Wednesday, September 30, 2015


In the FYI category, funding for the project came from Canada and Norway, while the trials were sponsored by the World Health Organization. Assorted trusts along with Doctors Without Borders also contributed to the Ebola program.

You can read the story in The Guardian here.

- Mark

Addendum: This Ebola vaccine story is especially pertinent when we remember the less than compelling rationale behind Martin Shkreli's "$13.50 to $750 AIDs medication pill" debacle.

Monday, September 28, 2015


An incredible life story ...

- Mark

Hat tip to Cathee for the link.


It was a busy weekend. On Saturday we joined in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the United Farm Workers grape boycott, which started in Delano, California in 1965. Immediately below is the sign at the entrance of the UFW's Forty Acres site - where the event was held - and a picture of UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta and then Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

For those of you unfamiliar with the region, know that Delano lies at the most northern end of Kern County. The county - which is about the size of the state of New Jersey - lies in the heart of central California and is just north of Los Angeles county.

There were numerous speakers at the event, including UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta. Note Dolores' "Huelga" photo in the background, an iconic pose that Sally Field helped make famous with her Oscar winning role in Norma Rae.

Among those in attendance were Kris Kristofferson and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who gave an excellent historical speech on how wealth has often worked to undermine the democratic spirit in the United States.

In the end, the speeches and the event were a positive reminder of what happens when social justice is your cause, and what can happen when you work to make it the center of your life's work.

To help illustrate the importance of the UFW and Kern County to the larger civil rights movement in America, below we see then Senator Robert R. Kennedy squaring off in 1966 with Kern County Sheriff Roy F. Galyen. The exchange was over the county's policy of arresting lawful protesters who had not violated the law. It has become one of the iconic moments in America's civil rights history.

- Mark

Addendum: Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, has a short but broad review of the UFW's history and current developments in the Sacramento Bee, which you can access here.


- Mark

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Absolutely one of the best harmonies ever ...

- Mark


EU set to green-light controversial migrant quotas (Ozy).

Right wing host tells evangelicals to flee America: God will shortly destroy it (Ring of Fire).

Ann Coulter lashes out at GOP debaters: "How many f---ing Jews do these people think" are in the U.S. (Raw Story).

Republicans file to impeach EPA head for trying to protect the environment (Addicting Info).

NYPD officer known for intimidating activists served at Abu Ghraib torture prison in Iraq (RT). 

Pope Francis assures atheists: You don't have to believe in God to go to heaven (Independent).

Pope Francis calls for ending tax-exempt status of churches that don't help the needy (USUncut).

Pope Francis smacks churches: "If you don't help the poor and needy, then pay taxes like a business" (Ring of Fire).

Pope Francis is coming to Congress Sept. 24: GOP furious with his Main Five Points (Ring of Fire).

Republicans set to welcome Pope with smears, insults, boycotts, and veiled threats (Occupy Democrats).

You draw it: How family income predicts children's college chances (NY Times).

Take the global poverty quiz. Are there more people in poverty than 200 years ago (BBC)?


70 Days ... Scott Walker sets record for shortest presidential campaign, from announcement to dropout (Ring of Fire).

10 images show what coastal cities will look like after sea levels rise (Takepart).

33 U.S. currency facts you didn't know (Visual Capitalist).


Carly Fiorina's record is at least as bad as Donald Trump's ... Yale University management professor: "You couldn't pick a worse, non-imprisoned CEO to be your standard-bearer" (Huffington Post).

The Republican debate: a comic strip take on a political tragic comedy (The Guardian).

The second GOP debate was an absolute circus, chock full of incoherent nonsense (Forward Progress).


After embarrassing test scores, Alabama finally embraces teaching science (Ring of Fire).

PhRMA, the pharmaceuticals main lobbying group, tweeted that Shkreli's company "does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies" (BBC). 

College Access Index, 2015: The details (NY Times).

Congress demands probe into Pentagon's $1 million strip club, casino bill (RT).

More Americans have been shot to death in the last 25 years than have died in every war (Mother Jones).

- Mark

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


- Mark

Hat tip Robin for the two pieces.

POPE HUMOR ... WITH DONALD TRUMP (actually, it's Trump that makes this humorous)

- Mark


I've been following the criticisms and supporting comments surrounding Martin Shkreli's decision to raise the price of the anti-parasite drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill. One thing is clear. The criticisms are many, visceral, and deep. 

It's also clear that, for the moment, Shkreli is probably as popular as the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion.

