#0017 RRS Newsletter for June 19, 2007

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Well, yet again, there seems to be a lot to get into today. I have heard that the length of these newsletters has been putting some people off, but understand, that's why I've categorized them, and made the Headlines of each story in larger, bold print. Simply scan through, and read what interests you. To those people, I also say that my praises for this endeavor have outweighed the criticisms, but feedback is always much welcomed and encouraged. I did, however, leave out a few things today to keep this on from getting REALLY long, and it very well could have.

Well, thanks for reading, and enjoy!
Jack
and the RRS MI team

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The Creation Museum Project: We need your help!

Please repost!

We all know that the Creation Museum that recently opened in Petersburg Kentucky (15 minutes outside of Cincinatti) has been a terrible tragedy to the state of Kentucky. We do realize that it is their constitutional right to be there, and they are privately funded (even though they do have a state-funded sign leading to it on the highway). However this is beside the point. This so-called 'museum' is a slap in the face to science. They are portraying themselves as a scientific installation while not having a shread of scientific evidence for any of the claims they are making inside.

So what can we do?

We are not going to shut it down. Because it is privately funded there is nothing that we can do in regards to that, and after all, it is their constitutional right. However, it is our responsibility and our consitutional right to show that it is bad science.

It is not science.

One of our members Dan came up with a pretty good idea that will help to educate children.

The ultimate goal is to be able to run tours through the museum with children and show them why the museum is bad science, along with educating them on what good science is. We will be teaching them to how to question everything by using critical thinking skills.

Additionally, we will be creating a website debunking all of the claims online. The website will have several resources, along with downloadable flyers for people to print out and take to the museum with them.

This is going to be a large project, and we need your help! Here is what we need/may need from people:

Research the museum's claims Webdesigners People in the Petersburg KY area & Cincinatti area to do tours through the 'museum' Possible financial funding for a website debunking the claims (and to possibly cover the $15 that is the museum entry fee for the people running the tours.) Advertising when we near completion and prepare to run tours. Any other help you have to give!

We already have the support of the Secular Student Alliance, American Atheists Kentucky, and Camp Quest. We just need to start putting things into motion.

If you are interested in helping please contact us though our MySpace or by e-mail at OhioRationalResponders@yahoo.com. I can provide you with more details from there.

Please re-post this! We need all the help we can get!

Take care, and stay rational!

healthyaddict Ashley Call me free! Rational Response Squad Ohio Rational Responders

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This may be of interest to you locals, volunteer if you can, I urge you. Thanks go to HealthyAddict of Ohio RRS for this one.

Camp Quest of Michigan

Or for my out of state readers, go to the main site here for information on a Camp Quest near you

Camp Quest is the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural world view.

The purpose of Camp Quest is to provide children of freethinking parents a residential summer camp dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

Camp Quest was first held in 1996. The idea for the project originated with Edwin Kagin. From 1996 until 2002 Camp Quest was operated by the Free Inquiry Group, Inc. (FIG) of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Since that time it has been operated by Camp Quest, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) educational non-profit. Edwin and Helen Kagin served as Camp Directors for the first ten years of the original Camp Quest, retiring at the end of the 2005 camp session. Six Camp Quest summer camps currently offer programs across North America. Camp Quest, Inc. operates the Ohio Camp Quest, and works to coordinate with and support the other independently governed Camp Quest programs.

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Richard Dawkins : On Evolution

From a new contributorReverend AthieStar

Dual-Coding Genes "Nearly Impossible by Chance" (ID idiocy)

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Reverend AtheiStar
Date: Jun 18, 2007 5:07 PM

What, then, does the creationist camp think of organisms, being believers in a loving god, such as ebola, west nile virus or HIV? How do they explain the existence of such nasty, life threatening pathogens? Ah yes, it was original sin! Put the blame on two fictional human characters, not the designer who would have created all the Malevolent Design in the first place! Dumb fuckers! They only pretend to embrace science and critical thinking skills!

~RAS

"What, then, does Ayala think of organisms whose design is intelligent and highly functional?"

