September 2008

From Newsweek, Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism:

We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.” Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Read the full story here.

From CFI:

From PETA:

For more than three months, PETA went undercover at an Iowa pig factory farm, which supplies piglets who are raised and killed for Hormel products. PETA found rampant cruelty to animals – committed by workers and supervisors. The farm changed ownership and management during PETA’s investigation, but that made no difference to the animals who were born and confined there: Abuse and neglect were widespread during PETA’s entire investigation.

WARNING: Disturbing video

From ABC News:

Why do so many people hold beliefs that are clearly false? A recent story on said 80 million Americans believe we have been visited by aliens from another planet, and numerous studies show that millions of people believe in ghosts, extrasensory perception and, of course, alien abductions.

According to biologist Lewis Wolpert of University College, London, all those beliefs are clearly false, and they all share a common beginning. It may well have started when the first human realized he, or she, could make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

Wolpert is the author of a new provocative book exploring the evolutionary origins of belief, called “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast.” The title comes from Lewis Carroll’s classic “Through the Looking Glass,” when Alice tells the White Queen that she cannot believe in impossible things.

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” the Queen replied. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Wolpert argues that our wide range of beliefs, some of which are clearly false, grew out of a uniquely human trait. Alone in the animal world, humans understand cause and effect, and that, he says, led ultimately to the invention of tools, the rapid rise of sophisticated technology, and of course, beliefs. Even the earliest humans understood that many events that shaped their lives resulted from specific causes. Therefore, there must be a cause behind every event.

Searching for that cause, Wolpert says, led to the rise of religion because surely there must be some purpose behind all this, some ultimate cause at work in the universe.

From LiveScience:

Fierce individualists, Americans figure that we choose our own political beliefs, but actually it could come down to biology.

Individuals who are more easily startled by threats are more likely than others to support protective policies, such as military spending, the Iraq War and the death penalty, finds a new study.

Researchers over the years have put forth several factors to explain a person’s political beliefs, including religion, culture, genetics and everyday experiences.

While the new study involved a relatively small number of participants and doesn’t topple any of these ideas, it adds physiology as another driver of political leanings. It suggests, at least for those with strong political views, that some people are somehow built differently than others, either through genetics or life experiences or both.

From The Hawk Eye:

Can the power of prayer stem the tide of crime in Burlington?

Councilman Garry Thomas believes it can.

On the steps of Burlington City Hall Wednesday, ministers and concerned citizens stood shoulder to shoulder with Thomas to send a message to criminals — God is watching and so are they.


Sept. 15, 2008 | WASILLA, Alaska — The Wasilla Assembly of God, the evangelical church where Sarah Palin came of age, was still charged with excitement on Sunday over Palin’s sudden ascendance. Pastor Ed Kalnins warned his congregation not to talk with any journalists who might have been lurking in the pews — and directly warned this reporter not to interview any of his flock. But Kalnins and other speakers at the service reveled in Palin’s rise to global stardom.

It confirmed, they said, that God was making use of Wasilla. “She will take our message to the world!” rejoiced an Assembly of God youth ministry leader, as the church band rocked the high-vaulted wooden building with its electric gospel.

That is what scares the Rev. Howard Bess. A retired American Baptist minister who pastors a small congregation in nearby Palmer, Wasilla’s twin town in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley, Bess has been tangling with Palin and her fellow evangelical activists ever since she was a Wasilla City Council member in the 1990s. Recently, Bess again found himself in the spotlight with Palin, when it was reported that his 1995 book, “Pastor, I Am Gay,” was among those Palin tried to have removed from the Wasilla Public Library when she was mayor.

“She scares me,” said Bess. “She’s Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

URGENT MESSAGE to Americans United members and Supporters (sent BCC):

You are probably aware that the Florida Supreme Court earlier this month removed from the November ballot two badly worded and deliberately confusing amendments (7 and 9) to the State Constitution that would have allowed taxpayer funds to support religious organizations and activities, including vouchers to religious schools. (Another amendment, # 5, that would have endangered funding for public schools was also removed.)

But one amendment, # 2, that imposes certain religious views of marriage on all residents and appears to outlaw civil unions, regardless of whether same or opposite gender, remains on the ballot:

“Inasmuch as a marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Some states, with similar provisions in their Constitutions or legislation, have used those to outlaw domestic partnership benefits, such as those recently approved for same-sex and opposite-sex couples by the City of Sarasota.

If you oppose Amendment 2 or if you want to learn more about it, come to our information and planning meeting on this amendment, sponsored by the Sarasota-Manatee Chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and led by two Miami-based campaign organizers from ACLU-Florida.

Time: 7 pm Monday, September 15 (that’s this Monday)

Where: 2nd floor Public Meeting Room (elevator available) Waldemere Fire Station, 2070 Waldemere Street (one half block east of US 41 near Sarasota Memorial Hospital). Lighted parking available at end of lot, or if that’s full, along the wall at the left side of the assisted living facility across the street.

From Suncoast Stonewall Democrats:

On November 4th, all Sarasota voters will be asked to vote on this change to our Constitution:

(Language of Amendment 2)
“Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Learn why a “YES” vote could restrict YOUR rights!
2 Ways YOU Can Help Fight Amendment #2:

1: Vote No On 2 Town Hall Meeting
2: Sign up to Phone Bank in Sarasota

Vote No On 2 Town Hall Meeting Sponsored by The Gulfcoast Affirming Interfaith Network (GAIN)
When: Thursday, September 18, 2008 – 7:30 PM
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota – 3975 Fruitville Road, Sarasota
Who Should attend: It is really important that all fair minded citizens make every attempt to attend this Town Hall meeting to show support for defeating this amendment on Election Day

Speakers include:
Mary Anne Servian, Former Mayor, City of Sarasota
Ken Shelin, Vice Mayor, City of Sarasota
C.J. Czaia, Chairman, Manatee County Democrats
Nadine Smith, Executive Director, Equality Florida
Joe Saunders, Statewide Field Director, Fairness for All Families.

Panel discussion will be followed by a Q&A.

Sign up to Phone Bank in Sarasota Sarasota VoteNoOn2 Phone Banking

Join the Sarasota VoteNoOn2 team as we recruit volunteers and educate voters over the phone about the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment! Please consider a phone or laptop as there are a limited number of computer and phone lines available.
WEDS: 6:00 – 9:00pm & THURS: 7:00 – 9:00pm
ALSO OutYouth – 1470 Blvd. of the Arts – Sarasota

Sign up HERE:

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