Jeff Spevak, Writer

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It’s long past time to call Republicans on their dangerous BS

The Republicans: Brazen liars hiding behind pretty lecterns.

The Republicans: Brazen liars hiding behind pretty lecterns.

Blood is in the streets, theaters and cafés of Paris. The worst thing we can do now is… do what Republicans are already doing.

“How’s that Syrian refugee resettlement look now?” tweeted South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan. “How about that mass migration into Europe? Terrorism is alive & well in the world.”

The dead weren’t even cold, but Duncan chose to use the Paris tragedy as an anti-immigration platform. In this case, the extraordinary wave of Syrians who are fleeing that country’s barbaric war under President Bashar al-Assad. Very few countries are stepping up to their humanitarian responsibilities to help these people, including the United States. Duncan has been properly smacked down for his snide remark by a number of much smarter people, who have noted that the refugees are not the terrorists; they are fleeing the terrorists.

France has actually taken the leading military role in Syria, with its attempt to oust Bashar al-Assad that includes its bombing of ISIS targets in that country. Whether that has anything to do with Friday’s terrorism attacks remains to be seen.

But Ted Cruz has the answer. More air strikes. Somewhere. Just blow up some people. And it doesn’t matter how many innocent civilians are killed, he says, because radical Islamism “will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties.”

It’s the “Kill ’em all, let Muhammad sort ’em out” foreign policy.

This increasingly loud rhetoric of conservatives is stupid, dangerous and solves nothing. It not only punishes innocent people, like Syrian refugees and Afghani goat herders, but it creates hatred of the United States.

It’s long past time to quit chuckling about conservatives’ nonsense and call them out on it. Behind every important issue of the day – climate change, racism, immigration, minimum wage, terrorism, does the media ask too-hard questions at debates, did Ben Carson stab a schoolmate, on and on and on – you’ll find a Republican fantasy.

This week’s Republican Presidential candidate debate was so chock full of lies that news organizations couldn’t fact check them all. Overwhelmed by the bullshit, writers and editors simply threw their hands in the air and settled for writing stories with headlines like, “Top 10 lies told by Republicans at the debate.”

I watched only the first 12 minutes of the debate before my head exploded and I turned off the television. But that was long enough to hear classic fallacies uttered by three men who Republicans judge as qualified for president.

Donald Trump was up first. He was asked about minimum wage. He said no, we can’t raise it, because if we raise taxes and wages we can’t compete with the rest if the world. Trump said poor people will just have to work harder to “get into that upper stratum.” Now, when Trump says wages are too high, he’s obviously not suggesting that CEOs and the 1 percent, that “upper stratum” where he lives, give up anything. He’s only suggesting that wages for the rest of us be kept in check so that rich folks can build their empires. He’s suggesting that the poor and increasingly poor middle class handle the tax burden, because the rich shouldn’t be asked to pay for things from which they’ve benefited: Roads, schools, science and medical research, oil subsidies, cops who shut down protestors, the embassies that look out for their global interests, the military that defends their offshore business ventures.

Next, Dr. Ben Carson, same question. He closed his eyes, looked up at God and talked about how minimum-wage jobs as a young man were his gateway to a greater prosperity. All Republicans insist that the typical minimum-wage earner is that 17-year-old kid flipping your burger. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three-fourths of Americans earning the minimum wage are age 20 or older. Those are adults, old enough to kill people in wars. In fact, the average minimum-wage earner in the United States is 35 years old. That’s a person who likely has a family to provide for. Taking it embarrassingly further, one fourth of Americans earn less than $10.55 an hour.

Then it was Marco Rubio’s turn. He went after intellectuals, a longstanding Republican tactic: “Welders make more money than philosophers,” he said. “We need more welders and less philosophers.” Wrong on both counts, it turns out. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for welders at $37,420, and for philosophy teachers $63,630. The BLS also says there are 849,930 welders in this country, and a mere 23,210 philosophy teachers.

Ah, but those are facts. Perhaps Rubio fared better with that favorite Republican tactic, fear. “If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine,” he said. “And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated.” In that same answer, Rubio insisted that “tax reform and regulatory reform” and “repeal and replace Obamacare” will result in higher wages. I personally don’t see the connection.

I’ll give Rubio this: I have noticed self-scanners replacing minimum-wage workers at the check-out lines in the big box stores. But robot philosophers in tweed jackets with leather elbow patches, puttering around college campuses, feels like a stretch for even a cheap sci-fi novel.

Evolution vs. creationism: A Ham on Nye sandwich

A handful of science Grumpycats warned Bill Nye to not do it. Don’t get onstage and debate that creationist guy. It’ll lend credibility to the anti-science crowd.

Nye went ahead with it anyway. Tuesday night he crawled into the den of ignorance, defending evolution against Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum, right there on Ham’s home turf. A so-called learning center in Petersburg, Ky., that suggests dinosaurs and humans once lived side by side. For me, this was must-see Internet.

Bill Nye the Science Guy is one of my heroes.  He speaks truth to lunacy.

