News of the week: new life forms and Noah’s Ark in Kentucky 8

JISHOU, HUNAN — You win some, you lose some. In the nifty cool corner, we have NASA scientists discovering a strain of bacteria that actually likes arsenic so much to incorporate it in their DNA. No word yet on their reactions to old lace. Or elderberry wine. In the dunce-cap corner, we have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear crowing that the Commonwealth is giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to a Noah’s Ark-themed (as in religious) amusement part. The first bit of news is exciting, because until this week biologists believed all life on Earth is based only on CHONPS (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur). Now we know some bacteria can live on CHONAsS. (I can just hear the jokes in high school biology classes now …) Phosphorous and arsenic are neighbors in the periodic table, with similar chemical properties. It’s what makes arsenic (As) poisonous. Our cells grab hold of the arsenic, thinking it’s phosphorus, but, alas, it’s just different enough that it kills us. These bacteria, found in an arsenic-laden lake in California could care less. Arsenic, shmarsenic. Chances are, they were not aboard the Ark with Noah’s kin and all those animals. Genesis says nothing ...

Good luck, Kentucky!

[Rescued from hacker oblivion, thanks to Facebook Notes.] JISHOU, HUNAN — We’ll see how that Rand-y Paul-y thing is working out for ya. At least, 56% for Rand Paul and 44% for Jack Conway is not the overwhelming landslide Paul had been hoping for, but it does put him in the Senate. Keep on eye on him, to see which way he votes. Will Mr Tea Party abandon his populist, libertarian platform and play with the big boys like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), or will he stick to his guns and be the maverick-y kind of guy he said he was during his campaign? On the bright side, some other Tea Party candidates, like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, failed in their election bids by closer margins than the Paul-Conway split. This tells me there are lot of other crazy people in Nevada and Delaware beside Angle and O’Donnell, but at least they haven’t taken over yet. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) kept his seat. No big surprise. And big spender Margaret Whitman failed (54% for former Gov. Jerry Brown to her 41% ) to buy her way into win the governorship of California. So it’s a ...

I voted. Will you? 2

[Post rescued from hacker oblivion, thanks to Facebook Notes.] JISHOU, HUNAN — Yeah, I’m several thousand miles away from my polling place in Floyd County, Indiana, but I still voted. So, you’d better not have lame excuse about not being to get your butt out to vote. Just sayin’. I’ve been watching the political polls closely for the races in Indiana and Kentucky (and California, for entirely different reasons), and I’m worried. Let’s say you’re dissatisfied with the Obama administration. I know I am, and I voted for the guy. But look it at this, most of Obama’s problems in getting the things done that he promised to get done have originated in the Party of No — the Republicans. It makes no difference what Obama proposes, the GOP will just say no. Bipartisanship has been officially dead in Washington for so long I’ve forgotten when Democrats and Republicans actually worked together on something to benefit the entire nation, and not just their own party’s chances of re-election. So, you’re disappointed with Obama. Voting for a Republican will only make Obama’s job even harder, since none of the Repubs running for office have even remotely suggested they will work with ...

Carnival of the Godless 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Hello, Carnival readers! Welcome to my little neck of the virtual woods, coming from you live from “Godless” China. I blog here about teaching English as a Second Language, but also about living in the Middle Kingdom, church-state relations, religious hypocrisy, free speech matters relating to students and teachers, science, and pretty much anything else that pops into my head. Please take a look around my space here, in between reading these great submissions to the current edition of Carnival of the Godless. The Postman at “Gone Fishin’: Postcards From God” delivers a heartfelt letter from Gawd to His/Her/Their/Its peeps in “Dear People of the Book.” Gawd has not improved His/Her/Their/Its writing style much in the last 2000 years, since this letter is every bit as confusing and self-contradictory as the Book itself. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for us. (By the way, judging from His/Her/Their/Its blogroll, I think Gawd lives in Kentucky now. This explains a lot about the Bluegrass State’s politics – confusing and self-contradictory. But I digress.) One of Gawd’s best buds was Tomas de Torquemada, the first Inquisitor General of Spain and the last guy you’d invite to your kid’s bar/bat mitzvah. As ...

