Friday, June 13, 2008
By Graeme Paton
People with higher IQs are less likely to believe in God, according to a new study.
Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the "intellectual elite" considered themselves atheists than the national average.
A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.
Professor Lynn, who has provoked controversy in the past with research linking intelligence to race and sex, said university academics were less likely to believe in God than almost anyone else.
A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers.
A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.
- more -
With all the talk of Hillary Clinton becoming Barack Obama's running mate, let's pause for a moment to push out the brain fog. Although I find Senator Clinton worthy of respect and admiration for her finer qualities of character and for what she has been able to accomplish in her political life, the sane truth is: she should not be vice president. Here's why:
First, of course, are all the usual arguments against it, e.g., her Iraq war vote; her assassination comment; her old-style politics in a year when the presidential nominee will be running as the candidate of change; her divisive, politics-of-destruction campaign strategy in the primary; her "most hated politician" ranking in the polls; the past Clinton scandals waiting to be dragged out of the closet, her husband's loose cannon-unpredictability, etc. Despite the advantages touted by Clinton supporters (If you don't pick her, we're going to make you lose the November election!), Hillary's baggage would end up being a distraction to the Obama campaign. In the end, Hillary in the VP slot on the ticket would do Obama and the Democratic Party more harm than good.
But all that aside, the real reason not to put Hillary in the VP position is because Obama has steadily and repeatedly shown that he is a dignitarian—defined as someone who values and chooses to live by principles of dignity for all—and he aims to run his campaign and his administration on such principles. Clinton, in contrast, has shown the opposite; what, in the parlance of dignity, would be termed rankist. Rankism is abuse of the power that comes with rank. It includes a wide range of behavior, such as: common snobbery, bullying, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, using political status for personal gain, segregation, torture, or pressuring smaller nations to serve the best interests of a larger nation. It is also the "ism" that encompasses all other "isms"—including racism, sexism, classism, and ageism, all of which have been present in this year's primary campaigns. Rankism is currently so pervasive in our culture—and so unrecognized as a concept—that it goes largely unnoticed. The way to unify the party and the country is to target rankism, thereby simultaneously addressing the other "isms" currently at play on the political scene.
- more -
by Steve McKay
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Jesus was not a longhair. It is amazing that in our own lifetime we will bear witness to one of the religious world's greatest debates being put to rest. At long last, the fighting can end!
While others were frittering away their time examining pointless issues like what color Christ was or whether or not gays are people too, Dr. Jack Hyles dropped a bomb on the religious theory scene a few years ago. Although the man is no longer with us, his teachings live on via the Internet.
Section headings include:
-God Is Concerned About Our Apparel, Hair Styles, Etc
-The Bible Plainly Teaches That It Is A 'Shame' For A Man To Wear Long Hair
-Jesus Was Not A Nazarite
-If Jesus Had Been A Nazarite, He Still Would Not Necessarily Have Had Long Hair
We're sure that any day now people are going sit up in their barber's chairs and take notice, 'cause the way we see it, Hyles has convincingly proved his point that long hair is a universal symbol for rebellion and that wearing your hair short is a symbol of one's belief in the Bible. But what does that say about skinheads and people with mohawks? And what about mullets? Hey, wait a minute…
- more -
In a landmark decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that habeas corpus protections apply to detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. "We hold these petitioners do have the habeas corpus privilege," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. The decision was a "a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies," SCOTUS Blog noted.
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, however, is outraged. In his dissenting opinion, he devoted an entire section to "a description of the disastrous consequences of what the Court has done today," a procedure "contrary to my usual practice," he admitted. Scalia adopted extreme rhetoric about the impacts of the decision, calling it a "self-invited…incursion into military affairs" that would "almost certainly" kill Americans. Some lowlights:
– "America is at war with radical Islamists. … Our Armed Forces are now in the field against the enemy, in Afghanistan and Iraq."
– "The game of bait-and-switch that today's opinion plays upon the Nation's Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
– "Today the Court warps our Constitution."
– "The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today."
It is unlikely that the Supreme Court's decision will have the impacts that Scalia claims. As Kennedy explained, "Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law."