As far as I can see those who want to defend Shkreli can be bunched into three groups of people, who want us to focus on: 1) Shkreli being a capitalist, 2) Shkreli's need for research and development cash so he can do good, and 3) the need for private money to make our world go around.

Let's take a look at each one of these points. 

1. He's a capitalist ... 

Actually, Shkreli's not a capitalist. As a hedge fund manager he made his money in a highly regulated financial market that allowed him to gamble and short (bet against) market players. Shkreli was able to make a quick buck because he happens to live in a world where regular market bailouts ($4.3 trillion and counting since 2008), favorable legislation (especially the deregulation of financial markets), and unequal tax structures (Shkreli pays a lower tax rate than you and me) that allow enormous write-offs, which helped Shkreli to legally gamble his way into wealth. 

Put another way, with regular bailouts and favorable legislation Shkreli made his money pretty much the same way that little kids score big in a bumper bowling tournament. Without the bumpers (of bailouts and favorable legislation for Shkreli) Shkreli's probably just another kid throwing a tantrum.

2. Shkreli's only trying to raise money for research and development ...

Actually, this one's Shkreli's argument. 

Assuming that this is his real motive, we need to keep one thing in mind. A report from a Joint Economic Committee of Congress pointed out that of the 21 highest ranking therapeutic drugs introduced between 1965 and 1992 public funding was "instrumental" for 15 of those drugs. 

This shouldn't come as a surprise. As the report notes, private research is not only built "on a foundation funded by federal research" but many of the ideas underlying the private sector's commercial success "were developed by federally funded research" that took time and teams of researchers to develop.

This helps explain why the Obama administration's $5 billion grant to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2009 represented the "single largest boost to biomedical research in history." Because NIH funded research creates the conditions for more projects and new medical breakthroughs the Joint Economic Committee also found that NIH funding has a net economic rate of return of 25-40% per year. 

This makes the NIH grant a jobs creating engine.

Now, I'm not going to say that Shkreli's R&D motives are impure. But up to this point Shkreli's "investment" model doesn't show a history of plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into projects over a 10 to 20 year period. It's more of a wealth extraction model. 

Then we have this. Unless Shkreli's a got a bio-medical network at his disposal, or a team of research universities available to him that we don't know about, Shkreli's stated R&D motives seem fanciful, and less than sincere.

3. We need the private sector to make the world go round ...

Let's make this real simple. Inventions and creativity have been happening since the dawn of time. History tells us this. Initiative and innovation are human constants, and depend on many factors that go beyond tax cuts and deregulation. 

As I've pointed out in previous posts, Benjamin Franklin's lightening rod, penicillin, and Jonas Salk's polio vaccine are examples of this. The influenza outbreak during WWI stirred curiosity and spurred some of the greatest publicly funded medical research that the world has ever seen. History is full of many other examples where phenomenal breakthroughs were made for reasons beside monetary gain. 

The thing we want to keep in mind is that people invent and do things for reasons that go beyond the profit motive or tax cuts. Think about the things that were invented in the 1940s and 1950s when the tax rate on America's wealthiest wage earners was 90 percent

Whether it's pride, personal goals, accident, art, nationalism, or simple curiosity, the human experience shows us that the private sector and tax breaks for the rich aren't the only instigators behind human creativity. 

Below is a very partial list of creativity and products that were built without the promise of tax breaks, the profit motive, or deregulation.



Do you like ear thermometers, memory foam, scratch resistant lenses, invisible braces, shoe insoles, satellites and long distance communication, ionized adjustable smoke detectors, road safety grooving (which cuts hydroplaning), cordless tools (for Apollo missions), water filters (ionized charcoal), kidney dialysis, cat scans, cancer fighting drugs and shiny hair, and deformable mirrors (which provide 100 times the imaging), among others? Thank NASA for directly building or having a hand in these and more than 6,300 other patented inventions

But, contrary to common folk wisdom, TANG was not one of NASA's inventions. That's a myth. 


The military connection ... Anesthesia (Civil War), nuclear energy, the computer (from code breaking), the internet (cold war invention for use during nuclear war), satellite communications, synthetic rubber, penicillin, jet engines (thank you German military scientists), submarine technology (American Revolution), and Pepto Bismol.

Perhaps the best example of a military-related invention is the story of the most popular gun in the world, the AK-47. Mikhail Kalashnikov, a Russian tank driver came up with the idea for the AK-47 while recovering in a military hospital during World War II. Around the world between 75-100 million AK-47s are in use today, which makes it the most popular gun in the world. 

