would be conceivable for the particles, such as contrast media for magnetic resonance tomography.”

In one of the recently published studies, the scientists chemically characterised how the magnetotactic bacteria formed magnetite using X-ray absorption spectroscopy at cryogenic temperatures and transmission electron microscopy. The unicellular organisms first create completely disordered ferric hydroxide rich in phosphate. This material resembles ferritins, i.e. a protein complex occurring in animals, plants and bacteria that typically stores iron. The magnetite particles for the magnetosomes are subsequently formed from nanoparticles of ferric oxyhydroxides or oxides.

“The astounding thing is that this transformation to magnetite is very similar to and resembles how the mineralisation in higher organisms works”, says Jens Baumgartner, one of the participating scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces. Pigeons also probably form magnetite using the same mechanism in order to deposit it in their beaks as a navigational aid. Since iron phosphates are present, it suggests that the biomineralisation of magnetite in bacteria and higher life forms proceeds similarly, even though these life forms are widely separated from each other from an evolutionary point of view.

Bacteria control the oxidation of iron through the MamP protein However, the bacteria are not just able to precisely control the shape and size of the magnetite particles, but the chemical composition of the particles as well. They create the exact chemical conditions for the oxides of the two different iron ions, i.e. the doubly charged iron(II) (Fe(II)) and the triple-charged iron(III) (Fe(III)), to be formed in exactly the right proportions. As the second study now shows, in which the scientists in Potsdam were also involved, a protein named MamP plays the critical role. This protein was found exclusively in magnetotactic bacteria and resembles cytochromes.

Cytochrome transfers electrons in redox reactions during cellular respiration and other biochemical processes. The researchers have now established that MamP oxidises Fe(II) to Fe(III). The bacteria therefore only need iron(II) in order to create the magnetite particles. By having genetically altered the protein, the scientists also identified the structural elements important for the iron oxidation reaction, among other results. These subunits of the protein are labelled magnetochromes.

“Until now, it was not known whether the bacteria started with iron(II) or iron(III) when forming magnetite”, explains Damien Faivre. “Our study has now resolved this question.” The answer also corresponds to what one would expect from the environment of the bacteria: in the oxygen-poor layer where the microbes live, iron is present in the more weakly oxidised form, i.e. that of iron(II).

Cover image: See image 1 for description.

References

Marina I. Siponen, Pierre Legrand, Marc Widdrat, Stephanie R. Jones, Wei-Jia Zhang, Michelle C. Y. Chang, Damien Faivre, Pascal Arnoux und David Pignol. Structural insight into magnetochrome-mediated magnetite biomineralization. Nature, online publication 6 October 2013. DOI: 10.1038/nature12573.

Jens Baumgartner, Guillaume Morin, Nicolas Menguy, Teresa Perez Gonzalez, Marc Widdrat, Julie Cosmidis und Damien Faivre. Magnetotactic bacteria form magnetite from a phosphate-rich ferric hydroxide via nanometric ferric (oxyhydr)oxide intermediates. PNAS, 10 September 2013. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1307119110.

Warrant For Assassination; The Price of Encouraging Political Violence


The  Price of Encouraging Political Violence

Wanted for Treason pamphlet circulated in Dallas on the very day of JFK’s assassination!

The comparisons to much of the rhetoric and language used by the contemporary Religious and Political Rights smear-mongering, frighteningly contain the same sentiments of the above leaflet,  which was handed out in Dallas, Texas the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Indeed, words and phrases like “anti-American”, “anti-Christian”,  and “treasonous” are more of a call to arms than a call to the ballot box.

With  this in mind, we should all be cautious of what the Republicans are aiming for  in their attacks on Barack Obama.

This flyer, around 5,000 copies of which were distributed around Dallas in the days before President Kennedy’s November 22, 1963 visit, accused Kennedy of a range of offenses, from being “lax” on Communism, to “appointing anti-Christians to Federal office,” to lying to the American people about his personal life.

The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity


The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-Gall

The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-Gall

A popular belief is that Nazism was the polar opposite of Christianity: in Germany, the Nazis planned to eliminate Christian churches while devout Christians opposed the Nazi agenda. Is this perception accurate? No. Some Nazis were anti-Christian and some Christians were anti-Nazi, but the majority were equally at home in both camps.

Book Review

Traditional evaluation of Christian complicity in the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes focuses on the degree to which Christians allowed themselves to be used for Nazi purposes, but this presupposes a distinction between Nazis and Christians which did not entirely exist. Many Christians actively supported the Nazi agenda. Many Nazis were not only devout Christians, but also believed that Nazi philosophy was animated by Christian doctrine.

The Christianity promoted by the Nazis was labeled “positive Christianity,” a perspective that focused on the relationship between Christian promises of salvation and the German Volk as a special race of people. Point 24 of the NSDAP Party Program, created in 1920 and never rescinded, reads:

“We demand freedom for all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The party as such represents the standpoint of a positive Christianity, without owing itself to a particular confession. It fights the spirit of Jewish materialism within us and without us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our Volk can only take place from within, on the basis of the principle: public need comes before private greed.”How is all of this possible? How can the reality of the relationship between Nazism and Christianity be so far removed from popular perception? The truth about all this is detailed in Richard Steigmann-Gall’s book The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945.

Christians avert their faces from the true relationship between their religion and Nazism in part because the truth is difficult to bear, but also in part because they simply don’t understand what Christianity was like in Germany at the time.

“Positive Christians may have said little or nothing about the Augsburg Confession or other signifiers of theological orthodoxy, but they nonetheless regarded Christian social theories — “practical Christianity” as it was also known — as a linchpin of their worldview. Although generally unconcerned with dogma, many of these Nazis nonetheless adhered to basic precepts of Christian doctrine — most importantly the divinity of Christ as the son of God. Although they clearly departed from conventional theology in their rejection of the Old Testament and insistence on Christ’s Aryanhood, they were not simply distorting Christianity for their own ends or engaging in idiosyncratic religious meandering. Only by ignoring the intellectual precedents for these ideas can we argue that positive Christianity was an “infection” of an otherwise pristine faith. Rather. These ideas found expression among bona fide voices of Kulturprotestantismus before the Nazi Party ever existed.”

The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-GallThe Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-Gall

Although Christians today may find it implausible that religion as they practice it could have anything in common with Nazism, they need to recognize that Christianity — including their own — is always conditioned by the culture where one finds it. For Germans at the beginning of the 20th century, this meant that Christianity was often profoundly anti-Semitic and nationalistic. This was the same ground which the Nazis found so fertile for their own ideology — it would have been amazing had the two systems not found a great deal in common and been unable to find a way to work together.

Germany after World War I was regarded as a godless, secular, materialistic republic which had betrayed all of Germany’s traditional morals, values, and religious beliefs. An important aspect of the Nazis’ appeal to the great mass of religiously conservative Germans was the fact that they said all the right things about the evils of atheism, materialism, greed, corruption, law and order, communism, and religious values.

Alongside the Christian Nazis were a number of anti-Christian Nazis who sought to create a new, neo-pagan religion for the German people. These were, however, relatively few in number and their views were never officially endorsed by the Party or by Hitler. Slightly more common were anti-clerical Nazis who continued to accept basic theistic and Christian doctrines, but who repudiated churches and priests. This seems to have been a view gradually adopted by Hitler himself.

Isn’t it true, though, that Hitler sought to eliminate churches and Christianity from Germany? It’s been said that Hitler only spoke positively about Christianity in public because he had to in order to maintain support from the German people; in private, he admitted to his true hatred of all things Christian. This view is based upon allegedly private comments recorded in the book Hitler Speaks, but Steigmann-Gall argues that the balance of evidence indicates that these statements are probably forgeries and are regarded as such by many scholars.

“The conspiratorial tone of this account of the “private” Hitler has convinced many church historians that Hitler was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” anti-Christian to the core and from the outset of his career. The caricature Rauschning presents of Hitler’s ranting should alone have raised questions as to its authenticity; but the more troubling fact remains that Rauschning’s book stands completely alone in handing down sayings of this nature from this period.”“It is not for nothing that these factors should raise questions: Hitler Speaks is now considered to be fraudulent. As a recent biographer has put it, “Especially the chapter ‘Hitler in private’ …‘is untrustworthy through and through — a product of war propaganda… [Rauschning’s] ‘conversations with Hitler’ are far-off fantasies.” Moreover…Rauschning was too peripheral to the movement to have been part of Hitler’s inner circle of confidants, as he consistently maintained.”

Sometimes people use passages from Hitler’s Table Talks to argue that Hitler was really anti-Christian, but even if the authenticity of this entire collection of reminiscences is acknowledged, there is far more ambiguity and pro-Christian commentary than is usually acknowledged. It would be surprising if Hitler had never said anything critical of churches, priests, and Christianity and so the existence of some negative quotes is expected. What matters most is the overall balance of his commentary — and that is indisputably pro-Christian and pro-religion.

The deliberate promotion of pagan beliefs was a minority within the Nazi Party. Alfred Rosenberg favored the creation of a new religion, but Hitler went so far as to threaten to take action against his book Mythus, and it was banned by some lower-ranking party organizations. Himmler was obsessed with ancient Germans, but Hitler dismissed this as ridiculous — and even Himmler insisted that Christian viewpoints be respected within the SS. At times he admitted that he was less anti-Christian than anti-clerical.

The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-GallThe Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, by Richard Steigmann-Gall

One important point about all this which may be missed is the fact that these and other pagan Nazis never pretended to be anything else — they never affected a pro-Christian stance in public in order to win over the approval of the German people. When Nazis were pagan, it appears that they were unabashedly and enthusiastically pagan, without apology.

This makes it difficult to argue that other leading Nazis, like Goebbels, Goering, and Hitler himself, only pretended to be pro-Christian for the sake of public relations. If they had wanted to endorse a new paganism in Germany, they had ample opportunity. Instead, what we have are a few Nazis publicly endorsing paganism, but most Nazis publicly endorsing Christianity and all official party organs endorsing Christianity, right up to the official party platform.

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American and Russian Fascists Unite In Theocratic Coitus of Hate


Religious Right Leaders Defend Russia’s Anti-Gay Law    

by Peter Montgomery

As Miranda reported earlier, House Speaker John Boehner’s office stepped in to provide space to the anti-gay Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society for its symposium on what Americans should learn from other countries when it comes to “family policy.” Sen. Mark Kirk, who had originally sponsored the group for a room, withdrew his support last night saying he doesn’t affiliate with groups that discriminate.

The Howard Center’s Allan Carlson, who described himself as a historian by training, saw fascism at work: “The parallel I see here is what happened in Italy, Germany, other lands in the 1920s and 1930s as fascism began to impose its fear-driven grip on debate, on conversation, and on policy-making.”