- more -
Imprisoned Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko has accused federal prosecutors of improperly pressuring him to implicate Barack Obama in a corruption case.
In a letter to the U.S. District judge who presided over his trial, Rezko, who was convicted this month of 16 corruption-related counts, including fraud and money laundering, called prosecutors "overzealous." And he singled out what he said were their efforts to get him to turn on Obama, an Illinois senator and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"They are pressuring me to tell them the 'wrong' things that I supposedly know about Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama," Rezko wrote in an undated letter released by the court this week. "I have never been party to any wrongdoing that involved the governor or the senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes. I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people."
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, wouldn't comment on Rezko's allegation.
- more -
Violence has flared across Europe as haulers, fishermen and taxi drivers protest against rising fuel prices they say are crippling their industries.
Some of the worst outbreaks were seen in Spain where prime minister José Luis Rodriguez pledged 'zero tolerance' of any disruption by 90,000 striking lorry drivers.
His warning came after a driver breaking the strike was burned when his lorry was set on fire.
Fury: A lorry driver whose cab was set alight after he crossed a picket line in Alicante, Spain, lies on the floor with serious burns
A British father and his son feared for their lives when a mob of Spanish truckers hurled rocks at their van.
David Copestake, 40, and son Dylan, 12, were pelted as they drove on a dual carriageway.
Mr. Copestake, who has a chain of estate agencies in London, said: 'It was terrifying. One rock smashed into the windscreen heading straight for my head.'
Spain's road system was returning to normal after the interior ministry ordered police to get tough.
- more -
Democrat Barack Obama's campaign said Thursday that Michelle Obama never used the word "whitey" in a speech from the church pulpit as he launched a Web site to debunk rumors about his campaign.
The rumor that Michelle Obama railed against "whitey" in a diatribe at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ has circulated on conservative Republican blogs for weeks and was repeated by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The rumor included claims of a videotape of the speech that would be used to bring down Obama's candidacy this fall.
"No such tape exists," the campaign responds on the site, http://www.fightthesmears.com. "Michelle Obama has not spoken from the pulpit at Trinity and has not used that word."
The Obamas recently resigned from Trinity, where the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was the longtime pastor. Wright came under fire for sermons in which he cursed America and accused the government of conspiring against blacks. Video of the sermons spread quickly on the Internet and threatened great damage to Obama's campaign.
Other false claims about the Illinois senator _that he's secretly a Muslim who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance and is intent on destroying America — spread widely during the primary campaign, and the candidate made it a habit of telling audiences to respond to e-mail rumors to set the record straight.
Campaign officials realized they needed to step up their debunking efforts for the general election, when many voters who aren't familiar with the freshman senator will be learning more about him.
- more -
by Xan Rice
Ethiopia's government has committed extensive war crimes and crimes against humanity during a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the remote Ogaden region, a report says today.
Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopian military of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, forcibly displacing thousands of civilians and using food as a weapon of war in its attempts over the past year to defeat the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which claims to seek self-determination for the eastern region.
Satellite images published in the 130-page report show how villages have been burnt down to deny the rebels a support base - a tactic more often associated with the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.
The watchdog accuses the US, UK and other EU countries, who give Ethiopia £1bn a year in aid, of ignoring the abuses, thereby increasing the risk of further "devastation, famine and impoverishment in a region that already knows these trends too well".
- more -
President offers concessions after furious reaction in Baghdad to American 'colonialism'
Faced with Iraqi anger over a US plan to enable Washington to keep military forces in the country indefinitely, George Bush is offering concessions to the government of Nouri al-Maliki in an effort to salvage an agreement, it emerged yesterday.
The proposed terms of the impending deal, which were first revealed in The Independent, have had a predictably explosive political effect inside Iraq. Negotiations between Washington and Baghdad grew fraught, with Iraqi politicians denouncing US demands to maintain a permanent grip on the country through the establishment of permanent military bases.
Officials complained that the plan which allows US troops to occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, would turn Iraq into a colony of the US, and create the conditions for unending conflict both in Iraq and the Middle East.
With Washington's Iraqi allies rising up in revolt against the plans, Mr. Bush ordered a negotiating shift this weekend after speaking to Mr. Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister. "Now the American position is much more positive and more flexible than before," a leading Iraqi negotiator in the talks was quoted as saying.