Rand Paul: USA crumbling like Roman Empire. Wrong. 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — The USA now is just like the Roman Empire before it collapsed, says Rand Paul, GOP nominee for Senator from Kentucky. Wrong. Here’s what he said to a Tea Party crowd in Shepherdsville: "In the latter days of Rome, the economy was crumbling, the emperor ... would placate the mob with bread and circus -- food and entertainment to placate them since the economy was in shambles and dwindling around them," Paul told several hundred people gathered for the rally in a Bullitt County park.   "Now in our country, as our economy is in shambles, they give us Cash for Clunkers and a stimulus check and they tell us to go to the mall and spend your money and everything will be OK ... That's not how you become prosperous as an individual or a country," he told the crowd of supporters. And the crowd cheered wildly, I’m sure. (“Yay! The USA is falling apart. Yay! Let’s go to Shoney’s afterward to browse the salad bar!”) Comparing the USA to the declining Roman Empire is as sensible as equating President Obama to Adolph Hitler, the latter of which right wingers (like Glenn Beck) seem to do ...

Rand Paul is a putz 6

JISHOU, HUNAN — OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but his political ideas are trash. A blog criticizing Paul’s brand of politics has been simmering in my brain ever since he got the GOP Senate nomination in Kentucky last month, but it all gelled today when I read Paul wants to amend the Constitution so that children born on US soil do not automatically become US citizens. Normally I avoid discussing politics on this blog, because there are so many political blogs that do a much better job, but this Paul guy is a definite nutjob. Don’t vote for him. Please. So, we have this so-called problem with illegal immigrants. Apparently they are stealing all those cool jobs from all those legal Americans lining up to work 18-hour days for less than $5.25 an hour with no benefits and no paid vacations (or vacations at all). Paul’s solution is to rewrite the Constitution to remove a “loophole” in immigration law. Because the first thought of pregnant immigrant women is to risk life and limb to sneak into the USA to get low-paying, backbreaking work and coincidentally have their babies. Because the best way to get rid of annoying mosquitoes is ...

Another heart-warming tale from the Bible Belt 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, it goes like this. A high school football coach loaded 20 of his players on a school bus, and took them to his church, where several of them were baptized while the school superintendent watched. There were just two little problems with this trip. One, not all the kid’s parents signed off on this trip. Two, the kids go to a public school, so the coach and his superintendent more than likely violated federal law (like the Constitution). Except they don’t see it that way, because the trip was “voluntary.” Predictably, the high school is smack dab in the Bible Belt, in western Kentucky. Here’s a little cultural background about western Kentucky, which Coach Scott Mooney and Superintendent Janet Meeks should have already known. Back in Kentucky’s early years, there were two main religious groups, the Baptists and the Catholics. When I lived in western Kentucky, my friends told me about the stories they heard about the “other” people, how Baptists almost drowned their young or Catholics go drunk during services. Suffice it say, the two groups did not exactly trust each other, for a long time. So, for Mooney and Meeks to so blithely whisk ...

Orly Taitz hounds Kentucky’s AG and Sec. of State about Obama

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Queen Bee of the Birthers, Orly Taitz Esq., DDS, buzzed over to Kentucky recently to whip up a swarm of angry bee-rthers to visit state officials in Frankfort. She wanted Kentucky state officials to do something, anything, about the “proof” she had that Pres. Barack Obama was actually born outside the USA and therefore ineligible to be president. Taitz, who has a correspondence course law degree and is a member of the California bar, brought a federal issue to Kentucky‘s attorney general’s public corruption office, the secretary of state, and finally (perhaps as an afterthought) to the Kentucky office of the FBI. For the full details, read this account in Esquire of another example of Taitz tilting at windmills. The fact that Taitz could find so many other people who believe the same whacko things she does is just a little scary. That she found them in Kentucky is, well, not so surprising. [Kentucky factoid: The Esquire piece refers to the Knob Creek Machine Gun Range, which is in West Point, Kentucky, about 40 minutes’ drive southwest of Louisville. Travel a bit further south along wide, wide Dixie Highway, and you will come to the Fort ...