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/06/dualcoding_genes_nearly_imposs.html

Dual-Coding Genes "Nearly Impossible by Chance" — How Would Francisco Ayala Respond?

We mortals are easily impressed by palindromes – words that have the same spelling forwards and backwards – but try writing a sentence which has two different meanings. One meaning is gained when you start with one letter of the first word, and then an entirely different meaning is understood when you start reading with the second letter of the first word. Such a sentence would be most impressive, but what if such "sentences" existed in our DNA?

Leading evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala recently wrote in Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that "Chance is an integral part of the evolutionary process." Ayala then explained why he thinks Darwinian evolution is right and ID is wrong: "Biological evolution differs from a painting or an artifact in that it is not the outcome of preconceived design. The design of organisms is not intelligent but imperfect and, at times, outright dysfunctional.” ("Darwin's greatest discovery: Design without designer," PNAS, 104:8567–8573 (May 15, 2007), emphasis added) This questionable standard and conclusion is Ayala’s punchline against ID.

What, then, does Ayala think of organisms whose design is intelligent and highly functional? A recent article in Public Library of Science discussed how dual-coding genes – genes which overlap and code for multiple proteins when read through different reading frames – are "hallmarks of fascinating biology" and "nearly impossible by chance" to the extent that evolutionary biologists have held "skepticism surrounding" their very existence. Now it seems they do exist, and they don't quite match Ayala's vision of biology, where "[c]hance is an integral part" of the "design of organisms is "dysfunctional" and "not intelligent." As the article, "A First Look at ARFome: Dual-Coding Genes in Mammalian Genomes," states:

Coding of multiple proteins by overlapping reading frames is not a feature one would associate with eukaryotic genes. Indeed, codependency between codons of overlapping protein-coding regions imposes a unique set of evolutionary constraints, making it a costly arrangement. Yet in cases of tightly coexpressed interacting proteins, dual coding may be advantageous. Here we show that although dual coding is nearly impossible by chance, a number of human transcripts contain overlapping coding regions. Using newly developed statistical techniques, we identified 40 candidate genes with evolutionarily conserved overlapping coding regions. Because our approach is conservative, we expect mammals to possess more dual-coding genes. Our results emphasize that the skepticism surrounding eukaryotic dual coding is unwarranted: rather than being artifacts, overlapping reading frames are often hallmarks of fascinating biology.

(Wen-Yu Chung, Samir Wadhawan, Radek Szklarczyk, Sergei Kosakovsky Pond, Anton Nekrutenko, "A First Look at ARFome: Dual-Coding Genes in Mammalian Genomes," PLOS Computational Biology, Vol. 3(5) (May, 2007)

Does this sound like a "dysfunctional" process that is "not intelligent" in its design?

Posted by Casey Luskin on June 17, 2007 7:52 AM | Permalink

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Truth about islam from an ex-muslim lady

These cute little things were just recently brought to my attention. This ranks right up there with the Westborough cult in terms of hate mongering and utter infuriating ignorance in my book!

A Chick Track - In The Beginning

From a new contributorReverend AthieStar

Students burn effigies of UK's queen (Religion of 'Peace')

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Reverend AtheiStar
Date: Jun 18, 2007 7:26 PM

Creating religious hatred? Do they have no idea that they are the ones to blame? They are creating their own hatred by reacting in this infantile way. And what does knighthood have anything to do with Muslims, anyway? Why should they even care? Don't they have lives? ~RAS

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/06/18/pakistan.britain.ap/index.html

Students burn effigies of UK's queen POSTED: 11:10 a.m. EDT, June 18, 2007

• Cabinet minister says honor provides justification for suicide attacks
• In Multan, students burn effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Rushdie
• Britain announced decision to award Rushdie a knighthood on Saturday
• Iran issued fatwa on Rushdie's life in 1989 because book allegedly insulted Islam

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan has condemned Britain's award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie as an affront to Muslim sentiments, and a Cabinet minister said the honor provided a justification for suicide attacks.

"This is an occasion for the (world's) 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision," Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, said in parliament.

"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title," ul-Haq said.

In the eastern city of Multan, hard-line Muslim students burned effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Rushdie. About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, "Kill him! Kill him!"