Senior Iraqi officials want a major reduction of the US military footprint in Iraq as soon as the UN Security Council mandate approving their presence expires at the end of the year. Iraqi officials also want US forces confined to barracks unless the Iraqis ask for their assistance. Emboldened by recent successes by Iraqi security forces, many officials want the US troops to leave altogether.
- more -
by Matt Renner
Last year, swearing in before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill, Blackwater USA Chief Executive Erik Prince testified about security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Photo: Reuters / Larry Downing)
A backlog of whistleblower lawsuits against military contractors has been swelling and festering since the early days of the so-called war on terror.
According to critics, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has blocked the progress of these lawsuits to spare the Bush administration a major political black eye should the truth about ongoing war profiteering be revealed, a charge the DOJ denies.
Under the False Claims Act, a civil war era law, when an employee of a company thinks they have evidence that their company is defrauding the US government, the individual can file a lawsuit on behalf of the government against the contractor by filing a special lawsuit called a qui tam - a Latin abbreviation for "he who sues in this matter for the king as for himself."
The exact number of qui tam cases stuck in legal limbo is unknown because the cases are kept under strict seal. But sources who have been following the issue closely estimate that there are between 50 and 70 Iraq contracting fraud cases under seal. Under normal circumstances, when the DOJ receives a qui tam case, it conducts an investigation into the whistleblower's claims. If there is sufficient evidence of significant fraud, the DOJ joins with the whistleblower to sue the company in question and recover the government's money. The whistleblower can receive up to 30 percent of money recovered as a reward for their service to the taxpayer.
- more -
Congress is finally moving to ban one of the Bush administration's most blatant evasions of accountability in Iraq — the outsourcing of war detainees' interrogation to mercenary private contractors.
Operating free of the restraints of military rule and ethics, some of these corporate thugs turned up in the torture scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison and walked away with impunity. Others are now believed to be in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency at secret prisons that remain outside the rule of law, exempted even from the weak 2006 rules on interrogating prisoners.
Civilian interrogators are part of the broader pool of hired guns that the administration has deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other spots around the world. Their actions regularly enrage Iraqis, most notably last September, when a phalanx of trigger-happy contractors assigned to protect American diplomats sprayed a crowd and killed 17 civilians.
These depredations continue to undermine the United States in the eyes of both citizens of war zones and the watching world. Their use as interrogators are a symptom of the administration's ducking accountability under international law by concocting ersatz redefinitions of civilized behavior and undermining legitimate intelligence operations.
- more -
Over the past 17 months you and I delivered a message of freedom, the likes of which American politics has not seen in decades. With the primary season now over, the presidential campaign has come to an end. But the Revolution has only begun.
Today I am happy to announce the official launch of the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty. Please visit our new website and join us: http://www.campaignforliberty.com
Over the next few months I will be developing a program, assembling a team, and announcing new and exciting projects. We will have a permanent presence on the American political landscape. That I promise you.
Right now, I need your patience and support. I want the Campaign for Liberty to be a grassroots campaign; so your energy, your creativity, your feedback, and your participation are essential.
Together, we will educate our fellow Americans in freedom, sound money, non-interventionism, and free markets. We will write commentaries and broadcast videos on the news of the day. And I'll work with friends whom I respect to design materials for homeschoolers.
Politically, we will expand the great work of our precinct leader program. We will make our presence felt at every level of government. We will keep an eye on Congress, and lobby against legislation that threatens us. And we will identify and support candidates who champion our great ideas.
"In the final analysis," I wrote in my new book The Revolution: A Manifesto, "the last line of defense in support of freedom and the Constitution consists of the people themselves. If the people want to be free, if they want to lift themselves out from underneath a state apparatus that threatens their liberties, squanders their resources on needless wars, destroys the value of their dollar, and spews forth endless propaganda about how indispensable it is and how lost we would all be without it, there is no force that can stop them."
Our time has come to act on these words.
May future generations look back on our work and say that these were men and women who, in a moment of great crisis, stood up to their politicians, the opinion-makers, and the establishment, and saved their country.