And if we want to stretch it, even the Rosetta Stone was discovered as a result of a military campaign (Napoleon's romp through Egypt). Anthropology and the study of languages haven't been the same since.


Do you like the microwave, Viagra, artificial sweeteners, Popsicles, brandy, Teflon, and penicillin? They were accidents of curiosity. So were Velcro, X-rays, the pacemaker, super glue, and play-doh. 

Then we want to keep in mind that while Thomas Edison wanted to make money, reproducing music wasn’t what he had in mind when he invented the phonograph. 

And the list goes on ...

At the end of the day, we need to understand that Shkreli is not a rugged individualist capitalist. He's had lots of help (bailouts) and protection (favorable legislation and tax gifts) from the state. 

He's also moved money in markets that has rules about what can be owned and traded (slaves? babies? sex workers? Congress? body parts?), under what terms (patents? monopolies?), and under what conditions (Ponzi schemes? contaminated foods? enforceable warranties? slave labor?). 

Now Shkreli wants us to believe that he stumbled as he was trying to do good, and that the human race needs people like him to make things better for the rest of us. I don't buy it. And I don't buy his recent conversion and change of heart after realizing there were "mistakes made" in the rush to do good (funny how that happens when you get exposed). 

So, yeah, Martin Shkreli is probably a bigger dirt bag than you think.

- Mark

Addendum: Here's an interesting twist. PhRMA, the pharmaceutical's main lobbying group, tweeted that Shkreli's company "does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies." 

Hat tip to Tom for the Shkreli-Salk meme.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


If we want real electoral reform in America we need to start by over turning the Citizens United decision. Democracy is about collective decisions being made for the collective good. The kind of money that is currently being thrown around the 2016 presidential election should not be happening in America ...

- Mark

Saturday, September 19, 2015


From Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films we get, "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers."

Here's what we're looking at ...

Private "Security" companies gouge the government - charging $100 for a six pack of Coca-Cola, $100 to wash a load of laundry - or $250,000 to lease a vehicle that could be bought for $40,000. 
The war in Iraq isn't about protecting Americans, it is about protecting corporate profits. Watch our feature film, "Iraq for Sale" to show what happens to everyday Americans when corporations go to war.

Grab something to eat and drink, here's the documentary ...

- Mark

Friday, September 18, 2015


Some people have names that most of us would have changed when we turned 18 (or sooner). While visiting my aunt in Olympia, Washington 4 years ago my then 12-year old son had a good time once he saw the campaign sign below. 

Here's a short video of people with what some might consider really unfortunate names.

- Mark 


I didn't watch the second GOP presidential debate. Here's why ...

I started to think about when our politics attracted the best and the brightest, on both sides.

Now we're saturated with this ...

When you think about what's at stake, this kind of entertainment shouldn't be that amusing.

We shouldn't have to work so hard to take our candidates seriously, ever.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Addendum: This Guardian comic-strip commentary on the second GOP debate is hilarious.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


From Jimmy Kimmel Live we get to see "Jake Byrd" (actually writer/comedian Tony Barbieri) do a pretty good job of mocking Donald Trump and his supporters. In a few areas you can't tell the difference between the comic and Trump's supporters.

- Mark 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


When I go through the scientific method in my Introduction to International Relations Theory class I discuss the various steps that a good scientist needs to go through when trying to understand events or widely held beliefs over time. I always start by explaining that widely held beliefs aren't always true and that "facts don't speak for themselves."

So, for example, simply because many people believed that the world was flat didn't make it any more so than the widely held belief that the earth was the center of the universe.

If we get the steps right we not only understand the world around us better, but we can begin making predictions. This is the essence of the scientific method.

I spend almost two weeks going through the scientific method in my IR class, specifically discussing how we use it to understand, make predictions, and build theories about conflict and war. When it comes to any series of events (or developments) in the international community the goal is to understand not only "what" happened but "how" conflict happens in our world. 

The larger issue of "why" something happens is better left to students of philosophy and religionWhether or not God "willed it" is not the domain of the scientist (though it is still a useful discussion).

While we are pursuing the scientific method we have to understand that we will never get the same type of certainty in the social sciences that we get in the hard sciences. The law of gravity, for example, is different from the "laws" that explain human error and the causes of war. 

The key to understanding this is knowing that the steps and rigour that flow from the scientific method are essentially the same across disciplines, across academic schools, across professions and, yes, across time.