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America boasted about having been a speaker at all but one of the World Congress of Families summits – annual events organized by the Howard Center and attended by conservative religious activists from around the world. Crouse acknowledged that “things don’t look so good” to activists watching the advance of same-sex marriage in Europe and the U.S., and public opinion in many countries shifting to “quote LGBT rights.”  But, she said that’s not the whole story, and praised countries that have outlawed gay marriage and other groups of citizens who are “with the help of God” changing the world.

Crouse is particularly excited about what is happening among opponents of marriage equality in France, which she portrays as a “David v. Goliath” battle of plucky pro-family activists fighting the French government and media. She mentioned activists in Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and Nigeria. She encouraged the small number of attendees to “take heart” and count on the power of truth and faithfulness.

Austin Ruse, the enthusiastically anti-gay head of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, devoted much of his remarks to supporting Russia’s new anti-free-speech and anti-gay propaganda law.  He read from a statement of support from “pro-family groups” defending Russia’s new law. The letter claims that “the Russian law protects the innocence of children and the basic rights of their parents recognized in the international legislation and treaties.”  More from the letter:

With its new law Russia is protecting genuine and universally recognized human rights against artificial and fabricated “values” aggressively imposed in many modern societies….We thus call for respect of the sovereignty of the Russian people and we invite all organizations and people who feel responsible for the protection of the innocence of children and their rights, the natural family and parental rights to stand up for Russia, as well as for Ukraine and Moldova suffering the same pressure due to similar laws.

Ruse, who has been spending time in Russia to prepare for the World Congress of Families 2014 summit, being held in Moscow, said western LGBT rights advocates were guilty of overheated rhetoric and “propaganda” about the status of gays in Russia. He saw gays everywhere in Moscow! They can enjoy themselves “hassle-free” at clubs.  Russians, he said, accept that homosexuality exists, but they believe the political movement to celebrate and regularize it is harmful to children.

Speakers actually seemed envious of Russia in some ways.  Ruse said that with the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church, “Christians over there are truly dominant.” In the U.S., though, there is “an increasingly hostile atmosphere toward people with traditional values” and a “vicious totalitarianism that is loose in the land.” And “there’s more trouble coming” with the Employment Non Discrimination Act.  Crouse said American gay-rights activists are “turning into thugs who are destroying freedom of speech, destroying religious liberty.” It’s very “refreshing,” she said, to see that’s not the case in other countries.

Ruse acknowledged that anti-gay violence and thuggery is a problem in Russia. He denounced such violence and said he has urged Russian officials to do more to stop it. But when he was asked whether the conversation about the anti-gay propaganda law and protecting children from gay people might encourage such violence, he said anti-gay violence in Russia has been going on for a long time and didn’t think the new law was to blame. And he said blaming religious conservatives for creating a climate of hate is a tactic of gay-rights groups, a “maneuver to silence people.”

Carlson said he cuts Russia a lot of slack because the country is “trying to put decent moral society back together” after both Communism and some of the “bad things” – like a “libertine approach to sexuality” – that poured into Russia from the west after the fall of Communism.

– See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/religious-right-leaders-defend-russia-s-anti-gay-law#sthash.IM0pOZA3.dpuf

The Cover Of Allen West’s New Book Is Terrific, We Can’t Wait To Laugh At The Mere Idea Of Reading It


The Cover Of Allen West’s New Book Is Terrific, We Can’t  Wait To Laugh At The Mere Idea Of Reading It

Allen West - Caricature

by Alex  Ruthrauff

'My Life as a Self-Regarding Dick' by Allen West Wow, how could this cover of Allen West’s probably terrible new book be any  better? More eagles, maybe, like a live one excreting digested fish sludge on  Allen West’s head. That’s good luck, we hear! Oh, it could be a Blingee! With  pictures of guns and dancing aliens smoking marijuana, yes!

Also wow: the title and subtitle. It’s generally considered bad form to  proclaim oneself to be something so lofty as a “Guardian of the Republic” unless  Princess Leia said you could, just like it’s bad form to be in the army and fire  your gun next to a prisoner’s head to scare him and get kicked out of the army  because of it, but just try and tell that to Allen West.

Even better is the subtitle “An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family,  and Freedom.” We don’t know  much about ronins (sp?) but weren’t they dishonored goons, mercenaries, and  often criminals? It’s a strange word choice, but West’s co-author puts that down  to West’s “encyclopedic knowledge”:

Despite the unfamiliar word in the subtitle, Hickford said, “It’s not an  academic work. It’s definitely in his voice. Anyone who’s ever heard him speak  in person knows how conversational he is. His voice definitely comes through in  the book.

(Don’t worry, conservatives, Allen West’s book, the cover of which has Allen  West posed on an eagle-bedecked motorcycle, is “not an academic work.”)

“He writes the majority of everything,” [Hickford] said. “He has a very, very  strong voice and points that he wants to put across.” The editing process  typically involves “making it clear to the average reader. He has an  encyclopedic knowledge of history and military details, and sometimes for the  reader there’s an assumption that you know all those things.”

For example, Allen West might assume that you know he’s not an anti-Semite,  so he’ll just go ahead and use his very, very strong voice to yell that a female  staff member at his former PJ Media job was being a “Jewish American Princess”. It’s totally understandable.  Also totally understandable is why Allen West might want to sell some books: it  is because he lost his job for not being a terrible Jew hater, and he likes  money.

We look forward to the sequel: “The Not And Never King: An American  Footnote’s Journey to Realizing He Should Just Go Away.”

[Sun Sentinel / Wikipedia]

Read more at http://wonkette.com/534154/the-cover-of-allen-wests-new-book-is-terrific-we-cant-wait-to-laugh-at-the-mere-idea-of-reading-it#hR888HJLL38tC9Ye.99

‘They’ did this! | JFK Conspiracies


‘They’ did this!

By James Carroll

President Kenney’s limousine in Dallas, in a footage taken by presidential aide Dave Powers and photographed from a television screen.

Associated Press/Assassination Records Review Board, Dave Powers

President Kennedy’s limousine in Dallas, in footage taken by presidential aide Dave Powers and photographed from a television screen.

That afternoon in 1963, I was in the cellar of a Catholic seminary, a crenellated Gothic building in Washington, D.C. I was seated in the ad-hoc barber’s chair, while an untrained yet officially designated classmate was hacking at my hair, a normal part of the monkish life. Suddenly, one of our fellow seminarians stormed through the doorway to yell the news from Dallas. With a half-finished haircut, I rushed with the others to the common room for its television. A hundred of us were crowded there by the time the usually stolid Walter Cronkite choked up. One by one, we drifted to the chapel.

Across ensuing days, when we weren’t downtown standing on the curbside of Pennsylvania Avenue or in the Capitol grounds, mute witnesses to one funeral march or another, we were planted in front of the television, or on our knees before the tabernacle. Prayer had never come more naturally. I have no memory of that haircut being finished.

I was 20. The day President Kennedy was murdered marked the beginning of my adulthood. It was the first time I realized that hopes can be dashed suddenly and catastrophically — and, soon enough, that even the most vital of questions may go unanswered forever.

That weekend made the nation whole in its grief. Television sealed the bond. Elegantly enacted military obsequies formed one bracket of experience — the riderless horse with boot reversed in its stirrup, muffled drums, a bugle, the bagpipe; the timeless rubrics of Catholic liturgy formed the other — ubiquitous priests, black vestments, the veiled heads of women, power brokers on their knees. Why, if not for this, had suffering defined the essence of Christian faith? In the stately St. Matthew’s Cathedral, such historic figures as Charles de Gaulle, Haile Selassie, and Eamon de Valera filled out the front pews, but my parents were in there, too. Gruff old Cardinal Cushing touched the casket. He spoke for a merciful God by saying simply, “Dear Jack.”

The assassination’s thicket of unresolved ambiguities became a hospitable niche for a profound American insecurity. Who killed the president? The disproportion between the punk Lee Harvey Oswald and the hero Kennedy surely meant that the assassin could not have acted alone. A gut instinct told everyone that Oswald was a mere instrument wielded by a hidden hand, but whose?

In the search for answers, facts lurking below the surface suddenly took on dark significance: Former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald had previously defected to Moscow; the Kennedy administration had locked its sights on Havana again; mobsters had been the Kennedy brothers’ archenemies. When a local man named Jack Ruby — a strip-club owner? really? — found it possible to enter Dallas police headquarters that Sunday and shoot the heavily guarded Oswald at close range, the story took its decisive turn into the realm of the truly deranged.

The connivance of Reds was an obvious theory: Why shouldn’t the demonic Kremlin have begun its openly stated project of burying America by burying the nation’s now universally beloved president? Newly sworn-in President Lyndon Johnson foresaw the problem of an unleashed impulse to lay blame. Johnson, sensing the danger of the question left unanswered, quickly moved to check a coming torrent of paranoid scapegoating. He appointed the Warren Commission, which, ultimately prompting more questions than it answered, would prove to be the disease that called itself the cure.

Soon, everyone knew these plot points: The Texas School Book Depository. Oswald not a drifter, but a calculator. JFK’s autopsy interrupted. Secret Service lapses. Oswald a Communist. No, a right-wing nut. Eyewitness accounts in conflict. The grassy knoll. Contested bullet trajectories. The unlikelihood of three accurate shots in little more than five seconds, especially by a man known for poor marksmanship. Then there was Oswald’s mystery wife — a Red, for sure.

If the first pieces of the story to emerge seemed jagged, they would fit together eventually, wouldn’t they? Less than a year after the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the commission findings: Oswald was an unhinged lone gunman, and so was Ruby. Because Oswald was dead, the commission said, it was not “possible to arrive at the complete story” of the murder. The nation would have to live with questions. The president had been killed for nothing larger than an accidental act of insanity. A second such act, the killing of Oswald, cut short society’s capacity to reckon with the full truth of it. When even Robert Kennedy publicly accepted this explanation, who were the rest of us to wonder?

Subsequent news events, though, kept fueling deeper suspicions about the commission’s work. Official lies about Vietnam widened a credibility gap.  Demonstrations became rebellions. When Malcolm X was murdered in 1965, it could seem remote to white America, but the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 was a blow to the nation — and assassination all at once felt familiar. When Robert Kennedy was gunned down two months later, it was no longer possible to rank such perdition as mad accidents of history. We knew it, we knew it: The murder of JFK had started something. Lone gunmen all — yet these killers had to have some deeper significance than purposeless madness, right? Otherwise we would all be mad.