Louisville nutjobs make the NY Times

JISHOU, HUNAN — I lived in Louisville a long time. I love the River City, but there are way too many religious crazies there tarnishing Louisville’s national image. Take Ken Pagano, for example, whose invitation to his parishioners to bring their guns to a special event at church tomorrow has made national headlines. Pastor Pagano, shown in The New York Times with a handgun in a holster and a submachine gun in his left hand, wants his church to celebrate their right to carry firearms. “God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.” The Times article notes that, in the interests of safety, Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies (who I am sure have better things to do) will check visible weapons to make sure they are unloaded. They will not ask the parishioners of New Bethel Church in Valley Station for any concealed weapons, however. “That’s the whole point of concealed,” Mr. Pagano said, adding ...

Kentucky’s Creation Museum, a young Earth propaganda tool 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, is NOT a science museum. It is a tool to publicize a narrow religious view of the world and our place in it. Thus, I found this comment by a Kentucky State Department of Education official particularly disturbing. [From the Louisville Courier-Journal] Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said nothing in state law would bar public schools from visiting, if it were part of “a lesson” on “how some perceived the world’s beginnings.” Kentucky does not require the teaching of evolution or creationism (or even science at all) in private schools. And public-school science teachers aren’t prohibited from mentioning creationism, but lessons often include concepts behind evolution, Gross said. Maybe Ms. Gross was tiptoeing around the religious bias of Kentucky’s bureaucrats, legislators and population. Maybe she has never been to the Creation Museum. Maybe she is just plain stupid. Whatever the case, there should be no reason to bring any public school group to the museum, unless that purpose is to indoctrinate the students in an overtly religious world view. If a high school teacher, having done a LOT of preparation, intended to use the museum as an example of ...

For God and Kentucky

JISHOU, HUNAN — I used to live in Kentucky. It’s a beautiful state, full of great people, but afflicted with legislators who are mostly terminally stupid. In that, I suppose, the Bluegrass State is not unique. There’s a whole lotta stupid goin’ on. (Take Zimbabwe, for example.) Kentucky’s latest contribution to stupidity was the inclusion of “Almighty God” in two state statutes a few years back dealing with the state’s homeland security. Someone finally caught wind of the terminology and has filed suit in state court to have the offending laws rewritten. The someone is the group, American Atheists. So you can already predict how the religious right and right-wing radioheads will react: “Godless atheists are trying to destroy our Christian nation! Blah blah blah …!” I mean, the American Atheists have a point, but why couldn’t the plaintiffs been someone less obvious a target for right-wing vitriol, like maybe the Presbyterians headquartered in Louisville? The right-wing blather will only obscure the real issue, which I hope the courts will settle quickly. Our laws cannot invoke God without running afoul of the US Constitution, specifically this part: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the ...

Intelligent Design pops up (briefly) in Bloomfield, Ky.

Bloomfield Middle School officials had to tell a seventh grade science teacher that she could not teach Intelligent Design (ID) after they received a warning from the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU letter advised them that the teaching of ID was contrary to “the substantial legal authority establishing the illegality of teaching a religious doctrine within a science curriculum.” The Panda’s Thumb reprinted part of that letter yesterday. The teacher in question, Adonna Florence, confirmed the gist of the report to me today. I am awaiting details from her, the BMS principal and the ACLU. Technically, Florence’s introduction of ID into her science classes is not contrary to Kentucky state law. At one point in history, Kentucky law expressly permitted, but did not require, the teaching of the Biblical creation of Earth and the organisms on it. As part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, that statute, KRS 158.177, was effectively repealed in 1990 and re-enacted with substantially the same language as before: SECTION 403. KRS 158.177 IS REPEALED AND REENACTED TO READ AS FOLLOWS: (1) In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the creation of man and the earth, and which ...
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