For more than two hours, in what was generally a civil debate, Nye and Ham went at the question of whether Ham’s claim that creationism is a realistic explanation for the existence of mankind. The combatants each got a five-minute opening statement, followed by a half-hour slot to plead their case. I’ve included the entire video here, including the 13 minutes of pre-show New Age music to calm you down.

Ham started, and presenting a slide show of murky logic, the most obvious point being his contention that there are two kinds of science: Observational science and historical science.If I understood Ham correctly, observational science is what scientists can see today. Historical science is stuff that happened in the past. Since we’re not there, he argued, we don’t really know, do we?

The yawning hole in Ham’s logic here is enough to sail an arc through: If “not being there” refutes scientific data – such as counting tree rings to see how old the tree is – doesn’t that also refute using The Bible as a historical record? It isn’t an extemporaneous document. It’s authors didn’t know Adam and Eve.

Nye countered with fossils, geology, the stars. Science facts that add up to the Earth being 4.6 billion years old, not the 4,000 to 6,000 that Ham believes it is, as a literal interpretation of The Bible suggests. Nye went after the physical impossibility of a worldwide flood, and the logistical improbability of a Noah’s Ark. He pointed out that the sharp teeth of lions shows they weren’t vegetarians during Noah’s time, as Ham claims. The further Ham got from his opening half hour, the more ragged his argument grew.

The final portion of the debate was questions from the audience. They were a tough audience. They wanted to know, how do life forms develop a conscious state? Nye admitted he didn’t know some of these answers. He didn’t know what was there before the Big Bang, and the creation  of the universe. No one does, he said.

“There’s a book that has the answer,” was Ham’s reply to those big questions.

Bill Nye the Education Hero said several times during the debate that we can’t allow a generation or two of American kids to go though school with an improper science foundation. We’ll fall behind, he said. We must invest in research. America must continue to innovate. Faith and religion can be a wonderful thing, but they doesn’t create life-saving medical procedures. They don’t create the Internet, they don’t create the advances in farming that allow the Earth to feed seven billion people. The Bible may be inspirational literature, but it doesn’t have all of the answers. Moses wasn’t splitting atoms.

The scientists who pissed and moaned about Nye going onstage with a creationist don’t understand that he’s standing up to forces that want to spend our increasingly limited resources on religious dogma. And it has to be their religious dogma, not that of any of the thousands of gods who have walked the planet for centuries.

Nye is standing up to the people who would cut NASA funding in favor of vouchers for charter schools whose curriculum are irradiated with dubious academics. The anti-science Neanderthals are dangerous. Today, one out of every three Americans do not believe in evolution.

What was perhaps Nye’s most-brilliant comment of the night seemed to pass unnoticed, after he admitted we don’t have answers to many of the world’s mysteries. Some day, he insisted, perhaps we will, if we keep working at it. Nye came off as a man delighted by the wonder and mysteries of the universe. Ham, as he pointed out, is simply satisfied with the answers that he reads in The Bible.

The sad and funny untruths of Pro-Lifers

From the window of the bus this morning, on my way to the office, I saw that the Pro-Lifers, as they call themselves, have taken over the lawn of the Kenneth B. Keating Federal Building on State Street, filling it with gruesome photographs of dead fetuses. One poster equates a woman’s right to choose with Nazi genocide and Ku Klux Klan lynchings.

The display is offensive and exploitative. Yes, photos of abortion procedures are shocking and uncomfortable. As are photos of heart transplants and cosmetic surgery. Shock tactics do not take the place of thoughtful decision making.

In that regard, the display is also ill informed. The Pro-Life point of view is not backed by science, only faith. Its defenders endlessly repeat dogma that has been refuted by the medical community, but facts do not matter as the Pro-Lifers make their arguments. While access to abortion has been the law of the land for decades, and is supported by a majority of Americans, access to the procedure is becoming increasingly difficult for American women. Laws have been passed requiring women to undergo medically unnecessary tests before they can get an abortion. North Dakota has banned abortions after six weeks of a pregnancy, at a point when many women do not even realize they are pregnant. Texas likes that law, and wants one of its own.

The Pro-Lifer’s tool is intimidation. Doctors have been murdered, bombs set off at health clinics. Pro-Lifers are at war with Planned Parenthood, which does outstanding work with health issues on behalf of economically disadvantaged women, and actually spends very little of its resources on women who have determined that they must terminate a pregnancy. Which they do in consultation with their doctors, and not ill-informed Congressmen.

One of many inconsistencies here is the typical Pro-Lifer’s attitude about life post-pregnancy. They do not want to spend tax dollars on the health and education of the country’s young people. They are all for defunding health programs for not only newborns and children, but medical programs that ensure the good health of a fetus. Pro-Lifers are generally apoplectic at the idea of families bringing their Mexican babies here in the hope of escaping poverty. Pro-Lifers are generally pro-death penalty. Pro-Lifers are often fine with civilian casualties, including children, as collateral damage for the wars we are waging in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leave it to the genius of George Carlin to define Pro-Lifers: “They will do anything for the unborn, but after you’re born you’re on your own.” Check out the classic Carlin video here. As is often the case, truth is not only stranger than fiction but it is also, sadly, much funnier.

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