The Only Way Out is Way, Way Out

May 30, 2017


The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

A three-day weekend means there’s a lot of news to catch up on. Let’s try and burn through these.

Richard Dawkins talks to Scott Simon on NPR about the Portland attack, how good deeds are not the exclusive purview of religion, and the shifting religious landscape.

And that Portland attack. You already know by now, three men defended two women being screamed at by an angry anti-Muslim bigot, who then lashed out at the men with a knife, killing two of them — Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Rick Best — and injuring the other, Micah David-Cole Fletcher:

“They didn’t have capes,” Ellie Eaton, a local activist, said … “They were just human beings that we all have the capacity to be like.” 

Benjamin Radford has a special report at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry on the apocryphal “Blue Whale Game” that allegedly convinced teenagers to kill themselves at the end of 50 days of tasks.

Speaking of blue whales: Why they so big?!?!? A new idea: So they can take bigger “bites” of krill patches, and cover a greater distance to find more.

Trump intends to shutter the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Labor Department agency that polices civil rights violations among federal contractors. Because all civil rights problems are now solved, you see. He will also roll back the mandated coverage of birth control in health insurance for those companies with religious objections.

Though Trump will probably still blow off the Paris climate agreements, his staff want you to think that his views on climate are “evolving.” It’s not as though they could become any more primitive than they are. (Rex Tillerson recently affirmed the necessity of climate research for the Arctic, which Trump’s budget would eliminate.)

Tim Fernholz at Quartz delves into the pseudoscientific ideas of William Strauss and Neil Howe who champion the idea that U.S. history moves through definitive cycles and history-shaping crises, ideas that have guided the apocalyptic thinking of Steve Bannon.

Our former boss Ron Lindsay has a new piece at HuffPost on the insufficiency of religious texts and tenets when it comes to the ethical considerations of biotechnology.

Mona Charen at National Review, no bastion of liberalism, condemns those on her side of the aisle that are cheering Greg Gianforte’s assault of Ben Jacobs:

Some who call themselves conservatives have shown that they are nothing of the kind. To be conservative is to be honorable. These are contemptible, partisan hacks. 

Joel Simon and Alexandra Ellerbeck of the Committee to Protect Journalists write that the hostility to the press championed by Trump and the American right (and exemplified by Gianforte) threaten not only press freedom in the U.S., but everywhere. 

The titans of tech join together to urge Texas governor Greg Abbott to reject a new anti-trans “bathroom bill” in a letter signed by folks such as Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and many more. (Where you at, Bezos and Nadella?)

Texas has more regressive things to work on in the mean time, such as curtailing abortion access in any way it can, as in a new bill that would ban procedures such as dilation and evacuation.

As Minnesota’s Muslim communities are being manipulated by the anti-vaccine movement’s misinformation onslaught, local imams step up to make the case to protect children with vaccinations.

Fake comments, brought to you by the telecom industry who really wants to kill net neutrality.

The number of American college students with no religious affiliation has tripled over the past 30 years, now at 31 percent.

Joe Biden officiates a wedding between two men, which is at least the second time he’s presided over a same-sex wedding.

At Jacobin, Branko Marcetic warns liberals who are enamored of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard that she is not exactly who you think she is, citing her hard-line stance on Islam, her embrace of Hindu nationalism in India, and her coziness with Steve Bannon.

Natalie Newell has an interesting
 with the meal service company (and podcast benefactor) Blue Apron over their reliance on non-GMO ingredients. 

Forced child marriage: It still happens in the U.S., and it’s Republicans who keep it alive. 

Robert Bigelow, who NASA is contracting with for “expandable spacecraft,” really, really believes that aliens are already here. Here he is on 60 Minutes:

Lara Logan: Do you imagine that in our space travels we will encounter other forms of intelligent life?

Robert Bigelow: You don’t have to go anywhere.

Lara Logan: You can find it here? Where exactly?

Robert Bigelow: It’s just like right under people’s noses. Oh my gosh. Wow. 

Ulrich Boser at Washington Post investigates Neurocore, a brain-training company that Betsy DeVos has invested in, and that he calls “a Trump University for people with cognitive struggles.” 

Bangladesh puts back the Lady Justice statue after the world facepalms over its removal.

Kyla Bills at The Awl learns that “the role of a pet psychic isn’t exactly reading minds, it’s translating what animals are already communicating into something that humans can understand.” Oh okay. 

Star Trek: Discovery‘s trailer looks awesome. Unless you’re a right-wing troll, in which case, nonwhite ladies in uniforms and leadership positions threatens your manhood. 

Quote of the Day:

This is long but worth it. Molly Young at NYT profiles lifestyle guru Amanda Chantal Bacon, a kind of uber-Gwyneth Paltrow hawking all kinds of outrageously expensive and totally unproven wellness products and remedies:

The far-right conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones sells some of the same supplements as Moon Juice on his Infowars website. Jones’s organic fair-trade coffee can be purchased in an “Immune Support” variety that includes cordyceps and reishi mushroom extracts; Moon Juice sells cordyceps and reishi powders with similar claims attached. The “Super Female Vitality” supplement at the Infowars shop shares a number of ingredients with the Moon Juice Dusts: maca, epimedium, shilajit. Alex Jones and Amanda Chantal Bacon each sell probiotics. They each warn against the encroachment of “toxins.” Bacon has a recipe for strawberry milk with drops of colloidal silver in it; Alex Jones pushes tiny bottles of colloidal silver online for $19.95. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two purveyors is context. Alex Jones sells his merchandise alongside tactical body armor and Trump shirts; Bacon sells hers next to chia pudding.

What unifies the two is the subtext of their pitches — a seeming conviction that widespread forces are acting on benighted consumers, who can thwart harm only by venturing to the fringes and buying non-F.D.A. approved supplements with which to purify themselves. For Jones, the treachery comes in the form of fluoridated water and chemtrails. For Bacon, it’s Western medicine and the standard American diet. One brand is designed to look like an ashram and the other to look like an underground bunker, but you walk away from each with the same conclusion — that the only way out is way, way, out, in a land of mystical mushrooms and miracle herbs. The valor of separatism, after all, is our founding myth.

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