On Saturday, Britain announced the knighthood for the author the of "The Satanic Verses" in an honors list timed for the official celebration of the queen's 81st birthday.

Lawmakers in Pakistan's lower house of parliament on Monday passed a resolution proposed by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Khan Niazi who branded Rushdie -- who was born in India into a Muslim family -- a "blasphemer."

"The 'sir' title from Britain for blasphemer Salman Rushdie has hurt the sentiments of the Muslims across the world. Every religion should be respected. I demand the British government immediately withdraw the title as it is creating religious hatred," Niazi told the National Assembly.

Lawmakers voted unanimously for the resolution although one opposition member, Khwaja Asif, said it exposed a contradiction in the government's policy as an ally of Britain in the international war on terrorism.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Rushdie's knighthood would hamper interfaith understanding and that Islamabad would protest to London.

"We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him. This we feel is insensitive and we would convey our sentiments to the British government."

Iran on Sunday also condemned the knighthood for Rushdie.

Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author because "The Satanic Verses" allegedly insulted Islam. The threat forced Rushdie to live in hiding for a decade.

The British High Commission in Islamabad defended the decision to honor Rushdie -- one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century whose 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for "Midnight's Children" in 1981.

"Sir Salman's honor is richly deserved and the reasons for it are self-explanatory," said spokesman Aidan Liddle.

This from Wikipedia on the topic:

On February 14, 1989, the Ayatollah broadcast the following message on Iranian radio: "I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Qur'an, and all those involved in its publication who are aware of its content are sentenced to death." As a result, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese language translator of the book was stabbed to death on July 11, 1991; Ettore Capriolo, the Italian language translator, was seriously injured in a stabbing the same month, and William Nygaard, the publisher in Norway, survived an attempted assassination in Oslo in October of 1993. On February 14, 2006, the Iranian state news agency reported that the fatwa will remain in place permanently.

Another of these little gems, (there are a multitude of them).

A Chick Tract - Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: ATHEISTS AGNOSTICS SKEPTICS & HUMANISTS ON MYSPACE
Date: Jun 18, 2007 8:00 AM

The Son of the Self-Aware Universe


A Chick Tract - Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn

Creationist critics often charge that evolution cannot be tested, and therefore cannot be viewed as a properly scientific subject at all. This claim is rhetorical nonsense.
~ Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)

This just in from Steve, (albiet through an intermediate) thanks go to him.

Rival to evolution may enter schools

Intelligent design considered for science curriculum By Adam Forest

INTELLIGENT DESIGN, a controversial alternative theory to evolution, could become part of the science curriculum in Scottish schools.

The Sunday Herald has learned that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is considering provision for the theory as part of a review of the science course curriculum.

Intelligent design (ID) is one of a wide range of theories of origin currently taught as part of the Religious, Moral and Philosophy Studies (RMPS) SQA course, but could be moved elsewhere as part of the review. A spokesman for the SQA said: "It happens to sit in RMPS just now. If and when it does becomes part of the curriculum for science, which it may well do as part of this review, then that's where it could sit."
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Scientists have already expressed fears that ID theory is entering science classrooms. An organisation called Truth in Science (TiS) sent teaching resource packs to every head of science in Scottish schools in September 2006. The material critiques the Darwinian theory of natural selection and promotes the idea that biological mechanisms are best explained by the idea of an intelligent designer.

Professor Andrew McIntosh, a director of Truth in Science, said: "We've had a lot of positive feedback about the DVDs, which included Scottish schools. There are quite a number of people who are indicating they are happy to use the resources."

Dr Simon Gage, director of the Edinburgh Science Festival, believes the influence of Truth in Science and ID theory is "worrying and dangerous". He said: "This is creationism with a wrapper on it, dressed up as pseudo-science. These people prey on ignorance and should be forbidden at the school door."

Alastair Noble is an educational consultant who has been invited by both denominational and non- denominational secondary schools to present ID on a scientific basis. He said: "I gauge a growing level of interest from pupils and teachers. My guess is that the (TiS) DVDs are being used by a small but significant number of teachers."