Finding the causes behind war requires the same kind of discipline and patience for the political scientist as does finding causality in a criminal investigation for a detective.

Perhaps more importantly, finding causality means walking through intellectual traps and the mine fields put in place by those who would rather believe what they know rather than what is known, or being discovered.

Helping us to understand the importance of the scientific method is this clip from Credit Suisse's Michael Mauboussin. His three steps - Observation, Forecasting, and Sorting Relevance - for making decisions on financial matters are short and to the point ...

Current and former students of mine will (hopefully) see that Mauboussin's three "scientific" steps mirror what we discuss during the first two weeks in my International Relations class: 1) Investigation, Observation, and Analysis (Mauboussin's Observation), 2) Hypothesis & Predictions (Mauboussin's Forecasts), and 3) Theory Building (Mauboussin's Sorting Relevance of new information against what you know).

If you get all of this right you can begin to distinguish yourself from those with simple, ill-informed, opinions.

How do you get to this point? I'm glad you asked.

As a thought exercise imagine what would happen 500 years ago if an individual hit the floor in a sudden frenzy of uncontrolled spasms. Depending on where you were in the world, an accepted response might be, “They’re possessed by an evil spirit, or the devil.” 

Accusations would be made. A good ol' witch burning might follow.

Because somebody began to question the assumptions and beliefs of the time we eventually developed the capacity to understand the science behind seizures, epilepsy, and much more about how the body works. How did we get to this point? Because someone decided to doubt what we were told, and challenged what we knew. And they did it in a disciplined fashion that allowed others to see that something else besides the devil was behind a seizure. 

This process is the essence of the scientific method. 

Unlike accepting what we are told, or believing what we want because it comforts us - as was the case during the medieval period - the scientific method forces us to pursue new answers to questions we have about the world around us.

This is what happened when Galileo looked through a telescope and found that the earth moved. 

As I point out in my classes, Galileo had a tremendous impact on history because he was curious and decided to observe and analyze the world rather than accept what he was told. What he found, in many ways, helped transform how we saw our world, and ourselves.

By diligently looking through a telescope, and playing with some figures, Galileo was the first to scientifically suggest that the earth moved (heliocentrism). The discovery was so revolutionary it brought the authority of the Catholic Church down on Galileo. The high priests of the Catholic Church disagreed with what Galileo found. 

According to Church teachings at the time, the earth was flat and the center of the universe. The danger in Galileo’s discovery for the Church was that if the Church could be wrong about something as important as the position of the earth perhaps they could be wrong about other things, like the Divine Right to Rule and other aspects of life. 

This helps explain why Galileo’s findings went far beyond disrupting Church doctrine at the time. His findings so unnerved his university colleagues' world view at Padua that many refused the opportunity to look through Galileo’s telescope for fear of what they might find. 

In the end, Galileo was forced to recant (though he reportedly murmured under his breath "the earth still moves"). 

The people who disagreed with Galileo were eventually proven wrong. That the earth moves is no longer in doubt (though over 20% of Americans continue to believe the earth is the center of the universe). The earth isn't flat. And, no, you won't fall off if you sail far into the ocean blue. 

Unfortunately, we still have our scientific skeptics. These doubters are generally the same people who look only for information that fits their world view, or reject information that will disrupt what they want to believe about the world. 

These enemies of the scientific method make the world much more difficult than it needs to be. 

Ron Burgundy. Scientific Genius?

People who believe their interpretation of the world needs no revision will consistently engage in the following scientific missteps. They will ignore important counter factuals; they readily embrace confirmation bias (this one's especially funny/sad); they regularly promote false equivalenciesor; they demonstrate simple illiteracy and ignorance of basic information they claim mastery over (this one's sad/funny too). 

Ignoring good information and useful clues does no one a favor.

When anyone of these missteps occur, general ignorance, bad theories or bad science are invariably the result.

Rather than get into each one of the scientific faux pas' noted above it's probably easier to just watch the Monty Python clip below. It helps us understand how embracing confirmation bias and false equivalencies has stymied the scientific method and human advancement over the millennium

As the Monty Python clip makes clear, simply because you can make the connections, and it makes sense to you, doesn't mean it's true. This is the case no matter how much you want to ignore or believe something. 

I'll pick up on this in my next post, when I discuss how the scientific method can get a bad name with extra "slippery slopes" and a humorous discussion on how the Nobel committee has given prizes to experts who say the exact opposite thing.