Yet the quest for answers proved even madder. The uncorked New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison launched a sensational JFK assassination investigation in the late 1960s, culminating in the 1969 trial of a businessman named Clay Shaw. By then John Kennedy’s nemesis Richard Nixon was in the White House — from which some Kennedy admirers deduced that a malevolent current was running below the surface of national consciousness, especially when Nixon expanded the war in Vietnam that Americans had been told was ending. In New Orleans, Shaw was quickly acquitted by a unanimous jury, but in that dismally tumultuous year Garrison’s charge that Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy had unexpected resonance.

Conspiracy books began rolling off the presses — ultimately hundreds of them. After the Pandora’s box of Watergate was thrown open, with revelations of true government criminality, Congress itself returned to the question of President Kennedy’s assassination, with investigations in both the House and Senate. The Warren Commission report was revisited, and now serious inconsistencies, lapses, and even deceptions were exposed. What the American people had been told about Oswald had fallen far short of the full truth.

But rather than restoring public confidence, these revelations further damaged it. Open congressional testimony produced no hard evidence to contradict the Warren commission’s essential conclusion that both Oswald and Ruby had acted alone. But while the Senate and House committees had made many secrets public, others remained sealed, fueling still more conspiracy theories. Those who rejected conspiracy theories out of hand had come to seem naive.

Through the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, for whom destruction of faith in government was a political purpose, cultivated cynicism on the right by demonizing social services, and on the left by pursuing secret wars in Central America. Thus the whole government-hating country was primed for the arrival of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK.” With Kevin Costner as Garrison, it turned the New Orleans DA from a crackpot self-aggrandizer into a lonely seeker of truth.

In the movie’s centerpiece scene, a long walking sequence shot at the reflecting pool in Washington, a mysterious Pentagon insider, played by Donald Sutherland, explains to Garrison, and by extension the nation, that Kennedy was killed in a carefully orchestrated act of “black ops” involving the US Army, the CIA, the Secret Service, the FBI, and top-level Washington officials — all acting to protect the Cold War national security elite and its military-industrial partners and, especially, to make sure that their much desired war in Vietnam could proceed. An all-too-dovish Kennedy had to be removed, Stone’s film makes clear, because he was a threat to the “establishment.” Dozens, if not hundreds, of conspirators were actively involved in this crime. And they all kept the secret.

It was nonsense. Critics said so. Still, many took the movie as history. Never mind that Stone’s hypothesis, offered up as fact, amounts to a ghastly slander of numerous identifiable people — one of whom, as it happens, was my father. He was the Pentagon’s intelligence chief, a character bound to be at the center of such a plot. Not given to weeping, to put it mildly, Dad had wept that November weekend. He felt the loss of Kennedy more acutely than anyone I knew. By 1991, luckily, Dad was not aware.

Stone’s film resonated, though, because it salved what had by then become an intolerably painful national wound — not the memory of JFK’s death, but our failure to fully explain it. That we’d been invited to regard the assassination merely as a cruel turn of fate was the work of malevolent forces. The government did this to us, Stone’s film explained.

His narrative was a roaring rejection of the contingency of life, of how great consequences can follow from the petty deeds of wholly insignificant individuals acting with weightless motive more or less alone. “JFK” would prove to be the master template for all assassination conspiracy theories, right down to those 50th anniversary books being published this month. Such elaborate fantasies would be nation-destroying if they were true. Yet, ironically, they offer us a rescue of the moral order — an insistence that massive social and political heartbreak must be the result of intentional design.

In their own way, these conspiracy theories prepared the soil in which took root the broad distrust in government that curses the nation to this day. More than that, conspiracy-mindedness undercuts the civic maturity that is necessary for a commonwealth to function responsibly. Every tug in the direction of conspiracy — “they” did this! — is a signal of the test we have been failing. The compulsion to keep asking the question “why?”, replying to every answer with another “why?”, until the final conjuring of a satisfactory explanation is forced, is a mark of childhood. More recent conspiracy theories, from the supposed murder of Vince Foster to “9/11 was an inside job” to insinuations about missing birth certificates, are also rooted in a callow refusal to get real.

Fifty years later, it is hard to convey how most Americans felt— and how I felt — about John F. Kennedy. In his first summer as president, a crisis over Berlin had ignited the lethal nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. Kennedy told us to prepare for war, and we did. In fear, we felt bound to him.

The climax came, of course, not over Berlin but Cuba. During that October in 1962, an unflinching Kennedy dispelled the danger for which he had primed us. When he and Nikita Khrushchev, equally chastened, agreed to a partial nuclear test ban the following summer, we glimpsed the opening — arms-control negotiations — through which a peaceful end of the Cold War would eventually come.

Less than three months later, when the shots rang out at Dallas, it seemed the post-Cuba reprieve from terror had been revoked. In the death of one man, as we felt it, a far more catastrophic fate had shown itself, an armageddon after all. That the fabric of the nation so quickly unraveled seemed somehow unsurprising. And why shouldn’t we have sought ways to put off maturity — by filling in the gaps in the record with grandiose theories whose vast scope reflected the depths of our sorrow?

At some point, though, a grown person has to say, “I do not know, and never will.” That is the reply to life’s most important questions. For me, it was also the terrible lesson of Kennedy’s death.

James Carroll writes regularly for the Globe.

Sarah Palin Joins The “Just Like Slavery” Teabernacle Choir


Sarah Palin Joins The “Just Like Slavery” Teabernacle Choir

Posted by Mark

When republican critics get tired of calling President Obama a Muslim or a socialist or a Kenyan or a homosexual or a tyrant or a mad genius or an idiot figurehead or a Black Panther or a Wall Street lackey or lizard overseer, they generally just resort to comparing him to Adolf Hitler. However, lately a new unfounded and irrational insult has been working its way up the charts of the conservative hitlist, and has-been, half-term governor Sarah Palin is the latest to give it her rendition.

Palin: When that note comes due … and this isn’t racist … but it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due. We are going to be beholden to a foreign master.

Sarah Palin Palin was referring to the national debt, which she seems to believe is at risk of being sent to the International Collections and Captivity Corporation for redemption. While it was thoughtful of her to remind us that associating her remarks about the first African-American president with the historical scab of slavery isn’t racist, she nevertheless fails to grasp the intricacies of economics. But she does align herself with a growing congregation of noxious Tea Partiers who think that anything President Obama does that they don’t like is just like slavery. For instance…

  • Rush Limbaugh: Well over 50% of the American people don’t want [Obamacare]. And the Republicans are like ‘well we can’t do anything about it. The law’s the law, It’s the law of the land.’ Well, so was slavery one time, the law of the land.
  • Dr. Ben Carson: Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. […] In a way, it is slavery, because it is making all of us subservient to the government.
  • Sen. Rand Paul: Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? You’re basically saying you believe in slavery.
  • VA Atty Genl Ken Cuccinelli: “The founders knew how bad [slavery] was. We have other things in this country today and abortion is one of them.
  • Former Rep. Allen West: He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning, and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave.
  • NH Rep. Bill O’Brien: And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act.

Is this trend of comparing Obama’s agenda to slavery better than comparing him to Hitler? It’s a tough call. But many on the right may not mean it as an insult. There are some prominent conservatives who have publicly expressed their opinion that slavery was actually a pretty good thing. So perhaps this is just Palin’s way of complementing Obama.

Rafael ‘Ted’ McCarthy


Rafael ‘Ted’ McCarthy

Ted Cruz - Joseph McCarthy  :   http://mariopiperni.com/

Back in 1950, a crazy and delusional Joseph McCarthy claimed he had a list of 57 Communists who worked in the U.S. State Department. Sixty years later, a fellow practitioner of paranoid politics, Ted Cruz, told a gathering of the Tea Party that he believed that Communists had infiltrated Harvard’s law faculty. Can these two crazy people be related?

I had a little time to kill so I thought I’d put the Ted Cruz/Joseph McCarthy lookalike theory to the Mario Piperni Photoshop Test (known as the MPPT in the business). The mouth and left side (your left) of the composite belong to Cruz. The rest is all McCarthy. Tell me that the result could not easily be mistaken to be a pic of Cruz’s nutty Uncle Jorge – you know, the publicity-seeking huckster who pals around with Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

I think so.

Ted Cruz / Joseph McCarthy   :    http://mariopiperni.com/

One would think that being compared to Joe McCarthy is a bad thing, right? Well, not if you’re a winger and World Nut Daily contributor. Then it’s a positive.

Typically, when a politician gets compared to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy it’s not a compliment. But in a new column for right-wing website WND, conservative radio host Barry Farber uses the analogy for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to make a point about how “brilliant” he is.

The column, titled “Why They’re After the Brilliant Ted Cruz,” examines the “other-wordly” reaction the Texas senator provokes. “When’s the last time a political figure drew such volcanic excoriation from left and right?” Farber writes. “Sen. Joe McCarthy drew it from the left. Sen. George McGovern drew it from the right. The hostility pattern that forms around Sen. Ted Cruz is rare, if not unique. It’s almost as if there’s a secret treaty among beltway insiders that deals with crowd-pleasing upstarts like Ted Cruz.”

As close as they are, the right has not yet hit bottom. I don’t think they’re going to fully realize how far they’ve drifted into Wingnuttia and away from mainstream America until they get demolished in 2016 by Hillary. That might be their wake-up call. Or maybe not.

___

The Ted Cruz source photograph is a Creative Commons licensed image from photographer Gage Skidmore.

The Joseph McCarthy source image is in the public domain.

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Alternative medicines are popular, but do any of them really work?


Alternative medicines are popular, but do any of them really work?

(ISTOCKPHOTO/ ) - Coconut oil is sometimes recommended for helping prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

(ISTOCKPHOTO/ ) – Coconut oil is sometimes recommended for helping prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

By Paul Offit

If people want to burn fat, detoxify livers, shrink prostates, avoid colds, stimulate brains, boost energy, reduce stress, enhance immunity, prevent cancer, extend lives, enliven sex or eliminate pain, all they have to do is walk in to a vitamin store and look around.

The shelves will be lined with ginkgo or rose and orange oils touted as aids for memory; guarana and cordyceps for energy; chicory root for constipation; lemon balm oil, ashwagandha, eleuthero, Siberian ginseng and holy basil for stress; sage and black cohosh for menstrual pain; coconut oil and curry powder for Alzheimer’s disease; saw palmetto for prostate health; sandalwood bark to prevent aging; garlic for high cholesterol; peppermint oil for allergies; artichoke extract and green papaya for digestion; echinacea for colds; chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for joint pain; milk thistle for hepatitis; St. John’s wort for depression; and tongkat ali for sexual potency.

The question, however, is: Which products work? And how do we know they work? Fortunately, thanks to James Lind, we can figure it out.