"It deserves formal consideration. It presents a scientific challenge to the construct that the world is the result of blind and purposeless forces."

Ian Fraser, director of education for Inverclyde, is not in favour of prohibiting Truth in Science material and accepts teachers are free to present ID informally. He said: "I have no objection to intelligent design being advanced as one theory, but most teachers don't have time. I trust head teachers to make their own decisions about what is appropriate."

Simon Barrow, director of the faith think-tank Ekklesia, urged Scottish education authorities to prevent private organisations gaining undue influence. He said: "The UK education secretary and the English curriculum authority say clearly that ID is not to be taught in science. Scotland should follow suit."

Without clear guidelines, many scientists fear the ID controversy will create the appearance of significant debate among scientists over the validity of Darwinian evolution. Roger Downie, professor of zoological education at Glasgow University, said: "It's certainly worrying. ID hasn't got any testable hypotheses so it cannot be considered science. It is purely an acceptance, in a literal way, of a particular set of religious texts. Teachers may be being misled into regarding Truth in Science material, which sounds respectable, as bona fide. They should be sent some kind of guidance that this is not science."

An education spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "We're not prescriptive as to books or materials. We provide guidelines, and within those guidelines it's up to schools to decide."

Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, made it clear intelligent design was not part of science teaching in Catholic schools. He said: "There is a distinction between what is appropriate for religious education and what is appropriate for science. We wouldn't confuse one with the other."

A 2006 UK-wide Mori poll suggested 41% believed intelligent design should be taught as part of science education.

To comment go to sunday herald .

Onward Christian Terrorists

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: ATHEISTS AGNOSTICS SKEPTICS & HUMANISTS ON MYSPACE
Date: Jun 18, 2007 3:45 PM

mike

Via Pharyngula

This is really sickening.. Memorial to terrorist Paul Hill, complete with a reenactment of the killings.
*Check out the links at the bottom of the memorial page, for an idea of just what these people are up to.

I've been accused of being a hateful atheist because of my sarcastic rants about the antics of some wacky fundies, but I hope nobody on my list is planning to defend these dirtbags.

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CNN crosses the line

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Rich Rodriguez
Date: Jun 18, 2007 7:54 AM

From: TPO

CNN Crosses the Line: Faith Forum Imposes Religious Test for Public Office

Debunking the North American Union Conspiracy Theory

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: The Secret Delusion
Date: Jun 18, 2007 9:11 AM

From:
Substance D
BlueGreenEarth / ESEI

By Joshua Holland, http://alternet.org.

Debunking the North American Union Conspiracy Theory

The North American Union, an increasingly popular conspiracy theory about a group of shadowy international "elites" who are planning to "replace the United States" with a transnational government, is a manifestation of xenophobia that would do the John Birch Society proud.

Just what is the North American Union (NAU)?

There are several ways to answer that question. First, the NAU is an increasingly popular conspiracy theory about a group of shadowy and mostly nameless international "elites" who are planning to "replace the United States" -- in the words of Jerome Corsi, a key figure in the SwiftBoat Veterans for Truth project and a leading NAU conspiracist -- with a transnational government. The theory holds that the borders between Mexico, Canada and the United States are in the process of being erased, covertly, by a group of "globalists" whose ultimate goal is to replace national governments in D.C., Ottawa and Mexico City with a European-style political union and a bloated EU-style bureaucracy.

The North American Union story is an offspring of the John Birch Society right, with its attendant xenophobia and paranoia. It comes complete with a shadowy international cabal intent on stabbing decent, hard-working Americans in the back -- Dolchstoss! Articles and websites condemning the NAU flourish in that political space where right- and left-wing populism become indistinguishable, along with a dozen other fundamentally reactionary theories of what's really going on with our contemporary political economy.

To fully understand the growing fascination with the NAU in various corners of the internet, one has to view it also as a cultural phenomenon; it's an entirely logical reaction to a process of corporate-driven global integration that feeds into Americans' very real and wholly valid economic anxieties. As David Moberg recently noted, Americans, "by a margin of 46 percent to 28 percent, [believe] that trade deals have harmed the United States," and four times as many people surveyed by Pew said U.S. trade deals had lowered wages than the number who believed the deals had raised them. According to Public Citizen, opponents of NAFTA-style trade deals picked up 37 seats over defenders of the status quo during last year's midterms.