P.S. Please join me. Go to our website, www.campaignforliberty.com, and become a member of the Campaign for Liberty. Our goal is 100,000 members by September. Can we reach it?
Did you know that the National Prayer Breakfast is sponsored by a shadowy cabal of elite Christian fundamentalists? Jeff Sharlet's new book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," offers a rare glimpse of this remarkable network, which is known variously as the Family, the Fellowship and the International Foundation.
The Family was founded 70 years ago by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant evangelist based in Seattle. In 1935, Vereide said, God appeared to him in a vision and revealed where Christianity had gone wrong: preoccupation with the poor, the weak and the suffering.
The down-and-out were in no position to bring about the Kingdom of God, Vereide realized. Some Christians believe that the rapture is imminent, but not the Family. They're convinced that Jesus won't return until we get our collective house in order. If they were to wait for the down-and-out to remake the world in God's image, we could be here forever.
- more -
Bobby Jindal, the 36-year old governor of Louisiana, is being taken seriously by the national press as a candidate on the shortlist to be John McCain's Vice President. No one doubts that he's a political prodigy -- his impressive resume includes stints as president of the state university system, a Congressman and now governor.
But one of Jindal's job titles hasn't gotten much attention -- and it just might prompt a few questions if his Veep candidacy gains steam: Exorcist.
As others noted during his 2003 and 2007 gubernatorial campaigns (see update), in an essay Jindal wrote in 1994 for the New Oxford Review, a serious right-wing Catholic journal, Jindal narrated a bizarre story of a personal encounter with a demon, in which he participated in an exorcism with a group of college friends. And not only did they cast out the supernatural spirit that had possessed his friend, Jindal wrote that he believes that their ritual may well have cured her cancer.
Reading the article leaves no doubt that Jindal -- who graduated from Brown University in 1991, was a Rhodes Scholar, and had been accepted at Yale Law School and Harvard Medical School when he wrote the essay -- was completely serious about the encounter. He even said the experience "reaffirmed" his faith.
- more -
As Vice President Dick Cheney makes the rounds on "the GOP's rubber chicken circuit" these days to raise funds for conservative candidates, he always implores his audiences "to make sure that we elect John McCain the 44th President of the United States." But worried about being labeled a third Bush term, the McCain campaign has made strides to distance the candidate from Cheney by blasting "Vice President Cheney's energy bill."
But before Cheney became a political albatross, McCain overflowed with kind things to say about him. In fact, in July 2004, McCain described Cheney as one of the best vice presidents ever:
At a July 15 appearance in Michigan, McCain dampened the speculation by calling Cheney "one of the most capable, experienced, intelligent and steady vice presidents this country has ever had."
In interviews for Stephen Hayes' 2007 biography of Cheney, McCain "strongly" asserted that Cheney "has been of enormous help to this president of the United States." Politico's Jonathan Martin reports today that in unpublished comments to Hayes, McCain also said that he would consider Cheney for a post in his administration:
Going further, McCain even told Hayes in comments heretofore unpublished that he'd consider Cheney for an administration post.
Asked whether he'd be interested in Cheney had the vice president not already have served under Bush for two terms, McCain said: "I don't know if I would want him as vice president. He and I have the same strengths. But to serve in other capacities? Hell, yeah."
Though the McCain campaign told Martin that "John McCain will always treat the vice president with respect," they also refused to say whether they would have Cheney speak at the Republican National Convention. "No decisions have been made on the program yet," said a McCain aide.
- more -
by John Mark Eberhart
LOS ANGELES - Father's Day is a Sunday. Nam Le has time to go out and buy his dad a card or a gift, but he really needn't bother.
"The Boat," his debut book, serves as both. Several of the seven masterful short stories here deal with that old generational bugaboo, the tension between fathers and their sons - and yes, daughters.
Le, 29, knows this does not make him unique. Literature abounds with such stories, from Shakespeare's "King Lear" to Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Tides."
"There's an incredibly rich tradition of father/son literature, in long form as well as in poetry and in short stories," Le said in a recent interview at BookExpo America. "In my case ... you know, there can be a natural reticence between fathers and sons. There's often a sense that the most important emotional transactions aren't being spoken at all."