- Mark

Addendum: For my PS 304 students, try not to get bogged down in the terms or the details. Just try to understand the larger story, which means knowing that simply because you have information doesn't mean you know what you're talking about. It might get you on Jeopardy, but memorizing mindless trivia isn't necessarily a gift.

Addendum II: Regular readers will see that what's presented here is pieced together, and slightly revised, from previous posts of mine on the topic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


From The Atlantic we learn that, with over 5 million millionaires, the U.S. is home to the most millionaires in the world ...


Unfortunately, the U.S. also ranks #1 when it comes to having the highest child poverty rate of any developed country on earth.



Why do we have so many millionaires in the U.S. while there are so many children in poverty? That's a good question, especially when we've been told for years that the wealth would trickle down if we just gave the wealthy more tax breaks and more favorable legislation. What actually happened is we created another class of welfare queens in America.

In a few words, we are seeing a massive redistribution of wealth (which we do on a regular basis) in America to those who already have money. And it's happening because the game is rigged, which you can read about herehere, here, and here.

- Mark


Elizabeth to Ted Cruz: You want a fight over Planned Parenthood? Bring it on! (Liberal America).

Why all scientists should be militant atheists (The New Yorker).

15 shocking facts about the war on drugs, and they're not good (The Richest).

Will Texas continue to enforce its unlawful, discriminatory photo ID voting restriction (Brad Blog)?

Dog found breastfeeding a starving abandoned child  (The Dodo).

Three rich Treasury Secretaries laugh it up over income inequality (Huffington Post).

West Point professor says academics who criticize the war on terror are 'lawful targets' (Chronicle of Higher Education).

A 20 - year old woman dies in Dubai after her father refuses to let lifeguards 'touch & dishoner her' (RT).

Whole Foods' security guard fired after body slamming a customer into concrete pillars before choking him unconscious after he tried to pay with food stamps (Daily Mail).

Kareem Abdul Jabbar: Here's how Donald Trump responded to my essay about him (Washington Post).

10 teachers behaving badly (The Richest).

Democratic Socialist Scandanavian states Denmark (#1), Sweden (#5), and Norway (#7) are ranked as among the best countries for doing business in 2014 (Forbes).

U.S. slides again as Denmark tops Forbes' best countries for business (Forbes).

More than 135,000 refugees, migrants arrived in Europe by boat in first half of 2015 (ABC News).

'West creates refugees by destroying Islamic nations' - Chechen leader (RT).

German lawmaker: At the root of the refugee crisis are wars led by the U.S. (Truth Out).

Obama directs administration to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees  (NY Times).

Police shoot unarmed bystander 5 times, lied about the incident (RT).

One graph shows why the "war on cops" is a myth (Boing Boing).

White Dayton, Ohio police officer pulls over black driver for making eye contact (Fusion).

Rupert Murdoch to step down as Fox CEO, will be replaced by son, James (RT).

National Geographic to be merged into Murdoch media empire (RT).

Pastor outed in Ashley Madison hack commits suicide (Huffington Post).

White supremacy is alive and all too well in America (Truth out).

Bitcoin ransom demanded by cyber-extortionists from financial sector (RT).

How Jeb Bush's Florida plan for school 'choice' created an industry for corruption and chaos ... and money (Truth Out).

Finally ... Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the D.N.C., backs Iran nuclear deal (NY Times).

- Mark 


- Mark 

Friday, September 11, 2015


From time to time I have to explain the history of political parties. It's usually because someone has made a broad and misleading statement about Democrats being racists. It goes something like this: Because many southern Democrats were slave holders and bigots during the 19th and the early 20th centuries all Democrats today are political descendants of racist bigots.

For those who make this argument, it doesn't matter that northern Democrats in the 19th century opposed slavery; nor does it matter that Democrats fought desegregation and led the civil rights movement in America during the 20th century.

Simply put, when Democrats began to stand up for the rights of women, the poor, and people of color this upset both white males and cultural sensibilities in the south. Many Republicans, contrary to what they claim in public, are still not comfortable about the intrusion of women and people of color into positions of power and authority.

What's ignored by those who want to rewrite history is how southern Democrats began abandoning the Democratic Party once FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ began working to end segregation in America.

This political migration picked up steam with Richard Nixon's famous "southern strategy" - which began the culture wars against women and people of color - and went into overdrive when Ronald Reagan courted the last of the "Dixiecrats" in the 1980s.

This explains, in part, why the Republican Party seems like it's made up of angry white southern males to many observers.

In nutshell, the slow march toward ending state sponsored segregation split the Democratic Party, with southern Democrats moving over to the Republican side. This migration helps us understand why the modern Republican party has its political base in the south.