But, despite that political landscape, one of the first things the new Democratic majority did when it got into power was cut a new "Grand Bargain" with the White House to push through more of the same kind of trade deals. As David Sirota pointed out, the Democratic leadership did it in secret, behind closed doors. And it did it over the objections of many of the freshman lawmakers that gave them their majority in the first place.

With that as a backdrop, it should come as no surprise that people tend to look for a wizard working behind the curtain. The idea that shadowy forces beyond our perception are really in charge of steering the most powerful country in the world is reinforced every time a bipartisan "trade" deal with little or no support gets jammed through Congress.

Ultimately, though, the answer to the question "What is the NAU?" is this: It is absolutely nothing. The NAU exists only as a proposal contained in one of a thousand academic and/or wonky papers published each year that advocate all manner of idealistic but ultimately unrealistic approaches to social, economic and political problems. Most of these get passed around in their own circles and eventually filed away and forgotten by junior staffers in congressional offices. Some of these papers, however, become touchstones for the conspiracy-minded and form the basis of all kinds of unfounded fears.

Such is the case with the monograph, "Building a North American Community," which was produced by a group of eggheads at the Council on Foreign Relations and their counterparts in Mexico and Canada. It calls for a North American economic union to stretch from Canada's northern border to Mexico's southernmost point. It would basically be a customs union -- similar to the old European Community before it became the European Union -- with expedited travel between countries, a single market with standardized external tariffs, etc.

One should never say "never," but barring a remarkable change in all three countries' political cultures (but most importantly that of the United States), the kind of formal North American political union described by the theory's proponents has zero chances of getting off the ground any time in the foreseeable future.

A kernel of truth

I am the last person in the world to argue that there's no reason to worry about the push for more and more regional economic and security integration. At its heart, as is always the case with these kind of dark plots, are some real dots. The analyses go off the rails when those dots are connected.

For those of us who have spent years trying to raise awareness of what's really going on in the movement to blanket the earth in "free trade" deals -- geared as they are more towards compelling countries to deregulate and protecting investors than by any genuine desire to free up trade -- it's somewhat satisfying to see new interest being paid to an issue that gets far too little attention. Like other conspiracies, the problem with the North American Union is that it is a distraction; it represents a massive energy drain.

The NAU monograph explicitly rejects an EU-style political union and the kind of supernational institutions that have grown up like mushrooms in Brussels. One of the principles that guided the committee that drafted the proposal was that the NAU would not resemble the EU:

"North America is different from other regions of the world and must find its own cooperative route forward. A new North American community should rely more on the market and less on bureaucracy, more on pragmatic solutions to shared problems than on grand schemes of confederation or union, such as those in Europe. We must maintain respect for each other's national sovereignty."

Despite that rather clear statement of principle -- and the fact that the paper lays out a series of recommendations that do not include the creation of some new continental supergovernment -- it does call for new "dispute" resolution mechanisms, the free flow of people between the United States and Canada (but not between Mexico and its northern neighbors as long as a large disparity between workers' incomes remains) and a unionwide regulatory framework.

Another "dot" that makes up the supposed NAU is the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), a chat-shop for American, Canadian and Mexican leaders to meet annually and discuss common security and economic issues.

And then there's NAFTA, and the so-called "NAFTA Highway." These are not one but several truck "transit corridors" that backers hope will eventually connect Mexican, American and Canadian markets more effectively and facilitate trade. With construction funds authorized by Congress in dribs and drabs since 1997, and very little work completed south of the Mississippi, it's unclear whether the roads will ever be more than a waste of a few hundred million in taxpayer funds.

Robert Pastor, an academic specializing in elections at American University and one of the authors of the NAU proposal, also suggested the adoption of a common currency, like the Euro. That suggestion, however, wasn't included in the NAU "recommendations."