Such is the case in Le's opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice." In it, a young writer in graduate school is working on a piece of fiction even as he receives a visit from his father. We readers are not privy to all the hurts between the two men, yet Le somehow makes their shared pain palpable on these pages.
The story is a piece of what critics like to call "metafiction," or writing that's about writing. The main character, like his creator, is a writer named Nam.
- more -
You can get the answer, in part, from a normally staid engineering journal called IEEE Spectrum. This month Spectrum did a special issue on "the singularity," a term from science fiction that refers to the moment when the technology and culture of the present evolve to the point that they would be incomprehensible to people from the past (www.spectrum.ieee.org/singularity). Airplanes, for example, would be a singularity technology for people from the 1700s. None of the brainiacs and visionaries writing for Spectrum have much to say about e-book readers or mobile phones that play music.
- more -
Even with the law on their side, GLBT students still have to struggle to take same-sex partners to prom.
By Sue Katz
When I was in high school in the mid-'60s, it never occurred to lesbians and gays to go to their proms with a same-sex partner. Usually they went with their "beards" -- that is, their guy/girl-pals, their heterosexual accessories. The necessity to lug around a closet under one's taffeta prom gown was challenged in 1980 by a Rhode Island high school senior named Aaron Fricke who was determined, despite administrative refusal, to swirl around under the glitter ball in the arms of his date, Paul Guilbert.
Usually kids have to get permission from their parents to go to a late-night event, but in Aaron's case, he had to get a court order. According to the ACLU, the federal court not only agreed with Aaron's case, but warned the school that it needed to provide sufficient security for the lads.
The law remains, although so does the struggle. In March this year the Scottsboro, Ala., school board tried to keep two young lesbians from attending the junior-senior prom, but luckily Jackson County Circuit Judge John Graham nullified the ban just hours before the event. The parents and lawyers talked to the press and ran interference while a 17-year-old donned a fetching gown and was escorted by a 16-year-old in her handsome tuxedo. As one of the lawyers said, with more sense than hope, "This is just a dance. Adults need not get involved."
- more -
by Jim Higgins
Moving briskly through a hotel lobby in his gym shoes and white ear buds, writer Cory Doctorow could pass for an older version of Marcus Yallow, the propulsive teen hero of his new novel, "Little Brother" (Tor, $17.95).
Like Marcus, Doctorow thinks fast, explains often, breathes online networks and cares deeply about privacy, freedom and electronic rights.
In a near-future San Francisco, Marcus and some friends have ditched school to play an alternate-reality game, scavenging for a clue in the city. When a big explosion goes off nearby, the teens are fingered as possible terrorists and swept into a soul-crushing ordeal with Homeland Security.
When Marcus finally wriggles free of custody, he is determined to take down what he sees as a paranoid bureaucracy, using ingenuity and like-minded hackers as his arsenal.
Doctorow, 36, has a big footprint in the adult world as a sci-fi writer ("Overclocked," "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"), co-editor of the blog BoingBoing and electronic rights activist. "Little Brother" is his first book of fiction for teens.
"Someone called it `Ferris Bueller' Meets `Neuromancer,'" Doctorow said during an interview at a downtown Milwaukee hotel, where he was warming up for a bookstore appearance.
While "Little Brother" depicts a world that is relentlessly digital, with perfidious arphids (radio frequency identification tags) and guerilla Xbox networks, Doctorow's literary lodestar is an analog fellow.
"I call it George Orwell fan fiction sometimes," Doctorow said. "I read `1984' when I was 12 for the first time. It made a really big impression on me."
- more -
June 12th, 2008
Mr. Bernanke has a point about the economy, it could be worse. The economy could have killed your goldfish. In other news around the fake blogosphere, Laura Bush thinks Michelle Obama is sassy, Radiohead's Thom Yorke wants a TV show on the Planet Green channel and McCain is disturbed by how recent everything has become...
You cut me deep, Dan Boren by Barack Obama
On the other hand, the economy hasn't poked you in the eye by Ben Bernanke
Why is everything so recent these days? by John McCain
My idea for a TV show: Onion Dip by Thom Yorke
Michelle Obama is sassy! by Laura Bush
The News Groper Editors
News Groper is a network of fake parody blogs.