When Lind climbed aboard the HMS Salisbury intent on testing whether citrus was a cure for scurvy in 1740, he moved medicine from a faith-based system to an evidence-based system. No longer do we believe in treatments. We can test them to see whether they work.

Although the size and cost of clinical studies have increased dramatically since the days of Lind, the claims made about alternative remedies are testable, eminently testable.

In that sense, there’s no such thing as alternative medicine. If clinical trials show that a therapy works, it’s good medicine. And if a therapy doesn’t work, then it’s not an alternative.

For example, Hippocrates used the leaves of the willow plant to treat headaches and muscle pains. By the early 1800s, scientists had isolated the active ingredient: aspirin. In the 1600s, a Spanish physician found that the bark of the cinchona tree treated malaria. Later, cinchona bark was shown to contain quinine, a medicine now proven to kill the parasite that causes malaria. In the late 1700s, William Withering used the foxglove plant to treat people with heart failure. Later, foxglove was found to contain digitalis, a drug that increases heart contractility. More recently, artemisia, an herb used by Chinese healers for more than a thousand years, was found to contain another anti-malaria drug, which was later called artemisinin.

“Herbal remedies are not really alternative,” writes Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist. “They have been part of scientific medicine for decades, if not centuries. Herbs are drugs, and they can be studied as drugs.”

Looking at the claims

In many case, though, when natural products have been put to the test, they’ve fallen short of their claims. For instance, although mainstream medicine hasn’t found a way to treat dementia or enhance memory, practitioners of alternative medicine claim that they have: ginkgo biloba. As a consequence, ginkgo is one of the 10 most commonly used natural products.

MORE HERE:-

http://tinyurl.com/mfmw8q7

 

 

Jews Forcing Normal Kids To Beat Them Up By Being Jewish


Pine Bush, New York, Jews Forcing Normal Kids To Beat  Them Up By Being Jewish

by Rebecca  Schoenkopf

running of the jew

Some  Jews in Pine Bush, New York, are really fucking up everything for this one nice  school district in their blatant “money grab” (such Jews!) lawsuit just because  their kids were constantly getting beaten up for being Jews, and having  swastikas drawn on their faces for being Jews, and having coins flung at them  for being Jews, and some other totally normal stuff you would do to Jews. After  all, it is not the fault of Pine Bush, where nice grown ups just stone cold  volunteer to New York Times reporters that all those Jews aren’t wanted  there, nor is it the fault of school administrators, who are like, “wouldn’t it  be easier if you just moved?”

Nope, it is definitely the Jew parents, and the Jew kids, and their  (presumably Jew) lawyers, who should have known better than to live in Pine Bush  and be Jewish, thereby forcing all the students to beat them up and the teachers  to ignore it, and also forcing the teachers and administrators to leave up all  the swastikas inside their classrooms for “months at a time.” Everybody knows  being Jewish is the real anti-Semitism, probably.

[NYT, via Gawker]

 

Fondly Remembering Obama’s Days As A Gay, Cocaine-Using Hustler


Fondly Remembering Obama’s Days As A Gay, Cocaine-Using Hustler

by Kyle Mantyla

While visiting Scott Lively’s “Defend The Family” website this morning, we spotted a rather intriguing headline posted in the “Latest News” section reading “Claim: Obama was a ‘gay’ teen favored by older white sugar-daddies.”

Obviously, we were professionally required to check that out and what we found was an interview conducted by crackpot preacher James David Manning with a woman named Mia Marie Pope, who claims to have been a classmate of President Obama’s back in Hawaii in the 1970s when he was a gay, cocaine using foreigner.

“He very much was within sort of the gay community,” Pope said. “And we new Barry as just common knowledge that girls were never anything that he ever was interested in … He would get with these older white gay men, and this is how we just pretty much had the impression that that’s how he was procuring his cocaine. In other words, he was having sex with these older white guys and that’s how he was getting this cocaine to be able to freebase”:

 

Why Does Texas Hate Women?


Why Does Texas Hate Women?

By mario piperni

Hillary Clinton - Quote on Abortion - http://mariopiperni.com/

Now that a federal appeals court has reinstated most of Texas’ Draconian abortion law, Hillary’s statement defending reproductive rights and family planning takes on an even greater significance. One third of abortion clinics in Texas will shut down immediately, forcing women seeking abortions to travel hours to seek proper medical care. Gov. Rick Perry has stated on a number of occasions that the clear goal is to abolish abortion in Texas.

In her 2009 statement, Hillary spoke of witnessing suffering in third world hospital waiting rooms where women were “fighting for their lives against botched abortions” and where “denial of family planning consigns women to lives of oppression and hardship.” Why would anyone believe that the same would not apply to Texas or any other state where the goal has been to abolish abortion and defund Planned Parenthood? Why would anti-choice organizations who profess to care about women’s health, go out and push for legislation which history and empirical data shows does the exact opposite. Reducing women’s health choices seriously endangers women’s lives.

What is wrong with these people and why do they hate women so?

___

This Week In Right-Wing Lunacy


Paranoia-Rama: This Week In Right-Wing Lunacy

Submitted by Miranda Blue

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

This week, we learn more about President Obama’s secret gay past and Michelle Obama’s poor spiritual housekeeping, find out the real reason for Terry McAuliffe’s victory in Virginia, and are duly warned about the consequences of health care coverage and U.N. treaties.

5. Obamacare Will Force People to “Suffer and Potentially Die”

Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert, Congress’ most creative conspiracy theorists, told the residents of a nursing home in Texas this week that the Affordable Care Act would cut Medicare benefits, causing people to “suffer and potentially die.”

Gohmert’s claim that the ACA “cut $716 billion from Medicare,” repeated frequently by Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign last year, glosses over the fact that the cuts in costs – also recommended by Rep. Paul Ryan – would not affect Medicare benefits .

4. The United Nations Will Snatch Homeschoolers and Kids With Glasses

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee revived consideration of the United Nations Conventions on Persons With Disabilities this week, a year after a right-wing scare campaign managed to prevent the Senate from ratifying the treaty.

Taking the lead in the effort to sink the treaty was Michael Farris, director of the Home School Legal Defense Association, who claimed that U.S. ratification of the treaty would allow the U.N. to “get control” of children with glasses or ADHD and even lead to the deaths of children with disabilities. Invited to testify at this week’s hearing, Farris tried to convince senators that ratifying the treaty – which is based on laws already in place in the United States – would in fact lead to an American ban homeschooling. His only evidence for this fear was a completely unrelated immigration case .

The many right-wing conspiracy theories about the CRPD have been handily debunked by the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, as well as by former Republican senators Bill Frist and Bob Dole.

3. Michelle Obama Invited Demons Into The White House

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer was shocked to learn that First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a White House event this to celebrate Diwali.

By celebrating the Hindu festival, Fischer warned, the first lady was inviting “demons into the White House,” necessitating a “spiritual cleanse” of the building after Obama leaves office.

Fischer neglected to mention that George W. and Laura Bush had hosted the very same event. He did, however, later in the week provide a helpful how-to on how to rid a home of demonic spirits in case it ever comes to that.

2. Voter Fraud Won the Election in Virginia

Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli thinks that President Obama won reelection through organized voter fraud , so it’s no surprise that some of his supporters were ready to cry “voter fraud” when he lost the gubernatorial election on Tuesday to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

A full week before election day, Virginia conservative commentator Dean Chambers laid out how he predicted McAuliffe would “steal” the election through voter fraud. Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber spent Election Day tweeting about how Cuccinelli would need to win by 7 points “to get within the margin of Democrat fraud.” And after the results came in, the white nationalist site VDARE claimed that McAuliffe must have relied on “black voter fraud” because it was not “plausible” that African-Americans would “turn out for New York Irish American Pol running for Governor with the same enthusiasm that they voted for a Black for President.”

In 2008, Virginia officials prosecuted 39 cases of voter fraud out of 3.7 million votes cast, none of which involved voter impersonation, the alleged target of Virginia’s pending voter ID law.

1. Obama Procured Cocaine Through Older White, Male Lovers

We already knew that during his student days President Obama was married to his male Pakistani roommate, the union from which he still wears a secret gay Muslim wedding ring , but we learned today via anti-gay activist Scott Lively that the president’s secrets go much deeper.

Lively linked on his website to an interview between crackpot preacher James David Manning and a woman named Mia Marie Pope, who claims to have been a classmate of President Obama’s back in Hawaii in the 1970s.

Pope recalled how the future president was “very much within sort of the gay community” and “was having sex with these older white guys” in order to procure “cocaine to be able to freebase.”

Thanks to RWW

http://tinyurl.com/pdew673

19 Year Old Renisha McBride: Lynched By Stand Your Ground


19 Year Old Renisha McBride: Lynched By Stand Your Ground

 by Jueseppi Baker
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19 yr old Renisha McBride left home on Friday afternoon. Sometime on Saturday morning she had an accident, found out that her cell phone battery had died, decided to get out of her car and go seek help. She is now dead from a shotgun blast to the back of her head.

 

Renisha McBride demonstrators ask: What if she were a white woman shot by a black man?

 

By Khalil AlHajal 

 

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, MI — Activists who gathered to protest outside Dearborn Heights Police headquarters Thursday night acknowledged that they don’t know every detail that led to the slaying of Renisha McBride, but said an unarmed 19-year-old woman being shot to death should be enough to warrant an arrest.

 

McBride of Detroit was shot to death early Saturday morning outside a Dearborn Heights home on Outer Drive, where her family believes she was seeking help after a car accident.

 

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said Thursday morning that it needed more information from Dearborn Heights police before an arrest warrant could be issued.

 

The shooter told police he thought McBride was breaking into his home and that his shotgun fired accidentally.

 

“I don’t have all of the facts, but I’m outraged that a 19-year-old was shot in the face and no one has been arrested,” said Dream Hampton, one of the organizers of the demonstration.

 

About 50 demonstrators gathered to demand an arrest. There carried signs that read “Justice for Renisha” and repeatedly chanted the victim’s name.

 

“I don’t need the whole story at this point,” said Hampton. “I need somebody in handcuffs, whether the charge is manslaughter… or whatever.”

 

Supporters from around the region were there, but no relatives of McBride appeared.

 

A person claiming to be a representative of the family told reporters just before the gathering that the protest would be cancelled.

 

Valerie Burris of Detroit said she took part in the demonstration because the victim could have been her own daughter.

 

“It makes no sense,” she said. “She was just looking for some help… This young lady could have been my daughter.

 

“Black life is so devalued… It makes people like the one who did that so full of fear. If this man was afraid, he could have just picked up the phone and dialed 911.”

