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There is a Lot of Garbage Out There

May 13, 2019

In The New York Times, Catie Edmonson looks at how the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House is upending some of the old ways of doing things, such as using gender-neutral titles, no longer using plastic bottles for water at hearings, and most relevant to us, making “so help me God” an optional tag to oaths. Oh, and hey, who’s that super-cool organization being mentioned here?

The Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit group dedicated to fostering “a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry and humanist values,” cheered Ms. DeGette’s “support for the constitutional separation of church and state.”

Well, hello there!

About 62 percent of the population of Utah is Mormon, but at the University of Utah, only 36 percent are, and the second-largest belief groups at the school are atheist and agnostic, respectively, at 14.41 percent each, almost 29 percent combined, and very, very few of the nonbeliever students actually came to school that way.

RT America, the Russian propaganda network, wants you to think that 5G wireless technology will give you brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now, why would they want us to think something so obviously ridiculous? William J. Broad at the New York Times reports:

Yet even as RT America, the cat’s paw of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has been doing its best to stoke the fears of American viewers, Mr. Putin, on Feb. 20, ordered the launch of Russian 5G networks in a tone evoking optimism rather than doom.

“It’s economic warfare,” Ryan Fox, chief operating officer of New Knowledge, a technology firm that tracks disinformation, said in an interview. “Russia doesn’t have a good 5G play, so it tries to undermine and discredit ours.”

Ah.

Holy Patriarch Mike Pence tells Liberty University that “some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs.” Yes, that’s because those traditional Christian beliefs are often themselves intolerant and not a little bit abysmal. He went on, as he does:

Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian. It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.

It’s not calling yourself a Christian that gets you ridiculed, Mike. It’s all the things you do and say in Christianity’s name. Oh, but you know that already.

Pope Francis has a sex-abuse fixer, like Harvey Keitel directing clean-up for an accidental brain-splattering before Bonnie gets home. When “something terrible has happened,” Pope Francis sends Archbishop Charles Scicluna, profiled by Chico Harlan at the Washington Post:

He is sent to places where cardinals or bishops are accused of committing abuse; where officials are suspected of burying evidence or systematically ignoring victims; where the church has profoundly failed and squandered trust. Over the past decade-and-a-half, he has led at least four major investigations on four separate continents, interviewing hundreds of victims, during feverish days he likens to an “ant working in summer.”

The trial of Keith Raniere, head of the Nxivm sex-slavery cult, is underway in New York. The Times reports:

Jurors in Federal District Court in Brooklyn have heard Mr. Raniere — who has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, forced labor, extortion and sex trafficking charges — described as a man of good intent, as a sexual predator who abused women and teenagers, and as a fantasist who saw himself at the center of a vast government conspiracy. …

… [Raniere] maintained that calm as a prosecutor said during opening arguments on Tuesday that some women who were part of an ultrasecret sect within Nxivm had been branded with his initials. One juror raised a hand to her mouth in apparent shock.

At The New Yorker, James Wood praises the insights of Martin Hägglund, author of the new book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom:

His argument is that religious traditions subordinate the finite (the knowledge that life will end) to the eternal. … A characteristic formulation, from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, goes as follows: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” You die into Christ and thus into eternity, and life is just the antechamber to an everlasting realm that is far more wondrous than anything on earth. Hägglund, by contrast, wants us to fix our ideals and attention on this life, and more of it—Camus’s “longing, yes, to live, to live still more.” Hägglund calls this “living on,” as opposed to living forever.

New Age guru Marianne Williamson will apparently qualify for the Democratic presidential debates next month, and Mark Silk at RNS looks at the “metaphysical” aspects of her campaign:

“At the deepest level,” she says, America is engaged in “a spiritual contest” between demonic and angelic forces. “The separation of church and state is one of the most enlightened aspects of our country,” she says. “But the founders were not seeking to suppress religion. They were seeking to liberate and protect it.”

The Atlantic runs an excerpt from David Epstein’s book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World where we see how experts can suffer from a kind of tunnel vision that produces a lot of error.

Once considered a seemingly easy target for Republicans in Virginia, now the GOP holds back on public attacks on Delegate Danica Roem, the first openly transgender state legislator. Why? Antonio Olivo at the Post explains:

… Roem has become a force in Virginia politics: a first-term lawmaker largely focused on traffic and other bread-and-butter issues, but with a celebrity profile that opens pocketbooks and draws attention nationwide. … Republicans are steering clear of personal attacks on Roem that could energize her vast network of supporters.

“She raises more money in small dollars than any other politician in Virginia,” said John Findlay, executive director of the Virginia GOP…

Cruelly, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds signs into law a budget containing an amendment that blocks all state funding for treatments relating to “transsexualism, hermaphroditism, gender identity disorder, or body dysmorphic disorder.”

Right-wing activist Ron Calzone (real name!) testifies before a Missouri House committee in favor of broad and rampant discrimination, because it’s what God wants. Get ready for an aneurysm:

I believe that we have a God-given right to discriminate. We actually have a God-given responsibility, a duty, to sometimes discriminate. … If a restaurant owner doesn’t want to serve people with freckles, that should be his choice. … Forcing someone to serve someone they do not want to serve is a form of slavery.

David Gorski, with, I have to imagine, a dollop of disappointment in humanity (or maybe I’m projecting), explains the quackery that is the NORI Protocol, a pseudoscientific treatment for cancer (of course) from the decidedly non-medical Nutritional Oncology Research Institute.

“Cupping is ridiculous,” says Steven Salzberg in a look at the mind-bogglingly stupid fake-therapy.

NASA bests its previous “deep field” Hubble telescope images by stitching together thousands of photos of one single patch of sky for an image showing 30 times more galaxies, galaxies that are, according to the lead astronomer, “scattered across time, from 550 million years ago to 13 billion years ago.”

Kristina Manente at SYFY Wire rounds up 10 mythical monsters that “will terrify you,” and while that’s kind of a stretch, I ain’t gonna lie, I’m may have nightmares about number 8, the Snallygaster.

Quote of the Day

UFO, uh, enthusiast Dale Harder says Cleveland is a UFO “hotspot,” and adds:

Everybody’s carrying a cell phone these days and everybody’s picking things up, aside from those who like to perpetrate hoaxes, there is a lot of garbage out there so you have to be careful.

You don’t say.

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

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