The context in which these marginally related dots emerged is an important reason why they've taken on a sinister air in many people's minds. NAFTA was part of a larger push for legal and regulatory "harmonization" between the three countries of North America. Business groups and other "trade" lobbyists have in fact advocated greater consistency in North America's regulatory environment, and that always means decreasing, not increasing, labor, environmental, workplace and other standards. It is not the highest common denominator that backers want to see spread far and wide.

Make no mistake, I've shed blood opposing corporate trade deals like NAFTA and the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and there are very real and very significant problems with the push toward harmonization and the relentless assault on national sovereignty represented by the arm-twisting that goes into forcing a trade "consensus." Construction of key parts of the "NAFTA highway" have raised serious environmental concerns. We don't need to expand NAFTA or the other institutions of international commerce; we need a pause in the march towards global (or in this case, regional) economic integration, not more of the same.

And Canadian activists like Maude Barlow of the Council for Canadians have warned for some time that the SPP is part of a push, financed by Canadian and U.S. corporate think tanks, to essentially bring an end to Canada's social welfare state through regional integration. (More detail can be found in this PDF posted by the Council of Canadians.)

The right stuff

These, and a number of other concerns, are entirely valid. But the NAU story is a creature of the far right, and, as such, those who have "connected the dots" have done so according to their ideological preferences. The North American Union they've conjured up comes with the assumptions embraced by the coterie of wing-nuts who have promoted it.

Chief among them is World Net Daily, the "archconservative news site" responsible for such hard-hitting journalism as its recent exposé, "Soy is making kids 'gay'" (no, I'm not making that up). In addition to SwiftBoat vet Corsi, right-wing talk radio hosts like Sean Hannity and CNN's reliably nativist Lou Dobbs have featured stories on the imminent arrival of the NAU. Reactionary talker (and now CNN host) Glenn Beck lists it on his website as one of a dozen things that the un-named elites against whom he rails are using to stab good, hard-working Americans in the back.

While there are exceptions, most essays about the NAU are, like Corsi's now-famous treatise in the hard-right Human Events, intended to reinforce some of the most cherished right-wing narratives:

  • Multilateral diplomacy is inherently bad; dangerous
  • Americans' economic insecurity results from the machinations of "liberal elites" and corporate America has no responsibility whatsoever
  • Foreigners are always competitors and can never be trusted -- working on common issues is inherently bad; dangerous
While the word "agenda" appears three times in Corsi's essay, you won't find the words "corporate," "corporation" or "lobbyist." Only murkily identified "elites" are to blame, not the actors -- the K Street influence peddlers and Chamber of Commerce types; the smooth pundits with those cushy think tank sinecures and the corporate execs who get stacked up in their Gulf Stream jets circling Washington every time a new trade deal comes up for a vote -- who are really pushing the corporate "trade" agenda. That's consistent with the central deception of right-wing populism: it's not Big Business and the politicians in their pockets that are responsible for gaming a system in which upward mobility no longer exists; the world is actually run by tweed-jacketed college professors and the "useful idiots" in the human rights and environmental communities.

And, recently, the NAU myth has become tangled up in the already acrimonious immigration debate in the United States, although not in any coherent way (they are completely unrelated, but the NAU mythology appeals to immigration hardliners for obvious reasons).

A bright, shiny distraction

What is the difference, then, between the kinds of analysis of corporate-led globalization offered by progressives and what I describe as a conspiracy theory? After all, both share the basic premise that deep-pocketed elites are threatening to run roughshod over the democratic institutions enjoyed in most nation-states, and both posit that the process is at least somewhat stealthy. Both hold that global economic integration along the lines of what we've seen so far have redistributed wealth upward, from workers to investors (although those on the right tend not to express that in so many words).

The differences are fairly straightforward. First, while there's no question that business elites in all three countries have long pushed for greater economic integration, central to the NAU theory is that there are forces working behind the scenes to build a political union. Those are two very different things; it's more than a semantic point.

Second, there is a NAFTA treaty and there are institutions like the WTO, but there is no North American Union and, because of a political culture that still cherishes political (if not economic) self-determination, especially in the United States, the chance of a North American Union that resembles the conspiracy theories becoming a reality anytime in the foreseeable future are about as likely as my being named Miss Universe.