 

The incident has sparked widespread outrage and social media activity reminiscent of the response to the 2012 Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

 

“It’s amazing that in 2013, we still see the lack of value on African American life,” said Rev. David Bullock of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park.

 

“We though it was just in Sanford, Florida, but it’s also Dearborn Heights, Michigan… We cannot let the system that is supposed to deliver justice off the hook. We understand there is a process, but you remember when Trayvon Martin was killed… they were shuffling their feet.”

 

He said there may not have been any prosecution in that case had there not been a national outcry. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was ultimately acquitted.

 

“If I knock on somebody’s door and they are worried why I’m there, they can call 911,” Bullock said. “They can come to the door and say ‘I’m not opening the door. What do you want?’

 

“… We cannot stand here and say it is normal to kill a stranger just because you are afraid.”

 

Sam Riddle of the National Action Network said Detroit activists have been in contact with Rev. Al Sharpton and expect him to weigh in on the matter soon.

 

Sharpton is a nationally known civil rights leader with an ability to mobilize widespread demonstrations.

 

“Had she been a white woman and the shooter a black man,” activist Dawud Walid asked the crowd, “would the shooter be sitting comfortably at home watching TV today?”

 

Black Detroit Woman Shot to Death Seeking Help After Car Crash – Renisha McBride

 

 

Published on Nov 6, 2013

11/6/13 – Police are investigating the shooting death of a Detroit woman who was killed while seeking help after a late-night car wreck. Family members say 19-year-old Renisha McBride crashed about 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Dearborn Heights and knocked on the door of a home in the 16000 block of Outer Drive because her cell phone battery had died.

 

McBride was shot in the head, killing her. Police said they believe the shot was fired in self-defense, and a neighbor said officers told them the homeowner had gotten scared and shot someone during an apparent break-in attempt.

 

Her family said they were initially told by police that McBride’s body had been dumped and discovered near Warren Avenue, but police are now saying the woman died on the home’s front porch.

 

McBride’s family said the shooting wasn’t justified, even if the resident believed the woman was an intruder trying to break in.

 

“He shot her in the head (and) for what? For knocking on his door,” said McBride’s aunt, Bernita Spinks. “If he felt scared or threatened, he should have called 911.”

 

Spinks said her niece, who was black, was racially profiled in the predominantly white Dearborn Heights.

 

“She didn’t break in his house; she didn’t break a window,” Spinks said. “What, you seen somebody on your porch and you just start shooting? And then you say it was accidental? That wasn’t accidental; that wasn’t accidental, no.” The case is remarkably similar to the Sept. 14 shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, a black former college football player who was shot and killed by police in North Carolina after wrecking his car late at night and seeking help from a nearby home.

 

An officer who responded to the homeowner’s 911 call fired 12 shots at Ferrell, hitting him 10 times, and is now charged with voluntary manslaughter.

 

 

A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

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Siwatu-Salama Ra, 22, of Detroit speaks to the crowd. A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com) Tanya Moutzalias

Siwatu-Salama Ra, 22, of Detroit speaks to the crowd. A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com) Tanya Moutzalias

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Dream Hamilton speaks to a crowd who gathered to protest outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit,

Dream Hamilton speaks to a crowd who gathered to protest outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit,

Tracy Washing, of Detroit, a mother of a 16 year-old, attended the protest for a slain 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

Tracy Washing, of Detroit, a mother of a 16 year-old, attended the protest for a slain 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

A protest was held outside of the Dearborn Heights Police Department Thursday night for a 19 year-old who was killed in Dearborn Heights, Renisha McBride, of Detroit, Nov. 7. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

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I believe that Stand Your Ground Laws have replaced the rope as a method of lynching Black Americans.

 

If I had my way, any and all caucasians who murder innocent Black Americans would be hunted, and brought to me, and after a year of doing an Ariel Castro on their racist cracka asses, I’d insert a sawed off 12 gauge up their rectum, close my eyes and squeeze the trigger.

 

Don’t like my solution….I could give a fuck.

 

Renisha McBride, Detroit woman, shot to death while seeking help after a car accident, family says

 

By Crimesider Staff

 

(CBS/AP) DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. – Prosecutors are seeking more information from police before deciding whether to charge a man who fatally shot a 19-year-old woman who may have gone to his door seeking help after a car accident.

 

Renisha McBride was killed by a shotgun blast around 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

 

Family members say that McBride had gone to the home after her cell phone died following a car accident. They say McBride was shot in the back of the head when she turned to leave.

 

“He shot her in the head … for what? For knocking on his door,” McBride’s aunt Bernita Spinks told the Detroit News. “If he felt scared or threatened, he should have called 911.”

 

According to reports, the shooter apparently told police he fired his weapon in self-defense, thinking that McBride was an intruder.

 

“You see a young black lady on your porch and you shoot?” Spinks said. “There was no window broken. My niece didn’t bother anyone. She went looking for help and now she’s dead.”

 

Police say they’ve identified the person who shot her and requested a warrant in the case. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says it sent the request back to police Wednesday for additional investigation before making a charging decision.

 

I want to repeat this one more time for those who may not believe what they read above…..

 

A woman who appeared to need help in the middle of the night and was subsequently shot to death may have been the victim in a case of self-defense gone wrong, according to WJBK-TV.

Renisha McBride, 19, was killed Saturday in Dearborn Heights, Mich, located just west of Detroit. Her family says she approached a stranger’s house for help around 2:30 a.m. after she had a car accident, according to the Detroit News. She was fatally shot on the porch.

 

McBride’s aunt Bernita Spinks told the paper she believes it was a case of racial profiling.

 

“He shot her in the head … for what? For knocking on his door,” Spinks told the paper.“If he felt scared or threatened, he should have called 911. … She went looking for help and now she’s dead.”

 

Family members described McBride as a hardworking, soft-spoken woman who keeps to herself, according to WJBK-TV.

 

911…..remember when dialing 911 was what one did when feeling threatened by danger?

 

At least if 911 had been called, she would have been alive a few more minutes…until the police arrived, then they shot her dead.

An Open Letter to Laurie Oakes


An Open Letter to Laurie Oakes

By Victoria Rollison

LaurieOakes

Dear Laurie Oakes

I am writing seeking clarification. I can’t help but notice that you seem to be a little confused about your appraisal of the performance of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

I’m wondering if you perhaps want to rethink your description of Abbott, the Prime Minister, in the book you have been trying to flog – Remarkable Times – Australian Politics 2010-13: What really happened. I won’t pretend to have read this book. In fact, I found it near impossible to read even an extract, so predictable and so utterly boring and so obviously not about ‘what really happened’. You see, Laurie, between 2010-13, what really happened bore so little resemblance to what you and your fellow political journalist hacks reported as happening, you are the last person I would go to for insights about Australian politics in Australia across any period, let alone the previous three years.

But, without having read it, I think I’m safe to assume your book has a similar theme to all your political reporting between 2010-13, summed up concisely in this extract. Describing Abbott’s first 11 days as Prime Minister, you say his behaviour over these 11 days is evidence of his new approach to government as being “careful and methodical”, where Abbott would “behave in a way that was ‘clear, consistent and coherent’”.

In contrast, you explain the difference between Abbott’s government and the previous Labor government using these words:

“But as far as the public and the media were concerned, it was 11 days of unaccustomed quiet after the Labor years of crisis, chaos and constant politicking. No-one complained. The nation was over politics and welcomes a respite”.

When you say ‘clear, consistent and coherent’, what I hear, as an informed voter, is a political hack using Peta Credlin’s press release to explain, without scrutiny, what Peta Credlin wants Australians to think an Abbott government is going to be like. When you say ‘crisis, chaos and constant politicking’, what I hear, as an informed voter, is a political hack using Peta Credlin’s press release to describe, without fact, the approach of the Labor government. When you say ‘no-one complained’, you’re not talking for me, you’re saying Peta Credlin was without complaint. When you say ‘the nation was over politics and welcomes a respite’, you are again speaking for Peta Credlin and saying what Peta Credlin hoped the nation felt, when in actual fact the only politics the intelligent part of this nation was ‘over’ was your false brand of horserace, completely lacking in policy detail, substance and fact. And this is what I mean when I say you are predictable, you are unreliable, you are presumptuous in speaking for people you know nothing about, and most importantly, you are wrong.

But here’s where I think you’ve suddenly come unstuck. The real performance of the Abbott government, only weeks into the job, has proven how wrong you have been. Because reality doesn’t lie.

Perhaps you thought all your Christmases had come at once, when you got the Abbott government you had wished for, and campaigned for all those years. But like a child who is promised a brighter future, and instead ends up with a sack of coal, the Abbott government has actually turned out to be just as incompetent, just as immature, just as dangerous and just as down-right unintelligent as people like me warned people like you it was going to be between 2010-13 and before. So you have found out the hard way ‘what really happened’. But your book is out now, and it’s too late to correct your inaccurate record.

Apparently you seem to be coming to terms with this grave error, with the news this week that you’re unhappy with the Abbott government’s secretive modus operandi. Whereas in your book you say, in an appreciative tone:

“Here was a Prime Minister-elect obviously serious about not feeding the hungry media beast”,

and by beast, I assume you mean people like you who love words like ‘chaos’, ‘crisis’, ‘scandal’ and of course ‘JuLiar’. Yet, only a few weeks later, you somewhat ironically backflip on this appreciation, having been quoted as saying:

“You (Abbott) can’t thumb your nose at the voters’ right to know and you can’t arrogantly say ‘we’ll let the voters be misinformed and we won’t help journalists get it right’. That’s just a disgusting attitude.”

I happen to agree with you, Laurie, that keeping voters uninformed is a pretty disgusting and arrogant attitude. And to this, I will say two things – pot kettle black, and, what the fuck did you expect?

You have kept voters uninformed by completely failing to scrutinise what Abbott was going to do as Prime Minister. You perpetuated the utterly ridiculous notion that Abbott could move from nasty, messy, attack-dog to mature, competent Prime Minister. I’m sorry Laurie, but this concept is idiotic. An incompetent, lazy, rude, mean, un-charismatic, unreliable, unintelligent, misogynistic, unscrupulous, inarticulate thug is always going to be all of these things, whether he lives in the Lodge with his apparently attractive daughters or not. He wasn’t just all of these things when he was Opposition Leader because it suited his agenda at the time. It’s not a coat he can just take off. This is it. This is Tony Abbott. With Peta Credin barking instructions into his earpiece. This is Tony Abbott.

Have you ever considered why Abbott’s office has disappeared into the cone of silence? Have you considered it’s because they’re completely over their heads and don’t actually have any idea what to say about their revolting plans for this country? This is not some grand master plan. This is a grand retreat into nothingness. This is incompetence personified.

