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Missouri lawmaker wants to redefine science to include "faith-based philosophy," force creationism into science class

A bill introduced in the Missouri legislature by Rick Brattin is a genuinely bizarre attempt to cram religion into the state's science curriculum. In what must have seen to Mr Brattin as a very clever move, the bill redefines what science is to include religion ("'Scientific theory,' an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.") (emphasis mine). The bill just gets weirder from there.

If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth's biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.

In other words, equal time for the leading scientific idea and intelligent design, but never mention who the designer might be. And not just equal time, but equal pages; the bill literally mandates that "course textbooks contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint." Brattin is at least aware no textbooks actually have anything on "biological intelligent design," so he wants the state to identify "nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design" to create supplementary materials for use until the textbook publishers get in line.

It's just a bill, not a law, but as John Timmer points out, bills that are very nearly this stupid have already passed in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Missouri bill redefines science, gives equal time to Intelligent Design [John Timmer/Ars Technica]

(Thanks, Eric!)

Mitt Romney promises a chicken in every pot and a porn filter on every PC (except for the chicken)

Here's Mr Romney on the campaign trail in 2007, in Radar O'Reilly's hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, demonstrating his mastery of First Amendment jurisprudence and the nature of the technology industry -- as well as the technical feasibility of pornography filters -- promising mandatory game-rating systems (with a prohibition on their sales to kids) and a technology mandate requiring all PC vendors to place a pornography filter on new computers, on the grounds that this will "make sure their kids don't see [pornography]." I think Mr Romney uses "make sure" in a different, more nuanced way than the rest of us do, meaning, "not be sure at all."

Mitt Romney in 2007:Porn Filter on Computers (via Reddit)

FunnyJunk's lawyer vows revenge on The Oatmeal and Matthew Inman

Charles Carreon, the lawyer whose threat-letter to The Oatmeal comics creator Matthew Inman ended with he and his client being ridiculed far and wide, and a small fortune being raised by Inman for charity, continues to demonstrate a fundamental lack of good sense and understanding of Internet dynamics. In an interview with Forbes, he threatens to comb through California's statute book until he finds something he can use to ruin Inman ("California code is just so long, but there’s something in there about this.")

Ken at Popehat -- a former federal prosecutor -- has some sound advice for Mr Carreon, Esq. As he points out, Carreon's proposed course of action is incredibly risky, and may result in professional censure and financial ruin:

Oh, Mr. Carreon, indeed there is. There's California's magnificent anti-SLAPP statute, under which you'll be paying the attorney fees of anyone you sue. There's California's judgment debtor exam law, under which you can be interrogated about your income and assets in preparation for garnishing your income and, if necessary, seeking liquidation of your assets to satisfy a judgment for attorney fees against you. There's California's sanctions statute, under which you can be sanctioned for bringing suit to harass or without adequate legal or factual basis.

Read them carefully. And think. Think hard. Step back from the precipice. This can get better, by you letting it go. Or it can get worse. Much, much worse.

[Note: Mr. Carreon asserts that his site was hacked. I don't know whether that is true or not. If it is, it cannot be attributed to The Oatmeal standing up for himself. But if you are doing anything illegal -- like hacking, or making true threats -- you are a foe, not a friend, of the First Amendment. If anyone has any information on another person hacking or making true threats, you should turn them in to face criminal or civil consequences. On the other hand, bear in mind that "your criticism led to my site being hacked and me getting death threats!" is now the cry of nearly every person who becomes the internet's asshole-of-the-week, and the claim should not be accepted without proof.]

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part III: Charles Carreon's Lifetime-Movie-Style Dysfunctional Relationship With the Internet (via TechDirt)

Proposed US law bans protesting near anyone who rates a Secret Service detail

HR437, "the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011" makes it illegal to protest in the vicinity of anyone who rates a Secret Service detail (even if you aren't aware of the person's presence), thus sparing politicians and VIPs the ugly and unseemly spectacle of having to confront voters who disagree with their policies. Only three Congressmen voted against it.

On top of that, the punishment can be pretty severe. You can get up to a year in jail for being found guilty of these things, and that jumps up to 10 years if you are carrying a "deadly or dangerous weapon."

As Amash notes, there are legitimate safety concerns to be aware of, and there are issues with doing something that significantly impedes government regulations. But it's really not difficult to see how this bill could very, very easily be stretched to be used against those doing standard protesting against significant political figures.

Chipping Away At The First Amendment: New 'Trespassing' Bill Could Be Used To Criminalize Legitimate Protests

In NYC, Kafka-licious policies say press can avoid arrest by getting press pass they can't get

Wired.com's Quinn Norton has been tirelessly covering the Occupy movement from the front lines in cities throughout the US. In New York, it's a very good idea to have a press pass when you're doing that, if you'd like to avoid being beaten or arrested—and, you know, who wouldn't? Earlier, Elizabeth Spiers at the NYO posted about how that's functionally impossible for most reporters. And Quinn's Wired.com editor Ryan Singel now has a piece up at Wired about the NYPD's nonsensical series of hoops reporters must jump through to obtain press passes that they won't be able to obtain anyway. They're not issuing any until January, 2012.

Wired has been trying to get NYPD press credentials for freelancer Quinn Norton, who is on special assignment to cover the Occupy movement. Even before this week’s arrests, the NYPD made it clear they would not issue her credentials, as she first had to comply with Kafka-esque rules, such as proving she’d already covered six on-the-spot events in New York City — events that you would actually need a press pass to cover.

When I asked if six stories on Occupy Wall Street would count, Sarubbi said no.

I then tried to make the case that issuing press passes to legitimate reporters might help prevent arrests and prevent police from beating reporters, as happened to two journalists for the conservative Daily Caller on Thursday, and that the lack of spots until January seemed odd, and Sarubbi got angry.

“Don’t tell me how to do my job and I won’t tell you how to do yours,” she said.

Sarubbi then hung up without even a goodbye.

PHOTO: An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator marches in front of a group of police officers in riot gear in New York. (REUTERS)

Rep Allen West pens "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery"


According to the Miami New Times, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) penned "the dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery" when he sent this one-word ("NUTS") letter to a local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR wrote to Rep West about his ties to radical anti-Islamic rabblerousers, arguing for their basic American constitutional right to be "afforded equal protection under law" and "to worship freely or participate in the governing of our society."

West has appeared on stage with Pamela Geller (cofounder of "Stop Islamization of America") and Brigitte Gabriel (who says she voices "what many in America are thinking but afraid to say out loud, for fear of being labeled a racist, bigot, Islamophobic, or intolerant").

For my part, I suspect the competition for "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery" is probably stiffer than this. I wouldn't give even odds on "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery by a Florida congressman" or even "dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery by a Florida congressman this century."

But it's pretty dumb.

‘NUTS!’ — Allen West’s Strange, One-Word Response To Being Called Out For Ties To Islamophobes