Associated Press censors itself

Apparently, right-wing pressure has caused the Associated Press to remove a picture from its library. Read Conservative values: opportunism and cowardice. Because we mustn’t offend anyone! The picture is a work of art exploring the edges of sacrilege. Sorry, people, this is the real world. You do not have a right to remain comfortably unchallenged at all times.

So in case you’re wondering what it looks like, the golden image of Immersion (Piss Christ) is here.

A crucifix with Christ on the cross in a golden glow from the urine he's submerged in

Piss Christ by Andres Serrano (1987)

The image is from Wikipedia, which has a discussion of the picture and its provocative title.

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Why you should ignore the tone police

Because they punch down while those they police aren’t allowed to punch up. The people being told to ask nicely or argue sweetly are themselves subject to a barrage of hostile garbage. Read Amanda Marcotte’s trenchant analysis: “Tone policing only goes one way.”

Nine times out of 10, if someone is saying something horribly offensive, and someone else calls them out for it, everyone will turn on the person calling them out for it. You see this every time people get more up in arms because someone used the term “racist” or “sexist”, but not so much over the racist or sexist shit that caused the word to be articulated.

Canadian government muzzles federal researchers

Canadian scientists are being muzzled by the Conservative Reform Alliance Party  government, which refuses to let them talk about their research without vetting all statements first. This has a chilling effect on  research, as the free exchange of information is crucial to coming to the correct conclusions. It also deprives Canadians of knowing what their tax dollars are paying for and the verified facts that they could use to make decisions with.

By Petti Fong Western Bureau

VANCOUVER—As thousands of researchers gather in Vancouver for an international conference, focus has turned to the Canadian government and concerns that federal scientists are being muzzled from talking about their work.

A panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting heard that federal scientists — including those at Environment Canada, the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — are doing top-line research that’s being published in some of the most prestigious journals. But the Canadian public isn’t aware of this work because scientists have been told not to talk without getting clearance through layers of bureaucracy in Ottawa.

“Scientists are first and foremost a public servant, not a servant for the ministry,” said Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria.

Weaver said he gets frequent emails from public-sector colleagues looking to leave the federal government. “When you control people, morale is bad.”

A policy change in 2008 said federal scientists must direct all media inquiries to national headquarters and not respond to requests to talk about their work.

Claire Dansereau, the deputy minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was listed as a participant in the panel discussion. But Dansereau did not appear and a chair was left symbolically empty at the table. Department spokeswoman Mélanie Carkner said that organizers knew on Jan. 6 that the deputy minister “would have to respectfully decline the invitation to participate.”

Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program with the New York-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said scientists must be allowed to speak about their work so that the public can stay informed about research being done to safeguard water, protect the environment and ensure pharmaceuticals are regulated.

“We can’t manage without information,” she said Friday.

Last year, Kristina Miller, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist who had her research published in Science, was told not to talk to the media.

On Friday, seven groups including the World Federation of Science Journalists and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper citing another example of an Environment Canada scientist being prevented from talking about his ozone layer research.

“Clearly Canadians have the right to learn more about the science they support and to have unfettered access to the expertise of publicly funded scientist,” said the letter.

Faced with staffing cuts, the 23,000 federal scientists are operating in a culture of fear, said Johanne Fillion, a spokeswoman with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

Is reality all in the brain?

A new study links a subtle fold in the brain, the paracingulate sulcus or PCS, with the ability to remember what happened vs. what was imagined. The smaller the structure, the more likely test subjects were to misremember who said what or to take imagining a word for speaking it. It was only a small study: 53 people. And cause and effect have not been proven. But it’s suggestive. And imagine the implications for conspiracy theories or religious conviction!

The illusion of balance

Mike Lofgren, from “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative who left the cult

Ever since the bifurcation of electronic media into a more or less respectable “hard news” segment and a rabidly ideological talk radio and cable TV political propaganda arm, the “respectable” media have been terrified of any criticism for perceived bias. Hence, they hew to the practice of false evenhandedness. Paul Krugman has skewered this tactic as being the “centrist cop-out.” “I joked long ago,” he says, “that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.'”

This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.

Rogue party

John P. Judis sums up the modern GOP this way:

“Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”

See “Goodbye to all that: reflections of a GOP operative who left the cult.”

Did Muammar al-Kadafi get a bad rap?

Greg Laden points out that he’s been blamed for some things that he didn’t do: Flight 103 from Frankfurt.

It turns out, in fact, that there had been an earlier mis-information campaign run by the CIA to implicate Kadafi in a number of schemes. Why? To provide cover for someone else … it is not entirely clear who. But this disinformation campaign became the official policy of the Reagan White House. The misinformation became what people in the administration believed to be true, instead of the alternate, actual, reality. Apparently this happens sometimes.

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