You and some of your colleagues don’t like that Abbott’s not telling you stuff. No doubt this has nothing to do with concern for the Australian community and how informed they are, and rather more to do with your difficulty in finding something to talk about, having relied on press releases from Peta Credlin, complete with Abbott’s talking points, and leaks from Rudd for all those years. But guess what Laurie, this is the least of the problems we, the informed public, have with Tony Abbott.

I’m less concerned with what he’s not saying, and more concerned, if concerned is a strong enough a word, with what he is doing. Handing responsibility for massively important decisions about government spending to a business lobbyist. Cutting funding to scientific research. Embarrassing Australia on the global stage. Slashing and burning public sector jobs. Ripping up future-proofing infrastructure by destroying the NBN. Raising the debt ceiling to all time highs with no explanation as to why just weeks after claiming a ‘budget emergency’. Cancelling the Carbon Price for an expensive joke of a Direct Action Policy which is beyond humiliating for the country, right at the same time when the public are finally starting to realise that electricity bills are not more important than the safety of the planet.

Lying about deals he’s made with Indonesia to turn back boats and pretending the very act of him becoming Prime Minister has stopped the boats. Not to mention the real ‘chaos’ and ‘crisis’ which Abbott refuses to address – his and his minister’s fraudulent use of taxpayer funds for expensive travel and accommodation for their own egos and personal entertainment. And you thought Julia Gillard’s dodgy ex-boyfriend from 20 years ago constituted a ‘scandal’ because some nut-job internet troll said so? You still said she had ‘questions to answer’ even after she answered every snide and absurd question you are your malicious colleagues in the National Press Club could conjure up? Seriously Laurie, you have no right to tell anyone ‘what really happened’. You’ve been negligent to the extreme in informing the public what to expect from an Abbott government. Now you’re worried that Abbott’s secretive non-consultative strategy is keeping voters misinformed? I really hope you don’t live in a glass house with a ready collection of stones.

Moving on to ‘what the fuck did you expect’. You seem quite surprised now that Abbott isn’t turning out the way you anticipated. So I say again, what the fuck did you expect? Did you fall for the ‘they are just the same’ tactic, used to refute people like me who said, for years, that Abbott was going to be a disaster again and again and again no matter whether people wanted to hear it or not? Whenever I think of Abbott, and what a setback he is for Australia, I can’t help but hear the words of Paul Keating from this interview in 2010 where he said:

“If Tony Abbott ends up as Prime Minister of Australia, you’ve got to say, God help us, God help us. A truly intellectual nobody. And no policy ambition. You know, I mean, is that all there is?”

As I knew, and as you are quickly learning, Abbott is all there is. And thanks to the lack of scrutiny of him by people like you before the election, Australia is stuck with him. For one term at least. And now you’re saying you’re not happy with Abbott’s performance? Spare a thought for people like me, who saw it coming and are now justified to say over and over again – ‘I told you so’.

Yours Sincerely Victoria Rollison

Crap, Hogwash, Wikipedia and Other Strong Evidence


Crap, Hogwash, Wikipedia and Other Strong Evidence.

By rossleighbrisbane

“I mean in the end this whole thing is a question of fact, not faith, or it should be a question of fact not faith and we can discover whether the planet is warming or not by measurement. And it seems that notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped. Now admittedly we are still pretty warm by recent historical standards but there doesn’t appear to have been any appreciable warming since the late 1990s.”

Tony Abbott: A REALIST’S APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE Speech – July, 2009

From Abbott’s Interview with Andrew Bolt:

Bolt: (Volunteering to fight) the fires. Was there an element of running away from the office?

PM: Ha! Mate, I got up to the station at 4pm Saturday and I got back to the station at 10 Sunday morning. So there’s no question of running away from the office, because the office is closed then. The office is closed.

AB: I’ve been struck by the insanity of the reaction in the media and outside, particularly linking the fires to global warming and blaming you for making them worse potentially by scrapping the carbon tax.

PM: I suppose, you might say, that they are desperate to find anything that they think might pass as ammunition for their cause, but this idea that every time we have a fire or a flood it proves that climate change is real is bizarre, ’cause since the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, we’ve had fires and floods, and we’ve had worse fires and worse floods in the past than the ones we are currently experiencing. And the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn’t prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events … The one in 500 year flood is always a bigger flood than the one in 100 year flood.

Bolt: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.

Abbott: That is complete hogwash.

Bolt: It is time to really question the bias of the ABC?

Abbott: But people are always questioning the “bias” of the ABC.

Later in the same interview:

PM: I would say that there tends to be an ABC view of the world, and it’s not a view of the world that I find myself in total sympathy with. But, others would say that there’s a News Limited view of the world.

     From “The most depressing Discovery about the Brain, Ever”

“In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions.  It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem.  The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are.  We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.

For years my go-to source for downer studies of how our hard-wiring makes democracy hopeless has been Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth.

Nyan and his collaborators have been running experiments trying to answer this terrifying question about American voters: Do facts matter?

The answer, basically,  is no.  When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.”

And just in case you missed it at the time:

“I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.”

People are entitled to their own point of view. We all accept that. It’s a free country, after all. I’m sure that Andrew Bolt would agree that we’re all entitled to express a point of view. Even if it’s demonstrably wrong. For goodness sake, if Bolt had to rely on facts for his point of view, he wouldn’t have a column.

The trouble with the exchange of opininons is that it very rarely goes beyond, “You’re wrong and  I’m right, therefore nothing you have to say could change my mind.”

And so I find our beloved leader’s comments – the ones I highlighted – in the Bolt interview disturbing. Tony Abbott seems to be saying that extreme events aren’t evidence of anything, and it doesn’t matter how many we have, that’s just the nature of things. Records are made to be broken, after all.

This is fairly consistent with the way in which climate deniers view things. One extreme weather event is just the exception. Two is just coincedence. Three, well, that’s the norm – we have weather like this all the time.

Now, I think that there is a discussion to be had about how much of a link can be drawn between climate change and the current bushfires. And I have some sympathy for the view that maybe Adam Bandt could have timed his comments a little more sensitively. I can accept that we’ve always had large bushfires and that, in the distant past, some of them even occured in October.

However, I think that we need to actually look very closely at the evidence – even if it means hours on the computer looking up Wikipedia. To say, as one person wrote in response to the Climate Council’s Bushfires and Climate Change in Australia – The Facts (which suggested that bushfires in the last thirty years had been more frequent),  that we had large bushfires in the past too. The person then went on to talk of three over the space of sixty years prior to 1983.

It’s difficult to argue about climate change when people like Bolt and Abbott seem to suggest that every event can be taken in isolation and therefore nothing is part of any pattern. Bolt may be right. There may be no significant warming. But he is no more of less qualified to assert his position than the bloke down at the pub who tells me that Greater Western Sydney will make next year’s Grand Final. He is not an expert and lacks formal training in the area – something that he is quick to point out about those he disagrees with. After arguing for years that the climate is actually cooling, Bolt jumped on the IPCC report which suggested the planet wasn’t WARMING as fast as they predicted, completely ignoring the fact that this went against his contention.

So, records are always being broken, according to the Prime Minister. Linking the fires to climate change is “complete hogwash”. We don’t need a Climate Commission to look at evidence. We know these things. Who needs a Science Minister? It’s either part of trade, or something you do at school. Science, itself, what’s that?

As for the Audit Commission, who thinks that they may recommend delaying or scaling back the Liberal’s Direct Action initiatives?

Man, buried alive, claws his way out in front of terrified onlooker


Man, buried alive, claws his way out in front of terrified onlooker

by Sharon Hill

It’s not even Halloween, it’s real!

Brazilian mourner shocked after hand comes out of grave containing the body of a man | The Australian.

A GRIEVING mourner was left horrified after a hand suddenly surged out of a nearby grave and started moving.

The woman was visiting a family tomb in Brazil when she suddenly heard noises and noticed the soil moving around the plot.

To her horror, arms began waving about and she called emergency services to come and help the man who was buried alive at a cemetery in the suburb of Ferraz de Vasconcelos, Sao Paulo.

In footage shown by Brazil’s Record TV, the man appears almost lifeless but an emergency worker discovers he is breathing.

The as yet unidentified man was taken hospital in Ferraz de Vasconcelos, but his condition remains unknown.

Police are currently investigating the case to see if the man has been victim of a crime or not. He must NOT have been in a coffin or box because he could not have clawed his way out of that. He must have been buried just with earth. This does suggest he was dumped there and quickly buried.

Emerging Technologies, Fuelling New Paradigms


Emerging Technologies

      Published by Steven Novella

Most Fridays I submit a blog post to Swift, the official blog of the JREF. The article I submitted this morning is about a new study demonstrating  a brain-machine-interface (BMI) that allows a rhesus monkey to control two robotic arms at the same time. This is a technology I have been following here at NeuroLogica, blogging about it whenever I think a cool breakthrough is made.

The topic touches on several areas simultaneously that I find fascinating – neuroscience, computer technology, virtual reality, and predicting future technology. I make the point, as I often do, that predicting future technology has a terrible track record, with the only reasonable conclusion being that it is very difficult.

It’s fun to look back at past future predictions and see what people generally got right and what they got wrong, and then see if we can learn any general lessons that we can apply to predicting future technology.

Major Hurdles

For example, we are not all flying around with jetpacks or taking our flying car to work. This has become, in fact, a cliche of failed future technologies. I think the lesson here is that both of these technologies suffer from a major hurdle – fuel is heavy, and if you have to carry your fuel around with you it quickly becomes prohibitive. There just doesn’t seem to be any way to overcome this limitation with chemical fuel or batteries.

In other words, whenever the viability of a technology depends upon making a major breakthrough that changes the game with respect to some major limitation imposed by the laws of physics, you cannot count on that technology succeeding in the short to medium term. Long term – all bets are off.

The coming hydrogen economy is another example. It turns out, safely and efficiently storing for convenient release large amounts of hydrogen is a non-trivial technical problem that will not be solved as a matter of course.

Incremental Advance

By contrast, even in the 1980s, but certainly by the early 1990′s the promise of the coming internet was in the air. I remember reading fiction, popular science articles, and talking about how the world will change when information becomes digital and ubiquitous. No one predicted ebay and Twitter specifically, but certainly online commerce and communication were anticipated.

The difference here is that computer and electronic technologies had a proven track record of continuous incremental improvement, and that was all that was necessary for the dreams of the internet to become reality. You can extrapolate incremental progress much more reliably that massive breakthroughs.

Not So Fast

Smartphones, also anticipated for decades, are now a reality. The additional lesson here is that sometimes it takes longer than we predict for a technology to mature. I remember people desperately trying to make use of early portable computing devices in the 1990s (like the Newton and other PDA). I was there, using my PDA, but the functionality was just not sufficient to make it easier than a paper notebook. I’m sure some people made it work for them, but widespread adoption was just not happening.