Utimately, that's also because nobody is calling for a political union like the EU. Whereas critics of corporate globalization can "follow the money" and name the specific registered lobbyists pushing a trade deal, the NAU's alleged supporters are always abstract (except for those in the wonky world of academic and think tank circles where these ideas are at least discussed seriously). That's because they don't exist. Progressive critics of corporate globalization take issue with the product of the diplomacy that takes place in venues like the WTO; for NAU theorists, representatives of the three North American governments sitting down and discussing regional issues is cause for alarm -- never mind that nothing substantive has come of those talks.

Finally, creating an NAU would require piles of legislation: billions of dollars in new budget allocations, the creation of new agencies and new institutions and the revision (or enactment) of literally hundreds of laws governing all sorts of activities in the political economy. The NAU conspiracy theorists would have you believe the impossible: that all of that will be done under cover of the metaphorical dead of night, while Americans are sleeping, and nobody will notice until it's too late. That is, nobody but those who are "wide awake" enough to embrace their conspiratorial worldview.

Consider how Jerome Corsi describes the White House's role in the NAU:

"President Bush is pursuing a globalist agenda" ... a "hidden agenda" that explains "the Bush administration's true open borders policy." "Secretly, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy to expand NAFTA politically" ..."What the Bush administration truly wants is the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada" ... "President Bush intends to abrogate U.S. sovereignty to the North American Union, a new economic and political entity which the president is quietly forming." "Secretly," "quietly," "hidden agenda," "true ... policy" -- all are markers of what the political scientist Richard Hofstadter called The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

The truth is that none of the three governments on the continent have endorsed the idea of an NAU and none of the NPP's discussions are binding on the countries in any way. If there were a real movement to create an NAU in the form envisioned by the reactionary oddballs at WorldNetDaily -- there isn't -- it would quickly be rejected not only by most Americans, but also by every member of Congress who likes the idea of serving another term.

In the meantime, in the real world, those corporate Gulf Streams are about to circle D.C. again, as Congress debates giving Bush "fast-track" trade authority and the Chamber of Commerce looks to seal trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, Peru and Panama. And, as always, only a very small group of activists will be watching those deals progress. They're not as sexy as a secretive cabal of covert globalists trying to destroy America from within, but they are far bigger issues because they are real.

Pity that the NAU crowd won't be paying attention.

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Is Athiesm a Religion?

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: ATHEISTS AGNOSTICS SKEPTICS & HUMANISTS ON MYSPACE
Date: Jun 18, 2007 8:03 AM

thegoodatheist

As a writer, the appeal of discussing atheism stems largely from the fact that although its definition may be simple, the philosophies that surround it are not. There are so many different responses to atheism that some have begun to call it a religion. But is this true? Is atheism a religion, and if not, does it emulate many of the elements of it? As I will show in this article, the answer to that question not only makes us curious about the future implications of the growing trend of atheism, it also demands our attention about what could potentially be the next major movement in Western society.

Click here to continue reading this article

(please note: If you enjoyed this article, please repost on your bulletins, and spread the word)

Rise of the New Atheists

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: ATHEISTS AGNOSTICS SKEPTICS & HUMANISTS ON MYSPACE
Date: Jun 18, 2007 8:31 AM

TPO Dan

Rise of the New Atheists Click here for full article

What began with publisher W.W. Norton taking a chance on a gutsy, hyperbolic and idiosyncratic attack on religion by a graduate student in neuroscience has grown into a remarkable intellectual wave. No fewer than five books by the New Atheists have appeared on bestseller lists in the past two years -- Sam Harris's The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion and now Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great. The scandalized media have both attacked and inflated the phenomenon. After the New York Times Book Review, for example, ran a thoughtful review of Harris and then a negative front-page review of Dawkins, the daily paper published two weak op-ed attacks on the writers and a vapid article on how atheists celebrate Christmas, followed by tongue-in-cheek admiration in the Book Review for Hitchens's ability to promote his career by saying the unexpected.