So, yeah, saying "I want my country back" means much more than a desire for a return of conservative policies.

In many ways, what many conservatives really want is to return back to the days when colored folks knew their place and the women made the sandwiches. They've just been too cowardly to say it out loud (which helps explain the fascination with Donald Trump).

If you're interested, you can find a longer history of the evolution of political parties in America by clicking here.

- Mark 

Thursday, September 10, 2015


- Mark 


The New Yorker has an interesting article suggesting that "All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists." Drawing from the Kim Davis Show currently playing out in the national media, the article begins by asking, "To what extent should we allow people to break the law if their religious beliefs are in conflict with it?"

After getting past the extreme examples of not allowing people to behead one another, or demanding that veils be worn in public, the author, Lawrence M. Krauss, gets to what's really at stake: protecting society from fanatics and extremists of all stripes. Krauss writes:

No idea or belief should be illegal; conversely, no idea should be so sacred that it legally justifies actions that would otherwise be illegal. Davis is free to believe whatever she wants, just as the jihadist is free to believe whatever he wants; in both cases, the law constrains not what they believe but what they do.

Of course, Krauss recognizes that protecting one another from the crazies in our society isn't the only issue here. In many ways, we're having this absurd Kim Davis moment because we're slipping as a culture and society.

One one level we have people conflating Kim Davis' arrest with the arrest of civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. because of how she's standing up for her beliefs. This is absurd.

You can't be a civil rights advocate when you're trying to deny a group of people access to equal protection under the law. As comedian Larry Wilmore points out, if we're going to compare Kim Davis to anyone from the 1960s it should be former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who famously tried to keep black students out of the University of Alabama.

Another indicator of societal decline is how we've enshrined one set of religious ideas over all others, including our secular ones. Lawrence Krauss points out:

The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals. Laws should not be enacted whose sole purpose is to denigrate them, but, by the same token, the law shouldn’t elevate them, either.

For my money I'd argue that we've become so "politically correct" that tolerance has morphed into a desultory "hands off" approach to religious beliefs - at least Christian beliefs - even if they trend towards bigotry. It's as if, in the process of trying to separate church and state, we've unwittingly created a wall that both protects and encourages religious extremism in America.

One of the reasons for this, according to Lawrence Krauss, is that scientists have backed away from their historical duty. They no longer challenge the myths and superstitions that have dominated our lives over the millennium because, in part, they don't want to break social protocols. Krauss writes that scientists should become more forceful in what they uncover, even if it offends religious sensibilities:

Five hundred years of science have liberated humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance. We should celebrate this openly and enthusiastically, regardless of whom it may offend.

What Krauss is suggesting is that we shouldn't become intellectually lazy in the name of religious freedom, or political correctness. The reason is simple. As the scientific community has backed away from challenging ignorance and false piety the religious charlatans and carnival barkers have been emboldened.

The result is the sensibilities of the religious extremists are easily offended because their delusional agenda(s) dominate our town square. Unfortunately, the toxic stupidity building around Kim Davis' stand not only pollutes our political environment, but it's poisoning our intellectual well too (to be sure, Fox News got the ball rolling).

What's really distressing is how Americans who think they understand American history ignore that we've already had this state-religion discussion. Seriously. Over 200 years ago the Founding Fathers contemplated the very same issues.

Guess what they did?

They created a Constitution with no mention of Jesus, Christianity, or the Bible. They were creatures of the Enlightenment - which is rooted in the scientific method - and worked to create a nation that could function with diverse economic, religious, and cultural values.

This meant not elevating religion above the national ideal.

To make sure we got the point they added the First Amendment, which said there would be a separation of church and state. You could worship any religion you wanted, but not at the expense of broader societal freedoms.

As an added bonus, before the Constitution was signed a series of articles were written to explain what was in the Constitution. These article are widely considered one of America's greatest contribution to political philosophy, and are known to posterity as The Federalist Papers. Can you guess what's missing?

I'll make it simple. There's nothing in The Federalist Papers that remotely suggest our nation was founded on the principles of Christianity, Jesus, or the Bible.

So, yeah, the fact that we're having this discussion again is a tragedy.

No, scratch that. It's a farce.

The fact that we're having this discussion again, when we should have learned long ago about the dangers of trying to inject religion into our political lives, is what makes the Kim Davis Show a farce.

The smart readers understand the paraphrased quote ... and why America's in trouble.


- Mark