Now, 20 years later, smartphones have finally achieved the promise of portable personal computing devices. People use smartphones not only for communication, but to quickly look up information, to update their Twitter feed, to listen to music and podcasts, as still and video cameras, and as portable GPS devices. They are still rapidly increasing in power and utility, but they have definitely passed the bar of general adoption.

As PDAs, carrying around a small computer was not that useful. It took the development of other applications to really make the technology useful, such as GPS, the internet, MP3s, and miniaturized cameras.

Yes, But What Is It Good For?

Perhaps the most difficult prediction involves how a new technology will be used. Microwaves were developed for cooking. It turns out, they are terrible tools for cooking. The technology might have completely died on the vine, except it turns out they are really convenient for heating food – defrosting, rewarming, and, of course, making popcorn. They quickly became indispensable.

Segways were supposed to change the way people move about a city. They utterly failed in this goal. However, they enjoy a niche for security guards to move around malls and airports.

This is, in my opinion, the trickiest part of predicting future technology adoption. Even when the technology itself is viable, it’s hard to predict how millions of people will react to the technology. Why are we not all using video-phones all the time? In the 1980s I would have sworn they would be in wide adoption as soon as the technology was available. Now I could, if I chose, make every phone call a video call, but I choose not to. For most calls, it’s just not worth it. I’d rather not have to look into a camera and worry about what I am doing.

Likewise, who would have thought that people would prefer texting to talking on the phone? That was a real shocker to me.

Sometimes the adoption of a specific technology depends upon someone finding a good use for it. The technology itself may be viable, but utilization really determines whether or not it will be adopted. There is no substitute for the real-world experiment of millions of people getting their hands on a technology or application and seeing if they like it.

The Future

Will all this in mind, what are the technologies that I think are likely to have a huge impact on our future? This is a huge topic, and maybe I’ll dedicate a future blog post to exploring this further, but let me name some that come to mind.

Carbon nanotubes and graphene are the plastics and the semi-conductors of the 21st century rolled into one. This material is strong and has interesting and changeable conductive properties that make them potentially usable in small, energy efficient and flexible electronics. The major limitation right now is mass producing carbon nanofibers in long lengths and large amounts efficiently and with sufficient quality. This seems to be an area of steady progress, however.

This may seem like an easy one, but stem cells clearly have tremendous potential. However, I would have to file this one under – major breakthrough still necessary in order to achieve the full potential of stem cell technology. I also think this is one that will mature 2-3 decades later than popularly anticipated. Maybe by the middle of the 21st century we will begin to see the promise of growing or regenerating organs, reversing degenerative diseases, and healing major damage and disease with stem cells.

And to bring the article back around to the original topic – brain-machine interfaces in all manifestations. The ability to affect brain function with electricity and the ability to communicate between external devices (going in both directions – sensory input and motor or other output device) mediated by a computer chip has massive implications.

On the one hand, this is a new paradigm in treating the brain by altering its function. Right now the major medical intervention for brain function is pharmacological, but this approach has inherent limits. The brain is not only a chemical organ, however, it is an electrical organ, and increasingly we are seeing electrical devices, such as deep brain stimulation, to treat neurological diseases.

Beyond that, the ability to interface a brain and a computer essentially brings neuroscience into the computer age, which further means that applications will benefit from the continued incremental advance of computer technology. It may take a few more decades than we hope or anticipate, but we can now clearly see the day when paralyzed patients can control robot legs or arms through BMI, where we can enter a virtual world and not only control but actually mentally occupy an avatar, and where people can control anything technological in their environment through thought alone.

In short, it has been demonstrated that it is possible for humans to merge with their machines. I know this sounds like hyperbole and science fiction, but the science is pretty solid if immature.

This technology is coming. What remains to be seen is what applications will develop, and how will people react

Pseudoscientist Rupert Sheldrake Is Not Being Persecuted, And Is Not Like Galileo


Pseudoscientist Rupert Sheldrake Is Not Being Persecuted, And Is Not Like Galileo

BY JERRY A. COYNE

 Rupert Sheldrake is a pseudoscientist who has made his name promoting various kinds of woo, including telepathy (including in dogs!), immaterial minds, and his crazy idea of “morphic resonance,” a Jung-ian theory in which all of nature participates in some giant collective memory. (He was once a real scientist, trained in biochemistry and cell biology at Cambridge, but somewhere went off the rails.)

Many of you might know of Sheldrake. He enjoys a certain popularity in the US and UK among those who think that there must be “something more out there”—with “more” meaning psychic phenomena. I don’t really understand a penchant for things that aren’t supported by evidence, but that’s probably a failure of empathy on my part—as well as a product of my scientific training to doubt. I am sure, though, that some of the same psychological tendencies that promote sympathy for woo also promote sympathy for religion.

Sheldrake and his supporters always defend themselves as beleaguered scientists whose correct theories are unfairly attacked or neglected because they buck the current “materialistic paradigm.” That is, he thinks himself an unrecognized genius, persecuted like Galileo. The proper answer to this is given on the NeuroLogica website:

The definitive assessment of this comparison comes from the original version of the movie, “Bedazzled.” Dudley Moore’s character calls Satan a nutcase (for claiming to be Satan), and Satan replies, “They said the same of Jesus Christ, Freud and Galileo.” Moore then replies, “They said it of a lot of nutcases too.”

Last summer someone decided to fix Sheldrake’s Wikipedia article, which, edited by his supporters, had been promoting Sheldrake’s woo in violation of Wikipedia policy on fringe science and pseudoscience. Perhaps you don’t know about this policy, but you can read about it at the link. It begins like this:

When discussing topics that reliable sources say are pseudoscientific or fringe theories, editors should be careful not to present the pseudoscientific fringe views alongside the scientific or academic consensus as though they are opposing but still equal views. While pseudoscience may in some cases be significant to an article, it should not obfuscate the description or prominence of the mainstream views.

It’s a pretty good policy, and prevents people like Sheldrake and his deluded supporters from editing Wikipedia articles to give unwarranted credibility to their pseudoscience. And that policy allowed the rationalists to come in and clean up Sheldrake’s page, which they did.

This summer, soon after the TED controversy, a commando squad of skeptics captured the Wikipedia page about me. They have occupied and controlled it ever since, rewriting my biography with as much negative bias as possible, to the point of defamation. At the beginning of the “Talk” page, on which editorial changes are discussed, they have posted a warning to editors who do not share their biases: “A common objection made by new arrivals is that the article presents Sheldrake’s work in an unsympathetic light and that criticism of it is too extensive or violates Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View policy.”

If you want some amusement, have a look at the Wikipedia “talk” page on Sheldrake’s bio. It will give you a newfound respect for Wikipedia editorsas the skeptics are over there just trying to ensure, as per Wikipedia policy, that Sheldrake’s pseudoscience is not presented as credible science.

 Sheldrake continues his rant on his blog, blaming the editing of his page on the “Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia” (GSoW), a group dedicated to policing dubious pseudoscientific claims and giving skeptics themselves decent Wikipedia pages. Sheldrake writes:

The Guerrilla Skeptics are well trained, highly motivated, have an ideological agenda, and operate in teams, contrary to Wikipedia rules. The mastermind behind this organization is Susan Gerbik [sic]. She explains how her teams work in a training video. She now has over 90 guerrillas operating in 17 different languages. The teams are coordinated through secret Facebook pages. They check the credentials of new recruits to avoid infiltration. Their aim is to “control information”, and Ms Gerbik glories in the power that she and her warriors wield. They have already seized control of many Wikipedia pages, deleted entries on subjects they disapprove of, and boosted the biographies of atheists.

The “ideological agenda” here, though, is simply this: false or unsupported claims should not be presented as credible. If that’s an agenda, I’m all for it.

But Sheldrake is dead wrong in his accusations. The person who did most of the woo-removing edits of Sheldrake’s page, not a member of GSoW, has posted an article decisively refuting the claim that there is a Guerrilla Skeptic “conspiracy” to debunk Sheldrake. Tim Farley of Skeptical Software tools has investigated the edits thoroughly and confirmed that no Guerrilla Skeptics seem to have been involved.  Farley also checked with the GSoW boss, Ms. Gerbic, who denies involvement. Farley concludes:

. . . the central claim, that Guerrilla Skeptics are controlling Sheldrake’s bio, is demonstrably false.  It is a classic conspiracy theory. I asked Susan Gerbic directly, and she confirmed that Sheldrake’s bio was not on their current project list. But you don’t need Susan’s word, just search for the name “Sheldrake” at the project blog and you find only a post about a related article, and no indication they had worked on Sheldrake’s bio. (Believe me, they’re not shy about showing off their work – it’s part of their outreach efforts).

Look in the editing history of the people actually editing Sheldrake’s article, and you’ll find only cursory overlap with articles the Guerrilla Skeptics have bragged about editing.

So Sheldrake and Weiler et. al. are actually complaining about the wrong thing entirely! Instead of floating conspiracy theories about the Guerrilla Skeptics, they should be studying the Wikipedia rules and trying to understand why it is their edits keep getting rejected.

Finally, a humorous comment on my own website by “Julie,” a member of the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia group, denies involvement:

Hahaha we didn’t touch his page, even with our minds! We have a list of pages we want to edit and Sheldrake isn’t even on it! Maybe that’s the real reason for his tantrum.

Great blog! Brings all the facts together. I had no idea the BBC were involved in criticising us so I just had a rant about their terrible reporting on the program’s Facebook page! I expected more from the Beeb. [More on the BBC below.]

I love the bit about “even with our minds”!

So Sheldrake not only paints himself as a martyr again, but singles out the wrong group for “persecuting” him.

 Sadly, now the BBC World Service itself is being played a fool by Sheldrake, as they have put The Woomeister on their station to proclaim his conspiracy theories.

If you go here on the BBC, and listen to the 5-minute interview with Sheldrake (starts 8:02, ends 12:44), you’ll see the sympathetic ear that the BBC interviewer lends to Sheldrake, not questioning his claims in the least.