Despite such dubious blessings, the four have become must-read writers. The most remarkable fact is not their books themselves -- blunt, no-holds-barred attacks on religion in different registers -- but that they have succeeded in reaching mainstream readers and in becoming bestsellers. Is this because Americans are beginning to get fed up with the religiosity of the past several years? It would be comforting if we could explain this as a cultural signal of the end of the right-wing/evangelical ascendancy. Such speculations are probably wishful thinking -- book buyers are such a small slice of the population that few sociologists would stake their careers on claiming that book buyers' preferences reflect anything like a national mood.
The success of the New Atheists may, however, reflect something significant among their audience. In the past generation in the United States, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists have been a timid minority -- almost voiceless, often on the defensive, routinely derided, both warned against and ignored. As Susan Jacoby pointed out in her book Freethinkers, it is symptomatic of the situation that the most dramatic presidential address in generations took place in the National Cathedral three days after September 11, 2001, so filled with religious language that it sounded like a sermon. It was delivered by a President flanked by Jewish, Muslim and Christian representatives, a model of religious inclusiveness, without anyone standing alongside them representing the tens of millions of nonreligious Americans. At this most important collective moment in our recent history, it was as if they did not exist. This is what the polls are telling us: Virtually everyone in America believes in God.

We know how zealously the conservative Christian denominations have politicized themselves in the past generation, how the GOP has harnessed this energy by embracing their demands -- opposing stem-cell research, gay marriage and abortion rights, championing government aid to religious schools and faith-based social programs -- and by appointing sympathetic judges. So effectively have they framed the issues that, according to the Pew Research Center's 2006 report on religion and public life, fully 69 percent of Americans believe that liberals have "gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government."

We commonly hear that only a tiny percentage of Americans don't believe in God and that, as a Newsweek poll claimed this spring, 91 percent do. In fact, this is not true. How many unbelievers are there? The question is difficult to assess accurately because of the challenges of constructing survey questions that do not tap into the prevailing biases about religion. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, which interviewed more than 50,000 people, more than 29 million adults -- one in seven Americans -- declare themselves to be without religion. The more recent Baylor Religion Survey ("American Piety in the 21st Century") of more than 1,700 people, which bills itself as "the most extensive and sensitive study of religion ever conducted," calls for adjusting this number downward to exclude those who believe in a God but do not belong to a religion. Fair enough. But Baylor's own Gallup survey is a bit shaky for at least two reasons.

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Bill Maher on Ted Haggard and Ken Mehlman

A peice of poetry from Human Evolution

sixtoo

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Human evolution
Date: Jun 17, 2007 9:55 PM

our creation motivates us out of our situations.
our situations lead the way to our heart's contentment,
but contentment is comfort, and comfort leads to resentment.
resentment eats away at the lucious exterior,
and the interior then follows because the body is superior.
superiority leads to the forming of the complex,
and complexity adds confusion and sways truth from context.
out-of-context leads to the forming of blurred-vision,
creating disillusion and the forming of superstition.
superstition enhances and justifies false thought.
deteriorating all of the lessons that history has taught,
and erasing our history is the first step to detriment.
and detriment is death in a form that's heaven-sent.

Set your Tivo, this Friday midnight on Comedy Central

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: The official non-official Michael Kosta page
Date: Jun 18, 2007 12:18 PM

People of Earth,

This Friday at 12 midnight (11:00pm Central) my "Live at Gotham" episode will be airing on Comedy Central.

Please set your Tivo, DVR, watch it live or simply mention that you liked it whether or not you did watch it.

I am famous.

Kosta

RRS as proud atheist on ABC Wife Swap -- Monday June 25th

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Rational Response Squad So. California
Date: Jun 18, 2007 1:27 PM

Hey everyone,

Jinxi just got a call from the production company for Wife Swap. They are going to be rerunning our episode of Wife Swap on Monday June 25th (next Monday). It will be on ABC at 8 pm.

If you have not read my blogs about the show you can see them by going to my personal page at

www.myspace.com/onlyin3s

I have a couple of blogs about the show you can read.

It was a great show.

Here was our commercial from before:

Wife Swap Preview

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America's New Pastime

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Robert™
Date: Jun 18, 2007 1:47 PM

Consumer Capitalism





The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.