Much of what Sheldrake says in the interview is untrue, and it’s all in service of telling the world not to believe his Wikipedia page because it was sabotaged by Guerrilla Skeptics, which also is “distorting hundreds of pages on Wikipedia.” That is wrong, and Sheldrake should know better because that segment was broadcast on November 5, three weeks after Farley’s piece was published. Nor does the BBC interviewer talk to the Guerrilla Skeptics, seek any contrary views, or ask Sheldrake any hard questions. The interviewer apparently didn’t investigate this whole issue beforehand. It’s just dreadful reporting. To be fair, the BBC says that they’ll talk about the “reliability of Wikipedia and Sheldrake’s Wikipedia page” this week. If anybody hears that segment, let us know. [Note: the BBC interviewer, Dan Damon, describes himself and his wife as “keen churchgoers.“]

But I’m wondering why the BBC gives Sheldrake a voice at all. Why should their readers hear his paranoid rants? Would they allow a creationist to go on the air and argue that mainstream biologists are in a conspiracy to suppress the truth of a young earth and creation ex nihilo? Does a report of a new medical advance need to be “balanced” by the opinion of a homeopath?

Finally, Sheldrake’s American counterpart, Deepak Chopra, has written a piece on his own website decrying Wikipedia skepticism and the persecution of Sheldrake. Indeed, it takes one purveyor of pseudoscience to understand another. In a piece called “The rise and fall of militant skepticism,” Chopra writes:

You can see the results at the Wikipedia entry for Rupert Sheldrake, the British biologist who has served as a lightning rod for militant skeptics for several decades. Intelligent, highly trained, an impeccable thinker, and a true advocate for experimentation and validation, Sheldrake had the temerity to be skeptical about the everyday way that science is conducted. He made his first splash by questioning the accepted assumptions of Darwinian evolution, and most recently he published a cogent, well-received book about the hidden weaknesses in the scientific method, titled Science Set Free. His avowed aim is to expand science beyond its conventional boundaries in the hope that a new path to discovery can be opened up.

But you’d never know it from Sheldrake’s Wikipedia entry, which is largely derogatory and even defamatory, thanks to a concerted attack by a stubborn band of militant skeptics. Since I am close to Sheldrake personally and have Wikipedia woes of my own, it’s not fair for me to offer accusations over the extent to which Wikipedia is under attack. But the skeptics have been caught in the act, which is the pickle they find themselves in, as I mentioned at the outset of this post.

You can read a detailed account in a series of online posts written by Craig Weiler at his blog The Weiler Psi. Confronting the militant pests at Wikipedia resembles taking hold of a tar baby, as Weiler relates in his most recent post, pointedly entitled “Wikipedia: The Only Way to Win Is Not to Play.” The unsavory fact is that skeptics have figured out how to game Wikipedia’s attempts to provide fairness, and we are all the loser for it.

But the real loser is Chopra, whose own lucrative brand of woo is finally exposed as a lot of scientifically-sounding psychobabble.

Steve Novella has written a cogent takedown of the paranoia of both Chopra and Sheldrake on a post on Skepticblog called ”Chopra shoots at skepticism and misses.” Novella also has a few interesting words about whether the idea of God is a testable hypothesis.

There is, I suppose, a form of “militant skepticism” that is so skeptical that it won’t accept anything. But I’m not aware of anyone adhering to that view, except perhaps some postmodernists. Others are skeptical of some things that are, to all reasonable people, demonstrably true (there are some of these folks.) But the critics of Sheldrake and Chopra are not “militant skeptics.” They’re simply people who demand solid evidence for extraordinary claims of psychic phenomena and universal consciousness.

Let’s face it: we’ll never be free of people who lap up the woo of people like Chopra and Shedrake. There’s something about human psychology that is susceptible to this kind of stuff. All we can do is decry it as often as we can, and hope that those on the fence will listen to us. That is what Steve Novella and the Guerrilla Skeptics are doing, and more power to them.

A version of this post first appeared on WhyEvolutionIsTrue.

Jerry A. Coyne is a Professor of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago and author of Why Evolution is True, as well as the eponymous website.

Huckster of Woo Deepak Chopra Cocks Leg at Skepticism and Pisses on Self


Chopra Shoots at Skepticism and Misses

      Published by

Deepak Chopra apparently has no love for organized skepticism. This is not surprising and his particular brand of spiritual pseudoscience has been a favorite target of skeptical analysis. He is also not the only one who has decided to fight back against the skeptics – if you cannot defend yourself against legitimate criticism, then shoot the messenger.

In a recent article Chopra renews his attack against what he calls “militant skepticism.” This is a blatant attempt, of course, to portray skeptics as extremist and on the fringe, a strategy that has been used against “militant atheists.” Chopra also uses his article to conflate skepticism with atheism, almost as if he is completely unaware of the internal discourse that has been taking place for decades within the skeptical movement.

Chopra writes:

The rise of militant skepticism clouded the picture, however, beginning with its popular attack on religion. The aim of Richard Dawkins, as stated in his best seller, The God Delusion, was to subject “the God hypothesis” to scientific scrutiny, the way one would subject anti-matter or black holes to scrutiny. In fact he did no such thing with God, for the scientific method requires experiments that can be replicated and facts that can be verified. Dawkins offered no experiments to prove or disprove the existence of God. What he actually did was to subject religion to a barrage of scorn and ridicule, attacking it on the rational improbability – as he sees it – that a deity could possibly exist.

This is an interesting bit of historical revisionism, although I think it probably just reflects Chopra’s complete unfamiliarity with his subject matter. The modern skeptical movement predates Dawkins by decades. We have had a clear philosophy and scope long before Dawkins appeared on the scene.

Dawkins is a highly respected figure among skeptics because of his powerful writing, his popularizing of science, and his unflinching criticism of pseudoscience. Most skeptics are atheists, and we also respect his defending science from the intrusion of religion and spirituality.

Where many skeptics, myself included, disagree with Dawkins is precisely in treating “the God hypothesis” as if it were only a scientific question. I say “only” because certainly it is possible to treat any supernatural hypothesis as if it were in the realm of methodological naturalism, and there is general agreement among skeptics when approached in this way the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any god exists, or that the laws of the material universe need to be extended to account for any alleged supernatural phenomena. If you frame God as a scientific hypothesis, it can be scientifically refuted. Looked at another way, the psychocultural hypothesis is a far better and more parsimonious explanation for belief in God than the actual existence of such a being.

The big “but” is that not everyone believes in God as a scientific fact. Some people choose to have faith in an unfalsifiable god, one that resides outside the realm of science. Once someone’s faith has retreated outside the realm of science, then science is no longer the tool by which one should address such faith. Logic and philosophy are now more appropriate, but you cannot say, by definition, that an unfalsifiable God can be scientifically proven to not exist.

In practice most people blur the line between an empirical God and an unfalsifiable God, in which case I believe the best approach is to point out the self-contradiction, and force them squarely either inside or outside the arena of science. Once completely outside the arena, they must surrender any pretense to actual knowledge and admit their beliefs are solely personal faith. If any part of their belief dips into the arena of science, however, then it is scientific fair game.

This is the debate, at least, that has been raging ever since there has been a modern skeptical movement. There are two basic camps, loosely referred to as the atheists and the skeptics (yes, there are lots of permutations and subtleties, but that’s the basic picture). Over time the relationship between these two camps has waxed and waned. At times we predominantly celebrate our intellectual overlap and common cause, at others our philosophical differences come home to roost.

Chopra appears to be aware of none of this. This would not be a problem as he is not part of the skeptical movement, but then he should not presume to write on a subject about which he apparently has such complete ignorance (not typically an obstacle for Chopra).

After setting up and knocking down a couple more straw men, Chopra writes:

The God Delusion, aided by a handful of other best sellers attacking religion in the same vein, did have one decisive effect, however. Science became yoked to the tools of rhetoric and demagoguery, going so far as to lose any trace of objectivity.

I have no idea what Chopra is referring to here, but I can guess, based on his previous writing. Now that he has conflated skepticism and atheism, and then falsely accused atheism of demagoguery, he concludes that scientific skepticism is also about demagoguery. Every link in that chain of thought is incorrect. This all serves Chopra’s purpose of attacking skepticism – which really is nothing more than a scientific and logical criticism of his nonsense.

Chopra, however, does not want to have a war with science, because he wants to pretend that his new age spiritualism is science. So he needs a villain, something to blame other than the complete scientific bankruptcy of his ideas. Skeptics are his convenient villain, but skeptics are just scientists or science promoters who are bothering to apply scientific reasoning to his claims. This is something with which most mainstream scientists will not sully themselves (which I think is a mistake, but that’s another post). So he conflates skepticism with atheism, and he has created his villain.

Chopra’s skeptical villain is a complete fiction, but that is a realm in which Chopra apparently feels comfortable.

Chopra finally gets to the specifics of his current boogeyman:

A distressing example has been occurring at Wikipedia, where a band of committed skeptics have focused their efforts to discredit anyone whom they judge an enemy.

He is correct in that there is a project within skeptical circles to keep Wikipedia scientifically accurate. Chopra would like his readers to think this is “militants” attacking their “enemies.” From the skeptical point of view, of course, this is simply a project for Wikipedia to accurately present scientific information about controversial topics. The goal is to prevent promoters of nonsense and pseudoscience from using Wikipedia for free advertising and spreading propaganda.

The more neutral perspective is that Wikipedia is a common battle ground for ideological opponents. This is a serious issue for Wikipedia, as they have to deal with editing wars. They partly deal with this by labeling certain entries as controversial, and also allowing different sections within an entry for the various perspectives. I guess Chopra would like to have free reign in Wikipedia without any opposing opinions being expressed.

For example:

You can see the results at the Wikipedia entry for Rupert Sheldrake, the British biologist who has served as a lightning rod for militant skeptics for several decades. Intelligent, highly trained, an impeccable thinker, and a true advocate for experimentation and validation, Sheldrake had the temerity to be skeptical about the everyday way that science is conducted.

Chopra would have you believe that Sheldrake in an “impeccable thinker” wrongly targeted by “militant skeptics.” The most generous characterization, rather, is that Sheldrake is a highly controversial figure. He is trying to actually change the nature and scope of science. He should not be shocked that there is pushback. Sheldrake is also, in my opinion, completely wrong, and is a very sloppy thinker who is trying to erode scientific standards in order to admit his particular brand of supernaturalism.

Of course, that is the debate. Let’s have it.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the big picture here is that Chopra is desperately trying to avoid actually engaging with science and skepticism. If he thinks he and Sheldrake and others he would consider his intellectual allies have a point, then make it. Bring it on.

The best way to promote your ideas, especially if you have the hubris to think they are revolutionary, is to engage with your critics. There are many careful and thoughtful public intellectuals (Dawkins included) who have put forward very cogent philosophical and scientific arguments against what Chopra is selling. If Chopra wants to promote his ideas he should try to understand and engage with those critics.

Instead, Chopra is building a cardboard villain to rail against. In so doing he is exposing his intellectual shallowness.

You will notice what Chopra has not done is address any of the actual intellectual pillars of scientific skepticism. If he wishes to do so, I would be happy to engage with him on this issue.